Seriously under-rated Christie must-reads

September 15th being Agatha Christie’s 128th birth anniversary , I  revisited the Christies’ in my bookshelf over the previous week . It might sound a bit odd to revisit mystery fiction when you would already know the culprit but trust me , rereading Christie did not prove to be dull . She managed to throw the spotlight on some of the storytelling elements which had gone unobserved during the fast & furious one sitting read .

Sans the pitfall of too-descriptive / metaphorical  language or other innovative narrative elements/styles of today’s thrillers or the “psychological” elements of the psychological thrillers Christie’s straight narrative still had us hooked to the book even more than books with the above mentioned fuss n feathers . When we hear the name of Christie , some of the most popular titles like And Then There Were None , The Murder of Roger Ackroyd need no introduction for readers .  So , here today, I have a list of some of the most underrated Christie titles which most of us tend to miss out with all the noise the popular titles are making.

sad cypress

#1 Sad Cypress

Elinor Carlisle and Roddy Welman , an engaged couple ,  arrive at Hunterbury Lodge , Mrs. Welman’s estate on receiving an anonymous letter accusing someone of taking advantage of their aunt . Both are looking forward to a substantial inheritance on Mrs. Welman’s demise who is now an invalid following a stroke . Unfortunately , Rodney falls in love with Mary Gerard , the lodge-keeper’s daughter  whom Elinor suspects to be the person whom the anonymous writer meant . Elinor breaks her engagement to Rodney .

When the story begins Elinor is being tried for the murder of Mary Gerard – did rivalry in love prove to be a compelling motive for Elinor as everybody believe ? As Poirot tries to save Elinor from the gallows he uncovers several startling truths ….. Is Elinor truly innocent or a cold blooded murderess?

The solution to the puzzle simply left me speechless . I would strongly urge you to pick up this one .

#2 Sleeping Murder

sleeping murder

Miss Marple’s last case involves solving a ‘sleeping murder’ – a murder that has evaded detection for 18 years . Gwenda and Giles Reed  move into Hillside which turns out to be Gwenda’s childhood home . An evening at the theater triggers a childhood memory of being a witness to a murder – but where? .Who was the victim ? Who was the murderer ? Gwenda draws a blank for these questions except for a single name that she gives for the victim . As  they start piecing together the past they seem to get too close to discovering the murderer’s identity . For somebody who has committed the ‘perfect’ murder , the past should not be dug up and he/she will resort to anything to keep it so – including killing again .

Like  several amateur detectives , the Reeds are gung-ho about snooping around and do not realize the dangers they put themselves into . So, enter Miss Marple , ‘ the perfect Victorian piece ‘  to ‘ look after them ‘ ( to quote her ) . As a crime – Miss Marple realizes the dangers of delving too deep into the past – a murder , more so . But , an unsolved and ( unsuspected ) murder from the past proves to be too intriguing even for Miss Marple ( and not to mention , definitely dangerous )….

#3 Why Didn’t they ask Evans ?

evans

The last words of a dying man ” WHY DIDN’T THEY ASK EVANS ” spur Bobby Jones and his friend Frankie into  snooping around  trying to find the identity of the dead man and also , what did he mean by those words ….

Again we have two amateur detectives  here but what made the duo lovable was the fact they did had a good amount of luck in stumbling upon clues and they were like two kids playing the guess-who game – bringing in some good humor , at times  bungling up just like an amateur would ,  putting together pieces when there is a sudden brainwave –  I especially loved Frankie . Let me put it down here that amateur detectives don’t mean no logical explanation to their deductions .  What I love specially about them is that you get a good dose of drama and a change from our very business like Poirot or astute Miss Marple – but still Christie makes sure there is one of the pair who is bright enough to provide the readers with the logical explanations to their findings . The fun-loving sleuths meet their match in a villain who is all at once – suave , diabolical  and blessed with ( equally ) good humor who comes up clean in a most characteristic way … After reading the villain’s confession , I was equally amused with the villain too -we don’t comes across such interesting and if I may say , charming villains often….

#4 Death Comes As The End

the end

Set in 2000 BC Thebes, the story follows a spate of murders in the house of Imhotep, the Ka mortuary priest. It all began with the death of Nofret, his young concubine from Memphis. Her arrival at Imhotep’s house had not been without some animosity . She antagonized Imhotep’s sons and their wives – only the threat of disinheritance seemed to keep Yahmose and Sobek’s wives from bullying her any further. Her death seemed to bring everything back to as it was before Nofret’s arrival –  BUT IT WAS NOT SO .

Soon , as Renisenb , Imhotep’s daughter witnesses , the family members become victims to the unknown murderer one by one – Or is it the vengeful spirit of Nofret exacting her revenge on the family?

Christie puts together a really convincing ,  racy thriller in a timeline that we don’t have much idea about .  I think this book alone can establish  Christie’s unsurpassed mastery in crime fiction writing – I can’t recommend this enough .

Let me know in the comments section which books you loved from the above list if you have already read them or which books are you planning to pick up ? I would love to hear from you guys about your thoughts on the Christies you have read too . I am planning to have the entire month for Agatha Christie themed posts.. Stay tuned !!

 

BELIEVE ME -A review

I have finished J P Delaney’s latest just now – BELIEVE ME . I went into the book with some expectation based on his debut novel THE GIRL BEFORE . But , truth to be said , this has become yet another hastily-cooked-up-second-release-after-a promising-debut book .

Plot summary : 

Claire Wright likes to play other people. For Claire every day events play out like a movie scene in which she is an actor . She is also constantly on the lookout for gestures and nuances – both in others and herself which would be “ gold dust “ for her future roles . Picking up nuances is something that Claire does as everybody breathes , yet consciously she commits these nuances to memory to use them later in the appropriate circumstances – reel or real . An undocumented British drama student , she is employed by a firm of divorce lawyers to get incriminating evidence on straying husbands whose wives are the clients of the firm . Claire ’ s narrative is juxtaposed with movie scene script snippets which is an interesting twist to the regular narratives. She throws up words like jump cuts, montage scenes, acting styles…. – in short , a hardcore passionate student of theater who got her big break not in theater but in assisting the NYPD in unmasking a  killer .

When Stella Fogler is  found murdered in her hotel suite ,  Claire comes under police radar as she was one of the two people who last saw Stella alive .  As we all know , when a married woman is found murdered , its always the husband who becomes  the de facto suspect in the investigation and Patrick Fogler is no different . Patrick is incidentally the only husband who had rebuffed her advances when Claire  has put up her easy pick-up act . When a forensic profiler comes up with what she believes substantial evidence against Patrick Folgate ,  in not one ,  but several gruesome murders , Claire is asked by the police to entice Patrick into revealing his darker side ( is there one first ?? ) .

As Claire begins to forge an intimate relationship with Patrick  and the more she gets to know him , she begins to doubt the police theory and eventually the police force itself . How could such a faithful husband (despite his wife ‘ s doubts ) be a cold – blooded killer? Is there more to this whole ” operation ” as the forensic profiler terms it than what she has been told??

Does she know the actual picture ?

Or

The real Patrick ?

Review :

There are a few elements to the plot which however made the phrases ” No…not again ” , “ seen this before ”  circle my brain while I was reading this book too often . Frankly , this mix always goes for a very predictable ending – the unreliable narrator , the limited number of suspects , the very obvious motive(s) in some cases . It’s no surprise considering that there had been very few jigsaw puzzle pieces and the narrator had to play it up several ways deliberately before putting together the pieces  of the puzzle in the right place .

To begin with, the unreliable narrator trope – it has become something of a rage  staple for almost every ” psychological ” thriller that is being published nowadays . Maybe it goes the other way round too I guess – Get an unreliable narrator for your story and you have a psychological thriller .

It would be really good if our modern day suspense writers try to get the tone of the characters right to set a strong foundation for a psychological premise of the story  instead of relying solely on  the narrator . While Claire seemed to be characterized pretty well , the author hasn’t got the tone right for Patrick .

The book packs good number of twists to keep the reader continuing but the ending became very predictable and few elements were downright stupid . A random character pops up with obsessive tendencies ( however similar it may be to the  profile of the killer ) and attempts a murder . The plot just gets too obvious that I need to get to the final pages for a dramatic ending with the killer and this is just a decoy . If you actually want the reader to fall for your red herring atleast make it sound convincing . Sans motive , sans good number of pages / appearances the red herring becomes laughable .  And red herrings are meant to make the suspense game intense – not defuse the tension .

In all , I am in the mood for a good old fashioned detective story or a regular psychological thriller where the police are in the ground looking for clues and being just in time to foil the killer ‘ s plans for another murder or to simply haul him up reinforcing our faith that justice prevails ( atleast in fiction ) .  The unreliable narrators in the books I have read this year have made me wary of them for some time in the future definitely – the mere idea of yet another makes me run away from whodunits .

Rating :3 / 5

Guys , you can definitely pick up The Girl Before  by the same author . You can read the review here

The Girl Before – A review

Epigraphs

Like all addicts signature killers work from a script , engaging in repetitive behavior to the point of obsessiveness .

Robert D. Keppel and William J. Birnes , Signature Killers

We may say that the patient does not remember anything of what he has forgotten or repressed , but acts it out . He reproduces it not as a memory but as an action ; he repeats it , without , of course , knowing that he is repeating it .

Sigmund Freud , Remembering , Repeating and Working – Through

______________________________________________

The Girl Before has been literally a (page) – tearing read . The copy had almost every alternate page stuck to the next page  and I was actually prising the pages apart and very often I ended up with torn pages . You can imagine how frustrating it is when you want to race through the pages but you are sitting and carefully prising open the pages stuck together – some way to read a suspense novel … I would not have minded if  it was any other genre.  I guess that ‘ s enough of a rant about the reading woes .

The story alternates between first person accounts from Emma – the Girl Before and Jane – the Girl Next . I picked up this book after Bring Me Back  and found that the same Then and Now style of narrative has been followed here too . There is yet another trope too that has become one of the go-to for suspense writers . Let me give a hint – Gone Girl took full advantage of this trope ( maybe I should say actually popularized this trope ) . Well , you need to pick up the book if you want to find it out – I have a strictly no spoilers policy !!

Plot summary  :

Jane gets a chance to occupy an aesthetic minimalist house . Now , One Folgate Street is a house where you have rules to be followed and any violation of the rules mean termination of the tenancy . The rules are laid out by the architect of the house – a man for whom perfectionism and minimalism are almost an obsession and  One Folgate Street is a reflection of his ideas and aspirations .  Jane discovers that her predecessor Emma  died under mysterious circumstances and starts putting together Emma’s life to  find an answer to the question – What happened with Emma ? Who is actually behind her death ?  Meanwhile we have Emma ‘ s parallel  account of her life at One Folgate Street and the readers get to know the truth behind her death . Jane ‘ s experiences  can be best described as reruns of Emma ‘s . But would Jane stumble upon the truth on time to save herself from the killer ?  Or does the same fate await her ?

JP Delaney has given a  neat psychological thriller – nothing more to say . What I loved about this book was the writing which shows that the topics have been  researched meticulously .  It was really interesting how cultural references took the narrative as well as the plot further .  The author packs a twist in every chapter and  you would be thinking about yet another angle within few chapters almost every time .  The characters , the setting of the story – basically The House and  narrative style have all been handled beautifully . Special mention about The House definitely – it is sure to pique the readers’ interest about minimalism . The reader engagement and the guess-it-who quotient is always maintained . An engaging read from first to last although I found the climax a bit too seen-it-before in other psychological thrillers . But you wouldn’t guess who until Emma finally reveals her killer. The narrators themselves have their own secrets … So , this book actually packs in a lot …

Rating : 4 .25/5

I highly recommend this book for all the suspense / thrillers buffs out there . Along the lines of The Girl in the Window this is another psychological thriller set to hit the screens soon –  You had better hurry up !!

The author ‘ s latest book has  Believe Me has got released recently . I will be reviewing it shortly . Click on the below links to check out the books at Amazon ( for Indian readers ) –

Believe Me

The Girl Before

Other readers can check out the below links  at Amazon –

The Girl Before

Believe Me

 

 

it’s always the husband – A Review

download (1)Kate,Aubrey and Jenny are inseparable at college- friends who promised they’d be there for each other.But twenty years later , their friendship is about to take a deadly turn.

Kate married the gorgeous party boy,Aubrey married up and Jenny married the boy next door,but when one of the friends dies in shocking circumstances,will everyone assume it’s always the husband?OR COULD IT BE THE BEST FRIEND?

———————————————————————————————

Michele Campbell’s debut its always the husband is quite a refreshing take on the famous suspense trope of the husband being the murderer in case of a married woman . I promise there would be no spoilers and let me dive right in —

Plot summary :

Kate – the fast one.

Jenny –the ambitious one.

Aubrey – she wants the best of both Jenny’s and Kate’s worlds despite struggling to strike the right balance. But she is determined to make the best of the exposure to the elite society and opportunities that an Ivy Leaguer is accorded. Two decades down the line, the three are married and settled down. And then one of them dies… Not surprisingly, there seem to be too many plausible motives – betrayal, passion, revenge…. The newest addition to this cocktail is even more dangerous which threatens the friends too… Which of the following motives proved to be the strongest that it resulted in murder – Or is it murder in the first place?

My reading experience :

The college years of the girlfriends has been dealt in great detail and is an engaging read.It contributes greatly to the development of the central characters-Aubrey , Kate and Jenny .While much thought has been given for the character development of the three, the other characters aren’t so well developed.When the moving finger picks out the next suspect , it seems a bit not easy to believe even if the motives attributed to them are perfectly sound.The host of secondary characters come and go only in relation with the central characters and are not very familiar to the readers .  If you are actually going to accuse somebody , first give them enough space in the story .

Given Michelle’s in-depth account of the college life in the Ivy League campus   ( given that she herself is a graduate from one ) , it would have been better if the second part of the story which is where the guessing game starts , too had enough details .  Although it was a really great narrative , it missed out the compelling factor simply because few of the angles which had been touched upon (like the murder or suicide question )  didn’t have enough weight to actually keep the readers guessing .  The victim simply hasn’t been characterized  seriously as being traumatized or showing signs of extreme stress ( or much stress whatsoever)  to actually take her own life .  The psyche of the characters could have been better explored .

Despite these shortfalls , Michele scores strongly with the ” show – only – one -side ” of the narrative which finally  starts to build the tension . The last 60 pages or so turned the regular whodunit into  one heck of the  story that leaves the reader shocked with the terrific twist at the end . Yes , the last few pages actually made all the impact that has people touting it as the next Gone Girl .

So , how would I rate the book? For me , the story has to strike the right chord with suspense element and  getting the readers actually agree with your  surmise of the moment which was clearly missing with it’s always the husband .  Perhaps , a few more pages  giving a good picture of the secondary characters and exploring the characters’ psyche in a little more depth would have made this book even more worthy of all the praise its raking right now .  I guess  ” the next Gone Girl ” is the highest form of praise right now .  The wonder is there are too many books like that 😛

Rating : 3.5 / 5 ( The sheer brilliance with the narrative style  and one jaw-dropping shocker is not going to make all the difference ) .

Picking up the book ? Would strongly recommend you to  check it  out  (if only ) for the narrative . All you had worked out in your brain wouldn’t help much because you haven’t been shown the full picture . And when you finally get to see it guaranteed it would leave you stunned .

If you had picked up the book , how did you feel about it?  Or are you planning to pick up it up now?? Drop in a word or two in the comments section  .

 

 

 

National Film(y) Awards 2018

REHEARSAL DAY

The 65th National Film Awards winners were notified by Chaitanya Prasad,  Additional Director General, (Directorate of Film Festival)  on the day of rehearsal about the new protocol in the National Film Awards ceremony. Accordingly, only 11 of the 137 recipients were chosen for the honor of receiving the award from the President himself during the second phase of the awards ceremony . The Information and Broadcasting Minister, Smriti Irani and Minister of State Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore were to distribute the awards during the first phase of the ceremony .

After sitting through the rehearsal and waiting for Boney Kapoor and his daughters to leave the venue, the miffed awardees had questioned about notifying at the 11th hour about these changes in the schedule to one of the award ceremonies that had followed a strict protocol all through the last 64 years. Also the email to each of them from the I & B ministry had stated clearly that the President would be giving away the awards. Ms. Irani who came to the Vigyan Bhavan to pacify tempers told that the arrangements were “to make the best use of the President’s time” .But, she had no answers for any of their questions –

If the office of the President had communicated about the President not being able to spare enough time for the award ceremony why was the award ceremony not scheduled on another day accordingly?

Why would the awardees not informed earlier that they would not be taking away the award from the President?

Why were the invites specifying the President’s name if he was not giving away the awards?

The awardees sent out a letter to Prasad , President’s Office and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting citing their distress at the developments.

An excerpt from their letter—–

“It is only a day before the ceremony that we have learnt through Chaitanya Prasad that a large segment of the Awards will not be presented by the President of India. It feels like a breach of trust when an institution/ceremony that abides by extreme protocol fails to inform us of such vital aspect of the ceremony with a prior notice. It seems that 65 years of tradition are being overturned in a jiffy”

We request that the dignity and eminence of this award is maintained and that there is no display of hierarchy at the event. [..]We are left with no choice but to express our disappointment and convey to you that, at the end of the day, we feel dejected rather than honored for our work. In the circumstance of not receiving a response for our grievance, we are left with no option but to be absent for the ceremony. We do not intend to boycott the award, but not attending the ceremony to convey our discontent and are awaiting a more just solution”.

 

THE CEREMONY – What actually happened?

Around 55 awardees were absent from the ceremony and one third of the expected attendance for the ceremony was missing in the venue because the Ministry did not bother replying to their letter. The President gave away the awards for the select categories which had been designated for him .

“Nowhere are we insulting the jury’s decision. We have all accepted the awards. We were deliberately absent because the promise made to us was not honored. All the invitations and advertisements had mentioned that the award will be given by the President. Suddenly, that decision changed and it hurt my self-respect.”

Atanu Ghosh, Director (Mayurakshi)

“It’s an important award and will remain an important one. But it’s not a political award. People from even the small industries sometimes sell their properties to make an award-winning film. They come to receive the award from the President of India.

-Prosenjit Chatterjee (starred in Mayurakshi)

 

“Our protest is not against who is getting the award from the President. Everybody should be given by the President or the ministers. Discrimination is very humiliating. It’s like artistes have been categorized into A and B.

– Praveen Morchhale (Director, Walking with the Wind*)

 

“We all represent different parts of the country and it is an honor that we receive (our awards) at the hands of the President. They are not called the President’s National Awards for no reason. If not the President, then at least the Vice President should give away the remaining awards, not the ministers.

-N R Nanjunde Gowda to PTI

The Office of the President “expressed surprise” at the “11th hour questions” citing the protocol of “maximum-of-one-hour-for-all-award-functions-and-convocations” ever since the current President assumed office.

“President attends all award functions and convocations for a maximum of one hour. This has been the protocol since he took office. It was conveyed to the Information and Broadcasting Ministry several weeks ago and the Ministry knew this all along. Rashtrapathi Bhavan is surprised by the 11th hour questions that have been raised”

-Ashok Malik, Press Secretary to the President

I am very amused at the reason cited by Mr. Malik. How can he cite “maximum-of-one-hour-for-all-award-functions-and-convocations protocol” for National Film Awards which was touted as the ‘President’s Awards’? Does the office not consider the established protocols for award ceremonies and other occasions where the President is expected to grace the occasion before applying their new “protocol?”

Secondly, as pointed out repeatedly, what is really irksome for anybody who has followed the National Film Awards drama is the preferential treatment meted out to a section of the awardees. Take a look at the people or categories handpicked for the Presidential honors. Even the order in which the awardees were felicitated is an indicator to the hierarchy system followed at the awards ceremony .

Dadasaheb Phalke Award: Vinod Khanna (posthumous)

Best Actress: Sridevi, Mom (posthumous)

Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration: Dhappa (Marathi)

Best Book on Cinema: Matamgi Manipur – The First Manipuri Feature Film (English)

Best Direction: Nagraj Manjule, Pavasacha Nibhandha (Best Debut Non-Feature Film )

Best Jasari film: Sinjar

Best Male Playback Singer: KJ Yesudas, “Poy Maranja Kalam” Viswasapoorvam Mansoor (Malayalam)

Best Music Direction (Songs) + Best Music Direction (Background score) [Mom]:

 AR Rahman, Kaatru Veliyidai (Tamil)

Best Actor: Riddhi Sen, Nagarkirtan (Bengali)

Best Direction: Jayaraj, Bhayanakam (Malayalam)

Best Feature Film: Village Rockstars (Assamese) + Best Editing: Village Rockstars

If the Best Actor, Best Actress can make it to the list why not the Best Supporting Actor and the Best Supporting Actress?

If the Best Male Singer can make it to the elite list why not the Best Female Singer?

Certain categories like the Screenplay and Production did not have a single representative. Resul Pookutty’s comments are fully justified when the Ministry chooses to overlook the off-screen (both technical and non-technical categories) team. Atleast Resul’s Oscar made the Technical team’s voice to be heard but we don’t have any other Oscars or awards from the non-technical categories like the Screenplay and Production to actually hear out artistes from those categories.

I would have loved if the Best Child Artist awardee Bhanita Das (Village Rockstars – Assamese) had also picked up the award from the President. With several of the winners absent, a couple of star kids finally hogged the spotlight for the silliest reasons ever in the history of National Film Awards when media have no other option but to capture several shots of them . The Honorable President and the Ministers too obliged the family with a few photos with them. The father of the star kids too was clueless about an event of this scale when he callously remarks “I don’t understand what the fuss is about”. Considering that the man is from the film industry, I guess that leaves us with knowing how much to expect from the family.

But there is hope – the 19 year old Riddhi Sen, probably the youngest winner in the Best Actor category who is yet another star kid in every sense summed it up perfectly

“The relevance of the awards lies in the people who make the decisions. [..] With due respect to the President and Smriti Irani , the jury comprises the most notable filmmakers, critics and writers who watch these films. They are the people who actually decide on the awards, who give away the honor to the artistes. So, I think the value of the National Award remains. The decision is taken by the jury and not the President and Mrs. Irani. After five years from now, people will remember the National Awards. It won’t be remembered by who is handing them over”.

People will remember the 65th National Film Awards for one of the most pathetic reasons in the history of the awards – the Government has shown to whom it will accord its respect . The off-screen teams who had been slogging at their thankless jobs with dreams that even their work will garner the attention and respect it deserves have been disappointed time and again by the fans . This time, the ceremony which has been known to throw some light on the off-screen teams’ work also gave precedence to noted names which is extremely unfortunate . It’s not the first time that awards has got embroiled in a controversy . Politics had played it’s hand previously but this is the first time the several of the winners too were left disheartened considering the treatment that has been meted out to them.

And that folks reduced the National Film Awards to something of a yet another film (y )awards show with drama taking the center-stage rather than talent.

P.S : Our press people had to content themselves with clicking away at two star kids during the major time of the ceremony. The good people made one of the star kids the trending topic. And the third day, with nothing better to write one of the newspapers comes up with this – “[You-know-who] looks stunning in this sari at the National Film Awards dinner party” . Our journalists ( specially the ones connected to some of the most-read and “reliable” newspapers ) need to work BIG TIME on their reporting if they are going to report every event like it’s a PAGE 3 event. Come on guys , get it right..

Although no film buff, I think the jury has done a commendable job with the selection as several regional films too have received their due .The full list here.

The Secret of Jaduguda

The Rare Metal Survey Unit  was commissioned by the Govt. of India to locate uranium deposits . The team decided to focus on the existing mineral belts in the country, specifically the copper/gold/silver mining regions for deposits of Uranium and “other geologically favorable belts in the sub-continent”.

In 1951, the team found the perfect location – Jadugoda, Singhbhum District, Jharkhand which would hold the distinction of being the first uranium mine in the country . There’s another side to Jadugoda ‘s uranium mining that the concerned authorities / Govt / Judiciary have paid no attention to  over decades and the rest of the country has not much idea about  zero idea about .

Jadugora / Jadugoda – The Beginning of the End ( 1967 – )

The local tribal population was a huge plus – the prospect of cheap labor and most importantly, the promises about acche din – steady jobs , schools for the children , good medical facilities and access to amenities and facilities was enough to get a mining project and an ore-processing plant up and running by 1967 managed by the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) , functioning under the Dept. of Atomic Energy (DAE)

The promise about jobs  was fulfilled ( no surprises there ) – almost every earning member of the majority of families was employed as open pit miners in the deepest operating mine in the country . The miners’ everyday consisted of spending hours in the mines handling the ore much like a construction site worker would handle building materials minus a quality protective gear. The work uniforms were not decontaminated within the mining premises and the local indigenous population  who had zero idea about the materials they were handling everyday got them washed in the nearby downstream river.

I haven’t still got into the really appalling details – the river which the locals had been using for domestic and irrigation purposes was not the radioactive waste dump which it has become following the mining activities the region. Let me elaborate on this point .

The ‘ tailing ponds ’ are meant to be the dumping sites for the highly radioactive wastes of the ore-processing plant –  the waste retains 85% of the radioactivity of the ore along with by -product heavy metals of the extraction process and chemical processing agents.  However, these tailing ponds had overflowed during the monsoons too often over the years . The radioactive waste had seeped through the ground resulting in groundwater contamination and the unchecked inflow of the untreated waste from the processing plant has resulted in the downstream river becoming yet another unofficial tailing pond. This ‘river’ runs through the super-radioactive course before joining the Subarnarekha . As of this year, stage-I and stage-II tailing ponds are full and stage-III pond is expected to fill up towards the end of this year. So , the site activities of the stage-IV tailing pond has been initiated with estimated cost  to be at 4240.47 lakhs as given by the Annual Report of UCIL (2016-2017) .

The concentration of Uranium is alarmingly high in the vicinity of the tailing ponds very understandably . One discovery that [independent] researchers haven’t been able to account for is the high concentration of cesium in the stage-I tailing pond which is a fission product and not a by-product of uranium ore processing . Cesium-137 which gives off beta and gamma radiations gets into the  food chain with accumulation in fish and animals . It is also known to contaminate the soil and adhere to the buildings . According to a study conducted by Hiroaki Koide from Kyoto  University Research Reactor Institute ( July 2002), the dosage of gamma radiation in the air is greater than 10 milliSevert/year while the permissible limit to exposure to gamma radiation is 1milliSevert/year . The contract lorries also dumped toxic wastes in local fields when the ponds are full , actions caught in photographs and on video taken by villagers and shown to the Center but nothing has  changed for the better .The Geiger counters are recording  super-high levels of radioactive emissions from the vicinity of the tailing ponds .The Geiger counters placed on the school walls are beeping furiously because every stone in the walls  is from the mining site .

The processed ore is transported is done in open trucks through the villages ( most often with a plastic sheet thrown over the precious cargo ) with laborers riding these trucks  barefooted in everyday clothes with dust and processed ore particles spilling along the  way to the Rakha mines railway station . From here , the semi-processed ore is  transported to Hyderabad for fuel fabrication for reactors .

The native tribal population has paid a heavy price over the decades due to the health hazards that plague them due to the sub-standard mining operations in the region . Lung and abdominal cancers , tuberculosis , congenital skeletal deformities , multiple miscarriages and sterility ( just to name a few) have become very common health hazards in the surrounding villages .  Gadekar , a nuclear physicist observes  a “phenomenon” – the absence of any silicosis cases but a huge number of reported  tuberculosis cases. According to him , the fact that the “tuberculosis” was prolonging forever was very suggestive that the miners did not suffer from tuberculosis but probably silicosis – a lung disease caused by the inhalation of crystalline silica dust, which is a major constituent of sand given that the miners worked in thick dust of sand and dust at the mines. He further draws attention to the negligent attitude of the UCIL in maintaining the mining standards – the rocks extracted during the mining  process are sometimes deposited at the roadside which are used by the locals in the construction of their houses .These rocks , Gadekar says , may have concentrated radon gas which poses the risk of cancer with exposure  over a prolonged time period .

What has been done till now ?

The judiciary too became a mute spectator even when the conditions at Jadugoda were brought to their notice and a three judge bench of the Supreme Court actually dismissed the Public Interest Litigation filed by legal activist B L Wadhera in 1999.The first hearing of the PIL was in November 2003. On April 15th, 2004 , the bench which included the Chief Justice of India dismissed the PIL on the grounds that they “did not find any merit in the petition”.

After 10 years, it took a newspaper report by a photojournalist whose pictures  were finally able to convince the courts about the severity of the issue . The Hindustan Times ran an article titled Jadugoda: The Nuclear Graveyard on 23rd Feb 2014 ( Ranchi Edition ) by Chinky Shukhla whose black and white pictures finally revealed the ugly side of the whole thing that has been dubbed  as ” India’s best kept secret ” for the rest of India .

The State High Court  stepped in finally in the light of all the facts reported and most importantly , the photographic evidence of the pathetic conditions in the region . The court strongly put it down that

“[…]  news item about the disastrous effect of Uranium Mining Operation photographically under the caption  “ Jadugora: The Nuclear Graveyard” making the most cherished provision of the Indian Constitution “Right to Life and Personal Liberty” as enshrined in Article 21 to the Constitution of India lifeless and inactive in this context “.

The  UCIL and the DAE (primarily) were asked to clarify on several counts :

Safety measures and standards adopted in respect of the workmen working in the Uranium mining operation in Jadugora mine , Bhatin Mine, Turamdih Mine, Bagjata Mine, Narwapahar Mine, Banduhurang Mine, Mohuldih Mine in the District of East Singhbhum and Seraikela Kharsawan and also the villagers and the common people living in the area.

The measures taken to prevent the effect of nuclear radiation emanating out of the
mining operation , transportation and disposal of the radioactive waste in the health of the people at large and environment surrounding the area .

Steps taken for safe  disposal of radioactive waste .

Safety measures taken in ensuring the safety and health of the workers and people living in the vicinity for protecting them from the nuclear radiation of Uranium

In addition the  court  sought clarifications from the State and the  Department of Health, Medical Education & Family Welfare on the following points:

  • The establishment of hospitals in providing health care to the people in and
    around Jadugora Uranium Mine and all other surrounding places .
  • The measures taken to create awareness amongst the locals about the prevention and treating the bad effects of the radiation and other chemicals on health and environment .

The Jharkhand State Pollution Control Board was asked to consolidate a response addressing on all the above mentioned points .

The court directed UCIL to form a team to investigate the effects of radiation during the mining operation and to file their survey report within 3 months . But there was no survey report on the table after 3 months and the matter was again heard in the court when Times Of India ran an article titled Leaking Jadugoda Mine Poses Radioactive risk:US Report . The court appointed  a four member committee with recommendations from the DAE . The members ‘ background who constituted the panel made the independent functioning  highly questionable which was very evident in the further proceedings in this case . The court placed great importance on the ‘ findings ‘  of an amicus curiae who had not visited the site even once and his recommendations  and noted that “the petition stands wrapped up”.

This is The Secret .

One of the committee members attributed the health hazards that people are facing in Jadugoda to ” economic backwardness, smoking habits and malnutrition ” . How callous can one get??

The mining activities came to halt following the expiry of the lease in September 2014  in Jadugora mine but the ore from the other mines are transported to Jadugora for ore – processing .

Latest developments :

Suspended Jadugoda uranium mine obtains forest department clearance

BJP MP Bidyut Baran Mahato *  today said Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL), which recently got approval from the Central Forest Department, will soon commence mining activities in Jadugora near here . Mahato, who had earlier held several rounds of meeting with top forest department officials and Union Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave had recently met the forest officials. “The forest department after a meeting with forest advisory committee gave the nod last week,” Mahato said at a press conference. A lease for 50 years has also been granted to the oldest uranium mine, he said. Asked when the mining will start, Mahato said, the file related to lease renewal of Jadugora mine is with the Union Environment Minister who is likely to give his approval in the next few days. Mining activities had come to a standstill after the lease licence expired in September, 2014. (Business Standard Apr. 3, 2017)

*Bidyut Baran Mahato is the MP from Jamshedpur , Jharkhand

As of today :

The mining activities have still not commenced but people are still reeling under the aftermath of  effects of the colossal damage from uranium mining of last few decades . Perhaps , there ‘s no word to describe the cruelty of the whole saga that unfolded in Jadugoda .

You can check out Chinky Shukhla’s article in the link below

Jaduguda – The nuclear graveyard

You can check out the following You Tube video series on Jadugoda

Buddha weeps in Jadugoda, Part 1 of 6

This Earth Day , I thought that perhaps we can move away from standard ” Ways to Go Green ” posts and discuss about few environmental issue(s) / case(s) that have been under-reported time and again or issue(s) which are not eliciting enough response measures despite our being well aware of the risks the issue(s) pose.

Beyond the Gossamer Veil – A Review

Mr.Holland Astonbury has acquired a singularly sinister reputation in Mr.Fox’s village.
The village rumors made every other delivery guy quake in his boots when the Post Master came looking for volunteers for an urgent delivery to Astonbury Hall.  Fox knew ( or thought he knew ) better than to take into account these tales – this assignment could turn to be the trump card he would play to move up the ranks as there was no other man willing to even step forward despite the handsome sum it promised . So,our Fantastic Mr.Fox starts for Astonbury Hall with the package – how does the assignment go?? Read a first hand account from Fox himself about his expedition – Yeah, all those tall tales had made a journey to a mansion in his own village an expedition!!

Martin had had a really bad week. First, it was his breakup with his altogether too demanding girlfriend . He was too occupied to give much thought to trivial things like breakups . But , in the coming days , the market downslide and the declining profits gave him something to worry about seriously the rest of the week . Come Friday , he was on his way for a much needed weekend getaway but it looked like his disastrous week didn’t end with the boardroom  and the bedroom (strictly Martin’s opinion about his relationship(s) ) .The latest one was his Cadillac Escapade’s run in with a Toyota Corolla . Now watch out  his weekend getaway plans take a turn for something else.

Beyond The Gossamer Veil –  Eldritch Tales of the Supernatural by Todd William is the book you need to pick up if  I have managed to pique your interest with the above snippets from his collection of stories . The stories were gripping from the first page with me wanting to finish atleast the story which I had started in one sitting (even if I could not sit through the entire book in one day) . All credits to his superb story telling – he knows how to shock people with the violence or scare them when he takes the readers to eerie places or if he wants you to see the nature’s beauty in his settings, you can get to see some breath-taking beauty of the landscape. It just depends on Todd’s plot to take you to  interesting places and watch the drama unfold albeit a bit slowly . Sometimes , I found it difficult to pace my reading to savor his language without plodding through a gripping start.

Every setting for his story is different and his character sketches were  really good . A suspense / thriller fan subconsciously picks up the deerstalker hat to play the what’s -gonna – happen – next guessing game I guess when he or she comes across stories that offer such scope . I actually guessed the direction the story was proceeding for a few correctly – 3 out of 7 to be precise . A few seemed to wander into  familiar turfs but Todd managed to spring a surprise at the end . Humor , pathos , a crime shrouded in something more than regular mystery – Todd’s package offers a rich variety and he manages to engage the reader early on in his stories  –  I envy Todd’s rich vocabulary . But as with his narrative style which sets the pacing slow , a few words just seemed to be used just for the sake of getting a different word . For non-native speakers , just a quick question – How many of you know the meaning of the word macadam?

Yeah, the reading experience itself was very interesting one for this book –  I was of  two minds  whether I should race through the stories without pacing my reading to actually soak in the beauty of the language and the vivid imagery it evoked or to turn the pages slowly because Todd gets you hooked in the first few pages and thereafter there seems to be no option but to sit through the entire story . The tales are quite tall and that’s what made it difficult to finish a story sometimes in one sitting once I got started with one .

So , having written about my reading experience and a quick review of the book , I can assure you that Beyond The Gossamer Veil turned out to be a rewarding read in several aspects . Pick it up if you want to get an idea about how to tell a story . Sometimes , the sheer mastery over the art of storytelling it what it all matters!!!

Rating – 3.75 / 5

For people who picked up the book , I would love to hear about your reading experience and thoughts about the book .