Skip to main content

Featured Post

The Elephanta Caves

The Elephanta Caves , located on Elephanta Island, or Gharapuri, about 11 Km off the coast of the Gateway of India, Mumbai, are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A visit to these caves, excavated probably in the 6 th century CE, is awe-inspiring, and also thought-provoking. Over the years, I have visited the caves a number of times, and also attended a number of talks by experts in the fields of art, history and archaeology on the caves. Together, they help me understand these caves, their art, and the people they were created for, just a little bit better. Every new visit, every new talk, every new article I read about the caves, fleshes out the image of what the island and the caves would have been like, at their peak. I last wrote about the caves on this blog, in 2011, almost exactly 11 years ago. Since then, my understanding of the caves has, I would like to think, marginally improved. Hence this attempt to write a new and updated post, trying to bring to life, the caves of Elephan

Book Review: A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks

‘A Possible Life’ by Sebastian Faulks, is ‘a novel in five parts’. However, it’s not a novel as much as a collection of stories, spread out over various periods in time, from the past, present, and even the future, with the word ‘possible’ being the key to connecting them. 

The five stories are of different characters in different time frames, facing different situations, but each of them has have made choices which have changed the direction of their lives. Each of their stories could have had a different ending, but it is the possibilities in life which give the stories the direction they take.

The first story, to me at least, was the most poignant. ‘A different man’ follows the life of Geoffrey Talbot, an unassuming man who sails through college playing cricket, and lands an unexciting teaching job. His life takes a turn with the beginning of the Second World War, when he enlists, and finds himself in occupied France, dodging bullets and getting around, hiding under railway coaches. A second twist of fate sees him captured and slaving away at a German concentration camp. The narrative is engaging, and you come to feel for Geoffrey as he imagines himself playing cricket, just to keep himself sane. We have read enough of the holocaust to know its horrors, and Faulks does not hide the reality. However, he manages to retain a sense of balance, of calmness, if I can use the word, with a wry sense of humour which keeps cropping up at the unlikeliest of places, yet not in any way diluting the horror of it all. We feel a rush of happiness and excitement when Geoffrey manages to escape and gets back home safe, but his life can never be the same again, not after his experiences. You cannot but help feel sad for Geoffrey as he goes back to France in search of his lost love, as he is confined to an asylum at last, but there is no sense of pity... it’s just the course life has taken.

The second story ‘The second sister’ follows the life of Billy, as told in his own words. Sent to the poor house in his childhood, Billy tries to cope with the separation from his parents, and then meets Alice, a fellow inmate. Billy makes the most of his life, picking up opportunities with both hands, and in spite of all the disadvantages, makes a life for himself, marries Alice, and starts a family. It might have been a fairy tale, except that the young Alice suffers a stroke, and soon, Billy falls in love with her sister. Then again, the story could have simply continued, but it twists once again, with Alice recovering and returning to the family.

The third story, ‘Everything can be explained’ is set in the future, and traces the life of Elena, a young, lonely girl, who grows up to be an acclaimed Neuroscientist, delving into the realm of the human consciousness. Struggling with love for Bruno, an orphan adopted by her father, she strives to cope with her feelings, unable to accept the change in him, and eventually, at the end, wonders if, after years of studying human behaviour, if she understands anything at all!

The fourth story is the shortest one – A door into heaven – where a ignorant young peasant girl meets a monk, and the fifth – You next time – in complete contrast, details the lives of young musicians.

To me, the first two stories were the best, but all through the book, Sebastian Faulks’ narrative stands tall. He straddles the different periods and voices with ease, speaking as the school teacher Geoffrey in one, and easily shifting to the uneducated Billy in the other. The voice of Elena is perfectly suited to what one would expect of a scientist, and you can almost hear Lowri’s soulful voice as she holds her audience spellbound. And that is what makes this book, to me, a wonderful read.

P.S. This book was sent to me for review by Random House India


  1. It sounds like a book that I will like to read!

  2. Same with me, I want the book. The cover is bewitching!

    1. if you are coming to bombay, let me know.. will happily give u the book :D

  3. You know, Anu, I love your writing. But I like your book reviews more than your travel writing. :-) And having said that, may I borrow this book to read ?

    1. Thanks so so much, Sudha!!! It feels wonderful to hear that.. esp from you :D and of course, next time we meet, will hand it over !


Post a Comment

Thanks so much for stopping by. Please leave a comment for me so that I will know you have been here....

Popular posts from this blog

The Havelis of Bikaner - A Photo Post

The lanes are narrow , twisting and turning amidst buildings old and new. Crumbling old structures with intricate workmanship stand side by side with art deco buildings, and more modern constructions, which follow no particular style. Autos, bicycles, motorcycles and vans rush past, blowing their horns as loudly as possible, while cows saunter past peacefully, completely unaffected by the noise. In the midst of all this chaos, children play by the side, and women go about their chores, as we explore these by-lanes of Bikaner, and its beautiful Havelis. Facade of one of the Rampuria Havelis

Ladakh - Planning The Trip

Over 2000 Km by road, in around 10 days. Stunning landscapes, wonderful people. That sums up our Ladakh trip. But how did it actually work? How did we make it happen? Read on to find out!  Leh, the capital of Ladakh , is accessible by air and road. Flying into Leh is the easiest, and time-saving option, while the road is the time consuming one, but with the added advantage of driving past some of the most beautiful landscapes in our country. Each option has much to recommend it, and we chose the road for just one reason – altitude sickness. Altitude sickness was one of my biggest concerns, since I suffer from motion-sickness. Yes, I do travel a lot, but that is despite my condition, and, over the years, have learnt how to handle it. I struggled with it when we visited Nathu-La in Sikkim, and wondered if I would be able to manage a week at the even higher altitudes that we would encounter in Ladakh. This was the reason we stuck to a basic plan, of only 9 days in Ladakh, though we

Bhedaghat - Home of the 81 Yoginis

The Narmada flows down the mountains , carving out a path for herself as she makes her way down to the plains of Central India. She cascades from the rocks, her fine spray making it appear as if billows of smoke (dhuan) arise from the flowing streams of water (dhaar), giving it the name Dhuandhar. Dhuandhar Falls The force of her flow creates a gorge , smoothening and carving out the rocks into fantastic shapes, the pure white of the rocks standing starkly against the shades of the water. It is a joy to cruise down the river in a boat, seeing the natural contours created by the river, now famous as the Marble Rocks. We are at Bhedaghat, located on the banks of the Narmada near Jabalpur, where thousands of visitors turn up to see these natural landscapes, creations of the sacred Narmada, and pay obeisance to her. However, to me, the most interesting thing about Bhedaghat, isn’t the falls or the rocks, or even the river. What makes Bhedaghat special is t