Happy Birthday, Satyajit Ray

Growing up Bengali means a steady dose of Satyajit Ray in childhood. While I have devoured my share of Holmes books and Bond movies, there will always remain a special place in my heart for Feluda. I have read Ray in Bengali, and also in English, my favourite translations being those of Gopa Majumdar’s.

Apart from Feluda, I enjoyed his short stories and also his films. Shonar Kella is an amazing film for kids and adults. In many forms, Ray has touched upon my adulthood as well. I was pleased to discover his friendship with Audrey Hepburn, for example. And visiting Jaisalmer Fort brought the Kella to life too. I must watch Pikoo again (from Pikoo-r Diary).

A final mention too of Goopy Gyne, Bagha Byne – the brilliant political satire that remains relevant in this day and age. But also, perfectly watchable with children – who will love the surface level story involving the King of Ghosts and his magical powers. I loved this show I watched in Edinburgh last year, another strange way to come across Ray after so many years.

Happy Birthday to this legend!

More Reviews!

I thought I’d add a quick post to say that I have started reviewing for The Wee Review based in Scotland. I have been doing this for the past couple of months and will be focussing on Theatre and Books for the time being.

Inerestingly, the theatre shows seem to tour all over the place and at the different festivals, so if you are into this sort of thing, keep an eye on my reviews!


Stronger Within … a review

Stronger Within is Coral McCallum’s debut novel, the first book in the Silver Lake series. Set in Delaware, it follows the lives of Lori (a.k.a Mz Hyde) an artist cum investor and Jake, a guitarist in a rock band. A chance meeting occurs and one thing leads to another as an unlikely couple come together.

The author takes her time. The build up of the characters is very slow, it is at life speed. So events happen at a very realistic speed but until an important thread in the background is revealed, I have nothing to go on. So the first third of the book is a bit slow going. But as the pace picks up and we follow the characters’ individual and collective journeys, the plot unravels masterfully.

In particular, I really enjoyed the rock band’s travels. Because they perform across the US as well as overseas, it adds an element of adventure to the novel. There is a great deal of detail in every scene and the writing is very fluid and easily read.

So it ticked a lot of boxes for me. Especially as the nights have started to draw in on this northern burgh ever so much, this book filled quite a few evenings with a big mug of tea – recommended!

Eyes Like Lighthouses When the Boats Come Home … a review

I’ve taken a long time to write this one up. But it is a book of poems, so my excuse is that I read it in fits and bursts, on my commute as well as in bed, savouring it slowly. When Dane Cobain, the poet, asked me to review it, I expected something, I don’t know what the word for it is, traditional. But this book has been a pleasant surprise on that front. Allow me to elaborate by using some examples.

There’s no such thing as a gentleman


just men and women

stumbling through life

in the same way they always have.

Welcome to society,

our capitalistic, gender-neutral


we are all equal

in our misery.

I thought these lines were beautiful, but sad, accepting, but rebellious. It is the harsh reality of our times, put quite in a brutally honest way. I haven’t read something like this for a while. Read this

Then the web hit its terrible teens

and we signed up en masse

to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube,

Pinterest, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat

and WhatsApp,

and now our fragmented entities

are just stressful lives

lived out in public;

mass hallucinations and delirium

pulling us together and

pushing us apart.

Another set of lines that struck a chord for me. But it is not just the online world that Cobain rips apart. It is everything from religion to region, with a good measure of myth and mystery. Some of it is also very personal, very intimate, like having a drink with the poet and the things he might let spill over it.

I’ll leave you with a small set of lines which could be quite controversial, but are especially relevant with so many upcoming referendums and elections.

If Britain

is only for the British,

then I’m no longer


I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I have a soft corner for poetry and Cobain weaves his frustrations with the modern world deftly into stanzas which come across as masterfully crafted.


Tesserae … a review

I have reviewed a couple of books by Matt Freese previously. You can read my reviews here and here. The thing that has struck me every time is that although his books tend to be a collection of narratives rather than a single discourse, the topics are very different. In this latest work, Freese recalls the memories of two summers in the late 60s, when he spent time at Woodstock. I love the name of the book too, it means the pieces of stone whch make up a mosaic – it seemed to me the perfect name for a book of this kind.

The collection is part-memoir part-adventure-novel. By using his experiences on those two summers in particular, and interspersing the narrative with the past of the past and the future of the past, Freese has created a marvellous book. The thing that will stay with me, is how very intimate the book is. It is a deep-dive into the author’s innermost fears, dreams, insecurities. He talks of his first love, his wife, a failed marriage, and his intense but brief relationship with his daughter. He talks of these events as if talking to a friend, and it took a lot of stepping back on my part to not feel upset and embroiled in it all.

The only slight downside, for me, was that there are a few American references which were lost on me. I have never been to America, nor have I had close friends, so understandably, that is a want from my end. But those who have lived through the American 60s will definitely find events to relate to and empathise with. I really enjoyed reading it and will recommend it for sure.

It is available to buy from Wheatmark or Amazon.

The #Fringe is done!

And just like that, August has passed us by. This has been the most enjoyable and productive month. I have been reviewing non-stop since the seventh and I am unable to watch something without tearing it apart dialogue-by-dialogue. If anyone asks me to pick up tickets again, I will cry. But honestly, I have no idea what to do with myself or my evenings anymore. I had gotten into a wonderful routine of work, theatre, review, polish up. Rinse and repeat. And I watch the advent of fall with mixed feelings. I have always found autumn the hardest to deal with anyway… So what did I learn?


  1. Hindsight is a wonderful gift. A show that you watch today will most likely pale in comparison to the other shows you watch by the end of the month. But there is no knowing how you will feel about a show later on. I suppose it is almost an exercise in self-awareness, this knowing that I might like or dislike something in the absolute and not relative to having watched something else.

2. Fame is a brilliant thing. I have realised that fame is quite important to me. I went to the press office somewhere towards the middle of the Fringe and did *not* have to spell my name. You know when you are an Indian in Edinburgh how often that happens? NEVER. Like, never. And here I was “You should have press comp tickets in my name. It is U-D-I…”

“Yes, Miss Banerjee right? You write for Fringe Guru?”


3. Some of my most satisfying moments have been walking into venues and seeing my comments being used for marketing the shows themselves. That is pretty cool. I’ve never reviewed before and so never had the honour of seeing my opinion validated, even celebrated. See?


4. There is nothing worse than coming out of a show and thinking that it is going to be a 2* or a 3*. Everyone is trying so hard and everyone is trying to put on a great show. But sometimes, a show just doesn’t do anything for you and as a reviewer, you have to analyze what your audience might or might not want to see. Still, always hard, no matter how clinical your approach is.

5. Logistics. I really wish they gave you a leaflet with the venue info about the temperature and the food/drink quality. I have been roasting hot to freezing cold. The temperatures in venues have had nothing to do with temps outside. And I have had some terrible overpriced food and some rather love coffee. Have I ever picked a show because I know the coffee at the venue is fab? What do you think?

A special shout out to:

  1. All the venues who has water, unlimited water supply with lime in them. And ice!
  2. All the venues who had posh hand cream in the ladies ❤
  3. The usher at Spotlites who said Uttoradhikar properly

My top three shows are

Cell, The Ascension of Mrs Leech, The Trials of Galileo

All my reviews are all here.

Edinburgh is back to its quiet self again. I can have her back to myself. I am all for tourists and sharing my lovely city with them. But it is nice now that I can stand and stare at things for as long as I want.


Three Cheers! I’ll be watching the fireworks from my living room tonight.


Reviewing at the #EdFringe

I do not know how many of my readers have heard about the Fringe. But those in the arts industry would have. So the Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world and takes place every August for three weeks in Scotland’s capital city. The Fringe is a showcase for the performing arts, with show categories including Cabaret, Children’s shows, Comedy, Dance, Physical Theatre & Circus, Events, Exhibitions, Music, Musicals and Opera, Spoken Word and Theatre.
As you can imagine, various publications, online, in print, and newspapers run reviews of shows to watch (or not to watch) throughout the month. Late last month, I applied for a position as an official reviewer of theatre for an online magazine called Fringe Guru, and got it!
So I’ve been watching a lot of theatre and reviewing it for the general public audience. You can read my reviews here. Or if you follow me on Twitter, @effervescencia, I have gotten more active there as well.
Understandably, my reading has taken a backseat for the month of August, but with this chunk of good work, my writing is flying. Do let me know your thoughts – have you watched any of the shows? Do you enjoy theatre? Did you like any of my reviews?


Excellence in IT … a review

Not my usual kind of book… but since I began a new job in IT a few months ago and I just had my first performance appraisal for it last week, I thought this book just came along at a good time. Surprisingly, I enjoyed it very much. The author makes some compelling points that are not very obvious. However, I got told the same things at work as well so I was quite impressed. It is a must read if you’re in IT. If you’re not, then you might want to dip in and out, reading the bits that are relevant to your line of work.

Along with championing the good habits, the author also sets out the most common bad habits. I have had five years of technical education, two years of semi-technical work experience, and only four months in my latest IT role. However, I could easily see examples of the pitfall kind of people in my head. They are easy to spot, and knowing what you’re seeing makes it easier to work with them or work around them. It also makes it easier, as an employee, to recognise early signs of behaviours in oneself and sidestep them. We all like to think that we are doing the very best we can in our day jobs. But sometimes, in fact, most of the time, it is not about what we do; it is about how we do it. More and more organisations are hiring based on people standards rather than technical skills and this is why.

 Some other stellar advice – don’t stop learning, don’t be too cocky, never experiment on production systems, be the good man in a storm, keep your chin up. There is even an entire chapter on Stress Management, and that is probably as relevant in any industry, in any workplace. The book wraps up with how to remain critical and relevant in such a fast-changing environment and what separates a good techie from a bad one.

 The final thing that made me really respect the author – the discussion about the importance of documentation. I refuse to buy the bullshit that techies are bad at it. Some very very lazy techie came up with that. I have met some of the foremost researchers in the world in certain fields (and that includes people like Peter Higgs) and if you do not document, you are plain lazy.

Most useful lines ‘Always remember that competency is your responsibility. Moving forward without competency is, in all fairness, your fault and no one else’s’.

I Truly Lament: Working Through the Holocaust … a review

The first book by Mathias B. Freese that I reviewed was last year, it too, like this one, was short stories. So, naturally, I approached this latest book with a certain set of preconceived notions about his style of writing and the overall content. It was however, quite a different experience. Freese is a gifted writer. I say this because I have read quite a few books about the holocaust and this has such a different approach to the whole issue. Each story involves a folk tale, or a fable, from Jewish folklore. And creatures, both good and bad, come alive to take the characters of the book through bizarre journeys.

One of the stories that touched me most was one that involved a ‘golem’ . “In Jewish folklore, a golem is an animated anthropomorphic being, magically created entirely from inanimate matter.” Mothers tell children stories of the golem as a creature that must be summoned when no hope remains and the world is dark. A Jew who is escaping from a camp has the golem in his head and conversations follow. The story is bone-chilling. I have always marvelled at the cruelty of man to man but never have I come across such raw rendering of emotions. Even the story about Hitler’s relationship with Eva seems true.

Needless to say, it is a most depressing read. Do approach with caution. This book affected me almost as much as Anne Frank’s work, and that is the highest praise I can give it.