Review: The White Shadow – A Novel By Mona Verma

Reality Or Fiction?

By Oswald Pereira

In these days when highly commercial mass-market paperbacks promise readers quick gratification, Mona Verma’s literary novel, The White Shadow, published by a new publishing house The Book Co. comes like a breath of fresh air.

Though the story ― the plight of the hapless child widows in Banaras ― is rather serious and The White Shadow is not one of the easy-to-read, fast-paced novels that abound these days, I was glued to the book because of the powerful and dramatic narrative and the complex, well-etched characters. Mona weaves magic with words, whether it is describing a ravaging flood that devastates an entire village, a rapacious landlord who lusts after a young widow in Nirmala Ashram, or the sanctimony, squalor and shame of Banaras. “Where death is feared in other parts of the world, it is currency in Banaras. The dead are evaporated in vast swirls of smoke and life’s stories are forever sedimented in the river’s womb.”

The White Shadow

But one of the most fascinating aspects of the narrative is how the Law of Karma is like a concentric circle that brings together people who have parted, because they are part of a divine plan. “Karma is far too strong for a mere mortal to humour …. Like a seed will sprout and subsequently flower at a destined moment, hence our Karma’s results manifest themselves at the preordained moment ….”


The White Shadow is set in Banaras, but the story begins when five-year-old Brinda is widowed after being married for a few hours, following the ‘death’ of her child-husband Bisbaas’ in a flood in the village, Ghurni. Her family refuses to take her back in, as she is considered an abhaga, one who brings bad luck. Her father-in-law Bibuthi hands her over to the home for widows, Nirmala Ashram to be taken care of by Vasanti Bua, who runs the ashram.

The story describes the stark life of the child widows of Banaras and the adversities they face, begging for their living and ostracised by an obsolete culture in the holiest of lands, where everyone considers them bad omen.

The title of the novel, The White Shadow is an apt but sad reference to the child widows’ pallid garb and their seemingly meaningless existence … but more significantly, the title is meant to demonstrate how the Law of Karma follows us like a white shadow, unseen but present, all the while.

Brinda lives her hapless life silently, but her older companion, the widow Debi, fights powerful forces that try to prey on her helplessness and lure her to the ways of the flesh.

Crossing the path of the ashram are two important characters in the story, Sia and Uday, who visit Banaras for different reasons … Sia to gather up the pieces of her life by visiting her parental home that she long left. And, Uday visits Banaras to relive his atavistic fears though ostensibly on an assignment as a photo journalist. Unbeknownst to them, they both have a past, waiting to be unfolded. Will they find their Nirvana in Banaras? What significance does the Law of Karma hold for them?

verdictWhite Shadow

But it is through the character of the ashram’s keeper Vasanti Bua that the author delivers the most powerful lines on Karma, seamlessly weaving the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita into the narrative, thereby adding depth and meaning to The White Shadow, in which the line between reality and fiction seem to blur.

– Oswald Pereira is the author of the best-selling novels The Newsroom Mafia and Revenge of the Naked Princess

Review: Error Code Love – A Novel By Suman Bhattacharya

A Different Love Story

By Oswald Pereira

Error Code Love seems like an oh-so-familiar story of obsessive, compulsive love, but debutante novelist Suman Bhattacharya’s dexterous handling of the theme gives a refreshing touch to the tale. What I particularly loved was Suman’s asides — self-deprecating, funny, sarcastic, double-entendres — while narrating the story. The prose is non-pretentious with no claims to literary merit, but it is the simple, fast-paced and bubbly language that works well for the story and jells superbly for the target audience of young readers.

The protagonist Dev is not the archetypal hero … in fact, he is a ‘non-hero’, as the novel’s subtitle so aptly reveals, ‘Not Every Story Has A Hero.’ Dev’s love for Neera is more like an obsessive compulsive disorder that seems to destroy and consume rather than nurture those good feelings that bring two people together.

Error Code Love

Well, one doesn’t expect altruistic, unconditional love from a modern novel’s hero, but apart from being clinging and clawing, Dev’s love appears desperate and self-centred. Dev doesn’t hesitate to play around with the emotions of his friend Isha and make her a pawn in his game of love with Neera.

As Dev says in an introspective moment, “I would give anything right now to reverse the clock by 24 hours. But my Karma won’t let me. I have to compensate for what I’ve done.”

It is in 2008 when Dev’s crazy, compulsive love for Neera drives him to commit the biggest mistake of his life. In 72 dramatic hours, the promising software engineer loses his career, love and life by a single act of madness. In Bengaluru four years later, Dev seeks redemption and a better life.

However, destiny brings him face-to-face with Neera once again. He chases the same impossible dream again. His obsession for her returns with a vengeance and Dev finds the madness of love striking back with double force, threatening to shatter his life beyond repair.

Will our anti-hero ever get his life back into shape again? Revealing more will spoil the fun of this highly readable novel.

verdict-error code love

The story with some delightful twists and turns has a climax that seems straight out of a Bollywood pot-boiler. But don’t let this disappoint you, for this novel really has great entertainment value.

– Oswald Pereira is the author of the best-selling novels The Newsroom Mafia and Revenge of the Naked Princess

Review: The Exiled Prince (Book I) – A Novel by Ravi

Refreshing Mythological Fiction

Fingerprint! Publishing 264 pages Rs 199
Fingerprint! Publishing
264 pages
Rs 199

Here comes a mythological novel that is different, refreshing and keeps you hooked from the word go. The divinity of Rama has been orchestrated by several writers, but what I found most refreshing, endearing and engrossing in Ravi Venugopal’s The Exiled Prince was the humanity of the God, who has been revered since eons.

Ravi enthralls readers with breathtaking descriptions of how Rama, using celestial weapons, annihilates the demon queen Tataka, Ravana’s grandmother — and the way he neutralizes the invincible sage Parasurama by absorbing the universal energy of the very ‘shimmering metallic bow’ that the valiant sage throws at Rama, challenging him to ‘wield it and fight me if you can.’ But what I found most fascinating and moving was Ravi’s description of a sorrowful Rama’s parting with his father Dasaratha, the King of Ayodhya, when as a young prince he is sent on a 14-year exile by his stepmother Kaikeyi, whom Ravi has portrayed as strikingly different from the stereotypes that we have read about, so far.

The other human aspects of Rama, like his love for his gentle yet powerful wife Sita and his devoted brother Lakshman, has been depicted with master strokes by Ravi. The author has scored a literary coup of sorts by making Rama the narrator of the story. And along with Rama’s Godliness, we are also treated to his endearing sense of humour. In one scene, Rama even describes how Sita’s snoring keeps him tossing with sleeplessness the whole night in the forest.

Another highlight of the novel is Ravi’s beautiful description of the education and rigorous training of Rama and Lakshman in the art of warfare by the prince’s Guru Brahmarishi Vishwamitra; it is an exercise befitting the son of King Dasaratha, for Rama was none other than the manifestation of the Universal Lord Himself. While Brahmarishi Vishwamitra’s ostensible purpose for training Rama is to help him to terminate gruesome demons like Tataka and her sons, the real reason for arming the heir to Ayodhya with supernatural and divine powers is to find and protect the Crystal of Creation, with part of the souls of Lord Shiva and Narayana suspended within it.

The Crystal, the single most powerful weapon with the power to construct, annihilate and recreate the universe, which had remained hidden somewhere deep within the Himalayan ranges for millennia has gone missing!

The focus of the plot is Rama’s perilous journey to find the Crystal before it falls into demonic hands. But none of the sages or gurus, as well as Rama seems to have a clue where the Crystal is and how it looks may be mere conjecture.Verdict Exiled Prince

In his tale, Ravi seeks to answer a question that has never been asked: Who was Rama really? What was his real purpose? Is he the real immortal?

This is Book I, of what I understand is a trilogy. I keenly await the sequels and feel confident that Ravi will retain his simple, lucid and fascinating style of writing.

But I do hope that in the sequels, Ravi and the book editors ensure that the occasional clichés and redundant words that have crept into the book are eliminated. This is a minor issue, and I otherwise recommend the book as a must read!

– Oswald Pereira is the author of the best-selling novels The Newsroom Mafia and Revenge of the Naked Princess

Review: Opening Night – A Novel by Diksha Basu

Basu’s book has some gems of good writing and insights into Bollywood’s VerdictOpening Nightmurky world of auditions, casting couches and debauchery. Basu does make a valiant effort to write a serious, first-hand account of the perils of navigating the ‘labyrinthine lanes of Mumbai and Bollywood’. She succeeds in some parts of the book; in other parts, she fails.

Review: Opening Night

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