I wonder, when my time comes, if my soul will be as bright.

We all are in a state of seeking answers, seeking justifications for the experiences we have had in our life. Just yesterday, I was scrolling through Instagram, and a phrase sprung up on my explore page, that said, ‘If everything happens for a reason, what is the reason?’ This is exactly what a reader might feel while beginning this novel.

A sense of pity arises in the reader as they watch Aman Chandra, the protagonist of the story, seeking answers for the state he was in, both mentally and physically. A young boy who was like an innocent child not knowing what is going to happen, is transferred to the valley of Gods in the Himalayas along with ten other souls who are kidnapped from all over India to fulfill a purpose .Even a reader like me, one who does not prefer fantasy or fiction as their first pick, would be happy to give this book a read. Yes, it is indeed that good.

Magic and hope resides in the beautiful valley of the Gods that produces splendid and striking imagery allowing the reader to completely sink in and crave for more. It is wonderful to read a book that has graphics/illustrations, but what is more intriguing is a text which is successful in creating visual imagery through words. This book is the later. The word building of this novel is worthy of appreciation. While reading through, one might ponder on a plethora of questions.  One of them being, how the Garg managed to write the book with so much depth a intricacy? The answer lies in a recent conversation Saksham had with an audience member at an event. There he stated that for ten long years, his mind kept on pumping creative fluids that allowed his book to reach the level of output it has achieved.

The detailing in the events that take place in the novel has been well thought over and influences from his college life can be seen throughout book as well.  Additionally, the dynamism through which love is depicted between Aman and her lover acts as a bridge to comprehend the plot of the novel more efficiently. Even though the book looks like a modern remake of the ancient Hindu mythology focusing upon Vedic Gods, which is a popular genre and many people end up writing about it, it has some beautiful elucidations that almost makes us think about Samsara to be a real place.

Not withstanding that the book wonderfully interprets the concept of souls reaching one’s final destination, there were some ideas that may leave the reader questioning about it’s moral perspectives. One such idea being the mention of, ‘What is a woman but a worshipper of her man?’ Since it is a modern remake, talking about souls finding nirvana, with the inclusion of technology and the perspectives of science, the ideas of the more feministic approach could have been inserted. Changing the age old cycle of women depending upon men is crucial especially while writing for people in the 21st century. Nevertheless, the immediate flow of thoughts while writing the book is pivotal and cannot be disregarded. After all, the mind of a writer is different from that of a reader. Everyone has different observations to make.

One’s life can be dotted with unsuccessful journeys and incomplete endings, and you may want to escape hardships. Although it is hard to avoid them completely, this book might hold some answers to your questions. Questions that move you, ones that leave you pondering.

Explore this book with the utmost open mind and let it do it’s magic. I would highly recommend you to pick this up, especially if you are a fantasy-fiction lover. You shouldn’t miss out on it!

Aanya Mehta 

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The War Diary of Asha-san provides a fascinating glimpse into the life of a young girl who was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for India’s independence. It is a moving account of the great endeavours undertaken by India’s brave patriots in order to win freedom from British rule.

Lt. Bharati ‘Asha’ Sahay Choudhry was born in Japan in 1928 to Anand Mohan Sahay and Sati Sen. Both her parents were completely committed to the ideal of Indian independence. They believed that Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was the leader who could win India’s freedom, and became some of his most ardent supporters and closest confidantes. Growing up in such a household where her parents considered the struggle for independence to be more important than everything else, Lt. Bharati (or Asha-san) was imbibed with the ideals of patriotism and sacrifice for her nation from a very young age.

Asha began to write this diary in June 1943, when she was 15 years old and World War II was in full swing. It begins with an account of her meeting Netaji for the first time, and requesting to fight in the Rani of Jhansi Regiment of the Indian National Army. Just a teenager, Asha-san was already ready to take up arms and do her part for the liberation of India. As readers, we are provided with a view into a very unique situation of cross-cultural transmission. Asha-san’s love for Japan is evident in her writing. We get a glimpse of life in wartime Japan and a firsthand account of the alliance between Netaji’s Azad Hind Government and Japan, which is still not widely discussed in most accounts of India’s freedom struggle. With Asha-san’s father being one of Netaji’s closest companions, we also see the extent of the impact Netaji had on the general population of east and south-east Asia, and how he served as an inspiration for countless Indians.

For their thousand questions of ‘Why?’ we had one answer: `For freedom.’

In 1945, Asha-san left her home at the age of 17 to enlist in the Rani of Jhansi regiment. The diary details her journey through south-east Asia and the guerilla training she underwent as part of the Rani of Jhansi Regiment. The reader is presented with Asha-san’s single minded focus on the liberation of India at every turn. The extent of her patriotism is incredible, especially considering that she had never set foot in India at the time. It is impossible to not be moved while reading about the great sacrifices made by the soldiers of the Indian National Army. Even after the Japanese surrender and Netaji’s untimely death, the men and women of the INA were undeterred and wished to carry on their struggle for independence. Asha-san’s bravery shines through her words.

It is like looking into the fluttering pages of history- as though each wave carries with it a story of a historical marvel or a disaster. How many ferries, boats and ships must have sunk in this bay? How many lovers of India, how many invaders must be spending sleepless nights under this sea?

The diary also provides us with an intimate glimpse into the highest echelons of the Indian freedom fighters. Through her parents, Asha-san was introduced to people like Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sarojini Naidu, to name just a few. Aptly, the diary ends in August 1947, when India finally gained independence from the British, and the lifelong vision of all these brave freedom fighters was realised. This is the story of a young girl who had already dedicated her life to her country at the age of 15, and it serves as an important reminder of the ideals and values we must continue to strive for as India completes 75 years of her independence. The book is incredibly engaging as a whole, and a must-read for people who are interested in India’s freedom struggle.

Read Also: Indian Universities and Activism: Fifty-Shades of Azadi

Urmi Maitra [email protected]

From racism to casteism to patriarchy, Dear White People resonates with any and every person who has faced an instance of systematic oppression, finally a movie with not just a token representation but a real one.

Humanity, as a collective, has consistently shared one thing— the feeling of being different; the feeling of being isolated, alone, and deeply ununderstood. Dear White People ends up striking exactly this chord with every single person in the audience. It holds up a metaphorical mirror to society, forcing us to look around, observe, and realise, that in all our talks of unity and diversity, maybe we have forgotten what unity is supposed to look like.

The movie being largely inspired by film director Justin Simien’s book by the same title, finds a place to showcase its literary roots in the structure of the movie itself. The movie begins with a very storybook-like screen and the words ‘Prologue’ etched onto it. This trend follows throughout as if taking us systematically through the chapters and finally leaving us at the ‘Epilogue’ to mull.

It isn’t a new phenomenon, the feeling of being comfortable with other people belonging to the same backgrounds, regions, histories, and realities. Neither is its manifestation in academia new.

The movie brought forward the historically entrenched power equation between unequals, the groupism that is not just embedded in our public lives but also our private, and the dichotomy of being different— of being too much or too less, just never enough. It grapples with the question of personal choices and stereotypical ones and the struggle of not wanting to subscribe to the prejudiced notion people form of you upon your first meeting. 


Dear White People ended up being more of an explanation about the need for people to find others belonging to the same circles, not because of something that they have seen or been taught, but simply by the reason that others who are the same as you have a considerably less chance of wanting to bully you for your choices, teasing you and your inherent differences, or stereotypically putting you in a box. Following Lionel’s story, the struggle of fitting in was something we could all relate to, but the fact that he was trying while the world was stuck in the ways of decades past, spoke more about that ingrained racism that found its foothold over centuries of oppression and takes more than having “two black friends” to refute.

When Lionel asked “Am I black enough for the Black Student Union?”, when Sam broke down the divisions mentioned in Ebony & Ivy, when ‘Coco’ consistently tried denying her own identity, we ended up seeing shades of different ideas and opinions, with refreshingly the oppressed being a reflection of their own oppression.

Not surprisingly, the arguments used by the “whites”— the most repeated one being that the most difficult thing in today’s world is being a white man— are the same ones that we have seen and heard in real life, on Twitter, and on the streets.

The movie ended up being a brilliant portrayal of reality and more than being solely about racism and its struggles, became a reflection of every other instance of systematic oppression, finally showing a real representation.


Feature Image Credits: Athena Film Festival


Manasvi Kadian

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