Book Review

Title: Me and I

(ISBN 978-93-5195-188-9)

Author: Nabendu Ghosh (written in Bengali in 2003)

Translator: Devottam Sengupta ( translated in 2017)

 

Me and I is a science fiction set in Calcutta, exploring the concept of Earth’s twin in the universe. It was written by Nabendu Ghosh for his two grandsons in Bengali, and then translated by one of them as part of his centenary celebrations. The translator, Devottam Ghosh, is a lawyer by profession.

I enjoyed the book. It is an ideal read from eight to eighty, a story well told. The protagonist Mukul has a twin in the planet that is Earth’s mirror image. His parallel is known as Lukum and Earth is spelt as Threa.

The explanation is given by an eccentric gentleman, Professor Noni Gopal Sinha,who is Mukul’s friend and mentor on Earth.

“They’re both, opposite yet identical. Mirror images, really. Just as there are a couple of hundred twins among a million people, similarly I’m sure you can find a twin — identical yet opposite — planets among the billions that exist out there.”

So, it is an inverse parallel universe which is dwelt on briefly as the story unfolds.

The story has multiple layers. On the surface, it is a story for children… a nineteen-year-old boy’s adventure with an alien in outer space. It has been woven very well into the fabric of Indian life. Perspectives on religion, science, society, countries and cultures are layered into the folds of the story. It explores the environment that leads to creativity and the environment that does not. An ideal needs to be somewhere in the middle… perhaps… a point for the reader to ponder…

The book has well-researched scientific facts… on different theories of the universe. Though the author, Nabendu Ghosh, says that he would like “to classify this flight of imagination as a ‘modern(or contemporary) fairy tale’”, it touches upon Einstien’s ideas on gravitational waves and theory of relativity. It dwells upon travel at the speed of light and it’s impact on humans.

A surprising novel from a writer of stories linked to social reforms…but then, one wonders at the end that has the author not made you think again of larger issues that are relevant even in the twenty first century…

Perhaps, because Nabendu Ghosh was into writing for films, this book is very visual and would make for an excellent movie. I can visualise the whole scenario as I read the book…

May we then expect a Tollywood(Bengali movie) version of Me and I in the near future?

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Book Review

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Title: Harry Potter And The Cursed Child

Author: Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling

                  John Tiffany and Jack Thorne

                   A new play by Jack Thorn

The earlier Harry Potter books make me happy. They bring sunshine into my mind, hope and happiness. But does the new book do this for me?

Perhaps, to an extent it does, though I do feel sorry for Harry’s sons, especially his teenager, Albus Severus Potter. At his age Harry, Hermione and Ron were having adventures of their own, whereas he needs a father to rescue him from the villain, who is really not as powerful as Voldemort.

This eighth story set nineteen years after Voldemort’s death spans a period of about three years, starts where the last Harry Potter, the Deathly Hallows, ended … at the King’s Cross Station.

It has been conceptualized by three persons; J. K. Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Thorne. Thorne wrote it down as a play, much less detailed, much more focused on inter-personal relationships (father/son).

Perhaps, that is why, to some Harry Potter fans, it was a disappointment. While familiarity with the earlier stories is necessary to the understanding of the play, it is not as detailed as JK Rowling’s earlier books. Each Harry Potter novel could have been treated independently as a separate story. They were detailed enough to make them independent of each other as a lone book.

There is a new villain, Augurey, Voldemort’s daughter from Bellatrix Lestrange! She battles to bring her father back to life. Augurey is thwarted by Harry Potter’s younger son, Albus Severus Potter and his best friend, Draco Malfoy’s son, Scorpius, who is as bookish as Hermione was in her schooldays. The boys are helped by their parents to overthrow her. There are lots of surprises when it comes to characters. Hermione is the minister of magic. Ron, her husband, runs the Weasley joke shop, which was Fred and George’s baby. So, what happened to George and Percy (who returns to the folds of his family in the last book)? Harry is the Head of Magical Law Enforcement. Ginny, his wife, is a homemaker, a mother of three. What happened to Luna and Neville? We are vaguely told Neville is a professor of herbology in Hogwarts. I was disappointed. I thought Neville would have done better than that, especially after his fabulous performance in the Battle of Hogwarts. The Headmistress of Hogwarts is Professor McGonagall. She is constantly ordered around by Harry, who seems to be rather bossy in the play. He was  humbler and kinder in the earlier books.

Also Voldemort having a daughter seems to be a bit out of character. He had been portrayed as wanting to be an immortal without competition. He would never have let anybody near him neither would he have loved or lusted for anyone. As a villain, he was inhuman in that he had no bodily existence till the fourth book and even after that he was not whole. Remember, there were eight horcruxes made from his soul.

However, despite the inconsistencies, the play is very well written. Independently, it would have been interesting if not for the inconsistencies and the dependence on having readers who are familiar with the earlier books. Perhaps, the next generation could have been given more free play and Harry’s generation should have taken a backseat graciously.

Though it is Albus Potter and Scorpius Malfoy who travel back in time to try and rescue Cedric and make changes to the future, the situation has to be eventually rectified by the intervention of Harry, Ginny, Hermione, Ron and Draco Malfoy, who in keeping with his earlier tendencies has moved away from dark magic completely. Cedric is not brought back to life as he would have turned into a death eater.

Rowling claimed that the play would explore the previously untold story of Harry’s early years as an orphan and outcast ( Matilda Battersby, 26 June 2015,  The Independent, London) but all we get to see are some of Harry’s dreams involving Aunt Petunia, a few of which Harry says never happened. We do get to see how Harry’s parents died, thanks to the travel in time with a time turner, but the magic spun by Rowling in the earlier books seems to have diminished.

The details are much lesser. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels are very detailed in their descriptions. The play skims over the details. A play format would not allow for the kind of details Harry Potter fans expect of her storytelling. But then, we need to remember that the book is not by  Rowling alone. The concept could be hers but the story is by three authors together. Therefore, it is bound to be different from the earlier books. The villain is less powerful than Voldemort. The protagonist Albus, is more a troubled teen than the hero Harry was. Ron’s and Hermione’s children are only in the peripheries. Many characters, like Tonk’s son, Luna, Bill, the adult Weaseleys, Kingsley Amis, Xenophilus Lovegood, Professors Flitwick, Trelawny, Slughorn etc have been totally left out…not even mentioned…The plot at best seems to be a bit weak.

Perhaps, the Harry Potter series should best have ended with a bang, the death of Voldemort, rather than a whimper, the imprisonment of Augurey. We should have had, rather, a new series about the sons of Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy.

 

Origins

The Time Travelers

Julie worked in an office. She was the secretary to the CEO of a trading firm. When business was slow, she used to gaze at a beautiful landscape painting of South Africa that hung on the wall facing her desk. It showed long green stretches of land with peculiar ring like formations and undulating terraces. Sometimes, clusters of the rings were laid out in a floral pattern and the paths leading from them seemed to be like stems connecting the flowers to each other from an arial perspective. There was a little ancient ruin there made of flat rocks that was supposed to ring with a metallic clang when you hit them. Her boss, Michael Dutta, referred to the ringing rocks as ring stone.

Michael Dutta liked to travel. When he went to Johannesburg, he visited a friend who lived a little out of the town. Michael was fascinated by the landscape around Johannesburg. He brought back photographs and paintings made by a local artist  and hung them in his office. He also got back two pieces of ring stone that he picked up while walking on the rolling green with his friend. If you struck them together, they rang like a bell. They were shaped like cones and were very brittle. Julie, like her boss, found the rocks and landscape fascinating…only she, unlike him, had not been there.

Julie was so fascinated by the stones, pictures and stories her boss related that she started googling about South Africa. She found out more about the properties of the stone and about the strange formations. It was given out by some that the ring like formations on the ground had some kind of an anomaly about them. They had temperatures that were really high inside the rings. If the ground temperature was five degrees celsius, inside the ring the temperature was twenty-nine to over eighty degrees celsius. The Global Positioning Systems(GPS)ceased to operate inside them. There were explorers who proposed that these rings were associated with ancient extra-terrestrial activities.

Julie was very interested. She started googling theories about these anomalies. It seems the anomalies were really ancient and had to do with the origins of mankind. Africa was supposed to be the cradle of mankind. People had even propounded that the Garden of Eden was located in Africa and mankind was a cloned and smaller version of giants from outer space! Julie believed it all and spent a lot of her spare time trying to figure out the how, when and why of human origin. Looking at the photos in the office reminded her of her passion and made her happy. Her dream was to visit these places in South Africa.

One evening, Julie and Michael were working late. They could not get the pizza delivery line as it kept coming busy. Michael suggested that he would go out and buy them a take-away dinner while Julie continued with her work. Julie felt hungry and tired and leaned back on her chair. Her eyes fluttered and closed. When her eyes opened she found herself sprawling in the middle of the South African plains. In front of her was a huge giant of a man. He wore gold robes almost of a metallic sheen, just like in the internet pictures. He was more than double of her in height. He looked at her with curiosity just as she looked at him with some fear and surprise!

The large man had a booming voice. “So, you are the future of mankind. Not bad. How did you get back here? Do you have a time machine too or did Argos pick you up as a curio from his travels across time?”

Julie summoned all her courage and replied, “I don’t know. I was working in office. Who are you and where am I?”

“I am from the planet of Niburu. We are looking for the metal here. What is your language ?”

“Why? You speak it too. English.”

“English? Is that what you call it? I am wearing a translator that translates any language into my own language and mine into your language automatically. I speak standard buru. That is what all of us speak at Niburu.”

“Where am I? And how did I get here?” asked Julie.

“Let me ask Argos,” said the giant. “I am Sorgos. What is your name?”

“My name is Julie. And where am I exactly?”

“We call it sector 2, Earth. Does that help?”

“No. Not much. But this does look like the plains of South Africa as in the painting in my office. Only you have buildings here…”

“Oh! These buildings are temporary structures and we will fold them up when we are done,”explained the alien.

Sorgos started out in search of Argos. But before that, he picked up Julie in his arms and draped her across his shoulders.  Julie was really scared now. What would the giant alien do with her? She felt very vulnerable.

“Put me down. Put me down,” shouted Julie.

“No. You are safer with me. I will take you to Argos to figure out what is going on. If the others find you, they will put you to work with the clones in the mines,”said Sorgos.

Julie could do nothing but comply. From her vantage point on Sorgos’ shoulder could see people like herself going in and out of a shaft. They were scantily clad and worked like labourers. They looked sordid.

“There are very few of us who feel for the rights of the clones here. I am a representative of the group that argues for the welfare of clones in Nibiru. But except for me and Argos, the rest hate the clones. They are planning to destroy them…but looking at you, I know some of you must have survived,” said Sorgos. “Let us talk to Argos first.”

“Wait! Who are the clones? I was born off my parents.”

“The clones are the mine workers…your ancestors. We have enabled the clones to have all the functions we have, except they are much smaller than us and a little less developed intellectually.”

“I cannot believe this is for real!” Julie thought. “How soon can I be out of this nightmare?”

“Ah! Here is Argos’ lab.”

They went into a building with a high, dome-shaped roof with gold and white panels and white walls. The white was plasticky and shiny. Inside the lab was a ring of ringstones. The ringstone ring had a machine stuck in it and a stair leading up to it.

The machine was huge, large enough to accommodate the giant aliens.

“Argos, Argos,” called out Sorgos. “Where are you? Come out of that infernal machine and answer my questions.”

“Coming, you impatient man!” A gigantic alien wearing golden overalls crawled out of the machine, descended the stairs and took off his helmet. “What is it? Why are you screaming.”

“I was not screaming. I just have a question for you. Did you get this clone over from the future?” Sorgos asked.

“So what if I did?” Argos said.

“You realise, it is unsafe to keep her here. They will take her away to work in the mines,” said Sorgos.

“Alright! Alright! Do not nag,” said Argos. “I got her back to check if she could breath and survive in the same air that existed in our times. I will take her back.”

No one asked Julie what she wanted. She was terrified with the huge size and booming voices of her captors. She was glad to do their bidding so that she could be back in the security of her office, far and away from the era of giants. She had wanted to visit these ruins in her own time. She had no intention of working for these giants. She liked her own life and times too much.

Argos blindfolded her and said they were putting her in the time machine. She felt herself being lifted and strapped in. Then she heard some strange, loud whirring noise and passed out…

Julie sat up with a start when she heard the door bang. Michael was back with McDonald burgers. The pizza shop had too much of a queue, he said.

“Why do you look so stunned?” he asked. “Did I startle you or did you just wake up? You look like you have seen an alien!”