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What I’ve been reading

Ever since I went all spiritual and zen and stuff a couple of years ago, I haven’t managed to read sufficient fiction. I have been devouring novels that fall under ‘self-help’-a rather pitying label, if you ask me. So I’m gonna say I was reading a lot of NON-FICTION. After I figured out who will cry when I die, and how to get from where I am to where I want to be, I am back to good old fiction. With plots, and characters, and conflict.

Here is a recap on some of the fiction novels I’ve recently read.

The Good:


Mumbaistan by Piyush Jha:

Three novellas come together to form Mumbaistan, each involving plenty of twists and turns that keep you hooked to the plot. The first novella, Bomb Day, sees a prostitute, her lover, and a policeman, playing a deadly game with each other. The stakes are high and nothing is as it seems. In Injectionwala, we are introduced to the malpractices that go on behind the curtain. A policeman chases a vigilante on a killing spree. In Coma Man, a man wakes up from coma after two decades, and sets out in pursuit of his wife-and himself. Mumbai is a character in itself, a sort of catalyst. Fast paced and action packed, this was one book I did not want to be disturbed reading! Jha keeps it crisp and pulls you right in.

Palace of Illusions

The Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni:

Has become one of my all-time favourites. This book is Mahabharata as seen, felt and narrated by Draupadi.. or Panchaali as she liked to be addressed. It doesn’t matter if your grandparents have told you stories from the Mahabharat countless times before. This book will change your perspective completely. Besides, how much would you know about Panchaali anyway? Her character and life is so flat and uni-dimensional in the traditional narration of Mahabharat that you are sure there must be more to her. And there is. A lot, lot more. Her character arc is by far the most superior I have ever read. You will see the main players in the epic mythological tale also differently. Complex, layered and excellently told. Highly recommended.

A word of caution: Reading through the first few chapters, you might find the pace a little tedious, but it’s important to know where Panchaali is coming from, and also, the pace picks up like nobody’s business once she’s married off to Arjun.

The Bad:

Inheritance of Loss

The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai:

As you may or may not know, I like reading fiction by Indian authors. I was, thus, mighty excited to read this 2006 Man Booker winner. Was I disappointed or what. The novel seriously drags. I found it difficult to finish it. Nothing really ‘happens’ during the first 200 pages or so. I didn’t care much for the few main characters either. You don’t fully understand their actions or thought process. It just didn’t sustain my interest. Maybe I am missing something, but I just can’t fathom HOW this book can win the Man Booker.


The Winner Stands Alone by Paulo Coelho:

This book is just one long (375 pages long) rant about the rich and famous of Hollywood.. who, without exception, lead unsatisfied, miserable, materialistic lives full of greed and worry. That is how Coelho portrays makes it seem. I think he should stick to fables and magical tales to get his point across. As a fiction novel, The Winner Stands Alone falls flat on it face. I used to be a big fan of Coelho and his teachings, but this book was really disastrous. Big disappointment.

The Okay:

The Wednesday Soul

The Wednesday Soul by Sorabh Pant:

I felt very good about myself buying this book because I’m all for supporting Indian stand up comedians and when one of them writes a book, of course you have to buy it. I began reading The Wednesday Soul on a bus journey to a neighbouring city, which was perfect because this is the kind of novel you need to read while travelling. The novel follows Nyra Dubey’s journey into afterlife, where all sorts of crazy unimaginable things happen. Involves dog-men, Eledactyls (Elephant-Pterodactyl), guards who go rogue and a final war in space. Overall, the book is rather okay. Fun at times and ‘trying too hard’ at times.

Have you read any of these books? Would love to know your thoughts on them.

Book recommendations are also welcome.


Psst.. In the past, I have written about books here and here.


An excerpt from The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist

Here is a wonderful excerpt from The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho:

In the desert there was only the sound of the eternal wind, and of the hoof beats of the animals. Even the guides spoke very little to one another.

“I’ve crossed these sands many time”, said one of the camel drivers one night. “But the desert is so huge, and the horizons so distant, that they make a person feel small, and as if he should remain silent.”

The boy understood intuitively what he meant, even without ever having set foot in the desert before. Whenever he saw the sea, or a fire, he fell silent, impressed by their elemental force.


Excerpts from The Zahir, Paulo Coelho

Few excerpts from The Zahir written by Paulo Coelho:

One day, a journalist comes to interview me. She wants to know what its like to have my work known all over the country, but to be entirely unknown myself, since normally its only the singer who appears in the media. We meet again at a party, where there’s no pressure of work, and I manage to get her into bed the same night. I fall in love, but she’s not remotely interested. When I phone, she always says she’s busy. The more she rejects me, the more interested I become, until at last, I manage to persuade her to spend a week end at my house in the country.

We spend three days alone, contemplating the sea. I cook for her, and she tells me stories about her work and ends up falling in love with me. We come back to the city, she starts sleeping at my apartment on a regular basis. One morning she leaves earlier than usual and returns with her type writer. From then on, without anything being said, my home becomes her home too.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

I sit down at the typewriter, just to show Esther that I am typing, honestly trying to work.

And suddenly, the miracle happens. I look across at the woman who has just made some coffee and is now reading the newspaper, whose eyes look tired and desperate, who is her usual silent self, who does not always show her affection in gestures, the woman who made me say ‘yes’, when I wanted to say ‘no’, who forced me to fight for what she, quite rightly, believed was my reason for living, who set me off alone because her love for me was greater than even her love for herself, who made me go in search of my dream; and, suddenly, seeing that small quiet woman, whose eyes said more than any words, who was often terrified inside, but always courageous in her actions, who could love someone without humbling herself and who never ever apologised for fighting for her man, suddenly, my fingers press down on the keys.

The first sentence emerges. Then the second.

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Zahir: something, which, once touched or seen, can never be forgotten and which gradually so fills our thoughts that we are driven to madness.

I accept the Zahir, and will let it lead me into a state of either complete holiness or madness.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

The acomodador or giving up point: There is always an event in our lives that is responsible for us failing to progress: a trauma, a disappointment in love, even a victory that we did not quite understand, can make cowards of us and prevent us from moving on. As part of the process of increasing his hidden powers, the shaman must first free himself from that giving up point and, to do so, he must review his whole life and find out where it occurred.

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