PROLOGUE

They got out of the lift and entered the basement. It was dark and a light was flickering in the distance, like in any horror movie. Somewhere between entering the lift and getting out of it, Agastya and Ruche came close and held hands, almost as if out of instinct. Neither of them spoke nor did they want to do anything to acknowledge the fact that it was their final day of seeing each other as they had over the last 6 weeks.

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They started walking towards the car, still not having exchanged a word since they bid adieu to some colleagues and promised to meet the others at the bar. Agastya stopped in his tracks and squeezed her hand. Ruche, who was walking a step ahead, looked back to see his pale face, devoid of any emotion. He was hurting. Obviously not physical, but his heart was burning, there was a pit in his stomach, a lump in his throat and his eyes were moist. 

Ruche could almost feel his pain within her. By now, she knew him well enough to know exactly what was going through his head. Somewhere deep down, she was hurting too. She’d obsessed about this moment just 24 hours ago, talked to Agastya about it for over an hour and yet eventually, neither of them could make any sense out of it.

The seminar was over and it was time to say goodbye. However, they were still going to be in the same city. They still lived and worked within an hours drive from each other and could always catch up post-work or over the weekends; and yet, this goodbye felt like an emotional anchor – but for good reason.

The seminar had been like an alternate dimension altogether. In many ways, a vacation – being able to spend hours together every day over a long period of time without without having to explain or give excuses to anybody about why they saw each other everyday. No excuses for making post-seminar plans and coming home late or for holding hands in the car and driving around pointlessly while listening to soft should touching music or for going to secluded places and stargazing while sipping on some hot-chocolate. They knew now, that their honeymoon period was over and it was time to go back to reality. Back to facing unpleasant bosses and clients, long work hours, curious parents and other daily drama. 

She walked towards him, not letting go off the grip, squeezed his hand and rested her idle hand on his cheek. She graced his cheek delicately, looking straight into his eyes. Her gaze was soft, but stern. Sad, but passionate. She came closer. He could feel their breaths sync in rhythm and in the next instant, she just wrapped her hands around him and hugged him reassuringly. 

They stood there for a few seconds, neither of them making an attempt to move. Agastya could feel Ruche’s breath on his neck, her perfume that he’d come to love and the scent of her washed hair. He did not want to let her go. But at the back of his mind, he knew he did not have much time. Their colleagues had already left for the bar and as had been the unsaid agreement between them, they did not want to raise any eyebrows. He slowly loosened his embrace and Ruche got the hint. They looked at each other again only this time, Agastya planted a light peck on her cheek. She could feel the smile on his lips.

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They straightened themselves and took a deep breath, as if readying to go to battle, and walked towards the car. Like clockwork, they threw their bags on the back seat, Agastya loosened his tie, Ruche took her blazer off and took control of the aux. Agastya turned the ignition on, one hand on the steering and other on the gear and waited patiently, until Ruche rested her hand on his. That had been their thing for weeks now. Agastya smiled amidst that security and drove off towards the bar.

Both Ruche and Agastya sat silently, trying to fully comprehend what had just happened. They’d held hands and hugged before, but this was unlike anything from the past. The magnitude of those flowing emotions was so strong and alien, that they couldn’t find words to explain it. And if they could, no words could ever do justice to how they were feeling. But soon enough, as they drew closer to the bar, the vibe in the car changed. A long – wild – alcohol filled night awaited them, as they got off the car and headed towards the bar, now maintaining a platonic level of distance between them. 

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Book Review – The Firm by John Grisham

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“𝘐𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘬 𝘢𝘣𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘥𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘩, 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘦.”

John Grisham

What if the company you worked for was a front for the mafia?

What if your dream organization was shady and incriminated you after certain years working there?

That is exactly what this amazing book is all about!

One of the most intriguing stories ever written by the brilliant writer Grisham!

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A Harvard Law Graduate with a poor background, looking for climbing the ladder of the corporate world is recruited by THE FIRM. A house, a BMW, over 70K+ salary a year (in the 90s) and so many perks that it was baffling and too good to be true.

Soon, the story follows the protagonist and his family getting stuck between the safety of their lives and the constant pressure from the FBI to stand as a witness. The Firm is shady and a front for the Italian Mafia. The Firm has everything, every ounce of information about you to incriminate you in case of contingency.

What do you do when your life is thrown apart, just like that?

You will experience the journey from the protagonist’s eyes. The surge of emotions, the high stakes, and a life and death situation. You can actually feel it as you continue reading this masterpiece of a book.

The plot keeps you on the edge of your seat as it keeps getting better with each chapter. Every time a new twist, a new turn to keep you wanting for more and more. The ending is bitter-sweet and very realistic compared to what is expected by the readers.

Read this thriller novel for an exciting adventure in the world of Law Firms through the life of a man who has everything one could ask for in this world and yet nothing at the same time!

10/10 will recommend this book!

Note : If you want to reach out to the author of this post, click here.

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Book Review : The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!

Those are the first words I want everyone to read. This book is simply amazing. I loved it. I absolutely loved it!!

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Summary :

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Lucy Hutton and Joshua Templeman hate each other. Not dislike. Not begrudgingly tolerate. Hate. They are executive assistants to co-CEO’s of a publishing company resulting from a merger, for survival. It is an unlikely merger between two companies with vastly opposite approaches to book publishing.

Lucy and Joshua are no different and have no problem displaying their feelings through a series of ritualistic passive aggressive manoeuvres as they sit across from each other. Lucy loves the art of book publishing and understands the emotions behind each book while Joshua is uptight, meticulous and focuses on analytics and profits.

Lucy can’t understand Joshua’s approach to his job and simultaneously, Joshua is clearly baffled by Lucy’s overly bright clothes, quirkiness, and happy-go-lucky chirpy attitude.

Now up for the same promotion, their battle of wills has come to a head and Lucy refuses to back down when their latest game could cost her her dream job…But the tension between Lucy and Joshua has also reached its boiling point, and Lucy is discovering that maybe she doesn’t hate Joshua. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.

My Thoughts :

I have been on a spree of reading romance novels off late and they’re all different in their own way, but one thing always tends to stand out. This book has a backdrop similar to the movie ‘The Proposal’ starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. Two stark opposite personalities, coming together through unlikely circumstances and tolerating each other.

The back and forth between Lucy and Joshua, their constant taunts and smart quips aimed at each other, constant banter and passive-aggressive behaviour will have you hooked immediately. These tiny details add a lot of richness to the plot and the characters. 

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Sally Thorne does such a wonderful and brilliant job of penning down raw these tiny details, that you can feel the tension building between the characters. She does a brilliant job at capturing passionate hatred and raw carnal human behaviour (Imagine the heat between Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in the movie ‘Mr. & Mrs. Smith). You know there’s going to be an explosion from that buildup and you’re just waiting for it to happen. And then it does. 

First, a tiny explosion followed by what ends up being a nuclear reaction. 

Honestly, the story is not unpredictable, the characters are lovely but not extraordinary (they resemble very other Rom-Com Movies out there), BUT THE WRITING…..  the writing is simply amazing. I know for a fact that I am going to read this book again in the future, which is a HUGE deal for me (also a first because I have severe FOMO and usually find it a waste of time to re-read a book).

So yes, please PLEASE read this book if you’re into this genre. You’ll love it.

“The trick is to find that one person who can give it back as good as they can take it.”

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Book Review : Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

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This book had been on my shelf of unread books since over a year now. I’d bought it over amazon when it was available at a throwaway price of simply 89 rupees (approx $1.125). Although I did not know what the book was about when I ordered it, I knew there was a critically acclaimed and widely successful movie based on it, which basically told me that it couldn’t be a bad one. After reading it, here’s what I thought : 

The title of this book has a deeper meaning to it than just 3 words that have now become synonymous when tied with each other, mainly due to the success of this book. It is a short journal from the time when its writer went travelling to three different countries in pursuit of three different things – Italy (Pleasure), India (Spirituality), Bali (Balance) and this is what corresponds to the book’s name – EAT (in Italy), PRAY (in India) and LOVE (in Bali, Indonesia).

These are also the three Is – ITALY, INDIA, INDONESIA.

The book starts off with the beginning of a midlife crisis for the author, crying in her bathroom and praying to God, something she’s never done before. Although she’d never prayed before, she found a great sense of calm and relief through it and that’s how her search for happiness through devotion and spirituality begun.

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The author had almost everything any middle aged person could aspire for – Money, career, friends, etc. However, a terrible divorce and a breakup later, with no clue of what to do ahead, she decided to take a year off and spend it across 3 countries over a period of 4 months each.

It is important here to note that Elizabeth Gilbert had been a successful author before this bestseller and had some money saved up and took an advance on a promise to write another book about her experiences. (On a personal note, as important as it is to take time off to discover yourself; taking a year off and living in 3 countries needs a lot of financial planning, especially if you have someone dependent on you. Debt can never be a solution in these cases and it is important to have a concrete plan!)

Moving on, the book is equally divided into 36 chapters each, for all the 3 countries she visits. The writing is nice and at times appears so dreamy, that you’ll find yourself falling in love with the country and the idea of it. Although, while it appears dreamy, this is also one of the most candid books I’ve ever read.

The author does not shy away from talking about her weak moments, her troubles and challenges, her hardships and about everything else which is very real that not many people talk or like to share about. The candidness along with the author’s humour make it a fun read almost through the whole book.

There were a few parts in the middle that seemed dull or filled with too much ‘philosophy/spirituality’, which I personally couldn’t relate to. But that’s truly subjective and one who’s ever been through heartbreak or wanted to take a sabbatical should be able to relate to this book quite well.

In conclusion, I’d not say it’s a ‘must-read’ because it’s not for everyone, however it is definitely a good book and a good read!

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The Forty Rules Of Love by Elif Shafak

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As a historical fiction zealot, I simply loved this book and it is said to have been Elif’s most read book, so to speak.

On one hand, this book sheds light upon the life of a 40-ish American woman stuck with her bigamous and treacherous husband, and on the other hand, it elucidates the miraculous life lived by one of the greatest mystics and dervishes to ever walk upon earth – Shah Shams Tabriz. 

Sham of Tabriz was born an unusual person; he always did something or the other that depicted his presence on earth a colossally complex mystery. He left his home and became a wanderer exploring fors and againsts of this largely polarized world. There is a wide array of characters in this novel whose life changed 360 degree after they met Shams.

This book also lifts the curtain on how Rumi, one of the greatest poets in the history of humankind, began his voyage towards Sufism. Rumi wasn’t the Rumi we know in this day and age; he once had a mania for mainstream Islam which isn’t even in close proximity with sufi Islam. He was one of those many clerics who didn’t know a thing about connection with God and yet gave lengthsome sermons after cramming thick religious books. When Rumi came across Shams, that was his moment in the sun and that’s exactly when he ran into his actual self and ascended the pinnacle of his journey towards the divine. 

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She knew that her husband of 20 years had slept with several women without making it look like one heck of a deal, and that she’d been pretending to be perfectly naive of his extramarital affairs all these years. The Jewish-American woman despite everything tried her best to make this nauseating relationship linger until she bumped into ‘sweet blasphemy’ – a book based on sagas of Shams Of Tabriz which ultimately took her to where she was destined to be. She broke her toxic marriage and went ahead to be with her newly found love; and that’s the serene climax of this novel.

This book is sure to give you goosebumps plenty of times, devour it if you haven’t devoured it until now.

This review was written by our guest author Annie Zehra. She’s an educator, writer and an avid reader of historical fiction and fantasy fiction. Connect with her via @annieewrites.

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Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

The story revolves around a guy (our lead) who goes by a few names ranging from Lindsay/Lin who later gets his Indian name ‘Shantaram’ while on one of his adventures in a village in India.

Shantaram is about a man who in one life was a robber/thief and who escapes a maximum security prison in Australia, somehow finds his way to New Zealand, forges his passport and flies to Bombay (now Mumbai), India. Leaving his past life behind, he starts afresh and somehow immediately falls in love with everything the city and its people have to offer.

As a man who is keen to start a new life and thanks to his unique sense of belongingness in the city and due to his limitations on travelling further, he starts living in the city more like a local than a foreigner. He finds a bestfriend/little brother in Prabakar who shows him the way through the city.

From entering the city as a fugitive to spending months in a village with Prabakar, moving from a cheap hotel to the slums due to financial constraints, falling in love with a woman who’s conflicted about it within herself, getting beaten to near death in jail to finding his way into the mafia, learning about their trades, making paternal and brotherly ties with people and finding himself in Afghanistan to keep his word, this man will do everything you ask him to.

One of the things that makes this book very different for me from others, is the number of characters it has and their presence. Normally, a book may have 2-3 lead characters and the rest supporting characters that occupy not more than a chapter at max barring a few. Shantaram differentiates itself from the rest in this aspect, thanks to the occurrence and reoccurrence of a varied number of characters with a strong presence and with their own stories.

Gregory David Roberts does an excellent job of pacing this book all through its 1000 pages. The book becomes extremely interesting and fast in a few chapters, whereas takes a turn when the characters talk about life and philosophy which makes a reader think and ponder about their own life and living. But this isn’t even what makes the book so interesting.

It isn’t about the journey of Lin’s life, neither about the philosophy that it discusses nor about love or family or any one particular aspect. The entire writing in itself is so simple and yet so extraordinary that it just manages to catch you. There is just something so special about the author using simple words to touch your heart. The way the book manages to take you on its journey and create a word picture is extraordinary.

Shantaram is for everyone. Whether you like fiction or non-fiction, whether you prefer a thriller or a mystery, whether you like self-learning books or whether you like books that make you think; Shantaram has it all. Amongst the 100 books I’ve read, I haven’t come across something like this and I am here to tell you, this is the best book I’ve read in 23 years of my existence, and a book I cannot recommend enough.

-The Travellothoner

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Note : You can find a review of the second book of this series here – After You By Jojo Moyes

Still Me : Still Me By Jojo Moyes

I recently read this trilogy and I’ll be attaching links to the subsequent books soon. I’ve written a small summary after which I have directly jumped to the review:

“Me Before You begins with its protagonist, Louisa Clark, losing her steady job at a cafe. Since her family’s financial situation is increasingly worrisome, she takes the best available job in her small town: care worker for a quadriplegic man. The man is Will Traynor, a former London businessman who has been seriously injured in an accident. Will is bitter when Lou first meets him, and subjects her to cruelty and ironic asides. However, the two eventually begin to connect, sharing jokes and treating one another with straightforward honesty. Will encourages Lou to explore interests outside of her comfort zone, while Lou gives Will practical assistance and helps him to feel less depressed.

After several weeks on the job, Lou overhears a conversation between Will’s mother and sister. She learns that Will has attempted suicide once and is still determined to commit physician-assisted suicide. He has agreed with his mother that he will wait six months before going to Switzerland to take his own life. Lou, who has grown fond of Will, is so upset that she nearly quits her job. She returns on the condition that she be allowed to take Will on a series of “adventures” in the hopes of brightening his outlook and convincing him to stay alive.”

Disclaimer : It is a good book worth a read if you aren’t aware of the plot in entirety. I have reservations mainly because I was very aware of the plot.

I did not particularly enjoy this book for multiple reasons. Not that it’s bad in any way, but this is the exact same plot as in the movie “Guzaarish” starring some prominent actors like Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai and Aditya Roy Kapur released in 2010 in Bollywood, The Hindi Movie Industry.

So there wasn’t anything in the book that surprised me. At some point, I was reading the book simply to finish it, and mind you, that took quite a while. I have grown used to reading Nicholas Sparks or John Green, where the books are shorter and are a 2-3 day relaxing read at max.

This book is significantly longer. And I really dreaded it when I found out it was a trilogy. I knew I’d end up reading it (OCD) but I’d do it forcefully. And I really have no intentions of finishing them soon, cause the first book took a lot of determination to finish.

Having said that, it’s not a bad book at all. I like how everything is explained in detail including emotions, which can be a very difficult, capable of getting a “hit or miss” kind of reaction. I did have a lump in my throat towards the end of it, and I probably would have enjoyed it more had I not been aware of the plot beforehand. But that’s the thing in this case, this plot is known to way too many people to be able to enjoy it.

-The Travellothoner

Zero To One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

Note: This is my first time doing a book review. I have started doing book reviews in an attempt to practice and continue writing more and more. It also gives me an added motivation to continue reading.Which is why I am adding a book review category on my blog. I hope you like it and I’d love to know what you think about it.

I wrote a review for this book a little differently than how I have been writing others. I normally read an entire book and write a review. However for this one, I’d read a few chapters, write a gist and then read another and write more. Then finally I compiled it all to write this. This book is incredible in terms of the knowledge it imparts. I have learnt/been forced to think more in the first chapter itself than in the last few weeks combined.

However I personally feel that the book has let me down slightly in terms of the high standard it sets in the first chapter. There are some concepts/lessons in the chapter that a common man (including me; a finance student) couldn’t understand. It probably needs a level of exposure to economics that I and probably neither do a lot of my peers have.

However, it is a must read for every person out there, irrespective of them being an employee or an entrepreneur. The author talks about skills and ideas that can add value to our professional lives on a day to day basis. It has some basic concepts that one needs to be reminded of and some other concepts that are really helpful and thought provoking.

The author has also incorporated a ton of examples and facts that make the book all the more engaging and entertaining. I asked my father who has been an entrepreneur and a Chartered Accountant since 30 years to read it, which tells you how much I recommend this book. It’s concise, well written and I loved reading it.

-The Travellothoner