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" 

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Book Review #59: The Autobiography of a Stock

Name: The Autobiography of a Stock
Author: Manoj Arora
No. of Pages: 308
Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: Jaico Books
Price: Rs. 399/- 
Published in: 2018

How did I get it?

From the publisher.


Stocks are simple and powerful investment tools. But lack of knowledge, patience and faith make them a dangerous gamble. And so, the common man dreads entering the stock market when it should be an inseparable part of his portfolio. The Autobiography of a Stock takes a unique look at the problem - through the eyes of Mr. Stock. 

Gobind, a young man eager to invest, approaches Mr. Stock for help to guide him through the roller-coaster ride of buying a stock, holding on to it and finally exiting it in time. 

Join him on his exhilarating journey, complete with its soaring heights and dismal lows, in a real market scenario, with real stocks and real data. Learn with him as he discovers the 83 unforgettable lessons in the noisy world of stocks. Tried, tested and thoroughly practical, these lessons are stock market scripture that t returns but also long-term wealth.

Manoj Arora is a gold medalist in engineering from AMU, Aligarh. In his career spanning more than two decades, he has worked for Fortune 500 organisations across the globe including IBM, L&T and TCS. An IT-professional-turned-author, he has to his credit multiple bestsellers on Dreams, Money and Happiness. Founder Trustee of Kalpavriksha – a tree plantation NGO, Manoj lives by his life’s mission to elevate the world around him.

The book is a guide to stock investing for an amateur  investor. It talks about the nomenclature commonly used in the stock market, the myths and misconceptions investors fall prey for and highlights 83 lessons which investors should remember while dealing in stock.

The book presents stock as the protagonist Mr. Stock, who takes sessions with potential and present investors and answers their queries and pushes them to think logically and mindfully when dealing with stock. He has a soft corner for Gobind who backs out from stock investing after burning his fingers in the stock market. Gobind seems to be the projection of the author himself.

When Gobind comes backs to Mr. Stock after several years, Mr. Stock takes Gobind under his wings and teaches him the art if stock selection and management, based on financial calculations and reasoning. When Gobind learns all that he has to learn, Mr. Stock leaves him on his own, but continues to guide him as a voice. Mr. Stock also makes him promise that he will not keep the acquired knowledge to himself but the spread the word to other potential stock investors in the world.

And by the way, Mr. Stock works in direct supervision of God Himself.

The book is a basic guide to ABC's of stock investing. The author explains things with simple examples like buying apples and investing in real estate, to which the readers can relate to. He urges investors to be patient, logical and not to be influenced by the environment quickly. He also tells to trust intuition. He also gives life lessons to be humble and not to greedy.

Overall, it is a decent and honest attempt to help confused and amateur investors. But I also found it to be over-dramatic at times and some feelings to be too repetitive.

I give "The Autobiography of a Stock"