The Unquiet Ones: A history of Pakistan cricket – Osman Samiuddin – Book Review


TheUnquietOnesGoodreads blurb: THE DEFINITIVE HISTORY OF A CRICKET TEAM THE WORLD LOVES TO WATCH BUT IS AT A LOSS TO EXPLAIN

The story of Pakistan cricket is dramatic, tortured, heroic and tumultuous.

From a beginning with nothing after the Partition of 1947 to the jubilation of its victory against England at the Oval in 1954; from earning its Test status and competing with the best to sealing a golden age by winning the World Cup in 1992; from its magic in Sharjah to an era-defining low in the new millennium: Pakistan’s cricketing fortunes have never ceased to thrill.

This book is the story of those fortunes and how, in the process, the game transformed from an urban, exclusive sport into a glue uniting millions in a vast, disparate country. Osman Samiuddin captures the jazba of the men who played for Pakistan, celebrates their headiest moments and many upheavals, and brings to life some of their most famous—and infamous—contests, tours and moments.

Ambitious, spirited and often heartbreaking, ‘The Unquiet Ones’ is a comprehensive portrait of not just a Pakistani sport, but a national majboori, a compulsion whose outcome can surprise and shock, and can become the barometer of everyday life in Pakistan, tailing its ups and downs, its moods and character.

==================

An enduring image of my childhood days remains Imran Khan taking that tall leap just before he delivered his ball. So much so that I modeled my own amateur and sometimes effective fast bowling action (tennis ball only, mind you) on him. That was the craze and passion that the tall Pathan evoked in me in those heady days. It therefore follows that any book on cricket in general and Pakistan cricket in particular would be gobbled up by me quite happily, and The Unquiet Ones: A history of Pakistan cricket by Osman Samiuddin is so well researched and well written that it was quite an easy read.

The term ‘easy read’ takes nothing away from the relatively painstaking research and the amount of hard work that has gone into this book. After all, going back more than 75+ years to the early 1930s when the Gentleman’s Game starting taking root in the subcontinent and spanning seven plus decades till around 2010 without resorting to the easily taken route of just presenting statistics and easily available nuggets of information from publicly available sources will result in a well written book, won’t it. The author’s passion for the game of cricket and Pakistan cricket in particular can easily be gleaned not only from the fact that he is a contributing editor to ESPNCricinfo.com but also from the manner in which he has approached this book.

While tackling the characters and events in a chronological manner, he also goes on to analyze and detail in an easy to understand fashion how these characters and events went on to fashion Pakistan cricket to leave it in the state that it currently finds itself in. Ranging from the very first superstars Kardar and Fazal, moving on to the Mohammed brother trio, and then to Imran, Miandad, Akram and Waqar and finally ending up with Younis Khan, Shoaib Malik and Misbah-Ul-Haq, this book covers all noteworthy cricketers till date.

What I found particularly interesting in the book was the more than half the book is probably devoted to something that us normal cricketing fans are not usually exposed to, the nitty-gritty of cricket administration. And anybody who reads newspapers and watches the news on TV must be well aware of the fact that cricket administration in Pakistan has been anything but steady, efficient and excellent. The author explains in great detail as to how the same has evolved over the years and finally concludes that as far as Pakistan goes, cricket administration in the country seems to mirror the political system and structure that the country itself experiences. While that was something that I was aware of, the fact that politics and cricket administration are so tightly coupled was not something that I quite knew of.

If you have ever been a fan of Pakistan cricket or cricket in general, then for sure, this is one must-read book. Click here to purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

—————-

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

Flight of Eagles – Jack Higgins – Book Review


FlightOfEaglesGoodreads blurb: In the early days of World War II, nations were forced to choose sides in the epic battle that would change history forever. But for two brothers, fate had already made the choice. Separated as boys, Max and Harry Kelso have grown up to become ace fighter pilots — Max with the German Luftwaffe and Harry in Britain’s RAF. Now, the machinery of war has set in motion an intrigue so devious, so filled with peril, that it will require them to question everything they know, everything they hold most dear: their lives, their families, their loyalties. Against impossible odds, it is their courage alone that will decide the course of the war…

———————

From my teenage years I have been a big fan of World War 2 stories, more so when they involved points of view from both sides of the war like this book Flight of Eagles by Jack Higgins does. It therefore goes without saying that I quite enjoyed the book. Although it must be said that this was the first WW-II novel that I have read and all of my exposure to such stories so far was via the Commando and its affiliated series of comics.

That being said, the yarn that the author spins with this book, of twin brothers separated during their teenage years, fighting for opposing airforces with their stories following an eerily similar pattern as far as their flying career goes makes for interesting reading. With a shared love for flying, courtesy their fighter pilot father, Max and Harry Kelso quickly make a name for themselves in their respective fighting units and rise among the ranks amassing as many medals and honors as they can.

While Max and his mother Elsa get embroiled on the wrong side of the Nazis and the Gestapo, Harry falls in love and his life is not without its own fair share of worries; all this apart from the raging war that is going on around them. How their lives become interesting and intriguingly intertwined and how the fact that they are twins is tried to be used by the ‘powers that be’ form the interesting climax of this book.

The author Jack Higgins himself is a war veteran and therefore leaves his indelible stamp on the book itself. While he has let his fantasy fly a little bit when it comes to a few plot points, overall the book makes for good reading.

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

——————–

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

The Death of Mitali Dotto – Anirban Bose – Book Review


TheDeathOfMitaliDottoGoodreads blurb: When a young stab victim is brought bleeding into the emergency room of a modern New Delhi hospital, Dr Neel Dev-Roy manages to resuscitate her from near-death. Neel, who has just returned to India after spending fifteen years in the US, is shocked to discover that because there is no one to pay for the young woman’s care, the hospital authorities will disconnect her ventilator and let the young woman die.

Outraged, he decides he won’t let that happen. But Neel has no idea what awaits him, and as he takes on dishonest doctors, apathetic bureaucrats, corrupt policemen and power-hungry politicians in the struggle to keep the young woman alive, his obsession with her life begins to affect his own. Neel also begins to understand that some people might want the young woman dead for reasons that aren’t just about the expense of her care.

====================

Set in a milieu which finds Dr Neel coming back to an India he left behind at least fifteen years ago, with his mind continuously searching for a ‘closure’ to what actually happened to his estranged father, the narrative begins with Mitali Dorro being wheeled into the emergency room and Neel resuscitating her despite opposition from other senior doctors present. This situation catapults Neel into a whirlpool of troubles with punishment assignments, mysterious men stalking his wife Stuti and a plethora of other troubles.

The author Anirban Bose uses the setting to provide readers with fairly insightful observations about the booming healthcare industry in India today and informs us about the shady dealings behind the shiny glass facades of the various new hospitals cropping up in our cities by the dozen. Corrupt politicians, the need to project Indian hospitals as a sought after destination, the inevitable nexus of power, money and corruption amongst the senior healthcare practitioners all form a part of this narrative. And it must be said that the author doesn’t quite take sides while presenting the facts as they are.

With all of this action happening in Delhi, Neel’s efforts to figure out what actually happened to his estranged father after the time he left his mother and him are also woven into the book. His journey to Jhargam, a Maoist hotbed where his father spent his last few days proves to be quite revelatory and Neel learns that all is not quite what appears to be. How this thread is linked with the main narrative is also done quite deftly.

At the heart of it, this book is about Neel Dev-Roy ‘coming of age’ albeit not in a traditional sense of the term. By the time the book ends, Neel finds himself wiser, happier and more importantly somewhat ‘at home’ and at peace with himself and his choices.

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

=============

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

Last Man in Tower – Aravind Adiga – Book Review


LastManInTowerGoodreads blurb: Aravind Adiga’s first novel since his Man Booker Prize-winning best seller “The White Tiger” (“Amazing . . . One of the most powerful books I’ve read in decades” –Deirdre Donahue, “USA Today): ” a stunning, darkly comic story of greed and murder that lays bare the teeming metropolis of Mumbai.

Real estate developer Dharmen Shah’s offer to buy out the residents of Vishram Society–a formerly respectable, now crumbling apartment complex that abuts the infamous Dharavi slums–is more than generous. But one man stands in the way of Shah’s luxury high- rise: Masterji, a retired schoolteacher who will not leave his home in Vishram’s Tower A. Shah is a dangerous man to refuse, but as the demolition deadline looms, Masterji’s neighbors–friends who have become enemies, acquaintances turned co- conspirators–may stop at nothing to score their payday.

An electrifying, suspense-filled story of money and power, luxury and deprivation, peopled by brilliantly drawn, unforgettable characters, “Last Man in Tower” exposes the hearts and minds of the everymen and women of a great, booming city–ordinary people pushed to their limits in a place that knows no one.

—————

As the blurb states all mayhem breaks loose when real estate developer Dharmen Shah offers an exorbitant sum of money to all the residents of Vishram Towers in Bombay, but there is just one hurdle that stands between them and the money itself; Masterji, a retired schoolteacher who for no apparently good reason refuses to sell to the builder. The author then takes us through a period of approximately 3-4 months between the time the offer is made and the time it expires and on a journey through the lives of all the residents of Vishram Tower A and their attempts to convince Masterji to accept the builder’s offer.

In his trademark style, Aravind Adiga manages to deliver quite a power-packed punch with his insights into the psyche of the ‘everyday man’; people like you and me with their everyday lives and the struggles, joys, pains, happiness that come with it. While not delving too deep into each and every one of the characters, the author manages to convey just about enough about each of them to ensure that the readers sympathize with their plight and to a large extent even understand the motivations behind their actions. Where the author scores really high though are the ‘grey areas’, the places in the character psyches and motivations that leave the reader unable to decide one way or the other.

Using his trademark style where he lets the events unfold at their own pace in an unhurried manner, the author successfully manages to deliver quite a power-packed punch right at the very end, while the epilogue further manages to reinforce our faith in the author and his belief that ‘life goes on, no matter what.’ While this may put off readers who like fast-paced books and like their action hard, fast and furious, connoisseurs of well written literary fiction will surely lick their lips at the prospect of reading a truly well written book with extremely believable characters stuck in everyday situations.

I personally enjoyed each and every character quite a bit, and especially liked the character of Shanmugam, the left-hand man of Dharmen Shah, the builder. Using him, the author manages to humanize and de-humanize the builder, at the same time, and that is quite an achievement where the author manages to make us think twice about the main antagonist (if he can be called that) in the book.

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

—————

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

Cult of Chaos : An Anantya Tantrist Mystery – Shweta Taneja – Book Review


CultOfChaosGoodreads blurb: Anantya Tantrist is a 23-year-old tantrik from Delhi who prowls the nights, solving macabre mysteries that involve monsters straight out of a nightmare. Cult of Chaos is her first adventure.

She is sassy and bad-mouthed and kicks supernatural ass with ease.

————

The tantriks are now overground. They have their own council, police and justice systems. The Kaula Ashram of the white tantriks have emerged as the most powerful; their men are recognized tantriks, women intimate collaborators.

Then there is Anantya Tantrik, who has rejected the Kaula path. She is powerful and lives life by her own strict moral code. Who needs official seals anyway? When the world goes to hell in a handcart, badges and honours aren’t going to save the day.

Incidentally, hell and chaos is exactly where the world is headed. In Delhi, little girls are being sacrificed in a tantrik ritual. A desperate daeva is trying to blackmail Anantya. Someone is trying to call up the God of Chaos. A three-headed giant cobra turns up in old Delhi. The White and Red tantriks are facing off, and there is one or more Black tantric brewing some dangerous shakti. As Anantya struggles to stop the madness, the supernatural underworld – peopled with creatures humanoid, barely human and inhuman – comes alive in all its bloody, gory glory.

————-

If I could only use three alphabets to describe this book, they would be OMG. Oh My God!!! is the only exclamation that comes remotely close to describing my feeling after reading this book. While I have heard of writers having fantastic imaginations and amazing story telling skills, it is very rare that one comes across a writer having both of these, and trust me when I say this Shweta Taneja has both of these in abundance, and Cult of Chaos is surely proof of that.

I could gush on and on about how good the book is, and how wonderfully well it is paced and how it promises to be the start of an exciting new series of Anantya Tantrist mysteries, if she decides to write a sequel and many more books, but I would simply not be able to do any justice to the book itself, and all you readers of this review also would not understand or appreciate the same unless you read the book itself.

To be honest, I chose this book on a flight of fancy, having fallen for the wonderful cover and intrigued by the blurb itself. Little did I realize the immensely fun roller-coaster ride it would take me on when I started reading it. The main protagonist Anantya Tantrist, the quintessential outsider who is happy living life on her own terms on the fringes of mainstream tantrism and magic, proves to be an important pawn in the grand game that the plot of this book deals with. Her character is well etched out and reflects most rebellious youngsters we know or hear about; the ones who dare to go against most societal norms and conventions, but have their hearts in the right place and want to do what is good for the greater number; those that dare to take the fight to politicians and bureaucracy albeit in their own unconventional ways; the omnipresent angry young man (or woman, in this case).

To take a character like Anantya Tantrist and go ahead and put her in a chaotic dystopian future where tantriks, magic, rituals and humans co-exist in a somewhat fragile relationship was a masterstroke by the author. The richness of the author’s imagination clearly shines through in her description of the goings-on without having to resort to time-tried and tested tropes such as providing vivid descriptions of the environment, the cities, the people etc, but using easier-to-read techniques such as setting the story amidst the everyday lives of the characters themselves.

Suffice to say I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am more than sure you will too, provided you are willing to set aside all your disbeliefs and treat this book as a fantasy fiction one which is where it strictly belongs. Although, be warned, and the blurb also states this – this book is for ‘mature readers’ only, meaning it has more than enough lust, blood, gore, swearing to make ‘regular readers’ cringe if they are not mentally prepared for the same.

Go ahead and purchase the book from Flipkart [Link] or Amazon [Link].

—————

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