The Nidhi Kapoor Story – Saurabh Garg – Book Review


TheNidhiKapoorStoryGoodreads blurb: Two dogs and a cat are butchered at the home of Nidhi Kapoor, a leading Bollywood actress. Left behind is a mysterious letter threatening Nidhi and her family.

Nishant Kapoor, Nidhi’s father and a superstar of the yesteryears is confined to a retirement facility in the hills. Tormenting him are his recurring dreams of someone trying to hurt him and his family.

A film set where Nidhi Kapoor is shooting for her much anticipated film goes up in flames. Trapped inside are Nidhi and her sister, Payal.

ACP Prakash Mohile is forced to take up the investigation. Rujuta Singh, a photojournalist chronicling the lives of policemen in Mumbai and shadowing Prakash, gets embroiled in the case.

Unwarranted incidents continue to happen and in absence of any real clues or motive, Prakash and Rujuta are forced to dig deeper in the past of the Kapoors. They unknowingly stumble onto a violent tale of lies, betrayal, treachery, infidelity and murder.

Time is running out fast and the unknown assailant is adamant on taking away from Nidhi everything that she holds dear – her career, her home, her reputation, her family and her life. With each move, he seems to be getting close. The answers however continue to elude Prakash and Rujuta.

What is it in their past that Kapoors are hiding from the world?

What grudge does the assailant hold against the Kapoors?

And, can they save Nidhi?

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When actress Nidhi Kapoor’s pets are found maimed and killed in her very house, this sets in motion a chain of events which forces ACP Prakash Mohile and photojournalist Rujuta Singh to team up and try and solve the crime. And as if to prove that this was not an isolated incident, it is soon followed up by other unexplained incidents involving danger to Nidhi, and the team soon finds itself embroiled further into what seems to be a lethal criminal on the loose out to harm Nidhi.

While Prakash and Rujuta are poles apart in their behavior and outlook to life, they soon realize that they have more in common than they anticipated and knew about. Pretty soon they end up working quite well together with each of them complementing the other. Assisted by constable Pravin Tambe, the team does all they can to get to the bottom of these incidents and prevent any danger to Nidhi.

Whether they succeed in unmasking the mysterious criminal or does he succeed in getting to Nidhi before they can prevent him forms the crux of the book. Suffice to say that the book is quite well paced and doesn’t lag too much anywhere.

Some small issues I had with the book (without giving away any spoilers) were the inclusion of a romantic track and the absence of information that a character shares with Rujuta at almost the end of the book. And another thing that kind of bothered me was the fact that I could guess the identity of the antagonist by the time I had finished three fourths of the book, as well as the motive for the crimes committed. But having said that it didn’t take away too much from me enjoying the book itself.

An extremely competent debut book by Saurabh Garg, although he could have tried to avoid some clichéd filmy aspects in the narrative itself. Purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

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Disclaimer: A review copy of the book was shared with me by the publishers in return for an unbiased review.

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Lost In Pattaya – Kishore Modak – Book Review


LostInPattayaGoodreads blurb: It is every dad’s nightmare – his little girl goes missing.

For Palash, the sorrow compounds from the incessant replaying of the critical minutes when his ‘Daddy-eye’ faltered, distracted by his own weakness, substance abuse. The loss and the ensuing search sends him spiraling into a divorce and the loss of a steady corporate job. Scouring for his little girl in the brothels of Pattaya he is ensnared in the web of mafia that runs the sex trade of Thailand. When he eventually finds her, will he be able to build back a wasted lifetime, or, is it too late for rescue, for him and his child?

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An extremely unconventional book to say the least, I mean any book which waits for 184 pages before someone addresses the protagonist by his name, Palash Mitra, can only be called that, right.

When Li Ya, Palash’s young daughter goes missing on a family holiday in Pattaya, when he was distracted purchasing drugs from a pusher, that begins an unending spiral of uncontrolled and unmitigated disaster with his fragile marriage breaking apart and him losing his job due to his refusal to play ‘ball’ and overlook some spurious practices. As if this wasn’t enough, his substance abuse problem leads him further and further down on the path to self-destruction and pretty soon he finds himself with no purpose in life.

He then takes it upon himself to hunt down his daughter in the brothels of Pattaya where he last saw her and this ends up being serendipitous in terms of the fact that it helps him uncover the truth about her disappearance in a completely unforeseen manner. Assisted by the mysterious Thuy Binh and her confidante Miho, Palash’s life then takes a completely different turn and he starts afresh.

However, one moment when he lets his guard down brings down this particular house of cards also tumbling down all around him. Whether he manages to get his life back together again, whether he manages to meet his daughter Li Ya again forms the crux of the rest of the narrative.

This book is very unconventional in the sense that the first third of the book almost entirely deals with the protagonist talking to himself in his mind. By playing on the substance abuse issue that Palash is grappling with, the author uses this to provide readers with an entirely different point of view of the events unfolding in the narrative. Far from being angry with Palash, I wouldn’t be surprised if most readers ended up sympathizing with his plight in this portion, more so by the end of the book when a whole lot of other things unravel themselves.

And I have to admit that the first third makes for some tough reading at times when I felt frustrated with what Palash was doing (or rather not doing right). In hindsight, I realize that this feeling contributed more than quite a bit to me rooting for him in the last third of the book. While the ending is a little contrived and seems inspired by Hollywood, it doesn’t take away from the fact that this is an enjoyable book.

An unconventional storyline which is as much of the protagonist losing himself in Pattaya as much as it is about him losing his daughter there, this book managed to strike the right chords with me with its gritty, unflinching portrayal of the sex trade and the plight of prostitutes in Thailand. It also manages to provide a small insight into what substance abuse addicts face when they are high, or when their high wears off as well. This to me, was a personal first, to read a book which managed to help me visualize addiction in an entirely new light.

A worthwhile read which can be purchased online at Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

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The book was received as part of Reviewers Programme on The Tales Pensieve.

Secret Diary of a School Teacher: Dark Side of the Blackboard – Preeti Chaudhry – Book Review


SecretDiaryOfASchoolTeacher

Goodreads blurb: Schools are an integral part of our societal structure instrumental in shaping young minds. But at times even such sacred places are ridden with scandals, lust, jealousy and unscrupulous behavior.

Secret Diary of a School Teacher’ is based on real experiences narrated by a school teacher, who has provided an account of the numerous stories she encountered in her job. These present the Dark Side of the Institution which normally remains hidden from public eye. Armed with shocking revelations, this book would alter the reader’s perception towards the sanctity associated with schools. Get ready to dive into a world of malicious pretenses, relationships and friendships that will make you sit up and take notice.

Inspired by true incidents, this book contains information that you may never have imagined could happen at a place like school. Ignorance here is certainly not bliss.

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At the outset let me confess that the only teachers I know were the ones I had in high school, a good two decades ago and therefore my school-related memories are quite hazy at best. That being said, I cannot profess to even remotely know what happens in schools nowadays.

For whatever reason, this book didn’t quite work for me at various levels. I don’t know if it was anticipating too much from the book based on the back blurb or whether it was the ‘holier than thou’ attitude adopted by the author towards teachers and schools in general, but somehow the contents of the book didn’t quite work for me.

The way I see it, even teachers are human beings and are subject to the normal human foibles such as desire, greed, love, lust and the like and therefore the format in which this book was written, various chapters involving incidents from the author’s past experiences as a teacher simply wasn’t interesting enough for me. Maybe I am cynical or maybe I don’t share the author’s point of view that schools are ‘temples of learning’ and places where the ‘sanctity of education’ have to be maintained, and that probably is the reason why most of the incidents narrated by her were not ‘shocking’ enough for me that they had to be narrated in a book.

Most of the chapters, actually make that all of them, deal with romantic or physical dalliances between individuals. At times they were between two teachers, at times between a boy and his lady teacher, at times between a girl and her male teacher, at times between office staff and teachers, at times between students themselves, but all of them were only ‘love stories’, so to speak, and this turned me off to no end. While I understand that these are the stories that make for ease of narration and is the stuff that teacher staff room gossip is made of, imagining that they would make for interesting reading in the form of a book was probably taking it too far.

On more than one occasion when I was reading the book I was left wondering why it was that the author chose to highlight only these incidents from her twenty plus years of teaching and why she chose only these and nothing else. I am more than sure she would have come across inspirational stories of children overcoming odds to succeed in their studies, stories where children helped each other to become better at whatever they did, stories where teachers went out of their way to help students during their most vulnerable phases of life. But the fact that she chose only ‘love stories’ to highlight is something that baffled me.

All this being said, I do appreciate the fact that she took time out to narrate these incidents, as I am sure there are more than a few people out there who blindly trust the schools and school authorities where they send their children to. This book clearly serves as a warning to all these ‘trusting parents’ that come what may, it remains their responsibility to remain vigilant about all the activities of their children irrespective of the cadre and class of school they are sent to. When it comes to parenting teenagers, a parent can never stay ‘too safe’.

Click on the following links to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

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Disclaimer: A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publishers in return for a honest and unbiased review of the same.

Sambhala: The Journey Begins – Shariful Hasan – Book Review


SambhalaTheJourneyBeginsGoodreads blurb: In a small village somewhere in rural Bangladesh, an old man starts behaving in bizarre ways.

Rashed, an undergraduate in Dacca, comes under police suspicion: presumed guilty of murder.

A thousand year old book goes missing from a house in Shantinagar and a group of Satan worshipers are let loose by their leader to retrieve it.

Nikolas Carson, a world renowned archaeologist willingly steps in his kidnappers’ car.

Who is this strange old man? Why was a boy-next-door like Shamim murdered? What is Nikolas Carson’s interest in a legend that has no factual evidence? What is ‘Sambhala’?

As the story unravels from France and Rome to India and Tibet, each of the characters cling on to their mission, unaware that their fates are mysteriously intertwined.

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As the blurb states, the narrative of Sambhala: The Journey Begins mostly deals with the mysterious book that Rashed comes in possession of courtesy his friend, Shamim who is murdered in quite a gruesome manner. Being the prime suspect in the case, Rashed begins his cat and mouse game with the cops, all the while being pursued by a group of Satan worshipers who also seem to want the book at any cost.

While all of this action is happening in and around Dacca, Rashed’s grandfather, Abdul Majid starts behaving mysteriously, which has not gone unnoticed by his son and others in the village. What secret does he hide, is there more to him than meets the eye, or is there a Djinn plaguing the little village and killing people at random? These are a few questions that the rural countryside is more worried about.

In parallel, archaeologist Nikolas Carson is on the trail of a rumored immortal, the Count of Saint Germain, who, if legends are to be believed has travelled almost the entire world. The old ‘digger’ ensures that he picks up the trail of the elusive Count by selecting archaeological digs based on his legendary travels and the places his story travels to. He therefore finds himself in Dacca when he first hears of the mysterious book and is called upon to decipher it.

The narrative also tracks the story of the immortal Count of Saint Germain and his journey over the course of ages and how he happens to come across a secret map to a legendary city which is supposed to be ‘immortal’ in nature.

The author manages to keep all these four plots smartly moving forward and inter-weaves them all together into a nice quick breezy read. Despite being translated into English from the original Bengali text, the novel manages to retain most of its rustic originality and the translator and adaptor seems to have done a good job to ensure that nothing is ‘lost in translation’.

However, that being said, the portions about the archaeologist and the immortal appealed to me more than Rashed’s portions. The author seems more comfortable in the ‘period’ setting rather than the urban melee. But this doesn’t take away anything from what is truly a competent book.

Click here to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

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Disclaimer: I was provided a review copy of this book by the publishers for an unbiased review of the same.