Short story: Under the shade in the rainy evening in Bharatpur

The sun had set in Bharatpur that evening but it wasn’t dark at the market road. The workers of the Jan Raksha Party (JRP) were burning effigies of a leader from the ruling Lok Seva Party (LSP) after he allegedly made a derogatory remark against their leader.

The JRP workers were sweating in their pink T-shirt bearing the abbreviation of their party in the already humid town but they didn’t care. How dare he insult their beloved leader?

Their victorious reverie was broken when a group of supporters of LSP started raising slogans against the said JRP leader. They felt their leader did the right thing. They too were oblivious to their sweaty purple T-shirts bearing the abbreviation of their respective parties. But both parties were united in not caring for the general office going population that was having difficulty while returning home after a long and tiring day at work.

Such was the state of affairs in Bharatpur these days. The town was divided between LSP and JRP; between pink and purple. Earlier it was only their supporters who were at loggerheads. But slowly, common people too clinged onto any one side and developed enmity against those on the ‘other’ side. So what if they have been their close friends or even family members all these years?

The colleges regularly saw tussles and arguments between both set of supporters. But since recent times, even offices saw heated conversations between those who were otherwise well-educated and mature.

Under-the-tree
Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The scene was the same even in the virtual world of social media and What’s App. More than the IT cells of these parties, the common people were energetically creating posts to bash and insult the other side. Both parties were saving a lot of money since the common people were ready to publicize them and their agendas for free.

When the general public felt such enmity for people from the ‘other’ side, one can just imagine the hatred between the official party workers of both parties. They literally couldn’t see eye to eye.

The mobs of both groups were showing no signs of stopping. Hence, it took some divine intervention in the form of unseasonal December rain. What started as a drizzle soon transformed into heavy rain and storm-like situation. To make matters worse, the electricity went off.

The general public, which was running helter skelter, was now confused. Ajit, a man in his mid-20s, ushered inside the entrance of a shop that was shut. As he was moved inside the roof properly to escape the rain water, his body his someone. It was a man in his 50s who too was there as he had to save himself from the rain and it was too dark to try going home.

After an awkward moment, they spoke and soon introduced themselves. The man in his 50s was Rameshchandra. The two were glad to have each other’s company to combat this difficult situation. Ajit realized that Rameshchandra was feeling uneasy.

When Ajit caringly prodded further, he revealed that he is diabetic and needed water. Ajit promptly handed him a bottle from his bag in the dark. Rameshchandra thanked him. He then he noticed that Ajit was limping a bit. Now it was Rameshchandra’s turn to caringly prod him about his uneasiness.

Ajit explained how his leg got hit to the street lamp pole in the dark while he was hurriedly getting under the roof. Rameshchandra handed him a little bottle of a balm which he always carried for his headache. He said the balm works even for the kind of injury Ajit suffered. Then Ajit remembered the slogan of the balm’s advertisement, ‘Ek balm, teen kaam’ and they had a hearty laugh.

There was massive age gap between the two of them but they didn’t feel it. Difficult circumstances can even bring two people from different age groups together in a human way. Both decided in their minds that they would like to keep in touch. They were no longer thinking about the uneasiness caused by their wet T-shirts.

Just then the electricity returned and the road lights were on. They were glad but as soon as their eyes fell on each other, they were stunned. They were wearing pink and purple T-shirts respectively.

By: Keyur Seta

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Why the meaning of the name ‘Yudhishthir’ is relevant today

When it comes to the characters of the Pandavas, the name Arjun has received maximum fame. His skills ensured that he be considered one of the best archers ever. Hence, a large number of parents have been naming their children Arjun among Hindus.

But as far as the Pandavas or even all the main characters of Mahabharata are concerned, one of the most underrated names is Yudhisthir. The meaning of his name is inspiring and something that is needed in today’s times.

Yudhisthir means a person who can remain calm and composed even in the midst of a war. To elaborate, the word ‘Yudh’ means ‘war’ and ‘sthir’ means ‘still.’ Hence, Yudhisthir is someone who doesn’t lose his calmness amidst a war.

Yudhisthir
Yudhisthir from the TV serial Mahabharata played by Rohit Bharadwaj

The meaning is so relevant today and I don’t mean from the armed forces who indulge in actual war. The everyday lives have become so stressful that each day is nothing short of a war.

Students are fighting the war to score more marks. Working professionals are at war over deadlines and the pressures of their seniors or bosses. At times being in a relationship in today’s times of dating apps is also a war.

Interestingly, Yudhisthir also possessed some praiseworthy qualities. He was extremely kind, largehearted, benevolent and possessed a tremendous amount of knowledge of the Shastras.

An incident that displayed his largeheartedness was the one where all his four brothers [Arjun, Bheem, Nakul and Sahadev] died. A Yaksha told him that he can bring to life only one of his four brothers. To this, Yudhisthir chose Nakul, although he was his step-brother over Arjun.

The Yaksha was so impressed with Yudhisthir that he brought all four brothers to life.

Yudhisthir acquired the name ‘Dharmaraja’ for his strict adherence to dharma [rightfulness]. His other name was Ajatshatru, which means someone who has no enemies.

Hence, personally speaking, it won’t be a bad thing to name your child Yudhisthir.

Book Review: The Invincible Weapon by Soumya Putta

The greatness of ancient Indian epic Mahabharata is that it continues to inspire storytellers even in today’s era and shall continue to do so. Author Soumya Putta has few elements from the epic in her novel The Invincible Weapon but she has churned out an original and entertaining story out of it.

The story takes place in the ancient times when princes and princesses of various kingdoms of Mahadroni (a fictitious country) get enrolled in the Gurukul of Maharshi Gavishta after summoned by him. Two of them are twin brothers Abhi and Kanu, who hail from the kingdom of Vaishali.

Abhi becomes quick friends with Hiya, the princess of another kingdom and a fellow student at the Gurukul. But he gradually gets distanced from Kanu after the latter is brainwashed by someone from their batch.

The reason for Maharshi Gavishta summoning them is that the threat of the invisible enemies has started looming over Mahadroni. The enemies shall increase their guerrilla warfare in the future. Hence, it is vital to prepare these children for the war as they would be the rulers of their respective kingdoms. And one way to defeat them is to get hold of The Invincible Weapon.

The-Invincible-Weapon-bookThe Invincible Weapon starts off in such a way that you feel the story will be predictable. As Abhi, Kanu, Hiya and other youngsters start training in warfare in the Gurukul, it seems as if they will set out for war in the later part and, like many other stories, good will win over evil.

However, that is surely not the case here. The story takes a twist in the middle and goes onto an exciting adventurous route with a good amount of thrill. The idea of getting Ghatotkacha into the story is not only a pleasant surprise but also a masterstroke.

The biggest surprise lies in the unveiling of the invincible weapon and the invisible enemies. There is a chance that the revelation might not work for all but I did for me though. The only other area of concern is that one complicated situation gets solved too conveniently.

The characters of Abhi and Hiya and their bonding play a big role in making the experience joyous. Their romantic angle is treated in a subtle and a mature way. It evokes feeling but without making their romance too obvious for their age.

Putta has displayed a fine exhibition of her literary skills consistently. She has a free-flowing style of writing which ensures that you are hooked. Her formation of sentences is both simple and rich. The Invincible Weapon should also be lauded for its error-free editing.

Overall: The Invincible Weapon is a ride that provides enjoyment and enlightenment. It suits to both adolescents and grown-ups.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Author: Soumya Putta

Pages: 239

Publishers: Leadstart Publishing

Additional feature: The maps of Mahadroni and other sketches enhance the reading

Book Review: Perfect Love by Shubha Vilas

Self-help books are not a new phenomenon by any means. They are found in aplenty. Books on love tips also fall under this genre. They give ‘relationship tips’ and carry a threat of becoming too preachy after a point of time.

But author Shubha Vilas’ Perfect Love: 5.5 Ways To A Lasting Relationship stands apart from the normal books in this genre for two reasons. It tells stories of interesting individuals instead of preaching anything. Secondly, it proves that ancient mythological stories carry messages and wisdom that can be useful even in 2018.

The book tells these six stories:

— The Wheel Of Fortune – About Nala and Damayanti

— The Golden Letter – About Krishna-Rukmini and Arjun-Subhadra

— A Silent Voice – About King Dushyanta and Shakuntala

— The Other Before Oneself – King Udayana and Vasavadatta

— The Woman Who Chose – About Satyavan and Savitri

— A Conditions About Conditions – Draupadi narrating the story of king Shantanu and her five husbands

Perfect-Love-bookOur mythological stories are vast. You feel you know a story by knowing its outline. However deep within, there are sub-plots and even little anecdotes that are not only interesting but also filled with positive messages. To see such minute detailing of incidents speaks a lot about the author’s command over mythology.

Perfect Love gives various timely messages in the book. The most important ones are the importance of proper communication (in the second story) and the dangers of being carried away by lust over love (in the fifth one). These are simple messages but they are needed to be told today when one can’t perceive simplest of things since the minds are so clouded by complications.

Vilas is known for keeping his writing simple yet rich in his Ramayana series. He has followed exactly the same method here. And like his other quality in his previous works, he has kept the narrative engaging and his description and presentation of scenes is akin to mainstream Hindi films.

The problem area here are some sentences that range from questionable to objectionable. They are:

‘Begetting a son is more meritorious than performing a sacrifice. But speaking the truth is more meritorious than begetting a hundred sons.’ – Now, how is begetting a son glorified in an unimaginable way? Does that mean daughters mean less? It can be argued that such beliefs were present in ancient times. But as the book is written for today’s youngsters, it is worrying to see such theories being preached, especially at a time when the country is struggling to achieve women empowerment.

‘A man who has a wife can be trusted more than a man who is a loner.’ – Now this is so shocking that it needs to description. It’s self-explanatory.

Apart from this, the explanation after each chapter could have been shorter.

Overall: Perfect Love is an interesting and insightful book that provides ways for lasting romantic relationships without being preachy.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Author: Shubha Vilas

Publisher: Westland Publications

Pages: 203

Price: Rs 350

Cover: A simple illustration of ancient lovers that goes with the subject

Book Review: Shrouded Truth – Biblical Revelations Through Past Life Journeys

Reincarnation has been one of the most favourite subjects for Indian filmmakers irrespective of the language. The whole idea of a person getting reborn in another body after dying is truly filmi indeed. But as they say, truth is stranger than fiction.

This filmi idea is very much accepted today even by modern psychiatrists or psychologists as therapy to treat their patients. Reena Kumarasingham is one such practitioner of past live regression therapies.

Co-incidentally, she came across more than a handful of people who regressed back to the life of people who were around Jesus Christ and somewhere related to him. The recording of the regression sessions is what Shrouded Truth is all about.

The book is an interesting, insightful, at times shocking and a challenge to the popular belief around Christ. The most significant one being the claim from all participants that Jesus didn’t die on the cross (not divulging further to avoid spoilers).

Shrouded-Truth.jpgHowever, deep inside the book gives an overwhelming message of love, unity and equality among human beings across of all races the world, which is so vital in the times we are living.

Although the entire book is a non-fictional account of a group of people’s past life experiences, it follows a story format. In a lot of fictitious books and movies, a story is told through different characters, which is then merged as a single story.

This is exactly what happens with Shrouded Truth. As the individuals keep sharing their past life experiences, slowly but steadily a story forms developing. It turns out to be an enlightening affair about the Biblical era, even for someone like me who had hardly any knowledge on the period before reading it.

The stories do bring back memories of Ashwin Sanghi’s The Rozabal Line. Of course, the big difference is that it was purely a work of fiction.

This isn’t a book where there is scope for criticisms on the writing style. This is simply because the major portion of the book is the conversation record between Kumarasingham and the participants. The explanations provided in between is simple and to the point.

Perhaps the only issue is the length. The book could have been little shorter by omitting out few conversations that are repetitive. In other words, it could have been crisper.

How much to believe?

The most obvious question any reader would ask here is how genuine is the book and whatever it claims. The author’s honest approach is felt throughout, especially during the very last chapter, at least for me. In fact, she herself has raised this concern few times in the book. It is also possible to contact her in case of any questions, thanks to the era of the internet.

But there are also people who don’t believe in reincarnation or the existence of the soul. Personally, I feel they can still read the book with an open mind just to know the fascinating story of a group of people who selflessly strived to spread the message of humanity across the world.

Rating: 4/5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Author: Reena Kumarasingham (Contact her by visiting divineaspect.com or blog.divineaspect.com or facebook.com/divineaspectiam

Pages: 393 (including the preview of her next book Illuminated Truth)

Publishers: Heart Press

Promoters: Publishing Push

Cover: A simple illuminating image of a light, which goes with the theme

Nakula & Sahadeva: The unsung heroes of the Mahabharata

Mahabharata is one of the most widely read scripture not only in India but world over. After various sub-plots and twists, it all boils down to the great war of Kurukshetre, which the righteous Pandavas won against the evil Kauravas.

The Pandavas are, always, praised for being showing the valour to defeat the Kauravas. However, it is only Arjun, Yudhishthir and Bheem who have received fame and recognition (of course apart from Lord Krishna). Nakula and Sahadeva, a prominent part of the Pandava group, haven’t got their due and recognition.

So here’s an attempt to have a sneak-peek into their lives and abilities

Sahadeva:

The name Sahadeva is derived from Sanskrit words ‘saha’ [with] and ‘deva’ [Gods]. The meaning becomes ‘someone with Gods.’

He was considered the most intelligent of all the five Pandava brothers. Yudhishthira compares his wisdom to that of Brihaspati, the teacher of Gods. Hence, Sahadeva also counseled Yudhishthira.

Sahadeva was well versed in the field of medicines.

If Arjun was a champion in archery, Sahadeva, along with his brother Nakula, was a master in sword fighting.

One of Sahadeva’s divine gifts was his profound knowledge in Astrology. However, he couldn’t disclose future events because of a curse, which would ensure that he would die if he does so. Therefore, he couldn’t reveal about the battle of Kurukshetra although he could foresee it.

Duryodhana, the evil leader of the Kaurava clan, had approached Sahadeva to suggest a mahurat (right time) for the war. Sahadeva unhesitatingly revealed the mahurat despite knowing Duryodhana was their enemy.

Sahadeva defeated a lot of Kauravas during the war. After the gambling loss that also ensured the humiliation of Draupadi, Sahadeva had taken a vow to kill Shakuni, the mastermind behind the plan. He fulfilled his vow on the 18th day of the war.

Nakul-Sahadev
Screenthot of Nakula and Sahadeva from the TV series Dharamkshetra on EPIC channel.

Nakula:

Nakula was said to be dark and handsome.

He was skilled in diplonmacy.

Like his brother Sahadeva, he too had the gift of astrology. But, just like his brother, the knowledge came with a curse. Soon after predicting something he would forget his predictions and futuristic visions.

Nakula was not only skilled sword fighter, again like his brother, but could also handle an array of unusual weapons. His skills proved to be more than useful during the great war.

He was also said to be an expert in Ayurveda.

He was a master at horse breeding and riding. Due to his knowledge of Ayurveda, he was also able to carry out the treatment of ill horses.

Nakula, along with Bheema, led the Pandava army on the first day of the war of Kurukshetra.

Nakula has to his credit the achievement of defeating a number of important people from the Kaurava side including Dussasana (who was killed by Bheema. He was responsible for humiliating Draupadi , Shalya, Shakuni, etc.

His negative quality of being proud of his looks is also mentioned in the Mahabharata. This is the reason given for his fall while being on the final journey to heaven with the rest of his brothers, Draupadi and the dog Dharma.

With such achievements under their belt, we wonder why Nakula and Sahadeva didn’t receive prominence in the centuries gone by.

By: Keyur Seta

Book Review: Matsya – The First Avatar (Dashavatar Series)

Author Sundari Venkatraman is known as the specialist on romance and relationships. With Matsya – The First Avatar, the first short book in her Dashavatar series, she takes a leap in to the mythological or spiritual sphere. Not even once does it seem as if she is new to the genre. This, obviously, means that her switch has been successful.

Matsya – The First Avatar, as the name suggests, is about the first avatar of Lord Vishnu in the form of a fish. Lord Brahma was tired and sleepy after completion of one kalpa (10 thousand years). As he dozed off to sleep, the Asura Hayagriva managed to steal the four Vedas – Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Atharva Veda – from him.

After realizing his folly, a guilt-ridden Brahma visited Lord Vishnu urging for help and intervention. The calm-headed Lord readily agreed to help by taking form of a fish (matsya). The sage king Satyavrath became an important part in the latter part of Vishnu’s plan, which is the progression to another Yuga.

Matsya-Sundari-VenkatramanWe have heard about the different avatars of Lord Vishnu. Probably many of us might have read descriptions of each of his avatars. But it is a smart idea to provide detailed information on them and their importance. Venkatraman’s story follows Matsya Purana (the Brahma Purana features Brahma as the fish avatar).

The book is ideal for those who are much interested in the topic. The story, which started with the stealing of the Vedas, gives an overwhelming feeling as it ends towards the creation of Satya Yuga. For the believers or devotees, it answers some tough questions and gives clarity on the times we are living. But the non-believers too are in for a good experience if they look at it purely as a fictional story.

Ventakraman has presented the story in as simple was as possible but at the same time has retained the richness of the language, making it appealing across age groups. Maintaining such balance is certainly not easy. The grip is also nicely maintained throughout.

In today’s times, the standard of editing in modern Indian English literature has gone down. A number of punctuation and other errors are overlooked somehow. Thankfully, Matsya – The First Avatar is a fine example of quality editing.

There are no such negatives points as such. It’s just that the author could have used a more believable way of slipping of the Vedas than through Brahma’s nostrils. It also would have been fine if we were given more insight into Satyavartha’s greatness.

Overall: Matsya – The First Avatar is a fine account of Lord Vishnu’s first avatar as the fish. The book makes you eager to read about the remaining avatars by the author in her Dashavatar series.

Rating: 4/5

Review by: Keyur Seta

Author: Sundari Venkatraman

Publisher: Flaming Sun (author’s banner)

Pages: 38

Cover: Artistic image of Lord Vishnu in his half-fish form