Jun 12, 2015

The Tournament.... MR novel that sooooooo not like MR...

Do you love a particular author? Why do you love that one? For the writing style? Genre? Flow of the stories? Character development? Uniqueness of the storyline? There could be a lot of reasons, why you love a certain author. And when the author you love, changes gear and writes about something you didn't expect… do you still love him/her with same intensity?

As I've professed on multiple occasions… I LOVE Matthew Reilly. This Australian firework of an author is the one whose work reads like an action movie. A well executed, out of the world, thrill inducing, adrenaline pumping hardcore ACTION movie. I love his flare of unusual storylines. The ease with which his characters step out of the pages and make you, lose your breath just by reading the amazing things they are doing. He is the guy who is master of cliffhangers. He is the author that has brought to his readers at the edge of the seats and made is perfectly normal to read sentences like “Dragons are hurling trucks at me”… J so when he came out with a book about a Chess Tournament that was held in 1500’s… it makes me wonder, if I should really pick it up… so the paperbound sat on my shelf for a long long time.looking at me with pleading eyes, urging to me reach out and read through its pages, immerse myself in words of my fav author… and I kept averting my gaze, reaching out and picking books above and below…forever running away from the ‘possibility’ of a disappointment. (I must confess here that I was avoiding it coz I REALLY thought it was ABOUT chess, and I'm really hopeless when it comes to strategy games)

I finally picked this up when I was on my way back from Prague. (I know it’s a delayed review, but I was really busy with other ‘stuff’). It took me a little over a 12 days to finish the book. It does NOT talk about the quality of book though…it simply owing to my hectic schedule and lack of personal time that caused this duration.

It is a Matthew Reilly fiction for sure. There are a lot of MR special things in it. There’s mystery. There’s intrigue.  There’s adrenaline and there’s action. However, this is a very different MR. The mystery is wailed, intrigue mingled with unease, action subdued. Possibly because he was writing about historical figures. Possibly because this was not a hardcore action. Possibly because of the period of the book. Or may be, just may be because this is the first ‘first-person’ book MR has written in a female voice. I cant really pinpoint what it is about this book that makes it different. There’s an undercurrent in the whole novel that keeps you uneasy throughout. The novel is as much about politics as it is about murder mystery and equally about shaping of a young female mind as anything else. True to his style, he writes it with a flow that makes it unputdownable. However there are elements in the story that disgust you, make you want to recoil in unease… corruption of state and god-men is nothing new, but seeing it from the eyes of teenager makes it more uncomfortable I guess. The world MR builds is equally realistic and true…. In the past and in present… and it’s THAT timelessness of corruption of man that makes you sad. Had I known that the novel will make want to sit with my head in my hands upon finishing it; I might have not picked it up when I did. But at no point during and after reading it, am I regretting reading it. The book is a mature book. Compared to all his other works, this one is the most unsettling one. I swear, I did not expect that from his books. And now as I write this review, I realize that I expected from him a Vin Diesel action flick while he thrust upon me a Clint Eastwood classic. Am happy.

There are a lot of elements in this novel that are not appropriate for immature reader. And please note, that I say immature not young…. It’s a sensitive novel and people with childish disposition might not appreciate what the novel tries to convey. For a change, MR writes a novel that truly has a message… J how delightful is THAT?

Verdict: don’t expect the regular fireworks of Matthew Reilly novels. There is no end-of-the-world battle and fancy villain and dashing hero. The battleground here is the mind and hero is courage and brain-power. Touch this only if you want to be reformed and question your beliefs… read only if you think you are ready to be mature.

Jun 2, 2015

My son called me Hidimba.

On the outset, the exclamation my son made in the spur of moment, stunned me. With normal stigma attached to the word and background of the she-demon. The name Hidimba (or sometimes referred as Hidimbi) usually sprouts images of dark, rough, huge, theoretically ugly she-demon that met the Pandavas while they were fleeing their cousin’s evil plot of burning them in the Lakshagruha (the house made of lacquer). This she-demon helped Pandavas in killing her own brother who shared her name (i.e. Hidimb) and then bore a son with third Pandav, Bheem.

Like all normal people, the name of the she-demon brings forth only images of ugly out of shape strange looking females that are used to portray her in the TV serials and movies. And the stigma of her being a demon hits you first when her name is uttered.
However, when my son called me Hidimba… I was forced to look at her in new light.

My 3.5 year old is very keen toon watcher. But instead of watching the popular Tom & Jerry, Shinchan or Doreamon, he has gotten into a habit of watching mytho stories. He is enthralled by the age old charm of magic and magicians, demons and sorcerers and gods. Like a sponge is absorbs the stories from Ramayan and Mahabharat. He remembers and quotes the characters like Jatayu and Sampati from Ramayan, better than most adults I’ve known. A few days back, since he has exhausted most of Ramayan and a big chunk of Mahabharat… I introduced him to Ghatotkach. The son that Hidimba bore to Bheem.

Ghatotkach is one of the underappreciated heros of the epic. He is a master of many magical abilities and prior to the battle of Kurukshetra has had a very eventful childhood. He is best remembered for saving life of Arjun on the battlefield of Kusukshetra. But other than that, he isn’t very popular in the day-to-day lore of the Mahabharata.

The movie that I gave to my son to watch is a beautiful rendition of Ghatotkach’s early years. His formative years. Years when he was honing his magical skills. Making friends with animals in the jungle. Learning to fight. Learning compassion and helping others. Years that shaped him to be what his mother wanted him to be…. A great warrior…a hero. Like most of the females in the great epic, Hidimba is also mentioned when she is useful to the five brothers and their mother. (can you tell, I don’t like the protagonists of the Epic, yet?) However, despite being a single mother (Bheem being busy playing politics with his cousins and plotting revenge for his “other” wife, Darupadi)… Hidimba raises her son to love and respect his father. Raises her only son and teaches him all arts that she knows of… including magic and combat.

The movie shows Ghatotkach learning how to wield his weapons, and combat skills from him mother. For a 3.5 year old, who has seen his mother bringing him bow and arrow and the traditional Gada (a mace)… seeing hero of a film learning how to fight from his mother, is the epitome of kool. She tells stories to Ghatotkach at  night. And listens to him making demands of a certain story, and then relenting to his wishes after some protest. She feeds him and asks him to be careful when he is on his way out to play. She scolds him when he isn’t back on time and even does a little fight when he gets in trouble. Ghatotkach like any other … is very dedicated to his mom. He not only learns from her, but also troubles her enough for her to lose patience with him once in a while.

Why is it any wonder that my son, called me Hidimba? J

For those who are still stuck on the stigma of her being a she-demon… here’s how I see Hidimba.

A single mother, who is raising a strong confident son, overseeing a kingdom, no matter how small. She is a strong, independent woman who knows her place and has clear dreams and plans for her and her son’s life. She is working her way to make the dreams come true, following the plans that will see her enjoying the fruitarian of her goals. She is what every woman, I know should aspire to be. Someone who loves deeply, is ready to take risks for that love. Someone who has a dream and works towards making that dream come true. She is happy if she has the support, but doesn’t crumble if the support is missing. She has a son that she loves and who loves her…is devoted to her that on her words he marches into the battle… though the “battle” bit is a bit extreme from where I see it… I still find her to be an admirable character. Like many other unsung females in the Epic… she strums the strings of my heart in a very strong manner. And when I see her from my son’s eyes… I’m glad that my son chose her name to call me with…. J