Happy to make my debut in The Literary Yard.
‘The Anatomy of Scars’ by author Arjun Raj Gaind was my first read in The Himalayan Book Club in January 2021. At that time, I had received the Advance Review Copy( ARC) of the book, which was later self-published by the author on Amazon and available for free for a limited period on Kindle Unlimited. I also attended an online meeting with the author arranged by the Himalayan Book Club.
It was published with this cover. I’d written about it on this blog then.
Recently, the author has published a book called ‘The Anatomy of Loss’ with Bloomsbury. ( 28 July 2022)
The new book cover
Here’s my review of the ARC of ‘The Anatomy of Scars’, which I shared on Goodreads and Amazon in January 2021.
‘The Anatomy of Scars’ by Arjun Raj Gaind is the story of Himmat, whose nani ( maternal grandmother) is a Muslim married to a Sikh. The initial part of the story is set in 1984 when Indira Gandhi is assassinated. Himmat witnesses something his nana (grandfather) does that disillusions him.
The story highlights how the Sikhs were persecuted after Operation Blue Star. It also conveys the other side of the story. Nana says “In the future, a time will come when people will speak of 1984 dismissively and blame Bhindranwala and Mrs. Gandhi for what is happening here in Punjab, but they are not the ones to blame. It is us, puttar, you and I, the watchers and the talkers, sitting on our sofas and running away when it is time to stand up and fight for what is ours. We are the ones who have killed Punjab. We were given paradise, and we have turned it into jehannum.”
Several years later, Himmat moves to London to study, and the rest of the book details his experiences there. Himmat is a man searching for his identity. His sense of rootlessness is highlighted – “I wasn’t Indian anymore or Punjabi, or even Sikh. I was a nobody, a man without a country, without history, a refugee in the truest sense of the word. A refugee from my past, a refugee from myself.” In London, he becomes part of an anarchist group, who wanted a separate state of Khalistan. When Himmat meets the leader of the anarchist group, he thinks “And now he wanted me of all people, someone who had never believed in anything to become part of his stalwart band.” When he stands up for his Pakistani friend, he realises he does not want to be a part of the fringe group anymore.
The story also traces how different people are in search of their identities and their roots, be it Himmat or the character Kev-O that the author meets in London.
Himmat reflects, “London had changed me far too much. In the few short years that I had spent there, I had become a true émigré, an immigrant not of body, but of soul, of spirit, of self.”
The book examines stereotypes, gender and sexuality through a confessional tone. It also examines infatuation, falling in love, falling out of love, and explores the concept of manhood as defined by society. The story is about moving on, disappointment, disillusionment, and scars – Scars that nations inflict upon us, scars that history inflicts upon us, and scars that people inflict upon us.
The protagonist Himmat has led a chequered life replete with a spectrum of experiences from consuming drugs to being arrested. There are brief descriptions of self-harm and suicidal ideation.
Himmat tries so long to run away from the past but he realises that the only way to live in the present is to make peace with it and go back to his roots. He reflects on what it is to be a Punjabi and an Indian. The story is about brokenness and reclaiming the lost parts of one’s soul. It’s about releasing old memories and breaking free. It’s about hatred and forgiveness. The story highlights that sometimes one is a victim of circumstances and that every scar conceals a story. The characters leap off the page and the story deals with raw, visceral emotions.
The book is a bildungsroman, which is slated for an international release later this year.
Note: I received the ARC from The Himalayan Book Club. All opinions are honest and my own.
Spillwords.com presents: Mending A Broken Heart, a poem by Aishwariya Laxmi, an editor/blogger living in the outskirts of Chennai.
I’ve always loved pizzas! I remember back when I was in high school, my friend and I would go to this place called Cakes ‘N Bakes in Chennai and eat pizzas topped with mushrooms. I still remember the rich, cheesy, thick-crust pizzas with a layer of mozzarella cheese and topped with button mushrooms. I recall the smooth texture and light brown colour of the mushrooms, and I just feel like sinking my teeth into them again! The great thing about button-mushroom topped pizzas in Cakes n Bakes was that they would never have that non-veg flavour. I’ve eaten mushrooms at Benjarong – a Thai restaurant in Chennai and I found them non-veg flavoured.
When I was in college, my mom and I ordered lots of pizzas from Pizza Corner and Domino’s. In later years, we would order them from Pizza Hut. They were all thick-crust pizzas. But it was only much later (I can’t remember the year) that I first ate thin-crust pizzas and a fan was born! Since then, I have enjoyed my thin-crust pizzas although they have been few and far between.
Places in Chennai where I have enjoyed thin-crust pizzas include Bella Ciao and Café Pascucci. Here is a picture of a woodfire thin-crust pizza from Café Pascucci with baby corn topping.
Another pleasant pizza memory is eating a huge thin-crust pizza with friends on New Years’ Eve at a pizzeria in Bangalore. I think the name of the place was The Fat Chef.
My most memorable pizza however is the pizza I had at a roadside deli in Rome, Italy. My mom’s most memorable pizza-eating memory is at Pizza Hut in London. She says she was really hungry that day, so she enjoyed it a lot! What is your most memorable pizza-eating moment?
I’ve lived in Chennai since my childhood. I’ve briefly lived in Bangalore, Hyderabad, West Bengal, and Delhi, but I suppose Chennai is home although I now live 40 km away from the city.
I’m a proud Xennial and I’ve been in Chennai since it was ‘Madras.’ Although I may not be in touch with my friends from the days it was known as ‘Madras’, the memories will always remain. I’ve done most of my schooling and college in the fine institutions of this city. My dad has also lived here and his parents before him since 1942.
The city is known for a mix of its traditional values amidst modernity.
First Lines Friday is a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author, or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?
Here’s how it works!
- Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
- Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
- Finally… reveal the book!
This is the journey of my cultural memory. The five elements -ether, air, fire, water, and earth, known as ‘Panchabhutas’ – have always fascinated me. In Sanskrit, ‘pancha’ means five, and ‘bhutas’ are the natural elements. As I begin to delve deeper into the ancient texts, I found that each of these elements was related to one particular sense.
And the book is…
This is the book I plan to read next:) Have you read it? What are your impressions? Anything you’d like to share?
I recall getting one of my first autographed books in 2013. It was from Yasmeen Premji, the wife of billionaire Azim Premji. It was at the book launch event of her ‘Days of Gold and Sepia.’ That year, I would also get the autographed copy of ‘I’ll do it my way’ by Christina Daniels and ‘Men on my Mind’ by Radha Thomas. But I would foolishly (a few months later) lend these autographed copies to someone and never get them back.
After this incident, which still rankles, and several others where people I know have borrowed books, only to never return them or returned them in a damaged condition, I’ve become absolutely blunt (if necessary) with them that my books aren’t for lending. On rare occasions, I have deviated from this principle, but in general, I realize that people don’t value my books the way I do. And drawing boundaries with people is the only way I can have any kind of satisfactory friendship with someone.
Speaking of boundaries, I recently bought a copy of ‘Set boundaries, Find Peace’ by Nedra Glover Tawwab. I got this book recommendation from Melody Wilding’s newsletter. I have spoken about Melody Wilding before on my Instagram here. Nowadays, there is more awareness about HSPs or highly sensitive people. About 20% of the world’s population consists of HSPs. Coach Melody Wilding’s work will resonate strongly with you if you belong to this section of people. So do let me know via comments if any of what I said struck a chord. Ciao.
- I’m 71% through with ‘The Murder at Lemon Tree Grove: Iqra Investigates ( Aunty Millennial Book 1) by Andaleeb Wajid. I’ve been taking my time with this one ‘coz I’m simultaneously reading other books. I love the romance between Iqra and her husband Saad. Also, I find the book a light read so far.
- Out of the blue the other day, I received a copy of ‘Inferno’ by Dante Alighieri, so I read 25 pages of it.
- I bought and read my first ‘Hole’ book by Lesley Denise Biswas with illustrations by Anupama Ajinkya Apte. The story is about a grandma who has Alzheimer’s, and this serious topic is explained in such a way that little children can understand what it is. The book also shows us how in villages, sometimes people are labeled “mad” due to a poor understanding of mental health matters.
- I also read ‘A Christmas tail’ by Sudesna Ghosh on Kindle Unlimited. Engaging writing, cats, and nice people make for a short story that puts a smile on one’s face. I recommend it to cat lovers! Check out my interview with the author.
- I have a number of new books I’ve bought recently. Will get to them in due time and post about them after reading.
There’s so much to read; so little time! What have you been reading these days?
It’s 75 years since my country India won her independence from British rule. Today, on the eve of this momentous occasion, I went to my terrace and saw that almost every house had an Indian flag flying. It was a joy to behold. I wonder what tomorrow has in store.
I dream of a land
That works to nurture billions of aspirations, so grand
A country that’s pollution-free
With great infrastructure and a strong economy
Roads that are smooth with not a pothole in sight
And farmers who take flights
To commute from place to place
No such thing as lower castes who are being disgraced
Free-flowing, sparkling water for all and sundry
No chemical wastes or effluents dumped into estuaries
No bribes or corruption by politicians
Instead, more seva and missions
Be it to Mars or the neighboring country
Let’s not waste the taxpayer’s money
Let’s make sure something good
comes out of everything done
We have a country to run
Yes, it’s each one of us who the onus is on
(I first published a version of this poem on Sweek a few years ago.)
Some of the readers of my blog may be well acquainted with the band Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR). But when I was a student in Class 11, I listened to pop and soft rock numbers of the day, such as Bon Jovi, Bryan Adams, etc. I had not listened to the music of CCR and was not familiar with their song ‘Proud Mary.’
Some of the boys in my class (in other sections) played the electric guitar. For our inter-school cultural event, it was decided all of a sudden that a singer was required. As someone who had taken part in fashion shows, western dance, and other events for inter-school cultural events, (in the same unprepared manner) somehow, I was the one zeroed in on to sing ‘Proud Mary.
I was aware of the legendary status of CCR, and rather than back out of it, I went along with the suggestion to sing it, suggestive of a recklessness I was prone to in my adolescent years.
I listened to the song a few times and picked up the lyrics.
On the day of the event, I went up on stage in front of God-only-knows how many schools, and the band of boys on stage started their drums, guitar, etc. I belted out Proud Mary and suddenly, in the middle of the performance, the boy who was on the drums played with such vigor that the drumstick broke into two! It was only fitting that we had all decided beforehand that the name of the band was ‘Sad Scene Bad Scene!’
High school is a blur of such events – fashion shows, western dance, sports events, and other inter-school cultural events. We also went to Gudibanda, near Bangalore, on our Class 11 trip (from Chennai) and to Ooty in our Class 12.
Sitting at my desk and typing this out after two crazy years of the pandemic, I’m happy for the good memories.