One Woman, Two lives, written by Ajay Nair, is a saga set in South India, describing the challenges women face as they fight the suppression forced upon them by the caste system. There are numerous characters in the novel, but it centers on one family: Kelu and Lakshami and their daughters Narayani and Bhavani. Although Kelu, father and husband is integral in the story, the novel focuses on the three women and their lives and their reactions to the challenges thrust upon them by the caste system. These three women are strikingly different in their approach and reactions to their situations. Lakshami, the mother, finds herself marrying a man of higher caste. Her character grows into this role, and her dialogue and actions change as her status does. Narayani, the eldest daughter accepts her position in life. Bhavani, the younger sister, is not as accepting of the situation. As she grows older, her attitude to the reality of the position of women is reflected in her conversations with her sister. Although tradition would suggest Bhavani show respect and subservience to her father, mother and elder sister respectively, she is often caught ‘speaking out of turn’. When tragedy strikes, Bhavani engages in her biggest fight yet, breaking quietly from the chains of suppression to seek justice.
One Women, Two Lives is set in Southern India. The setting is well described, and immediately draws the reader into the novel. Outfits for weddings are described in exquisite detail, as are the venues and decorations. The description of the setting, both in terms of the greater setting of Southern India and the individual households are vivid and realistic. Not only does the setting quickly draw the reader in, the descriptions give an authentic feel to this thought-provoking story that reinforces the struggles of the caste system and the women within.
One Woman, Two Lives, is an emotionally-charged saga with insightful commentary on family life. The novel questions the concepts of fate and destiny and highlights the caste system constraints many women were subjected to. The simple structure, authentic characters and vivid setting combine to make Ajay Nair’s novel an enthralling read.
Pages: 121 | ASIN: B08XTSYYN8
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NINU tells the saga of the Wanchos of Arunachal Pradesh and helps readers learn about North East India. Why was this an important book for you to write?
I am an Army Officer and I was posted to Tirap in November 1982. The area was still backward in terms of infrastructure and almost all activity in the villages necessitated active Army assistance. The area was very close to the core areas of the militant Naga Insurgent Group, the Naga Socialist Council of Nagaland. This insurgent organization had been formed in December 1979 and was declared an independent Naga Group in February 1980. This they announced to the world by carrying out the raid on Indian Army’s Kunsa Post as mentioned in my book. The Civil Administration was also dependent on the Army for routine activity in the villages. We thus became very close to the villagers who looked up to us for all kinds of assistance. Despite their disadvantages and dependencies, I found them to be very proud and actually very fiercely independent. They dressed in just an ordinary loincloth and beads. Some of them wore a coat. The Village Chiefs wore a red coat over the loincloth but that did not deter them from sitting in front of us and talking to us man to man. On their request to travel by air, our Brigade Commander sent two of them on a round trip from Dibrugarh to Tezu and back in a regular Indian Airlines regular flight. They were not shy to travel in their traditional dress. Besides the tribes of Tirap we had to travel to other areas of Arunachal Pradesh too. The State has over 40 tribes co existing peacefully and working towards development. Most followed their animist or Buddhist religions. Christianity has made rapid gains recently. I developed a very healthy respect for them. I felt that the world should come to know of these wonderful people. With the beginning I have made I do hope more people will write about these wonderful people and visit their villages. Arunachal Pradesh has opened its doors to tourism in a big way and eagerly welcomes anyone who desires to enjoy their beautiful land. Of Course, today the infrastructure is very good.
What kind of research did you undertake to ensure the historical aspects of the book were accurate?
I began this book as a historical narrative in 1986. Over a period of time, I collected all the material required for the book. History books on Assam are available aplenty. There are books on the society and culture too. The Government Gazetteers on Arunachal Pradesh and its Districts are priceless. However, my work in the Army and in the Corporate Companies precluded me from devoting time to begin writing. It was only in 2015 that I got down to collating the material into a book form. I then realized that the bland historical format may not appeal to the common reader. So I decided to add a little bit of fiction into it. This is a first historical fiction on Northeast India. I believe that this has lightened the book enough to enable an easy read. As I wrote, I included a lot of details of the area which may not essentially about the tribes. For example the information of the origin of Badminton in Thanjavur in South India; or Bamboo Flowering once I 12 to 20 years resulting in widespread famines; or the construction of the famous Stilwell Road from Ledo in India to Kunming in China by Afro American Troop Labor and Indian Labor; or the Naga Insurgency; or the advent of Catholicism in Tirap. All information is accurate besides adding interest to the original story. I can proudly state that with my extensive research, my book is a veritable reference book useful not only to the general reader, but to the Government Administrators and Armed Forces Personnel serving in the Area but also to tourists and general public to understand the area. The book also has a number of stories that could appeal to filmmakers.
What do you hope is one thing readers take away from your book?
I wish that more people come to know about Arunachal Pradesh both in India and all over the world and to respect all cultures equally and learn from them.
Do you plan to write more books on this subject?
I plan to write military fiction based on my experience in the army. My next book, based in Kashmir is on the way, but it will be very different from this book. I do not plan to write on Northeast India now, but I do hope more of my friends from the army write about their experience in the area.
Posted in Interviews
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A Nest for Lalita, written by Ken Langer, centers around domestic violence in India, a sensitive subject definitely, but displayed expertly. In all honesty, this was a struggle at times to read, not due to poor writing or story, just the opposite. Langer writes these topics with an unrelenting force, displaying all of it in all its ugliness – to put it lightly.
It also revolves around corporate greed, infuriating politicians, a budding love in a country that, at times, seems to fight against everything the protagonists, Meena and Simon, fight for.
As a reader, I wholly believe that first impressions matter. If you are able to capture my attention in one chapter – or at times in a prologue – then that is a book worth reading. Fortunately, A Nest for Lalita is one of these books. I was intrigued, angry, furious, and devastated, all in a four-page prologue. Which also established the tone for the novel – though without the little ray of hope shining in the rest of the book.
This is where we meet Lalita, who is ultimately not a protagonist but a catalyst for other characters and this felt like a missed opportunity. The short prologue had me wanting more from her, however, Meena and Simon are great protagonists that were a blast to read.
The setting is also intricate and fascinating. Langer teaches and explores Indian culture and religion thoroughly, especially religion, and he accomplishes this through natural means. That is, through multiple characters, and Kesh embodies this greater than any other character. Part of Kesh’s motivations and flaws involves the deep and rich Hindu religion.
It may sound like Langer delivers an unforgiving story encapsulating multiple sensitive topics, and it does, but there are brief respites throughout, splashing the reader with a refreshing bucket of water, a short break where the reader can take a breath and hope for the protagonists and their goals.
I really enjoyed A Nest for Lalita, I was left unfulfilled with Lalita’s absence, in some senses, the novel changes slightly after the first quarter, and there seemed to be a greater focus on plot instead of story in the later parts of the book.
Overall, A Nest for Lalita is a powerful, although tough, read but it was absolutely worth it. Ken Langer has written a riveting political thriller that will keep you entertained throughout.
Pages: 324 | ASIN: B08HJPZTWB
A Rift That Lies Between Us explores the deep connection two people share and the obstacles they face. What was the inspiration for the setup to this story?
As a Bangladeshi-American, I have personally witnessed and experienced intercultural intricacies, as illustrated in my novel. These experiences and observations served the inspiration for this story. In a world where we need more immigrant family stories, A Rift That Lies Between Us has a set of diverse characters and tells an emotional story that is not necessarily focused on the plight of the immigrant, but rather focuses on a first-generation American story.
Caiden and Farisa are intriguing and well developed characters. What were some driving ideals behind their character development?
I wanted to portray Caiden’s and Farisa’s vast differences through their personalities, hobbies, and backgrounds in this story. Farisa is artsy, indoorsy, and reserved, while Caiden is an engineering student, outdoorsy, gregarious, and adventurous. Despite their differences, my goal was to tie them together with the common theme of family and religion. Both Caiden and Farisa are tired of their families trying to control them. Caiden has already found some freedom, while Farisa attempts to break away during college and after her graduation.
This novel explores many family and cultural issues. What were some themes you wanted to focus on in this story?
This story puts the readers inside the conflicts found in cross-cultural romances, as Farisa and Caiden must choose between their tradition-minded families and new-found loves. In an era where divisions among races, cultures, and religions are highlighted more than ever, this story can illustrate how true love can bridge those gaps. It can also show how blind adherence to tradition can cost those adherents their relationships, their careers, and their happiness.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
No plans for a new book yet, but maybe there will be in the future.
The Secret Angels (Darya Nandkarni’s Misadventures Book Two) by Smita Bhattacharya is a sensational mystery story set in the Bandra neighborhood of Mumbai. Over the past five years, three girls have disappeared from Chapel Road in the months of June and July. Although no bodies have been found, the locals believe it is the work of a serial killer that the media has dubbed the Angel Killer. After Darya moves to Chapel Road, she hears about the stories. Then women start disappearing from the villa where she and her friend Veda are staying. When Veda goes missing too, Darya is determined to find out what happened to her and the others. Will Darya end up being the next victim?
I enjoyed the mystery aspect of the book and I liked following the clues as more and more information was slowly revealed. The descriptions of the neighborhood and businesses and homes were detailed and helped me to create a clear picture of the setting. I wanted to know what would happen next and it kept me interested in reading the story. The ending was not at all what I had suspected. Several of my initial conclusions turned out to be incorrect, and I liked that I was not able to guess the truth early in the story. The lingering questions at the end of the book left me looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Who Threw Draco Down the Chimney? (Darya Nandkarni’s Misadventures Book Three).
While I did enjoy reading this novel, I felt that there was a lot of backstory and description of secondary characters at the start of the book that slowed the pace and made it hard for me to get into the story at the beginning. Darya, in the end, is an interesting character, but I felt that there were aspects of her character that were revealed part way through the book that felt as though they didn’t fit with the image of her that was created in the beginning.
The Secret Angels is still a riveting crime story that has a compelling mystery at its core that will easily draw in fans of noir crime novels.
Pages: 295 | ASIN : B07ZMR9MB4
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Meena Kaul is riding high in her position as director of Behera House, a safe haven in India for women who have survived domestic violence. But when the stock market crashes, Behera House loses its funding to expand. The right-wing Hindu Democratic Party (HDP), seeing an opportunity to win women’s votes before a national election, steps in with a multimillion-dollar grant. While Meena is reluctant to accept the offer, it is the only way for the project to proceed. Her worst fears come to pass when the HDP wins the election and begins to chip away at a hundred years of progress on women’s rights. Meanwhile, Simon Bliss, America’s foremost “green” architect, who had been commissioned to design the new facility, falls for the alluring Meena and is drawn into the perilous world of Indian politics. In his attempt to loosen the HDP’s grip on Meena and win her affection, Simon takes on reactionary politicians, shady priests, and crooked businessmen. In the process, he comes face to face with disturbing truths about his past, while Meena finds herself trapped in ways she never could have expected.
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Maya: Lifting the Veil by Amar B. Singh is a though-provoking piece of literature that is written in verse. The book contemplates the human experience, life and our desire to understand how and why life works. It philosophizes on the immense task of knowing God and what his intentions might be. With this idea, the story follows Krishna and Arjuna who meet on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. They are two spirited and valiant warriors, but stand helpless against nature and set out to search for fundamental answers from the Creator.
The most exceptional aspect about this book is how it utilizes enthralling poetic verse to relay a captivating story. It’s a gripping piece of epic poetry that creatively uses philosophy to explore questions we all have and answers we may never have. The story is told through a conversation that Arjun is having, which reminds me of how ancient Roman philosophers would often write their own philosophical books.
Arjun’s family meets a disastrous fate along their journey home. Arjun is distraught and in this moment we get to empathize with him. He questions God, his pain, and the meaning of life. The emotion is palpable and is amplified by the stirring poetic verses that Amar B. Singh expertly uses. Krishna is able to explain the cycle of life and goes on to wax philosophical about life, the human condition, and the world.
I enjoyed the peppering of eastern philosophy found throughout Maya: Lifting the Veil. You can think of this as a long form poem that artfully portrays one mans suffering through the lens of thoughtful reflection. This is a spiritual journey I think many readers will enjoy.
Pages: 77 | ASIN: B087C56K4B
Comrade Netai and the Chronology of His UG Days is a personal and emotional story of Naxalite movement in the 90’s. Why was this an important book for you to write?
There are multiple reasons behind writing this book. First point is obviously, I had this experience which I wanted to share with others. Second- To my knowledge perhaps this phase of Naxalite movement (Now Maoist) has not been captured by any novelist since whenever Indian literature refers Naxalite movement they refer seventies and moreover tries to represent in black and white; quite contrary to the reality. Third- I wanted to raise the question – how come that all socialist revolution ended up of being suppliers of cheap labour and eventually strengthening the philosophy which they supposed to overthrow. Can any changes be called revolution. I took ten years to complete this novel.
Netai is an interesting character that I enjoyed reading about. What was the inspiration for his character and development through the story?
Thank you. Inspiration was my experience. The dedicated marginal people (although may not be quite clear about the philosophy) and squalor and deprived life I witnessed.
This book gives a unique look at the considerations given to decisions, elections, and organization of a revolution. Were you able to provide any personal experiences to this story?
Yes, apart from this book I am having many experiences which I think need another book to share. However, I would like to share one of the most painful experiences i gathered and which still haunts me. There is small place name Manoharpur in Singbhum district (now in Jharkhand but then it was in Bihar. i am talking about 1990) adjoining to Orissa and known for mines of iron ore mostly dominated by a big house. From Manoharpur about 30 to 40 km away there was village named Tonto. There was no proper communication from Manoharpur to tonto. Only one bus plying in morning and evening. otherwise there was commercial lorries which carried people too. Apart from that there was only one goods train carrying iron ore.Otherwise those places were not accessible. I was surveying those ares on behalf of my organization and along with one of my colleagues we reached to that village-Tonto. The first hut we arrived found the door was ajar. I peeped through and found some people stood moaning surrounded a person lying on a sagged charpoy. One of them saw us and rushed to us with a gesture of help. We were not able to communicate as we did not know their language neither they. The figure of the person, lying on charpoy, sent shivers down my spine. The skeletal structure was lying spreading its arms across. A white thin cloth was wrapped around waist. The breast squeezed to such an extent as if stuck to bare protruding ribs and i took some time to realise it was- she. Her slimy eyeballs were moving slowly inside the socket. Her tongue was intermittently flicking out from her wizened mouth; as if trying to taste life. They took me as a medical practitioner and requested me to save her. No they were wrong i was not a medical practitioner however, usually, I would carry some basic medicine but I knew that would not work. Literally we escaped from the spot just providing them some medicines. That moment and that figure still haunts me.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
My next book is- A Joker and A Witch. When it will be available – only time can say.
In the nineties, he joined to a splinter group of Naxalite to be associated with the ongoing struggle for the emancipation of the working class and was rechristened as Netai.
However, in subsequent years, he was dismayed seeing the peer rivalry, manipulation to grab power in the organization. Walking with the arms squad, Netai realized that, to the party, the expansion of arms struggle was the sole yardstick of revolution.
Netai’s home turned into a permanent shelter of comrades and gradually thrown into disarray with aimless siblings, cataract ridden mother and a lonesome father, still a sole bread earner despite being retired from a government job.
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