Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Case of the Secretive Sister

Title : The Case of the Secretive Sister
Author : Nilanjan P. Choudhury
No. of Pages : 162
ISBN : 978-9383098552

Mr. Chatterjee is a middle aged man whose long experience in claims settlement for an insurance company has made him a confident candidate to open his own detective agency. His investigation skills do not get tested appropriately as the cases that he gets to work on range from lost documents, missing pets or runaway drivers. Not just that, the number of clients requiring his services have been 'as elusive as Dr. Manmohan Singh in a chatty mood'.

One fine day, Mr. Chatterjee gets a new client in an over-zealous mother, Mrs. Pammi Chaddha who does not want to give up after her four year old daughter Aisharadhya aka Pinky Chaddha (her 'home' name) has been denied admission in one of the most sought-after schools of Bangalore. She wants Mr. Chatterjee to make this daunting task of securing admission for Pinky in the same school, possible.

Though Mr. Chatterjee does not see any hope of succeeding in this case, he wants to give it a fair try. In order to do that he would have to confront the no-nonsense Sister D'Souza who is at the helm of her school as the headmistress. He devices his plans methodically which his smart secretary interprets as his approach to rectify his piles problem. What follow are, action packed pages high on cat and mouse, stalking, drama, comedy and much more. Well, what is a detective novel without any of these elements?

'The Case of the Secretive Sister' is the second book by the author Nilanjan Choudhury but he comes across as a seasoned author especially when it comes to the tautness of the narrative and the finesse in the language. Once the narrative takes a fast-paced turn, at no moment does the tempo slacken. His choice of characters is commendable, whether it is Mr. Chatterjee's secretary Ms. Jolly or Inspector Gowda. From the accented voices of characters, one can actually hear their respective 'native' (place) speaking. A true Kannadiga and Bangalorean, Inspector Gowda takes it personally upon himself to sanitize his beloved city of all - Chatterjees, Choudhurys, Chaddhas and Chaturvedis. 

When we are witnessing almost a dearth of true-to-genre books in the market, this book comes as a whiff of fresh air where intelligent comedy is served in its full glory. We are fast becoming a society where we seek maximum value for money which is exactly the case with books as well. We are being offered medley - comprising of various elements all together - comedy, romance, adventure, et al. 'The Case of the Secretive Sister' reminds one of the humour of the order that is penned by Bill Cosby, Bill Bryson and P.G.Wodehouse. It is a pleasant change from the comedies that have inundated the mainstream television and movies these days. If you are looking for a small, light and a hilarious read, don't miss this one. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I WILL NEVER FORGET : A DAUGHTER'S STORY OF HER MOTHER'S ARDUOUS and HUMOROUS JOURNEY THROUGH DEMENTIA by ELAINE C. PEREIRA

TITLE : I WILL NEVER FORGET
AUTHOR : ELAINE C. PEREIRA
PUBLICATION : i UNIVERSE STAR
ISBN : 978-1-938908-58-3

   " The dead are not buried in the ground but in our hearts.
      They will be there for you when you need them."


This book is much more than a memoir. Written by Elaine in memory of her mother Elizabeth Ward. It gives you an insight into the world of dementia, the pain and confusion not only of it's victim but also of the loved one's who have to see a beloved being ravaged by this disease.

The book takes you back and forth in time, makes you feel happy when the author takes you down her childhood lane through her tantrums, teenage rebellion, her love and affection for her family. Makes you feel sad, when she takes you back to the harsh reality of life, by taking you back to the facility where her parents and later where her mother is staying.

The story very often brings tears to your eyes. Elaine has described her mother's story with such poignancy that you feel her as well as Betty's pain and makes you think about the dementia victims across the world.

 Such simple things in life which we take for granted and dementia victims struggle with them. The  author makes you see life through her mother's eyes, sometimes very foggy and other times lucid. 
                                                                                                                                                               You see the once smart and strong Betty Ward, confused to see her name on her own credit card while paying her bill, as she is simply unable to connect her own name with herself. 

 Elaine has also shown Betty's amazing strength time and again in the book. On one of her clearer days Betty displays her strong character again and behaves like her old self and says "I hope that if this is genetic, your brothers David or Jerry inherited this gene and not you."


 The courageous lady who braved not only her husband's death also of her two sons, does not fail to admit that she is not able to remember things most of the time and finds life hazy. Such open vulnerability is simply heart rending. It is so touching to see Elaine look for signs from her dead brother, for his guidance.

 Elaine does not stick to the arduous side of dementia but has also well chronicled the hilarious side of the effects of the disease. She is  also openly appreciative of the support of her husband, daughters, the doctors and the staff of the facilities and the people who helped her cope up during this journey.

While reading the book many times I had to keep the book down because I found it overwhelming and very often left me choked up because of emotions it evoked. 

 Imagine the plight of the daughter whose biggest fear is that her mother is not going to remember her the next moment! Hats off to that mother who not only courageously fought the disease but also did not let her daughter down and left Elaine's fear unfounded!!!



Extremely touching book that tugs straight at your heart strings!!!

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Search in Secret India by Paul Brunton

Title : A Search in Secret India
Author : Paul Brunton
Publisher : Ebury Pr
ISBN : 9781844130436

Paul Brunton is one of the greatest explorers of the nineteenth century. Many of his writings address spiritual beliefs and traditions of the Eastern world. A Search in Secret India, his first book, is chronicling of his journey in the enigmatic land of India where he spent time with mystics,  yogis and holy men trying to unravel the mysteries of faith and spirituality.  Though he is open minded, he approaches things with scepticism and with a mindset of an intellect. He tries to evaluate things on his scientific and philosophical scale. He embarks on a quest to find the real Yogi but wants to proceed logically. In 'A Search in Secret India', Paul Brunton gives detailed accounts of meetings with various Yogis walking the path of spiritual growth, he also meets many who practise the art of magic and egotism. But then his sojourn eventually leads him to his destination when he finally meets the great sage Sri Ramana Maharishi. The last quarter of the book is dedicated to the time he spent in Ramana Maharishi's ashram in Tamil Nadu. Author feels that his experience at the ashram changed him completely.

As it is, tracking the origin of faith and spirituality in India is nothing less than an enigma. This book offers a great approach to begin to learn about the true changing facets of spirituality in India - critical and logical. With inumerable spiritual  branches and sub-branches sprouting from every possible corner, and materialism making the path to self realisation even harder, it is important to understand and experience spirituality in its truest form.

Paul Brunton's writings are very readable and easy to connect to. The pace of the narrative is a little slow in the first half but then one starts enjoying the tranquil and relaxed pace of the same. The book is set in 1930s and the narrative gives an idea of the supremacy that Britishers enjoyed in India at that time. It is wonderful to read how his journey culminates and that chapter is the highlight of the book. After reading it, one is at least able to get a small glimpse of the higher spirituality which stirs the inner yearning to seek the same.

"But it is not till the second hour of the uncommon scene that I become aware of a silent, resistless change which is taking place within my mind.  One by one, the questions which I have prepared in the train with such meticulous accuracy drop away.  For it does not now seem to matter whether they are asked or not, and it does not seem to matter whether I solve the problems which have hitherto troubled me.  I know only that a steady river of quietness seems to be flowing near me, that a great peace is penetrating the inner reaches of my being, and that my thought-tortured brain is beginning to arrive at some rest.  I surrender myself to the steadily deepening sense of restfulness until two hours have passed... I begin to wonder whether, by some radioactivity of the soul, some unknown telepathic process, the stillness which invades the troubled waters of my own soul really comes from him."

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Interview : Priya Narayanan

An avid traveller, a voracious reader, a passionate designer, and a doting mother of two - Priya Narayanan believes that there are stories lurking around every corner, waiting to be captured and revealed to the world. Although she has long been a writer of short stories and poetry, it was just recently that she took up the challenge of writing for children. Her book 'The Moon Wants to be Spotless White' (reviewed here) has been well received by the young readers.

How did you pick the topic for your book - 'The Moon Wants to be Spotless White' and what all preparation did you do for penning down this story?

I’ve been in love with the moon from ever since I can remember. I love staring at it and thinking of all the different things it could possibly be, apart from the droning fact that it is a satellite. And I guess at some point in time or the other, every child is fascinated with that white dot on the night sky. So when I thought about writing for children, it didn’t surprise me that the Moon played an important part in my story.

It all started when I had to explain the dark spot on the moon to my tot. I was quite amused by her questions and decided to give her some amusing answers in return, doing away with stereotypes such as the old man or rabbit on the moon. Why couldn’t the spot be something as commonplace as a dirt patch splattered across the moon? That thought sowed the seeds from which the story eventually sprouted. My challenge was to take that very ordinary explanation and turn it around into something extraordinary.

Frankly, I did not prepare much before putting my thoughts on paper. The moment the story took shape in my mind, I ran for pen and paper and wrote it all down at one go, lest I’d forget some part! Of course, by ‘wrote it all down’ I mean the basic idea, which served as both the outline and the spine of the story. Then came the crucial part of developing each scene and character to appeal to the target audience - after all, there is a great difference between conjuring a story for your child at bed-time and writing a story that could be read and enjoyed by children all over the world.

In 'The Moon Wants to be Spotless White', there are three main characters – the Moon, Mitu and Dhobi kaka. I found it immensely enjoyable to personify the Moon and add little nuances to his character that children could find amusing. I particularly enjoyed writing the part where he is folded and waiting in Dhobi kaka’s jhola – all eager to spring out and get a good scrub.

Similarly, I have tried to work out every little detail about the other two characters, be it Dhobi kaka’s looks and background or the nuances of Mitu’s dreamy character. I was also very clear at the outset that I wanted to set the story in a village or small town. I guess it has to do with my own fascination with the flavor of life in small towns – the landscape as well as the community where everyone knows everyone else and even small incidences are blown out of proportion, sometimes to comic effect.


How has been the response to your book? Are you satisfied with it?

The response to the book has been very encouraging. Complete strangers have picked up the book and have sent me mails saying how much they loved it. That is the wonder that the internet is!

What caught me by surprise was that adults too enjoyed the book as much as their kids did. They have also loved the beautiful sync between the story and illustrations. So yes, I’m quite satisfied. It is altogether another matter of course, that this being my debut book, I still have to learn the ropes of promoting the book better to ensure a wider reach.


Are there any sections that you'd want to change in 'The Moon Wants to be Spotless White'? Why?

While life is all hunky dory when you write just for yourself – like I do with my poetry - one has to keep an open mind and accept criticism when you write to be read by others. The answer to whether I want to change any portion of the book would be both Yes and No.

Yes, because when a reader points out a problem area, it would be too pompous on my part to ignore it. I place a great deal of value on constructive criticism. No, because this was the story I set out to tell and changing it would mean not staying true to the seed idea. It is a double-edged sword and a tough call to take at the moment. But there’s one thing I know for certain - I’ll incorporate all the feedback I have received from this book into my upcoming one and ensure that I’ll be in less of a dilemma the next time over.


What ambition do you nurture in terms of writing books for children?

Quite frankly, I did not set out to be a children’s author. It just so happened that my first published work is a book for children. I have been writing poetry ever since I remember and somewhere along the way, I also branched into writing short stories. I have a good collection of poems that I hope to compile into a book of verse some day.

That said, my interactions with children who have read ‘The Moon wants to be Spotless White’ have given me the urge to write more for them. My own children have also been a great source of inspiration – whenever I spin a new tale for them, they ask me in all innocence if I’d be getting that story published too. I wish it were as simple as that!

But yes, I guess I can safely say that I will not stop writing for children. In fact, I already have another book in the pipeline for 5-8 year olds and the first drafts for a couple of short stories for tweens. I wouldn’t call it an ambition; just plain old love. I find children to be non-judgmental and writing for them is very gratifying.


How do you find the kidlit scene in India as compared to its foreign counterpart? Which all changes would you want to see in this sphere?

Growing up, there really was no kidlit scene in India. Or rather, the kidlit market was all about imported titles. However, now,  publishing houses are waking up to the vastly untapped readership for books by Indian authors and the result is a slew of children’s books written in English as well as various Indian languages that bring in a veritable mix of stories, allowing children to explore our country and its diverse cultures. But a lot remains to be done.

Even today, when I walk into a Crosswords store, I can see a pile of foreign titles on highlighted display stands, whereas books by Indian authors – even Ruskin Bond for that matter, are relegated to the quieter racks at the rear. This rather saddens me. While I’m not averse to foreign titles, I feel that there is a need to promote vernacular stories that afford children a context that they can immediately relate to. I would also like to see a more proactive role of publishers and bookstores in promoting Indian kidlit because just publishing a good book is not enough– the book ultimately has to have visibility and reach the hands of as many readers as possible to make it a meaningful venture for all involved.

Another question that one needs to look into is how much is the penetration of kidlit in small-town and rural India today? I would love to see more and more foreign as well as Indian titles in English being translated into regional languages and being made available in every small town in our country.


In which way and in what sense would you want to make a difference in the children's literature?

That’s a googly, really! I don’t know if the stories I write will make a difference in children’s literature – and I’m quite sure no author sets out to write a book with the purpose of changing the literary landscape. What I really aspire is to write stories that nobody has heard of before, write stories that will elicit a chuckle from a child or bring a smile to his/her face.


How has been the journey of being an authoress so far? What is the biggest joy of being one?

I have enjoyed the entire process that saw me grow from being someone who wrote solely for self-consumption to being a widely read author. What started with a whole load of anticipation has culminated into a feeling of exuberance and contentment. Also, the appreciation that has come my way has encouraged me to take more risks with my writing.

The biggest joy of being a writer, of course, is being able to communicate with readers from across the world through the medium of stories. After all, stories are the simplest way to get your message across to another person, aren’t they? Another plus is that I get to do what I love to do most, i.e. writing, minus the guilt trips.


What is your dream story? Do you have any in the pipeline?

I guess my dream story is yet to be dreamt! But really, I have not given this a thought. I am a very impulsive writer. Be it my poems or stories, I do not decide that I have to write about such and such a topic and go about it in a disciplined fashion. I am a keen observer of things, events and people around me and as I said before, I run around looking for pen and paper whenever an idea strikes me. These days, the Evernote app on my phone comes in handy.

I do have another book in the pipeline. This one is also an illustrated story for 5-8 year olds. It deals with the topic of death in the family and I have tried to approach the subject with a lot of sensitivity. I hope readers will receive it with as much enthusiasm and love as they have given my debut book – The Moon wants to be Spotless White.


Which kind of books do you enjoy reading yourself? Who are your favourite authors?

I hope you don’t regret asking me this question, ‘coz it has given me a license to rattle off big names.

While I read almost every kind of book, both fiction and non-fiction, I enjoy reading the classics the most. During my school and college days, I’ve also enjoyed courtroom dramas and crime thrillers to a point of saturation – today, I’d rather see an investigative serial on TV rather than read a book about it. One genre that I don’t find myself drawn to is that of Romance. It’s not that I don’t like romance per say. I’d rather enjoy it as subtle part of a bigger picture than romance taking over every page of a book and choking me with all the mush!

My favourite author has constantly changed to keep up with my growing years. However, during and after graduation, I came across and read a slew of authors – many of whom have made a deep impact in my world-view as well as belief systems. Bertrand Russell, Kafka, Hemmingway, Joseph Conrad, Joyce, Herman Hesse, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Irving Stone, Nobokov, Graham Greene, Orhan Pamuk . . . I can’t even begin to list them here!

It is indeed a task to choose one favourite, but given my love for the classics, I’ll pick Fyodor Dostoevsky. I have loved all of his work without exception – I even like the way he tackles romance. Amongst Indian authors, I love the short stories by Kushwant Singh and Ismat Chughtai as well as Ruskin Bond’s books for both children and adults. Finally, Walt Whitman wins hands-down amongst poets, with Ogden Nash coming a close second.


 Any tips that you'd want to pass on to the new authors?

I guess I am too new an entrant in this space to be advising others, but yes there are a few things that I’ve picked up along the way, which I’d like to share.

  • Don’t get entangled in the web of everyday routine and push your literary pursuits to another day – if you love writing, just find the time to write by hook or crook.
  • Don’t write to get published, write because you love to do so – the publishing aspect will surely follow.
  • Keep honing your skills as a writer – never make the mistake of thinking you know it all

Monday, July 14, 2014

Done With Men by Suchi Singh Kalra

Title : Done With Men
Author : Suchi Singh Kalra
Publisher : Indireads

'Done With Men' is a light romcom set in the beautiful locales of Goa. Kairavi (Kay) is a weirdly interesting character as the main protagonist who is done with dealing with friends of opposite gender. She resolves never to get involved with any man in future and in the moment of desperation she gets 'Done with Men' etched on her skin as a tattoo. But the love bug does not follow any rules, and it bites her again when she happens to come in contact with Vivian, an Orthopaedic in the hospital. She finds herself falling in love with him in spite of her earlier firm determination. Still recovering from her last heart break, Kay is admonished and advised by her best friend Baani and the pesky Thought Bubble. Kay is back on an love adventure ride.


The characters etched by the author are easy to identify with. Their vulnerabilities, weak moments and imperfections make them very real. The interactions between Kay and Baani are quite believable. Good thing about these IndiReads' novellas is that one can finish them in one sitting. Though there are many Hindi words used in the narrative but the translated words of the same have been provided at the end for the benefit of non-Hindi speaking people. A light, fun and quick read to brighten up any day. The light and breezy language would go well with young adults too. The narrative is laden with humour and wit which keep the readers engaged right from the beginning till the last line. This could easily have been extended with more interesting incidents and anecdotes, but author has not extended the story unnecessarily. Though the narrative takes some very predictable twists and turns but readers would surely enjoy this innocent, short and sweet love story.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

BEDTIME KISSES by KARIN LARSON

TITLE: BEDTIME KISSES
AUTHOR: KARIN LARSON
ILLUSTRATOR: GINGER NIELSON 
PUBLICATION: 4RV PUBLISHING
ISBN-13 : 978-1- 940310-15-2

This sweet little picture book consists of cute illustrations and  a sentence to go along with nearly each of the illustration.

It is a story of a little girl who bestows kisses on her stuffed toys before she herself is kissed and lovingly tucked in for the night by her mother. The number of kisses that she plants, increases by the toy and boy does she have a variety of the stuffed toys! 

Most of the illustrations are cute but I liked the grouchy hog's illustration the sweetest of the lot. Another thing that I liked about Ginger Nielson's illustrations is that she has not gone out of her way to make the little girl look beautiful, her focus has been on the toys and the affection that the little girl has for them.

The book portrays the affection that the child has for her toys and her sweet night time ritual. I would say it is more of a girls book. It is a picture book that can also be used for practice reading.

 I  had to check out a few of the animals for myself, that make up the little girl's stuffed toys, because I was not so sure about them. The book not only expands the kids knowledge about the animals but also augments the vocabulary of the reader as the author has used adjectives for few of the animals.

The author, Karin Larson is a children's author and a freelance writer, also a speech/language pathologist. She is a graduate of the Institute of Children's Literature.

Ginger Nielson, is a full time children's book illustrator and author. I found her short introduction different and also interesting. 

The target age group of the book is 0 to 5 years. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

THAT AUTUMN IN AWADH by RACHNA SINGH

TITLE : That Autumn in Awadh A true Love Story
Author: Rachna Singh
Publication : Alchemy Publishers


That Autumn in Awadh though a work of fiction is inspired by the author's life.
The story reflects the diversification and rigidness of our society especially when it comes to matter of marriage and also how inter cast marriages find difficulty in being accepted.

Love bubbles and simmers between Sara Shergill a Punjabi Christian and Samar Solanki, a Rajput boy.
Sara and Samar both trainees at Telco, starting out their careers, enjoying their new found freedom with friends and colleagues, slowly and steadily slide into love.

By the time they realize the significance of what has happened, it is too late to do anything about it. Sara and Samar, aware of the futility of their situation, find themselves helpless. Still they both make an effort of going back to just being friends. Being from diverse background, they both are aware that their families are not going to accept their relationship easily.
Samar's resigning from the job and joining a management institute albeit in the same city does not make things easy for the love birds.  In midst of all the on goings Sara and Samar get hitched in a civil ceremony without their immediate families know how!
 The book is about Sara and Samar's love, their anguish and embarrassment of being married but forced to live apart, their difficulties in overcoming all the obstacles and love conquering all!

 Is love really able to conquer in this case?                                                                                                                                                It is for readers to find out and the reviewer to keep a secret.

 Readers who are in their late 30's till mid 40's can see glimpses of their youth reflected in the book. Rachna Singh has a keen sense of observation and puts it to good use in her book. You find instances of every day happenings of life woven into the story. She finds humor in very small  little things.

 I had reviewed Rachna Singh's debut book 'Dating, Diapers and Denial' and had found it unique and a very quirky book. I had found her style of writing very unconventional.
 I had high expectations from this book as well, though this is a different genre, but, That Autumn in Awadh, has left me disappointed, wanting for more. The author has not been able to do justice to the story though the main plot itself is sweet. Rachna Singh has not been able to maintain the smoothness and the free flow in the narration. It is as if Rachna Singh had a few incidents in her mind which she wanted to incorporate in the story and has gone ahead and done just that, somehow jammed them in the story! There are also editing issues in the book.

 In spite of this I would say That Autumn in Awadh makes a decent light read for romance readers.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Mistress of the Throne by Ruchir Gupta

Title : Mistress of the Throne
Author : Ruchir Gupta
Publisher : Srishti Publishers and Distributors
ISBN : 9789382665076


Mughal period is one of the periods that keeps beckoning authors of almost every generation to come back to it to unravel the mystique behind the opulence that this era was known for. Though the royal emperors - Akbar, Jahangir, Shah Jahan, Aurangzeb have long been resting in the annals of history, yet their styles, their sensibilities for art and culture, their harems, food, generosity, ruthless machinations and brutal lust for power - entreat many to dig deeper. Many books written by contemporary authors like William Dalrymple and Indu Sundaresan have already been reviewed here on Literary Sojourn.

'Mistress of the Throne' picks a small timeline starting from the year 1631. This was the year when the beloved queen Mumtaz Mahal, of emperor Shah Jahan breathed her last during one of the childbirths. Going against the tradition of passing the title of Queen to one of his other wives, Shah Jahan chose to anoint her eldest daughter Jahanara with this royal honour. The new seventeen year old queen found herself shouldering responsibilities on personal, familial and public fronts. She dedicated herself to keeping the family united but her efforts fell short in front of towering egos, jealousies and scuffles for supremacy and power. The power tussle between the extremist Aurangzeb and the mild tempered Dara was apparent right from the very beginning of their getting together. Though Dara Shikoh was the favoured son of emperor Shah Jahan and was the heir apparent, he lost his life in a bitter battle with Aurangzeb for the imperial throne.

Mistress of the Throne is the first person account of Jahanara through which readers are given a peak into the functioning of Mughal empire and the political games that were played on either sides of the veils. Author Ruchir Gupta sensitively brings out the inner turmoil that the young queen went  through when she understood the implications of the harsh reality of living life alone. Though she very closely witnessed the love between her parents which Shah Jahan tried to immortalize in the form of Taj Mahal, she knew she would never be able to experience that emotion all her life. Her only fault was that she was a Mughal emperor's daughter.

Ruchir Gupta has done a commendable job in bringing back the bygone era intricately in the book. The scene setting is done in such a way that one becomes a part of the fast paced and engaging narrative. Language is simple to follow and flows lucidly. The characters are built slowly but with utmost care, especially that of Aurangzeb. The ruthlessness and fundamentalist attitude of Aurangzeb is very well documented in course books and other texts but this is the first time that one gets see and understand his personal side as well. Spending his childhood in a hostile exile, away from the love and warmth of his benevolent mother scarred his soul. Unfortunately he did not get much time with Mumtaz Mahal to savour the essence of unconditional affection and love. His insecurities, vulnerabilities and yearning to be the good son and good brother touch the chords at various places as the story progresses.


As far as the character building of Jahanara is concerned, Indu Sundaresan's adaptation wins over Ruchir Gupta's. Had I not read any of the books written by Indu, I would have enjoyed reading 'Mistress of the Throne' without any comparison in mind. But the images of Mughal queens that Sundaresan creates in her Taj trilogy remain firmly etched in the readers' minds and any other replacement will run the risk of appearing wane in comparison. They are just a tad short of flesh and blood otherwise she has done all to breathe life in the characters. Well, there is a difference in portraying a woman and being one.

The book was sent to me by


Monday, June 16, 2014

ROBINSON CRUSOE by DANIEL DEFOE

TITLE: Robinson Crusoe
AUTHOR: Daniel Defoe
REWIED BY: Vidhi Sethi (12 yrs.)

The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe is a wonderful book. It starts with a father not allowing his son to become a sailor. But set on his goal, Robinson Crusoe made his maiden voyage to Hull in London with his friends. This was a big turn in his life.

Adventurous as he was, he made his next voyage with another friend of his who was the captain of a ship going to guinea in Africa. Further he went to Brazil and started living with a sugar planter’s family. He bought a plantation of his own. But when a group of them asked if he could journey to Guinea he could not resist the call of an adventure and agreed to go. Little did he know that this journey wasn’t a normal one. It would lead him to a completely new life on an uninhabited island.

Struggling for supplies with failures and successes for twelve years he began to lead a comfortable life. But one day when he saw a man’s footprint and then human skin, flesh and bones he was filled with great fear and anxiety. He tried all possible ways to make his existence a secret. Everything became peaceful once again. Twenty-three years had passed since he had come on this island.

But when one December morning he saw from his window smoke rising somewhere he was filled with dread. Soon after that he came across cannibals and after fighting with them he freed a man who was kept as a prisoner. He named him Friday as he had got him on a Friday.

Friday was a faithful and cheerful person. He told Robinson about his land and his people. But when savages, cannibals and mutineers entered into their life everything is changed. The story then goes on with Robinson capturing the mutineers with eleven other people on his side and then finally in 1686 he left the island after spending twenty-seven years, two months and nineteen days. In June, 1687 he returned to England his hometown and started leading a new life.

This book is the author's first novel and is one of the best known adventure stories in the world. It is a story which thrills all the readers alike, with wonderful events like shipwreck, a young man alone on an uninhabited island, storms, dangers, cannibals, mutineers and finally a glorious home coming.

It is a must read for young readers. Happy Reading!!!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

PALAZZO DEL GIGLIO: LOVE IN VENICE by JEROME D. OREMLAND

Title: Palazzo del Giglio : Love in Venice
Author: Jerome D. Oremlan

An old man (well, his age figures do suggest it, even though nothing else does) is often asked about his beautiful apartment in Venice. This takes him down a memory lane, the events of which find their origin in him, Jerry, the protagonist, losing his beautiful wife to cancer. The sadness attracted him to visit the place they had cherish the most together, Venice and that is how the apartment happened. 


Well, the apartment saga is just a base fabric the story is painted on to. The book is actually like a big painting depicting a good number of things including a husband's longing for his deceased wife and the beautiful moments they shared together, the casual and intense relationship that the author is able to build with the various people he meets along the journey of his life and majorly and importantly, a guide to the history, geography, life and culture of Venice, while bringing to the fore some different ways human nature manifests among different individuals.


Through the story, mostly autobiographical, the author, an American, takes us through the visual tour of Venice, a city which he loves and a city which loves him right back. A perfect guide for someone who plans on visiting the city soon, and yes, since there is story to back up the details, it won't be a bore like most travel guides. Additionally, the author being a psychoanalyst and an art historian, has provided many interesting insights into the many historically important things that the city of Venice brings up to you.


The various intellectual conversations that the protagonist has with the interesting people he has a chance to meet in Venice point towards the other books that the author has written and give additional insights to the various works of importance, for instance, Shakespeare's Hamlet. For those who read or plan to read this book for the pure pleasure of English literature would surely find this as a high point.


A nice and quick one time read, could be a delight for those who have any connections or have been to or plan to visit the city. At many places, the story gets really predictable and repetitive, and the reader longs for some some twists and surprises. And yes, if you do not understand Italian even a very tiny bit, a fair amount of guessing will also have to accompany your reading. But yes, the predictability does bring in the sense of mundane, giving a feel as if you yourself are living normal life in Venice.


Ah, if you are planning to visit Venice anytime soon, follow the book and cover the most important of all the city's offerings in flat three days, by being a copy-cat to the route followed by Jerry while he was almost a travel guide to Paul and Annya. Cheers!


Monday, April 14, 2014

Beyond School by Chitra Anand

Title : Beyond School
Author : Chitra Anand
Publisher : Leadstart Corp
ISBN : 978-93-83562-40-4

The author, Chitra Anand is a postgraduate in Physics and holds an Education Degree. Beyond School is her first novel inspired by her journey as an educator.

'Beyond School' story revolves around a grade twelve student Shail at an Indian School in Muscat. As countdown has begun for his board examinations, his parents Sushil and Urmila are at their wits ends. They cannot find any way to convince their son to study for the board exams while Shail leisurely goes about doing his other activities, which include - sleeping with abandon, dreaming about football or his girlfriend, watching re-runs of football matches on TV, texting on mobile phone for hours and much more. In short, a typical day in his life does not have any scope to accommodate study time. However, what Sushil and Urmila are unaware of is Shail's decision to not appear for the exams at all this year.

As the story progresses and as the examination days are approaching nearer, the pressure is soaring high for Shail to escape from his parents' focus and for his parents to make Shail study. Glady, the mentor in the school is approached for Shail's situation. She has a way of showing the students the side of the picture that they seem to be unaware of. She is a great counselor without being preachy. Her way of dealing with such situations is to get the student understand why and how a particular fixation of mind and heart starts driving the decisions and when that fixation is satisfied, how the pressure fizzles out. 'Tell people that they can have what they want and soon their fight for the want loses intensity.' She gives a new dimension to Shail's thinking so that he does not stay stuck with 'What is wrong if I don’t write the exams this year?'

 A few more sub-stories are intertwined along with Shail's narrative, including that of - Glady's uncomfortable past, Sushil and Urmila's struggle to get united and Roha as another student requiring Glady's counseling.


Chitra Anand highlights many areas that have gained immense significance in the lives of individuals who are at the cusp of adulthood. The unrestrained  access to information, gadgetry invasion, unabashed approach towards sexual issues and much more are subtly weaved into the fabric of the narrative. This gives an honest reflection of the society in which today's youth is functioning. Though an amateur author, Chitra has done justice to the idea that she wanted to convey through her writing. However, there are a few places where editing could have been more tight. Some of the incidents are unnecessary or too elaborate which could easily be done away with. 
A recommended read for young adults and their parents. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

TROFEO 2.0 When Santa Came Home [Category: Senior Entry No.: 3]


It was just another frosty and foggy December night and I was all alone at home amidst my work. My work, a research project on inventory management, much like any regular college project work, required truckloads of research, a zillion references and a task of interviewing some ‘n’ number of specialists to gain some real time insights. With papers, on whom I had written tit-bits collected on the topic from numerous libraries and books strewn around me, here, there and everywhere, I sat biting my fingernails staring blankly at the computer waiting for some God –made humans some half the globe across to accept my proposal for a mini interview for my project. Ah! Projects are always so strenuous.

I had kept the window behind me open, to let the cold air in. The gentle touch of freezing air against the hot headedness my work required was always so pleasantly welcoming. The gentle rustle of leaves outside and an occasional bark of the neighbour’s dog made up for a real Ruskin Bond novel like backdrop.
Suddenly, my phone buzzed and the neighbour’s dog barked. With much anticipation, I checked my phone. It was a call from my sister, Jane, instructing me to hang her stocking near the Christmas tree for Santa. Some people decidedly never grow up, I thought!

Crossing over the living room to reach the tree, I was reminded of the good old days when I was a little kid and when innocence was surely a bliss. On the Christmas morning, I would find all of my stockings that were hanging on the washing line, filled up with toffees and cookies. When I grew up a little, I remember having found a set of sketch pens under my pillow, as a gift from Santa. On another occasion, it was a pair of pink sandals. Those used to be the carefree kidhood days when I actually thought Santa was for real. Ha!

As I settled back comfortably in the epic mess that I had so prudently and painstakingly created, nostalgia took the better of me and I started going down deeper into my memory lane and suddenly, I started feeling very cold. I turned around to check if the window was still open. It was. It was time to slam it shut. As I approached the window, I knew dad was already home. He was near the porch. I could hear his breathing in the eerie silence of a winter night. Sound of footsteps followed. I would have to run to open the front door to let him in. But why didn’t he ring the bell?
***
 I remember hearing the breathing and the footsteps. The bell did not ring. I can testify all this, just as much as the fact that when I opened the door, I found no one. Where was dad? Why was he behaving so odd?
I decided to walk till the kitchen garden to see if he were there. Yeah, I could hear some movement. What was dad doing in the kitchen garden at 11 p.m. on the coldest of winter nights? I called out to him and received no reply. Well!
***
With the lights switched on, I could see that there was no one, but a red something was poking out of the corner of the wall of the house. What was that?, I guessed. A red this bright at home, was probably just Jane’s doll’s frock, and this wasn’t that. Mom and I hate reds. With scare engulfing every body part of mine, I decided to check what the red thing was. It was a person in a red coat.
“Dad!”
“hmm… shhhh… sorry sorry. Please be silent. I won’t harm you. Please.”, he whispered in a distressed tone.
“Dad?”
“Nooo…shhhhh”
“What exactly are you doing here dressed as Santa Claus, Dad??”
“Shhhhhh….. please. Noonooo noise please. I will be discovered.”
“It is OK… Jane…. is not at home right now.” Who was this man, by the way? This person here dressed as Santa Claus wasn’t dad. No he wasn’t. Dad was the last person to do such buffoonery as to dress up like Santa and hide behind a wall when Jane wasn’t even home, carry a big sack of heaven-knows-what and then fear being discovered.
“Who are you?”, I demanded in my sternest and loudest voice. “Who are you?”, I repeated.
“I.. I am Santa Clause… The official one… The main one... From North Pole... Rudolph’s out there, but you won’t be able to see it… I’ve .. It.. It is invisible.”
“And you think I will believe you, you rascal…”
“Shhh… I.. I am the real Santa. Please don’t be so loud. I can prove that I am the real one…. You are 
Paula, 20 years old and when your sister asked what you wished Santa to give you this Christmas, you had casually mentioned you wanted a brand new door bell and a set of cookie moulds. Jane wanted a new doll and the entire Famous Five series by Enid Blyton. I have brought all this for you girls… Merry Christmas”
There was a pause. A rather long and an uncomfortable one.

I had mentioned these things, and at the dead of a particular night weeks and weeks ago. “How do you know we wanted these things?” I interrogated dominatingly.
“This is the way Santa Claus works. This is the way I work. Sorry, I did not wish to be discovered. This has happened for the first time in the 34 years that I have been holding this post. None of my predecessors were discovered when they were on duty, either.”
“So it is a post you hold…” This was turning out to be interesting. Somehow I had some inkling that this man was genuine and he was Santa only. But I couldn’t lose my guard. As I stood towering upon this tiny potbellied gentleman, he took out two packages, each with our names on it and handed out to me.
“Here are your gifts. Merry Christmas.”
“Oh! Thank you Santa! Wish you a very merry Christmas!.. Do come inside. Taste our home made plum cake.”, I offered politely.
“Oh! Thanks a lot.”
***
We failed to pull in his sack of presents through the front door, though. I made him sit in the living room, and served him our plum cake, which he liked very much. He cleared my misconception of growing up that Santa was not for real, but rather a make belief by benevolent daddies and mommies.
Additionally, I asked him where from, he sourced all the presents that he was to distribute that night and how he managed the volumes. Inadvertently and by my sheer good luck, I had found a perfect interviewee for my project on inventory management.

Of course, in the project, I had to include his views as someone who “did not wish to be named” for saving myself from ridicule (no one would believe in reality of Santa, just like I never did before the encounter) and prevent his discovery from being made public. For knowing what he actually told me, you would have to go through my project report.
Merry Christmas!!

JUDGE’S VIEWS:

Renee : What a complex Christmas story with several subplots to increase the interest level! Your story also uses lots of alliteration, metaphors, hyperbole, body language, and sensory imagery to place your reader in the story with your characters.  However, my favorite part is how you tied the research project requirement in the introductory paragraph with Santa’s inventory management in your conclusion.  I always wondered how he kept the toys and children organized! I hope Paula gets a good grade on her paper!  You can improve this story by observing the rules for dialogue punctuation.  You only need one punctuation mark before the dialogue tag. For example, “Who are you?”, I repeated should become “Who are you?” I repeated. This story will appeal to younger readers who are just beginning to question the existence of Santa!

Sandhya : An interesting story. I liked the way the stage was set for Santa to arrive – the atmosphere, the inventory project. The bit about Santa being upset over having been discovered on his job, the first time that it happened, was a nice touch. As was the part where Santa clears the writer’s misconception about Santa not being real.
The end of the story, though, did not continue at the same pace that the first two parts did. It somehow felt as if it was hurriedly composed. Maybe you could work a bit more on that?

Very well written. Keep writing and reading.

NehaThere is ample use of dialogue though less characterization. The scenario is very well built up with good descriptions of weather and the surroundings. Plot construction is good. The story line becomes very interesting what with inventory management being learnt from Santa, though how and why he gets caught by the narrator is not very clearly developed.
There are no glaring errors but an overdose of adjectives and idiomatic words and phrases.


Saturday, February 15, 2014

TROFEO 2.0 When Toys Had a New Year Party [Category: Senior Entry No. 2]


Daisy was reading her favourite book “The Toy Story” when she heard some noises. It was from her brother Paul and her Toy Room.
There were sound of engines, cars honking and music playing . She tiptoed and opened the door a wee bit. There, in Toy room was the most amazing scene she had ever seen! Thomas the Engine was speeding away on the tracks and the whistling. The Hot Wheels cars were all over the room like it was a highway! There was Paul’s guitar, drums and keyboard playing by themselves.
There was Daisy’s favourite Barbie all decked up in her Party dress in Paul’s “Lightning Mc Queen”!
Then suddenly, there was silence. Thomas, the engine went back to the station, the cars parked themselves in the garage.
Barbie stepped out of the car and then followed Woody, Minnie, Batman, Spiderman and Cinderella.
The music started playing again and all of them started dancing. It was a splendid sight indeed. They seemed to be celebrating something! There were cakes, cookies, chocolates, ice-cream and soda!
Suddenly, the music stopped. A crystal ball appeared at the ceiling and as the ball rolled down, the countdown began “ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five”, “Oh they were have a New Year Party!” , “five, four, three, two one.. ”The whole room shook and Daisy felt there was an earthquake. She opened her eyes and saw her Mom. It was time for school!

JUDGE’S VIEWS:

Renee : I like how you transitioned your main character from reading her favorite book to living with the characters in the book during her dream.  You used lots of detail as you describe each of the toys, showing what they did and ate.  To bring this story together, introduce it with an assignment from school that would tie into your last sentence.  Maybe Daisy had to write a story about what the toys did when nobody could see them.  Maybe she had to simply write a book review about her favorite book.  Whatever you write should tie your introduction and ending together somehow. 

Sandhya : A story with a nice twist. Well written, for I did not realize until the end that it was a dream. This is an excellent format for fantasy, as anything goes, and free associations can be made.
Very well narrated. Do practice your writing regularly, and read a lot – that will hone your writing skills.

  
Neha : A simple descriptive write up. It has a promising beginning with some sparks of imagination and could have been developed more. Short, simple and sweet. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

TROFEO 2.0 When Toys Had a New Year Party [Category: Senior Entry No.: 1]


Dear diary,
Frankfurt; January 1, 2014


My entry tonight is going to be rather lengthy, basically as a compensation for not having written anything last night. But I will tell you all that happened yesterday. Don’t worry.

Yesterday, when I opened my math notebook to do some sums, a tiny paper slipped out of it. It was a note from someone and it read..
“Meet me today (31 Dec, 2013) at 11:30 p.m. near the basement of your house.
Do not tell anyone anything about this.
If you decide not to come, the loss will be all yours.
Tear the note as soon as you have read it.”

It spooked the hell out of me for I did not know who had sent me this note? Why was I, a tiny 13 year old girl, summoned near the basement at such a late hour, and that too alone..? Well! Who could possibly do it, for I did not remember anybody coming into my room, all of the past fortnight? And the note mentioned ‘today’.

I decided to don my bravest façade and resolved to go down till the basement at night to see who it was. I also took my fat teddy bear along, just in case I needed some moral support.

There, in the basement, I saw nobody. Just a couple of strange equipment that daddy used on his occasional car cleaning sprees and a toy soldier. I was surprised to see my toy soldier there, though. My family swears by my cleanliness and orderliness, there is never a toy or thing out of its place, once it is no longer in use. I have told you that numerous times. And here in front of me was my toy soldier..why?? And more importantly, how?

Even as the temperatures outside were going for a free fall, a drop of sweat trickled down my back.

In the midst of all this confusion, suddenly the lights went out and I froze just where I stood. And before I could realize anything, my teddy bear leapt out of my hand and jumped onto my shoulder. And, dear Diary, I still don’t know how I survived that moment. Just so suddenly, like a flash of thunder, the lights came back and ever so spontaneously, my teddy jumped and sat on top of my head. Yes, that sounds funny, but I was scared to the bone. I could hear my heartbeat as loud as Bob Sir’s march past drum beat at school.

And as my eyes adjusted to the bright lights, I saw all my toys swarming into the basement in what appeared to be a kind of a synchronized performance, all to the tune of ‘happy birthday to you’. But the words in the tune were, ‘happy New Year to you’. Well, what exactly was all this, I had no idea.

“Wish you a very happy New Year, Rose! Welcome to our gala celebration. All of us, your very well kept toys, decided to have party this time round too.” My toy soldier spoke up rather unexpectedly. “But this year, we decided to call you too, since we were sure you would enjoy and that you wouldn’t tell it to anyone.”
“Oh!”, said an overwhelmed I.
“This New Year, we wanted to give you a big big surprise by calling you down here and to disclose to you one of the closest kept secrets of the toy world.”

My favourite dinosaur suddenly enlarged, turned around and opened its wings. There, by the tips of the wings, were attached two ends of a big banner that read, “Welcome 2014”, and the entire basement was filled with the ringing and mildly echoing clatter of claps of all of my toys. Even the mouse was somehow trying to put his hands together. Then out of nowhere, my kitchen set came walking in. The cookers and the woks had developed tiny limbs under them. Behind them was walking my teddy bear, wearing an apron and a cook’s cap. I never realized when it had vanished from atop my head. The lids of the toy utensils jumped open and out came the yummiest aroma of freshly cooked food, I have ever witnessed in my life.  

I was watching all this as if someone had put a body and tongue bind curse on me. Ha! My dolls had to hold my hand and shake me to restore my senses, before they offered me some food. As the clocks neared 11:59 p.m., the little birds from my puzzles organized themselves into what I think of now as the best ballet performance ever.

As I recollect all that happened last night, when the toys, my toys, threw a New Year party for me, I am overwhelmed with emotion. We had so much fun. Till well past 4:00 a.m., we danced to the tunes of the my little puppet radio. It was the best New Year party I have ever attended. God bless my toys.
I really don’t remember when the dance ended and what happened later. I might have been very tired and must have slept there only. Maybe. But in the morning, I found myself carefully tucked in my own bed and all my playthings back in their own places as before.

Oh, I so love my toys. I love them even more now. The very fact they can come alive at nightfall is so so incredulous. Long live my toys, I wish I never grow up.

Love,
Rose

JUDGE’S VIEWS:

Renee : Although this story is well-written and interesting, I thought that Rose engaged in some risky behavior by meeting an unknown person alone in the dark, taking only a teddy bear for protection.  And this is so well-written through the rest of the story, you should consider having Rose accidentally find the toy party as she searches for her lost toy soldier.  You used lots of details to explain what the toys did during their party, which adds to the appeal.  This story has much potential to be a story book where each page shows the toys engaging in a different type of party activity.

Sandhya : An interesting format of writing a story – as a diary entry. This makes the narration so much more personal, and can be written in an informal tone. This qualifies very well for both. The anonymous note was a very nice touch.
Very well written. You have a lot of potential – do keep writing regularly, and read a lot – that will hone your skill.


Neha : Very well written. Has an interesting beginning. It engages the readers’ interest right at the start and manages to keep it aroused till the end. The concept is good and so the story line is remarkable.
Dialogue and characterization as tools to make the tale interesting are very well used. Use of phrases is also effective. Imagination is evident in the dragon and birds performances as well as the invitation. Creativity and skill are very well balanced. It is good attempt.


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

TROFEO 2.0 When Santa Came Home [Category: Middle Entry No.: 10]


Once there was a Christmas party organized by Riya Yadav. The theme of the party was red colour. The party started. Some of them wore casual red dress and some tried to wear dress of Santa Claus. All of them had a Santa cap. Riya wore a long and bright gown. It was looking very pretty on her. The party had lots of games and good and healthy food. All of them sang Christmas carols like ‘Rudolph the red nose reindeer’. They had a lot of fun.

At 12 p.m. Riya cut the Christmas cake. After some time, Santa came. Everyone was surprised to see Santa Clause at home. He clicked photos with everyone. They enjoyed very much with Santa. He gave lots of gifts and offered sweets. But Riya was surprised. She didn’t know who this Santa was, as he had hidden his face with a Santa mask. When the party was over and everyone went back to their homes, Riya tugged at the Santa’s sleeve and asked who he was. The Santa removed his mask and oh my God!, he was actually her father, Dr. Yadav. She hugged him very tightly. She thanked her father for being a Santa for the night and for making her party even better. This was the best Christmas party the Yadavs have ever had!

JUDGE’S VIEWS:

Renee : This was a fun idea to have a “red” party for Christmas.  I see lots of potential for even more than the red clothing – red cake, red peppers, red decorations, etc.  When you add more details that use the color red, you will have a very coordinated story.  Also, consider adding a touch of mystery by having the guests wonder who is playing Santa.  Maybe Riya’s father disguised his voice and padded his belly so nobody would guess who it was.  This is a great story of a fun party with much potential for expansion to a longer tale about a Christmas party.

Sandhya : Clearly the narration of a real, and a happy experience, very charming.Well narrated. Maybe you could flesh out the story a bit, add dialogues – they will add more interest to the story. Do keep reading and writing.

Neha : A simple descriptive story, neatly written without any errors. You could add more dialogues and imagination to it.


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

TROFEO 2.0 When Santa Came Home [Category: Middle Entry No.: 9]


Christmas is a festival where Santa Claus give gifts and visits every house. Whenever I think of Christmas, my mind trails back to the time when Santa Claus was at our doorstep. Let me share this story to you.
It was the eve of Christmas. We decorated our Christmas tree and kept the cookies and milk near it. As we baked more cookies we watched one movie. It was Harry Potter - The Philosopher's Stone. The air was filled with aroma of cookies. Suddenly somebody started banging our house door. We were scared My father looked through the door hole. He smiled and muttered "Great! Santa Claus has come at our doorstep!" He opened the door and there he saw Santa Claus . Santa Claus laughed and chuckled and giggled some more . He laughed again and said-
"Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas fellas!!! I am Santa Claus! May I come in?". He went towards the sofa and sat with a thump. I asked "How come you came at our doorstep and why not with your signature entrance?" Santa Claus smiled and replied" Ah! It is a very long story. I had visited all the places in the world. The only place left was your place. I was very tired. And the aroma of your cookies brought me here. I did not want to come through the chimney again. So I thought it would be better to enter your house normally with no 'chimney- entering' techniques. Can I have some cookies and milk?" We offered the milk and cookies to Santa Claus. When he was finished he told us some stories related to Christmas. Suddenly our phone rang. My father picked it up. 

The conversation went like this-
Father: Hello? Who is speaking?

Caller: Hi Vineet! How are you? Merry Christmas! This is me, Fred. The sleigh symbolizing the vehicle of Santa Claus outside your house looks pretty awesome. Where did you get this from? It must be two thousand dollars.

Father: Ummm.... Actually Fred, I got this as a gift from my old friend in USA. Meet you tomorrow in office and thanks for appreciating my decoration. Bye! Merry Christmas!
It was actually Santa Claus's sleigh.
Then Santa Claus sang a few carols and explained in detail why Christmas was celebrated in. He gave us some gifts like-a laptop, a few books and fancy pencils and toys.We thanked him for that. He gave his home address(which is a secret ) and his email id which is santa.clausgifts@yahoo.com. Then Santa Claus asked us to show him me and my sister's room. When we entered the room he saw a picture of himself drawn by me and my sister. Santa was very happy then we saw him taking a stick from his coat pocket and flicked it on the picture.The picture became alive. Santa Claus said "You can talk to me through this picture. And if you want to visit my house then call out to this picture 'May I come into your house!' and then you will see a type of well. Plunge into it and you will reach my house. He got up and
it was time for him to go. We bade him goodbye and then Santa Claus sat on his sleigh, pulled the ropes and his sleigh flew up, up and then it disappeared in the sky.

Santa Claus's visit in our house was fun and we enjoyed it. I hope he comes to your house too!!Merry Christmas!!!

JUDGE’S VIEWS:

Renee : This was a magical view of Santa’s visit to the last house on his Christmas Eve tour.  You used lots of sensory details to place your reader directly into the story.  You can improve this story by including a stronger goal for your main character.  What does he really want from Santa?  What might he want to give him?  When you present a goal in the beginning of a story, your readers will cheer when your character meets that goal at the end.  Overall, this is well-written and interesting!

Sandhya : Very imaginative! Santa’s secret home address and email ID are very nice touches. I was also amused by Santa’s banging on the door while the children were watching Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – clearly a reference to Hagrid. Also the fact that he does not want to use the ‘chimney-entering technique’, and Father’s explanation of the sleigh outside the door.
Do hold on to this story and work on it a bit more later to improve the flow of the narrative. Keep reading and writing.

Neha : An excellent attempt. The story has a well thought out plot. A nice beginning and well described logical conclusion. There is characterization, dialogue, imagination and creativity.
The twist of the Santa picture becoming alive and a secret way to Santa is very interesting. The laptop and mail id idea give it a modern turn. The story is engaging till the end.
There are a few grammatical errors but can be ignored. One is the use of ‘and’ to begin a sentence and the other is the arrangement of persons in nouns; it should be ‘my sister and me’ not the other way round.