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A Change of Heart - Sonali Dev

‘A Change of Heart’ – I instantly made a judgement that this book was perhaps a romantic novel by an Indian author. And yes, I realised I was completely wrong as soon as I read the synopsis.
The synopsis of the book gave me an indication of it being a semi-thriller and to the delight of my Desi soul, it also appeared to have all the elements of a Bollywood movie – Two lead characters with difficult pasts, Mumbai’s underworld and an organ donation scandal! I hoped that the book would be fast paced and to be fair, I wasn’t entirely disappointed.
Dr Nic Joshi is our main protagonist who at the beginning of the book is an alcoholic doctor aboard a cruise ship. He is grieving the loss of his wife and their unborn child when in a drunken stupor he comes across a lady who eerily resembles his wife. This is Jess Koirala a member of the cruise ship’s dance troupe who claims that she has had a heart transplant and the heart is none other than Nic’s wife’s, Jen’s ! Together Nic and Jess try and …

1st Anniversary - Guest Post!

On 24th November 2016, Desi Lekh completed its first year. The feeling is surreal as it has become such an integral part of my life. On this special occasion, I am honoured to share with you a guest post by my biggest inspiration and an established blogger himself - Mr Deepak Amembal. And, a man I am proud to call my Pappa!
In this post, he clarifies a very important objective of Desi Lekh and also lists some of his favourite books and authors belonging to the genre of South Asian fiction.I hope you enjoy reading this very special post!
Am chuffed at having the privilege of writing a guest post to celebrate the first anniversary of ‘Desi Lekh’ which is a labour of love nurtured to maturity by Snehal Amembal. So here goes –
!! CONGRATULATIONS !!
In these days of super specialisations, Literature is no exception, hence this blog has filled a vacuum felt by the growing number of Desis writing in English and their readers.
The best part of this blog is it does not dwell on negativity, in the s…

A House for Happy Mothers - Amulya Malladi

The theme of this book is emotional, ethical and even practical - Surrogacy.
When I received this book for review I was happy yet apprehensive. I was of course honoured to be considered as a reviewer but at the same time I was a little anxious as I wasn’t sure how deeply I would be affected by the theme. Having worked within the fertility industry for a few years now, terms like surrogacy take on a strictly professional guise and this book by delving into the story of a mother and her surrogate sharply reminded me of the emotional turmoil that the process inevitably creates.
A House for Happy Mothers is the story of Priya an NRI living in California who has a successful career, secure home and loving husband but is unable to become a mother “naturally” and Asha a poor woman living with her husband and two children in a small Indian village who is fertile, yes but for whom material comforts are a far off cry. Both their stories run parallel to each other and the manner in which the “vo…

Serving Crazy With Curry - Amulya Malladi

Food! - That wonderful part of our existence that not only plays the essential role of providing daily sustenance but is also an archetype of culture and tradition. For me, food is a meaningful catalyst to creating unforgettable memories and associations. There are certain foods that I associate with certain events or significant people in my life. I also seek comfort in food be it a hot bowl of dal rice after a hard day at work or a sneaky piece of chocolate as a reward for achieving something (Yes, I do apply the principles of behavioural psychology to my own life!)
I first came across Amulya Malladi’s books in London’s local libraries. I was impressed that her books are well stocked which is an indication of their popularity. I read a couple of these books and soon found out the reason for this. Two words – Writing and Characters! Her writing is immensely engaging and her characters threaten to come alive page by page. This certainly applies to ‘Serving Crazy with Curry’.
Devi, our …

Where The River Parts - Radhika Swarup

If you read one book belonging to the genre of South Asian fiction, let this be it. Because, what better defines the sub-continent geographically, politically and last but not the least, emotionally but the division of Hindustan and the creation of Pakistan?
The current political atmosphere between the two countries is rife with tension and reading ‘Where The River Parts’ by Radhika Swarup in this context was very meaningful. Swarup tells us the story of Asha, born in a town that is terribly affected by the Partition of 1947. Many of that generation will shudder with memories of when as children they were subject to tremendous psychological trauma of having to leave their homes and escape to either the East or the West depending on where they were fleeing from. Losing loved ones along the way or in unsanitary refugee camps had somehow become their reality.
Swarup highlights the pain of partition and at the same time reinforces in us that the human emotion of love very rarely abides by …

Urmila - Pervin Saket

Stories from the Ramayana have a special place within the storehouse of my childhood memories where Papama, my grandmother, used to narrate with great passion the escapades of King Ram. I remember asking her to introduce the characters every time she narrated a story and she very patiently used to oblige. After Ram and Sita, came Lakshman and Urmila. I remember asking her at that young age why Urmila didn’t go with Lakshman  (when he followed Ram during ‘Vanvaas’ for 14 years) and she would say in my native language Konkani, “Tee ghaara baslii, takka raktachi” (She sat at home, waiting for him). That explanation to my child self was sufficient but as I grew up watching Ramayana on television, the question continued to bother me. How could Lakshman not take Urmila along with him; rather, why did she not go along? Urmila by Pervin Saket wonderfully captures Urmila’s state of mind albeit set in modern day Mumbai. The story therefore is inspired by the Ramayana.
Pervin Saket’s writing is e…

The Wangs v/s The World - Jade Chang

This book makes a grand appearance on my blog because of 3 main reasons: It is a debut novel (I love debuts because I believe that ‘firsts’ are always special)It doesn’t entirely fit in with the genre that I review (Asia yes, South Asia, No)It’s been published by a legendary publication house i.e. Penguin which I have adored for a long time now (I was over the moon to receive a copy of this book to review)The Wangs v/s The World is a family saga that has at its very pulse the Great American Dream. It beautifully narrates how a Chinese immigrant makes this dream a reality and how suddenly because of an economic catastrophe that dream is swiftly shattered. But don’t be disappointed as the story draws out rather skilfully the resilience of the human spirit and its ability to adapt.
Charles Wang our main protagonist is a rich businessman owning a successful cosmetics company that feeds the American appetite of make-up and flamboyance. The 2008 economic crisis brings him and his family fort…

Dollar Bahu - Sudha Murty

I remember whilst growing up in the 90s in India, ‘abroad’ or ‘foreign’ were marks of status.  Through some warped sense of perception, anything from the west was better (“obviously”!). I have a peculiar memory of going to school one day only to find out that I wasn’t allowed to borrow some stationery from a classmate as it was ‘from abroad’ and therefore very precious. ‘Dollar Bahu’ serves to challenge this very mind-set that some of us fall prey to.
Sudha Murty is a wonderful narrator and her writing style is akin to listening to your mother or another older female relative narrating an engaging story with the right amount of drama, humour and nostalgia. At the heart of Murthy’s story is Vinuta who is a humble middle class woman who lives with her husband, son and in laws. She is very thoughtful and hardworking. However, she is not as glamorous as her husband’s brother’s wife who lives in the US and makes a grand impression on their mother in law. The constant comparisons and fulfil…

Mrs Funnybones - Twinkle Khanna

I’m back from a much deserved holiday and I think it’s about time that I shared with you a light-hearted, easy read! A lot of you who know me are quite familiar with my tendency to burst into a fit of laughter as I often seek humour in everyday life. Did I just hear you mouthing ‘defence mechanism’?  Ok, will pretend I didn’t hear that! So yes, humour…this is what Twinkle Khanna  experiments with in ‘Mrs Funnybones’ which is a collection of her observations about life as a modern Indian woman.
I am an avid follower of her column by the same name that appears in a national newspaper so when I came across this book, I was quite pleased! Khanna’s writing is refreshing and unassuming. The manner in which she narrates her experiences revolving around the various roles she plays as daughter, wife, mother etc. are so relatable that one is bound to laugh out loud at opportune moments (disclaimer – read at own risk in London’s super serious tube!).
The chapters in the book are organised in a cr…

Land Where I Flee - Prajwal Parajuly

I was very excited when I came across ‘Land Where I Flee’ by Prajwal Parajuly as it is set in the North East of India, a region which even today is on the periphery of India’s mainstream.  This region is blessed with handicrafts, traditional dances, comforting food and humble people. However for some reason, it is the separatist movements in the region that have gained greater media coverage. I wish I knew more people from this part of India as it would have been enriching to gain further insight into the culture of India’s North East. I must say that ‘Land Where I Flee’ did indeed contribute to a certain extent in helping me satiate this curiosity. I say certain extent because it gave me a glimpse into the Nepali community settled in India and considering India’s vast diversity, this merely serves to scratch the surface.
Prajwal Parajuly tells us the story of an old matriarch Chitralekha, who lives in a house atop one of many hills in Gangtok, Sikkim and her grandchildren who live ac…

Love Across A Broken Map - The Whole Kahani

(Members of the Whole Kahani Top left to right: Kavita Jindal, Mona Dash, C.G. Menon, Farah Yusuf;  Bottom left to right: Reshma Ruia, Shibani Lal, Radhika Kapur)

‘Love Across A Broken Map’ by The Whole Kahani, (a group of writers of South Asian origin based in London) is a beautiful anthology of short stories that come together to create a harmonious symphony of the theme underlying each narration – Love.
I was very pleased to have attended the book launch on 26th May 2016 at the Nehru Centre, London. Meeting some of the authors was a wonderful experience and hearing them read from their work, lent the stories a genuine voice.
The first thought that came to my mind upon finishing this book was that the stories are refreshing in that you are not met with human experience heavily cloaked in the garb of cultural symptoms like identity or immigration; rather you are warmly greeted by the very universal emotion of love in its various avatars. The Whole Kahani has done well in challenging the…

Teresa's Man & Other Stories from Goa - Damodar Mauzo (Translated from Konkani by Xavier Cota)

What better day to write about this book than one where the sun is shining through my window and reminding me of a place that I have wonderful memories of – Goa! Family vacations, good food and sunshine. ‘Teresa’s Man & Other Stories’ by Damodar Mauzo was originally written in Konkani and has been translated into English by Xavier Cota. When I became aware of this, I was thrilled to say the least as Konkani is my mother tongue and is spoken only by a minority of the Indian populace. The translator’s note at the very end of the book is very insightful as it gives you a few facts about the book e.g. that it was written across 4 decades.
The flavour of the book is humble as its stories narrate the lives of Goans. One is often reminded of the idyllic way of life and at the same time one inevitably takes notice of the fact that although Goa is a vacation spot for many, for Goans it still remains a place where they have to earn a livelihood and face life in all its hues. The stories do a…

These Lines of Mehendi (A Novella) - Sumeetha Manikandan

Let me start with a short word association game. What is the first word that comes to mind when I say ‘Mehendi’? For the unfamiliar, Mehendi =Henna. Marriage?Sangeet?Orange?Fragrance?Bride?Festive?
I would love to hear from you and see if we managed to recall the same word! ‘Mehendi’ to me represents a joyous occasion and to read a book about this wonderful component of Indian culture whether actual or symbolic was comforting.
‘These Lines of Mehendi’ is the first of two novellas from ‘Love, Again’, the other being ‘A Tulip In The Desert’ by Shruti P.C. I came across Sumeetha Manikandan’s profile on Goodreads and was suitably impressed by her keen interest in Indian fiction and her dedication to promote not just her own work but also the work of other Indian authors. So it goes without saying that I was pleased to receive her novella for review.
I have always been inspired by strong women protagonists in literature and to see one such character in Sumeetha Manikandan’s novella, ‘These Li…

One Point Two Billion - Mahesh Rao

Red, Yellow and Black. The colours used on the book cover of ‘One Point Two Billion’ instantly reminded me of the small ‘kirana’ shop that I used to frequent along with my mum to stock up on daily home essentials. I vividly remember seeing these colours in combination with each other on labels of match boxes, oil and even pesticides. In One Point Two Billion, Mahesh Rao has authored a memorable collection of short stories which encapsulates a fleeting impression of India and its people. I say fleeting because although Rao has done a brilliant job, the fact that that India is so very diverse may make it almost impossible to convey this in just one book.
The stories are set across the Indian diaspora to include a distinct geographical representation of the Indian states which I found to be unique as the stories give the reader a glimpse into the lives of India’s ‘everyday’ people or as they are more popularly known, the common man.
Rao’s writing is compelling and he uses metaphors and a…

Anita & Me - Meera Syal

This is one of the few times where I first saw a film before reading the book which inspired it. I still vividly remember that it was a lazy Sunday afternoon in Mumbai’s sultry summer when I chanced upon this film playing on ‘Star Movies’. The atmosphere at home was laden with blissful sleep which was a natural consequence of a scrumptious feast devoured at lunch….
Coming back to the subject, I felt at the time that the film was rather stereotypical of the portrayal of an Indian immigrant family living in the UK. However, it is only when I read the book that my perception changed. I can safely say that ‘Anita & Me’ is a true echo of life as an Indian immigrant in 70s Britain; Britain that was not as ethnically diverse as it is today, a place where an immigrant truly felt that he/she was an ‘outsider’ especially in a coal mining village which was predominantly white. Now, add to this the pangs of a teenage girl trying to make sense of adolescence and culture conflict at the same tim…

Jaipur Literature Festival - London Southbank (2016)

I was extremely excited when I found about the Jaipur Literature Festival taking place at Southbank London on 21st May 2016. Now, this is an event I HAD to attend and I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to be part of one of the greatest literature festivals around the world. I know the real deal is in attending the festival in India but hey ho! For lack of a better analogy, the mountain came to Muhammed!
The festival was a full day event which consisted of a number of simultaneous events lined up during the course of the day. So, choosing one of 6 events proved to be quite a challenge and I did think it would have been handy if I were able to clone myself!
The first event I chose to attend was “British Asian”. The panel consisted of Yasmin Khan, Mukulika Banerjee and   Satnam Sanghera. The discussion was enriching as it helped the audience form their own opinions about the journey of British Asians. Insight was provided into immigration, historical links between England and Indi…

Before We Visit The Goddess - Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

When I received this book for review, I was overwhelmed. If you observe my blog posts closely you will notice that of the books that I have reviewed, 2 are authored by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. No other author features more than once, not yet. Now, that’s saying something. To be honest, I experienced a very real ‘fan moment’ at the time - To think that I was considered worthy enough to review her work! Wow! Was this really happening to me and so on and so forth.  It has therefore, taken me a while to gather my thoughts and put them to paper, to let the emotion wash away a little so that I can give you a coherent take on the book.
‘Before We Visit The Goddess’ is a novel about the lives of 3 women with differing personalities and ambitions but with one very strong bond that ties them all, that of family. Sabitri, Bela and Tara. Grandmother, Mother and Daughter.
My initial feeling when reading the book was akin to being in a time capsule rocketing from the 1940s to 1990s and through t…

The Living - Anjali Joseph

Some book covers call out to you and this one definitely wolf whistled! The image of the brown ‘Kolhapuri chappals’ against the blue background and a mysterious shadow - Oh how intriguing! I remember how at one point in my life, these chappals were definite must haves in my wardrobe. They were perfect for sultry summer days and also added an uber chic element when combined with the right clothes to exude a sense of fusion between the east and west.  I still own a pair but rarely get an opportunity to slip into their comforting hollows thanks to the cold and wet weather that London braves most time of year. But now summer is almost here and I have gently been prodded by this book to revisit this much loved pair of chappals so I can blissfully trod paths laced with cherry blossoms and feel the warmth of the sun upon my skin.
‘The Living’ by Anjali Joseph is a first person narrative of 2 characters – Claire and Arun  living in two entirely different parts of the world, England and India r…

'The Good Wife' - Bagri Literature Festival, Asia House

‘The Good Wife’ event, part of the Bagri Literature Festival took place on 11th May 2016 at the formidable Asia House, dedicated to Asian culture and its many forms be it art, books, film or food. The event was a panel discussion chaired by Radhika Sanghani, (author and women’s writer at The Telegraph) to explore the manner in which the concept and definition of family is going through transition and how this in turn has impacted women and their rights in Asian countries. Therefore to see 3 panellists, each representing her country by means of providing insight into the aforementioned transition was very apt.
The panel comprised of  Ramita Navai (representing Iran), author of City of Lies: Love, Sex, Death and the search for truth in Tehran,  Elif Shafak (representing Turkey), author of Honour and The Forty Rules of Love, and playwright Sharmila Chauhan (representing India) of Born AgainThe Husbands and 10 Women.
INDIA
The discussion was opened by the amiable Radhika as she asked Shar…