on Thursday, September 23, 2010

There is no reason why I should be blogging at this point of time. I am dead tired. My eyes are not just heavy, they are almost shut. My back is aching bad. My bones are creaking. BUT, I can't help it. A few minutes back in my mail, I recieved the sweetest little (expected) surprize.

Let me clear the mist surrounding the above quoted oxymoron. For the past some weeks, me, my department President, and my other department members have literally been going nuts preparing for the Annual Festival of Economics Association, Jesus and Mary College. Our fest, proudly titled, ECOVANTAGE '10, literally became a cause of a consistent, evil headache, which only worsened as the days progressed. However, every single experience we had, good or bad, has definitely gotten engraved in my memory bank. I, having been given the onus of organizing our main event for the fest, MODEL G20 SUMMIT, tried to add little masala to the procedure by initiating, training and setting up the paparazzi- the International Press- imagined as a team of little devils, salivating after gossip. However, given it was the first time, I did not keep my expectations too high.  What I was working with were (wrongly presumed) group of diffident girls, whom I was trying hard to propel towards a confident foray in to the world of cultural activities in the ever effervescent JMC campus.

Our newsletter was named VANTAGE MEMOIRS, and as work began on it, my apprehension increased.All my apprehensions proved to be utterly futile when I received the first completed draft of the newsletter. The sort of commitment, hard work, and results which my IP team has shown me, has not only left me stupefied, but also touched. I am not trying to magnify the very humble product that we have come out with; but, having been most closely associated with the plan, preparation and finalization of the content, pictures and layout of Vantage Memoirs, my elation at the finished compilation which has come my way is absolutely justified. The credit for it goes to the amazing, precocious, eager-to-learn-and-deliver juniors (first years) that I have been blessed with. Although everyone has contributed in a ridiculously endearing manner for this mini project, I still have to mention the name of Akriti Gupta- the smartly attired female who put everything together, whose resourcefulness and focus has convinced me that we can take our initiative at least four levels higher from where it is right now, in a span of two days (for that is all I have).
Alright...when I go senti...I just go on and on, blabbering, trying to give words to every single emotion jumping (literally) inside me. However, I have a huge day tomorrow, and I need to sleep in order to make my committee function in a manner I conjure in my dreams.
(Hey, IP! 'Dreams' remind me of a masala feature that all of you could do, 'cuz most of the seniors are having hilarious nightmares these days- the stress of the fest doing this to them. Please contact me for all inside gossip)

I will end here, but will copy and paste the introduction of the IP, written by my talented junior, Srishti.

"Enough of yawns and naps, we, the International Press of the G-20 Summit here in JMC hereby promise you that the next 2 days you are going to be under the heavy scrutiny of all of us. Behind us is the masala mastermind- Saumya Kulshreshtha- our Editor. Now you know who you have to sue if we publish pics of yours while you were blissfully unaware (Grin!). Both our Sub-editors- Ishani and Riya are equally sharp to pick the best pieces of entertainment which you might provide us while we’re snooping and hiding and creeping behind your backs…so beware! Our team has us- the babies (Smirk) looking for news! Just in case you want to run away when we approach you with our endless questions- note our names:
Srishti Chauhan, Saumya Mathur, Sakshi Kapur, Ritika Goel, Akansha Puri, Kanika Gupta, Aakriti, Niharika and Rohini Gauba!
Here is hoping that what we present to you has you in splits by the time you finish with it! Cheerio!
P.S- We take no guarantee about the stuff that is going to be recorded. Anything and everything you say WILL be used against you….no mercy applications please!"

(I have not edited this article, and am too lazy now to do it. Hopefully one of my diligent IP members will do it. AND, the two beautiful sketches accompanying my post have been made by my angel-in-disguise, Akriti Gupta)

Five Must Reads!

on Sunday, September 12, 2010

I am no connoisseur of literature. I am just an hapless addict, who is forever beguiled by the rich, commanding, resplendent world that books (novels in particular) offer. My own cute way of referring to the books is not to call them 'my best friends', rather, 'my intoxicants', the only ones capable of elevating me above my surroundings, and drawing me into another galaxy. Mentioned below are five books from my own mini library, which according to me are a must read for every single person belonging to my environment. A curious fact about these books is that they are all authored by Indians, but then, that is how I am prejudiced as far as literature is concerned.

1. 'My Experiments With Truth' by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi Every Indian, irrespective of caste, creed, age, religion must read this book. It is, for me, one of those books which can be termed as a life changer (and has proven to be for a few people I know). The lesser said about this book, the better, but I would advise everyone to at least attempt to take a peek into the life of that man, who has veritably contributed the most in the making of modern, Independent India.

2. 'Train To Pakistan' by Khushwant Singh
 In my view, Khushwant Singh is the greatest storyteller ever to have been born on the soil of India. His first novel, the Train to Pakistan makes nothing short of an compelling, invigorating, and satisfying read. With one of the most vivid and poignant portrayals of India's bloodbath during partition, this book is written such that at no point will the reader feel detached from the narrative; rather, if the reader is like me, he would end up crying more than once, for the pangs of partition would be too much to bear even for him.

3. 'The Broken Nest'/ 'The Home and The World' by Rabindranath TagoreI've always rued the fact that I can't read Bengali, for Bengali literature is touted as one of the finest and richest in India; but thanks to the translations, I've been able to go through the writings of someone who should ideally be called the Father of Modern Indian Literature - Rabindranath Tagore. These two books make for an excellent starter if you want to delve into the wealth of Bangla literature

4. 'Our Trees Still Grow In Dehra and other stories' by Ruskin Bond         
He is an author for all seasons, for all ages. He looks at India the way no Indian can. He can make you feel attached to the Indian soil the way you yourself might never be able to. The magic of this collection of short stories can be felt only if you read them; my only guarantee would be that Mr. Ruskin Bond absolutely does not know how to leave his readers dissatisfied.

5. 'Ramayana'/ 'Mahabharata' by C. Rajagopalachari
 Although attributed to their original authors, Valmiki and Ved Vyasa respectively, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata have many versions in different languages of India. This version, published by Bhavan's books, has been penned down by Rajaji, the first Indian Governor General of independent India, and has been written in a style that despite assimilating the facts of all the different versions, is striking in its originality and beauty.

The Immortals of Meluha- A Review


Who is God? It is not often that I ponder over a question like this. It was especially not until I lay my hands on this one-of-its kind book, called The Immortals of Meluha, authored by Amish. A book that borrows heavily from the royal pages of Indian mythology, The Immortals of Meluha weaves together myths and legends and modern sensibilities with remarkable ease.

The book cover was immediately intriguing- the back of the mighty Shiva, with deep scars over a shoulder and an arm; long, majestic tresses falling over his back; a trident elegantly positioned at the very centre of his form; and the backdrop comprising of Indus and the magnificent Mountains of the North. This was easily a book I would have wanted to read, and as it did turn out, it was a book I simply could not keep down once I started on. The first of a series of three (called the Shiva Trilogy), this book tells the story of Shiva, the Destroyer, a much hailed and praised God from the Hindu Trinity of Brahma-Vishnu-Mahesh. One of the boldest attempts in the Indian fantasy fiction genres, this book lays down the hypothesis that Shiva was never actually a God. More so, he did not even belong to India (the Saptasindhu, as mentioned in the book). Blasphemy you would say, but so long as we consider this book to remain within the realm of fiction, it is actually amazing how the author has carved out a story with Shiva as a War Hero, firmly supported by accurate facts and descriptions, giving strong evidence of the author's deep knowledge and research of the subject.

The book is set in the Indus Valley Civilization, referred in this book as Meluha (It was only later that my History teacher informed me about the Indus Valley Civilization being called as 'Meluha' by the Sumerians and the Mesopotamians). This civilization was one of the finest the world has ever been testimony to, and is often hailed as the birthplace of men of greatness, because the things they did have not been imitated anywhere, anytime in the world. Before beginning the book, the author makes three claims, the fundamental premise on which his book is based-

I believe that the Hindu gods were not mythical beings or a figment of a rich imagination.
I believe that they were creatures of flesh and blood, like you and me.
I believe that they achieved godhood through their karma, their deeds.
The story begins with an elaborate depiction of Shiva, who is not a God, not even an extraordinary human, but the head of a simple tribe of cattle herders, somewhere in the foot of the Himalayas, ridden with fatigue due to incessant struggles for existence being fought with the other tribes. His assistant, comrade and best pal, curiously, is a fellow tribesman called Nandi. Due to the course of events, Shiva and his tribe migrate to Meluha, the land of Suryavanshis, the descendants of the illustrious Lord Rama. The land of the Suryavanshis is plagued with many evils, and is under threat from the opposite race, the Chandravanshis. To add to their already cup-full of woes, the Chandravanshis have employed the despicable, sinister Nagas, an ostracized caste, to spread terror in the land of Meluhans.

It is from these terrors that the Meluhans seek respite. According to the Meluhan legend, it will be 'Neelkanth', the one whose neck will turn blue on drinking their nectar, Somaras, who will be their Savior. Thus is defined the character and course of the protagonist, Shiva, who after drinking the Somaras is hailed by the hapless people as their Lord, the one who will alleviate all evils from their land. What then ensues is the journey of Shiva through the land of Meluhans, during which, he establishes himself as a warrior of unparalleled might and war skills. At most places during the narrative, Shiva is shown to be spellbound by the superior technology and infrastructure possessed by the inhabitants of the magnificent land of Meluha. Also, as an undercurrent, laced into the narrative is the love story of our indomitable hero and the demure, chaste and skilled Parvati, incidentally the daughter of Maharaja Dasya, King of Meluha.

The narrative of the story is contemporary, not in the least archaic, as one would expect the tone of any of our mythological tales to be. This book attempts to clear the mist around the concept of Mahadev we have grown up with. While reading about this book, I came across interesting facts, such as, long back, in the ancient times, there was no concept of India. The only concept then that has left its traces to be felt in the contemporary times is that of the Aryans, the greatest race on the Earth. What is particularly curious about Shiva is that he is the only non-Aryan entity in the Trinity of Hindu Gods. In the book too, he conforms to what have been his features otherwise- easy to please, free of deceit and trickery (Bholenath), unabashed in his display of emotions (anger in particular- Tandav), passionate lover, substance addiction...and the list can go on.

To conclude my assessment of the book, I can say, it was a compelling read. It was not anything like the other tales of our three crore plus Gods and Goddesses I have read or heard about. Very few authors have touched this particular genre with such marvellous ease, making the reader more and more intrigued by the vivid and precise description of the events which form this story. Worthy of not less than four stars on five, it is one of those books which all of us should pick up, especially if we feel detached from our rich mythological heritage, with a promise that if one begins with this book, he would only be lured deeper and deeper into the mystical world of our tales and legends and myths. Highly recommended!