Monday, August 23, 2010

Interview: Chandru Bhojwani

Hello and welcome to my first interview session. Today I'm going to be interviewing Chandru Bhojwani, author of The Journey of Om, which I reviewed here.

1. So, lets begin this interview by asking you what kind of books are there on your bookshelf? What books are you reading right now? Which genre of books do you generally read? Which books do you re-read again and again?

I have several books on my shelf waiting to be read including Synchro Destiny by Deepak Chopra, Lords of the Bow by Conn Iggulden & John Burdett's Bangkok Haunts. I don't re-read books but I'd say A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, Bangkok 8 and Wolf of the Plains rank as my top 3 books. As you can see i'm more partial to fiction novels but I do read some spiritual books from time to time.

2. Tell us something about your work before "The Journey of Om"?

I have been writing for Beyond Sindh for over 5 years now and have had numerous article and short stories published in the publication. My short story, The Love Letter won the Mirage short story competition and was published in 2009 in an anthology Inner voices and my short story, Zero is scheduled to be published in a Canadian anthology. A lot of my work can be found on my site

3. Did you always want to be a writer? How did you get into writing? What inspired you to write "The Journey of Om?"

I never studied or trained to be a writer. It started as a hobby. In writing I found an avenue through which I was able to express my thoughts in a witty, tongue-in-cheek way while getting my point across and entertaining readers. I never expected it to go anywhere until a reader told me I had missed my calling. When Beyond Sindh came knocking, it reinforced what my readers thought. Still, I never considered myself a writer and felt like a pretender when I referred to myself as one. As a result of the feedback, support and especially with the publishing of my first short story, The Love Letter I believed that writing was a road I could seriously embark on.

As for the Journey of Om, it initially started as a short story and over time I just kept adding to it. It was a story I felt that needed to be shares especially since it depicts a unique male perspective that is rarely voiced in this kind of genre.

4. What kind of people do you think this book will reach out to?

The Journey of Om is a tale about relationships, love, betrayal and life in general and has something for everyone. That said I felt it would appeal to those in their young twenties through to those in their fifties.

5. What is your favourite thing about books and reading? How have books made an impact on your life?

I'd have so say my favourite thing is finishing a book and having that sense of accomplishment. Great books leave me pondering for days or even weeks! I'd have to say books helped me realise my potential and played a part in helping me create my style of writing.

6. Quick take. Answer the following with the first words/phrase that comes to your mind, in five words or less:

- Spirituality - Answers & Guidance
- Om (your character) - Flawed & Human
- Love - Complexly Beautiful
- Life - Living & Experiencing
- Books - Knowledge & Escape

Thank you Chandru for agreeing to be part of my blog.

If you're a published author who would like to be reviewed/interviewed by me, shoot me an email at sakhisshah [at] gmail [dot] com (Please remove the spaces, and replace the [at] with @ and [dot] with . thanks)

The Journey of Om by Chandru Bhojwani

The Journey of Om was an interesting book.

The Journey of Om

The book centers around Om - a twenty-something guy who has been cheated upon at the beginning of the book by someone he thought of as a soul mate. The story goes on to show us his trials and tribulations while trying to get out of this heart-break. He is aided by his friends, especially Mona and Arun, and through the book we get a little glimpse into their lives and loves as well (and according to me both of these characters provide the most engrossing storyline in the book, especially Mona). The book is interspersed with observations on life and love and is in its essence a book about growing up, about learning, about dealing with loss, about how life isn't always fair, and about how complex and confusing love can really be.

Personally I felt that this book began slowly, but it really picked up pace half-way through, when Arun and Mona's storylines started to gain a little more prominence in the book. Some of the stuff that I really liked about this book were the "From the Mind of Om" chapters, where Om is writing for his magazine in his highly witty and humorous style, on topics that all of us can sympathize with (like the chapter on Aunties - which was frankly hilarious and spot-on) and the fact that the story is written through multiple points-of-view which help us see the motivations of nearly everyone in the story (except Preeti, the girl who actually cheated on Om and started the story - I would've liked to see one or two chapters in her perspective, though honestly she doesn't get much screen-space anyway) and though sometimes the transitions between past and present get a little confusing, you can mostly understand them, because of the fact that the author puts a chapter break in between them.

I think the chapters in different points of view really work as far as the development of the characters is concerned, especially Om. I mean, about until one Arun chapter, I had the feeling that Om was pretty much perfect, which can get very disconcerting. However, as you move on in the book and see Om and his many flaws, you actually enjoy the book a lot more, because in the end Om is very human, he makes mistakes, he can be quite insensitive, and you feel at the end of the book that you know Om a little bit, and that he almost becomes like a close friend whose struggles you have been observing. The other minor characters are also well-written, and I especially liked the Mona-Sunil dynamics and the Arun-Rakhi dynamics - and also the dynamics within Rakhi's family.

One thing about books that are too much like reality that I don't like is that they tend to wrap up the ending a little too neatly, and I always end up feeling that that would never happen in real life. And frankly, I had the feeling this was going to happen here too. But the ending is truly amazing, it leaves you guessing and it is bittersweet - just like real life. I think I read the last chapter two or three times, thinking, 'Oh my god, did this just happen?!'

It did.

Final thoughts: An enjoyable read, goes from hilarious to tragic, and explores the different facets of real life. Read for the characters and the true-to-life approach.
(Check out this new, updated cover!) 

(Financial disclosure: Book source was the author.) 

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

Tuesdays with Morrie is a gorgeous book about life, love and teaching.

Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson

It is based on the true story of a professor who is dying of ALS, and in his final days makes a difference in the lives of many, many people - including his old and favourite student. The student is shown as an idealist in college, ready to dream big and follow those dreams, and the story goes on to show you how the guy becomes more and more disillusioned - his idealism crushed by the bills and the attitude of those around him. And then one day he rediscovers the professor who taught him the meaning of the life, and goes to him every Tuesday for his Professor's final lectures, which help him to reassess his own life and relations.

The book is peppered with interesting stuff - quotes and stories come in the middle of every chapter, and therefore make the book more fun to read as well as more inspiring. The chapter names are also masterful. But the real beauty of this story is in how well the author takes a very sensitive topic like death and portrays it simply but effectively. He does not use any hard words, he does not bother with long paragraphs. This story requires no stylistic help to put its point across. Basically the story just has so much substance, and is so inspiring in itself that I feel like I want to memorize the book so that I will remember it forever.

In the story, Morrie, the professor, says, "Learning how to die helps you learn how to live."

And that is exactly what he tries to teach you. With sayings ranging from, "Love each other or die," and "When you're in bed, you're dead," Morrie will teach you about the many things that assail the generation of today - answer questions about life, death, about marriage, about family, about the importance of having someone to fall back on, the importance of connecting with people, the eventual unimportance of material things, and the fact that no matter what happens, love will live on. This book will fill your heart with joy and sorrow, and I am pretty sure you will not leave this book without feeling inspired and refreshed and ready to re-think you life and your goals.

I was very, very glad that I got the chance to read this book. (It was actually suggested by one of my teachers, who I was reminded of frequently as I read the book.) I don't agree with all the things Morrie believed in, but I do think that this a book everyone should read once (or perhaps at every stage in their life) in order to assess themselves whether they are not simply wasting their life pursuing someone else's goals.

Final thoughts: This has been a short and simple review for a short and simple book, but here is what I think - this is a book for all those kids with inspiring teachers, all those people who once had them, and all the people who never got the chance to meet their inspiring teachers. Definitely a must-read.

Other thoughts: Finishing up with Chandru Bhojwani's Journey of Om, should post a review soon. Also, one of my book reviews on Eva Ibbotson's Star of Kazan, came in Teen Ink here. Please read and vote if you like it.

Readers question: Did you ever feel like you had a teacher who truly understood you? Did you end up losing touch with them? Share your stories.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Playing for Pizza by John Grisham

Playing for Pizza is one of those books that touch your heart.

Playing for Pizza

It is a book about football (not soccer, which is what I generally associate with the word 'football'), about food, about Italy, and about passion and love. When I first read this book, I didn't know a thing about american football (admittedly, I still don't know too much about it) and I thought that it would be a pretty boring book for someone who is admittedly not too much of a sports fan. (And, when I recently recommended the book to a friend, she also said 'Oh, I don't really like american football, so I don't want to read it'). Well, here's the thing - you don't have to know anything about american football (or, for that matter, any sport in the world) to enjoy this book. You can enjoy it if you know a thing or two about doing something for love, about culture and about friendships that can last forever.

I think one of the best things about the book is the main character. Rick is, by no means, perfect. The book begins with him being the 'biggest goat in the history of professional football', by throwing three interceptions and causing his team to lose a match that they were almost certainly going to win, and making them lose the cup. He then finds that no team in the country wants to touch him, except for a team in Parma, Italy (and he has never even heard of the place) - Italy, where when you say 'football', they mean soccer. Well, he faces this ridicule bravely, moves to Italy (with a little complaining) and ends up falling in love with the place. And eventually the choices he has to make for the team and for himself are the highlight of the book.

There are some great minor characters - Sam (Rick's new coach), Franco (an old judge part of the Parma Panthers) and Nino (a restaurant chef who is also part of the team), Fabrizio ("high maintenance, think's he's god's gift to football, great hands"). All the Italians in the Parma Panthers play for nothing more than the love of the game (and for the after-game Pizza) and with them Rick (and the readers) learn what football really means. Each character is distinct and well-crafted, and their individual egos, problems, phobias, and aspirations form as big a part of this story as Rick's learning experience does. In this book, you will come to like some of the Parma Panthers and dislike some of them, but it is hard to ignore any character that you're introduced to, simply because Grisham is so good at crafting the characters.

Another great thing is the setting - the small town of Parma in Italy is shown in all its glory and all its failings. The descriptions of the food, the buildings, the small cars, the fashion, and the opera - all of this things will make you want to visit this place. Every small detail shows how well Grisham has studied this place. You are transported to Parma, and you might just fall in love with it enough in this book to want to stay there forever.

Final thoughts: Brilliant characters, well-researched setting and a good premise. You don't have to be a football fan to love this book.

Other things: I haven't been able to finish Frankenstein yet, but I think I'll put that on hold for now, and move on to reading something else.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Good Wives by Louise May Alcott

Good Wives is a such a brilliant book.

Good Wives

In fact, its so good that when I realized I haven't posted for a while on the blog (And this is mostly because my copy of Frankenstein had six pages missing and I haven't got the chance to get it exchanged yet) and I thought of a classic I really wanted to review for the great classic read (and re-read) festival, I thought of this book only. This book was one of the first classics I ever read, it is one of the best books I've ever read, and it has left a lasting impact on me. (Please note, it is a second part of Little Women by the same author. But I have only read that book once and I don't really want to include it in this review.)

This is a story of four sisters: Sweet, domestic Meg; beautiful and vain Amy; gentle but ailing Beth;and wild and headstrong Jo. This is a story of their personal struggles with life and love as all of these 'little women' grow up to be 'good wives'.

The story begins with Meg's marriage. Meg's storyline is one of the most simple and pretty storylines I've ever read. It deals with no earth-shattering problems - mostly her marital problems, which range from her not being able to make jelly one day to her growing distance from her husband after the birth of her children. Meg's storyline will charm you with its down-to-earthness and reality. I'm sure her story is one which many people experience, and the simple advice she receives and follows is definitely not less important for its being simple. Meg is charming as a character.

The other character in this novel who really touched me is Jo. She's the heroine, wild and headstrong. She writes. She must struggle with a change in identity, a want to make money, while at the same time writing something of substance for an industry which doesn't seem to want it. She also struggles with love. She goes away from her family. In short, she does such a lot of things that one does not ever feel bored with her storyline. The other two characters in this book, Amy and Beth are also interesting - though I felt that in some parts Amy was dull and Beth too idealized for my liking.

This is a book to touch your heart. To make you feel happy. To make you cry. Some parts - like the poem in the chapter 'Under my umbrella' will actually make your realize just how much the author knows her characters (and how well she can write poetry!) and others, like the part where Meg and John are compared to a pair of doves will make you like the imagery of the author, others, like the part where Amy and Jo go visiting will make you laugh, and the book in its entirety will come and haunt you on lonely days and make you want to read it again.

Final thoughts: I just adore this book. I don't think its a book anyone can afford to grow up without. Definitely a must-read.

Other thoughts: I think I'll stop (or at least pause) the great classics read (and re-read) festival for a while now, because I and everyone reading my blog deserves a break.
Frankenstein will be the last book for now, I think.

Little Women & Good Wives (Wordsworth Children's Classics) (Wordsworth Collection)

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