Jan 29, 2015

The Aryavarta Chronicles Book 3-KURUKSHETRA: Book Review

The Aryavarta Chronicles Book 3-KURUKSHETRA
Author- Krishna Udayasankar
Publisher- Hachette India
My Rating: ****
About the Author- Krishna Udayasankar is a graduate of the National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore, and holds a PhD in Strategic Management from the Nanyang Business School, Singapore, where she presently works as a lecturer.

“For a while, Criticism travels side by side with the Work, then Criticism vanishes and it's the Readers who keep pace."

That's precisely what happened with me when I picked up this book with the other end in mind. I had planned to review it and being a die-hard historical fiction fan had already made up my mind to read it like a good critic would. What fueled my criticism were the numerous typographical errors. So many missing letters in words which changed the meaning and structure of the sentence.for eg. 'Identity' became 'identify' on page. 31. This book sorely required some more proof-reading. There was also one sentence on Page 360- "And the toxin? Where it is?". This left me in splits in the middle of reading a gravely serious scene. Especially in the last few pages, the frequency of errors increased as the end of the book approached. It seemed the author had furiously typed away and the proof-reader lost patience by the end of the book.

The book cover reads, 'The Epic as it was never told before'. This made it all the more enticing and exciting to pick this book up. Not having read the previous two books of the Aryavarta Chronicles, I was absolutely clueless to what I should expect from the story telling. It could be an advantage for it would mean getting to read the juiciest part - the end but it also meant struggling to imagine the build up from the first two books. Nevertheless, I quite liked the author's style of story telling. The English is impeccable. She clearly has a knack for writing long sentences with deeper meanings and an absolutely brilliant vocabulary. However at the very beginning of the book I felt like it was becoming a tedious task to read this book. I still kept ploughing through the pages since the Mahabharata and the story of the war at Kurukshetra has been my long time favourite epic about ancient India.

However I soon realised that from page 161 onward I stopped being critical about the prose and was taken in by the book. I was engrossed in reading and keeping pace with the fast progressing storyline. I finally stopped falling off the wagon as the narration became more and more interesting. Like the back blurb reads,I must agree that the author did show great imagination in narrating the gory war episode that ensued over the period of 18 and odd days. One may imagine a war story would only have a cold and chilling effect but in this book there was passion, there was rage, there was love, lust and a whole lot of conspiracy, politics and sly strategies too. I loved it how she has woven a 'Mills & Boon'-esque story of the love birds Uttara and Abhimanyu into the very fabric of the heated battlefield. That made for a welcome break from the constant long drawn and brain-whacking discussion between all the prime characters. 

My favourite part of the Kurukshetra war was the extensive description of the various battle formations that was written very intelligently. However my grouse is the way the character of Govinda Shauri developed in the plot. In my opinion the character of Govinda Shauri has been painted more like a 'Narada' in the first half of the book than like 'Narayana'. While by the end of the book Govinda is jerked into emerging as a God. The transition didn't appear smooth or convincing to me. He also teetered on the brink of sounding so vain and confused about what he exactly wanted from it all? Why was he triggering the war after all? And suddenly when he had to convince Partha to wake up and smell the stench of the Kuru fields, to pick up his Gandiva and stop being silly, Govinda Shauri almost abruptly begins expounding such intelligent philosophy. Also his God-like sermon is being lapped up by an over-eager and already very convinced Partha. The same Partha who was doubting Govinda's credibility a minute ago, keeps oscillating between blind belief and distrust. Otherwise I also missed the mention of the very famous gem that Aswattama was born with, on his forehead, probably kept out on purpose to portray him as a normal human being unlike a demi-god. Though the character has been dealt with very nicely, the story of how his father Dron was tricked into believing his son was dead was also only briefly touched upon. 

Also I have a personal penchant for well-selected names of characters in a story. Krishna Udaysankar may have tried to give the story a new flavour by spelling the names of the various characters of the Mahabharata differently but I would have preferred it if they didn't sound like they belonged with Harry Potter. Why make him 'Dhrstyadymn' that will be read as Dhr-stya-dim by dropping the vowels when most of the other names were written as they have always been spelt. Same goes for 'Pradymna'. When its 'Kripa' and 'Govinda' then why call him 'Dron' and not Drona? She has also dropped the 'h' from many names that may go unnoticed by wont of habit in reading the names as they are usually pronounced in Hindu historical fiction.

 The explanation and introduction of the cast of characters and the family tree given at the very beginning of the book helped me understand the concept of the 'Firewrights' and the 'Firstborn'. 

All in all, the author has written a book with all her sincerity, integrity and skill. And I salute her for finishing the trilogy so beautifully on one of the most complex epics from Indian history. The kind of research and study that has gone into this endeavour is exemplary and worth a roaring applause. 

I thank BlogAdda for sending me such a wonderful book.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Jan 28, 2015

All the myriad things that define 'ME'! #UseYourAnd

Words, in black and white, telling a story and in verse. Words always intrigued me ever since my school teacher held my hand and taught me to hold my pencil to write them on paper, slowly, steadily. One of those many words that brought me pride was 'ME' when I wrote an essay and scored the highest in my English class at fifth grade in school. Writing became my passion and I found solace in it.

So here goes yet another piece on that very word 'ME' which triggered my story-telling years ago. 

A funny happy-sad picture of the day that spelt victory!
Someone who knew me as a child would use just one word to define me- 'Tomboy'! Yes, I was just that and more. I was more energetic than any boy of my age and grew up wielding a wooden bat playing 'Galli Cricket' with the boys from our society. That was a hugely different me, with a short crop of golliwog hair, grazed knees and a badly sun-tanned face. Sweaty and grimy after a great game outdoors, my mother had a tough time getting me to look girlish, if she were to ready me for an outing. I however clearly remember she taught me to be myself and not let that label become something that would hold me back. She taught me to use it to my advantage and make the most of it. And that's exactly what I did! In an all girls convent school, I stood out not like a sore-thumb between all the lovely girls but as an outstanding athlete with great leadership qualities. I was elected as a Cabinet Minister and saw that my squad bagged sports trophies under my captaincy.

Then came that phase of life as a an adolescent. I was studying Commercial Arts at an all girl's college once again in South Mumbai. That was one transitional phase when all the beautiful, well turned out girls around me, suddenly opened my eyes out to a whole new fact. I could become equally lovely too. I distinctly remember those days when I consciously began changing myself. I let my hair grow into long tresses. I had my ears pierced and began sporting earrings too. I realised I had a natural flare for dressing fashionably and soon became popular amongst friends for my unique sense of matching accessories with my clothes. Yes. Vibhuti and 'matching' chandelier earrings became synonymous. And till date I remain passionate about my collection of earrings. And that is how I acquired that label of being a 'Fashionista', very early on in life.

All through the five years of rigorous training in applied (fine) arts for Advertising, I discovered that time and again I felt divided between two passions- my love for art and my passion for writing. Its been a decade that I have been experimenting with my capabilities and exploring career opportunities alternating as an 'Artist' and as a 'Writer', thankfully blessed with success as both. The brush and the metaphorical pen can easily be declared as the only two friends who have been by my side through thick and thin. I cannot imagine a world without them. I find solace in painting and self-expression through writing.

Like every other girl dreams of I discovered there was more to 'ME' when I smoothly transitioned from being only a 'Daughter' to my doting father to being a loving 'Wife' and then a 'Mother' to two naughty little boys. I thought I'd found my comfort zone and would have readily settled down for these beautiful coveted titles, if the 'Vibhuti' from somewhere deep down inside had not gone on chiming that there were many more words waiting out there to define 'ME'. That I would be happier and would be able to keep the cheer in my home only if I kept the passion in my heart beating.

'Blogging' changed my world and in 2009 I thought that there couldn't be a more wonderful title than calling myself a 'Blogger'. My ambitions grew and I went out for a gulp of a mouthful of sky. 'Not Totally Unbelievable' my maiden collection of short stories was published in 2011 and I was thrilled to hear me being referred to as an 'Author'. My life's dream of getting published by the age of 30 was accomplished.

Last year I experimented with an idea, of bringing my passion for fashion and art together and launched my label of hand-painted fashion accessories. And India's prestigious 'The Week' magazine interviewed me, mentioned my label and quoted my take on fashion, in its cover feature of the February 2015 issue.

My hand-painted gemstone chandelier earrings..:D
There are a myriad other things that can define 'ME'. Especially this new Avatar that I have taken on. My knack for socialising through the various online media is a story in its own self. I enjoy it to the hilt and feel blessed that I am able to cut out a career for myself as a Social Media Strategist.  My virtual world between my Facebook friends, the Twitterati and my BlogAdda Dost is a heartwarming part of my life. 

I wonder what would I have done without these varied elements that make up my life? What would I have done if my life was also like those  many unfortunate girls out there who have never been given an opportunity to go out and explore the myriad possibilities that life can offer. What if I was forced to pick between the ORs and close my eyes to the ANDs that I have enjoyed in my life. 

I would have felt suffocated if I was to live with one of the stereotypical labels given to girls at large. What if my parents were to stunt my growth, not letting me metamorphose to my choice, as AND when! I am grateful and thankful that they let ME be me and I used the opportunities completely. I am proud of that! 

In sharing my story I wish to say that like me you can  #UseYourAnd too. 
All you women must #UseYourAnd. There's an inexplicable happiness in finding that there are a multitude of things that define me, not just one! There's a sense of pride to say that my life is defined by the word 'AND', not by an 'OR'..

I am thankful to Gillette Venus and BlogAdda for triggering such a lovely blogging idea where women will be motivated to break out of the shackles of the 'OR'  to wake up and embrace the 'AND' within.

If my story has inspired you enough, watch this video to know more about how you can  #UseYourAnd 

This post is a part of #UseYourAnd activity at BlogAdda in association with Gillette Venus

Jan 19, 2015

My Journey from ‘OR’ to ‘AND’- #UseYourAnd

And I discovered there is more to myself!
There is not one but many ways to describe ME and yet there is not one thing that can fully define ME.
I am multi-faceted AND multi-talented.
I feel blessed I am ME.

My story did not begin when I was born. My story began when my mother left me. Forever! Her death gave birth to a new me. My journey of life surely began as the only daughter in a nuclear family  who could choose to be responsible or while her time away. Living the luxuries, being taken care of and being pampered to the hilt, I was my mother's only pet and treasured baby. But the day she died, she left me and my dad a broken mess. I was left with no option but to pick up the threads of my life on my own. I was no more a child or that spoilt teenager. I had transformed, overnight! Jerked out of my comfort zone it was almost like learning to live all over again. I wasn't only the daughter but now also the only lady in the house, my father's soul support. His only and sole support!

The year my mother was diagnosed of her acutely failing health, it had been the last academic year for me to secure a degree in Commercial Arts. I had to quit my studies for it was just my father and I who were battling by my mother's side in her struggle for life, against acute renal failure. Mum loved Pune so we shifted. After a year of neglecting my studies, I enrolled myself back into the university and appeared for my final exams through an entirely new college. I decided I would juggle all my responsibilities. With minimum attendance recorded and almost no training at college because most of my time was spent outside the ICU where my mother got admitted time and again all through that horrible year, I managed to pass with flying colours.

And before I begin to sound like a martyr I wish to bow out and say this post, is not a vanity trip and neither is it because I wish to gloat about my successes. I write to inspire. To tell my friends, LIFE is what you make of it. Get a grip on it and march on!

This is the era of the woman. The woman who will not and need not,submit herself to circumstances.

God had his own blue plan drafted for my life but that did not mean he stopped me from walking the path I believed would lead me to my goals. There were just torturous hurdles that I had to fight tooth and nail to overcome. I was a super ambitious girl with a zest and zeal for life that ran in my veins, like it rushed in my mother's. She had left us physically but haunted me in my dreams, egging me on to pursue my career and make the best of what I had. And what I had, by God's grace was a lot- my talent,a gift from God, my writing skills.

We had shifted home from the hustle and bustle of Mumbai to the more serene Pune, so that my mother's health may improve but sadly, that was not destined. What was in my destiny, was the struggle people predicted that lay ahead of me. When I proposed that I would take up a job in the Advertising Industry, my Puneite neighbours who surely meant well, painted a very bleak picture in front of my eyes.

"Pune lags a decade behind as compared to Mumbai. Don't expect a writing career like the one you would have had in Mumbai!"

"Pune works less and sleeps away most part of the day.Starting a career from scratch over here is bound to result in ziltch!" 

While the aunties had even wiser words for me.
"Darling, without your mother around, your father will be worried for you. Why do you want to go out into a new city and chase a career in an almost non-existent industry? Why don't you get married and settle down? "

Another said, "Look! Your father will not be able to find a nice groom for you on his own. let me help you! We start looking now. We may find someone in a couple of years. Don't waste your time on a hopeless career."

Little did they know that I had always been a rebel. And my father always surprisingly never let the fire in my belly be doused. In fact he gave fuel to it! I refused to cower to this dim fate that all were spewing like venom into my ears and my father was like the antidote, instilling undying hope. I could never imagine my mother patting my back on settling down for a lesser life. I dreamt of making my parents proud. Marriage and kids, the easy life was not a choice I planned to make at that point! Then it would have definitely meant a compromise.

So I rose, intending to stand on my own two feet and began to explore Pune who was a stranger to me. As soon as I secured my degree I interviewed for a job opening and also got selected as English Copywriter at a leading Ad' agency in Pune. I was to be the highest paid fresher at that time but the very first day at office turned out a fiasco. An extremely modern looking girl with western dressing sense was probably indigestible. And sexual innuendos, attempts of harassment were completely unacceptable to me. A loud and tight slap- in-the-old-bugger's-face later, I barged into the boss's cabin. Finding no consolation there from another old lecher, I walked out on the job and floated my own Advertising agency. 

I am happy to share that my passion for writing took me from strength to strength in the following years of dedication and focus. Pune had very few good English Copy-writers in those days and being a small city, word spread like wild fire. I rode the wave like a queen and began to bag big clients and small, big projects and small like no other. Soon I was being hired on retainership by leading Ad' agencies of Pune. The stranger of a city gave me many new and loving friends, who saw the passion in my eyes and spirit in my heart.

One day I was recommended to the Editor of one of the Times Of India Supplements and was called in for an interview. In 2006 I saw myself discovering a new interest and knack for journalism. My feature articles were being appreciated.I brought my father's name into print with a bold byline on the front pages and Page 3 of the leading daily newspaper of India. 

2007 gave me the love of my life and that's another heartening but long story of how I made an uncompromising choice. 

Life was good to me and God was being kind. I was now not only a daughter, I was also a wife and a daughter-in-law. These men in my life are made of another metal I believe. They give impetus to my woman power. They believe in me and I love them for that. God has blessed me with a family of REAL men.   

In 2008 with my father-in-law's blessings and constant cajoling to take another leap in my career, I inaugurated my own Art Gallery that would help me pursue my other undying passion-Art. AND I became an art curator.

The following year I was taken to a whole new level of life. Motherhood! This becomes a turning point in most women's life and usually we mellow down. I am a true Capricorn and family is of utmost priority to me but I also refused to let go of my own singular identity. Like every other new mother I gave my baby my days and my nights. I didn't have the comforting presence of my mother or my mother-in-law by my side. I drew strength from my prayers and meditation. Like mostly all women do, life posed the biggest question before me too. Do you wish to be a doting mother OR that famous writer, you always wanted to be? After much deliberation with my own self, I decided I had to delete that OR and type in an AND. Remove that question mark and make it an exclamatory!

I let my heart rule but made my mind search for a way to make both ends meet. A stay-at-home mum who desperately willed her career not die a premature death. In 2009 I took to Blogging and look half a decade down the line, here I am! Still at it. A happy wife AND a doting mother to two naughty sons.  In 2011 with my very first book titled 'NOT TOTALLY UNBELIEVABLE' I became a published author AND with my own label of hand-painted fashion accessories I became a serial entrepreneur.
Then I was invited to blog at an international portal AND so I am a fashion blogger at http://wearethecity.in/blogs/vibhuti-bhandarkar-virtual-social-blogger/
 I am a social media strategist AND an artist. AND I am also the founder of a Women Entrepreneur's group called 'Amazing Woman Entrepreneurs' where I coax women to rise and shine to show how AWEsome we really are!

So this post is simply an attempt to inspire you all to #UseYourAnd like I did. I have been interviewed and written about in the Pune and Mumbai's leading newspapers, more than many times. I wish you celebrate your AND like I am doing. Push yourself out of the comfort zone of excuses and strain yourself to reach out for your dreams and ambitions. Don't remain debating between the ORs. Don't let that creepy word bog you down. This AND has much to offer. Your dreams, your identity, your happiness!

I am thankful to Gillette Venus and BlogAdda for triggering such a lovely blogging idea where women will be motivated to break out of the shackles of the 'OR'  to wake up and embrace the 'AND' within.

If my story has inspired you enough, watch this video to know more about how you can  #UseYourAnd 

This post is a part of #UseYourAnd activity at BlogAdda in association with Gillette Venus

Jan 1, 2015

CAN discover a NEW me in the New Year!

I am a multi-tasker, with multiple interests, vocations and hobbies. My friends know I wear multiple hats. I am a writer. I am an artist. I love birding and travel Photography. I am a Social Media junky. I have a passion for fashion. I am a movie buff. And above all I am a BLOGGER.

This is the very first post in the New Year 2015 and I am full of hope as I type away. I am hoping this year sees me pursuing and juggling all of my passions simultaneously, if possible! I have a list of resolutions too and I plan to nail them.

I know I don't need magic to make all this happen. It could indeed be possible if my life gets the perfect tools to assist me in it. I am tech-savvy too and I know exactly what piece could prove to be a boon.

I wish to grow beyond my laptop and be able to write even when I am on the go. Who wants to carry that bulky thing around but then you never know when an idea can hit you. And then instead of fumbling around to locate pen and paper while traveling, I could simply, smoothly pull out my slim and light tablet PC and type away to bliss. Doesn't that sound amazing? My writer friends would definitely agree.

Or imagine spotting a rare bird on a low branch right before your eyes and you don't have a camera handy. It has happened to me several times. I'm always on the verge of pulling my hair out for want of a good camera in such situations. It is really very frustrating, losing the chance to capture that moment of spotting a beautiful masterpiece by mother nature. My phone camera is just not good enough. Wouldn't it be most convenient to have a great handheld piece with a sufficiently good lens to click a quick picture? 

Like an answer to my New Year Eve's wishes, I laid my eyes on just the perfect tech-candy, this morning at the IndiBlogger website. It would be like a dream come true to lay my hands on this one.

 The all new Micromax #CanvasTab P666 powered by Intel® Atom™ Processor, looks like its designed to let me discover a whole new ME in 2015! Check out the demo video and I'm sure you will fall head over heels for it, like I did.

It says it CAN discover the Multitasker in YOU! For me, it indeed CAN!

The 1GB RAM makes it a lightning fast thing. So surfing and networking through the various social media sites is going to be easy-peasy! Plus its battery life gives me 6 hours of browsing besides the 15 hours of talk time. That definitely is a super-efficient tool.

Its enabled by this new Intel Burst Performance Technology and very high resolution HD screen display. It would be super-awesome to be able to watch a movie or two while on those long road trips by car. I could also keep the kids occupied with the MicroMax Canvas Tab then. What a blessing that could be!

The more I think about it, the more I am feeling desperate and needy to light up my life with this techy baby. Besides being a luxury item, I would also like to believe the Micromax Canvas Tab can help me get from fat to fit. 

I am a mommy to two beautiful boys and now I like a particular tag added to the title 'Mummy'. I love to hear people call me a 'Yummy Mummy'. Now wouldn't it take all the tedious rigor out of my daily exercise routines if I could watch some great floor-exercise or pilate videos on the vivid display screen. It would light up my mornings immediately and get me geared to go within no time. 

I would like to add a line to the demo video....'CAN Inspire a Fitter, Healthier You!'

I am completely convinced about what I need to include in my life almost right away. If you feel the need for more information, you could always visit HERE and find out in detail about the Micromax #CanvasTab P666 

So if you are just like me, with infinite passions and interests I think I have located THAT thing which can bring more efficiency to all the time management required in achieving all the resolutions made for this brand new year. 

Here's wishing all my friends then, a very HAPPY and Tech-Savvy NEW YEAR 2015!