Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows

Book Review

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Published: 9th March 2017. Category: Drama, Erotic, Humour.Author: Balli Jaswal. Ratings: 2.5/5.

definition: erotic – relating to or tending to arouse sexual desire or excitement.

My take on the title

Sometimes some books have very catchy & awkward titles. If there ever will be an award for an awkwardly catchy title, this one would be a definite nominee. The take is entirely mine & it has no empirical evidence or even if there is, I haven’t laid my hands on it. First of all, a book to make mass appeal it should be something people can keep by their bed tables without a hitch. But for most parts of India this book would raise parents’ eyebrows, if their kids would be reading it and it would be an equally embarrassing situation for a parent having this book on their shelves. Erotic. Secondly being a widow is still a stigma in India (feminist may have their ears raised but facing the truth is better than assuming lies to be true), metropolitan cities, aside – unless the author wanted very niche readership. It would still make a woman think twice before laying hand on a book which is for widows, if she is married and/or from a conservative family. And to add to that the word, Punjabi. So in my view you are blocking conservative punjabi family women from reading this book by the title alone. India, like a lot of places, is ridden with superstitions and it might be considered a bad omen for a ‘good’ wife to be reading what’s meant for widows (at least that’s the impression from the title, even when the book isn’t all about widows only). And of course this comes from some experience & feedback.

Plot

The plot is drama-humour-erotic-thriller, all clubbed into one book. It’s, if you are an Indian, a ‘masala’ book. The book revolves around Nikki, a 20 something girl, a UK born sikh girl with conservative parents. She is of course ‘not so keen’ Indian, like most kids born in West. She is a college dropout who has left her parents to live alone to purse her passion in writing & works at a bar to support herself. Supposedly, her father died because she dropped out of law college & left home, which gave her father some heart trouble leading to his demise. That’s the only thing that keeps Nikki emotionally burdened, from her usually happy and independent self. Its really set up as an ambivalent situation in which she finds herself oscillating in & out of. The story moves on as she has to find & join a part time job in Southall in creative writing at a Gurudwara. Southall – the Punjab of UK. It’s well articulated account of the sikh community by Balli Jaswal in that small town which is thronged by Sikh families of various generations.

As soon as she joins her job at the Gurudwara, she realises it is not really creative writing classes but literacy classes for Punjabi Widows of mostly her mother’s age, but there are young windows too & active ones. She feels repulsed to start with, at being duped into it, by Kulwinder, the coordinator , who offered her the job. But soon, the classes take an unexpected turn with one instance of a student sharing an erotic piece of writing in the class. Soon the teacher & her ‘students’ agree to move from literacy to erotic story-telling classes. As classes go on Nikki gets involved, in the personal lives of her students. In the background Nikki’s sister is looking for a soulmate, her mom is in two minds about it as that would leave her alone to survive. While all this is going on, Nikki gets herself hooked too, with an Indian punjabi guy & they role-play the erotic stories, narrated & recorded during her classes at the Gurudwara (a taboo to sikhs in the story except those enjoying it in the class) & later enacted in her room. Then there is Maya, the daughter of Kulwinder, the class coordinator, who had committed suicide, but her parents do not believe their daughter killed herself. Maya is a just a character twin of Nikki. And as the story moves on, Nikki finds herself involved  in her own investigation of Maya’s death. The book revolves around keeping the erotic story classes going with discretion & Maya’s mysterious death. However true to the Indian saying, ‘Aurton kay peth mein baat nahi pachti’ (women can not digest secrets or keep them to themselves), the story about the classes reach far & wide & with consequences. What follows is a fast-paced narrative of how these punjabi widows & Nikki strive to solve Maya’s death mystery & keep their classes going.

Highlights & Conclusion

The book has a good pace & promise when you start reading & the title fills you with some anticipated excitement & the characters seem very interesting. The book depicts a colourful & true picture of the sikh community (not at all the places though), migrated to other countries. The word erotic is a weak attempt to arousal, if at all that is the intent. If it is an attempt at humour, it’s still not funny enough either. The stories woven by the widows are by no means seductive or erotic. It doesn’t do justice to someone who expected to run into the lust & fantasies of Indian punjabi women (widows or otherwise, the fantasies are not really nurtured by anyone’s marital status). The only great part about the book is the death mystery of Maya which adds pace to the reading & its depiction of Indian & Punjabi culture. The emotional plot which is very well set up about our protagonist comes crashing down in the end pages of the book. The attempt of giving a light tone to an emotional upheaval carried by Nikki throughout the book is failure & a big turn off. The book would have done much better if despite its other shortcomings it had, one, lived up to the expectation of the word – erotic in some way & second, not spoiled the emotional plot to attempted humour in the end.

I read a lot of reviews about the book, mostly from esteemed women reviewers who took the theme differently, trying to highlight the feminist independence of widows in the community. No doubt, there is an attempt to bring that to the fore but it’s overshadowed by a lot of other distracting mini-plots. The freedom & rights of widows is not the theme of this book & if it is, I feel sad to say it isn’t narrated in a strong manner as a take away. I may come across to many as an MCP, for underplaying a book on a feminist theme, but as a reviewer and a reader it is one’s job to evaluate the book in the most honest possible manner.

However despite, the shortcomings noticed as a reader , the book is surely a fun read, a good page turner & a realistic insight into Indian, and especially Punjabi culture caught between values & modernisation in the West. 

The Girl Who Played With Fire

Book Review

Published: June 2006. Category: Fiction, Crime, Thriller. Author: Stieg Larsson. Rating 4/5 Now a Motion Picture.

If ever I would wish to be a super-herione, it has to be Lisbeth with her whimsical brilliance & I-give-a-shit arrogance & still being exceptionally desirable to those, who are allowed to know her.

 

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The Plot:

Mikael, the journalist our co-hero gets to meet another one of his breed, Dag S wanting to uncover some sleazy business with the help of Millennium Magazine. All is set for the magazine to publish. Lisbeth is happily enjoying holiday across the globe & while in Caribbean, a storm & murder distract her attention & that of the readers. Characters are going with the motions so to say. Nils Bjurman is seething with revenge, which has been squelched as he finds the ‘video’ Lisbeth made, hanging by his balls. There are new characters that emerge with Dag’s planned exposé. All the calm is destroyed when a triple murder wakes the entire army of characters in the book & what ensues is the search for the murder – Lisbeth Salander.

The Story Highlights (No spoiler alert) 

Dag & Millennium are on the verge of publishing the exposé of the sex mafia inflicting the city of Stockholm. Lisbeth is happily enjoying a 2 billion kronor that she made during an ‘assignment’ she previously took and also trying to win back her relations with Wu, Dragan & Holger. Wu & Lisbeth move in together & living happily while Mikael is still trying to figure out the reason for Lisbeth breaking up with him. It is all business as usual in Stockholm & the reader is flipping pages faster to reach a point when something untoward will unveil. And surely it does. One night. 3 murders & an investigation. Mikael is the witness to the murders & as the search begins for the killer, all the evidence leads unequivocally to Ms. Lisbeth Salander. As the cops’ team lead by Blubanski & his able associate Modig begin to investigate, it further reinforces all the evidence leading to the murderer. However the investigation soon goes into a tailspin when entire police department is unable to locate Lisbeth & when they dig deeper into the investigation it changes the whole character of the wanted murderer, Lisbeth, from an incompetent, psychotic, dangerous on the run cold blooded killer to an exceptionally, moral, strong & beyond brilliance researcher who can be anyone but a murderer. And then there is Zala, who was one of the unknowns in Dag’s investigation as well & so is even now. Just a name no trace no record. Lisbeth comes back into the story when she decides to communicate through anonymous routers & hidden identities with Mikael and starts to leave links for him to follow & investigate along with the police department. What follows is exceptionally thrilling setup for a climax which no-one expects for sure. Dramatic but palm sweating chase for the triple murders keeps the reader hooked till the very end & Stieg keeps the thrill & high astonishingly intact till you don’t read the last page of this exceptional crime novel.

Conclusion:

It is a great read. A shade dimmer to ‘The girl with the dragon tattoo’ but that is expected as you have been introduced & familiarised with the characters & it does take some sheen off the books which come in series. But it is not a book to be missed. Stieg Larsson would have been proud to see what he created, had he lived to see his books do as well as they have. His ability to keep the characters disparate till the very end & then link them with a thread only he could weave keeps you glued to the book right into the wee hours of your night. A little dramatic an end for sure but not a turn off by any means. Already a motion picture but it is no comparison to the book as u flip through the pages or swipe through your e-reader.

-YR

I Am Pilgrim – A Review

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It’s been a long time since I took a plunge into a 900 odd page fiction but as Terry Hayes writes in his Author’s Note, the thing with reading something of that length, if good, makes you feel at a loss once you are done with it and you stay with the characters lot longer like schizophrenic. Terry Hayes has been a screenwriter and has to his credit some great flicks and his book is nearly like a movie in text; I would not know if that is a good or not comment but he carries the knack of keeping the reader hooked to the book till the very end. His debut novel is by all means a sensational thriller worth a read for readers who enjoy the adrenaline & cortisol highs.

  • The Plot

The book starts with a gruesome murder that leads to a deeper post 9/11 conspiracy to bring down US to its knees with a bio terror plot that Terry weaves exceptionally well. Scott (just one of the names of the character), our hero, an ex-undercover agent looking for a peaceful life finds himself drawn back into the world he so wanted to leave & is fighting to save his country as he literally picks up the trail from scratch. The way Terry stitches the plot with the Eastside Inn murder keeps your fingers between pages to flip.

The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*#k

Book Review

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Published: 13/09/2016, Category: Self Help, Non-Fiction Author: Mark Manson

“The desire for more positive is a negative experience & paradoxically the acceptance of negative is a positive experience” – Mark Manson

Can we always be wrong? Can we make pain a medicine to be a medicine for our pain? Can suffering enhance value of happiness? Can we hold ourselves responsible for what others & the life situations do to us? Are we trying to be immortal?

Lets Find Out

The above quote would surely alone qualify this book as counterintuitive. So we have had all the laws of attraction pulling us to pull the most positive fantasy imaginations to ourselves, to make lives better & here we have someone whose got an altogether different opinion to what you have been taught, by all the self help books.

It starts from the perspective – and a practical one – of trying to live a realistic life by accepting more realistic outcomes for yourself. The author stresses upon the non-acceptance of the myth of a problem free life versus achieving happiness by facing your problems and achieving happiness by enduring your pain & attaining joy through solving your life’s small & catastrophic problems. He talks at length about what he calls ‘feedback loop from hell’, focusing on the concept of focusing too hard or ‘giving too many fucks’ about giving all the fucks that we give. The narrative moves from the rhetoric of trying to find more important things to worry about (you can replace worry with ‘giving a fuck’, which Mark uses instead in the book) than cribbing over a stain, a waiter happened to cause as he spilled some wine while servicing your table.

Some good insights emerge when the book takes on a practical approach about what & how unimportant worries & hollow sense of achievements are making people superficial & more stressed. The invincible role of social media & deadly marketing strategies leading to an ever so wannabe, I-want-it-all approach to life & its impact on people & their lives & happiness, is well highlighted. The way the book urges you to take a deep insightful introspection into your own life is not an easily digestible pill unless someone is really keen to take on that path. It is not meant for those looking for shortcuts of the, ‘take a few deep breaths & imagine yourself on the top of a hill, stay there, stay there & now open your eyes’ kind. Its a book which you either read just for fun sake & imagine to yourself ‘really? do such people exist? Am not one of them’ & move on or really take a deep dive as the book expects you to.

Some of the best value addition that you can hope to get out of this wonderful book can be summed up as:

Highlights

  • Why people struggle to stay happy?
  • Why people pretend to be happy while they are not?
  • How the Demon of self-importance (entitlement) is making life difficult
  • How pain can and must, be taken positively
  • How & why it is important to take responsibility for your own problems & how it is the most efficient way of coming out of them.
  • How suffering enhances experience & value of joy.
  • How to introspect? As the author calls ‘self awareness onion’ & its 3 layers
  • Why is role of relativity important when measuring happiness & success?
  • How to evaluate your personal values (if your really try) in an unbiased manner.
  • How to change your view of yourself from ‘I am always right’ to ‘What if I am always wrong’?
  • How relationships can get better or how to best decide if they are worth having in the first place.
  • Acceptance of human & one’s mortality as a panacea for all genre of freedom for self.

It’s a lot of good things to take away. I usually go for a book if it offers half of what this one does. It’s a great read for those who have at least a desire for a sensible approach to helping themselves.

Also the way Mark describes in the end pages about Ernest Becker & his immortality projects’ concept of human behaviour & psychology, makes you sit back in your armchair & contemplate the meaning of your entire life.

-YR

 

The Kind Worth Killing: Peter Swanson 

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The Cover of the book says ‘You Should Never Talk To Strangers’ but strangely enough while you read through the book you wonder who was the stranger in the story and who spoke to him and where. As the story unveils you realise that world is so small that life comes full circle so perfectly that you only meet people you know after a certain point in life. Bestselling Author of ‘The Girl With a Clock for a Heart’, Peter Swanson with a catchy title, ‘The Kind Worth Killing’ is a bit of a let down. The book starts well and you feel that it’s beginning to build up well but then after you have read half the book you start to feel the drag. There are reviews about the book which say, ‘will keep you awake at night guessing’ kind of stuff but it hardly is so. You can be rest assured, you will sleep well, in spite of having devoured it.

The Plot

The story starts with two people meeting at the airport, (assumed strangers) and with the help of a few Martinis, the assumed central character Ted reveals the deepest secret of his married life to an assumed stranger, Lily. The story starts with a promise here since these two people decide that Ted’s wife deserves to die and they decide to meet again to plot it. The story of Lily runs in the background and that tale in the background is a bit uselessly woven. Lily has a kind of liking for killing people who she feels are not worth being alive. However the story fails to give a ground to why would somebody be like that especially when that background takes care of the character’s childhood. The motive behind such cold blooded murders initially seems reasonable but as she makes a habit of it, the motives start to get weaker and weaker as the book goes into the climax.

In the meantime, Miranda, Ted’s wife has a little bit of a background too, which is, of course related to Lily and the plot gets more personal than it seemed initially. Then we have this ‘I don’t know what character’ called Brad, who’s the secret lover of Ted’s wife. He is a funny secret lover since everyone in the story who should not know about him being a secret, knows him, while the whole world out there has no clue about it. His characterisation is the biggest flaw in the story, he seems to be falling all over the place. A man brave enough to kill in cold blood in one situation can not really be so sissy to be sobbing in the palms of a lady he just met & be ready to kill the lady he killed for in the first place, in panic.

The book delivers a shocking blow half way down, but unfortunately in my opinion it is the most disappointing event of the story, after which you almost feel like leaving the book aside. It’s the spoiler. Till this point the story was perfect or nearly so, but then it starts to drift away because it starts to become predictable, unless it’s the first thriller you are reading in life or you are a firm believer and follower of Bollywood where ‘Karan Arjun’ surely do come back to save the movie more than their mom.

The USP & Story Highlights! 

The book has a catchy title. Well if thats the first line of this slot, there is hardly much to write. As mentioned earlier, the plot builds really well till a point and you are almost sure it would be ‘The Kind Worth Reading’. It builds up your expectations really well.

However, another strange part is that all the central characters in the story have a thing for killing and torturing. Come On! Someone has to be normal too. A successful techie, suddenly wants to kill just because he has been told that it feels good to kill is not really that convincing. Killing has an impact but it hasn’t been captured. It almost makes you feel like you read about someone having a toast for breakfast with a cup of coffee and the scene shifts. It lacks emotional impact completely. Yet another not so good thing is that you feel that as if characters are peeping into each others’ notes, because almost everyone is second guessing each other perfectly but only too late or too early, to make the execution possible. I know you are the author Peter, but you can’t cheat your own character & tell the other one, what the first one is thinking or doing or thinking of doing!

Its only at the very end that the story takes a twist that you do not really expect and it saves the day for the book, but only somewhat. However the good thing is, that it’s the last paragraph of the book that delivers the punch. You suddenly realise, you were not expecting it to culminate this way. It’s a bit of a victory for the reader & s/he can say it was alright after all. It’s not a good thing to feel guilty about not keeping the book aside and reading through something which felt too familiar after a while but then it delivered a bit of a different climax.

Hangover Rating – * *  (on scale of 5)

Average Reading Time – 1 week

Movie in Making – If someone can tweak it better

Bestseller – Don’t Think So!!

(If the picture in the blog is in infringement of any IPR or patent or copyright, whatever applicable kindly inform in the comment section, the picture would be taken off the blog)

I Am Pilgrim: Book Review

18144124

It’s been a long time since I took a plunge into a 900 odd page fiction but as Terry Hayes writes in his Author’s Note, the thing with reading something of that length, if good, makes you feel at a loss once you are done with the book and you stay with the characters lot longer like a schizophrenic. Terry Hayes has been a screenwriter and has to his credit some great flicks and his book is nearly like a movie in text – I would not know if that is a good or not comment – but he carries the knack of keeping the reader hooked to the book till the very end. His debut novel is by all means a sensational thriller worth a read for readers who enjoy the adrenaline & cortisol highs & rushes.

 The Plot

The book starts with a gruesome murder that leads to a deeper post 9/11 conspiracy to bring down US to its knees with a bio terror plot that Terry weaves exceptionally well. Scott (just one of the names of the character), our hero, an ex-undercover agent looking for a peaceful life finds himself drawn back into the world he so wanted to leave & is pulled back to save his country as he literally picks up the trail from the scratch. The way Terry stitches the plot with the Eastside Inn murder keeps your fingers between pages with an itch to flip. The life of the ‘Evil’ unfolds along with the Scott’s efforts to erase his identity and commit a web suicide which are met with something like a ‘this is a one way street’ disappointment and reluctantly he picks up to investigate the case for US intelligence. His journey to find a ‘clean-skin’, even by US standards, makes your favorite ‘Detective Hero’ look small. Some critics may write it off saying its same old US-Save-The-World plot but that would be surely doing injustice to its author.

The Story Highlights

Scott arrives at a crime scene with his ‘Dr. Watson’ like character Ben & makes the first strike about the murderer which tells you that he will impress you as he goes further with his investigation.

As the plot progresses we are introduced to ‘The Devil’ (his name is being withheld on purpose), a man is beheaded in Saudi for ‘Corruption on Earth’ & his family prepares to resettle & sets the tone for a conspiracy to invent itself.

A man in a secret lab in Syria gets his eyes sliced out & fed to hounds for no good reason he could ‘see’. That starts what ‘The Devil’ calls his revenge against the most dreaded enemy of his brotherhood & prepares to unleash the synthesis of his deadly virus – with an edge to beat any vaccination available on the planet.

Meanwhile Scott makes his journey to Bodrum, Turkey to keep his disguise for investigating another murder, which has been closed down by Turkish Intelligence as an accident. Here the way Scott (Terry obviously) unlocks the clues hidden in plain view would give you a real kick of adrenaline. The way he would he would unwrap one of the most crucial evidence by developing a photograph using shredded magnesium would really make the book fumble out of your hands.

The story moves through these twists with most unpredictable turn of events & almost when you feel that Scott might be one of the unfortunate fictional hero’s who might be defeated, (it actually gets to a point where, it seems most plausible outcome) in the end what follows really, is a blood curdling rapid fire round of intelligence which drives them home just in time. The Eastside Inn murderer, well what happens to it, is what you would love to read the book for.

The USP

The ability to solve a problem is no less an achievement but to devise a problem is the real task and Terry does it exceptionally well. His ability to hide the evidence hidden in plain sight is what would a lot of times make you go back and see how could you miss it yourself.

To imagine a hero is easier but the traits, the character, the skills, the environment and the way he binds his hero together to form something from a blend of Jason Bourne & Sherlock Homes makes you wish you had a picture to go with the character. His characterisation is phenomenal and the depth of the plot would make you walk with the story while you continue to read & relish.

Hangover Rating – * * * * (on scale of 5)

Average Reading Time – 2 to 3 week

Movie in Making – Yes

Bestseller – Already

 

(If the picture in the blog is in infringement of any IPR or patent or copyright, whatever applicable kindly inform in the comment section, the picture would be taken off the blog)