Neha

With all the news in and around social as well as mainstream media, what happened in Kashmir in 1990 is no longer just a story. Its pain and agony is felt across generations. One can do justice to a story on the subject only if they've gone through it or seen it closely. This novel, named after the subject, reveals more about what happened before and after the tragic year of 1990 and how it affected scores of families for whom Kashmir was their home.

The story is that of a Kashmiri Pandit, Shiv, whose life turns upside down and everything looks bleak after his family is forced to leave Kashmir.  The family not only loses their home but also a family member and the pain and trauma they go through is immense. Slowly and steadily,   our protagonist regains his foothold after losing out briefly to wrong elements and bad habits. While he works towards his studies and attaining his degree, he also tries to find the lost elements of his life that got left behind in Kashmir, most importantly the girl he loved and longed to be with. The story even covers a bit of the Mumbai riots of 1993.

The two backdrops of this story are intense and the writer manages to reveal the pain and trauma through his pen.  The characters are sketched well and grow as the story advances. Though the story does not delve much into what exactly happened in 1990 and the massacre that happened then, it focuses more on how lives were affected and how families lost everything they called their home for generations.

Well written and fast paced, the story will go well with youngsters. If you're looking for a fresh story with real incidents, pick this one and you'll not be disappointed.

Neha

What happens when you mix two stories -  one an eternal mythology and another with a modern backdrop? Chances are that either will get lost in the merger and eventually the entire plot will collapse.  However, there are novels that have been able to weave together two stories parallel to each other and maintain the rhythm successfully.

To say that When Arya Fell Through The Fault meets the milestones laid down by its precedents in the past wouldn't be an exaggeration. The plot brings the mythological epic Ramayana in context with the story of a teenager living in the modern suburbs of California. While trying to make himself acceptable to the bullies in his school amid racial discrimination and utterly rude behaviour, Arya harms himself and his family in more ways than one. Gradually, he loses his reasoning and logic and makes a mistake that costs him and his family rather heavily. Thus begins a journey of self realisation and penance where he sets out to fight the demons, within him and outside.

While the story may seem simple, the plot is complex and interwoven intricately. It's not easy to bring together two stories from entirely differently eras, but the author does a lovely job here. So while you go back a bit to the history lessons,  you are able to put your present in it and analyse the situation thereon. To say that the great mythological epics hold the answers to life itself is what this novel sets out to say as well.

The characters are those you meet in your day-to-day life. You might like them or loathe them but they impact you and your actions. Whether you respond to them favourably or react to them in haste and anger is what eventually determines your personality and character. And the book is able to put across this little message in a simple way. A few descriptions might seem lengthy here and there and it does get a little preachy somewhere midway,  but the flow isn't lost.

The story remains with you, long after you've read it. As a reader, you begin to analyse your actions and reactions to life events and that's what makes the story successful. The words and tone are reader friendly, making it a light read, yet the message is deep and profound. It's a rare combination to find these two qualities in a book. So yes, this is worth reading :)

Neha
What happens when a character from a book grows on you gradually and you begin to feel its pain. You somehow know intuitively how the next turn of events will affect the character you are now almost breathing with. That's exactly how this story wraps around you and fogs your thoughts completely.

Her Resurrection is the story of Maya and the battles she fought trying to fend for herself. The battles were imposed and none of them chosen by her. Yet, she had to live through them while she dies a little every moment. What she clings on to is a rare kind of hope and her zest to keep fighting out every battle thrown at her.

The story engulfs you word by word. The characters slide in smoothly and good or bad, you can feel their presence around. There is no wordplay when introducing new characters and it's their thoughts, deeds and dialog that provide the reader an insight to their personality. As the scenes and the story unfold, you can feel the agony and anger of the protagonist, who fights nail and tooth and survives. The characters seem very real while the background gels in too. The flow of the story is smooth with the turn of events keeping you on the edge. 

 This story isn't merely about Maya's survival.  It's about her never ending battle with the demons present in our society and how she manages to save her soul from them. This is a story that haunts and inspires you at the same time. This one is a must read,  if it's a story with an edginess that you're looking for!
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Neha
A teenage romance (if you may call it so), this book is an ideal read for youngsters in high school or early college years.

Ashwin, our young school-going hero is smitten with love at first sight. Thereafter begins his pursuit to gain the attention and consequently the friendship of his love interest. While working towards that, he also gets over several of his own inhibitions. The love story, however, ends even before it begins due to a misunderstanding. To get over all the pain and trauma, he decides to go to another town for a while where he falls in love, all over again. This time, the love story does take off but again ends sordidly, much to the pain of our hero. Amid all this, he has a friend who steadfastly stands by him, assuring and helping him all along. And as he tries to pick the pieces of his broken relationships, he discovers a big secret, revealing how all along his life had been played with and smeared with jealousy and one-sided love.

A typical teenage crush story we all would have either gone through or read and heard about numerable times. The writers have built a story around what one would call a regular teenager's life. While the characters have been briefed well, a few descriptions do seem inspired from a typical Bollywood movie script. The settings are etched out well, though rather lengthy at several places. However,  few characters seem out of place due to lack of proper introduction while others have been dealt with a little better. 

All in all,  this would appeal to young readers and those who like quick reads with no heavy baggage to keep after reading. I'd not say that the story lingers for long in your mind after reading, but it is a good effort nevertheless. 
Neha

The Ribbon Trap is a story of a young and promising girl who becomes a victim of a political conspiracy. As her entire life, as well as her mental wellbeing, is trapped in this intricately woven political ribbon, her fiance stands by her throughout her ordeal and refuses to give up, either on her or life.

The novel begins on a rather slow note,  but builds up word by word. The female protagonist, Smita, becomes a victim to a huge political controversy and loses not only her job, but even her reputation as well as af good years of her life. When she regains her strength,  both mentally and physically,  she ventures to find the culprit and that's how layers of conspiracies are peeled, leaving her astounded and stunned. Amid all this is her fiance who covers and protects her and never leaves her side.

The author has etched each character with authenticity. While the turns are quick and keep you engrossed, there is a good number of surprises thrown in that come in time to time. If one knows Indian bureaucracy and politics well, the story and the setting will be more relatable. With a rather engaging plot, the story moves with adequate pace. While the descriptions are not as good and do not really evoke the required atmosphere, the balance is maintained by ensuring there's no laxity in the twists and turns as every chapter reveals something. On the other hand, there are a few characters that could have been highlighted a bit more and a couple others that needn't have as much space.

The female protagonist in the novel is strong. The twists may be predictable at times, but the climax is dramatic and not what a reader might predict. While the reader may feel for the characters,  there is a little void that doesn't allow you to empathise completely with the protagonist. An out and out commercial thriller,   what stands out in this story is how our protagonist makes her way in the political arena and confronts those who messed up her life. Breaking the stereotype to an extent, this novel is a good read.

Neha
We, Prabir and I, were at a store looking at backpacks. While I was busy looking at the designs being shown by a salesman, Prabir was exploring the suitcases and bags kept nearby.

Suddenly, I heard Prabir say 'NO' pretty loudly. I turned towards him and he told me that the uncle was touching his cheeks and so he said 'No'. I immediately asked the salesman not to do it and picked Prabir and made him sit near me. Meanwhile, I also told him that he did a good job saying 'No' to that uncle.

If you ask me, I am a very proud mother since this incident. And I am happy that my son knows that he can say 'No' and that it's alright and that we have his back always.

This incident has also reaffirmed my belief that it is never too soon or early to teach a child about good touch and bad touch. I have always taught him the real names of all his body parts and keep telling him what is good touch and what is not and what he needs to do if anyone touches him where he doesn't like or any other place. We also have a little quiz session time to time where he asks me as to who all can touch or kiss him and I tell him a yes or a no plainly.

Call me paranoid, but I know that I cannot be with my son 24*7 always. I know that he will have to go out and meet new people and not everyone will be good, so to say. And I know that if my son knows how to deal with such situations, I will have to worry a little less probably.

On the other hand, I also do not like complete strangers pulling his cheeks and neither does he. Saying no to them probably sounds rude, but I'd rather be rude than polite at the cost of the comfort of my little one. Better still, I carry him. So, the closer he is to me, lesser chances of strangers walking up to harass him (Yes, I call this harassment! Would an adult like getting their cheeks pulled by a stranger? No. Then why a little child who can barely express their likes and dislikes?)

So, yes, when my son stood up for himself and said "No", all at 2.5 years of age, I was a happy mother. And I know that all those conversations between us, mostly one-sided, have been of use.

So, all parents reading this, teach your little ones about their bodies with the real names. Tell them about good and bad touch and teach them how to say No. Most importantly, respect them for saying it and listen to them.

It is one of the biggest life lessons we need to teach and learn too :)

Neha

When what would seem like regular mundane details of life are interwoven with fine words, stories come alive. Rukhsat is one such collection of stories. Whether it is the characters portrayed so intricately in each story or the plots, there awaits a surprise in each.

Moreover, many stories are linked together in a beautiful way. It's like reading another perspective of the same story. The tales revolve around life and death, love and loss, and friendship and jealousy.  One story would take you to a point in time in the life of the respective character and then another will tell the same tale, albeit from the perspective of another character from the previous story.

Every story is told in a mystical and yet evocative manner, which would leave the readers looking for more. Whether it is Varun, Lotika, Manu, Siraj or Zayan, every character grows on you. They don't seem to be from another world, but someone living next door, people we see and may be acknowledge every day, and yet wouldn't expect that they'd have a story to tell.

Rukhsat leaves you looking for answers as you dwell deeper in the messages it conveys in an ever so subtle manner. It makes you think and introspect. In one word, it's unputdownable!