A Quest on Overdrive … :)

An eccentric rambler on life's lessons and mercies, found and lost… :)


Love on the Rocks ~ Ismita Tandon Dhanker

This here is yet another non review 🙂 . I’ve already stated my case for not doing reviews, simply because I do not know how to, and therefore cannot :D! However what I can do is to share my perspective, after reading a book, and that is what I am going to do. Again 🙂

“Murder on the high seas” is the tagline for this racy thriller, called “Love on the Rocks”, a debut novel of a successful MBA graduate working with Thomas Cook, turned full time writer – Ismita Tandon Dhanker.

That, in itself should give one an idea of where the action is going, and does. The entire story is set in a merchant navy vessel, aptly named “Sea Hyena”, and worked into the story are details of life aboard a MNV (merchant navy vessel), the intricacies of relationships that grow, or stunt, on long voyages. Not to mention intrigues and murders!

It would be easy for me quote from the blurb on the back of this paperback, published by Penguin Books India, but let me try and bring a bit of me into it 🙂 The ego you know, cannot be but appeased 😀

Sancha, a newly wed, joins her husband, the Chief Officer, aboard the Sea Hyena, a few months after their marraige, in Japan, where the ship is berthed, before the next voyage. They intend to sail to Miami, with a cargo of new cars. Sancha is a lively, inquisitive, intelligent girl. Very contemporary. And very much in love with her husband Aaron.

She soon comes to know of the death of the previous cook on board the ship, before it came to harbour, at Japan, and starts wondering what could have happened. Later, during a party one evening, almost twenty thousand dollars is found missing from the Captain’s safe. This brings in the Safety and Quality Officer of the Company, who is looked upon with wariness, and respect by the Officers and Crew of the ship. Sancha’s curiosity, and her interest in the investigation also finds respect in Raghav, the investigating officer.

Almost everyone, in her eyes, could have been involved in it. For almost everyone has secrets, and oddities, that slowly reveal themselves in the least expected moments. Whether it is  Captain Kuruvilla (the Master of the ship) and his foul language, Aaron, her husband, the Chief Engineer Kurian, First Engineer Harsh, or even the Engine Cadet, Alex, or Baldy as he is called.

Matters come to a head, when another murder takes place, and the sh** hits the fan, in a manner of speaking :P! What comes of the investigation and how, as the writer puts it, “deceit was the only universal truth” comes to be, is what wraps an eventful voyage for Sancha.

I started reading late  last evening, with plenty of breaks, given that my medication has a tendency to induce sleep regularly, but I did get so absorbed in the story, that  I had it completed by this evening. Given my varied activities, and the sedation, now that is a record :D! So, why am I telling you this? I did enjoy reading it, and it was absorbing.

To the mechanics, now, (for want of a better way to say what I am going to 🙂 ). You’ve got appreciate the life and the excess baggage that a Merchant Navy Officer/ Crew and his family have, to be able to fully understand the nuances here. As a spouse, you may accompany your husband (if he is an officer), on voyages. But it does get lonely, darned lonely for a woman without company. And for men, starved of female company for long stretches of time, this can be either a welcome distraction, or a problem! Ismita brings out the dilemma of both the men and the woman concerned quite effectively.

The entire novel is in the first person, of not just one character. Interestingly, each of the main characters, speaks / writes, in parts, in sections, and helps the story develop not just in a linear manner, but in a sort of web, that , as a reader, you want to connect, and complete. It’s difficult, but, yes, in a sense you can manage to make it work. At least your guess work on the Who Actually Dunnit would work. The end, however, is skillfuly concocted. Concocted. 🙂 You’ll understand, and perhaps enjoy that concoction, as I did!

There are times though, when I found the conversations/ dialogues a bit unnatural, in the sense that I have / I am/ We are seem artificial. These always find a better resonance in its shortened forms, for sheer natural feeling. So it could have been I’ve/ I’m/ We’re. Probably that is the only thing I found to quibble gently about, in the book.

The sub-plot too, is artfully managed, and gels well with the rest of the plot.

Ismita is the wife of a Merchant Navy Officer, and has been on a voyage with her husband. So the story comes, also, from real time experiences, in terms of descriptions and notions and prejudices 🙂 There is always the doubt about the “I” in the novel, as I have mentioned already in previous  non review – whether or not one understands the “I” to be separate from the author. Finally we take what we want from it, anyway, no matter who says what! 🙂 🙂

All in all, this was a book I did enjoy very much! Thank you Ismita, also known as Lesser Known Poet, on Facebook, for the request, and for sending the book across. In fact, dear readers, I must also tell you that she is adept at poetry too, and you can read some wonderful pieces on her blog too!

The pictures have been taken (oops, without permission, but I know she won’t mind :D) from Ismita’s blog. All credit to whoever took those pictures 🙂

This is a book you’d enjoy if you’re into murder mysteries, and enjoy a good sail 🙂 Happy Reading!

17 September, 2012
(Just under 1000 words! yayyyy! )


A Dream Peddler Extraordinaire – “Love, Loss & Acceptance” through my eyes :)

This one has been writing itself a long long long time 🙂 Since about March this year! I hesitate to call it a review; let’s just say it is my perspective of Shail Mohan’s debut publication, an Anthology of her verse, titled “Love, Loss & Acceptance“.

“March??” you say, almost horrified that I attempt such a task all of nearly six months later! Ahem. Errrmmm… yes. I hang my head in utter despondency. You see, I did so want to do it earlier, but well… I got busy with stuff. All kinds of stuff that terrify teachers at the end of School year, and stuff that terrify parents when their offspring is about to get married. You do get the picture don’t you? My excuse is watertight! 😛 😛

Sigh. No, it really isn’t. But we’ll let that be, won’t we Shail? I know you understand, and that is what matters finally!

Disclaimer: This is not a book review :D. I don’t do book reviews, because I really do not know how to! I give them as assignments, and am impressed by the kids who do it so easily 🙂 But me? I’m terrified of them. So please do not take me to task over the mechanics or format of the genre ok? This here is intensely personal 🙂
Alert: This is going to be a LONG post. Be warned 😀

“Love Loss & Acceptance” by Shail Mohan is a collection of her verse. It has three sections, one each for Love, Loss and Acceptance. About 58 poems in all 🙂

The front and back cover, designed by her son 🙂

It has that touch-it-as-tangible-as-it-can-get sense of achivement for anyone, who has dreams to peddle, muses to satisfy, who revels in the myriad expressions of the one emotion that encompasses all – Love; whose acceptance takes one beyond life; whose loss is perhaps the ultimate in agony that borders on an ecstasy.

Right from her little verse to her muse:

Each flower, each leaf
all the prickly thorns
I lay at your feet,
with the same emotion 
and devotion 
of a love celestial…

her offering is so unconditional, so complete, and you know right then, you are in for a treat!


Having been an “English” student through B.A., and subsequent courses, and even now as a supposed Teacher (learner more like it 😛 ) I’ve been fascinated by poetry more than prose; the way poets string emotions, intangibles, and thread them, weave them with such dexterity and honesty – to tell a truth, or embellish a lie. No, contrary to the norm that in order to appreciate poetry you need to have an in depth knowledge of the form, from Chaucer, to perhaps Bob Dylan, or even Eminem, one need not be (and I must confess that I am NOT) a “well-read” person, not in that sense! I love what experiences any verse gives. And I say all of this to underscore what Shail’s verse means to me. I love the way she thinks (the way I see how she thinks, ie! ), how she transforms her thoughts into the tangible quality of her verse – and makes it as delicious and palatable, allowing us to gorge on it, as “Melted Chocolate” ! 😀 (Page 20). That one has to rate as of my favourites in the book! You do actually melt into a puddle of sheer mush and chocolate! Loverrrly!

On a different tangent, there is the déjà vu I sense, most times in her verse: this on “From Afar”

Who are you stranger?
Have we met before?
Why does it seem
I have known you since long?

And when I read “The knot“, I am overcome by a chill. Still, that too is Love!

And the poignant note continues, this time staccato as well, in “You“. Love hurts, and heals.

Sand in my shoes” is a perfect fairytale – one that plays out each day, I know, for a lot of peope! I so so so love this poem!  You must absolutely read that one, if you haven’t, yet! (Psssst… go and get the book, asap, if you haven’t, from here:




It’s worth it! )

And there is more: “Dreams“. Sigh.
Stolen Moments” Sigh. Again. (a few new lines/into an old story,/already published...)
The last poem in this section “Ultimate Freedom” (Love), is perhaps the most touching of all, for me. Love is there, limitless, yet bound and finite – what more can suffocate? It is a bitter sweet reminder that love is passionate, it is warm, but is also possessive, and seeks to bind.


Where there is love, you can be sure loss or heartbreak enters the picture sooner than later, writes Shail. There are twenty different ways in which she portrays the utter loss of, sometimes, a feeling, a person, a negation of all that has been, of love, in what ever form it had chosen to be…

The coldness of loss sets in right from the strange sadness that envelops one with the first of the poems here, “The Search“, searching for the reason, and not finding it! Loss, isn’t that how it is?
And then the pain pours out through “Echoes“, showing its tenacity in the next poem, “Frail Spontaniety“.  “Captive Love” is yet another, where utter loss just does not let you be!

Aren’t we always promised so much by Love? And while many do get most of it, somewhere down the line, the hand that held yours, suddenly slips slips away! You walk the way, alone. “I have been there before“, that is what it speaks to me of.
The Wilted bloom“, along with the theme of Love goes on to consistent form in verse: a noun+verb combination in each line. And that too, without seeming unnatural! No mean feat that!
When pain gets very intense, it becomes deadweight and frozen. “Frozen Tears“, quite starkly brings one this experience.

When a person writes in the first person “I”, a reader tends to make assumptions 🙂 and then is intrigued by possibilities! So also with “Don’t Come Closer” – I know I connect so very much with this poem! 🙂


Acceptance most times is indeterminate in its honesty. Sometimes you do accept because you have no choice. Sometimes, because you understand. Sometimes because you want to, and move on. The many overtones of that one ability is what Shail brings to us here. There is poignancy, there is despair too, but there is an honesty in all of the verse here that touches deep. The pleasure that love has been, and though now not there, still there exists an optimism in meeting with Love again. “Broken Bits” speaks that way, to me.

My love, please tread softly
Don’t step on them harshly
The broken fragments carry
Dreams I held closely.

And “Baubles” , precious notions strung together! In “Time to go” I find again, the pain and the acceptance of the loss:

though I still love you so
and it breaks my heart
it is now time to go
my sweetheart

There is gentleness too; the quiet hush that cloaks a steely pain- how easy it is to leave another bereft. And how endless is the pain even in its acceptance! “Beneath the tree (acceptance)“:

Beneath the tree
by the gently flowing river
Where you left me to move on
I stand my love…

As with any kind of savouring, I have left the best for last. My absolute favourite in the entire collection has to be this one: THE DREAM PEDDLER. And that is why I have appropriated its title into the title of this post too. This poem literally, figuratively comes alive all shimmer and gossamer texture, sweet and sad, in its brilliant concept itself!

As always, Shail is stickler for a good proof read copy, and this book is that, right through. Her sense of rhyme is impeccable, and natural. Choice of words, perfect again! I know she can take any set of three random words, and in an instant weave a verse for you to enjoy. Metaphors and similes, not to mention vivid imagery, these are her fine tuning tools! Such is her talent. Such is she 🙂

For me, Shail is a dream peddler 🙂 I have said so, in the introduction to the book I was asked to write. I am deeply honoured by that Shail, and I do want you to know that, yet again 🙂 . Thank you too, for a personally autographed copy! That is one to treasure always! The first book I have, personally autographed by its writer 🙂 It’s already 1400 words long, but then, WT heck, I’ve got a disclaimer in place; and I had a wonderful time writing it out too… a lot of it scribbles with pencil and paper, on writing pad, and her book itself, and some that came pouring out of the keystrokes 🙂

Thank you Shail! And now I am looking forward to your book of short stories! That promises to be just as, if not more wondrous!

14 September 2012


Tintin! Nostalgia so strong!

Each time you read a book, or even a comic where the pictures add to the heightened sense of the fanciful thoughts that abound in the realms of imagination, have you not wished for yourself to be caught up in those delightful moments? Have you not wished that you could SEE and almost touch those heartwarming and lovable characters? Hugged them, or held hands, or pranced around like carefree children. Especially, the books and comics of your childhood? Willingly you suspend disbelief, just as Coleridge asked you to, a few centuries ago, and let yourself wallow in indescribable joy.

That joy is what I felt when I saw The Adventures of Tintin – the Secret of the Unicorn. In 3D. In a hopelessly inadequate theatre, that had such a lousy sound system (no Dolby Digital, or any of its clones here!) with people in the lower deck howling and hooting at all and sundry animation, obviously with no rhyme and reason! All of that did not matter in the least! Right from the time the certificate showed it was time for the movie, the opening credits with Tintin and Snowy in constant motion racing, in 3D, careening all over the screen were enough to hook me. This is what, it seemed, I had been waiting to see, with every Comic of theirs I had read. For a moment I was plagued by amnesia, forgetting the intrepid Captain’s name, till it suddenly jogged back into memory. The last time I had read a Tintin comic was perhaps fifteen years ago, to say the least.

The characterization, the fleshing out, so to speak of all the characters, was on the spot. Most endearing of them all were the twosome of Tintin and Snowy. Snowy! Sigh!!! *Puppy love in my eyes* That is one smart, faithful, loyal, intelligent friend! KHEFZHH <Kyunki har ek friend zaroori hota hai> takes on real meaning here! 😀

The animation, as I had put up in a mini-post-film-euphoric-moment FB status update, is superb. Extraordinary. The editing is seamless. And particularly a chase down winding roads, chasing after the villian and his hawk who has stolen the parchment bits had us all literally holding our sides laughing, and at the same time holding our breath, collectively, that the good guys get it! Is that possible you ask? Is, I say. Watch that part, and tell me about it 🙂 🙂 I have not laughed and forgotten myself so completely in a long long LONG time!

What follows  the scene above is just so so so impossibly, excuciatingly exciting too!! From upturned capsized boat to being pilot, to crashlanding in the middle of the desert, to memory returning …. to …. 🙂 🙂 Watch it, DO! If you haven’t already!

Captain Haddock, who Tintin befriends, is the early Haddock, one who had not found his riches and still is a bumbling alcoholic sailor, for whom only his Rum and Whiskey bottles matter. Till he sobers up, and … 🙂 All for the secret of the Unicorn, the great vessel his great grandaddy owned and sailed, till… 🙂

This is a model of the Unicorn, that started the whole adventure rolling, when Tintin purchases a model just like the one above, which gets him slap-bang in middle of the mystery that enthralls us for the hour and something you are in the theatre!

Salutes to Steven Spielberg for giving a lot of us that slice of nostalgia, so real, so wonderfully created, so easily believable, in that we have finally got to live a fantasy that played itself out in our heads so far.

I touched that moment back there, in that theatre, when the child I unashamedly am applauded endlessly. I hope you found yours too.

13 November, 2011

(Happy Children’s Day 🙂 We are all children, deep inside, and even if we do not think so, please know so, for it is only with a child’s eyes, and curiosity, and heart that we truly live 🙂 )

Yayyy! 655 words ONLY, WP tells me! And, under 10 smileys! WTG, Me!!!


Pranayam. Love. Actually.

പ്രണയം . Meaning “Love”, in Malayalam.

The name of a film that moved me deeply. Indeed, I’m a die-hard romantic, given to mush and goo; quite comfortable if the garishness and the reality of the supposedly over-hyped emotion bye passes me 🙂 No, before you shudder at the thought of a movie review reeling out from here, let me confess. I do not know how to do a review. I’ve always admired the confidence and the ability of those who do, who state in no uncertain terms their opinions of a film, and assess its technicalities. I’m deeply impressed and feel terribly inadequate at the thought of my own inability to do so.

Now that my credentials, or lack thereof, have been presented, (whew! what a relief!) let me go on my newest ramble :).

This film, by the noted filmmaker, Blessy, has three stalwarts assaying the main roles. Mohanlal, along with Jaya Prada and Anupam Kher. Right off, it was refreshing to note how each of them played their age, or close to it, and how it gave me the goosebumpish feeling, because it expressed a truth very rarely seen in Indian films, popular films anyway, that Love has no expiry date. That is, after you get married, have the regulation no. of kids, and are well settled, Love takes the back seat, till it disappears, and  life, whatever that means, takes over. It has always irked me, this notion that people over 35 to 40 have little or no love left in their lives, let alone the ones over 60! The kind that makes one flutter and faint… :D! Seriously!! Or the cliched one, that they still act like young teenagers out on their first date and woo each other with all the namby pamby idiocy of a chocolate film.

The story revolves around Grace (Jaya Prada), her husband, Mathew (Mohanlal), and Achutha Menon, Achu, (Anupam Kher), who she was married to, 40 years ago, from whom she is divorced and with whom she has a child. A son (Anup Menon, again a fine execution by the fine actor). There is her own daughter, her child with Mathew, and cameos of her granddaughter, her son’s daughter, and her boyfriend, Arun. You’ve got a range of ages there. You’ve also got love, and way it can bond. Too much of it too. And too much can sour, sometimes. Not so, this time. Not so, perhaps because the filmmaker is Blessy, who has been blessed with a touch, not a heavy hand.

There seems much that is predictable, but of course. And there is much that comes like a whiff of fresh air in times when Love is overrated, especially in its depiction on screen. The film opens with Achutha Menon returning after a visit to his eye specialist with his granddaughter and her boyfriend in his car (the boyfriend plays around and pinches his girlfriend’s leg thinking her grandad cannot see with his dilated eyes; we think so too, till he reminds the young punk, after getting out of his car that there are better ways of showing one’s affection :D- all in good jest :D) Later he meets Grace (who lives in the same apartment block, having moved in very recently) in the lift as he goes upto his son’s flat, and we do not know the connection, till of course later. One look at her and he has his second heart attack, in the lift. She takes him to hospital, identifies his name, age,( which even his daughter in law cannot) and waits till someone arrives. She asks the young woman who comes about her husband.

Slowly, not in the least hurrying the plot along (like I am), we know that her son hates her for having left him and his father. That his wife is not happy having to look after him. That she is even more unhappy having her father in law’s ex-wife in the same environs. There is much unhappiness here. The one person who is utterly happy is Achuthan Menon. Glad for having had a chance to meet his wife Grace again. And she, on her part, anxious for having news on how he is doing. We come to know that theirs was a runaway marraige, if I could put it that way… one that literally did, within a few years. When the young baby was 2 and a half years old. And forty years later they meet. A lot of their emotion is left undone, unresolved, and in Hollywood it would be a perfect recipe for another film like “It’s Complicated”, all the more with another husband in the offing. Not this one.

Grace’s husband is a poet at heart. A philosophy lecturer by profession, now retired. A Leonard Cohen fan (in fact after this film I’ve become one too! ). And a semi paralysed man who needs a wheelchair, and his wife to care for him. None of it lessens him, as a  person. (Please note, I am not saying the usual … “man”). And in each and every feeling he has, genuine. Whether it be the inadequacy he feels, when he thinks of his condition, and measures it up to offering either comfort, or his body, to his wife, in the single tear that rolls out of his good eye, or in his reply to his wife that it is but natural that she would feel the visitations of the past upon seeing the man she first loved, she first gave of herself to. And yet, it is his supreme knowledge and understanding of love itself that makes him say, in all arrogance, that no one could have loved her as he does. One of the truest lines in the film! As also another, when he says that Love is selfish, no matter how we try to deny it. Love makes us selfish.

The magic in the film is when the three of them get together, despite the fact that their children are against it; despite her son warning her off, because, for him, she is stuff nightmares are made of because she left them, and because he does not want his father hurt again. Though they do plan to not meet, Love finds a way to bring the three together, Grace, her husband Mathew and Achutha Menon. It had to be. Becoming fast friends, they decide thumb their noses at their respective children, and set off to live a little. A little escapade, but one that means a lot to them. Right through their journey together, the day or two they do take off, are these beautiful nuances… Achutha Menon’s discomfiture when Mathew hold’s Grace’s hand, or gathers her close; the looks that Achutha Menon and Grace steal, unknowingly living a past moment… But nowhere does it feel like a false note. Love is just that; something that lives you, however bad that construct sounds! I do not know how else to put it. Even 1145 words on.  Each of those nuances are feather light on the faces of these three actors. And so lay heavy long after we’ve seen it.

There is this matter of paying the price too. That is what struck me about the absolution of love in this film. A love that defied parents, was killed, though it still had to die, forty years on. Filial love, we so often admire here, is not what it seems, the daughter being almost abusive, the son actually being so; but the son requires fact and information from his father to want his mother again. Too late, by then. And then again, Grace. Loving one man, marrying him. Having to lose him. Marrying again. Finding love. Revisiting the past. Torn. But not quite so. Mathew keeps her sane. And beloved. Does she find fulfilment?

And Mathew, the Man who understands it all. Where it is going, and sanctions what will happen were he to die. That, perhaps was the most poignant part for me.

A gravestone at the end says “The song has ended. But the melody lingers…”. The second time I saw this film, I had a tear rolling down. (Not the first time, mind you :D)

Mohanlal as Mathew is perhaps the most stunning of the three. His singing of Leonard Cohen’s song at the restaurant. His portrayal as a semi paralytic. His absolute faith in himself, and Grace, his wife.

Anupam Kher was great too, except for his lip sync, that was awkward at best, but his acting? Classy. Jaya Prada is a beauty, nothing less. And despite the fact that she does not laugh much in the film, she too did well.

Rain and the sea are endless motifs. Very apt, and the cinematography, I thought, was simply great. The locales too. Found perfect places. Perfect faces. For a perfect emotion.

It, truly, was an experience. That is why I had said, this is not movie review. I’m just reviewing my experience of “Pranayam”.


24 to 27 October, 2011.

(Just returned after watching Ra.One. Had to finish this to believe in Cinema again :D)

Link worth reading. Tom Robbins on Leonard Cohen.

The song “I’m your man”, on youtube. This one too, where he performs at age 70+, in 2009, in London , along with another of his beautiful songs, A Thousand Kisses Deep.

The pictures are all courtesy Google Images.