January-February 2013 For limited circulation A JustBooks Publication
Volume 4 Issue 1 www.justbooksclc.com blog.justbooksclc.com
A Feast of Festivals Page 5 Book Review
Page 6 Author Profile
Page 12 Just Kids Pushpa Achanta
ntil 2012, Bangalore had no literary festival or event that brought together book lovers and famous authors. Now, those who love the written, spoken and printed word can state that the Silicon City has had two successful ‘biblio’ fiestas in the same year. But, each of the fests had its distinct characteristics although a few of the writers who participated, and some of the formal discussions on offer, were common to both. Lekhana, held at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Bangalore between 10th and 12th February 2012, had no visible sponsors other than those who co-organised it. In contrast, the Bangalore Literature Festival hosted in December 2012, on the lavish lawns of the Jayamahal Palace (now a heritage hotel) was supported by booksellers, distributors, litterateurs and others who deal with publishing, apart from private corporations that had little to do with the world of books and authors. This might have been one of the factors that enabled the presence of much sought after writers, such as Gulzar, Kavery
Nambisan, Pavan K Varma and publishers and editors like Karthika V K of HarperCollins India. Is commerce stifling creativity? So, would it have been possible for the Bangalore Literature Festival to host the likes of Shehan Karunatilaka, Shobhaa De or Chetan Bhagat without the involvement of organisations that could provide sufficient funds? While it is important that necessary financial support is available, especially to attract established or ‘celebrity’ authors who draw in the public, one wonders if literary events are becoming more about famous names and numbers (that are associated with organising costs and quantum of participants). This also brings up the question as to how much of an impact finance can have in the acceptability of a book or its author. It is well known that economics plays a major role in dictating various aspects of a book such as its length, cover, title, presentation format, layout, et al, in addition to the author, genre and storyline. In fact, whether it is digital or in print and marketed over the Internet or not,
a book’s success is often estimated in terms of the saleability of the writer and the theme rather than the interest or criticism it generates. Small wonder that during an insightful session, ‘The Business of Books’ held during the Literature Festival, Karthika from HarperCollins referred to books as ‘products’, albeit with a bit of hesitation. She also let out an “open secret” on a common strategy adopted by publishers: that a lot of effort is invested in the promotion and publication of a book when it creates a controversy. This is because such a book is likely to be sold more. People who are intrigued by the subject and are fans of its author will surely buy a copy. Those who want to extend their support to the writer will also buy one.
Continued on Page 2
From the Editor’s Desk
very happy new year to all our readers. We at JustBooks have another reason to celebrate — we now have 60 branches spread across 10 cities in India, with about 7 lakh books across different categories to which all the members of JustBooks have access irrespective of which branch you belong to. We remain in pursuit of our goal — Get every book a reader and get every reader his/her book. To this end, we look forward to your support and encouragement this year. A new year means new books and new writers to look forward to, what more could a reader want! Let us not forget to add the literary festivals and book fairs to the list. Just in the last month (of 2012) we had Goa Arts and Literary Festival, the Frankfurt Book Fair, TOI Literary Carnival in Mumbai, and the first literary festival of Bangalore, Bangalore Literature Festival. This month we have Lekhana — Bangalore’s Literary Weekend and the mother of all literary festivals the Jaipur Literature Festival coming up. Many towns in India are starting their own literary festivals, which are becoming a great networking event for people interested in reading and writing. Hope that these festivals will help literature and the publishing world in the longer run. To find out more about such festivals, read our lead feature “A Feast of Festivals”. We had an interesting conversation with a graphic novelist, Pratheek Thomas of Manta Ray, who pointed out the differences between a comic and graphic novel. We share it with you and more in his interview “Not Just Dark Comics”. It is heartening to receive contributions — poems, stories and reviews — from our young readers. Keep them coming as we stay committed to encouraging reading and writing amongst the young. Last but not the least, the latest edition of our bi-monthly magazine Books & More is out. It’s available in all the JustBooks outlets, so do pick a copy when you visit your library next. Don’t forget to send your contributions and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy reading.
January-February 2013 Continued from page 1 But there are also those buyers who are curious to know the contents of a controversial book. Of course, all this is possible only after all stakeholders ascertain that there are no legal implications of such actions although there are instances of readers, writers and publishers who will ensure the circulation of ‘blacklisted’ tomes nevertheless. Does this imply that one should try to write something contentious to create a stir, become famous, and make a profit? Or, that authors and publishers should produce books that can become bestsellers or win one or more awards, or both? If any of these were true, there is a chance that certain aspects of writing such as creative expression and individual style — which are the essences of any book — would not be as important as the plot or theme. Tales from Life Fortunately, emerging or reputed writers write imaginatively about their own experiences and memories or that of persons that they encounter without worrying about commerce or controversy. “I have written based on what I remember of the events that occurred in my life and that of others. But one must also explore either the existence or lack of understanding or communication between people,” observed Manju Kapur, professor of English literature at Miranda House, New Delhi and Commonwealth prize winning author of the critically acclaimed Difficult Daughters, Custody and other fictional works. She was one of the participants in a captivating conversation: “Experience, Memory and Stories”, held
in the afternoon of day two of the literature fiesta. Anita Nair who has penned novels like Ladies Coupe, The Better Man and several travelogues and plays, revealed, “While I was writing my tome, Mistress, that features Kathakali, I decided that I would derive from the experiences of dancers rather than my own thoughts and the little that I knew or remembered. Initially, people were reluctant to share their stories. But when they started talking, they wanted to continue revealing a number of incidents. And my ability to extract details also helped!” Dictates of the External Talking on the second evening of the event about ‘Literature in the Twitter Era’, about an era which is considered a period of brevity and impatience, Harish Bijoor, a newspaper columnist and brand consultant, threw up the term ‘twitterature’, that is, “literature in 140 characters”. He read out a couple of tweets to demonstrate how one can convey meaningful ideas in a concise manner. “Tools like Twitter can act as a supplement to literature which cannot ignore the demands of the electronic age,” Bijoor remarked. Truisms, eh? So, another leap year has come to an end but that hardly seems to matter to those who love the world of letters or characters! Jaipur will follow the recently concluded literature fest in Goa and then it will be Hyderabad after which Bengaluru will see the next offering of Lekhana. Not content with book fairs, all these places have at least one lit fest. Or two. Is anyone complaining?
Tell Me a Story
The Buddha in the Attic
Pan Macmillan India
Penguin Fig Tree
ell Me a Story reflects the joys and sorrows of ordinary people. It is insightful and thoughtprovoking without sinking into melancholy. Delicate and evocative, it is also about the importance of stories, and why people need them. It also reminds us of the fragility and fleeting nature of human ties. Rupa Bajwa has honed the skill of weaving remarkable tales of ordinary Indians and their simple lives. Her first novel, The Sari Shop, 2004, received widespread acclaim and was longlisted for the prestigious Orange Prize. Tell Me a Story comes after an eight-year hiatus and is well worth the long wait.
ulie Otsuka walks the readers through the tragic yet tenacious world of Japanese boat women who came in search of the American dream, only to see their dreams being crushed under the burden of daily drudgery. Itâ€™s a poignant narrative of a sordid chapter of US history. The world is divided between us and them; between the disempowered and the powerful; between the servile and the oppressors. And what better way to tell a story about dispossession, migration, transition and struggle, than to assume not one voice, but many? The Buddha in the Attic is not just about one kind of dislocation, but many, encompassing the spiritual, geographical and personal.
Tales through many eyes
Sensitive Storytelling Origins of Love By Kishwar Desai Simon & Schuster Reshmi Chakraborty
he protagonist of Origins of Love, Simran Singh, is a social worker by profession who is scared of flying and of giving birth. As we start getting familiar with Simran’s world, we realize that this 40-something isn’t your run-ofthe-mill heroine. The story establishes other characters, chief among them being Kate and Ben, a couple in London who are desperate for a baby. We then meet Dr Subhash Pandey, who runs the state of the art Madonna & Child Clinic in the outskirts of Delhi, along with his savvy wife Anita and get a peek into the proceedings of his clinic, which specializes in surrogacy. There is a fair amount of demand for surrogates, especially from Westerners, and Dr Pandey has 12 couples in his list already. Most of the surrogates come from poor backgrounds, using surrogacy as a way to make money. They need to be made presentable for the parents, especially Westerners, many of whom want college degrees and a lighter complexion as they think it matters to their baby. To keep them healthy and maintain the standards the commissioning parents expect, the surrogates stay in Dr Pandey’s clinic for nine carefully monitored months. Desai brilliantly brings in subtle sarcasm here. As Dr Pandey inspects two potential surrogates, he thinks of putting up their photoshopped pictures on the site to appeal to his rich clientele. The main plot point takes off with the seizure of a can of embryos at the Mumbai airport. As Dr Anita Pandey and Simran delve into the reason behind the seizure, it slowly becomes clear that there is a bigger nexus at work here, with a Mumbai hospital working on procedures that are aimed at keeping the rich eternally youthful looking.
In the middle of all this is the heartrending case of little Amelia, a child born through surrogacy who is discovered to be HIV positive and abandoned. As Simran travels to London to unravel the mystery behind Amelia’s fatal illness, she meets the handsome Edward, a sperm donor. To say more would be to add significant spoilers!
esai’s supporting cast of characters, like Kate and Ben and sub inspector Diwan Nath Mehta and his wife Malti, act as both catalysts and conclusive acts in the story. She uses a back and forth storytelling technique to give an overview of events as they happen in the lives of her various characters. While in some cases this device can work very well, for me it created a sense of confusion in this book. Probably because of the number of characters and their own little stories. While most are interesting enough, they crowd the novel, leaving you a very little scope to empathise with the main protagonists and their issues. Desai’s extensive research is clear and brings a very serious issue to light in form of fiction. She has exposed many aspects of the surrogacy industry where several ethical issues are laid aside in order to provide infants to wealthy couples. The dark side of surrogacy is also looked into with women who end up having repeat pregnancies to make more money or are forced into surrogacy by a family member ready to take the money she receives. However, what gets lost in the story are the surrogate mothers themselves. While Desai spends a considerable time describing the emotional and psychological trauma Kate, who is unable to bear children,
is going through, she doesn’t really give us an insight into the surrogate for whom it’s probably a battle of unsure gains. Then again, there is a lot in this book already, starting with Desai’s foray into the murky world of not just surrogacy but also medical tourism. Origins of Love can be called a thriller, a romance and even a satire at certain levels. With so many ingredients, it takes a very skilled writer to hold it all together and that’s where I felt Desai falter. Some of her plot developments, like Ben’s desire to find his grandfather’s Indian ‘family’, seem unnecessary and do not add anything to the tale, while her writing varies from time to time, fast paced and to the point at times but long drawn and stilted elsewhere. The characters also failed to draw me in. Simran Singh makes a very compelling heroine and lives a life that rings far truer than that of any chic lit heroine. The concerns of Dr Subhash and Dr Anita Pandey about their clinic are extremely real but the characters do not seem so. Still, Desai should be lauded for picking up an issue few have worked with and delving deep enough into it to give us a fairly true picture.
January-February 2013 Almost absorbing
Romancing History Okei By Mitsugu Saotome Translated by Kenneth J Bryson Alma Books Anindita Sengupta
ritten by Kanegae Hideyoshi, whose pen name is Mitsugu Saotome, the book chronicles warfare in Japan in the late 19th century, at the point where the Shogunate rule ended and the Meiji era began. As the power of the Shoguns wanes, the ‘western forces’ are marching across the country, defeating domains that supported them. The mountainous region of Aizu-Wakamatsu is in danger because it has long been perceived as a supporter of the Shogunate. A young girl called Okei is caught up in the tumult of war and has to flee Japan to begin anew in the New World. This should have made for a fascinating book but, somehow, it doesn’t. Through the book, the authorial voice shifts between description of the event and explanation of every painstaking thought that passes through the poor characters’ heads. This makes it difficult to get caught up in the action and when the themes are as emotional as war, death, suicide, love and exile, one wants to feel a little caught up. If ever a case should be made for “show, don’t tell”, it is here. According to a review of the book at 1stbookreview.com, Hideyoshi was born in Harbin, China, in 1926, and wrote war novels covering the period from 1868 to 1912. In 1968, he was awarded the prestigious Naoki Prize for his novel Kyojin No Ori (The Cage Of The Traveller) and in 2006, he was elected chairman of the Japanese PEN. Apparently, his novels are very popular in Japan. His interest in Japanese historical fiction comes from the fact that he is a descendant of a Samurai of the Aizu-Wakamatsu domain. This seems to be the only book that has been translated into English so there’s not much to go on in terms of his body of
work. But this particular novel proved difficult to finish. Its epic scale demands a certain degree of absorption and — perhaps it was a bad translation — but for more than 500 pages, I struggled to be drawn in.
kei is the daughter of a poor cooper, a strange mix of innocence and street smarts. Her great love in the book really amounts to little more than a crush. She falls for Sasunama Kingo, a Samurai warrior who dies soon after in the war. She spends the rest of the book pining for him. Their interactions are limited to her watching him from afar and one fumbled, interrupted sexual encounter that Okei abandons when she feels that the drunk Kingo is muttering another woman’s name. While she seems naive on this front, especially compared to the other female characters, she is worldly-wise in some surprising ways. She gets around on her own with great alacrity, travelling miles in wartime to look after her former employer, Matsuno, who has just delivered a baby. She is protective of her family and stays behind in Aizu when war breaks out so they can leave early. These contradictions give some insight into a fascinating chapter in Japanese history and the sort of independence young girls of the working class had to display. Courage is a quality that Okei sorely needs and she has plenty of it. Kingo, meanwhile, is in love with a Samurai widow Yukiko with whom he spends one night. This is supposed to be laden with tragic feeling, the pang of forbidden love. It comes across as curiously preachy though; there is lots of explanation of how Okei accepts her lower class status, and a couple of overdone lovemaking scenes. After a point, Okei’s in-
nocence is grating especially because her character is supposed to “show up” Matsuno’s wanton ways in sharp relief. The admonitions about women who do not follow their codes of honour get tiresome. In matters of romance, Okei remains a child until the end of the book and this begins to feel a bit irritating. One wishes for growth of some kind especially because the book has been described as a romance novel. Her hopeless passivity at the end is in keeping with this lack of movement. Yet this passivity is oddly in contrast with the courage she displays under other circumstances. The book is not without its redeeming points. The times have been sketched moderately well. There are some dramatic descriptions of skirmishes, a sense of the bloodshed and chaos although one is not invested enough in the secondary characters to care much about their deaths. There is some information about the Samurai code and how their women are expected to behave. Later, after Okei escapes to America, life there is also described in detail. The epic scale of the novel makes up for some of its flaws because, willy-nilly, one gets a glimpse into a certain, rather interesting point in world history.
Connect Author Profile
an Brown has done what many writers dream of doing — he has become a household name, as popular as a rock star, a cult figure in his own right with societies and websites dedicated to predicting and unraveling his books. It is interesting that for the longest time Brown did not know he would be a writer, let alone one that achieves this level of literary stardom. Born in 1964 in New Hampshire to a mathematician father and a musician mother, Brown graduated from Phillips Exeter Academy and Amherst College. After college, he moved to California to pursue a career as songwriter, pianist, and singer. It was during this time that he met Blythe, who was director of artistic development at the National Academy of Songwriters in Los Angeles. Some say that she was instrumental in helping him kick-start his musical career. He met with a modicum of success, producing four CDs. But in 1993, he decided to give up, returned to New Hampshire and started teaching English at his old school. Blythe returned with him. The two were married soon after. He wrote his first book with her in 1995, a light-hearted self-help book called 187 Men to Avoid: A Guide for the Romantically Frustrated W o m a n . Blythe encouraged him to keep at it and in 1998, he published his first thriller,
Digital Fortress, a competent thriller that involves codes and conspiracies but has more to do with computers than art. It was in 2000 that he first boiled together his interest in art history with his propensity for thrills and it resulted in Angels & Demons. His next book, Deception Point (2001), dealt with space policy and scientific trickery. Of these, Angels & Demons met with moderate success, but nothing that prepared Brown for what was to follow. Publisher Doubleday took on The Da Vinci Code (2003) and was so sold on the concept that they sent out 10,000 advance copies to critics and booksellers. Bookseller response was so strong that Doubleday shipped 2,30,000 copies, timed to be released on March 18, 2003. It was No. 1 on the Times hard-cover fiction bestseller list in its first week, featured on bestseller lists worldwide and became a runaway success. Its success helped push sales of Brown’s earlier books. Brown had gone from being an obscure author to being a star. The Lost Symbol, his latest novel which is the sequel to The Da Vinci Code, came out in 2009.
an Brown’s books revolve around secret societies, global conspiracies, codes and symbols. A gripping plot and hectic pace power the books and lead many to overlook the stylistic slackness. Brown’s prose is largely formulaic and even grammatically incorrect in places. He frequently uses occupational nouns as pronouns (Physicist Leonardo Vetra, Renowned curator Jacques Sauniere), something that is considered more fit for newspaper reports or obituaries. Much of his language is ridden with clichés and for a reader sensitive to such things, getting
through one of his novels can prove difficult. But if you can blank out the critical part of the mind that tunes in to such errors and simply consume the novels much as you would consume a hamburger, say, or an 80s Bollywood movie, there is pleasure to be got here. Thrillers are not always expected to meet the strict requirements of literary fiction and elements like pace, suspense and excitement are given precedence over linguistic flair. On these counts, Brown delivers. He packs more punch than a Sheldon because his novels are set in more interesting worlds: The Catholic church with all its attendant aura of intrigue, NASA, the military, Opus Dei and the freemasons. The use of codes also makes them more interesting than the usual cops-and-robbers chase. Brown is able to weaves these elements together skillfully enough. Brown is reputed to be a disciplined writer. According to his personal website, he starts writing at four in the morning each day and does sit-ups, stretches and push-ups every hour to refresh himself. Rather more amusing is the claim that he wears gravity boots and hangs upside down when he feels at a loss. “Hanging upside down seems to help me solve plot challenges by shifting my entire perspective,” he says. Brown has faced some criticism from theologians and historians for his depiction of an alternate history of Christianity. They have been concerned that people will actually believe the version of events presented in The Da Vinci Code but others have dismissed such worries saying that readers should be able to distinguish between fantasy fiction and history. Brown has made no claim that his books are based on facts.
January-February 2013 Biography of a Sportsman
Bodyline Basics Harold Larwood By Duncan Hamilton Quercus Books Krishna Kumar
arold Larwood — one of the fastest bowlers of all time and trigger to Bodyline, the most legendary of cricketing controversies — is a story that could be captured in gratuitous romance and soft-jingoism. A shy pitman from an English coal mining town becomes the fastest bowler in the world, the antagonist who defines the controversial 193233 Ashes series and then, at the peak of his brilliance, slips to become a reviled outcast. It’s the everyday story of man against odds, class struggles, integrity, honour and disenchantment. Duncan Hamilton builds this biography with perceptiveness and traces Larwood’s
insecurities, beliefs, influences and puts the pieces together to ratify his response to his dark hour. “Whenever I see fast bowlers now, they’re all driving cars everywhere. No one uses shoe leather anymore,” Larwood says while reminiscing his early years as a cricketer. These are portions that set up the story, treading the streets of Nottingham with this babyfaced rookie who would become “poetry to watch, murder to play”. They establish Larwood as a working-class hero, one of the miners’ own. The pitman’s transition to athlete is powered by Jimmy Iremonger, the persuasive Nottinghamshire coach who “put the devil into his delivery”. Iremonger could identify the strength Larwood got from working the mines — a strong back — and tap into it while shaping his rhythmic, carpet-slippered bowling approach. There are insights into Larwood’s attitudes towards what he thought was a heavily batsman-friendly game. He would, still, slog on; a workhorse who, at the end of long spells, ended up with soles so black as if he had just emerged from one of his old coal pits. Larwood’s disenchantment, the “black disillusionment” that Bodyline brought him and led him to live as a recluse, makes this a fascinating story. Somewhere buried in the tales of brutal, break-neck pace and a lonely old man who runs a sweet shop in Australia, a country that once hated him, is the story of a wronged hero. It’s a story that had to be told with discernment, without flash. Hamilton does it with a poise that’s scarce in this age. Hamilton distinguishes Larwood’s work ethics from the others’ by tracing his impoverished yet disciplined upbringing and the influences he
carried over from a deeply religious father into the relationship he had with the father-figures of Iremonger, Arthur Carr and Douglas Jardine (his Nottinghamshire and England captains). The picture of a devoted family man (Larwood was married to Lois Bird for almost 68 years, with five daughters) also comes through. With Iremonger, who also had a mining community background, the attitudes were, at many levels, shared. It’s the work ethics, this constant need for reassurance from a suave, powerful ‘master’, the dedication to his craft and an uncomplicated approach to it (cricket was a plain “job of work” for him) that stand in contrast with the man whom the Australians once perceived as an angry, violent bully in the ill-famed series (a slant also fuelled by Bodyline, the TV mini-series produced in Australia). The portions that lead to Larwood’s duel with Sir Don Bradman have some broad-strokes that try to decrypt the legendary Australian as an icy, scheming run-machine who probably ticked off his big scores on a mental notepad. The book delves into the desire to beat Bradman, shared by Larwood and his captain Jardine. The leg theory that would become Bodyline — the ‘ignoble’ strategy to bowl a quick and short leg-side line with fielders waiting to pouch the deflection — soon found its critics. Hamilton revisits Larwood’s delivery that hit Bill Woodfull’s chest and tore his skin and the one that struck Bill Oldfield on his forehead to track how time and subsequent reportage had, at some levels unfairly, plunked Larwood into a heap of hate. For Larwood, who firmly believed his talent was vapid and fluky, the eventual retreat from the limelight was, perhaps, a given. Hamilton rejects the biographer’s familiar need to get teary on this retreat and, instead, trails Larwood’s wobbly steps into his final years like a detached, yet appreciative, fellow walker. The book also lends a throwback to a simple, unhurried cricketing era that looks almost other-worldly now. An era of captains who sneak a beer in for his strike bowler to get charged enough. The extensively researched book has an absorbing narrative and Hamilton’s language has a flourish and clarity that effectively capture the essence of his elusive leading man.
Dr Kurien’s Milk Revolution I Too Had A Dream by Verghese Kurien as told to Gouri Salvi Roli Books
Too Had A Dream, a biography of India’s Milk Man Dr Verghese Kurien, makes for a great reading. The book is written by Gouri Salvi, a Mumbai-based freelance journalist. The book traces the evolution of the milk sector in India — how India used to import milk and milk products and is today not only self-sufficient but also an exporter of a variety of dairy products. Dr Kurien has narrated the story of the
conception and growth of Anand and the AMUL brand with great patience, giving importance to the minutest of details that a reader can almost visualise the unraveling of events. The book also traces the difficulties one faces in life when one has to execute a unique and novel idea, the setbacks, the colonial subjugation, the red-tapism, the bureaucracy and, above all, the antagonism from many. Dr Kurien’s visions, self belief, uncompromising stance on values, being unfazed at criticism and peoples’ doubts stand out in this book. The life and work of this great person is worth every In-
dian’s admiration and emulation. For most of us who often believe things don’t happen in India, Kurien’s life shows how anything can be achieved in India. Never one to mince words, he has revealed in entire authenticity the trials and tribulations in his endeavors and the interactions that he has had with many political bigwigs and national leaders. He has shown to all the Indians what true patriotism is all about and to what extent one can go to touch and evolve peoples’ lives. The book is a must read for our country’s youth and for all the people who admire this great man. The beauty of the book lies both in the manner in which the protagonist of the book has tried to recall from his memory the minutest of details entailed in the formation and growth of the AMUL industry, and also in the manner in which the author has lucidly narrated the same. Though the book for the most part deals with the setting up and working of the co-operative system, the narration of the subject is not dreary or boring. In the course of his career Dr Kurien has interacted with luminaries like Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Indira Gandhi, J.R.D Tata and many others. The readers tend to get a peek into their personalities too. Incidents narrating the decision taken to name the Kaira Milk Co-operative Society as AMUL, the advertisement campaign of the same, the coining of the byline, ‘utterly butterly delicious’ and the launch of the cute little girl as the face of AMUL make for very interesting reading. Dr Kurien has dedicated his biography to his grandson. It is a book for people of all ages, especially for the youth who are in the process of conceptualizing their dreams. The work of this great man as mirrored in this book will definitely instill them with confidence to work on their dreams. For those who dare to dream, there is a whole world to win.
Anupama is a member of JustBooks Vidyaranyapura. She has done her M.Ed and has taught in various schools for more than 15 years. Presently, she tutors students privately. She loves reading, stitching, embroidery and gardening.
joined JustBooks, Mangalore in March last year. The facility of online book request and prompt delivery is ingenious, to say the least. The Mangalore centre offers free paper carry bags to take home magazines and books. This is something I miss here in Bangalore. I came over to Bangalore in June and have availed the facilities of over half a dozen branches, such as Malleshwaram and Vijaynagar, depending on where I am. One branch is better than the other. As they say in Hindi, ‘Ek se badkar ek’. The ambience, the decor and the plush interiors are way out of the mundane and the insipid. The staff too is warm and courteous. What more can one possibly ask? The only add-ons missing are soft, lilting music and LCD screens! 30-odd lending libraries in Bangalore means JustBooks is competing with KFC and Pizza Hut in having maximum franchises in this town, more than anywhere else in India. I reckon JustBooks is an understated name for the brand. It is a must-visit, must-read destination. Way to go, JustBooks, keep it up. Ajay Manjeshwar Mangalore
January-February 2013 Reader’s contribution
Our Tree Friends Kiran A Bacche
aking friends is easy. But making good and close friends isn’t. Almost everyone today boasts of huge connections in Facebook, Orkut, LinkedIn and other social networking sites. But when it comes to the count of close friends, whose company relieves you of the stress, from whom you get unconditional help, and those who are there for you whenever you need them, you will find your fingers are sufficient. On mother earth, you can really find plenty of good friends all around you. I bet you know them and you have seen them, but you have never realized how good a friend they can really be. Yes, I’m talking about trees. Let me give few examples based on my own experiences. I once took my family to a restaurant, and we had to wait for close to an hour for our turn to be served. My kids started feeling restless after some time, that’s when a close friend came to help. A large eucalyptus tree nearby had shed its nice little seeds right next to us. Eucalyptus seeds make really fine tops, even better than the bay blades. So we started a competition to see whose top would spin longest. Time flew, and the kids were disappointed that our turn to be served came sooner than they expected. The other day, my daughter wanted some bright colored sequins for an art and craft activity. I was in no mood to go searching for a fancy store and get those beads. And that’s when my other close friend in my neighborhood was there to help me. The colorful bright red seeds of the red sandalwood tree did the job better than the man made sequins could have. The craft is even today hanging on the wall of the kids room displaying the sheer brightness of red. Finally, a walk in the park for a healthy life. I have been doing the walking in parks for a very long time. However, I used to do it as a task when I first began. And when you do things as a task, the enjoyment of doing it is lost. The walks were becoming boring with each passing day. But before it came to a halt, there was help from my tree friends. From then on, during the
morning walk, I was no longer alone. I had friends all along greeting me with their colorful flowers, fresh greenery and handsome barks. Time flew as I enjoyed my rendezvous with my tree friends. And, unknowingly, I had walked more than my daily target without feeling tired or bored. I hope you would have decided now to make some new friends, in particular new tree friends. But then you might be thinking how to really distinguish different trees so that you can make very selective friends. Don’t you think they all look the same? If you just see them, but don’t observe them, they all look the same. However, if you observe them even casually, you would see how each tree differs from each other in terms of the leaf shape, leaf arrangements, flowers, fruits, pods and bark. With one or two days of practice, you can distinguish most of the different trees in Bangalore. What next? Once you have developed the art of identifying trees, there is no stopping. Every time you see a tree that you don’t recognise, you’ll start investigating the leaves, fruits, pods, flowers and bark.
With the wealth of resources available today, you will understand your new tree friend without much trouble. You will realise the joy of discovering or learning something new is truly amazing. The very feeling that you can go and meet all your old tree friends in their freshest moods and the excitement of discovering new tree friends hidden among your old tree friends is going to make you put on your walking shoes. Now let me provide you with some resources that would help you get going with making new tree friends. There are plenty of books on trees, but the one I found to be the best is Trees of Delhi – A Field Guide by Pradip Krishen. This book is my companion whenever I go to new places. This book can help you identify trees in a systematic way by looking at leaves, flowers, fruits, pods and bark. Another resource is flowersofindia.net. This is a website that has information on almost each and every tree and shrub you would find around you.
Kiran A Bacche is a member of JustBooks Koramangala. A Technical Leader at Cisco Systems, he enjoys sports, reading, mathematics, music (guitar, keyboard) and nature.
atin br le
January-February 2013 b. Tintin in Tibet c. Tintin and the Lake of Sharks
g Tintin ’s 8 hb 4t
3. Which book shows Tintin meeting extraterrestrials (aliens)? a. Tintin and the Picaros b. Destination Moon c. Flight 714
1. Captain Haddock, Tintin’s best friend, was introduced for the first time in this book: a. The Crab with the Golden Claws b. Flight 714 c. Red Rackham’s Treasure 2. Which is the only Tintin book that Hergé did not write? a. Tintin in the Congo
4. Which book was never finished by Hergé? a. Prisoners of the Sun b. Tintin and Alph-Art c. The Seven Crystal Balls 5. Which book shows Chang and Tintin meeting for the first time? a. The Broken Ear b. King Ottokar’s Scepter c. The Blue Lotus
Answers: The Crab with the Golden Claws, Tintin and the Lake of Sharks, Flight 714, Tintin and Alph-Art, The Blue Lotus
JustBooks Top 5 New Arrivals 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan A Wanted Man by Lee Child The Racketeer by John Grisham Durbar by Tavleen Singh Yuvi by Makarand Waingankar
Recommended 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz Let Her Rest Now by Vijay Nair Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess No One Had A Tongue To Speak: The Untold Story Of One of History’s Deadliest Floods by Utpal Sandesara, Tom Wooten Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity by Katherine Boo
JustBooks Jubilee Hills is now open
ustBooks is now at Hyderabad’s most exclusive address – Jubilee Hills. Located in the plush locales of Jubilee Hills, the 1200 sq ft library space will delight not just the reading enthusiasts but will cater to all readers. Commenting on the launch Dr. Simone Ahuja said, “It’s truly an innovative concept. I am sure a library like this will help reach out to a lot of readers.” Mrs. Priyankita, Franchisee Owner, said, “I am glad to bring you Hyderabad’s newest reading destination. We believe that there is a book for everyone in our rich and vast library across 39 fantastic verticals. I am confident that the sentiment will resonate with all our members from this city.”
Rentals 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
Diary Of A Wimpy Kid : The Third Wheel by Jeff Kinney Tinkle Single Digest Diary Of A Wimpy Kid : Cabin Fever by Jeff Kinney Tinkle Double Digest Heroes of Olympus : The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan
From the JustBooks blog: blog.justbooksclc.com
Tilting at Real Windmills The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer HarperCollins Geetanjali Singh Chanda
here is a fine line between a tinkerer and an inventor. William Kamkwamba used to tinker with bicycles and such. He was a 14-year-old boy, one of seven children born into a poor family in Malawi, Africa. The technology of how things worked always fascinated him. And like any schoolboy, he would take things apart and put them back together with varying degrees of success. Life could have gone on in this indolent fashion. But then, drought struck William’s little village of Wimbe, and, in fact, all of Malawi. The crops withered and stomachs shrank.
And gradually, people started dying. His father could no longer afford to pay his school fees and William, like many of his friends, was forced to drop out of school. William decided not to give up, and his real education now started in earnest. He discovered the little used, dilapidated local library and began reading – initially only to keep up with his classmates whom he hoped to rejoin. And soon, the books opened a whole new world to him. His horizons widened and he read whatever the small library had to offer. One day, William came across a book titled Using Energy, which he says changed his life. The book’s cover portrayed a row of windmills, which caught his imagination. Though he couldn’t understand all the English words, he read on. Studying the photographs and diagrams, he managed to grasp the basic concepts of physics and grasped the idea that windmills could provide both electricity and water. It would enable him to read and listen to music late into the night. The family would be able to grow two crops if they had a steady supply of water. William was excited by the idea and it continued to intrigue him. He realised that if windmills existed on the cover of the book, it meant they existed. Someone had built them. “After looking at it that way, I felt confident I could build one too,” he thought. There wasn’t even a word for windmill in his language. So, he decided to call it magetsi a mphepo – electric wind. Thus began William’s evolution, rather, his transformation from a tinkerer to an inventor. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind recounts the incredible story of the intrepid eighth-grade-dropout, who is now studying at America’s Dartmouth College. The most amazing and inspiring part of the book deals with William’s efforts to build a windmill
There wasn’t even a word for windmill in his language. So, he decided to call it magetsi a mphepo – electric wind. to generate electricity. One cannot help but recall Cervantes’ Don Quixote tilting at windmills, and you wonder if this young boy, who is regarded as “crazy” by his peers and the community, will meet a similar fate. Once he resolves to build it, William has no idea where to find the materials from. He begins to scour the junk heaps in the area. While other kids play, William rummages through scrap to see what discarded pieces of trash – wires, string, rubber pieces, metal parts – he can pick up. He then painstakingly puts them together, and one day, the windmill is up and running. As news of the windmill spreads, Hartford Mchazime, a Malawian educator, along with a couple of journalists, drives down to see the curious contraption. The story goes viral and is written about by many journalists and bloggers. And the rest is history. Since then, William has spoken at Technology Entertainment Design (TED) conferences and has appeared on various top American shows, including Good Morning America and The Daily Show. He has been widely interviewed and the book is a runaway success. A documentary, Moving Windmills, recounts William’s story of perseverance courage and ingenuity. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind not only narrates William’s real-life journey of discovery and reinvention, but also provides a glimpse of his relationship with his friends, family and his dog and the life of his community. These human touches add a different dimension to the book and enrich the narration. Though the detailed scientific explanations can get a bit heavy and academic, his chance ‘discovery’ of the windmill is exciting, as is his seemingly impossible feat of building a workable model. The book is an uplifting testimony to human endeavour and sheer will. It is also a moving tribute to, and an acknowledgement of, the power of books and reading.
Just Kids The 39 Clues (Series) by Various Authors Scholastic
fter the death of their beloved grandmother, Grace Cahill, the orphaned siblings — Amy and Dan Cahill — felt like they had lost everything. When they stayed with their great-aunt Beatrice, they were ridiculed and not treated well. Beatrice hated all her relatives including Dan and Amy. During their
grandmother’s funeral Dan and Amy were offered two million dollars or a deadly hunt for 39 clues that would make the finder the most powerful person on the planet. They wanted (and needed) the money and, in their heart-of-hearts, they knew that Grace would have wanted them to take up the hunt. And so they did, for Grace’s sake. The 39 Clues series
tells the readers how the two children, accompanied by their au-pair Nellie Gomez, travel the world in search of the clues. They face heavy opposition and most of their enemies are older than they are. Unlike their enemies they don’t have swanky equipment, evil traps, muscle power, vials of poison or any other arsenal in their reach. The trio face many dangers but still succeed in finding clues. On the way, they also realize bitter truths about their parents, about Grace and about themselves. This whole series is very interesting and once you pick up one book in the series you won’t be able to put it down until you reach the last book. I rate this series 4 out of 5 for all the young readers who love mystery.
Vidyut V 7th Standard Vidyashilp Academy, Bangalore Vidyut is a 12-year-old member of JustBooks RMV Extension. A very creative person who loves English literature and writing poetry, Vidyut has been an editor of his school magazine.
My Best Friend: The Rabbit My best friend, I like her. A sweet little rabbit, with soft white fur. She’s so cute, she’s so sweet. Eats only grass, and never meat. Oh! so white fur, white and bright, Her eyes glowing, like the light. So cute, so small, with a fluffy tail, Oh my heart, she never fails. Akansha 3rd grade Cluny Convent, Bangalore Akansha, an 8-year-old, is a member of JustBooks RMV Extension. A typical bookworm, give her a book and she forgets the world around her.
JustBooks’ Picks for Young Readers Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
The Cartoonist by Betsy Byars
Golgappu makes Tomato Soup by Tarla Dalal
Waiting For Anya by Michael Morpurgo
I Wish That I had Duck Feet! by Dr. Seuss
Song Of The Lioness by Tamora Pierce
Gind by Harini Gopalswami Srinivasan Victory Song by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni Billy Elliot by Melvin Burgess
Many butterflies in my garden, Pretty butterflies ever seen. You are a feast to my eyes, You beautiful bright butterflies. Amma told me the story of thee, Tiny caterpillars becoming into beautiful butterflies, Bright orange, red, pink, purple and yellow, You are a feast to my eyes, You beautiful bright butterflies. Butterfly, butterfly play with me, Pretty butterflies be with me, Flying here and flying there, wonder why I cannot catch thee. You are a feast to my eyes, You beautiful bright butterflies. Samrudh B.S. UKG Delhi Public School, Bangalore North Samrudh, a member of JustBooks Vidyaranyapura is 5 years old. He loves to read and wrote this poem with his mother’s help.
Horrid Henry Henry is a horrid boy, which makes people read his book with joy! Children like to play pranks but parents are worried about their ranks. His tummy is filled with junk and when Peter comes he gives a grump. Peter loves his bunny, which Henry feels is funny. Thank you, JustBooks, Now, I got hooked to Horrid Henry books. Keerthana G 5th grade Daffodils English School, Bangalore Keerthana, a ten-year-old, is a member of JustBooks RMV Extension. She is seriously pursuing her interests in music and is a swimming champion.
Snorkelling in the Andamans
ast summer, I visited the Andamans. Our uncle, who worked in the Indian Navy, lived in Port Blair. The highlight of the visit was snorkelling there. The day after we got to my uncle’s house, we (my mother, sister and I) went to Havelock Island which is about 3 hours away from Port Blair. As the weather was unusually clear at that time and we were on that island for only a day, our guide suggested that we go to Elephant beach right away to try out some snorkelling. The sea was a beautiful aquamarine in colour. He took us deep into the water while our mother waited at the beach.
Our instructor told us to hold hands and not to touch anything. We saw plenty of sea urchins. We were swimming carefully so that we don’t disturb the sea bed. We saw creatures that changed colours every few seconds. I felt like I was in paradise. Sadly, it started raining and we had to get back to shore earlier than expected. The rains made the sea rough. It was
frightening riding back to Havelock Island in the tiny boat bobbing up and down helplessly in the sea. We were thoroughly drenched. That was one scary experience.
Vinayak K 6th Standard National Public School, Bangalore Vinayak is a 12-year-old member of JustBooks Malleshwaram. He regularly plays badminton, basketball and golf and is interested in music too.
Young Readers can send their contribution to email@example.com
Interview with a Franchisee
West Bengal’s first JustBooks M
alvika Ray, Hemadri Ray and Sohini Rajpal started the Salt Lake City, Kolkata JustBooks franchise a year ago. We talked to Malvika to find out how it all started and their experience so far.
Tell us about yourself and your family. Hemadri and I have two boys and a Labrador. Both boys are studying outside Kolkata. Hemadri is in the merchant navy and sails a few months each year. With nobody else at home, our dog Scooby and I had enough of walking the streets of Salt Lake and I wanted to do something other than taking care of our farm in outskirts of Kolkata.
How did this franchise option happen? Being a family of voracious readers we are always looking for new books to read and found no libraries in our area. One has the stores for buying books, but even if Dilip, Proshanto, Malvika, Sucheta, Subharik (L-R) one can afford to buy expensive books one can’t always store them so when Sohini (my sister), who knew about independent and can handle day-to-day working on their own. JustBooks, spoke about it we thought why not start a library. Besides us, our community would benefit as well. So the thought How has the customer response been to your library? of JustBooks was born out of our love for reading and absence Being located in the literary capital of the country, we had exof reading material in our area. Surely I wasn’t going to travel all pected a far better response than what we received but we are the way to South Kolkata to borrow books and the online librarhopeful that we will build up our store based on our biggest USP ies don’t give the same feel as a physical one. of being the only physical library with online facility and multiple locations. Tell us about your experience on starting and taking care of this franchise. What do you think will be a great value addition in serMy husband flew down to Bangalore to talk to Sundar, Ravi vice to your existing members? and others who explained how a franchisee works. He visited a I think our members would greatly value availability of audio few of the established branches to see them in operation. Needbooks, a wider Hindi and Bengali selection and quicker availless to say he came back impressed and we decided on taking ability of books requested from other branches. up a franchise for Salt Lake City, Kolkata, the first one in West How much of your time do you spend at the JustBooks outlet? How rewarding is the experience of interacting with your members? Initially we spent all our time in the library but now our staff is quite efficient. However, we try to be present at the store as much as our other commitments permit because we prefer a hands-on approach. Also, interacting with members is a big plus. In fact, the number of doctors in our member base is huge and when I was unwell and not available in the library for a while each and everyone came up with their expert valuable advice.
Salt Lake City library Bengal and Eastern India. My sister Sohini and I are partners but she lives overseas, so Hemadri and I are involved more in the day-to-day working of the store. We have had the same office boy and front office staff since our inception a year ago but had to change a few store managers until we found the right one, who loves to interact with the members, manage the library and staff competently. The staff is now
What kind of books do you read personally? Who are your favourite authors? We read everything from fiction to biographies. In our personal home library, you will find Walter Issacman sharing shelf space with Chetan Bhagat as you will find Laws of the Spirit World alongside a Sidney Sheldon or Atlas Shrugged next to an Ashok Banker book. What is your advice to book lovers who would like to turn entrepreneurs through JustBooks? My advice would be to dream big, not to lose hope or get discouraged, work hard and build your store with the brand. As Paulo Coelho said, “When you really want something to happen, the whole world conspires to help you achieve it.”
January-February 2013 Interview
Not Just Dark Comics D Ravi Kumar
t was a pleasure to run into Pratheek Thomas, Co-founder of Manta Ray at Publishing Next conference in Goa. Manta Ray is an independent publisher of comics and graphic novels based in Bengaluru. Talk ‘comics’ and Pratheek’s eyes light up, he can talk endlessly about comics and graphic novels and we feel we have barely scratched the surface of his knowledge with our questions! What is a graphic novel? The term “graphic novel” was popularised by Will Eisner (one of the most influential creators in the history of comics) — who used it when he was pitching his own comics to publishers, to give it more respectability in the publisher’s eye. A graphic novel is a long form comic book, and the term is often used to indicate that the stories and themes maybe of a serious/mature nature.
ibility in India now. Many of the new publishers are young entrepreneurs who grew up on a lot of comics, and are now creating their own stories — so that’s one reason. There could be the influence of these comics being made into successful movies in Hollywood. Also, readers across the world are recognising that comics can tell sophisticated, nuanced stories — and there are a lot of creators testing the waters now. It’s a combination of all of these, I think.
Manta Ray Comics. That’s a nice, sharp Pratheek Thomas, Co-founder, zinger of a name. Tell us the inspiration and the Manta Ray Comics. team behind it. The honest answer is that we just love the Manta Ray fish. How are graphic novels different from comics? We love its form, the way it seems like it’s flying under water. A comic book typically has 20-24 pages of story, but a graphic They’re so graceful and gentle. And also, we know so little about novel is that — a novel, that is a larger, longer story line. As I’d them. They’re strange beings from another world, which, in mentioned above, while the term is usually used for stories that some ways, is true of comics too. Our core team is made of three have a mature theme to it, this is not always the case. people. Dileep and I are the co-founders, and Prabha Mallya is A good example for this is Bone by Jeff Smith, which is an our Art Director, she sets the visual tone for almost everything all-ages comic book. Initially, it came out in smaller instalments we do. She’s simply the best. and since then it has been collected into a set of nine volumes and one complete volume too. So, in the smaller instalments, ‘Hush’ has made a name for itself as a graphic novel, Bone could have been seen as a comic book series, but in the hasn’t it? How satisfied are you? collected volumes, it has been called a graphic novel. Hush is a graphic novella. It’s a very short story, so it’s not a novel by any standards. Yes, it was noticed by a lot of comic Graphic novels tend to be dark, foreboding by nature. readers, new readers, the mainstream press… and that is very Why is this so? gratifying and humbling. Humbling, because, so many people I disagree. The very have come and told us how the book affected them, moved them. term graphic novel Hush was never meant to be a commercial project for us, with it has come to be synonwe wanted to say that Manta Ray is going to tell different stories ymous with this dark, in comics. foreboding label, when it is not really What can graphic novel fans expect from Manta Ray in the case. There are the coming future? so many graphic novA complete reboot of Manta Ray is happening right now. We’ve els — Laika, Vamhad a lot of insights and learning from the past 2 years, and Year pire Loves, Garage 3 is going to be different. Readers can expect a lot more stories, Band, Amulet — of various themes and shades from us in the coming months. that are not dark or foreboding. We’d love to showcase your comics at JustBooks libraries... good idea? Graphic novels are I think we’d have to first create some kind of awareness about slowly but surely comics in general amongst JustBooks’ readers. I’m saying this making a name for because a lot of readers are probably not comic readers, and may themselves in Inthink that comics are only for children, youngsters. So, we would dia. What do you have to dispel that notion in the first place. Also, we wouldn’t think is fuelling want any parent to pick up Hush or Love like a Sunset for this trend? their child! If we can find a way to reach out to readers, we’d be I think comics are glad to showcase our books in your libraries. finding some vis-
Percy Jackson Day at JustBooks
ustBooks Kalidasa Road, Mysore recently celebrated a day full of activities centered around Heroes of Olympus : The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan, the latest book of
Percy Jackson. 20 children participated in the Chinese Whispers game where each kid had to whisper a line from Percy Jacksonâ€™s adventures and adding one quote of their own along with what they heard previously, and the last kid had to repeat all the lines. There was a fiercely fought debate on Percy Jackson, Rick Riordanâ€™s writing style and imagination and Percy Jackson depiction. The children then had an e-mail writing session to the author. The wrap up session included a write up about Percy Jackson and the day concluded with a lucky dip to announce the winners of a copy of The Mark of Athena.
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