Tuesday, June 13, 2017

RAINS OFF A SMOKY SKY - Book Review




Rains off a smoky sky is a very pleasant story about a girl and her journey through an ordinary life into being extraordinarily a human being, a trait that seems to have been extinct in the human of today. As I read through the story, I felt it at three levels and from three perspectives;
the perspective of Anurita, who experiences the world through her little innocent eyes and questions everything that she finds different. She is like a wondering wanderer who talks to her virtual self 'Rita' as she explores the world and the people and I could relate myself to her a lot. There is another trait that makes this character a very unique one, which is her ability to reason and compare. Anurita, a girl who comes from a well packed little town, moves to the urban life and compares how different and how similar the two worlds are, and is able to choose for herself as to what she desires. But this is not seen in every kid now a days, coz their ability to decide is mostly dependent upon what others want out of them. So, this book is a really good story that can channelise the 'self'.

The second perspective I could feel was the perspective of Anurita's father, who is an ordinary fruit seller with extraordinary dreams for his little girl and hopes that she will be able to make something sensible, something humane and something meaningful out of her life someday. He gifts her a diary every year, so that she can scribble down her thoughts, and soon the diary becomes her virtual self 'Rita', who is like an invisible friend to Anurita. There is a lot of energy in the story that emphasises upon meaningful living, stating that even if you are earning lesser amount of money, you can be happy if you are able to satisfactorily fulfil your purpose as a human being. Gandhi ji's saying plays a very important role as a motivating and driving factor and as a constant nudge to the mind, urging Anurita to be the change that she wants to see in the world, and bringing you to the conclusion that if you want a change in the country, then you will have to work for it yourself. And adding the cause with the story, gives the story a very thoughtful and meaningful direction even in lesser element of Drama, which is otherwise not required and would have been a spoiling factor in the pleasantness of the story here. So, Pritam has very aptly balanced the energies in the story, that can influence the reader at many levels and still leave him/her with a light purposeful feeling and determination towards his/her own life.

Then, the third perspective in the picture is that of Joydeep pal, mentor of Anurita, and someone who has worked for the very 'change’, and has accomplished a lot in the process of bringing that change to the world. He terms himself as 'asexual' upon Anurita's attraction towards him. The story here also covers different aspect of orientation, of which I am glad, because it shows something other than the trendy and argued 'homosexuality' and I think this is among those rare books that mention 'asexuality' as another aspect orientation, but it also strongly projects the view that a person may belong to any orientation and yet do great works for the nation and for the society. This initiates a happy step towards the acceptance of those people in the society who are ridiculed for belonging to other orientations. So, the story, as flowing pleasantly through the pages of Anurita’s diary, does come across this aspect that needs to be understood by the society even in this ultramodern century.

Another factor that is noteworthy about this story is that Pritam has displayed the story as a normal course of life. Worth understanding here is the manner in which Anurita grows up, the way she communicates with her environment, with the people around, the different perspectives she absorbs and interprets, the different experiences she has had, be it love, sexuality, career or any other experience, and how she records them all in her diary, which is a common trait of all the people who like to write daily diaries. All these experiences and observations from the environment and the feelings that they engender in us, make the people we become, whether good or bad. So, the flow of story touches various events in a very natural and a very gradual way, which is why the story adopts its unique touch from purposelessness to understanding a purpose and then to working towards the very purpose that makes you happy.

Apart from that, a good section of the story throws light upon how a girl looks at the world, at the people... how as she is growing up, she is Subjected to sexual harassment in various environments and various approaches of men in her surroundings... how she can ensure that she is safe... and the story also highlights the professional conduct, a good harassment free work environment, the codes of conduct, as experienced by Anurita.

The elimination of excessive waste accumulation on the planet has been pivotally addressed in the story and how every citizen of this planet is contributing towards the degradation of the planet, and thus, why everyone should engage himself/herself into recycling or minimising the waste production, one-on-one basis and how it will take every human to actively transform this beautiful planet that we call home.

I also love how lively the places, the culture and the food are described. I could literally smell the fresh fragrance of the aura and felt like I was transported to the very places.

Coming over to technical details, the very first thing I love is the cover - the dreamy innocence of the girl on the cover page imparts an overall beauty to the story and helps you visualize Anurita as you read. The wide blue sky and the little fireflies, like a fairy tale coming to life. It is very much life like. The designer has done a great work on this cover. Secondly, the story flows really well and is well sectioned. The language is very comprehensible, and this can easily become the book of choice for growing up kids as well as a rejuvenating read for people coming from all walks of life, and even for people who have difficulty understanding high-end vocab. The book binding and publishing is very well done.

In all, my experience of reading this book was very very pleasant and rejuvenating.

My rating 5/5



My favourite quotes/ paragraphs from the story:



*****

"The strong aroma of coffee and tobacco wafted through the air and soothing instrumental music played in the background."

*****

"Are all men like this? Do they all harbour lecherous thoughts to touch me and press my b######? Really? But why? Everywhere - in crowded places, in a mela, on buses and trains, in densely packed gatherings and long queues, the boys and the men, the young and the old, the ugly guys and the suave men brush against my br#####. Some of them try to press my hips whenever they manage to get close to me. Initially, I used to feel disgusted by it. I found it so filthy and annoying. But slowly I am getting used to it and I calmly ignore it. What else can I do?"

*****

"Baba often says that selling fruits and fruit juice is becoming a hard profession these days. People are willing to spend thousands of rupees buying liquor, hundreds of rupees buying cigarettes, but they bargain irritatingly for just hundred rupees on fruits. Plus, the buyers hardly show any respect to the seller, he says."

*****

"Not only in our country but across all continents, water resources are getting polluted rapidly. Every day, we are dumping millions of tons of toxic and hazardous materials from factories and households into our rivers and oceans. Soon, we are going to face a severe water crisis. The air too is filling fast with carbon and toxic gases. Very soon we are going to breathe in the seeds of poison. It's time to wake up..."

*****

“What am I, my Rita? The pawn in the hands of Rony Dey and people like him? Or their ‘weapon’ to silence the voice of protest? Are they forcing me to swallow the bitter truth? In this land, questioning a culture or practice or raising your voice against visible corruption is akin to welcoming danger. If you want to escape the threats of evil men, you must remain silent, tucked away inside a tiny bubble of ignorance.”

*****

“Yes, it’s all in our mind,” he continued. “Do we respect each other? Do we know what it means to have dignity of labor? Our problem is not unemployment; our problem is that we do not know how to respect honesty and integrity. We do not know how to respect the labor of people. If we don’t value or care about human life, as a nation, we are no better than this wasteland.”

*****

“Why was I never told in my school and college days that we are drowning in an ocean of waste? All I have heard in my life so far has been about how great our nation is, how it is a great reservoir of spiritual and cultural heritage, how kind and caring we all are. On those important, historic national days, they all talked about a pretty India, a beautiful India, a romantic India…a lovely and patriotic India. But as I stood in front of the towering mountains of garbage, I wondered how lopsided everything seemed.”

*****

“Well, I don’t understand it too,” Sawan said taking a deep breath. “I guess we have to wait for his book. As far as I understood, Lord Shiva is a cosmic force, an omnipresent energy that we conceptualize through various deities and forms. We have given a visual structure to the energy called Shiva.”

*****

“Well, more than fifty million. F-I-F-T-Y M-I-L-L-I-O-N. Every technology and thing that you see around came from the womb of those fifty million journal articles. And yet we can’t do the most basic thing of life—clean up! The junk that is piling up is our death hole. But we care the least about managing these death holes. We are marching blindly towards the open death holes.”

*****

“All the pesticides and fertilizers we use on crops eventually get washed off into the water bodies and contaminate the surface water as well as the groundwater. Eventually, these toxic chemicals pile up inside fishes and other water animals. The findings would provide us clues about the level of toxins piling up inside our bodies. Our findings are quite alarming and scary. We are walking towards the edge of destruction. If the use of pesticides is not monitored and controlled, the ecosystem will be severely hampered.”

*****

“Spirituality is a process. It is a mechanism to feel united with the rest of the universe, feel the energy of nature around you and within you and feel your energy and the energy of nature. It helps you realize that you are not isolated in this world, but you are a single energy field. That is spirituality,” Chen uncle said and paused for a while. Then he continued, “No matter what we study or what we train for, we have to learn how to awaken our ability to empathize. We have to re-learn and realize the basics, the foundation. We have to remember that we are one with nature, with the universe, with all things. We are a single living and breathing organism. But sadly, unfortunately, we have forgotten our original authentic selves. Instead, we are immersing and indulging ourselves in acts of separation and violation. We have to invite peace. We have to embrace peace and peace only. That’s the way to bliss and the heaven of the universe.”

*****
About the Author:
Dr. Pritam Mandal
Dr. Pritam Mandal is originally from Tisha, a village located near Kolkata, India. He completed a PhD (2013) in Physics from USA after his MSc in Physics from IIT Bombay (2007). After PhD, he worked as a postdoctoral researcher in the Middle East. 
Writing is Pritam’s passion. Among all activities and works, Pritam says that writing is what makes him feel truly alive; he feels that writing is what beats the chaos and noise out of him; bringing balance and peace in his being; offering him the pleasure of re-experiencing life and expressing it (what it feels to be alive; what it feels to be happy or unhappy; sad or cheerful; cursed or blessed or blissful).
He wishes to remain a learner forever; finding motivation, enthusiasm, energy and time to read, explore experience, understand, learn, appreciate and, of course, write. He sincerely wishes to bring in a little light and peace to the world we live in.
“Let there be light. And let there be peace.” This is what he prays for every day.
Pritam lives with his wife Libia in Visakhapatnam, India where he spends most of his time reading, writing, running, cycling and trying to follow an ‘organic’ lifestyle.
Connect to him:
Author website: authorpritam.com

Email id:ajpritamics@gmail.com
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Review by

Dr. Prerna Singla
Founder & Editor-in-chief - Hall of Poets

Author : "The Crown of Sekhmet",  “The Bible of Marriage”

This review is a copyrighted intellectual property of Dr. Prerna Singla and must not be copied in any form without prior written permission from Dr. Prerna Singla. For permission, write at: hallofpoets@gmail.com


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