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Posts from — November 2012

Book Review: Roll of Honour by Amandeep Sandhu

Title: Roll of Honour
Author: Amandeep Sandhu
Paperback: 252 pages
Publisher: Rupa Publications (October 16, 2012)
Genre: Historic Novel
Read: Paperback
Stars: ****/5
Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart
Summary: (Amazon)
An honest and moving story about life in a military school, in the days of the Khalistan movement.
1984. Operation Blue Star has just ended and the Indian Army is arresting and killing innocent Sikhs. Appu is back at military school in Jassabad, Punjab, for his final year. He looks forward to three things: being class in-charge, passing out, and securing a place in the National Defence Academy.
Then ex-student Balraj, now a Khalistani militant on the run, takes refuge on campus and the violence outside comes to school. Some of the seniors decide to help Balraj, the decision splits the school along sectarian lines, and students are forced to take sides. There is rampant bullying sodomy being the preferred tool of domination and long-time friends find themselves on opposing sides. As the situation spirals out of control, Appu, who wants nothing more than to live his dreams, is forced to make the impossible choice between community and nation.

My Review:

Note: Thanks to Amandeep Sandhu for offering me his book to review 🙂

Cover: Eye-Treat! I loved the cover. The colours are a treat to the eyes just like the texture is to the fingers.

Paper and font: Smell-Worthy! I don’t like most Indian prints these days. But this book had good paper quality and font size.

Readability, language: Easy on the eye and mind. Has strong language but fits the story.

My parents say as a toddler I called Indira Gandhi my mother. I ran around the house shouting ‘mummy is on TV’. As I grew up I got to know more about her; I admired the woman who stood out in a man’s world. She took on men and won. Then I got to know about Operation Blue Star and how it killed her. I read about it but reading can only tell you so much.

Then a few years ago I travelled to Amritsar and went to the Golden Temple. The marks of the destruction caused by Blue Star in 1984 are still there. I spoke to people who had lived through Operation Blue Star and its aftermath. I don’t say that I stopped admiring Indira Gandhi but I did start to think this was a mistake and a big one.

A couple of weeks ago when A. Sandhu got on touch with me about his book, I saw an opportunity to understand 1984 better and the book was just that. An insight into what the youth went through after 1984.

This is a story about life in the residential military schools of Punjab. Appu tells the story of how life changed after Blue Star. The clear sudden divide between Sikhs and Hindus. The animosity,  patriotism and religious zeal driving the people and friends apart.

Appu is a boy in the 12th standard aspiring to join the NDA. He is a teenager questioning authority, his sexuality, religion, relationships, patriotism, the army, humanity and everything else in his life. Then in 1984 new questions arise and answers change as Appu finds his way through school and life in the shadow of Operation Blue Star.

The story is narrated by Appu as he goes down memory lane and writes his story. In between the past we get glimpses of Appu’s current life as he writes the book. The to and fro isn’t tedious and fits together well to portray the whole picture. There is quite a lot of strong language and sexual material in the book but it adds to the story though I’m not sure if this book is a good read for young age groups. 🙂

Reading Roll of Honour gave me an insight into the lives of Sikhs after 1984. After partition this was the next big religious event that I was too young and too far geographically to remember, this book helped me understand the people of Punjab better. I’d definitely recommend this book if these kind of stories are your thing. 🙂

Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart

November 27, 2012   3 Comments

Blatant Plagarism on Facebook and What To Do About It

I had intended to write a review yesterday but I was really upset. My day started with seeing a message from a friend about Chenthil’s photos being plagiarised.

There’s this guy Ajit Degaonkar who has stolen photos from Chenthil’s Photography page and posted it on his page claiming they are his. He hasn’t limited himself to Chenthil’s photos but copied from other photographers like Audi Photography too. So, I did the obvious thing – reported his page, profile and even the photos. Then since Facebook is so slow on response, I enlisted help. I made a post on my profile about what had happened and asked my friends to report him too. I was hoping that the large number of reports would cause Facebook to take action.  However  Facebook did nothing. Here’s their response (my friends got similar responses) –

Since Facebook is Facebook and nothing is simple with them I did some reading on what I can do about this blatant plagiarism. I didn’t find anything online about what I can do. No one seems to have written on this topic so I went to look at what Facebook would allow me to do.

Facebook allows the creator of the content to report the plagiarised content to them as their intellectual property. This means that if you see someone’s work being misused you can’t do anything much about it, only the creator can. This sucks but it is so. Since this was Chenthil’s work and I have access to his account here is how I reported it.

1. Click on the little X at the right top corner of the post. Then click on the Report/Mark as Spam option.

2. You will now see the below message. Now click on the Report link.

3. This will cause the below pop-up. Click on the link at the bottom that reads “Is this your intellectual property?”.

4. You will be taken to this page.

5. You can read about Intellectual Property here. You can also read more about Copyright and access the reporting form here.

6. If the photo is of you or of a minor below 13 you can report the privacy violation here. Read more about Image Privacy Rights.

I have reported the photos on the copyright form for now. Lets see what Facebook does about it. Will keep you posted.

***[Update: It took almost 24 hours but the page and his profile have been pulled down by Facebook. My report saw no action from Facebook as you will see above, so I’m assuming they didn’t take action on all my friends reports either. However it seems that a copyright infringement report and privacy violation report along with over a score of complaints from different people did the trick. Thanks to everyone who helped Che and me make this happen 🙂 ]

Finally here are screenshots of the copy cat.

On the left is the photo Chenthil took of my fractured finger in March this year. On the right is the copied photo with a photoshop job done on the date and place details.

Below is Chenthil’s album on the fire-cracker workers in Sivakasi.

This is the copied album.

Is there anything else I can do about this? Any other actions I can take against this guy? Please let me know in comments.

November 9, 2012   4 Comments

Book Review: Asura by Anand Neelakantan

Title: Asura – Tale of the Vanquished
Author: Anand Neelakantan
Paperback: 504 pages
Publisher: Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd (May 14, 2012)
Genre: Mythology
Read: Paperback
Stars: ****/5
Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart
Summary: (Amazon)
The epic tale of victory and defeat… The story of the Ramayana had been told innumerable times. The enthralling story of Rama, the incarnation of God, who slew Ravana, the evil demon of darkness, is known to every Indian. And in the pages of history, as always, it is the version told by the victors, that lives on. The voice of the vanquished remains lost in silence. But what if Ravana and his people had a different story to tell? The story of the Ravanayana had never been told. Asura is the epic tale of the vanquished Asura people, a story that has been cherished by the oppressed outcastes of India for 3000 years. Until now, no Asura has dared to tell the tale. But perhaps the time has come for the dead and the defeated to speak.

My Review:

I was born a Muslim, that meant that my Grandmothers bedtime stories weren’t the traditional stories of Indian Kings and Queens. Hence my first taste of the Ramayana was Ramanand Sagar’s version on TV every Sunday morning. In our house Sunday was a big day. I have always loved stories and the Ramayana was beautiful especially after Mr. Sagar got his say in it. It was a rule at home that the TV was switched on only after bath and breakfast. So Sunday was the one day we woke up early without being constantly told to wake up, we got ready in record time and literally gulped our breakfast down.

I enjoyed the epic and didn’t miss it but even at that young age it left me feeling indignant about how women of all classes were treated. Even Sita the Queen didn’t escape the male dominated chauvinistic society. I had questions, so many questions that no one had answers to. Ravana and Lanka were depicted as evil yet Lanka was the city of gold, prosperous and the people were happy. How then was Ravana a bad King and evil?

As I grew up I learned about the different versions of the Ramayan. Versions where Rama was not the hero, he wasn’t a god but a man – that made sense considering the mistakes he made. Then while visiting a friend in Pune I came across Asura which was Ravana’s side of the story and I picked it up.

Asura was a good read, at some places I did wish it would move faster but I still enjoyed reading it. I finally had answers to some of my questions. The story is told by Ravana and Badra who is a common man playing various roles in Ravana life – he is a part of the army, Ravana’s servant and a lower class commoner.

The Ramayana from Ravana’s view point is refreshing. No man is good or evil, it is the situation that makes him so. This becomes clear through the book. Ravana considers himself a man, he doesn’t want to be god. That means that he has plus points to his character but he has the minuses too. He makes mistakes just like any man.

Neelakntan’s Asura finally answers and fills in the gaps in the Ramayana. This is a book to read to get a different perspective to the grand epic we all grew up with.

Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart

November 7, 2012   1 Comment

Book Review: Tendrils of Life by Owen Choi

Title: Tendrils of Life
Author: Owen Choi
Paperback: 426 pages
Publisher: Princeton Falcon Press (July 26, 2012)
Genre: Historic Novel
Read: eBook
Stars: ****/5
Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart
Summary: (Amazon)
Acute food shortages and lawlessness plague communist occupied Seoul at the start of the Korean War in 1950, and Jimin, a 16-year-old boy, seeks a way to return to a remote island in the South Sea of Korea which he had left five years earlier. But only his father, who is absent from home, knows the way.
Meanwhile, tragedy strikes, brought on by his adversary Sinman, who belongs to a powerful clan hostile toward Jimin’s family. On his way south with his little sister to find his father, Jimin meets Sora and their relationship blooms. But Jimin is compelled to continue his journey, and the two separate.
The war sweeps across the country many times, first with a North Korean invasion, then with a counterattack by UN forces, then with Chinese interference. Through the turmoil, Jimin and Sora venture into war-ravaged and guerrilla-infested areas.
It is a story of love and hope, greed and revenge, strife between families, and the quest for survival in the turmoil of war. A depiction of resilience of the human spirit.
Tendrils of Life is a rich and intriguing novel, interwoven with personal narratives that are real and alive against the backdrop of the Korean War.

My Review:

Note: Thanks to Owen Choi for offering me his book to review 🙂

This is the story Jimin, a boy who is trying to survive the war in Korea. Jimin’s family used to live on a little island where they were content but his father brings them back to the mainland before going away to join the war. After he leaves, Jimin and his sister Misern lose their mother. As she is dying she tells them she will meet them again on the island and there starts their search for their father who is the only one who knows the way back to the island.

Tendrils of Life is about all those lives that touch ours and change it. Every person whether just passing or staying for a while in our lives makes an impact and it’s repercussions are felt forever.

The book has a lot of characters, each adding to the Jimin’s journey. His sister Misern who Jimin loves but sometimes finds a burden. Sora the girl he has loved for a long time from a distance. Sinman his half-brother and rival. His father with whom he has a love-hate relationship. And many others who become a part of his life as he travels across Korea growing up from a boy to a man. Their lives intertwine with his as he tries to make his way to Iodo, the utopian island.

I have always liked history after all I love stories and history is just that. But textbooks and the news are not great sources of stories so I don’t know much of recent history. I knew there was a war in Korea but nothing beyond that. This was was an insight into the war and what common people went though during it.

I enjoyed the book but considering the pain and trauma the war brings to Jimin and Misern I not sure if ‘enjoyed’ is the right word. I cheered the siblings along their journey, felt anxiety in their separation, pain when they got hurt, anger at those who brought so much trauma to a country of peaceful people. I felt for Korea, I felt for all those people who get stuck in wars they didn’t start or ever wanted.

This book is a must read if you want to experience the war in Korea and understand it’s people – how they think and feel, what they have experienced and been through. Choi explores ideas, questions beliefs, and brings out the strength of the human spirit in Tendrils of Life.

Buy On: Amazon | FlipKart

November 5, 2012   1 Comment