Monday, April 29, 2013
By Robin Shukla

Six good books, five by already very noted authors, and one by a new dabbler named Adi, who has more than adequately proved himself with a brilliant effort for young readers, titled Tantra. Jorasanko by Aruna Chakravarti takes us into the Tagore home, Blood Red Sari by Ashok Banker has three women fighting human traffickers, The Sea of Innocence by Kishwar Desai exposes the horrors of molestation and murders in good old Goa. The Vicks Mango Tree and Vanity Bagh are  two strong books by sensational novelist Anees Salim.

When vampires surface in India
Tantra by Adi takes us into the realm of vampires and the unknown. Nice to see Indians writing about the other dimension, since we are better equipped through our ancient cultures and traditions to provide our own twists to hitherto Western vampires.

Anu Aggarwal is out at 3 am in Delhi, hunting around gardens with a sweet pan in her mouth. Her pleather pants, halter top that exposes her midriff, and cashmere-lined leather jacket only serve to make her look as a lady of the night rather than the vampire hunter she is. She has killed off the most dangerous vampire in New York and is here to avenge the murder of someone she loved and cared about. This book is very interestingly written with its interaction with Indian pandits and their drugs and rituals. Where there are people, there is love and betrayal, and even Delhi has its scary corners. In the final reckoning, it is more by the power of the mind than weaponry that victories are gained.
by Adi Apeejay
Stya Publishing

Of the women inside the Tagore home
Jorasanko by Aruna Chakravarti is an engrossing account about life in the family home of the Tagores (Thakur?) in Kolkata, though the lasting impression is more about the women who peopled the place, and the situations in the house revolving around them, than anything else.

So read about Digambari, wife of Dwarkanath Tagore, (Rabindranath’s grandmother and grandfather) who tackled her husband’s inclinations to drink, go to nautch girls, and behave like the Englishmen he hobnobbed with; Sarada Sundari, wife of Debendranath (Rabindranath’s mother and father), who is uncomfortable with the changing times, even as her husband sets about reforming Hinduism thru the Brahmo Samaj, strong-willed and unyielding sister-in-law Jogmaya. There is also Kadambari, sister-in-law and dear friend and muse to Tagore, who fuelled controversy by committing suicide four month’s after the poet’s marriage.
by Aruna Chakravarti

Marked for death by an envelope
Blood Red Sari by Ashok Banker is the first book in the Kali Rising series, the three sequels being Burnt Saffron Sky, Rust Black Heart and Silver Acid Rain. Banker’s Ramayana, Krishna Coriolis and the Ramayana series were extremely well received by readers.

A social activist Lalima has died under tragic circumstances. Sheila, a well-toned physical enthusiast who runs an all-women’s gym at a prime location in Kolkata, finds herself on the wrong side of the municipal authorities. Served with a notice of closure, she is unaware that a yellow envelope has much to do with her troubled circumstances. Nachiketa is a wheel-chair bound attorney, who has finally defeated her violent husband and in-laws in court. Hell breaks loose as her secretary is attacked and raped by thugs searching for an envelope in her office. Anita, a private investigator who has been closest to Lalima, is turned out of her home by her mother, a brother pointing a gun at her. There too she is asked about an envelope. These women, each a recipient of an envelope, have to fend off unknown murderous adversaries.
Blood Red Sari
by Ashok Banker

When paradise turns out to be hell
The Sea of Innocence by Kishwar Desai is a terrific murder story by a writer who has made her mark on the international scene. Her debut novel, Witness the Night, won the Costa First Novel Award.

Here we have Desai looking at the frightening scenario of rape and murder of women. Simran Singh, who we saw in Witness the Night (a book that took a stark look at honour killing) and in Origins of Love (that looked at the rent-a-womb racket that exploits rural women) is again the main character, as a social worker-cum-crime investigator.

When she lands up in Goa for a much-needed break with her 16-year-old daughter Durga, she is confronted again by a harsh reality. Someone she was close to sends her a video-clip of a British teenager being sexually abused by four persons, and entreats that she help trace the girl Lisa Kay.
Goa suddenly is not the paradise it is made out to be, with Kishwar touching upon the disgusting Scarlett Keeling case that tarnished the name of that state, as well as the Delhi Nirbhaya rape horror.
The Sea of Innocence
by Kishwar Desai
Simon & Schuster India

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