The House Of Oracles | Chandini Santosh


Very few books are cathartic, even fewer leave you listless yet fulfilled in a strange way. Chandini Santosh’s The House of Oracles opened some blocks in me. Tears came effortlessly as I finished the book today. They came because a catharsis was much needed. The sky poured endlessly outside my window. I do not know how to review a book so just jotting down what flowed from my heart. This is the second book revolving around an ancestral house that has touched me so deeply. Both the books are by women writers and extremely compelling reads.

Some incidents from past can haunt you for the lifetime, emerging when least expected. Chandini has so beautifully woven that in the theme of the story. Throughout the novel the thought pulsates underneath the current happenings seeking release and atonement in some form or the other.

The heart wrenching narrative tugs at you to keep reading but I had to pause because the characters drew me in at different levels not letting go. The story is set in North Malabar region  and I urge you to do some reading about the ‘Oracles of Malabar’, an incredibly vibrant tradition that is slowly vanishing now, before proceeding to read. The House of Oracles is not just a voyage down the memory lane exploring the rich history, rituals, customs, it is also a journey within. A search for inner happiness, an effort to engage with oneself at levels one wants to push aside. Every one of us has to go through the myriads of  emotions, struggle and pave our path through the pressures and demands society as well as life inflicts on us and that is why perhaps the line between fiction and reality blurs as one reads through the pages.

Although the strong female characterization is the strength of the novel it is the portrayal of the male characters that grew on me. The vulnerability of human emotions is so deftly crafted that it is impossible to disconnect. Each character, even the short lived Vishnu, gets permanently etched in the mind.

The women on the other hand have this inner strength that surfaces quietly at times and at others more vociferously. Even in the midst of chaos that surrounds their lives there is resilience and dignity.

Chandini is a poet and painter par excellence and from the opening lines the four hundred year old house of oracles, the outhouse, the graves, the trees and the forty steps leading down begin to emerge before the reader like a painting. A painting alive with the aroma of the Parijata flowers floating down like tiny, wispy dreams or the moon dragging over the tulsi plant in the atrium, the stream swollen with rain, the daunting shadow of the seven layered stone lamp eternally etched on the walls, the grape-eyed monkey looking beseechingly from the tamarind tree, the lake simmering like a silver coin tossed into the night.. the imagery takes your breath away. One feels compelled to get under the skin of the characters and follow them around the House of Oracles and at times one almost becomes the house itself. There is no other way than to give in.

It is the phrases like, “Forgiving is a limbless genie. It has to be carried in rounded palms or the open hollows of the grieving mind” and “Everyone has to find their own key to the treasure; everyone’s treasure is different” that make you cling to the book till the last word.

Weaved intricately between family traditions, human tragedies, ancient customs is the inevitable social transformation, caste struggle, anomalies of land grab, the ways of the neo-rich and the uncomfortable transition from traditional to modern.

This intense, fast paced narrative will not let you down at any level. The cover design is based on a charcoal sketch by the author and is the portal to a world of storytelling that’s hard to come by these days.

I highly recommend Chandini’s debut novel to everyone. Go pick up your copy here – The House Of Oracles

A Bowlful of Butterflies by Ritu Lalit – Book Review


The début novel of Ritu Lalit , A Bowlful of Butterflies, has a fast paced  story that revolves around a middle class family based in NCR region.  The novel is primarily written for young adults but it resonates deeply with all of  us who have  been part of such extended middle class close-knit families. The younger generation of readers will surely relate with it.

It effectively portrays the angst, growing up pains, insecurities, complexities of relationships, new-found sexual urges, first crushes, dilemmas of career choices, continuous peer and parental pressure and the rebelliousness among the characters around whom the plot revolves.

As you progress reading the story holds your attention and urges you to become a part of  it, to participate  in the conversation. There were times when I felt like saying , ‘”where the heck was all this fun when I was growing up? why didn’t I have friends like Chandini ( Chandu), Amrit,  Soma ? It is an enjoyable refreshing read.

Some of the social issues like sexual preferences,  relationship issues like extra marital affairs, repercussions of parental discord on children are dealt with such subtlety.  The unspoken desires, hidden urges, the emotional upheavals that run deep through out the teenage hood are portrayed very deftly in the book.  Acceptance of  Vickramjeet (Vicky) as gay and his unconventional career choice of becoming a musician is a shocking experience for the middle class Ratra family. A reflection on  our society’s closed mind.

It was interesting to see Ritu bring out the attraction between Chandu and Jogi. It made me laugh as I remembered my teenage days and the huge crush I had on my cousin.  Not all accept it but it sure happens that  often the first crush comes within the extended family.

The novel certainly gives a cue to follow ones passion and make desired choices without succumbing to social pressures. The readers are left to ponder and gain some insight from the happenings in lives of these youngsters and their families.

I thought the dénouement was a bit weak. It seemed the author wanted a happy ending and a quick closure.  

The title A Bowlful of Butterflies is symbolic in more than one ways. Butterflies are symbols of the impressive process of metamorphosis. The kind of energy this transformation expends in such shot time is commendable. The plot of the novel spans a period of four months which show  transition of Chandini from girlhood to womanhood as she embraces the chances of her environment and her body and emerges with unfurling glory of  multi-hued butterfly. It also symbolizes the endless passionate bonds she shares with her siblings, childhood friends Soma and Amrit, her cousin Jogi and her first love Avni.

I am sure at some point or the other the story would touch a heart string and create music in the reader’s life. Life sure is a bowlful of Butterflies,  fragile, colorful and transitory.

Overall a light, entertaining read.

you can buy the book  HERE