Sunday, December 22, 2013

Book Review: Life's Like That

Sometimes you come across a book which turns you on with its cover, excites you with the blurb and promises you an exciting journey. A part of them manage to do that in the end, while the rest fall short of achieving the desired effect. ‘Life’s Like That’ (LLT), by Prashant V. Shrivastava falls into the latter category.

The novel has all the elements required of a mass seller book. Campus life, check. Love-angle, check. Youth dilemmas, check. Lessons about life, check. Pretty much everything is packed, but then where does it lack? A very loose structuring and narration stifles the goodness out of this book, coupled with too-big-to-go-unnoticed grammatical and editing mistakes. I felt sad to see them throughout the book.

LLT is a story about four friends, Preeti, Amit, Ishita and Sankalp. These four are joined by two other, Niharika and Rahul, as the story proceeds. The story is set in Udaipur, Rajasthan and uses some of the landmarks in the city to set some really important sequences. The college life and love life of Preeti-Amit, Ishita-Sankalp and Niharika-Rahul are interplayed alternatively and after a point the story starts to drag too much. Then the ending feels rushed. There’s quite a lot which could have been removed to get a tighter, nicer flowing story. This one failed to keep me glued.

A lot of effort has gone in explanation, to spell out the visuals, to explain the scene which sometimes went overboard to the verge of sounding desperate. The characters are explained mostly through their interaction with each other and each of them has a different outlook towards life. The book is light overall with not much melodrama, and love-scenes interspersed at frequent intervals. One of the things I liked about the story was the carefully planted social messages of women empowerment and education. I think that’s a wonderful thing to do with a story when you have the power to influence a large section of the society.
The love story of Preeti-Amit takes center-stage in the story, and forms the crux as the blurb informs. But the climax starts and ends within the last 50 pages of the 221 paged book, which roughly stands at just around twenty three percent of the total book. The rest was just college life, story progression and confusion.

For me the book had an idea, but lacked focus. The content is severely hampered with the grammar and punctuation mistakes throughout the book, which is unforgivable and leaves a bad-taste.

I feel quite disappointed, mostly because this book had me expecting a lot from the brief I read and the introduction I got to the story and characters. But then, life’s like that.

Book: Life's Like That
Author: Prashant V. Shrivastava
Publisher: Blackbuck Publication
Price: Rs. 150

Monday, December 2, 2013

Book Review: A Country For Men

The current socio-political turmoil in India has large fields of stories to be cultivated.  And when I say India, I talk about the whole nation in general. Many social evils hold down the progress of our country, as it tries to cross the threshold of becoming a superpower. To overcome those limitations, awareness is indispensable. ‘A Country for Men’ (ACFM) by Rohit Kumar Singh Jadon is one such brave attempt.

ACFM talks about the contemporary issue of women empowerment and throws light on the dark practices prevalent in our society. The book is an anthology of news-pieces mixed with the opinion of the author. The peg for the book is told to be the Delhi Gangrape of December 16, 2012.

The book expresses the frustration of an average Indian youth about all the negativity which binds us, of all the encaged emotions dismissed as taboo. In retrospective, talking about rape and sexual harassment was considered a taboo. Channels were switched and pages flipped. Status quo was priceless.

But a price had to be paid someday. Hundreds and thousands of women in India pay that price everyday. Silence is golden they are taught and ignorance bliss. But till when has to one bear all this, and to what extent? Jadon raises some very interesting points in his book. “It’s the very same (Indian) culture we brag about; this culture is the reason for unfair treatment towards the women,” he says in the book.

The book dissects the whole notion of treating women as goddess in the Indian society. I remember reading somewhere in the book, “Only goddesses are revered as goddesses.” The book has an almost angry narration. You feel the angst and pain as you turn the page; More so, when some of the gruesome incidents in recent Indian history, are quoted.

A lot of statistics and media reports are quoted in the book which shows the extensive research behind the book. I appreciate Jadon for taking up such a task and building it to a satisfactory level. The book enlightened me, and I hope other readers will also take something from this book.

Having said that, and with all the positivity for the book and the cause it talks about, I had some hiccups while reading this book. The book has an interesting collection of information but it feels too much all over the place. The book is divided in chapters, yet the contents seem to transgress into each other. The repetition of facts, though emphasizes the point, greatly reduces the flow of the narration. Then there are spelling errors and grammatical mistakes on most of the pages which upset my reading to a large extent. It could have been a brilliant product overall, only if there had been a tighter, crisper writing and editing.

Jadon has chosen a daring topic to pen his thoughts on. Most of the people today would fall short of words, or rather choose not to speak, on issues pertaining to sexual harassment. But the truth is that it’s still a menacing evil, lurking around on roads, offices, schools and homes. We need to realize the importance to sensitize people about gender issues, to raise voices against sexual violence. It is time to stop paying the price to be a girl. It is time to be free and equal. The fragility of our social system needs some strict reforms and I hope this book is a step towards that reality, which we can proudly call beautiful. 

Book: A Country For Men
Author: Rohit Kumar Singh Jadon
Publisher: Blackbuck Publication
Price: Rs. 130

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Roadside Razors

Amid growing fascination for branded services, the traditional art of hair-cutting lives on in the lanes of Delhi.
“Apply sesame oil to control hair loss”. Trust the roadside salons to treat you with such advice and stories while you get a quick clip and snip. These hair-dressing shops are a far cry from the upmarket unisex salons. The barber’s chair is all wood with no cushion. The place is not air-conditioned; the salon does not have any walls. Rather than passion, compulsion drives these barbers who serve their loyal customers on the sidewalks of dusty streets.

Mohammad Akram has been earning his livelihood as a street barber on a busy street in Jamia Nagar in south Delhi, since he left his home in Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh, three years ago. He now lives in a shared rented accommodation in Abul Fazal Enclave, an unregularised colony in south Delhi. 

Being the sole earning member in his family, he has to send money every month to his wife and six children in Bijnor. He works hard to survive in the city, to help his family and clear the debts he incurred for getting his eldest daughter married. Life is tough and savings tougher.

Photo: Aaqib Raza Khan
Hairaab has been working as a street barber outside the Jamia Nagar Police Station in Okhla for the past 25 years. His ‘shop’, on a pavement of a busy street, is covered with a blue tarpaulin supported by two bamboo logs. “All my money goes to support my family. I have a wife and a son who are ill. Three of my children have died due to various diseases,” says 43-year-old Hairaab. “My son needs an operation costing 2 lakh rupees. I am saving for it. Other things don’t matter”.

With higher disposable income, upmarket unisex hairdressing salons are cashing in. The Indian hair-care industry is valued at Rs. 12,400 crore with a 33 percent increase over the last year, according to a 2013 report published by Franchise India Holdings Ltd.

Zafar Khan, a software engineer with Tata Consultancy Services, is a regular customer of an upmarket salon in New Friends Colony. “I am much more comfortable in these salons than the regular barber shops. The treatment, the ambience and the staff, everything is up to the mark. I have no problem with the price as long as the service is good,” he says.

Many Indian hair-dressers, such as Jawed Habib and Ambika Pillai, have achieved celebrity status, with a personal haircut by appointment costing anywhere between Rs. 800-1000. But away from all the Jawed Habibs and Ambika Pillais, Vinod manages his livelihood grooming the people from the lower strata of society.

Vinod charges Rs. 30 for a haircut and a shave. “My customers are mostly from the labour class, so the price has to be affordable,” says Vinod, as he trims the lock of a porter working with Delhi Jal Board, Delhi’s water supply administration. A face massage and neck exercise usually comes complimentary with a haircut.

Raj Kishor, an auto-rickshaw driver waits for his turn at Hairaab’s shop. “This place is cheap. Plus, he’s also a friend so I can pass my time here,” says Kishor on why he chooses to wait instead of going to another shop.

Pramod Kumar is a faithful customer of Shankar, a hairdresser near Modi Mill, South Delhi. Kumar works in a factory and finds it cheap and convenient to get his hair trimmed by Shankar. “I earn Rs. 200 per day. If I spend Rs. 30-40 on my grooming, what will I eat then?”

The traditional art of hair-dressing is seeing its last batch of practitioners. “It is getting difficult for me, but I am unskilled for anything else. So, I am forced to continue this job.” says, Vinod. “I am not yet married, but when I have kids I will make sure they get proper education and do decent jobs.”

With the progress of time, there is a gradual shift from blue-collar jobs to white-collar.  And the respect which comes along is an added incentive for many. “If I had been educated, I would have liked to be a banker with a stable job. My eldest daughter was doing a course of the Holy Quran, when she got married. Now I wish my eldest son to become an Imam (A man who leads the prayers in mosque),” says Akram. “It has been a tradition, but with me, it all ends here.”

The traditional art of hair-dressing is seeing its last batch of practitioners. [Photo: Aaqib Raza Khan]

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

From Divine To Drain

Yamuna River is one of the longest rivers in India, and one of the dirtiest too. Flowing from the Yamunotri glacier in Uttarakhand, Yamuna covers a distance of 1,376 km long river, before merging with the Ganga in Allahabad. In Hinduism, Yamuna is revered as a goddess. 70 percent of Delhi’s water requirement is fulfilled by this river. Yet, Delhi is the most polluted stretch in the entire length of the sacred river.

Yamuna in Delhi covers a distance of 22 km from the Wazirabad dam to Okhla barrage. Between these two points, 18 different drains fall into the river, 16 directly and 4 from the Agra and Gurgaon canal. In spite of being heavily polluted, the river banks remain comfortably populated. A large number of people depend on the river for their residential, commercial and spiritual purposes, apart from drainage, of course. I 
am kick-starting a photography project to trace the two faces of this river - 'Divine' and 'Drain'. This project is an attempt to feature the lives Yamuna supports as it dies in the city.

The intention to photograph people and places around Yamuna stems from the fact that I have spent my last 10 years near this river. I have grown with it. I see it every day. The calmness of the water soothes me and sometimes the rising level scares me. There are many others who have found a piece of land on the banks of Yamuna to survive the rest of their life. They get displaced each year during the monsoon flooding of the river. But they resettle on the river, as soon as the water recedes. What makes them stick to the river, that too a heavily toxic one? People still pray to the river, come for a dip early in the morning dodging all the garbage, believing that the river washes away all their sins. Probably the way it rids Delhi of its waste. Yamuna has a multi-faceted flow in the city, and it gets treated in multiple ways too – from divine to drain.

Join me in this initiative and help Yamuna live.

You can connect with me through the following mediums:  |  |  #SaveYamuna  |

Sunday, September 29, 2013

AIESEC : Empowering Youth

AIESEC is not only the world’s largest youth run organization, but it is so much more. AIESEC is about taking a firm stand.It’s about realizing that “potential” isn’t a mere word. It’s a place where things are done and not just planned.
A platform where you’re allowed to start young, and lead young – that’s what AIESEC is all about. It is an experience. An experience that changes one in ways, not visible only in the short term, but also in the long term.

AIESEC has always had an international touch to it, since at its core lies exchange. Exchange empowers people by showing them the “other side” as people call it. Ultimately, one realizes the “other side” is the same as “our own side”. It brings the world together. That’s what AIESEC is about – fulfilling humankind’s potential for peace and happiness. And that has always been what we envision.

AIESEC provides its members with an integrated development experience (The AIESEC Experience) comprised of leadership opportunities, international internships and participation in a global learning environment. We do this so that we can enable young people to explore and develop their leadership potential for them to have a positive impact in society.

It would not be an exaggeration to call AIESEC in Delhi University the best local chapter in the world- we truly imbibe the AIESEC way into all our members. AIESEC in Delhi University remains the highest performing LC in the world. We have also won the “Best Local Office in India” award numerous times, with 2012 being the most recent year.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Book Review : Neil Must Die

Rarely do you come across a book which tries, and to a great extent succeeds, in sensitively handling social taboos existent in a society. Neil Must Die (NMD), a novel by Kaberi Chatterjee, is one such brave attempt. NMD has been previously published in the United States, and is brought to the Indian bookshelves by a new publishing house, Blackbuck Publication, which is debuting with this book. 

The book has an interestingly laid out story which keeps you gripped much before the story actually starts. The acknowledgement and preface of the book explicitly inform about the presence of adult content in the novel which was enough to rouse interest (Tongue firmly in cheek). On a serious note, NMD shocks you, shakes you and presents before you an interestingly knit piece of events which moves back and forth in time and has its layout divided between different characters.

 The novel keeps up the pace nonetheless, which got disturbed by too many vernacular Bengali words with their explanations and references listed in the end. It is understood as the initial market of the book was non-Indian, and hence a detailed explanation of all the customs and rituals was required. But the to and fro mode of the story and the regular flipping through the pages exercise did take some time to wade through the book. It also lightened the intensity of the situation as I needed a break to look out the meaning of the heavy words. Though an inline explanation would have pushed up word count, it would have gone well with the narrative. Additionally, my copy of the book had many typos which dented my reading further. I hope the publishers rectify the mistakes in forthcoming editions.

Neil is a no-nonsense guy who lives in Calcutta in a joint family, with a strict father and stricter rules. His brother gets married to a happy-go-lucky girl, Tuli, who fills music in the bland environment of everyone's lives, who makes their house feel like home, and she slowly wins over everyone’s heart in the house. Even Neil’s. Tuli was prophesied after her birth that she would die soon, so she takes up risks, lives life to the fullest and happily awaits her death. Neil tries to flee away from Tuli, but there’s a bad world waiting out there for him, which overpowers him and sucks him to the core. Tuli tries to flee death as she finds greater solace of her thoughts and feelings with Neil. The Tuli-Neil romance forms the crux of the story and the developments in the plot leads to further complications and strains in familial ties which eventually shapes the question, why must Neil die?

Chatterjee has done a praise-worthy work by mixing together elements of thriller and romance with a fine dose of suspense as to which side the scale would tilt after a few pages. The author has intricately portrayed the key characters and the events which influence them. The book is a work of fiction but you find a certain sense of connect to the protagonists. The conflict plays out in your mind and you can easily relate it to epic romance sagas, where the love is sacrificed for the sake of love.

Book: Neil Must Die
Author: Kaberi Chatterjee
Publisher: Blackbuck Publications
Price: Rs. 190

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Wonder of a Woman

Today India celebrates its 67th Independence Day. The Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has probably talked the longest in the past year and made a speech about how India has progressed and would continue to grow under the UPA governance. Some clapped, some pulled their faces. Yes, India is a very balanced country. We have praises and brickbats for the same person. We have various developmental policies aimed at specific groups, and ironically these groups are one of the most under-developed sections in the society. We have grown as a nation in various aspects (largely in population) but a part of us still awaits justice. Yes, I am talking about the other half residents of this planet - Women. Largely overlooked and taken for granted, women have continued to strengthen our homes and societies to the best of their abilities. It is useless to go into the details of the women who have achieved success by their hard work and dedication. It is also useless to emphasise the need to uplift women. They are no inferior souls who need a masculine hand to reach up. They are equal homo sapiens who need respect and honour, which they rightly deserve. Lets pledge to become better citizens as we take on the patriotic mood and celebrate an extra holiday on the calendar. Lets correct ourselves first, the nation will follow.

Following is a poem, rather a plea and a hope to see the notion of equality held high in the coming days.

I call it 'The Wonder of a Woman'

Hopes are faded,
Dreams are torn.
Just because am a girl,
And yet unborn.

Plannings to kill me,
Have been for years.
They look for a boy,
Overlooking my joys, my tears.

I cry to them,
To spare me once.
Let me cherish this life,
And those lively runs.

I am a father's pride,
And a mother's hope.
I am a gorgeous bride,
And somewhere, mother to the Pope.

But now I lay down here,
Hurt, tranquil without a scream.
Few let me in this world.
For rest,  I am a broken dream.

There are striving people,
working for my betterment.
I need an equal right to be,
And pay for an early settlement.

This war between races,
Has grown so many faces.
For the question of me to grow,
People still raise there brow.

I can be so gentle
As the dew on a morning flower.
But still I am strong,
I command and symbolise power.

Give me a chance,
For unhindered growth.
Let me a hand,
For an unconditional support.

Just let this apathy be removed,
And you will discover, a world so improved.

I know this night,

is lonely and dark.
But a hope still persists,
I will walk across the moonlit park.

One day, I will come,

fighting all odds of pro-choice.
Seeing earth getting blessed,
Even He will rejoice.

- Aaqib Raza Khan

Monday, July 1, 2013

Why Disasters Become Disastrous?

Question: How a disaster in managed in India?
Answer: Disastrously.

I came across this interesting question and answer on Yahoo Answers while researching for this topic. As humorous as it may sound, it is actually a painful truth. The recent incessant rains and the resultant floods and other physical mis-happenings in the Indian state of Uttarakhand has opened a flood-gate of questions on the proper planning, prediction and management of the disaster. There have been many rounds of cross-questions, debated between the government, agencies involved in the rescue, the victims and the rest of the world watching the tragedy unfold before them, Live & Exclusive.

India recently saw one of the worst floods in the Uttarkashi region, leading to a large number of displaced population, submerged towns, deaths and a rescue and relief operation on war footing. The affected area being hilly made it even more difficult to reach out, which delayed the rescue operation which was already hampered by the bad weather. Army was called in to assist amid rising number of landslides, washed off roads and heaps of dead bodies. There were a large number of people scattered around the affected part of the state, all resigned to their fate and some retired to death.

Many of the trapped people lost their lives and some succumbed to the long march to freedom from the clutches of death. The irony played out more as a lot of people were there on religious purpose to pray for their well-being. The temple of Kedarnath still stands tall in a ghost-town which once used to bustle with chaos and sparkled with activity. As with every disaster, the politics too began to warm up. Allegedly after a delay of 2 days, Uttarakhand CM Vijay Bahuguna jumped in the rescue operation pulling in disaster relief teams and organisations to clear the mess. Indian Army and Air Force were given the responsibility of fetching out people from areas who lost connectivity to the flash floods. The cloudbursts had crippled many parts of the state, but the army diligently performed its duties with nerves of steel and is still very much involved in the operations. It also lost many of its soldiers to two helicopter crashes which tried to carry on the rescue inspite of the unfavourable weather.

Disaster management is a tough job, and much more tougher in state with harsh terrains and an economy dependent on tourism. To switch the plug of funds, many organisation jumped in. Disaster management turned into a PR activity. Everyone wanted their share of limelight in the 24 hours of telecast. Politicians jumped in to show their sympathy and humanitarian side. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi offered to rebuild Kedarnath temple and some media reports carried the news of Modi rescuing 15,000 Gujaratis from the disaster. Later on, the figure was found to be hugely inflated and everyone distanced from the rashly projected PR figure. Modi persisted on his offer to develop Kedarnath temple, Bahuguna shot down his proposal saying the state is capable of doing so in it's own. The Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh released Rs. 1000 crore for Uttrakhand rescue and relief program. It is still not very clear as to how much how much of it and how it will be actually implemented. Then there were some recent reports in media about two local ministers from opposite parties of Karnataka who took got into a scuffle over the issue of who would sponsor the return tickets of the victim. Both the politicians got tickets booked for the victims, but the fight delayed the flight, much to the dismay of the wearied people, desperate to go home.

Seeing the vast deficit in resources and victims to be rehabilitated there were other agents too who joined the flood relief bandwagon. Most of them, just for the heck of it, and some of them to make a heck of it. As the flood subsided, and people began moving to safer avenues there was a rise in the number of touts selling a bowl of rice for Rs. 500 and a liter of water bottle for Rs. 250. The demand and supply will always form an equation, it is always humanity which gets subtracted from it. There are also reports of looting, rape and abuse of the already unfortunate victims, which add pain to the injury. here are also many NGOs sprouting across every nook and corner of the state and in fact, all over the country, most of them motivated by political interests. The opportunists are making a killing from the disaster, and it is not limited to this disaster or this geography only. This is a practice followed in the aftermath of every large-scale disaster who leave most of these stake-holders a lot more richer afterwards, while on the other hand the victims piece together whatever is left of them and their belongings.

There have been many many incidences where the saviors have turned into the dreaded, where relief and rescue gets commercialized, and human life becomes the least of the concern. In the aftermath of a devastating tsunami in the Indian ocean, there were relief camps and large scale donation drive across the world with an aim to uplift the victim and the affected area. A few months later those involved in the relief work had bigger homes, more cars and they were leading an affluent, much to the dismay of the income tax officers. And the victims were long forgotten in the vast sea of oblivion with a meager compensation. Even after Hurricane Katrina, there were reports about the widespread looting and raping prevalent in the victims states. These are only a part of the widespread tragic occurrences and the huge figures of corruption which survive even after a disaster. There have been many pseudo-relief camps, the sole-motive behind their functioning being either political or economic mileage, and they become largely successful in their endeavors because of unsuspecting people who take them as a pillar of support in that hour of need. Instead, they turn out to be hollow panels who fall apart as soon as the serve their greed. They don't care about the structure, the system, they don't care whether it survives or just crashes into a pile of rubble. To tackle the growth of such scam groups, Department of Justice, Oregon, United States came out with certain directives which are essential to remember before lending your support to your local disaster relief camp. The points are:

Only give to established charities. Creating an efficient and effective charity overnight is nearly impossible. Make sure the charity was in existence before the disaster occurred. 

Do not respond to email requests from supposed disaster victims. Unless you know someone in the affected area, these requests are almost always scams. Also, be wary of donation requests or videos posted on social media sites by alleged victims. 

Never give out personal information via phone, text or email. Legitimate charities will be pleased to receive a contribution by check or other secure form of payment and will never request your bank account number or social security number.

Beware of requests for fast money. If you are unfamiliar with the charity, always ask for written materials and do your research before you give. No legitimate organization will insist that you donate immediately. Never send contributions by wire or overnight parcel pick-up service - these are signs of a scam. 

Look out for mysterious phone charges. If you make a donation by sending a text message, your donation will appear on your phone bill. Texting your donation to a legitimate organization is a perfectly acceptable way to help those in need. However, if strange charges other than your donation appear on your bill you may be the victim of a scam. Make sure you understand your phone bill and the signs of “cramming.”

I would like to end this with a sincere hope that we all remain safe from the sudden furious acts of nature and more so from the impromptu, inhuman acts of human. I wish for a world  with a better disaster management, a more helpful hand to support the victims, and a credible network of operations which could help in a fast restoration of normalcy to the victims. The human spirit is indomitable and it knows how to cope in extreme circumstances. Let's encourage those who take this brave step forward. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

I Too Loved This Story

Would you like to read a story where you clearly know that the main plot is based on some random man's love life? Most importantly, after knowing that the story will end on a sad note? I would not and that's why I kept avoiding 'I too had a love story' for a long, long time. I had no interest in taking up this book, the cover was uninviting, the publisher was a little known company, and most of the reviews shot down the grammar and logic of the book. Ignoring the book was bliss, until a few days back when I could no longer hold back the mystery of its success. I ordered the book online. New cover, new publisher. Same story.

'I Too Had A Love Story', is an autobiographical take by the author, Ravinder Singh, concerning his love life where he lost the girl he was intending to marry just two days before engagement. The novel tells the story through the eyes of Ravin, who meets a girl Khushi on a matrimonial website after a bet with his friends.  The two connect instantly and the relationship grows gradually to friendship and then love. It is a very unusual kind of love story. As much as I believed it to have a 'Chetan-Bhagatish' feel to it, it was very dissimilar inits feel and approach. No over-the-top sequences, no clever usage of humor, just plain language telling a simple tale. This very plain language attracted the ire of grammar nazis and literary critics. But no Shakespeare extracted tears from me. This one did.

The story, the narrative and the whole feel of the novel is very down-to-earth. Most probably, it can be an indirect impact of the author's humble background. He comes from, as he tells in the novel, a small locale called Sambhalpur in Orissa, India. He has a regular IT job, and likes hanging out with friends, boozing occasionally to give his friends some company. Khushi, on the other hand, is a modern happy-go-lucky girl also in an IT firm. She wears modern dresses, her family member have a modern outlook too, which the author clearly depicts in the various episodes and incidents involving him and Khushi's family. The love story looks all set to meet a happy conclusion with both the set of families agreeing to bond, and the couple busy in their respective preparations for the wedding. And then the girl meets with an accident and dies. With this incident the book reaches its climactic end which it hinted at the very beginning by the following words: "Not everyone in this world has a fate to cherish the fullest form of love. Some are born, just to experience the abbreviation of it"

The book won my heart with its many emotionally-drenched lines about two people in love with each other. And trust me, knowing the end does not in any way hampers the pleasure of reading the book, instead it connects you even more closely to the story. Every little happy incident makes you sad because of the unfortunate end you know the protagonists are going to face in the end. As you approach the latter part of the book, every turn of the page makes your heart skip a beat as you pray for the end to get delayed by a few more pages. You start relating to the protagonist, as they come to life with the various commonalities of ordinary life of people in a city. The pain is heightened by the fact that Ravin and Khushi live in two completely different cities, miles apart in the geography and met only two times in the whole story before she left her forever.

Not very much a fan of lovey-dovey stories, I found myself holding this book before my eyes for hours at stretch and finished it within two days. Initially I was skeptical about the book and the pace was slow, but as the story moved towards the main plot, the book became hard to put down. But I had to put it down in between. To take breaks for my heavy heart and occasionally to wipe away any drop of stray tears rolling on my cheek.

I have read Chetan Bhagat and they have touched my heart too, but surely not in this way. Here, the tragedy was the king, and I as a reader its slave, hoping, praying, crying, knowing very well that the end is near, and it is not good. The last book I remember which managed to bring out my tears was Khaled Hosseini's 'The Kite Runner' which was a long time back. That book brought me out of the illusion that books can never make you cry, and this book reaffirms that lesson. What it is, if not the power of words which moved me, like thousands of other fellow readers?

'I Too Had A Love Story' made me learn that tragedy can be pleasant to read. I also learnt to never judge a book by its cover, or language or grammar, again in the future. I loved this love story, and so will you. Take a leap of faith.

Book: I Too Had a Love Story
Author: Ravinder Singh
Publisher: Penguin
Price: Rs. 140

Friday, March 29, 2013

Interview with E-Club, Jamia University

My Interview with the Entrepreneurship Club, Jamia Millia Islamia, published in their inaugural newsletter.

Hello , Aaqib ! How are you. Your Venture and projects have been quite talked about in our Jamia Campus. So , We'll talk today about your Venture - Imagication and your Life as an Entrepreneur.
Hope you don't mind sharing your Secrets with us.
Aaqib - Of course not!

Kriti : Aaqib , tell us about what is Imagication all about and how or from where did you get the inspiration/idea to start Imagication from?
Aaqib : I would call Imagication a graphics design workshop, instead of a firm, which strives to do more than just churn out colourful computer imagery. Imagication is the art of creating magic through imagination.
The idea to start imagication was neither based on impulse nor was planned. It was a result of gradual developments in the form of work I kept experimenting with. 

Kriti : What made you decide to be a self-employed entrepreneur over a freelancer at this age?
See, there’s a thin line of difference between the two classifications you mentioned and I don’t know myself as to which one I belong more. As far as the assignments and growth are concerned, the freelancer part of me will take care of the work, and the entrepreneurial side would manage Imagication, the brand.

Kriti : Tell us about the Best logos that you've designed and for which firms/Brands?
Best is too strong a superlative which I feel too weak to use for my own work. But, there are two logos Imagication is proud to be associated with, one for MiRAAS 2013 –the annual cultural fest of Jamia and another for JMI Entrepreneurship Club. Both the initiatives provided with immense creative freedom and the logos are completely concept-driven.

Kriti What are the tools that you used to develop your client base?
In my experience, word of mouth has been the best tool which brought me some good quality of work. Social media is good for promoting your brand and getting the message across but the person-to-person network is essential to reach out to the actual potential clients.

Kriti : Just to enlighten our potential entrepreneurs , tell us about the initial struggles that you faced(any family disapproval or nagging by friends) and what did you learn from them?
I have learnt that there is no such thing as initial struggles. It continues till you are an entrepreneur. The struggle to develop new ideas, to excel, to exceed expectations, there is no end to it. But every struggle should result in some lessons.
I was not taken seriously as a designer initially, and neither paid for the work I did. Even today, most of the work is extracted from me as ‘emotional investments’. But I will soon be stopping the ‘freeware’ programme as creativity is directly proportional to time and I invest a lot in every pixel of work I produce.

Kriti :From where did you acquire the inital capital / funding needed for undertaking the functionality?
Since most of the work I do is computer-based I didn't really need any special investment as my laptop is able to process all the heavy graphics with ease. And since my father is also a graphics designer, I already had the required set of softwares saving me from any additional investments. The marketing is currently all based on word of mouth and the facebook page, but I hope to invest on publicity and expansion at a later stage.

Kriti : If you were to advise an upcoming entrepreneur who is just about to start up his venture , what would that be ?
I am no one to dole out advices yet. But observing a strand of grey hair on my head, I would like to say that entrepreneurs should start young. Youth is the phase when you can take risks, when you have whole life to steer and control the flow of events. Ideas are important, money will follow – both investments and returns. Everyone has an entrepreneur in them, and what better time to discover it than now.

The interview as published in the E-Club, JMI's Magazine, 

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Three Years In An Era

Three years. A long journey in a very short time!

I still feel as fresh as the summer of 2010, when it all began. Right out of school, I was a meek little guy trying to find his own self. From school to college, it’s a strangely fascinating transition. A shift which is sharp contrasted to the gradual developments in school life. The boundaries merge, new friendships emerge, limitations fade and you have to start everything from the scratch.

The three years I spent here have been a wonderful phase of my life. When I joined college I was wary of finding my way around, of getting to know people and adapting to this new surrounding which I knew will be with me for a very short time. It was not that I never changed schools, but the new phase and faces made me slightly uncomfortable. And now when I look back I only see hurdles of my own mind, college was always a free space.

The other question I had when I became a part of Dept. of English, Jamia Millia Islamia, was that whether someone would know me? I felt like a drop in the sea of thousands of students, and my heart sank. Move forward three years and I am really contented with the love and respect I have earned for me and the different opportunities I got to support the various initiatives of my department. I feel proud to be associated with the festivals and initiatives happening all over the campus, and I really hope that my efforts were up to the expectations.

One of the many things which make college a lot more exciting is the relationships you foster. Now don't get too excited or smiley-smiley with 'relationships', I just mean friendships among the classmates and also with the members of other batches too. Though I missed interacting much with my seniors and juniors during my first two years, The Pickwick Fest somewhat made it up for me in my final year. The excellent team-work from all the Bachelors and Masters batches was a tremendous binding force. Everyone had a single motivation to pull off a great event, and needless to say, they all succeeded in their efforts. Post the event, I was able to see the dept. in an all new light, much more brighter and vivid. I got to know many more people and got some really valuable friendships apart from helping the dept. create a new chapter in its history.

I feel privileged to be part of Jamia in such a wonderful time, and would like to congratulate my juniors for the excellent work they are doing. The department as well the University is seeing an excellent wave of new initiatives and extra-curricular initiatives which is cementing the position of Jamia all over the country, and to be a member of such prestigious organization is a very happy thing to note. I will be gone tomorrow, not with a heavy heart but with a brighter soul. I will miss my beloved dept. and all the beautiful people this place has gifted me. Thank You!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Mark The Spot: The Kings are Here

What do you think four boys sitting in a room with a laptop would do? Start a theatre production company? No, right? But thats exactly how it all started. The dream which started off from a single room has created room in many hearts now.

Spotlight players is by no way 'just another theatre society', it is the freshest approach to theater taken in recent times. Guided by the motivation to revive the dying spirit of theatre in the country, Spotlight Player has arrived on scene to bring a revolution of sorts, taking one stage at a time. Spotlight Players, started with the blessings of Mr. Shakeel A. Khan, a renowned personality with an experienced finesse in theatrics, and is being helmed by Mr. Faiz Rehman, who is an excellently thorough professional with an extremely warm soul. And when you have such a team to work with, work ceases to feel like work, and gets exciting each moment. 

I still remember very clearly the first time Faiz bhai hinted me about this initiative. In his usual humbling self, he asked me to value my work and said that a 'very big assignment is coming my way, soon'. I had no clue what that meant, but it got me excited, nervous and impatient. I imagined many scenarios, different projects but a theatre production society never came to my mind. After a few more greetings, came the meeting in which the team gathered and the plan was discussed officially. The plan had something in it which made it feel like a really big project ever since I heard the very first word about it. And the way Faiz bhai explained it all, there was no clause for any doubt. I was all ears. Along with me were other fellow Spotlight Players, Shahzad Khan and Umar Khan. All of them have been a continuous source of energy brimming with a wonderful team spirit. My role was to  design publicity materials for their inaugural event

On 8th of March, 2013, Spotlight Players had their tryst with destiny. The team presented their inaugural stage performance, 'Oedipus: The King', to a packed auditorium of India Islamic Cultural Centre, New Delhi. The play was followed by the Felicitation Ceremony of Padma Shri Prof. Akhtarul Wasey, which was a token of appreciation from the team of Spotlight Players. The audience was enthralled and the chief guests raved about the cultural evening, terming it among the best they ever attended. The play was excellently supported by some of the most talented faces of theatre I have come across in my university. Apart from Faiz bhai, the play saw interesting contributions from Kashif bhai, Shahzad Khan, Umar Khan, Abhilash Philip, Shaista Khan, Shazina Parveen, and all the other people I don't know the names of. The evening was compered by Aisha Shams and Kaif Ali Taqvi, both of them my seniors in college and really affectionate people. I wont give you a review of the performance as it would read like a paid write-up, because I have only positive things to say about my experience of the evening. 

The event ended well with a sumptuous multi-cuisine dinner at the venue. But the joy of pulling off such a big event and the immensely positive feedback satisfied most of our hunger. Yes, we were hungry. And every 'Congratulations' and 'well done' sounded like a dollop of Rosgolla or Laddoos dipped in the sweetest of sugar. A deeply satisfying moment for the team, for Shakeel Sir, for Faiz bhai.
The success of the event can also be greatly attributed to the prime sponsor of the event, DreamUny Education. Mr. Areeb Khan, CEO, DreamUny attended the event and was felicitated with a momento and bouquet. 

When I look back now, designing posters and banners for the event was one of the most challenging projects I have been ever offered. The event had two parts, one of celebration and the other a tragedy play. Mixing them both on a single canvas yet remain effective and attractive was a huge task. But then Faiz bhai made it very easy for me. He motivates you, revives your self-confidence and provides immense creative liberties. He is easily on the best persons I have got a chance to be associated with. In fact, I can go on talking about him, and his generosity but that may very well exceed the word limit Blogger imposes. I hope this is just the beginning of a really long and strong bond through life. InshaAllah.

Spotlight Players have set their best foot forward. The next leap will be coming soon. 

Posters of the event: 

Friday, March 8, 2013

The First Brush

Art is a beautiful form of expression. It is a mysteriously fascinating experience to say something without actually saying, to raise your point without getting in the face, to rise above all without pulling anyone down.

Creative outburst of emotions is an efficient way to channel your energy to do something positive, something in your control, and eventually influence a lot of grey cells.

Imagication started off as a lobby, which grew on to become a passion, with a lot of inspiration and imagination invested in the process. I remember a quote I read somewhere on the internet which said, Do what you love and you will never work a day'. This may seem like a bad advice but it is something I feel very strongly about.

Imagication is an effort to bridge the design gap I found in Jamia Millia Islamia, the university I got admitted into for my under-graduation studies. There were a lot of sign boards, posters, banners of events happening across the university, with a heavy dose of information on each of them. All that was lacking was clarity and its balance with being attractive. I felt I could do something and convinced myself to take this leap of faith.

I took up designing seriously last year only, with two designs for a college's freshers event. Since then, work started to trickle in, progressing to a downpour recently. In the past one year, I feel blessed to be associated with many excellent and creatively satisfying initiatives initiatives, both on and off-campus. I feel thankful to God, and to my parents for the continued guidance and support in all my endeavors. My father is also a graphic designer with Hindustan Times Mint, and he has been instrumental in me being what I am. I owe everything to him and with his blessings, will strive to take Imagication to the next level.

Surely, there are plans for growth and expansion. Apart from graphic design, other creative mediums I passionately pursue are content-writing and photography. These two art forms will be tapped and brought under the Imagication umbrella soon. Well these are plans and a part of a much larger dream. It's now time to wake up and work towards realization. Imagication is now the center of Universe for me.

Thank You.
Keep Praying.

Aaqib Raza Khan
Creative Director,

P.S: If you are a social media junkie, you can checkout Imagication on facebook at:

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola: Review [3/5]

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola
Directed by: Vishal Bhardwaj
Actors: Imran Khan, Anushka Sharma, Pankaj Kapoor, Shabana Azmi, Aarya Babbar
Rating: 3/5

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola [MKBKM] is a shock when you consider the movie in a Vishal Bhardwaj frame. But then, widening the angle will give you the man’s perspective on the issues of a small hinterland. MKBKM has been in Bollywood news ever since Bhardwaj expressed his interest in directing a comedy. And this is comedy served in his flavor, with a wacky “anti-smoking” message at the start on the lines of the one we saw in Barfi!

MKBKM has its basic plot circuited around land-mafia operations by filthy rich-politicians-bureaucrats nexus which is very rustic in its approach. Pankaj Kapoor, plays the role of Mr. Harry Mandola to perfection. Imran Khan is Matru, and above the average he usually does and Anushka  is Bijlee, who again gets her type of role of playing a chirpy, casual girl, which she indeed portrays brilliantly. Shabana Azmi plays the role of a Devi ji, a minister in the govt. of Haryana and Aarya Babbar plays her son, Baadal.

Mr. Mandola is a rich landlord of a village in Haryana that is named after him. The villagers are angry at his land acquisition plan and demand their land to be free. Matru wants to free his villagers of all their debts and protect his village from all the pressure-tactics of the banks and bureaucrats to give away the village farms at throw-away prices.  Bijlee is betrothed to Baadal and this alliance is done by Devi ji – Mr. Mandola to satisfy each other’s need of power and money. Mr. Mandola wants the minister to pass the villagers land as barren and hence he would be able to develop it as a Special Economic Zone. Ms. Devi wants the money which Mr. Mandola preserves in the shape of a huge castle, a private aircraft and airbase among other luxuriant possession. The villagers keep receiving anonymous letters to guide them through the situation, all signed ‘Mao’. Eventually it is discovered that Matru is playing Mao to save the village from the oncoming crisis. Meanwhile, Bijlee discovers her love for Matru and the plot gets a love story. The situation would have kept going messier and the movie darker if Mr. Mandola would not have been there. Mr. Mandola suffers from Dual-personality, one which he is and the other he becomes after drinking. Mr. Mandola starts to see Pink Buffalos whenever he’s not drunk, which is most probably a symbol of his constant greed and lust for more wealth and power, which will come at the cost of the villagers. And this dual-persona gives the movie its lift and a climax with an end which gets a bit predictable somehow.

MKBKM has its moments which tickle you and certain satires that make you think. Sample this: A heavily drunk Mr. Mandola takes Matru on a ‘night walk’ in his aircraft and manages to crash it. Media gathers to cover the big news of a ‘UFO crash’ and the reporters ‘sensationalize’ their voice to convey their seriousness. They interview a blind boy, who’s the sole ‘eye-witness’ of the crash in his village and the reporter asks him how the UFO looked, while the boy keeps complaining about his indigestion and a lost underwear.

Pankaj Kapoor deserves every word of the praise for the class of work he has pulled off. Clinton Cerejo-Simaab Sen’s music, Vishal Bhardwaj’s research and Gulzar’s lyrics successfully give the movie its required authenticity and compliments the pace and plot of the movie.

Overall the movie manages to do okay, sometimes feeling too long in its 2 hours 20 minutes of runtime. But then, the director’s name is Vishal!