The wonder that was INdia

LegacyLegacy by Mohan Prasad
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is not merely a story of a boy-but it is a snapshot of the period of his growth-the time, the history, the culture’ is how you can try to explain ‘Legacy’ by Mohan Prasad in an one sentence expression.
Legacy’ is the perfect name for the book. A nation is born awaking from the sleep at the stroke of the midnight after a long history of struggle for independence-erasing a long history of colonial occupation. But that was just the beginning-tryst with destiny of the country was a mix of hope and despair, joys and tears. Just after independence dreams of millions were shattered-thousands rendered homeless after the line of Radcliffe passed straight through their hearts-bleeding them. It was a journey of nightmare for laths-often trains crossing the borders were found to contain only dead bodies-only past, who were very much alive, very much present when the trains had started their journey. And after partition-it was not an unmixed bliss too. More has to come-there was poverty, there was famine, there was corruption, there was racial discrimination, and there were riots in the name of religion. But there was progress to. India marches ahead in the field of education, science, technology-you name it. And the backdrop of the newly independent country was changing rapidly too-there were rapid changes in almost every aspect-older thought giving way to the newer ones-communist and socialistic ideologies sprouted –religious organizations like RSS started to make a clear cut impact on public minds. Border truce with neighboring countries taught India to become self reliant in the field of defense. In a nutshell-there were signs that India was maturing-taking noteworthy strides towards being a nation in making. It was just like the story of a boy getting grown up-he makes countless errors-countless blunders in his childhood, boyhood, youth hood, adulthood…. In spite of all these errors he makes progress-he grows up-he gets matured. It is pretty much the same story with a big family-there is invisible and visible stress and strains in a family-there are errors in decisions-but there is a bond that sews the family member’s together-like flowers of a garland. ‘Legacy’ is the story of seeing the nation getting matured from the perspective of an individual. ‘Legacy’ is the story of an individual gradually getting grown up, too.
If I say-this is the story of Darshan Swami-who was once lovingly called Dalai by his parents-then thorough injustice will be done to the story. it is not merely a story of an individual-it is also a story of generations- it is the story of traditions that flows like the river Baghmati where the story had first begun-where the little Dalai had his first lessons in the lessons of life from his father. Here the little boy first knew how their family flourished-with dreams and aspirations how the great, great predecessors of the family started their business, how the ups and downs came in their lives. It was like the journey of the pilgrim for little Dalai-down the memory lane, knowing his roots-knowing his destiny. Here from the father –the little boy got his first lessons of history, civics and politics of a young nation-as young as the boy himself-throbbing with excitement, boiling with enthusiasm, leaping with vigor. His father was his first guru (it may seems a little out of context, but today is teacher’s day. Is not that coincidental?)
Every story has a prologue. How can here be exception? Let us take a sneak peek into the story of Shankar-the father of little Dalai. A robbery at their house makes him realize how desperately he needs to protest-in the face of unjust. So he joined a RSS camp-where he was taught the art of self defense. But strength often accompanies arrogance and pride-and he challenged a burly man in mock duet. And as he was no ‘Dharmaraj’, he caused wound of his opponent, breaking laws. And that was his end with RSS. He returned back to his hamlet and never ever came with active contact with RSS again.
The story of Dalai is a story of a boy who loved to fly like a bird under the sky-who loved to live the life at its fullest. At the hostel, they were like lords of wishes. Dalai and gang devised ways to escape from hostel, attend other’s weddings and enjoy lavish meals, steal from the kitchen –just name any devil’s plan and the boys are on their toes. Dalai was at the seventh heaven until his luck ran out one day-he was caught in his act of escape from the hostel. His father was summoned and charge of visiting the brothel was alleged against Darshan. His father knew that the boy had not committed the sin, but
‘shankar stayed back for the night in the hostel’s small guestroom. With the first rays of the morning, they left for Baeshwar. With a heavy heart, Dalai took leave of his friends-the brothers in arms and partners in crime. They would also leave soon, for the summer vacations were due in a week. The sole difference was Dalai wouldn’t return to the same address. In fact, the events that led to Dalai’s expulsion had started some months earlier, before the previous summer.’
But life does not remain static, it is dynamic. So the story goes on and on-and with that Dalai. At the crossroad of life-he meets Anita and life takes a new turn. Life starts to bear a new perspective-a new meaning.
At some point of time-their life diverges .dalai became a spiritual leader and Anita a firm believer in extremist ideologies. But what will become of their dreams? The dreams they once shared together-with new song of hope in their minds.
Destiny plays cruel jokes with men-it makes and it breaks.
Life is the game of making and breaking.
‘Legacy ‘ is everyone’s story-everyone can realize the reflection of his or her traits in the characters-in the hope, grief, joy, sorrow, aspirations of the protagonists everyone can discover themselves. The characters are so naturally portrayed that never the reader will realize that he is reading a fiction-it will rather be a journey of identification. Romance is an essential ingredient of the journey of two protagonists-but it is rather a secondary part.
As we have already discussed that the story culminates around India- the land and the people have been trapped inside the book with all the splendors, with all the contrasts and with all the diversities. However one aspect that is needed to be pointed out that as the time period of the story is rather a long one-from the forties to eighties-the contemporary events make the fabric of the story. However-long dialogues depicting events may be too tiresome for the reader. Only raw facts without any fictional elements might break the rhythm-and sometimes may disturb the coherency and flow of the story.
After all-after finishing ‘Legacy’ the story will echo in the minds of the reader………

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Pages from life

Everybody has a story... These are ours...Everybody has a story… These are ours… by Audrey N. Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Like they say-‘what’s in a name?’-It can similarly be asked-‘what’s in a successful short story?’
A short story is a collection of passing moments in life-thousands of moments that are sunk into oblivion everyday-moments that are as priceless as the drops of pearly tears-priceless as the bright sunshine like laughter.
And a short story will never ever get finished. Because it is the glimpses of the dynamic life-and life never ends-always it keeps on moving-in joy and in grief-in hope and in despair.
A short story is like the reflection of the surroundings in a pond……………
Everybody Has a Story-Here are Ours by Audrey N Lewis is an anthology of seven short stories-like the seven colors of rainbow. All the shades of color have been painted by the writer with bold brushstroke-thematic imagination and gripping narratives. Her writing exposes the psychological traits of the species called Homo sapiens. Stories are narrated in first persons-because the stories are truly from the pages of life. Some will merge us into deep melancholy-some will shock us with the climax. Overall it is a well managed orchestra-symphony revealing every shades of life.
Let us start us our discussion with the first story of the collection-the Closet. The story starts with penning of the picture of an adoring child-a doting mother and a happy family-giving us no clue to which direction the story will head to. The narrator of the story loves her family likes a miser loves his wealth-and to her motherhood was the most precious thing. She was thrilled when little Marcus came into her lap.
Marcus is close to perfection-he was tolerant, intelligent, patient-if a baby is capable of realizing the true meaning of these high sounding human qualities-but truly he was and ‘he was the baby that god gave you first so that you would want a second’. But this time it was not smooth sailing-everything has to be tried-fertility drug, semen analysis, medical tests-before she became pregnant for the second time.
And after the coming of little Katherine to the family-she was not as easy to be treated like Marcus. She was hard to handle-cried so much that they began to wonder whether it was medically all well with her. From every possible corner strange advises started to downpour like torrential rain –and after a little bit of time she realized her dear husband, is not with her in the battle of controlling Katherine. But like dawn comes after the night, Katherine had started to be normal. ‘Soon she giggled as often she had screamed. She quickly went from crawling to pulling herself up and on her birthday we not only celebrated her training 1, but she took her very first step independently. Within a day or two she was running. Life was good.’
Or was it?
Katherine proved to be a difficult child to be talked-by her parents-her brothers-her teachers-her friends. Neither had she tried to adjust herself to the social periphery- nor her acquaintances tried to adjust with her. Her uncontrollable rage had made her unpopular in her friend’s circle-teachers felt her outbursts disruptive. And after a painful series of efforts on the part of her parents-there was a temporary stop of her school life. But she had proved to be increasingly difficult to be controlled-rage, fit, weeping, crying –everything made her parents decide-enough is enough. And she started her school chapters once again-this time in a new school-in a new environment. ‘At the school meeting she shined. She was little Miss Personality .sweet, attentive and engaging, the staff and teachers were excited to have her.’
And then she had a passion –well, you will decide later-what would have been an apt word for Katherine’s interest towards hamster. She impressed her mother with a comprehensive knowledge about the mammal-and got one as a pet. She named her Blinky. All seemed fine until one day the narrator discovered Blinky was dead’ her head cocked in an unusual position almost separated from her body.’ Her parents suspected that she might have some hand in her death. But she convinced everybody that it was her innocent curiosity that was responsible for her death!
Her attention then got diverted to insects-specially bugs. And she made a nice colony for them. The conclusion of the story is shocking-will sent a chill down your spine. After you discover the last twist-you will think in horror-is it possible? Can she do it?
The story telling style of Audrey is so absorbing that your interest will soar like the temperature of a feverish patient. She is capable of creating a perfect ambience that will take the story towards the end. She has proved herself master craftswoman in craving the character of Katherine-a lady avatar of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide. Katherine has made everybody fooled by the façade of her character. But what will haunt you after finishing the story that what is the cause? Usually such deformation or deviation is caused by the social unacceptability-childhood trauma-memory of torment. But she had loving parents-caring brother-social environment of higher etalon. Then why?
No doubt only a powerful writer can come to that depth of human psychology with unmoved pen.
The last story of the collection ‘ If only you could hear her sing’ is a touching account of the experience of the narrator in a controversial so called ‘well managed’ nursing home. Like all other stories of the collection the writer cared a lot about narrating the surrounding-creating an ambience of contrast. She recalled her experience with the home-where the first two floors give the impression of heaven on earth-warm, cozy environment, professional staffs, ample scope for entertainment for the patients. But once you just go at upper stage-you will find hell on earth. It is simply because the patients of the third and fourth floors are seldom visited by their keens-the floors are a little away from the media attention-and so the patients are neglected.
But even after all these neglects, apathy on the part of the management to the residents of the third and fourth floor-the residents have stolen her attention.
‘When I returned on the 4th floor, I immediately heard Mabel’s singing. She was sitting up in her wheelchair behind her closeddoor. I attempted to introduce myself, but she was in her own world, so I just listened for a while. She wasn’t singing songs but instead was singing conversations. Conversations full of details about her past…..’
It is a quest of the narrator-of discovering that indomitable force that made our life so beautiful in spite of all the grief, despair and dejection. Like a skilled scuba diver she has explored the depths of life for her pearls.
And as I have told at the beginning-the stories will echo to the readers after finishing thee book- like a song that takes our life from the hustle bustle of life.
A song that perhaps ended with a drop of tears.

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a journey through blood and tears

Doctor Margaret in Delhi (The Azadi Series #2)Doctor Margaret in Delhi by Waheed Rabbani
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Gunfire is all around-only smoke is visible-their carriage is under attack from the plunders of India.
They have native soldiers escorting them- but the robbers were equally matched for the soldiers- and they are heavily armed.
Heated lead has flied past the lady from America-an inch off its trajectory and it would be the life and death determining moment.
A man, like a demon is charging towards her- a devilish looking man with bright metallic weapon.
She closed her eye in fear- how does death feels?
The man is fearless- in the name of goddess Kali they can even die laughing.
Another gunshot- does she have any sensation of blood dripping out of her body?
Is she feeling sleepy?
Welcome to India 1855-when the rule of the East India Company has been established throughout India barring a few native states-which are fighting hard to establish their autonomy on the face of the imperialism!
Doctor Margaret in Delhi by Waheed Rabbani is a chronicle of the lady doctor-one of the pioneers of the American history of medical learning(till then the learning of medical science was heavily gender biased)- in India as a member of the medical service of India . But more than a memoir- it is the story of a white lady whose destiny in her unconsciousness was merged with the destiny of the native states, the soldiers, the great Mughals….
It is a story amid the backdrop of the most turbulent times of the Indian history- within two years there will be a fire erupting out.
for those who are not familiar with the story of Margaret-or have missed the train to ride with her in her fascinating journey – Doctor Wallidad –a modern day doctor had discovered a beautiful sea chest in his hospital lying unclaimed-from where had been recovered princely jewels form Indian native states and the journal of the experience of the life of the lady doctor.
That chest belonged to Margaret- no prize for guessing!
How did the valuables including the crown of Jhansi sneak through to the chest of the lady? In a time machine we have to travel to the days of the company rule- to the days whose mention will always be there in the history of India in blood and tears- those fiery days- smokes of rebellion coiling up against the tyranny of company rule!
Let us come to the story now. The curtain of the story rises on a ship taking the doctor to her trip to Calcutta-the capital of India! She has lost her dear husband in the war in Crimea. The wound is very fresh- especially in the light of the fact that it was sheer backstabbing from his friend!
‘Et tu , Brute?’
In the ship she was introduced to Colonel Humphrey. Remember readers-this name…………..
It was a moment full of emotions when she met her father- the man had travelled the way from his mission to Calcutta to receive his daughter. Destiny took them away –after she got married and destiny took them closer again-after the demise of her husband.
Irony of fate……
The author had made extensive research on the history of the city that is enough to have a visualization of the then capital of India- be it’s skyline, be it’s culture, be it’s tradition, be the oriental life of the native and the Europeans. It is like a picture drawn by Daniel of old Calcutta-no I am a little wrong- more elaborate picture-such is the bold brushstroke- such is the selection of colours.
And when India being a country of snake charmers, Can snakes be far behind?
“I heard a slight hissing and rustling sound from the top of the bed, a few feet away. I turned around and noticed the long, thick tail of a snake slithering on the silk bedcover. It must have spotted me. For it rose about a quarter of its length and displayed its ugly head through the parted mosquito net. It was a cobra.”
Silk bedcover just reminds me that the writer has an elaborate eye for details-an essential ingredient for the picture of the story to float before the eyes.

Soon the tender heart of the lady felt sympathetic with the cause of the Indian- be the imperial policy of the colonial rule or the behaviour of the Europeans towards black natives-she started to found it increasingly difficult to swallow. At the place of work of her father-she got to mix up with a native ruler- but destiny has some other thought for her.
During her stay to Delhi she found herself at the helm of the kingly affairs- the great Mughals –their hope and aspirations- conspiracy and dark side- soon started to moist her mind. And events started to happen. And little Jan- the sign of love of her dear husband comes to her lap!
“Doctor Margaret, what do you think of y son, Jawan?’ she asked.
‘He is a very nice boy.’
‘Do you think he can be the next king?’
‘Not for me to decide, your majesty. I believe it is something king Zafar should discuss with governor general.”
Well readers-can you smell of blood? if you do-you have a good sense of picking things-as soon storm is going to blow-over her life-over he land- over the rulle of company-that will decide the land of India!

All the time – an army officer increasingly started to get attracted to her. But is he merely a bee attracted by the fragrance of the blooming flower? Or his love is as pure as pure as driven snow?
Where the destiny will take her? What the future beholds for her?
An absorbing historical novel glittered by historical facts well navigated by the writer- is how I would love to express it. But suddenly I realised I am forgetting about the plot-which will attract readers as magnet.
And there is no denying the fact that it is one of the period novels where the writer has done justice to the characters-they are so real yet so fictional!

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The call within……….

The argument is non ending –regarding the philosophy of mind.
It can hear, can sees an information-but the information might not be stored in the consciousness of the individual. But it is not lost either-it is stored in the deepest hiding place of the mind.
Because mind is far deeper than Mariana trench!
The information that are disturbing to us are automatically gets stored in our unconscious minds. But sometimes they are so disturbing that they return back again and again in our nightmare- sometimes they get so cruel so as to control our emotions and behaviour.
Even the haunting may rise to such a difficult level that the helpless soul imagines of ending all misery- getting relieved of all pain!
Unable to cope with such stress that may tear up the life like a piece of paper- unable to cope up with life, the individual may think of a separate entity- an absolutely new person within- saying-‘just go. Destroy yourself.’
Or pronounce-‘what you are doing?’
This psychological paradigm has been well explored by R. Nazir in his new suspense psychological fiction ‘Bearing Witness.’
Vinod is simply a next door young lad-straight from the generation Y. But if you have time to sneak a peak into his personal life-then you will get, well shocked. He has a loving mom and a bright future-but he seems to be getting apathetical with life.
So he says to his caring mom-the same person who gave him father’s affection and mother’s love-
‘I don’t know…I was punishing myself, I guess. Trying to hate you, shutting you out …..And somehow, it got harder and harder to see the way back’, I looked into her eyes. ‘I don’t want to live like that anymore…..holding on to regrets that only hurts everyone. I want to move on. If you could forgive me…..’
Reader is bound to get shell shocked when a young guy utters some self destructive talks. And it was not originated form some philosophical idea-no, certainly not. It is material-crude and real!
A tantalizing nightmare returns back in his dreams- last cry of someone, seeing somebody getting burned alive in front of him, hearing the last moments of breathe of somebody-somebody very near and dear to him! But the picture of somebody is grey, a bit hazy-like a dark silhouette which has a perimeter-but no distinctive shape.
Vinod thinks he is responsible for this. Deep inside him, somebody shouts-‘you did nothing to save her!’
or could he have done something, at all?
Yes, that someone was she and she often in his dreams. Unable to cope up, he resorts to the path of self destruction, while someone deep inside him tries relentlessly to rescue him from that booby trap of life!
And wonder of wonders, when that she comes in her dreams and –‘when Anna appeared in his dream that night, and offered to satisfy his every whim, he hesitated, but it was not enough to stop him. It should have ended there, when he woke up, but it didn’t. He had seen her bare and willing, his subconscious had expressed his surreptitious desire, and he had satisfied it without a second thought. He couldn’t see any other way anymore.’
It is a strange world of mind-where the boundary of real and imaginary gets erased up- where the imaginary world darling can easily take the place of real world lover of our protagonist and another personality deep inside the mind of Vinod gets control over the real Vinod.
Or does he?

like a sudden gush of wind some pictures crosses his mind- a retrieval from his past memory- a memory that haunts him down day and nought, in awakening and in sleep.
“I shivered as if the horror had been my own. Then he woke up. He looked at her for a moment, he felt derision, and there was no true emotion. To him, the touch of her skin felt as repulsive as snake slithering over his body. He struggled frantically, pushed her away and jumped to his feet.”
Who are they? Why they did come in his memory in silent feet?
For the moment, let it be a mystery to the reader-as the protagonist is a mystery himself.
the story takes quite a fascinating shape when our young lad explores deep inside his mind-startling facts are revealed and the story line gets a whole new dimension.
Is there any way out of this tornado of life?
Where does destiny take him and the two women who are perhaps closest to his young heart?
Let all these are suspense.
However one hint is there that when I ended up with the story I was encountered with something unexpected- the same surprises that I face with page by page reading. And this is a statutory warning to the reader –please do not miss a page while reading, otherwise you may miss vital essence of the story!
However a small comment at the end, for an exceedingly fast paced story like that it would have been better if the narration is a little bit faster! once started with the story, nobody would like to stumble at mid path…………………..
Because philosophy always can’t explain what happens in heaven and earth!
And this non explanatory nature makes our life so enthralling!

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