Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Into The Wild by Jon Krakauer

Title : Into The Wild

Author : Jon KraKauer

Publisher : Macmillan and Co

Sometimes after finishing a particular book, I find myself at loss of words to write its review. And for such books it takes a long time to compose the review. Somehow 'Into the Wild' belongs to that category. Its been almost two months since I finished reading this book and had jotted down the points that I wanted to include in the review but was not able to actually write it down. Christopher McCandless and his story never went out of my mind over the period of these two months and I guess the best way to vacate that portion of my mind is to write about him and his adventure.

By the very definition, humans are described as social creatures but does this inherent need to be social becomes too much of a burden for some people sometimes? This was the main thought which kept ringing in my mind while I was reading through this book. I read 'Into Thin Air' by the same author a while ago and some of the very fine co-bloggers and book reviewers highly recommended this book to me.

'Into the Wild' is a story of a young man, Chistopher McCandless who, unlike the people of his age renounced almost everything by giving away all the money that was reserved for his higher education to charity, abandoned his beloved car and other belongings, burnt his wallet money and severed the ties with his family. He reinvented himself as Alexander Supertramp and ventured into the wilderness of Alaska but unfortunately could not find his way out of it. His decomposed body was found in a deserted bus four months later. In 'Into The Wild', the author Jon KraKauer tries to retrace the path taken by Chris in an attempt to unravel the mystery and intrigue that wilderness creates in some and what are the temptations of this unknown world which some find hard to resist.

I must say that Jon has done a commendable job in trying to delve deep into the character of Chris, his inner urge to find himself and to be at peace with himself and what all contributed in making him the person he was. His research is impeccable as he goes on to interview almost all the people with whom Chris's paths crossed even though for a very short period. In one of the chapters, Jon goes into introspection and writes about his personal need for adventure and his trysts with nature through some of his own expeditions. He tries to draw parallel between his own self and that of Chris and comes to the conclusion that 'we had a similar intensity, a similar heedlessness, a similar agitation of soul' but none of them were suicidal. Some people may find this chapter out of place in the normal flow of the story but I found it quite relevant because being in almost the similar kind of frame of mind at some point in his life, author could relate to Chris so much better and perhaps it was just ill luck that Chris could not survive the ordeal(?) or his chosen path to self realization.

A very poignant and sensitive story of a young boy, especially the part where Chris's sister reminisces about their together time and the tearful adieu of the whole family as they see his last abode - the bus in the wilderness. It surely is one of the most haunting reads for me in recent past. This will leave the readers with a feeling of sadness and pity for the youth who found solace being closer to nature, was full of dreams but unfortunately did not get the time to give shape to his life during a very short stint in this world.

I really liked these passages from the book which sum up the author's best efforts to understand what went wrong in the case of McCandless.

"It would be easy to stereotype Christopher McCandless as another boy who felt too much, a loopy young man who read too many books and lacked even a modicum of common sense. But the stereotype isn't a good fit. McCandless wasn’t some reckless slacker, adrift and confused, racked by existential despair. To the contrary, His life hummed with meaning and purpose. But the meaning he wrested from existence lay beyond the comfortable path : McCandless distrusted the value of things that came easily. He demanded much of himself - more, in the end, than he could deliver."

"In the end, it looked like he was ready, perhaps to shed a little of the armor he wore around his heart, that upon returning to civilization, he intended to abandon the life of a solitary vagabond, stop running so hard from intimacy and become a member of the human community. But no body will ever come to know about what actually happened. His solitary thoughts ended with him."

Friday, February 24, 2012

Mobile App Review : If I Ran The Zoo

App Title : If I Ran The Zoo - Dr. Seuss

Publisher : Oceanhouse Media Inc.

Avaiable in : Android Market, Apple Store

I got this Mobile Application to review on any of the Apple Devices and I ran it on iPad. But this application is available for Android devices too.

The application opens with the main page offering three options - Read to Me (page turn requires user's swipe), Read it Myself (no voice), Auto Play (automated page turns)

Tap option on the images speaks out the name of the things or the characters that are tapped on. Two tap options are available for the text part : Tapping anywhere on the text repeats the sentence and tapping and holding the text repeats the whole paragraph once again.

"If I Ran the Zoo" is the story of a little boy - Gerald McGrew who is on a visit to a zoo but he is not excited to see the same old-fashioned lions and tigers there and he decides to bring some changes in the zoo if he gets to run the zoo.

To start with he would let the animals out of their confinements and then he would begin his search for some rare and unusual animals from different parts of the world. Perhaps a ten-footed lion, hens roosting on the topknots of other hens, strange bugs who would have propeller for rising high, an Elephant cat or weirdest animal families would be some as part of his new Zoo - the McGrew Zoo.

To catch such distinct animals, he would travel to those nooks and corners on the Earth which are not even in the geography books, he would even build a machine 'Bad-Animal-Catching-Machine' to catch ugly and vicious animals, he would arrange for special treats for his animals and his zoo would keep growing and growing. This zoo - McGrew Zoo would be one of its kind, really a Wonder, even better than Noah's Ark.

Dr. Seuss in his inimitable style lends his signature wackiness to the story through his made-up words, non-existent creatures and whimsical illustrations. I really liked the no-bars imagination of the central character McGrew and through this the subtle message of Dr. Seuss that thinking big and thinking large have no price tags on them.

A very interesting and funny book for young readers and I must compliment the Oceanhouse Media for extending the reach of Dr. Seuss's books to even wider audience.

However, I found a very small thing amiss in the application. While reading the book through 'Auto Play' option, I did not find any tab which could lead me to the main page again. I had to use the button of the device for the same.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Kaptain Vamp

Title : Kaptain Vamp
Author : Joanne Lecuyer
Illustrated By : Amy Rottinger
Publication : Topsy Books

Nearly twelve years old, Allistaire Arturius Doppelganger Varning the IV, is a vampire who seems naturally human. In reality Allistaire is part vampire and part human, thanks to his vampire parents experiments . Being a vampire, Allistaire is not only physically very strong but also has special abilities, he can run at least hundred kilometres in a blink, can hear conversations taking place miles away and can read others thoughts, too.
In a way, Allistaire along with his family leads a normal life in Canada. He loves going to school and hanging out with his human friends but only his best friend, Rich, knows about him being part vampire.

Allistaire wants to help humans and show them that vampires are not bad. For this purpose, Allistaire enlists Rich's help. Both the boys hatch a plan and set out to make Allistaire a 'superhero', using his vampire abilities. They design a costume for the 'superhero Allistaire' and coin a name of Kaptain Vamp for him. Rich becomes KV's Ace, superhero Allistaire's sidekick. What do they do? Do they really help others or is it just Allistaire's figment of the imagination?

You will find out what actually happens as you read along. The book sends out a very clear message to the children that one should help others. The book feeds the kids imagination with all the superhero stuff and the vampire things going on in it. For this very reason I think the boys will probably like it more.

The illustrations have been done by Amy Rottinger. I found the illustration of Allistaire's family cute.
It is a good book, but in my opinion the author could have done better by adding a little more substance to the story.
Overall, Kaptain Vamp makes a good fun time read for the children.

Remembering Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore(1861-1941) - 'Gurudev' of the whole India, who bestowed the title of 'Mahatma' on the father of our nation, who gifted us our identity and whose verses are sung every day at every nook and corner of our country in the form of our National Anthem - is not called the 'Complete Institute of Literature' for nothing. Tagore is one of the greatest poets and thinkers India has ever produced.

I know my words will miserably fall short of the kind of paeans the person of his stature deserve. However, I feel extremely glad to be reviewing a few of his works here.

Title : The Little Big Man

Publisher : Katha

Age : 3-6 years

I think every kid grows up hearing this - you are in the best phase of your life - Childhood and you are not realizing it. I did, when I was in my childhood years and now being a mother of two, I find myself telling the same to my kids. But then I realize perhaps that is the best part of this phase - kids do not consciously live or not live a day and their small world and its issues are big enough for them.

In fact, when the kids watch adults getting to exercise so much control over all the significant issues, decisions and also on them, they can't wait to grow up.

This is the essence of 'The Little Big Man' who wants to be as old as his father because then nobody would tell him to learn his lessons, he could leave his books, he would go wherever he likes, he would buy his own clothes when he likes and he would give money to whoever he wishes to. Through 'The Little Big Man' Tagore peeks into the mind of a little boy who is looking forward to growing up and to assume adult responsibilities.

The art work by Rajiv Eipe perfectly compliments the text. The little boy with front tooth missing looks absolutely endearing in his expression of - all grown up and responsible.

Rajiv is involved in doing animation and graphics for Television.

Title : Clouds and Waves

Publisher : Katha

Age : 3-6 years

A charming tale of a little girl who is tempted time and again by the clouds and the waves to join them in the games that they play in their magical world. The world where they play with silver moon and golden dawn. For a child this surely is an irresistible temptation but she simply declines their invite every time because what she likes the most is to be with her mother. She does not need to go to any enchanting world when she has nicer and better games that she can play with her favourite playmate. A sweet little tale conveying the tender love between a mother and her little one.

The illustrations that spread across both the pages are beautiful art work. The inquisitiveness of the little girl, her full-of-life twinkling eyes and the tender affectionate bond that she shares with her mother are brilliantly captured by the illustrator Sunaina Coelho.

Title : The Land of Cards

Publisher : Puffin Classics

Age : 8 to 12

'The Land of Cards' is a potpourri of some of Tagore's best works - poems, short stories and plays, translated from Bengali to English by Radha Chakravarty. A wonderful assortment to give children a little glimpse of the beautiful world created by Tagore's pen.

Poems - which offer different flavors in each piece - ranging from hilarious odd rhymes like the one in which a cat is trying to convince the fish to be its meal, to the ones which are brimming with sensitive emotions. The entertaining 'The Invention of Shoes' tells the story of the birth of shoes while the 'Hero' reveals the inner desire of a son to be by her mother's side and to protect her always. Through the poems like 'Two Bighas of Land', Rabindranath Tagore took up the social issues which were suffocating our country in ancient times.

The title play 'The Land of Cards' brings out the conventional restrictions of the society and in another play 'The Post Office', a boy being restrained to closed confines tries to live his life through the people who are busy in seemingly mundane activities in the free outside world and unknowingly teaches them the lesson to take pleasure in whatever they are doing.

'Kabuliwala' - a simple story bringing out the yearning of a father for his daughter, is one of the great classics which are lustrous ageless gems. I remember having enjoyed reading this story as part of course book during school years. Such are the pieces of writings which defy all barriers of age and time.

'The Land of Cards' is a book which can be read, enjoyed and appreciated by children and adults alike, offering them a peep into the world of literary genius.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Elliot Stone and the Mystery of the Summer Vacation Sea Monster by LP Chase

Title : Elliot Stone and the Mystery of the Summer Vacation Sea Monster

Author : LP Chase

Illustrated By : Carl Di Rocco

Publisher : Blue Marlin Publications

ISBN : 978-0-9792918-7-6

Elliot Stone has just completed his fourth grade and apparently his summer vacation is ruined because his family is going to be spending the entire month in Vermont Cabin on Lake Bomoseen. This means he would be missing the company of his two best friends - Jake and Cassie and the worst of all, he would be missing Cassie's graduation party which is supposed to be a very high profile party. These are good enough reasons for Elliot to be in a foul mood and to be disliking the vacation destination.

But this does not last long and his mood perks up considerably when his father shares with him the legend of Lock Ness Monster. Now Elliot has something to look forward to, perhaps seeing or meeting a monster in the Lake Bomoseen itself. Incidentally, soon after reaching the lake he does spot something strange in the lake or is it just his imagination? The story after this is full of adventure, suspense, making new friends, learning new lessons and much more. There are some more interesting surprises awaiting him in the place which is going to be their home for the next month or so.

LP Chase has masterly weaved mystery and intrigue in the plot which makes it an entertaining read. What is commendable about the book is how the thoughts and voices of children belonging to that age group are so authentically captured in the narrative. The story has an added twist when the young minds get to brainstorm in order to find a solution to a problem that their parents are facing. The thought process of children and their spirit to solve the problem lend a very positive angle to the whole story. The story also conveys a very subtle message that big or small, each one can contribute towards leading the family out of any sort of crisis.

Overall, 'Elliot Stone and the Mystery of the Summer Vacation Sea Monster' is an engaging fun-filled book which young readers would surely like and relate to.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Interview with Nilanjan P. Choudhury

Nilanjan, congratulations on your first book 'Bali and the Ocean of Milk' and on such encouraging response from the readers.

  1. What all research went in creating 'Bali and the Ocean of the Milk' and what has been the most interesting phase of this whole process starting from conception of the idea to having the first copy of your book in your hands?

This is not a research heavy book. It is essentially a work of imagination, not a retelling or strictly speaking not even a re-imagination but a new story altogether. Apart from drawing from the very well known myth of the churning of the ocean, the rest of it is pure fiction and the characters and situations are of my making. Although it would appear that the book is about mythology, it is used only as one would use a vase of flowers in a room - for fragrance and colour - the heart of the book lies in its human characters and political satire.

  1. What made you pick the names Samba, Viru and Jai for the holy trinity? Why did you not make Gabbar the Creator?

Those are the names of the Holy Trinity referred to in the Hurrian myth, on which the story of Bali is based. As the preface to the novel says, the actual Hurrian names are Sam Bah, Vee Lu and Jeh, which have been Indianized to Sambha, Viru and Jai in this version. It is mere coincidence that they are also names of characters from a film called Sholay.

Why not Gabbar? Probably because the Hurrians didn’t think that it was a very god-like name…but then that is mere conjecture….

  1. Do you plan to write a sequel of this book too ? Would you like to share your ideas for the next book with the readers?

I don’t know yet. I have been toying with the idea of doing something based on Greek mythology but it’s just a twinkle in the eye right now. I might also want to get my teeth into something completely contemporary.

  1. In your opinion, why more and more writers are digging the mythology to pick ideas from? Is it a quest to find answers to current age doubts or is it an attempt to redefine the age old belief system to check its relevance in current times?

Superman meets Satyajit Ray, escapism with an anchor – to my mind that is the USP of high quality mythological fiction. Magic, fantasy, mythology all offer an escape from reality and ooze the colours, sights, smells and textures that contemporary literary fiction often lacks. However since the cornerstone of most mythology is often a strong narrative with fascinating characters, dilemmas and situations, good myth inspired tales have an core human appeal that stays after you strip away all the special effects.

I also think that both writers and readers find it interesting to explore old characters in new contexts. There are close parallels between the ancient and the modern, suggestive of the fact that humans haven’t really changed much over the ages. That is perhaps another source of amusement.

  1. There is a new trend in the literary arena, more and more professionals are taking up writing . What do you think is the reason for that? Are IIT, IIM tags becoming qualification criteria to be writers, or are the professional courses honing the writing skills more than what they are meant to do?

In general, I am quite sure that the IIT/IIM tag has nothing to do with good writing. The only connection I can think of is that people graduating from such places often get stuck in well paying but mundane jobs and they may take to writing and so on as a release. In any case, the number of “writers” compared to number of people graduating every year from IIT/ IIM is miniscule. Having being asked similar questions earlier as well, I sometimes wonder whether they would have been raised, if say, a St. Stephen’s or a Presidency College were to produce a flurry of authors…

Coming to my personal reasons for writing this novel – like in the murder mysteries, the answer has three parts - motive, opportunity and means.

Motive - I wanted to write a black comedy, let’s say the literary equivalent of Dr. Strangelove, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron etc. which I thought wasn’t really available in Indian literature. Tall order you might say – but that was the starting point.

Opportunity - time on my hands during the recession a couple of years ago.

Means - long commutes in Bangalore with a laptop, a driver and the backseat of a car.

  1. It is a popular belief that getting published in India is no longer a daunting task but a majority of what is being written is more or less clones of Chetan Bhagatism or such. What is your opinion about the literary scene in India?

Yes there has been an explosion of genres, voices, writers and publishers - mostly for the good I think. Today’s writing also caters to wider segments of society - not just the literary types and we should welcome the phenomenon of Indians writing for Indians rather than for western markets or the diaspora. However while publishing may just have got easier, standing out of the clutter has become a good deal more difficult. In all probability, we will soon have many writers who will become famous for 5 minutes, rather than the more respectable 15.

Without reference to any particular writer or his/her clones, I would add though, that a lot of the stuff that comes out today is pretty sad in terms of quality – and by quality I mean the flesh and blood of fiction writing i.e. characters, motivation, conflict and so on rather than poor language, style etc which are important but secondary.

  1. I see two very diverse camps of authors in India. One category comprising of - Chetan Bhagat, Parul Sharma, etc. and the other comprising of the likes of Vikram Seth, Gurcharan Das etc. These camps are almost like popular choice and critics choice. Which camp do you want to belong to?

It would be nice to belong to both. But like all good clubs (especially those of British vintage) both camps have their own sets of unwritten laws, snobberies and prejudices. The sales of many bestsellers would probably have halved for every favourable review published in a “reputed” publication, scaring the lay reader into thinking that “it’s too hi- fi for me.” Similarly, influential critics look askance at anything that seems to be enjoyable and easy to read, as if they were on a diet that prevents them from appreciating anything that is easily digestible.

But to draw a parallel from cinema, surely modern Indian writing needs the literary equivalents of a Hrishikesh Mukherjee – neither David Dhawan nor Ritwik Ghatak. I think that good writing that is also accessible to the lay reader is the missing link today.

The in-built snobbery of the snooty critic and the irrational apprehensions of the “I toh only read Filmfare, baba !!” reader shouldn’t prevent the rise of high quality, “middle-brow” writing.

  1. Which books make to your reading list ? What is your opinion on writings of Gurcharan Das, Devdutt Pattanaik, Ashok K. Banker, Amish Tripathi, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni - the writers who are writing on mythology with modern and unique perspectives?

A large number and a wide range of books fill my shelves. But apart from Amish, whose Meluha book I read about a month ago (to avoid any influence) I haven’t read any of the others that you mention. A brutally shortened favourites list include Vikram Seth, R K Narayan, Hemingway, Jhumpa Lahiri, Steinbeck, John Mortimer, J K Rowling, Tolkien, Doyle etc etc.

  1. On your facebook page many people have commented that you are finally doing what you always wanted to do? Since when did you know that you would want to write a story?

It wasn’t as if I suffering from deep agonies along the lines of “I must write or I will die” – I began writing as a lark and found myself enjoying the process. Like Picasso said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life” and a deep interest in literature, theatre, music and film has long been a part of me. I guess it just took a long time for the interest to change from passive to active.

  1. Some people have natural flare for writing. In your opinion how much of this skill is innate and how much of it can be acquired? What do you think is true about yourself?

In my case it is certainly acquired. I also think that many people can become decent writers with generous helpings of hard work, humility, self-belief and a wide range quality reading. Of course, there are the geniuses with god given gifts who defy all such analyses.

  1. You are into dramatics too, would you like to share some interesting things about yourself and some of the other things that keep you occupied?

Yes, theatre has been an important part of my life for several years now and has in many ways influenced and helped my writing.

Thank you Nilanjan! It was interesting knowing your views on varied topics.


Author : Jillian Haslam
Publication : New Generation Publishing

Jillian Haslam’s Indian. English. is an autobiography, where Jillian takes you down her memory lane, right from her birth in India in post colonial times to her present life in the UK.

The book is majorly about the impoverished life that Jillian and her family led in the by lanes of Calcutta, about her siblings and mother's death, about the racism and abuse that she and her family faced. How in spite of all this, she and her siblings were able to get a decent education.How she picked up a job and went up the ladder professionally and steadily made hers and her dear one's life a better one . About her marriage and her married life woes. How she helped and still helps the lesser fortunate people of the world. About her present life and her achievements.

As you read the book you feel sad for Jillian and her siblings. The book makes you realise the plight of people living in abject poverty . While reading the book I was forced to think along the lines that the way a persons life shapes up depends upon a lot of decisions, made not only by the individual but also on the ones made by the individuals parents amongst other things.

To be honest, I found the narration repetitive and the editing not so efficient. In spite of it being a heart rending story the book failed to evoke the intended emotions and did not leave the kind of impact that is expected from this type of emotive book. But the book definitely reminded me of the famous song by Phil Collins " Think twice 'cause it's another day for you and me in paradise. "

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Living Fully by Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche

Title : Living Fully - Finding Joy in Every Breath

Author : Shyalpa Tenzin Ripoche

Publisher : New World Library

ISBN : 978-1-60868-075-7

Shyalpa Tenzin Rinpoche was born in Himalayas and was trained as a Lama from the age of four. Rinpoche received transmissions from all the major schools of Tibetan Buddhism and he is a lineage holder of the Great Perfection (Dzogchen) tradition. Dzogchen is an ancient spiritual teaching developed in Tibet within Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The word 'Dzogchen' means 'total perfection' which refers to the true inherent nature of all beings. It is the knowledge that Tibetan masters have transmitted without being limited by sectarianism.

He begins by narrating a wonderful analogy of human life with that of one day stay in a hotel room where we go to relax but instead of relaxing for even a single moment, we start finding faults in that single room and spend those limited hours of the day in fixing up the things which bother us. I found this analogy very apt and clever.

He goes on to explain it as "Our most pressing challenge is to live fully. Our deepest aspiration is to experience the richness and fullness of our being in every moment. Fulfillment of worldly pleasures bring momentary feeling of euphoria and the lonely and empty feeling returns soon. We do not experience the pure fulfillment inherent in every moment and therefore, we tend to use sense pleasures as a temporary slave".

The accumulated timeless wisdom shared by Shyalpa is very practical. He talks on many subjects - take the first steps by making the heart pure, approach every single thing sincerely, the indispensable human qualities that are absolutely required for a positive living, importance of consciously being in the moment, challenge of liberation from self, the law of Karma - creating action and facing the reaction, meditation, ocean of wisdom - our mind and then he wraps his teachings by highlighting the importance of having a master whose presence itself makes all sorts of confusions fade away from our lives. Very rightly he lays a lot of stress on the fact that knowing these teachings is just half the work done, what is absolutely necessary is to put them to practice and start experiencing the results. If the teachings fail to transition from theoretical plane to execution level no change will happen.

"In closing, I strongly urge you to practice. These teachings must be applied to your daily life - they must be put into practice - in order to have an effect and lead to true realization".

Shyalpa Ripoche's writing is simple and easy to follow but the only point at which many of the self-help books falter is the way the teachings are presented ,which seems like a list of do's and don'ts and unfortunately 'Living Fully' falls in the same category. There are not many anecdotes or incidents to explain the points or elaborate upon them. With all human challenges and character frailties, I would have preferred him to be discussing those and how an individual can surmount the hurdles through practically feasible diversion of thoughts or some such methods. But I guess for this kind of guidance Shyalpa recommends all to have a spiritual guide or guru in the life so that the journey of life becomes a guided tour rather than a directionless event.

Indian.English. by Jillian Haslam

Title : Indian English

Author : Jillian Haslam

Publisher : New Generation Publishing

ISBN : 978-1-908775-00-9

After having read 'The City of Djinns' I got keenly interested in finding more about how the post-independence era in India treated the people who were not considered Indians yet were no less Indians. I look to read more on the White Mughals, Indian English and about people who just chose or were forced to stay back in India after the British rule ended and this book fell into that category.

Indian English is a memoir of Jillian Haslam who shares her experiences of growing up in the period of post-colonialism in India and what it took from her and from her family for being different in a country who was going through its own infancy period. She recalls her journey of life which began from damp, dingy and narrow by-lanes of Calcutta where she saw misery very closely in the form of poverty, hunger, racism, abuse, death and hopelessness. But despite all these odds against the family, she managed to carve her way out of that misery and gradually brought her immediate family out of it too. She does mention that for every wrongdoing towards them, she did experience some kindness somewhere even though of lesser magnitude or seemingly insignificant which kept her faith alive all through the troubled years.

Now having her past behind her, she is instrumental in helping many individuals stuck in desperate situations, through her foundation. She has become an epitome of inspiration, grit and determination for many.

Though it is a memoir yet I found the natural sensitivity lacking which memoirs usually bring for the readers. I found the writer repeating herself many times throughout the narrative which makes the whole reading experience a little drab. I do not want to sound heartless when I say this that there are a lot of factors which contribute to the success or failure of any thing and in my humble opinion, the author has ignored evaluating the whole situation radically, including, commenting on the personal choices being made by the parents or siblings or the family as a whole.

I felt really bad that somewhere somebody had to undergo this much pain but I would blame it on not so good narration and editing, that the book failed to evoke the emotions which such books usually do.

Monday, February 6, 2012

TROFEO! The Winter Challenge comes to its final conclusion...

With the grand success of BANG! The literary Challenge!! behind us, we at Zealot Readers announced the launch of the X-mas challenge!

The theme was FANTASY and the dream destination was : The Fantasy Destination Here .

Our Esteemed Judges :

1) Ms. Roopa Pai - A well known name in Indian kidlit world. She mesmerized the young readers with her Sister, Sister (Eureka series, by Pratham) books and then with the Taranauts books (

2) Mr. Manish Verma - A great orator, a member of faculty for many management institutes besides leading an IT company.

3) Mrs. Neena Aggarwal - Very senior English teacher at a leading school of Noida.

We thank our esteemed judges for their invaluable comments and rating points that will go a long way in motivating the participants and for announcing who the winners will be.

EVENT COORDINATORS: Vaishali Sethi, Vibha Sharma

The winners and their winning entries are:



Vidhi Sethi
The Three Shadows

Once upon a time, there were three extremely arrogant shadows. They would always trouble all the people whom they met. One day when they were hovering in the graveyard, they suddenly found a fork lyingon the ground. The trio was surprised that in such a cold weather the fork was very hot. The shadows did not understand what to do with it. After sometime they decided to take the fork with them. Next day while they were hovering on a dusty lane, they saw a small patch of grass. They were surprised that in the whole dusty lane, it was the only little patch of grass, that too in the shape of a lock. It so happened that the fork that the shadows had found in the graveyard and had been carrying all along fell on the green patch. As the hot fork touched the grass, it melted like hot molten chocolate and lo! The magic lock cracked open! The grass slowly disappeared and cleared the way for a small tunnel from which a good fairy came out. She had an oversized boot in her hand. She gave the boot to the three shadows. Now wherever the shadows went, the boot also went with them. Even when the three of them were away from each other, the boot would break into three parts and follow them individually. Now with the boot trailing them always, whenever the trio tried to do anything wrong, a voice from the boot would scold them loudly. They were not able to do anything bad now. They transformed into three good shadows. The fairy again appeared. This time she had a magic button in her hand. She pressed the button and wind started blowing. Suddenly, the three bad shadows transformed into three good humans. They thanked the fairy and went away.

Judge 1: Mrs. Neena Aggarwal
Rating : 6.

Judge 2 : Mr. Manish Verma
Rating : 6
Comments : There is a good flow to the story. The boot is like conscious that is awakened by fairy’s touch which first prevents the shadows from doing anything wrong and then helps them become humans. Good strong message.

Judge 3 : Ms. Roopa Pai
Rating : 7
Comments :
The good stuff:
I like the visual image of the grass lock melting like chocolate when the hot fork falls on it, and the image of the tunnel opening up under it. I like the idea of a conscience following the shadows around.
The ‘to-work-on’ stuff:
• The plot leaves things unexplained – for instance, in what way did the shadows trouble people?
• Plot should have a logical sequence – for instance, you cannot say that the shadows were surprised that the fork was hot in ‘such cold weather’ without mentioning before that it was cold.You could say ‘One bitterly cold day when they were hovering…’ instead of just ‘One day when they were hovering…’ Also, you say the shadows thanked the fairy for turning them into humans. This would work better if you had mentioned earlier that they wanted to be humans. Maybe the shadows troubled people because they were jealous that they were human!
• Words could be more appropriate – in the first line of the story, you say the shadows were arrogant and that they troubled people. Don’t you think ‘mischievous’ or ‘annoying’would be a better word for someone who troubles others?

Total Rating : 19.5 (out of 30)

ZR Thinks : Wow! Lovely imagination and the way you have brought the message ‘goodness triumphs always’ is wonderful. You are indeed a budding author in the making. Keep writing and keep enjoying.


Akriti Bali
The Secret Of Dusty Lane

There once lived a good fairy named Tinker. She was very good and kind, but she lived in a dusty lane. She wanted to do something about the dusty, musty lane.One day she saw three shadows,who were wearing oversized boots! These three shadows were sent by a bad witch, called Wilycobra. She wanted to get the book which contained the most difficult spells,which Tinker had. It was given to her by the queen of good faries called fairy Moonlight. Fairy Moonlight got to know about the three shadows. She told Tinker about this. She gave Tinker a magic lock and told Tinker a plan.Tinker listened very carefully. She took the magic lock and went home.She saw the three shadows in her house. She took the magic lock and pressed the magic button. Wilycobra and her full team was caged and then all of a sudden the cage and all the bad witches vanished! Hurray! The fairies have won! Now the book was safe inside Tinker's magic house. Tinker promised to be careful next time Fairy Moonlight granted Tinker a wish. Tinker wished "I want the dusty lane to become beautiful ." With this the dusty lane was converted to the most beautiful lane in the world .

Moral : Do not be careless.

Judge 1: Mrs. Neena Aggarwal
Rating : 6

Judge 2 : Mr. Manish Verma
Rating : 5
Comments : Good story flow. The plot is too simple.

Judge 3 : Ms. Roopa Pai
Rating : 8
Comments :
Good Stuff : Well-written story. I like the way Tinker gets her wish in the end. I love the name of the witch. I like that the word limit has been respected.
The ‘to-work-on’ stuff: Sentence logic: You say ‘Tinker was very good and kind, BUT she lived in a dusty lane’ – the two parts of the sentence are not really related. Wouldn’t it work better if you said “Tinker kept her cottage spotless, but she wished she could do something about the dusty lane in which it stood”or ‘Tinker was a cheerful soul, but her happy smile went away whenever she looked out of her window and saw the dusty, musty lane outside.’
Plot logic: The plot of the story should have a logical sequence. For instance, you must say in the beginning of the story that Tinker had a very special book in her house full of the grandest, rarest magic spells BEFORE you mention that Wilycobra had sent the shadows to steal it.

Total Rating : 19 (out of 30)
ZR Thinks : Lovely imagination but spending a little time in editing after writing the story would surely take it to a really good level. So keep trying and keep writing. Good luck.



Abhinav Behl
Percy's Wish

My name is Percy Jackson and tomorrow is mybirthday. It was almost midnight. Suddenly I saw a flicker of torchlight on my window.
Percy thought it must have been a star or firefly. But in the morning it was still there. "That's odd", he thought when he found the light shimmering on the oven. "It's time to put the cake in the oven, “said Percy's mom. Percy was eventually wrapped up in his birthday party with his friends that he didn't even know when the oven let out a "DINK" which meant that the cake was finished baking. But when Percy was about to blow out the candles, he noticed the cake was glowing. He thought that maybe the cake was like that, so he made a wish to be a Greek Godof Mt. Olympus some day. Suddenly a glow of yellow light filled the air, but in a split second the glow was gone. Percy thought that nothing happened until he looked at his clothes. He was wearing white armor. He then started to grow! He grew to 20 ft. just like a real Greek God! He never knew that the cake was magical. Then he remembered that little light on his window and his oven. Out of nowhere, Chiron, a horse-man (and Percy's friend) appeared. “You are the God of Air,” said Chiron, “You must head over to Mt. Olympus because you’re needed there. So Percy went to Mt. Olympus where all the other Gods stayed. When Percy got there, he went to the Great Hall.
All the Gods were in the Hall. Percy found a seat that said "GOD OF AIR". When all the Gods saw Percy, they started telling him about a war that was going on. It was Gods vs. a BIG monster. Percy saw the monster through the window. A few Gods ran outside to fight the monster and Percy was also sent to battle the beast. He was given asword for fighting the monster. After what felt like five hours, because it was, the monster was defeated. Percy was so sore he almost couldn't walk. Henever knew that being a God was so tiring. That night Percy was informed that the evil Titan Lord, Kronos, was attacking Mt. Olympus. But Percy didn't want to fight in this battle. He was too tired to do anything after the monster was killed. But there was no choice. He had to fight in this battle. So Percy and the rest of the Gods went to fight Kronos. After many days of fighting, Kronoswas finally defeated. Now, Percy was fed up of being a God. He decided to just go back home.

At home Percy met his mother. She was very glad to see him after a very long time. Percy just wanted to take a nap on the sofa. But when he passed by the kitchen he saw the light still on the oven."Percy, there is a light on the oven, do you know anything about it?"asked his mother. Percy had a plan to conclude his God life that he couldn't even answer his mom's question. He thought that if he could wish to be a God,then he could also make another wish to be a regular boy. So he told his mom to bake another cake.

After an hour or so, the cake was done baking. Percy's mom put a candle on the cake and lit it with a match. He wished for everything to be normal just like it used to be. Then there was another glow of yellow light that filled the air and soon it was gone. Percy's white armor vanished and he became a regular human-sized boy. Just to make sure that the wish came true he asked his mom if he was a God and she said "no" which meant Percy was a boy once again!

And from then on, whenever Percy had his birthday party and the light was on the oven he was careful never to make a wish that would change his WHOLE life.

Judge 1: Mrs. Neena Aggarwal
Rating : 6.5
Judge 2 : Mr. Manish Verma
Rating : 7
Comments : Interesting plot. The moral of the story is also good. You are best where you are and how you are. Things look great from distance but may not necessarily be so when seen from close.
Judge 3 : Ms. Roopa Pai
Rating : 7
Comments :
The good stuff : I like the fact that the story is an original take on a popular series. It is also well-written.
The to work on stuff:
• Word limit: The story has well exceeded the specified word limit.
• Plot logic: If you start the story with ‘My name is Percy Jackson’, you should continue the first-person narrative throughout without switching suddenly to third-person.
• Adapting / spoofing a popularseries: This is very very hard to do well, and I would generally recommend that you come up with your OWN original story rather than piggybacking on someone else’s. You could use the Percy Jackson idea, of course – how about if your character’s name was Paresh Jaikishen and he became Hanuman when he wished to be a god?

Total Rating : 20.5 (out of 30)

ZR Thinks : WOW ! You are our winner. So this clearly means, there is a budding author in the making. Now what you need to do is to keep imagining and keep writing.


Shabi Singh
"...there was eerie silence and a smoky figure appeared outside the window of my room, it was late in winter night and I had just fallen into my bed, I ignored it and quickly fell asleep. After some time, I woke up hearing a knock on my window and saw the same smoky figure standing outside. This time I decided to find who the person was.

That mysterious figure disappeared as soon as I got out of my bed, the stillness of the time caught me for a moment and I thought maybe I should go back to sleep but what if that figure appear again, I quickly put on my jacket and canvas and rushed outside "pheww...its so damn cold" I cried, while looking for the person but did not succeed. Then suddenly I heard sound coming from the roof. I quickly ran upstairs thinking to catch the stranger but to my amazement I saw my friend standing.

"Sam..!! u r too much to handle..." I cried, "what’s ya doing on the roof of my house" I demanded.

She came near me and said "would you like to check out that so called 'haunted house' two blocks away", "remember you said we would go together";

"Sam it’s late in the night and I decided to go in the day and.....”
"O come on! Don’t be a chicken, now is the time, it would great as no one will be there... spooky things don't happen in day....come Jack" she said.
Maybe she was right so I decided to go. The house looked so scary and spooky in the moonlight. I zipped my jacket up to my chin and started towards the house. Halfway up to the house I tripped over a rock; hitting my head and went dizzy.
I woke up with a burning sensation all over my body and to my horror I realized I was lying on fire flames. Suddenly someone hit me on my back,
“Get up you rascal! You have work to do” said a man looking like a monster. I asked him where I was, “its Hell!! you fool” he barked.
I was so horrified that I closed my eyes and started screaming.....
When I opened my eyes I was lying in my bed sweating, with my brother staring at me. Oh! What a relief it was on realizing that it was a nightmare.

Judge 1: Mrs. Neena Aggarwal
Rating : 6.5

Judge 2 : Mr. Manish Verma
Rating : 4
Comments : The story does not build completely.What happened to the smoky figure, what was there in the haunted house? The plot is incomplete. Generally a story should have a plot, a beginning an end and some interesting event in between. The language used is good, vocabulary is good!

Judge 3 : Ms. Roopa Pai
Rating : 7
Comments :
The good stuff : Lots of action in the story, the pace never flags.
The ‘to work on’ stuff:
• Punctuation, capital letters, sentence construction: One of the hallmarks of good writing is proper punctuation, and knowing when to split a sentence into two. You can learn this by noticing how good writers do it when you are reading their books. For instance – She came near and said, “Would you like to go and check out the so-called ‘haunted house’ two blocks away? Remember you said we would go together?” – is the correct way to punctuate that sentence in the story.

Using accents: If you are going to make Jack say, “What’s ya doing on the roof of my house?” he should always speak in that accent. He can’t say “Sam! You are too much to handle!” He would have to say, “Sam, ya’s too much to handle!” On the whole, I would advise not to venture into accents in dialogue unless you know an accent very very well yourself.

Total Rating : 17.5 (out of 30)

ZR Thinks : Great attempt but try editingthe final piece of writing for better result.