Book Review: Bombay Swastika by Braham Singh

“Their two banshee wails came together to wax before dying off into the distance.” – Braham Singh

Hey there, readers! I know it’s been long, but I’m back now and this week I was able to get my hands on Bombay Swastika by Braham Singh. 

Let us get into the review, shall we?

 

Blurb:

Bombay Swastika swings from a Nazi Berlin gearing up for its Final Solution, to 1964 Bombay, where Ernst Steiger, a German Jew, accidentally finds himself caught up in the murder of a young tribal, killed amidst allegations of something being stolen from a secure American compound. With the monsoons laying siege on the city, the reader accompanies Ernst past Bombay’s refugee camps and haunted whorehouses; food shortages, textbook mafias, communist protests against American PL 480 Food Aid, and peculiar happenings at India’s nuclear facility; where Dr. Homi J. Bhabha, the nation’s atomic mastermind, gets drawn into a conspiracy hatched in his absence.

This one-of-a-kind thriller unfolds through the eyes of a motley cast-Salim Ali, the South Indian, Muslim engineer and committed Marxist; Bhairavi, the enigmatic and sensual refugee girl; Sethji, the dowry messiah; Tsering Tufan-Homi Bhabha’s Smiling Buddha-dying from radiation exposure; and Andhi Ma, the blind mendicant who sees what we can’t.

Bombay Swastika is an exploration of the dark world of absolute truths.

Title:

The word ‘Swastika’, a symbol of spirituality, was twisted into a symbol of hatred by the Nazis as they used it to inculcate widespread rallies across Germany. The author here, used the titled to represent the connection of the Black Swastika in the form of Ernst, a Jew, who lands up in Bombay.

Besides the literal meaning, what is amazing about the title is how sophisticated and catchy it sounds while also managing to remain relevant to the plot of the book.

Title Rating – 5 / 5

Cover:

 

Upon first glance, the cover is nearly ordinary. However, it is only on looking closer that it becomes evident how striking the imagery really is. A woman wrapped in a red cloth, with a swastika locket dangling  behind her down to her back. To me, it depicted strangulation by a weirdly contorted symbol of well-being.

Fabulous.

Cover Rating – 4.5 / 5

Plot:

“Truth be told, he still didn’t know what to make of his father’s life or his mother’s death..” – Braham Singh

There is no doubt that this book is an outright thriller right from the start.  Without having the elements of an action, the adventurous approach to the plot made it seem all the more fast-paced while realistically setting us towards a gripping experience. It isn’t just a story, it’s a movie in words. Bombay has been portrayed in very high detail though set around the 1960s and this provides an insight into India from the past.

“As with most buildings, bulbs were optional and the corridors cast long shadows.” –  Braham Singh

The author has a very strong sense of language and it was nearly impossible to find any errors within the book. That being said, the diction and the vocabulary seemed a little too overpowering at times, making it a little difficult to stick to the scene. In some places, however, this seemed necessary. The author did a fantastic job in connecting loose ends and finishing off the story on a sweet note.

“A beauty of sorts crept into the night and a feeble moon looked down at India.”  – Braham Singh

There is such keen characterization in the novel that one almost misses to focus of the story. Each character has been etched with such depth and glory that it easily dominates the plot. This, in fact, is a good thing because it ensures that the novel sticks with you for long afterward the reading is done.

Overall, it is a highly engaging and an enjoyable read.

Plot Rating – 4 / 5

I loved…

  1. The writing style
  2. The Characters
  3. The plot

I wanted…

  1. A more realistic ending
  2. Less profanity

Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5

Verdict: Definitely Worth Every Penny!

Order your copy from any of the links below:

Amazon India

Amazon (US)

 

 

Book Review: The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter by Shilpa Raj

“No matter what, love doesn’t die with death.” – Shilpa Raj

This week I was able to get my hands on The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter by Shilpa Raj  which is a memoir of this young woman’s experiences as she and her family was forced to face the wrath of society’s disease called ‘untouchability’ and fate’s destiny called ‘poverty’.

Let us get into the review, shall we?

 

Blurb:

Saved by her grandmother from being killed at birth for having been born a female, Shilpa’s life took many unexpected turns and twists through her early years. She faced abandonment by her mother, the formidable constraints placed on her by her family, and the barbs of village elders bound by hundreds of years of oppressive practices and customs that subjugate women. Shilpa is torn between the contrasting lives she leads: one of servitude and injustice experienced by her family; the other of opportunity and empowerment offered by a good education in a school started by a philanthropist.

Just when all seems settled, an unforeseen death under mysterious circumstances shatters whatever stability remains in her life. Pulled in opposite directions, and torn between despair and dreams, Shilpa finally makes a choice for her future. Is she strong enough to stand up to the people she loves, and pursue what she wants?

At its heart The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter is about hope, when all seems lost. Written with raw honesty and grit, this is a deeply moving memoir of a young girl confronting her ‘untouchable’ status in a caste-based society, and her aspirations for modernity.

 

Title:

The title is beautiful and it aptly describes what the memoir is about. Shilpa’s narrative is shown to readers through her eyes but the title has a sweet connection to her roots. I found it beautiful for her to fearlessly tag herself as an Elephant Chaser’s Daughter and proudly show her history to the world.

Title Rating – 4.5 / 5

Cover:

The cover of the memoir is that of a young girl amidst a village background. Her face is unseen from the sun’s rays. The cover is serene, picturesque and has a melancholic feel to it. I love the way it fills me with peace but also how it gives a peek into what the narrative is all about. It’s apt with regards to the title and to the storyline. I loved it.

Cover Rating – 5 / 5

Plot:

“As years passed, I often found myself feeling guilt-stricken at how I came to have so much compared to my family.” – Shilpa Raj

As I read through the pages of the memoir, I found myself getting increasingly absorbed into Shilpa’s tale. She tells her story beautifully through the first person narrative and that adds to the connection that the reader builds with her. The tale talks about her entire family, the troubles they went through and the hardships they had to face to get to the stage they are at today.

“The word ‘plane’ made everything seem so distant…” – Shilpa Raj

The language is fluent and simple to understand. It has a wonderful flow to it which makes it all the more appealing. I love the way the paragraphs are split as that helps the story flit from past to present which is how it is written. My favourite part was that about her sister which was told beautifully.

“I was anxious to see my mother, and nothing else could be more important.” – Shilpa Raj

There isn’t a systematic flow to the tale which is very engaging and, for me, one of the highlights of the novel. I feel like the entire story became double the times more interesting because of the timelines interchanging and Shilpa’s history mingling with her present. What makes it even better is that there is no confusion despite the form of this narrative which shows the author’s skill of story telling.

Plot Rating – 5 / 5

I loved…

  1. The fluency in the writing
  2. The diverse timelines the tale travels through
  3. The author’s ability to tell her story without creating confusion in the reader’s mind

I wanted…

More conversations! That is my only suggestion / critical aspect about the book.

Overall Rating: 5 / 5
Verdict: Worth Every Penny!

Order your copy from the link below:

Amazon India

 

 

Author Interview: Rajiv Mittal

This week, I had the opportunity to interview an amazing author. He is packed with wit, humour and seems to be an extremely straight-forward person. Introducing to you all… Rajiv Mittal!

About the Author and the Book:

In this first section, we covered the basic questions and asked the obvious. Of course, for you to understand the future goals of Rajiv Mittal, you need to know a bit about Rajiv Mittal first, right? Let’s get right into it!

Q1: What does the world need to know about you?

I am a cynical realist who always assumes the worst of people and situations and is therefore sometimes pleasantly surprised but never disappointed.

Q2: Tell us a little bit about  what inspired you to pen ‘Brahmahatya’.

I would visit my father in his retirement home during his final days. Seeing all the residents, I would wonder – what are their stories? And are they all really who they say they are.

The ‘What’ section:

This part of the interview contained the questions starting with ‘What’ that caught my inquisitive mind. These questions center around Rajiv Mittal’s interests and delve slightly deep. Let’s see what he had to say…

Q1: What is it about writing that inspires you?

The fact that while I am writing, unlike in real life, I am in complete control of my imagined world.

Q2: What is your favourite genre to read and why?

Humor of the cynical variety. Why? Because despite all this fear of Artificial Intelligence enslaving humans, I do not believe it can happen until the time A.I. develops an ability to cynically laugh at itself. That requires real intelligence.

The ‘Who’ and ‘When’ section:

This is where it started getting a bit tricky. In this section, I mostly covered a few personal aspects of the author, trying to figure out how it all began…

Q1: Who motivated you throughout your writing journey?

God.

Q2: When did you decide that writing was your passion?

When I realized that however horrible I might feel when I wrote something, it was always a pleasure reading it back.

The ‘How’ section:

Here, I mainly focused my questions around the present and the future, in my attempt to try and understand what we can hope to expect moving forward. I must say, I was surprised.

Q1: How do you envision your future?

Very bleak. Real life is beginning to scare me and I am reduced to browsing the internet particularly social media to be amazed.

Q2: How different would your life be if it didn’t involve writing?

I might have become grumpier as a person. Writing gives me the luxury to constructively spend a great deal of my time and it is cathartic.

 

Conclusion:

As we decided to call it a day, I asked Rajiv if he had anything  in specific he wanted to say. Here is his extract.

Thank you, Rajiv, for such an interesting interview.

You can order ‘Brahmatya’ from Amazon today.

 

If you would like to have your interview taken, then head over HERE for further details on how you can make this happen!

Book Review: Brahmahatya by Rajiv Mittal

“Sleep alone could bring the peace he sought.” – Rajiv Mittal

Hey there, readers! I know it’s been long, but I’m back now and this week I was able to get my hands on Brahmahatya by Rajiv Mittal which stands for ‘the act of killing a Brahmin’ in Sanskrit.

Let us get into the review, shall we?

Blurb:

A story of revenge and redemption and deeds shaped by forces that humans believe they have defined through mythology and scriptures but still struggle to understand.
A woman employee of a retirement home is shocked to discover that a new resident is in fact the son impersonating his father. The son is seeking revenge. She, by her past actions, is unwittingly complicit in his being there and now tries to thwart his peculiar plans. A senile woman-resident and an enigmatic founder offer him sage advice. The samudra manthan (a major episode in Hindu mythology), a slightly dim secretary and a sinister boss play their part in ensuring justice is finally served but in an unexpected manner.

The novel quotes frequently from the ancient Hindu scriptures and stories that the protagonists use to justify their actions. The treatment of the elderly in society is a major theme.

 

Title:

The most appealing thing about the title is the Sanskrit meaning to it. I found the depth of the word and the possible circumstances surrounding it to be quite fascinating. It has the two elements I search for in any title. The attraction factor and the arousal of curiosity.

Title Rating – 5 / 5

Cover:

The cover has a holy feeling to it and makes it seem as though the book has a very religiously philosophical approach to it – both of which are fabulous as it sets a record with the readers before they start reading the book. However, my only comment is that I wish it was more catchy as the current cover is a bit bland and dull.

Cover Rating – 4.5 / 5

Plot:

“The sound of its siren was now strident, continuous and very frightening in its urgency..” – Rajiv Mittal

At the start of this book, I was wondering how a heavy topic could be portrayed in a fictional  and light-hearted manner. But as I read through the pages, I realized that the author did a fantastic job in deducing a wonderful flow among the situations and the characters. What specifically stood apart for me was the character ‘Bhavna’ who connected to me instantly due to the strength of perseverance.

“His father’s bed seemed to be waiting for him to return.” –  Rajiv Mittal

The language is fluent and simple to understand. It has a wonderful flow to it which makes it all the more appealing. There is a third person narration which I found quite apt though a singular narration from a specific point of view would have also suited the story immaculately. That being said, this is probably one of the more descriptive pieces of writing I have read so far which makes it appealing to me.

“The two men remained silent visitors of the night.”  – Rajiv Mittal

It is a highly engaging and an enjoyable read. The author did a fantastic job in connecting loose ends and finishing off the story on a gentle note.

Plot Rating – 5 / 5

I loved…

  1. The writing style
  2. The conversational aspects
  3. The author’s clarity of thought
  4. The plot

I wanted…

  1. An element of mystery
  2. Less confusion among a couple of dialogues

Overall Rating: 4.5 / 5

Verdict: Worth A Read!

Order your copy from any of the links below:

Amazon India

Amazon (US)

 

 

Biryani Review – Behrouz Biryani (Multiple Outlets, Hyderabad)

Today, I am reviewing a a biryani ‘PALACE’ I’ve heard about quite often in the past but never really got around to trying…. Behrouz!

Every Hyderabadi knows that if there is one thing that we cannot resist, it is Biryani. We are known for making it, for eating it and for discussing it everywhere we go. So, naturally, I have to do justice to my local heritage. Here it goes!

As usual, we have three major parameters that we are going to judge this by:

  1. Delivery / Service
  2. Packaging
  3. Food

Delivery / Service:

I am particularly pleased to say that their service was amazing. Due to personal constraints, I placed an order four days in advance and I then forgot about it. But they did not. They came on the scheduled date, at the scheduled time and delivered my food promptly. Definitely not disappointed.

I give the service 5/5.

Packaging:

This was the part which I was enthralled about. The packaging was GORGEOUS. I did not know that the biryani box could look better than the biryani itself! Okay, enough gushing. See for yourselves…

I give the packaging 5/5.

Food:

The biryani box came with a generous portion of biryani, a tiny portion of raitha and two gulab jamuns. This satiated my craving for biryani as well as my insatiable sweet tooth. There also was a tiny sachet of cardamom powder which was so delightful.

Starting with the biryani, one thing I noticed first was the delicious spread of dry fruits. The vegetables were scrumptiously fried to the right extent and the tandoori paneer was perfect – crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. One thing I didn’t like, however, and this is my own personal opinion – is that there was far too much dry spice to it. That, I am sure, will be a definite treat for those who relish that kind of food.

Coming to the gulab jamun… what can I say? They were filling, juicy and such a wonderful touch to the end of a lovely meal.

I give the food 4/5.

Overall:

An experience I don’t regret. Good food, great taste and lives up to the Hyderabadi vibe!

Final rating: 4/5
Verdict: Go for it!

Behrouz Biryani Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter, An Awaited Memoir

 

Amidst the lull of three generations lies a tale so splendid that it is sure to awaken our minds and spirits. Such is the story of The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter which promises to show a glimpse into the backward society that we often fail to realize as a part of our own. Set in the backdrop of a tiny village down in the south of India, the book talks about the taboo that surrounds the ‘untouchables’.

Coming from one such family herself, Shilpa Anthony Raj is the first person to recall her own memories and showcase her livelihood from an insider angle. Delving into societal issues such as poverty, discrimination and hardships, The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter deals with some major hindrances that can be related to. Shilpa’s ease and flow make the writing all the more diverse, showcasing a unique perspective towards our societal issues. The writing follows a narrative style that makes the connection with readers more personal.

For decades spanning over centuries, the upper castes have been crudely dominating the voices of those beneath them – thereby forming the main essence of portrayal. As the title suggests, this first person memoir is one of its kind in the way it captures pain without glorifying circumstances. While each minute detail has been painstakingly written to the most realistic possible sense, there are multiple undertones, characteristic portrayals and sequences that surpass the worst that can be left to imagination.

Caught between the world where the burden of suppression looms large and the world of windows where opportunities come through, Shilpa’s has a question of a lifetime. Where does she truly belong? It is the author’s ability to rise beyond the oppression and continue to pursue her passions relentlessly despite the traditional values weighing her down that forms the central theme of the memoir.

Shilpa’s journey of self-discovery highlights the pages of the book and has created quite a buzz right before its release. Expectations are high on this one and they all, I am sure, will be met. The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter is already available for orders since 10th of July, so, you can get the book before it’s launched officially on 28th this month! Block your calendars!

 

Pizza Review: Oven Story Pizza (Multiple Outlets, Hyderabad)

Today, I am reviewing a place I am SUPER excited about. Oven Story Pizza.

I have been WAITING to try this place out for ages. Because I love Pizza. We ALL love Pizza. So, anyway, when I got approached for an honest review, there was NO way I was going to say no. Thus began my Oven Story journey. Check it out!

We have three major parameters that we are going to judge this by:

  1. Delivery / Service
  2. Packaging
  3. Food

Delivery / Service:

I asked for my food to be delivered around 8:30 PM and I got a call at 8:15 to confirm the address. I was very happy with the service as the Pizza was delivered piping hot, with decent quantity of seasonings and was on time.

I give the service 4.5/5.

Packaging:

Whenever I order food, I love to look at the packaging quality. Given the number of Pizza outlets and the competition, especially in Hyderabad, I was enthralled to see how Oven Story would stick out.

The packaging is very cute, just like the store’s name and I thought it was perfect.

I give the packaging 5/5.

Food:

Now, the Pizza! *Drum Roll*. The moment I opened the box, I was welcomed by the sight of the generous toppings and oozing cheese. Definitely no complaints! The Medium Pizza looked quite big, stuffed with toppings and mouth-wateringly delicious.

I ordered the Peri Peri Tandoori Paneer Pizza and I was surely not disappointed. The first slice, I believe, is the make or break slice. As I carefully picked my slice, trying not to let ANYTHING topple, I was in awe.

First bite? Scrumptious.

It was then that I knew that Oven Story is probably the only decent competition to Domino’s (Haters, stay away!) that I have come across. Just one word. AMAZING. I will relish the taste for a long, long time to come.

I give the pizza 5/5.

Overall:

A fabulous experience that made me want more instantly. Oven Story is now the crowned glory.

Final rating: 5/5
Verdict: You Wont Regret It!

Ovenstory Pizza Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Wraps Review: Faaso’s (Begumpet, Hyderabad)

Today, I am reviewing a quickly growing brand called Faaso’s.

The delight of receiving a food delivery is unmatched. The anticipation when the delivery guy calls for the address, the rumble in the tummy when you know the food is nearby, the excitement of getting to eat something that you hope will be delicious… Every single phase of the above is unmatched. This time, I wasn’t disappointed.

Let me take a shot at reviewing Faaso’s with three major parameters:

  1. Delivery / Service
  2. Packaging
  3. Food

Delivery / Service:

I asked for my food to be delivered around 8 PM and I got a call at 7:45 to confirm the address. The guy delivering my food was extra sweet, very respectful and quite quick too. He handed over the food and I couldn’t wait to begin.

I give the service 4.5/5.

Packaging:

This was the most thrilling part for me. I LOVE the way Faaso’s does its packaging. It’s vibrant, colourful and just makes the food all the more tempting. The wraps came in cute boxes that were so endearing. Bonus points for all that colour and excellent marketing strategy for sure.

I give the packaging 5/5.

Food:

Now, the main part. The Food. I ordered two wrap, one vegetarian and the other Non-Vegetarian. They were both piping hot which complimented a rainy Hyderabad perfectly. The outside was fresh and soft, which was quite a relief given the number of stale and hard wraps I’ve eaten in the past from other restaurants.

Coming to the fillings, they were hot, delicious and melted in the mouth. I specifically loved the Faaso’s masala that came with it.

Definitely an excellent meal.

I give the food 4.5/5.

Overall:

It was a genuinely great experience. I surely didn’t regret it even one bit. I recommend this to anyone who has a flavor for fast food, varied taste buds and / or loves Non-Vegetarian food because these guys surely know what they are doing.

Final rating: 4.5/5
Verdict: Just go for it!

Faaso's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato/

Shilpa Raj, An Exciting New Arrival

Sweet Sixteen. A young age for discovery, expression, and inspiration. For Shilpa Raj, it marked the literary beginning of a lifelong journey. With a mindset to become an author, she began a fruitful research into her past that centered on the hardships her family faced, as she strung together decades of memories to form the basis for her central theme. Now, at 23, she is ready to showcase what can only be anticipated as a debutant’s masterpiece.

The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter’ is a memoir of the harsh experiences that multiple generations of her family has had to endure. What I find enthralling about this book is that Shilpa is the first person of her age from the ‘untouchable’ community of three hundred million to write about the unimaginable hardships, indignity and violence experienced as an insider.

Coming from a background that is downtrodden, this inspiring young woman has risen strong, representing those like her whose dreams are shattered by unending trauma and lack of opportunity. It is admirable how Shilpa has taken it upon herself to become a role model, not only through her words but also through her deeds. Shilpa spends her free time counselling those from similar backgrounds and also teaches English.

In the seven years that it took to build this narrative, Shilpa also became the first member in her family to complete her higher education with an MSc in Psychological Counselling. Her hobbies span towards photography and dancing, both of which she embraces with the same passion she has for writing. To add another feather to her cap, she is also a major part in a Netflix Original Documentary titled ‘Daughters of Destiny’ which tells the lives of five young women, Shilpa included, who have had the courage and the determination to rise from the ashes. This series is awaiting release around the same time as her book.

The Elephant Chaser’s Daughter is all set to hit the stores by the 28th of July and will definitely prove to be a stellar display of raw emotions, complex perspectives and empathetic instances that will linger in readers’ minds for a long time. Stay tuned to this section for further updates!

Book Review: If Wishes Were Horses by Tim Hemlin

I just read If Wishes Were Horses by Tim Hemlin which is a collection of short stories. Here is what I thought…

BOOK COVER:

I personally did not find the cover too appealing. It was dull and not catchy at all. I feel like something different can be done too make it attractive.

Cover Rating – 2.5 / 5

TITLE JUSTIFICATION:

I loved the title. It’s from a famous quote “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.” It is catchy and interesting. Makes a person want to grab the book and give it a read.

Title Rating – 4.5 / 5

Theme

This is the first part of a mystery series by Tim Hemlin centered around the character “Neil Marshall”. It has a ‘Richard Castle’ vibe to it from the famous ‘Castle’ series. This book is a gripping tale of an emotionally damaged and financially unstable man whose passion is literature. When circumstances require for him to work for a restaurant an move in with his friend, he finds himself trapped in a sticky situation. This is centered around his friend’s murder and the horses he breeds for a living.

What really shone through was the research and the situations that the author very clearly has thought through thoroughly. It is impeccable and shows the passion that he has towards writing. I really commend him for his skill. The narration is done very cleanly, without even a little confusion and the style of writing is very clear.

There aren’t any major grammatical errors. The suspense is maintained very well throughout the book.

Rating – 4 / 5

OVERALL IMPRESSION:

All in all, this was a great read and something I would definitely recommend to anyone who is interested in mysteries or thrillers.

Final Rating: 4.5 / 5

Verdict: Recommended!

Order Now!

My new novel, ‘Twisted’ is now out in stores. Take a peak into the sample chapters and order your copy today at Amazon!