Book Review Ebook Carnival (Unlocked by Sonia Dogra)

History… for better or for verse!

Aptly titled, here’s a book that unlocks history in a way that has never been done before!

Sonia Dogra sets the tone for her unusual choice of theme, right from the first verse, as she wonders if the world would be a different place, had Adolf Hitler been treated better as a child. She follows up on this train of thought with a rib-tickling tale about Cleopatra’s long nose, considered a parameter of female beauty at the time, and speculates if the Roman Empire would have had a different future had her nose been shorter!

From Muhammad Ali’s missing gold medal, to the unknown story of Milunka, the girl who dressed as a boy and became the most decorated woman soldier in the history of warfare, yet died penniless and unsung with only her medals standing testimony to her bravery and patriotism… Sonia paints canvas after canvas of events long-gone, on every page of her book with her lyrical brush… Each stroke bringing forth a dimension of the past, in a unique and entertaining manner.

Writing in verse-form, the author uses words and syntax that are simple enough to rivet the attention of a casual reader, yet powerful enough to bring alive the unknown and un-celebrated episodes of history from across the globe.

Sonia has carefully chosen the subject of each of her historical verses to cover a gamut of themes… chronicling the controversial and uncontroversial tales of bravery and deception, of pathos and anguish, before veering away to lighter moments talking of historical noses and beards!

The book is structured into two sections. The first, called ‘The Famous and the Infamous’, is where the author writes about personalities from the past, prying open their lives to understand the unknown stories behind their actions and decisions.

In Sergeant Major Gandhi, she tries to unravel the reasons behind the controversial support that the Mahatma lent to the British against the rebel tribes of S Africa.

In Entombed Mysteriously, she writes about how and why Gengis Khan “…was laid to rest at an unknown place, Those in the funeral procession slaughtered without trace.

Interestingly, the author doesn’t limit her prowess of narrating historical tales to prominent figures. Consider for instance, the Mutiny of 1857. It would be sacrilege if any Indian worth his or her salt doesn’t know about the sacrifices made by Mangal Pandey and the other brave-hearts. But Sonia looks beyond the popular and the known, and uncovers the forgotten heroes, or should I say heroines, who stood shoulder to shoulder with the rest. Read about the Cawnpore Courtesans and their brave deeds, in my favorite verse, ‘The Dance of Rebellion’.

The second section of the book, ‘Epoch Making Episodes’ lets the reader peek into the trajectory of events that changed the world as we know it… Beginning with Radcliffe who hastily drew a line on the Indian map, and forever condemned the country to religious hatred, “leading to the biggest Human exodus”, and genocide… to how Fat Boy ‘tore through life’ and decimated an entire city, condemning the few survivors to a lifetime of physical and emotional pain… to tracing how history repeats itself in the poem ‘Quarantine’.

Tempted as I am to review each verse individually, I must restrain myself, if only to preserve the mystery of history for you… the reader. And I promise you, you will enjoy every bit of this book, whether or not you are a history aficionado!

For those, who have given a miss to their history classes in school, Sonia introduces each of her interesting and engaging verses with a brief write-up to place the event or anecdote in the course of history.

For the more serious reader, she has provided footnotes at the end of each verse to make it easy to refer and read further.

To sum it up, as I read Sonia Dogra’s volume of historical verses ‘Unlocked’, there was only one thought on my mind… ‘Reading history would have been so much fun, if someone had turned the events long lost in time into stories’!

An excellent book to add to your reading list, whether or not you have been a history fan.

Author Bio

A teacher and a reporter in her previous avatars, Sonia Dogra is perhaps at her best as an author who reflects on events, and pens them for her readers. This is her 3rd published book of poems.

Book Review – Ebook Carnival (Blossoms and Foliages by Daisy Bala)

Nature, in all her magnificence, envelopes us. If only we take the time to see and appreciate.

Daisy Bala takes inspiration from Vincent Van Gogh… quoting him in the opening line of her introduction to this delightful volume of nature poems, “If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere.”

Although she terms it her maiden attempt, her words, delicately woven together, paint a visual so vivid, that it has the power to transport the reader to a fleeting moment in time.

Read about a white snowy landscape in the poem, ‘White sweet morning’…

“Whitewashed escapades

Cold breezy silhouettes

Snow deluged branches

Dripping snowflakes

Or savor this delicious description of waves on the sand in the poem, ‘The clarity’…-

“The turquoise waters splash

In sea foam green and varying teal

The wind rustles past the blushing spume

Swirling in crispy broth

On the sandy beach.”

Word by word, the poetess evokes a sense of enchantment, drawing the reader into her world, to witness with her the ephemeral beauty of nature ‘through a kaleidoscope of seasons’.

Not only does she pen pictures of “the dandelion silhouetted in pale morning lights, The breeze caressing the florets.”; she writes with equal élan about ‘An earthy stone, Standing aloof in these savanna’s’, bringing it alive for her readers, as she follows its gaze at the world around.

If you love nature, you will love this bouquet of poems.

P.S. Daisy has taken special care to describe every image that accompanies each of her poems for visually challenged readers. And these descriptions are as beautiful as her poems!

About the author

Daisy is a passionate author and blogger living in Chicago suburbs with her husband and two kids. She is a nature lover who draws her musings from the verdant green bounty around her. Her walk-in woods continuously inspire her to drink through the day’s eye and scribble the thoughts in her blogs. If not writing, she’s running around her 9 months old, changing diapers or teaching her 8-year-old basics of geometry. Her love for seasons and flora is implicit in her vivid writings.

Packing away the memories… One box at a time.

Every two years, I pack my house in large wooden boxes, painted black, and neatly labelled with a code that tells me exactly what each one holds… K18, for example, has all the expensive crockery that will come out, when friends in the new station bring cheer at the housewarming party, and then for the many lunches and dinners that I will host thereafter.

Labels don’t always work though. M7 holds, among other junk, a large number of curtains that hung around a colonial bungalow with a humongous 37 windows and 9 doors! In the 17 years since, I never could use all of them together again. First, because I never got to live in such a grand bungalow again; and then eventually, I tired of them and had new ones stitched. Then why haven’t I thrown them away yet? Because they are not just curtains, you see… They are a precious memory. That house is where my son was born.

Many other things spill out as I painstakingly go through the contents of each box once again… some I can fit into the modest 3 bedroom house… like the Buddha head that I came across in Kalimpong. Others must be stowed away only to be seen two years from now, when it will be time to call a new place ‘home’, and do it up with the enthusiasm of a young bride… which I clearly am not!

Its a strange life we lead…

With memories in boxes, and years that we count, not in numbers, but by places, (with tongue-twisters for names), where we lived…

In houses we call our own but will never have again… And gardens that we plant for people who will walk in them after us…

Sharing a laugh with friends knowing we might never meet again, but who will become my family in the two years I will spend with them.

C’est la vie… eh?

Press Pause!

“Hygge? What in the world is that?!! Heck, I can’t even pronounce it!”

Sitting in the rather crowded airport outlet of Flury’s in Kolkata, I was waiting for my coffee, waiting for my connecting flight, waiting to get going… Waiting for the next moment and completely missing out on the here and now… And staring into a book cover inscribed with a single word that I had never heard before, and couldn’t even say!

Two years later, I can admit without feeling inadequate that it was gut-wrenching to kill a rather large quantity of my ego, and ask the young fellow sitting opposite me, however casually, what the word was. But I am so glad I did.

So what is ‘hygge’?

To start with, it is pronounced hoo-guh. It comes from a Norwegian word meaning ‘well-being.’ But today, it is synonymous with a Danish concept that has taken the world by storm. To quote the official website of Denmark tourism, “… hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Friends and family – that’s hygge too. There’s nothing more hygge than sitting round a table, discussing the big and small things in life.”

It sounded rather quaint to me. It reminded me of things I had forgotten and forsaken in my hurried little life in the fast lane.

A typical day for me started with the alarm going off. I rolled off the bed and rushed… from the bed into the bath… from home to office… from work to lunch to meeting to coffee to pub to party to home to next day. The dizzying pace of life was addictive. The more I pressed the accelerator, the more adrenalin pumped in. And nothing changed from day to day… for weeks or maybe months or years, until that fateful tryst with an alien word in Kolkata!

I had been so busy with life that I no longer had the time to enjoy my life. I had no time for anyone or anything. I was collecting so many commitments, at work and at home, that eventually I had no idea how I was going to handle them all. Sooner or later, I was headed towards a burnout.

Hygge made me realize that. It reminded me that life is meant to be lived, in the company of friends and family. It is to be filled with moments of simple pleasure, and it taught me to lead a frugal life… that did not stress me or the environment.

Simply put, hygge means living in the moment. Being content with simple comforts… Being happy whether you are alone or in company… And creating cozy surroundings with a zillion candles to light up your room, curling up into a thick, warm blanket with your favorite book!

It’s a rather abstract term but you can understand it if you visualize the ambience where you are having a good time, chatting and relaxing. It includes activities that connect you with the environment, your loved ones and your community. So think of stuff that will let you soak in nature. Create small rituals that you can enjoy with your friends and family. It could be something as simple as playing Scrabble with your kids on Saturday evenings, or starting the tradition of cooking a special Sunday brunch with friends. The key is doing something you enjoy.

Going for a walk in the park is hygge… enjoying a hot drink is hygge… crocheting a muffler; baking bread from scratch; chatting with a friend over a cup of coffee; curling up with a book; a good head massage; doing up the house with DIY crafts; going offline… all hygge!

When I finally got off the crazy rollercoaster that I thought was life, I began appreciating the small pleasures that make our lives so much richer… Taking a deep breath of the fresh crisp morning breeze, feeling the warm sun on my back, sharing a hearty laugh with a friend, feeling hungry just smelling the aromas that wafted out of my mom’s kitchen, chattering around the dinner table, patting my child as he wandered off into dreamland, lacing my fingers through my husband’s as we watch the moon rise on a quiet evening… This is hygge. This is happiness.