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Indian Book reviews

Bridging The Distance


About The Book

Missing Varrun is a tale of values and lost affection. It is a love story that connects the picturesque town of Ceuta in the south of Spain, to the dusty bye-lanes of Kolkata in India. A story which witnesses a young Spanish girl meeting an Indian boy quite by the twist of fate. Their torrid love affair crosses all barriers of time and culture and unites them, only to see them separated by ironical living of the 21st century. It is about the children born to them, their upbringing, and their strange longing for India in the aftermath of life and living of a family, which struggles to come to terms with the time and distance between them, underlining a bold endeavour to reunite under the most compelling circumstances.

 


About the Author

Amar Agarwala is a practising Chartered Accountant and a Company Secretary. He has a Bachelor's degree in Law, possesses a Master's in Business Administration, Master's of Science, Information and Technology and a Diploma in Information & Systems Audit. Presently pursing a doctorate from a leading university, he has more than 25 years of teaching experience in various fields. As a motivational speaker he has won acclaim both in India and abroad. He is 42, and is married with two children. His wife is a teacher and lives in Spain with their two children aged eight and two, respectively. The author lives in Kolkata with his mother and travels extensively to be with his family in Spain. This creative fiction is his debut novel.

Amar can be contacted at amarv_agarwala@yahoo.com

 

Website: http://www.indianbookreviews.com/2011/11/01/bridging-the-distance/

Goodreads.com


by Amar Agarwala

Missing Varrun is a tale of values and lost affection. It is a love story that connects the picturesque town of Ceuta in the south of Spain, to the dusty by-lanes of Kolkata in India. A story which witnesses a young Spanish girl meeting an Indian boy quite by the twist of fate. Their torrid love affair crosses all barriers of time and culture and unites them, only to see them separated by ironical living of the 21st century. It is about the children born to them, their upbringing, and their strange longing for India in the aftermath of life and living of a family, which struggles to come to terms with the time and distance between them, underlining a bold endeavour to reunite under the most compelling circumstances.

 

 

 

Website: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14058835-missing-varrun

Missing Varrun by Amar Agarwala


Book Review

Amar Agarwala's debut novel Missing Varrun is a full life story of a Calcutta based charted accountant Vedant (1966 – 2049) spanning well into the future. It is also a love story that crosses all barriers of time and culture. Vedant, a brilliant chartered accountant of Calcutta falls in love with Amaya, a Spanish girl of Sindhi origin, fifteen years younger than he. She comes to India to complete her basic education, and as a neighbour he gives her private tuition in English and mathematics, and it's how love begins to sprout between them.

 

They eventually marry and were soon blessed with two children Varrun and Vaideeka. It so happens that while the father stays back in India, mom and children heads back to Spain, leaving Vedant to miss his children and hiswife. So it would be curious how they have their reunions, and how often, how they manage to nourish and cherish mutual love and affection.

 

Life goes on as Amaya continues with her school assignment and spending her time looking after her kid and watching her kids grow in Ceuta, Spain. Ceuta, a small Spanish town nestling on the northern tip of Africa, boasted an area of 22 square kilometer and a population of less than 100 000. It bordered Morocco and separated from main land Spain by the Straits of Gibraltar, with the Mediterranean and Atlantic on either side of the straits. While Vedant spent his time working on ledgers, trial balance and balance sheets in Kolkata.

 

The story starts with the farewell of Amaya, who decides to get back to India after a premature retirement to start a fresh life with Vedant. They get back to Kolkata and life goes on with regular flash backs as Vedant travels back his time to retrace his love story with Amaya.

 

Missing Varrun also treats the reader with exotic scenery of southern Spain – the towns of Granada, Cadiz and Trujillo and the majestic snow-clad peaks of Sierra Nevada. Back home we accompany Vedant and Amaya on two honeymoons in the lap of the Himalaya, with its swift flowing rivers, holy lakes and enchanting monasteries.

 

As the events flows on the story takes a dramatic change, with a plane crash killing Amaya. Life suddenly comes to a standstill for Vedant's family. Vedant's son Varrun, a leading neurologist, sacrifices his carrier to stand by his aging father.

 

As the health condition of Vedant detoriates the story frequently travels back in time not only bringing back sweet memories but also bringing into light the lesser known characters in the novel, who otherwise would have remained in the darkness. Finally the story comes to a close with the death of Vedant.

 

About the Author:

Amar Agarwala is a practicing Chartered Accountant and a Company Secretary. He also posses a degeree in Law and also a MBA. Presently Agarwala has more than more than 25 years of teaching experience in various fields and is pursuing a doctorate degree.

 

He is 44 and is married with two children. His wife lives with the two children in Spain. Agarwalla lives and works in Kolkata. Missing Varrun is Amar Agarwala's debut novel.

 

Website: http://rangandatta.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/book-review-missing-varrun-by-amar-agarwala/


Prateek Jhunjhunwala-Astral Runner


In the first place I would like to compliment the author on writing such a fine book. The subject matter being subtle and touchy, the task becomes arduous and so the magnificence with which he compiled the book is exemplary. The knowledge being shared is unparalleled. The very first chapter will bound the reader and will compel him to read into the late hours of night. The style of writing is so soothing that one will fall in love with it immediately, especially those who are suffering from a sense of loss whether it be of spirit or of a close one since the book touches with precise the emotion of loss of any close one and the survivor’s guilt and pain and grief and every kind of unpleasant emotion that he undergoes. It gives hope to live on, to look forward in life. The book wonderfully portrays the various relationships shared by a man signifying the importance of each; the bonds that he shares with his parents, wife, kids, relatives and then that with friends. It also deals in depth on the bond shared by a good mentor and a worthy student undoubtedly the strongest of all relations. In modern age when men tend to lose faith easily, it asks for to hold on to it, to continue to believe in that super intelligence, the God, who works in mysterious ways since he along with his methods are all prevailing. As the writer says, Divinity has its own way. Wonders happen everyday in our world. Some are big while some are so small that they go unnoticed. The book makes a wonderful use of science with spiritual aspects to expound these various happenings of our daily lives, running miles ahead of any other book into the unexplored and unexplained territories and that of Astral Runner who are the watchdogs appointed by the Super Intelligence thus also making them the custodians of faith and the guardians of all realms whether of earth or of heavens.


CA Nirmalya Banerjee-Missing Varrun


Read Missing Varrun a few days back. A tale of love-separated by distance. The story connects Kolkata and Ceuta. It describes the beauty of the Himalayan ranges as well as the warmth of the cities of Southern Spain. The narrative revolves around the lives of Vedant and Amaya-a happy couple longing for each other as they live in different continents. Although the novel deals with a tragic death and its aftermath, yet the author creates an undercurrent of love, yearning and reunion which runs throughout the story. We also witness a father-son bonding when Varrun sacrifices a career for something which he considers a greater priority. Overall a wonderful read. Way to go Sir @ amar agarwala


Annonymous- Missing Varrun


Missing Varrun... Just not a story... just not a novel.... its a journey... it’s an IDEOLOGY in itself... who says long distance relationships don't work... who says LOVE always has to have this mushy-mushy feeling... and who on earth says love gets lost in some hidden corner of the heart after some years pass off... time and again it is proved in the book that TRUE LOVE has no age bar... TRUE LOVE even is not bound to happen between the couples... LOVE is a sincere feeling... a feeling of close attachment... of the foregone longings and happiness that you feel when you see your family your children your spouse being happy and successful... it’s the contempt that you get to see your loved ones at peace... when you love... you just love... you don't want anything in return apart from the well being of the one you love... This book is in itself an EPITOME... a saga... the TRUTHFULNESS AND SINCERITY of the author... is simply heart touching... every page of the book has its own journey... a JOURNEY THROUGH LIFE... moving along with the pages a reader can get a feeling of oneness... such is the power of the narrator to get connected to the hearts, be it young or old... the places in the book have been described in such a beautiful manner that the reader will be forced to visualize the scenery in his/her mind... the emotions have been portrayed so beautifully that we just can’t help laughing at the comedy timings and crying our hearts out during the narrator's melancholy… such truth lies in the emotions... a beautiful yet true picturisation of the harsh world that we live in... and a heart soaking practical decisions that you take and the compromises you make... JUST TO BE THERE... a MATURED STORY WHICH WILL TAKE YOU TOTALLY AT BLISS... I WAS FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO GET HOLD OF SUCH A CLASSIC TALE OF LOVE LIFE RELATIONSHIPS... MY HEARTIEST GRATITUDE TO Author Author Amar Agarwala Sir WHO gave us THIS EPIC TALE... THIS VISUAL AND EMOTIONAL TREAT... truly one of the finest works of literature that I have come across... THANK YOU SO MUCH SIR !


Ankit kanodia- Astral Runner


After the wonderful book, 'Missing Varrun' , I was apprehensive as to whether "Astral Runner" will be of that class or not. But after reading I would say it took up from where 'Missin Varrun' left. Right from the very first chapter it gets thrilling and gritty and it captivates the reader right till the end. The way the story progress through-out with reality and fantasy embedded in different ways in each chapter, makes it a fresh concept. The beauty of this piece is that with all the fantasy of the astral world included in the book the protagonist of the story is a simple common man who could by identified easily by the reader. The book is like a running movie with a flash which keeps you engrossed till the last chapter. And your mind does wander for some days thinking about the other possibilities. That's what makes it a must-read. While it is difficult to give the essence of the book in one review of a few words, but I am reminded of a teacher's words, "Sometimes in life, we need to go to Neptune and then have a look at Earth, we will have a better view". I guess this books provide us that free ride to the Neptune.


Atreya Sarma: Missing Varrun

An Indo-Spanish mega romance...

This is an Indo-Spanish romance of unalloyed love, of parental and filial affection and duty, of domestic and interpersonal values, and of force of character. It's a story of zest for life, of acceptance of people as they are, and of universal values internalised and practised, with no trumpeting. It's a story of harmonisation between a family divided in living between India and Spain due to compulsions of career and nativity. It's a story of gritty parenting even in the teeth of unnerving circumstances. It's a story of love undiminished despite unfeasible geographical distances. It's a story of love kindling the life and traversing beyond.

 

It's a full-life story, a futuristic story spanning 1966 and 2049 (yes, the year is 2049!), though inherently it goes on indefinitely. It provides ample action, challenges and compromises with keen psychological insights – in a felicitous language with an engaging and smooth flow. The narration is not chronological but goes back and forth like a stream of consciousness. The writer has so carved the characters that we laugh and cry with them.

 

Vedant, a brilliant chartered accountant of Kolkata falls in love with Amaya, a Spanish girl of Sindhi origin, fifteen years younger than he. She comes to India to complete her basic education, and as a neighbour he gives her private tuition in English and math, and it's how love begins to sprout between them. They have to contend with the wishes and situation of their families as also the gulf of distance between their countries. Then thanks to a meticulously-networked coup, Amaya manages to decamp to India, weathering every conceivable hindrance... to land up in the arms of her hero. They marry and eventually beget two children Varrun and Vaideeka. It so happens that while the father stays back in India, mom and children live in Ceuta, Spain. So it would be curious how they have their reunions, and how often, how they manage to nourish and cherish mutual love and affection. Once grown up, Varrun becomes a leading neuro-surgeon and lives in Barcelona. He marries his childhood sweetheart, Samantha, a Spaniard and they have their little son, Varun (with a single 'r'). Vaideeka, specialising in international law, and serving the government of Spain lives in Madrid. She marries Akash, an Indian businessman and they have their little girl, Akansha.

 

And what is it in Amaya that attracted Vedant? She is tall, plump, broad-shouldered, and bewitchingly beautiful. She is a "gutsy lass" who has "managed the most valiant act" and "given me lessons in courage and sacrifice." He is glad that he has lost a long-drawn battle to someone who is proving to be mentally superior: "Just that she was fifteen and I, twenty-nine." (96). Once married, she proves to be an excellent homemaker too. "Amaya was the official ombudsman to all the servants and even some of my employees."(185). Her command is complete. "She was like Vasco da Gama, discovering newer territories within the household I (never) dared to venture into."(189).

 

The writer has captured well the evolution of the protagonist's character especially in his love affair. For Vedant who is slow, unclear, hesitant, and tentative in his expression of love for Amaya, it takes a long enough time in this bildungsroman, and needs a psychiatrist's wise counsel, to realise that he is in love with her. It's only then that he proposes straight with a clear and firm voice: "Will you marry me?!"

 

Then what more is left of this story, one may query. Yes, there is a lot more. After all, the way we live our lives, the way we vibe with one another, the way we add our bit to the progress of life in general – that's all life is about, isn't it?

 

How could the writer, Amar Agarwala, bring about such a realism in this vibrant story that moves from San Sebastian School in Ceuta to Swami Vivekananda Girls High School in Kolkata? Well, it's because of its autobiographical streak, with many dramatis personae springing up from real-life. The author himself transmigrates into Vedant, and tells us that this is his "creative non-fiction" and debut novel. And a double kudos to him – one for his debut creation, the other for its promotion to a second edition just within one year!

 

We enjoy not only the idyllic colours, sights and sounds of Ceuta, the small Spanish presidio town nestling on the northern tip of Africa. We are also treated to the exotic scenery of southern Spain – the towns of Granada, Cadiz and Trujillo and the majestic snow-clad peaks of Sierra Nevada. Back in India we are taken on two honeymoons in the breathtaking Himalayan realms of northern Bengal and Sikkim – with their verdurous splendour, temples, monasteries and rivers.

 

True to the eclectic spirit of global citizenship that is increasingly catching on, we celebrate Reyes and Christmas along with Navidad, Deepavali, and Durga Puja with equal gaiety and fervour. The narrator aptly says: "All nuclear families living in this century do not live together. A paradigm shift has happened in the conventional value system." (183).

 

The story has its share of flirtatious flashes, and of course, all good-natured ones.

 

On seeing a lovely dame, but who he comes to know has been married, Vedant rues: "Either the pretty things were married to someone else or they migrated out of sight! How could you be so conniving, God?" (29).

 

In a party at Ceuta, awestruck by the royal airs of an ageless beauty, Sophie Laundres, a widow, Vedant ogles and engages her in a suggestive conversation. Noticing this, his married children Varrun and Vaideeka tease him. Varrun his "rakish lad" shows him a "thumbs-up sign from a corner of the restaurant with a knowing smile." (59). And Vaidi whispers into her dad's ears: "We'll put her on the guest list for your farewell party." (59). After a while, Vedant has the cheek and wink to confess: "That night I dreamt that I was returning to India, but strangely, the lady with me was not Amaya... it was Sophie Laundres..."! (66).

 

Then you have racy and romantic humour. A couple of examples is a must.

 

Amaya comes away from Spain, abandoning all her parental family there, and with no belongings save a pair of garments, all for the sake of her love for Vedant; and they register-marry. But he doesn't yet like to physically consummate the love before fulfilling certain social proprieties and customs as also because of his sense of responsibility as her guardian. See how she teases him:

 

She would keep bugging me, "Fine, ask your mom to visit her mom at Ganganagar... Tell her that you need to spend time with me, here in the house. After all, you need to examine your gift from Spain closely. She will understand."

 

"What, you've gone completely berserk or something!" I would retort.

 

"Maybe. I need some cuddling urgently." She would just come and sit on my lap. "Am I manageable?" She would question with the candid naughtiness of a teenager.

 

"Manageable and tad heavy," I would say wincingly.

 

"Hey handsome, better make your bones stronger. You have a lot of weightlifting coming up," and she would giggle and push her tongue against her cheeks and gesture for a kiss. (135-136). Isn't this perfectly understandable, and psychologically too, that a girl who has come away uprooted from her home in a far away foreign land, needs to be reassured and comforted every now and then with enough doses of cuddling and kisses! See how she persists in her demands, for they remain yet unfulfilled:

 

"You won't get me pregnant very soon na?" she asked childlike.

 

"Are you crazy...!? Pregnant! You are just a teenager, a kid yourself. Just handle yourself first and your studies. Kids come later. How could you even think like this? What do you think I am? Some rustic villager, who gets his wife pregnant within a week of marriage and takes pride in his manliness?"

 

"And not too many babies," her childlike retorts continued.

 

"I need a dozen and you are my baby factory," I said grinning.

 

"You think I should get on the pill?" she pouted innocently.

 

"What on earth for? So that we could hug better?" I asked incredulously.

 

"No, I mean when should we start it, we will be married in about two and half months."

 

"Amaya, for God's sake let's not talk such stuff in the Metro. You don't need pills as neither do we need sex." I knew she would react. She did.

 

"Hah! Hah! Hah! Do you want to keep me in a showcase like a Barbie Doll," she looked at me through raised eyebrows.

 

"For me, that's what you are; a plump Barbie," I said with a little pride.

 

"Your Barbie needs her man to do nice things to her. So better watch it and besides, how many hugs, kisses and smooches are due? Are you keeping a track of them, Mr Accountant?" her tone was businesslike.

 

"Yes, Senora! They are noted down," I meekly responded to my newly-appointed Boss from Spain.

 

"Do let me audit them, next time we meet. I'm sure you've made horrible mistakes. Don't forget I am a CA's wife and more than a qualified auditor," she said it with a tone that made me laugh. (137-138). And see how Vedant responds to this sweet-innocent impishness of Amaya. He avers: "A girl half my age was giving me lessons which would remain etched in my mind forever. These were not just lessons in love. It was about caring, about sharing, of an unspoken togetherness and of a bond I never let go till my last breath." (147).

 

The interlude of character sketches (in the chapter "Once upon a neighbourhood") by the protagonist after a rather momentous story may appear a bit sagging, but then isn't it an eloquent testimony to his genuine network of friends and relations, for eventually when he is bedridden in a hospital, more than 438 guests happen to visit him!?

 

Vedant's hospital pain and delirious state of mind where he hears and sees things reminds us of Om's plight and fight in a nursing home in the one-character play Exit-stance by Harish Trivedi. And some of the earlier and subsequent developments are laden with a poignant tenderness that tugs at our heartstrings and conjures up The Blessed Damozel by DG Rossetti.

 

Obviously, the author knows his forte. His confidence exudes in his Acknowledgments, where he says: "I could write every word of this novel in good time and with sincerity." (328).

 

Let's conclude with the protagonist's golden message:

 

"My dear boy, Dad and Mom's blessings are always with you. We are special because you make us special. You light up our lives. Keep lighting up the lives of all those around you... your life will never ever be in darkness." (273). It is how one generation passes on the baton of life and duty to the next, on and on...

 

Website: http://www.museindia.com/regularcontent.asp?issid=46&id=3796&title=Book%20Review(s)