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Book Review: Spirits in a Jar by Sarina Kamini

Food is an integral part of any culture. From birth till death, milestones in life are often marked with celebrations – and food forms an important part of these events. Relationships are built on food. It is also an inseparable string that binds one to their roots. Food can also be cathartic, and also a great anti-depressant.

A recently-released Bengali fantasy film is also based on the concept of food driving the basic emotions of a person. So, seven spices – after the colours of the rainbow – depicted the seven basic emotions in the film. ‘Spirits in a Jar’ by Sarina Kamini takes the thought to a much bigger scale.

As the blurb of the book says, “food is love, love is faith, and faith is family.” The book recounts the tale of an Indian-Australian woman coming to terms with her mother being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. She finds solace in food.

Her mother’s old cooking recipes help her heal her wounds and rediscover her Kashmiri roots. She wins over her grief and loneliness by seeking solace in spiritualism. The spices are her medium – she revisits the core beliefs of Hinduism and personalises God in her own way. In the process, she learns the value of acceptance and love.

While the book is predominantly about food, it also touches upon socio-political issues – like the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits. The author explores how this flight from one’s homeland bore an impact on several generations thereafter, and changed lives.

To her credit, the author has beautifully crafted the characters. Each of them are enamoured with layers and complexities of emotions – which makes it very easy for a reader to connect to them. The author has also established a complex web of emotions centred around the mother-daughter relationship. The juxtaposition of the protagonist’s relationship with her mother with that of her children gives us a glimpse into the generational shift in parenting as well.

Kashmiri food is delectable and the lovely recipes that this book has make one immensely crave for food. However, like the absence of a key spice makes a food bland, ‘Spirits in a Jar’ fails to connect with the reader beyond the food. At times it is tiring. Overall, the book serves a staple diet of rice-daal when you were expecting pulao.

My Rating: 3/5 stars

P.S. The review copy of the book was provided by Westland Books

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Book Review – The Fisher Queen’s Dynasty by Kavita Kané

There is a saying in Bengali, ‘jaa nei Bharate, ta nei Bharate’, meaning what does not find a mention in Mahabharata, does not exist in India. The biggest epic ever-written, the magnum opus tells us so many tales that every reading reveals an unexplored aspect. Mahabharata is more than just the dharma-yuddha of the Pandavas and Kauravas. There are characters galore, each with a back story that can become a novel in itself.

Kavita Kané, who is the bestselling author of ‘Karna’s Wife’, ‘Sita’s Sister’, ‘Menaka’s Choice’ and ‘Lanka’s Princess’ tells us the story of an enigmatic woman in ‘The Fisher Queen’s Dynasty’. Matsyagandha, Daseyi, Yojanagandha, Satyavati – we are introduced to the various identities of the lady who shaped the future of Bharatvarsha. Born a princess, she is denied her royal life, brought up by a fisherman and violated by a Rishi in her adolescence.

Hardened by the life of struggle, she decides she will marry a man only on her terms, and she succeeds. Satyavati becomes the queen of Hastinapur. Even as queen, she is ruthless; her political manoeuvres make her unpopular with many. Yet, she remains steadfast. She is now the matriarch who set the ball rolling for the scheme of things in Hastinapur to take shape.

On the other hand, we have Prince Devavrata, who took a vow of celibacy so that Satyavati marries King Shantanu. His great vow earned him the title of ‘Bhishma’. The rightful heir to the throne, Bhishma assumes the role of lifelong service of the king. Satyavati’s obstinacy and his stricture for astute morality change the history of the land forever.

Most accounts of Mahabharat till date, in print or TV, have mostly glossed over this phase of the Kuru dynasty. Characters like Satyavati have hardly got the attention, or interest, they deserved. Thanks to Kavita Kané, her challenges are now known to the readers. The riveting narration, solid writing and lucid and articulate language will surely arrest the interest of the readers.

The blend of facts with fiction is of the right proportion, thus ensuring the novel does not lose track. The imaginative re-invention of the characters we have all read about and seen on TV, makes you want to revisit the Mahabharata.

Overall, ‘The Fisher Queen’s Dynasty’ is a fascinating retelling of the woman, who rose from ranks of a mere fisherwoman, to be able to dictate the fate of a sub-continent. All, on her own terms. Satyavati could be an ideal for the women of contemporary India to emulate.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

P.S. The review copy of the book was provided by Westland Books

DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights

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