book review, Books, Saturday Specifics, Uncategorized

Book Review: Ajaya-Roll Of The Dice :Saturday Specifics

My favourite companions- A good book, a warm cup of tea and of course my laptop that smiles at me invitingly every time I am inspired to write

A quick note on the book before proceeding to the review :- Ajaya- Roll of the Dice is the first book of the Ajaya series. The novel is a retelling of the epic Mahabharata, as told from Suyodhana’s perspective. The sequel of the book is Ajaya 2 – Rise of Kaliwhich was published in August 2015 and is available for read, both online and in stores.

The Blurb:

  THE MAHABHARATA ENDURES AS THE GREAT EPIC OF INDIA. But while Jaya is the story of the Pandavas, told from the perspective of the victors of Kurukshetra; Ajaya is the narrative of the ‘unconquerable’ Kauravas, who were decimated to the last man.

At the heart of India’s most powerful empire, a revolution is brewing. Bhishma, the noble patriarch of Hastinapura, is struggling to maintain the unity of his empire. On the throne sits Dhritarashtra, the blind King, and his foreign-born Queen – Gandhari. In the shadow of the throne stands Kunti, the Dowager-Queen, burning with ambition to see her firstborn become the ruler, acknowledged by all.
And in the wings:
* Parashurama, the enigmatic Guru of the powerful Southern Confederate, bides his time to take over and impose his will from mountains to ocean. 
* Ekalavya, a young Nishada, yearns to break free of caste restrictions and become a warrior.
* Karna, son of a humble charioteer, travels to the South to study under the foremost Guru of the day and become the greatest archer in the land. 
* Balarama, the charismatic leader of the Yadavas, dreams of building the perfect city by the sea and seeing his people prosperous and proud once more. 
* Takshaka, guerilla leader of the Nagas, foments a revolution by the downtrodden as he lies in wait in the jungles of India, where survival is the only dharma.
* Jara, the beggar, and his blind dog Dharma, walk the dusty streets of India, witness to people and events far greater than they, as the Pandavas and the Kauravas confront their searing destinies.

Amidst the chaos, Prince Suyodhana, heir of Hastinapura, stands tall, determined to claim his birthright and act according to his conscience. He is the maker of his own destiny – or so he believes. While in the corridors of the Hastinapura palace, a foreign Prince plots to destroy India. And the dice falls…

My Review: 

Through ‘Ajaya’, the author has taken up the painstaking, albeit adventurous task of retelling the renowned epic ‘Mahabharatha’. The story begins with the picture of a rather distraught, young Suyodhana hiding from a sturdy and rebellious Bhima, who, as was his usual hobby, is out on his trail to chide his cousin for no particular reason. From the very opening scene, the author succeeds in conveying the essence of his bold and ground breaking venture- A Mahabharata narrated in a manner that would lend voice to the vanquished souls.

The job at hand of reviewing the book is not easy. For one, the formidable tale of Mahabharata is something which has been etched in our hearts since the moment, as a child, we yearned for stories, the synopsis of which being the Pandavas with the help of Krishna winning the war against the Kauravas. The legend would leave any one dubious about the subtleties and the methods involved, but then, we were taught, rather it was hard wired in to our minds to believe that to do one’s Dharma was what mattered, and not the over emphasis on the dainty threads of emotional connect, which are sure to disintegrate one day. We were taught to focus on the bigger picture, to study it and to dissect it for the betterment of our own independent lives.

The author, with his spectacular cadence of storytelling has created an entirely different version of the epic. The loopholes in the epic have been nitpicked to weave sub plots out of those weak, marshy spots in the most astute of manners. One might disagree to the accusations strewn against the characters we otherwise consider heroes, but then one is also forced to be amazed by the deftness of the author’s mind plays. I personally read the book, keeping my mind and heart wide open, prepared to let the words flown in, to let it satiate the ravenous reader in me and not be flinched by the audacity of the author’s unrestrained vision. The Duryodhana that common man knows of is one dimensional, highlighted by monochromic shades of black. In this book, the author has unveiled the multiple layers of Duryodhana’s personality, presenting before the reader a multi dimensional character, bringing to the limelight his compassion, his eye for romanticism, his sympathy towards the downtrodden, his despise towards the rotten caste system that prevailed in those times and his unrelenting passion to follow his heart. Do we know if those were true? More importantly, do we know if those were untrue? The book is the author’s attempt to insinuate deeper, to tread beyond those questions to offer the reader his share of answers and he does that with immense flair and élan.

The reader might be taken aback at certain places where the acts of certain characters, especially that of Pandavas,Kunti, Drona and Lord Krishna himself are sketched such that one is prompted to throw them under the scrutinising stares of one’s rationale and judgements. Those incidents are not something we haven’t heard of before and we know a few of those acts served a greater purpose too, but few readers might find it mildly jarring to have those focussed up on. As I said before, it is not easy to convince the reader why I liked the book, when I myself am an ardent admirer of Mahabharata. Perhaps, the fact that the writer in me was conquered by the visionary would serve as the best explanation for the same. 

The review wouldn’t be complete without opining about the quality of writing, would it? The prose is undoubtedly engaging, with frequent references to the nature and its metaphoric enigma enriching the story at the right places. The narration is brilliantly equipped with intriguing content to take the pace forwards sans hiccoughs. The conversations are even witty at places, especially when the author sketches the camaraderie between Suyodhana and Ashwathama. The lexicon stands out and that, along with the fluidity of the prose and the amount of research that has gone in to the making of this remarkable work  completely enthralled the reader in me.  

I would definitely look forward to more of the author’s works. Perhaps, a literary fiction before long?


A Few Quotable QuotesFrom The Book: 

“When our schools fail to teach our children what they should know, other schools take their place and teach different lessons, which we may not like.” 

“Never associate any evil with a group. Hate their sins, but not the people.” 

‘Life is a gamble. You do not know how the dice will fall. But once they have, how you move the pieces is in your hands.” 


About The Author: (In his own words)

I was born in a quaint little village called Thripoonithura, on the outskirts of Cochin, Kerala. Located east of mainland Ernakulam, across Vembanad Lake, this village had the distinction of being the seat of the Cochin royal family. However, it was more famous for its hundred odd temples; the various classical artists it produced and its music school. I remember many an evening listening to the faint rhythm of Chendas from the temples and the notes of the flute escaping over the rugged walls of the school of music. Gulf money and the rapidly expanding city of Cochin have, however, wiped away all remaining vestiges of that old world charm. The village has evolved into the usual, unremarkable, suburban hell hole, clones of which dot India. Growing up in a village with more temples than was necessary, it was no wonder that the Ramayana fascinated me. Ironically, I was drawn to the anti-hero of the epic – Ravana, and to his people, the Asuras. I wondered about their magical world. But my fascination remained dormant for many years, emerging only briefly to taunt and irritate my pious aunts during family gatherings. Life went on… I became an engineer; joined the Indian Oil Corporation; moved to Bangalore; married Aparna and welcomed my daughter Ananya, and my son, Abhinav. But the Asura emperor would not leave me alone. For six years he haunted my dreams, walked with me, and urged me to write his version of the story. He was not the only one who wanted his version of the story to be told. One by one, irrelevant and minor characters of the Ramayana kept coming up with their own versions. Bhadra, who was one of the many common Asuras who were inspired, led and betrayed by Ravana, also had a remarkable story to tell, different from that of his king. And both their stories are different from the Ramayana that has been told in a thousand different ways across Asia over the last three millennia. This is then Asurayana, the story of the Asuras, the story of the vanquished.


Details Of The Book: 

Title: Ajaya: Roll Of The Dice

Author: Anand Neelakantan

Publisher: Leadstart Publishing 

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 456

Publication Year: 2015

Price: Rs. 349


Buy the book online :  

AmazonHere     Flipkart: Here

Goodreads Page: Here


This post is tagged with ‘Saturday Specifics’, a sub section of this blog where I put up something creative- a story, poem, haiku, Flash Fiction or a Book Review.

Bits From Life, Books, Mid Week Quests, Uncategorized

Books All The Way – Mid Week Quests

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The habit of reading might seem easy to be maintained. But truly, it isn’t entirely so. The intensity of the ritual is at its peak during childhood, which stays afloat as a plateau well through the adolescent years and up to the early twenties. Those who take up language for their college continue to nurture the resplendent bond with books, where as for others the habit mostly takes a back seat till the time arrives when they are settled, not necessarily with a family, but as more often is the case, with a stable job. I don’t state that this judgement of mine is absolute, yet somehow or the other this holds true for me. Being in a profession, in which one takes an average for ten years for the ground knowledge to be laid, I can say that doctors consider themselves settled past thirty years of age. One round of studies is followed by another, to be topped up with examinations of all sorts, which tend to extract the sap of creativity out of you. To maintain a balance is extremely difficult, unless you are extraordinarily talented. Sure, we do have immensely talented gems amongst us and the Intermedicos fest that we celebrate each year showcases splendour and brilliance. But mostly, the display of the creativity they possess is limited to that, may be not for all, but at least for a good many. I along with my friends used to read a lot of fiction during our college years, but for me, the habit turned lacklustre somewhere down the lane.

Now that I am on hibernation, having completed one stage of my higher studies, I am on the process of reviving the habit. I know that I might have to let go off the same when I embark on yet another of those trysts with my syllabus books, but for the time being, I am being positive as I look forward to sink in my passion for books yet again.

Let me narrate one snippet that sparked these thoughts in me today. I was awaiting something with a doctor friend of mine yesterday morning. The boredom was starting to take a toll on us and that was when I remembered that I had that day’s The Hindu newspaper in my bag. Casually, I asked my friend whether she would like to go through the same and she accepted right away. ‘It has been so long since I read a newspaper’, she remarked while taking the bundle from me. Care to guess what happened next? She read the whole newspaper in one go, being immersed in it for almost one hour, much to my wonder. I felt so happy seeing her have a good time in the company of words. I felt proud of myself for rekindling in her an old habit. Whether she would take a hint and continue the practice is yet to be sought, still, the incident left indelible imprints of joy in me.

I was reminded of all those incredible books in whose company I spent my childhood and teen years. In a way, they made me the person I am today. Quite a serendipity that just when my mind was reminiscing in my journey so far with books, I stumbled up on this page on twitter BlogChatter, where they have this week’s prompt which goes by ‘Books That Made You’. I have so much to write about the prompt, I knew it right then.

Moving forward to the part where I talk on the prompt, I have categorised the books under two main sections- Indian English and the rest. This decision sprouted from the fact that innumerable books happened to prance up on me the moment I thought about the prompt and to select a few out of them seemed the hardest thing to do. So, here it goes. The books that made me would be, in no particular order:

  1. Misery by Stephen King
  2. A Fraction of the whole by Steve Toltz
  3. Famous Five Series by Enid Blyton
  4. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  5. Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami.


Indian English Fiction:

  1. Choker Bali by Rabindranath Tagore
  2. The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh
  3. Vanity Bagh by Anees Salim
  4. The God of Small Things by Arundhathi Roy
  5. The Immortals by Amit Chaudhari

The titles of the books are linked to their Goodreads page so that you might find it easy if tempted to check out the books.

To end the list there simply seems not right, for, truth be told, there are other books too which touched my heart with nearly the same intensity as the aforesaid. To name a few, they are:

  1. The Shining, Carrie, The Girl who loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King
  2. Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
  3. The sense of an ending by Julian Barnes
  4. Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
  5. Serious men by Manu Joseph
  6. Narcopolis by Jeet Thayyil
  7. The Detective by Arthur Hailey
  8. Countless books authored by Agatha Christie that I have had the privilege to read.
  9. Freedom Song by Amit Chaudhari
  10. Disgrace by J.M.Coetzee

The fact that I remember the titles of some of these books to this moment and the effect they had on me when I read them at least a decade back prove much the power a good book owns. I owe a major part of my growth to the precious thoughts of those writers who I admire and for that, I admit, I shall be indebted forever. I hope the roots of the nutritious plant the years of reading so diligently immersed in me would never ever wither away. Instead, may fresh seeds be sowed. May new plants be born. May they branch out wide and far. I would consider myself complete then and only then.



P.S: This post is tagged with Mid Week Quests, a sub section of this blog where I write on a Wednesday, about random nuggets from my life .

P.P.S: Happy reading and a Merry Christmas in advance!

book review, Books, December, Dual lives, Gourab Mitra, literary lapses, Reading, Saturday Specifics, Uncategorized

Saturday Specifics #2: Book Review


Title:  Dual Lives

Author: Gourab Mitra

Pages: 302

Price: Varies between online stores.

Publisher: Patridge India

The Story In Short:

The story opens with one of the protagonists, an aspiring RJ preparing herself for the interview that she is about to attend later in the day. The story then reels towards the past, where the two protagonists meet- Kiran and Ajinkya. Their relation is better left unexplained here for the twist in the tale, which forms the crux of the story lies in the past. The blurb would provide hints towards the story line, although it comes off as haphazard. The story doesn’t deal with romance basically, but it speaks about the importance of compassion and love among fellow human beings . A few other characters- Omkar, Javed, Rahul, Krishna and Pooja flit past in and out of the lives of the protagonists, of which Pooja goes to play a very important role in their lives as the story progresses. The story ends on a happy note in more ways than one and to know how, you would want to read the book.

The Blurb:  We are a part of a male dominating society where some people still keep women below their shoes and nose. Kiran, a young woman has overcome these hurdles and has fulfilled her dream as a Radio Jockey. Today it’s her first day to work at Radio Rocks, a leading radio channel in Pune. She is exhilarated about it! Last night her boy friend proposed her for marriage, and her true love for Omkar overwhelmed her decision. She didn’t reply to him! In early 2004, her brother worked at a tea stall at the age of 10. Ajinkya, a BPO employee and a biggest loser in life, gets inspired by the kid. Ajinkya plans to adopt him, unaware of his past. Will the kid’s past bother Ajinkya’s personal and love life? Omkar is Kiran’s first crush. But for past few years they haven’t heard about each other! Will she compromise her first love & marry Ashish? Or will she wait for Omkar? Continue reading “Saturday Specifics #2: Book Review”

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An Excerpt And A List


                   Am I stuck with writer’s block? One may wonder, considering the dwindling number of blog posts I have been churning up during the past couple of months. But the truth is that, my mind has been shuttling between matters concerning something very important in my life- A milestone in itself. In fact, it has been over stuffed with words, themes, fitting conclusions, gripping plots and eye grabbing titles; or at least, with the undeterred thoughts to conjure the same. Briefly speaking, I have been working on a manuscript for the past one month.

Continue reading “An Excerpt And A List”

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Book Release! – Love and Other Enchantments

I am excited beyond words as I write this post today. In my recent post I had mentioned about my dream ship – The short story anthology by five writers – Along with me, Tanima Kedar, Ishan Dafaria, Anuj Kumar and Akash Deep. The book was released online on the auspicious day of Vijayadasami.
Continue reading “Book Release! – Love and Other Enchantments”