Book review: “Dragons and Hot Sauce: And Other Imaginations”

Author: Mike Moore
Publisher: Independently published through CreateSpace

ISBN-13: 978-1505391398: ISBN-10: 1505391393

Children poetry often evokes nostalgia in all of us. Each of us remember the vivid colors and imaginative sketches and the beautiful rhyming sentences which were once a part of our childhood and which made us curious about the world around and fueled our imagination.

Those books and poems were part of our universe and made us see this world differently and that is what as a reviewer one would feel when he gets to read this colorful work
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This is a book that one can read to the kids at the bed time and it is designed to capture hearts in the very first glance; yes, the cover itself is very beautiful!
The vocabulary of the book is simple and innocent and it has excellent rhyming sentences with beautiful illustrations that make it a must-have for young parents.

Therefore, one plus point of this book is the vocabulary, which is fresh and soothing, and it is this quality that makes it great for young minds.
These days, one major issue with parents is finding quality literature free from words or imagery with dual meanings or allegories. Such are often found in the children books these days and have the potential to ruin the book reading experience for the child.

Fortunately, such is not the case with this book, and the writer has kept the innocence quotient high but this does not mean that the book lacks on humor; read ‘Princess Polly’ or ‘Balloon’ or ‘Detective’ to know why it would appeal to the kids.

The same is the case with the ‘Bedtime’ too which the writer has so sweetly recreated that it is likely that the kids who used to feel scared thinking about monsters under the bed during nighttime would never feel afraid again!
The stories about the animals, the humans, and even the objects in the book take a reader away from the world that we inhabit right now.

The best part about the book is that once a reader starts reading he would perhaps feel transported back in time. But then once the reading is complete, it also evokes a very strong yearning and for any writer, this emotion is a reward in itself, and Mike Moore has successfully been able to do it.
The book is highly recommended for parents and makes for an excellent bedtime companion or a gift option for children. Try this one for sure, at least once!

(The review was done in exchange of a free copy and for http://www.bookpleasures.com)

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For The Love Of Animals, Stop Being A Hypocrite

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Two different worlds, but one big family!

So Eid is being celebrated and we have people commenting on animal rights! Hypocrisy and pointing fingers at others is something that we humans are completely comfortable with and the Eid will be no different.

We also had some people pointing fingers at Gadhimai (banned now after relentless campaign) but worse is that many of these critics turn out to be those who cherish meat or other cruel animal products in some way or the other.

These ‘closet’ animal right activists only come out to drop a tear or two on special occasions while they remain in hibernation on cruelty against animals every other day!

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Awaiting death.

When there were calls to ban animal slaughter for a few days on the occasion of Jain religious event, then everyone, virtually everyone was on the side of ‘freedom to eat whatever I want’ brigade with people even threatening Jain community with throwing meat in their houses!

The number of critical posts and a sudden rush for animal rights increases only whenever it is the ‘other’ side which is deemed to be at fault. But does such newly found enthusiasm bring some worthwhile respite for the animals? Not really especially when each side is content at pointing fingers at another; so we have someone worrying about bloodshed on some festival, but the accuser is no better either; he too could be a non-vegetarian gnawing at an animal’s bones or a kite-flier oblivious to the fact that the glass wire kills many birds every year, but for the sake of one-upmanship he would keep bellowing how the other side is so much crueler!

Often we find that slaughter with religious overtones is the most targeted. Halal slaughter is mandatory for Muslim community but other communities consume it too without any inhibitions and yet halal is one of the reasons on which this community is targeted on Eid. Isn’t that sheer hypocrisy?

Yulin dog slaughter evoked an impassioned outcry, many derided China because dogs are seen as ‘companion animals’ and ‘man’s best friend’ in many parts of the world, but why does it not matter that on Thanksgiving an equally beautiful creature, Turkey, is killed, again for flesh! Many perhaps do not even know that even horse meat is available in several parts of the world, and we are not even touching upon either the fur and leather industry or even farm animal industry, where animals often face unspeakable brutality without even a whisper of protests from any of these self-styled animal rights activists.

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They too deserve compassion.

Let us consider a few cases; some people claim that Japan’s fishing of whales is a primitive practice, but will they bother to raise their voice on the number of pilot whales which are brutally killed each year on the Faroe Islands, which is an autonomous territory within the kingdom of Denmark. To kill these helpless beings people use sharp hooks and knives. Many get outraged each year by this bloodfest but a staggering many also defend the slaughter claiming this to be their cultural right! And this is the same country that has banned Halal and Kosher meat claiming that “animal rights come before religion!” If this is not hypocrisy then what is!

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Animals need true human friends to fight for them.

 Just a few days back PETA had revealed that the University of Georgia (UGA) had allowed civilian and military trainees to “cut holes into the throats, chests, and limbs of live dogs as well as other animals in deadly and inferior medical training drills.” When the news came to light the school in question declared that such tests won’t be done.

Earlier PETA had launched a campaign to save baby seals. These babies are to be murdered with sharpest of objects and then have to face a bloodied painful death because each year Canadian government allows hunters to do unspeakable crimes against these helpless beings.

These are just some examples, there are wild animals like Cecil who are hunted down, there are millions who are killed each day for some reason or the other and all we see is ‘selective outrage’ and ‘selective compassion’ on ‘selective days.’ It is irksome to find that animal rights and crimes against them are trivialized by sections which see them as nothing less than an object, but it is even more heartbreaking to see animal slaughter be used to score brownie points over each other.

As I write this, a gruesome incident had taken place in Kerala where dogs were slaughtered and hung on trees to send the political rivals a message. The commodification of animals and degrading them as products to be flaunted, to be abused at will has led us to a situation where animal rights activists are seen with hate and as ‘troublemakers’ belonging to the ‘other side.’

What many do not understand is that animal rights activism is a life-long commitment; it often includes series of heartbreaks because violence against animals is considered ‘normal’ and also indispensable for mankind to assert its supremacy over other living beings. The animals are either for us to wear, to eat, or to abuse because they are not considered to be capable enough to feel the same emotions or pain as we do.

Most animal lovers are prepared for such attitude but what hurts the most is hypocritical attitude of people on what amounts to ‘cruelty.’

PETA activist Benazir Suraiya found this last year when she was a victim of abuse and threats because her actions to raise awareness on animal rights were dubbed as being interfering in religion.

It is her own resolute spirit that she has not abandoned the fight for justice and continues to campaign for animals even today.

And this is exactly what the animals deserve; compassionate people fighting against cultural taboos for a simple right; right to exist.

Introduction to Hindu Goddess Saraswati

The goddess of learning

The goddess of learning

Introduction: Goddess Saraswati or Gayatri Devi holds a special place in Hindu mythology as she is the consort of none other than the creator of the universe, Lord Brahma.  In Sanskrit, the word sara means “essence” and swa means “oneself.” Thus, we can deduce that Saraswati essentially means “the essence of the self.” She is considered to be the goddess of learning, speech, wisdom and creative arts. She is called the mother of Vedas and of all divine knowledge. No wonders then, that in Hindu household she holds a very special place.  Bani, Bharathi, Gyananda, Ira, Vani, Vak devi and Saradha etc are some of the most famous names of this goddess. She is the ultimate deity for scholars and they worship her to do well in their fields. In fact, scholars hold the belief that only she can provide their community ‘Moksha’ or ‘Salvation.’ In some school of thoughts she is also considered to be one of the main powers of Supreme energy Goddess Durga.

Goddess Saraswati also figures prominently in almost all Hindu temples, yet her most famous temple is the Vilma Vashi Temple in scenic Dilwara. The most famous festival dedicated to this Goddess is her birthday which is known as Vasant Panchami, celebrated every year on the 5th day of the fortnight of the lunar month of Magh with great splendor by her devotees.

Story: The story of the goddess Saraswati is an eye-opener for those who feel that their lives have become aimless or those who are in the state of perplexity/confusion and seek a way out of their predicament. It is believed that when Lord Brahma decided to start the work he got overwhelmed with confusion and fear. The lord found himself unable to get on with the enormous task as he did not know what to create first and how. As he was thinking over the situation, just then Goddess Saraswati draped in a beautiful white garment (saree) riding on a swan came out from his mouth. With her on his side the Lord gave orders, duties and formulated laws for governing the world. Since she came from his own body and also helped Lord Brahma in his divine work, hence he felt a strong affection towards her. But Goddess disapproved as she felt that desire leads one to go astray from the path of ‘dharma.’ She tried to escape him, but Lord Brahma was so infatuated by her that he kept chasing the Goddess while she donned one identity after another. To keep up with her, the Lord created 4 more heads but the Goddess would still not relent. During her escape, she came to be known as ‘Shatarupa’ and came to signify the material desires of the world which although appear real, are in truth just ‘Maya or illusion.’

As the story goes, the blatant affection towards the Goddess started creating problems in the cosmos and this ‘adharma’ woke up Lord Shiva who was angry at the way Lord Brahma showed complete disregard for the feelings of the Goddess in his unbridled passionate state. To bring Lord back on the right path, he took the form of Lord Bhairava and cut down the fifth head of Lord Brahma. But the fifth head of Lord Brahma stuck onto the flesh of Lord Bhairava, and almost drove him towards insanity. To save Bhairava, Goddess Saraswati leaped to his defense and restored him to sanity with her love and care. Lord Brahma realized his mistake and apologized, which pleased the Goddess and both of them married, never to be separated again.

Appearance: Goddess Saraswati is often depicted either having four arms or two arms. She also wears a beautiful golden crown, but it always is very humble in design.

She wears some golden jewelry bedecked with gems and diamonds, but every ornament adds to her grace as a mighty scholar.

She is draped in a white sari and is depicted seated on a white lotus. The white lotus signifies knowledge and truth. As she sits on the lotus hence, it shows that she is aware of the supreme reality while the white garment that she drapes is a symbol of wisdom, purity, and unadulterated knowledge.

The goddess holds a book and rosary in her two rear hands while the front two hands play flute (veena.) The book signifies knowledge while the front hands playing the flute depict her mind and intellect. Also, it is widely believed that the devotee of the goddess must tune himself so well that a perfect harmony is achieved in this world.

When depicted with Lord Brahma, the Goddess is often shown seated at some distance with a smiling face. Some pictures may portray one or both of them in a state of deep meditation as well.

Many pictures show a beautiful and an enormous swan beatifically looking ahead when she has mounted it. This magnificent bird is her choice of a vehicle while a peacock stands in a corner gazing intently at her, showing eagerness to do her bidding as well.

Sham of human chain in Pakistan to show solidarity with Hindus

Social media is abuzz with the report of a human chain formed by Pakistan’s National Student’s Federation (NSF) on 6th March (Holi festival) for Hindus who are celebrating Holi at Swami Narayan Temple in Karachi to protect, and show solidarity with them. But what is most amusing is that more than the Pakistani citizens, it is the Indians who seem to have gotten on a new high after reading this news.

Cosmetic gestures, rarely bear tangible fruits.

Cosmetic gestures, rarely bear tangible fruits.

The Indian media is busy with the story of this greatness that has been shown by the majority towards the minuscule minority. Famous Hindi actor Akshay Kumar put this news but what people do not know is that on the eve of Holi, extremists in Pakistan tried to burn down a Hindu temple at Tando Muhammad Khan.

Hindi film actor Akshay Kumar expresses happiness at the news.

Hindi film actor Akshay Kumar expresses happiness at the news.

The extremists entered the Shiv Bhola Hanuman temple at Soomar Street and desecrated Hindu scriptures and pictures of Hindu deities.

Hindu temple desecrated on the eve of Holi

Hindu temple desecrated on the eve of Holi

Surprising? Here is more; just last year (year 2014) at the time of Holi, 3 Hindus were charged under draconian blasphemy law of Pakistan at Nao Dambalo, all because they were playing with colors. In this year and this month, just a few days back, Pakistani police arrested boys at Sindh University, and the reason given out was that a Hindu festival like Holi cannot be celebrated openly. Forget the festivals and temples for a minute as they may not interest everyone; let us talk about basic human rights which all minorities must enjoy. At present the situation of a Hindu woman in Pakistan is extremely shabby. Such is the situation that the Baghree Hindu community is asking Indian government to allow them refuge in India. Close to 400-500 families wish to come to India as soon as is possible. Why? Because Hindu girls, of any age, are being abducted openly and no one does anything. One of the daughter of the Baghree community, a married woman named Chandervati along with her 2-year old daughter, was abducted by armed gunmen and forced-converted at Amrot Shareef, married to a criminal, and later shoved into prostitution. But Pakistani establishment, instead of helping the victim arrested her father, her mother, and six other family members of the victim’s family because the ‘abductor-cum-husband’ claims that her family kidnapped her to take her away from him.

Chandervati, forced- conversion victim, from Hindu Baghree community. Baghree community wants refuge in India.

Chandervati, forced- conversion victim, from Hindu Baghree community. Baghree community wants refuge in India.

Most girls like her are trafficked out or just become sex slave to be passed on from one man to another. Prima facie most of these girls are under 18, surprising indeed because marriage of young female kids should be punished as pedophilia but at this everyone in Pakistan who can make a difference is quiet. Names of few of the forced conversion victims are Rinkle Kumari, Jeevani Baghri,  Anjali Meghwar and thousands of others. So grave is the situation that a report by Movement for Solidarity and Peace in Pakistan says that up to 1000 women are shoved into forced marriages every year in Pakistan; 700 of these women are Christian and 300 are Hindu. There is no other reason to target these women except that they happen to be from oppressed minorities alone.

If that comes as a surprise to you, then also read how a Jew activist, Fishel Benkhald was beaten up by a Muslim mob when he questioned the apartheid-like situation that exists for minorities in Pakistan.

Fishel Benkhald after being attacked

Fishel Benkhald after attack

When such is the state of Hindus of Pakistan then how can anyone think that this gesture is anything but fake? The declining and fleeing Hindu population of Pakistan rarely ever becomes any news for anyone, but a cosmetic and a shallow gesture is so widely preached around that it washes away carefully labored efforts of Hindus and other minorities of Pakistan to sensitize the world about their sad state. Survival of minorities in Pakistan is the only way to stop radicalization in South Asia and if anyone has been following news about Yezidis, then it is pretty well-known as to why they are being targeted. They have been branded as ‘Devil Worshipers’ because they worship stone idols.

Stone worshipers=Devil worshiper=Fit to convert, rape and kill

Stone worshipers=Devil worshiper=Fit to convert, rape and kill

If Pakistanis tolerate deity worshiping Hindus, then it is likely that it will remain an egalitarian state and radicalization will wither out if not then a Taliban takeover is imminent. But to stop such a situation the Pakistani society will have to rise above cosmetic gestures because these actions help neither the terrified Hindu community nor their country. Also for Indians, just like everyone is praising this gesture, please do pay attention to minorities of Pakistan as well because their cries are going unheard and their survival is important if the idea of India has to survive.

Book Review of Embrace the Chaos: How India Taught Me to Stop Overthinking and Start Living (BK Life)

Author: Bob Miglani
ISBN: 978-1-60994-825-2
Publisher: Berrett Kohler Publishers

Good read!

Good read!

This book is a foreigner’s or should I say a Non Resident Indian’s (NRI’s) take on India and the Indian way of life. So far, the western world has either ridiculed or worshipped India but a balanced perspective has always been a rarity. So is this book any different or is it just one of those that draws either frowns or ridicules? Let us just consider a few aspects about the writer; he is a man who has spent a major part of his adult life in USA but has Indian roots and eventually, he has to come to India where he encounters lot of issues that eventually help him gain composure. In short, the writer Bob Miglani narrates events of his own life in a compact book and allows the reader to get a glimpse of his inner thoughts and emotions while he was undergoing the life changing events.

The book is easy to read and is not very bulky. What is good is that the writer has bought forward the differences between the west and east with ease without siding with either one. It is done with a lot of grace hence, a person from India would not feel offended over the ‘bad portrayal’ and even the western world would notice that the narrative remains as true to present as it could be. Events like the chaos that is prevalent here and the problem in securing a flight back home, cousin holding his hand and his finally understanding that it is nothing but love etc are few illuminating points of the book.

The language is easy and in the middle of reading one may feel part of the family. The confusion that abounds India is also going to make one laugh and at the same time, and kudos to the writer for that, will fill one with awe. The details of poverty and rash driving will fill a reader with contempt while the rest would make him chuckle. The flowing narrative never lets one take a break and it goes to the credit of the writer that the entire book is like a crispy cracker that reader would want to finish in one go. Even the most mundane events that the writer dissects come out with philosophical moorings that make the everyday event seem a novel one. At the end of the read, one would feel wanting for more and that is a compliment that this writer truly deserves.

(The review was done in exchange of a free copy and for http://www.bookpleasures.com)

Book review: GEN-Ops

Author: Clifford B. Bowyer
Publisher: Silver Leaf Books, LLC
ISBN: Print: 978-1-60975-037-4; eBook: 978-1-60975-038-1

Below average.

Below average.

The writer of the book, Clifford B. Bowyer, must be lauded for bringing forth a credible futuristic plot for his readers and his hard work is for everyone to see. But the writer probably focused too much on the scientific hocus-pocus and it ultimately had a bearing on his central characters and research. In research, for example, one glaring mistake is the name of head of state of Pakistan! But that unfortunately is not the sole gaffe; there are several.

In Indian context, the writer’s research team seems unaware that the President in India is just a nominal head of state and has no real function! He can’t attend meetings of strategic importance, and has little political power; the real powers are vested in the Prime Minister and only he can take decision on alliances or military operations.

If we keep these irritants at bay, then also, the way the main character Logan Stone has been etched looks unidirectional. May be the intention was to show him as a man who has suffered a lot but he actually comes across as someone who is simply bored, which is oh-so-not like a military man. His romantic chemistry with his girlfriend and his tender moments with Erica actually harm the continuity of this story that explores a genre that requires lot of pace and energy. It is only when other characters like Lisa, Smythe, Jhen or Avery come into the picture that the novel actually looks bright. It could have been better had Stone’s tender moments with the daughter were cut to about half so that the story could have gotten that much needed pace in the middle. Stone’s dwelling on Amanda looks static after some time and his hesitation to take things forward with his girlfriend looks out of place. The length of the story does not do justice to the genre as Sci-fi has to be sleek and this in turn adds to monotony. A crisper editing would have raised it to the level of Clifford’s earlier work that I reviewed, Falestia, which had a far superior and taut structure.

But there are several illuminating points like characterization of supporting cast, action scenes and detailed imaginary that the writer has crafted when explaining scientific trysts. The end takes a reader by surprise and keeps reader hooked for the next book. All in all, it can be said that reading this book is like on a rollercoaster ride on a somewhat bumpy road.

(The review was done in exchange of a free copy and for http://www.bookpleasures.com)