Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Book Review #62: The Idol Thief

Name: The Idol Thief
Author: S. Vijay Kumar
No. of Pages: 248
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Juggernaut
Price: Rs. 499/- 
Published in: 2018 

How did I get it? From the publisher. 

Subhash Kapoor was a New York-based antique dealer whose pieces can be seen in every major museum of the world. In October 2011 when he presented his passport at immigration in Germany, Kapoor was unceremoniously whisked away into Interpol custody. India had weeks earlier issued a red-corner notice for his arrest after connecting him to audacious idol thefts in two Tamil Nadu temples.

And when the US authorities subsequently raided Kapoor's warehouses in New York more skeletons came tumbling out of his closet. They recovered no less than $100 million worth of stolen Indian art! This was just Kapoor's inventory - he had been in business for close to four decades and the true scale of his loot is incalculable. The US declared Kapoor one of the most prolific commodities smugglers in the world.

This is the unbelievable true story of how Kapoor was caught, told by one of the men who had for years been chasing Kapoor and is still tracking idols that have passed through his hands. From complicit police officers to corrupt museum officials to jilted girlfriends and from two-faced academics to shady temple looters and smugglers - this book has it all. Prepare to be shocked at the 21st-century pillaging of India's temples by a glittering cast of suave criminals.

S. Vijay Kumar is a Singapore-based finance and shipping expert who is general manager of a leading ocean transportation company. In 2007–08 he started a blog on Indian art. In 2010 Vijay got involved with both Indian and United States law enforcement agencies that were investigating cases of idol theft and smuggling. This book is based on his association with these agencies. Vijay has played a role in the arrests of several idol thieves and smugglers. He has also successfully matched several stolen idols with pieces that have been acquired by museums, thereby ensuring their repatriation to India. This is Vijay’s first book.

"The Idol Thief" is a true story of how idols have been stolen from India's ancient temples and smuggled out of the country to be sold illegally to known organizations across the globe. It is basically written to create awareness about this underestimated crime and how one should be alert while buying antique items.

The author writes about Subhash Kapoor and his various associates and accomplices. He brings to light how people who are supposed to protect such antiques are actually facilitating such thefts, smuggling and sale. He also writes about communities and scholars who are doing their bit to protect the antiques of the country. He shares how such crimes are carried out and the  business nitty-gritty involved. He also shares details about the stolen idols and their role and history.

Overall, it is an informational book as well as an interesting book shedding light on the less popular crime of idol theft. It also seems to be good plot for a movie!

I give "The Idol Thief"

Friday, July 20, 2018

Book Review #61: Jasmine Days

Name: Jasmine Days
Author: Translated by Benyamin (to Malayalam) from the original in Arabic titled A Spring without Fragrance by Sameera Parvin
Translated by: Shahnaz Habib (from Malayalam to English)
No. of Pages: 264
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Juggernaut
Price: Rs. 499/- 
Published in: 2018 

How did I get it? From the publisher. 

Sameera Parvin moves to an unnamed Middle Eastern city to live with her father and her relatives. She thrives in her job as a radio jockey and at home she is the darling of the family. But her happy world starts to fall apart when revolution blooms in the country. As the people's agitation gathers strength, Sameera finds herself and her family embroiled in the politics of their adopted land. She is forced to choose between family and friends, loyalty and love, life and death.

Jasmine Days is the heart-rending story of a young woman in a city where the promise of revolution turns into destruction and division.

Benyamin (born 1971, Benny Daniel) is an Indian novelist and short story writer in Malayalam language from Nhettur, Kulanada, Pattanamtitta district of the south Indian state of Kerala. He is residing in the Kingdom of Bahrain since 1992, from the age of twenty, and his works appear regularly on Malayalam publications in Kerala. His Aadujeevitham (Goat Days) was a huge success that has been reprinted more than a hundred times and has sold over two lak copies. It won him the Kerela Sahitya Akademi Award and has been translated into may languages.

Shahnaz Habib teaches writing at The New School and Bay Path University and consults for the United Nations. Born and raised in Kerela, she now lives in New York.

"Jasmine Days" is set against the backdrop of the Arab Springs. It gives a glimpse into the lives of many immigrants from the Indian subcontinent working and residing in the middle eastern countries. Sameera moves to the City to join her father and many of her immediate family. Outspoken and a rebel, she lands up in her dream job of being a Radio Jockey. But her life comes to a halt when she is crushed between the two parties to an uprising, her family in a adopted land and her best friend on the two opposing sides.

The plot and the events are very real and they should have haunted me day and night. But somehow I couldn't connect with the protagonist. It seemed as if the emotional connect had been lost in translation. And the original writing has been translated twice.

Nonetheless, it is good read and gives you an understanding of the revolts and revolutionary uprisings in the middle-eastern nations, and how dictatorship works. The oppressors and the leaders representing the oppressed draw their swords and innocent blood is spilled. It shows how such incidents and rule affect ordinary lives and regular citizens of the country, how people cry to lead normal lives but they are scarred for generations instead.

I give "Jasmine Days"

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Book Review #60: Rail Romance

Name: Rail Romance
Author: Krupa Sagar Sahoo
Translated by:  Priya Bharati
No. of Pages: 238
Genre: Fiction/Railways/Social Narrative
Publisher: Platinum Press (an imprint of Leadstart Publishing)
Price: Rs. 249/- 
Published in: 2018 

How did I get it? From the publisher. 

This book depicts the Indian Railways, part and parcel of the life of every Indian. The first part is a curious housefly's account of its journey on the Coromandel Express. Eager to see the world beyond its habitat, the fly sees many different places and people before the train is halted in the face of a super cyclone. What happens to the passengers? How do different people react in the face of disaster? Does anybody come to their aid? Can they resume their journey?

The second part is a collection of fascinating threads interwoven into a beguiling narrative:

• Why did the daughter of a Station Master vanish from the colony one fine morning ?
• How a Station Master is tormented by a cobra's presence in his quarters?
• Why a tea stall contractor invites the wrath of a Commercial Officer?
• What happened to the coolie apprehended during a security drive? 
• Does the rodent elimination drive end in success or disaster? 
• Does the future son-in law of G.M Sahib get special treatment from the Railway staff? 
• How an old lady and a newly married girl display similar emotions when confronted by their spouses. 
• What happened to the family stuck in traffic congestion; do they make their train?

The author, a retired Railway Officer, brings out the joys and woes, victories and failures of both railway main and rail users in a delightfully humorous style. The eventful journey on the Coromandel Express and the other stories about railway life, are bound to keep readers happily engaged to the very last page. 



Railway journeys in India are always colourful and interesting. With lakhs of people traveling everyday, trains and railway stations are full of traveler stories. The writer having served in the Indian Railways for thirty-four years, has experiences relating to both sides of the coin, travelers as well as the employees.

The book is a collection of one story and ten short stories. The first story, "Journey on the Coromandel Express) carries us in a train journey through the eyes of a housefly. I really enjoyed the following short stories:
  • "The Gypsy Girl" - While trying to help a girl in need, a railway officer's personal life gets ruined by rumours.
  • "Curse of the Cobra" - Getting a cobra killed, kills the peace of mind of a railway officer.
  • "The Son-in-Law" - The prospective son-in-law of a senior railway official attracts unwanted attention.

The translator, too, has done a commendable job of translating from the original language of composition, Odiya to English. Apart of a couple of visible inconsistencies in reference within the same story, it is a smooth translation. Keeping the author's style intact in translation is no easy task.

I give "Railway Romance"