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Book Reviews

Review of “Gowri” by Dr George John

“I find Gowri a very engaging read, and I am sure that it will appeal to many an Indian reader as well as others who will have a certain familiarity with the locations, traditions and social customs described in the book.

What clearly comes through in the various chapters is the author’s loyalty, admiration and love for his late enterprising mother, and what she had achieved in her life as a widowed migrant.

Loyalty is a virtue and as Shakespeare put it, “A jewel in a ten-times-barr’d-up chest; Is a bold spirit in a loyal breast”.

But as a psychiatrist, I would say that even as we can see some downsides to unquestioning allegiance to a cause, a faith or an individual, when the history of loyalty is studied in the context of world history, loyalty also has much verifiable good.

“An ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness” is the Elbert Hubbard’s dictum.

The author’s love and devotion to his late mother and what her life exemplified comes through clearly, albeit quite subtly and cleverly because of the narrative style in this book which I find quite refreshing as well as compelling.

It maybe the psychiatrist and philosopher in me speaking, but I have to say that it is both a pun and a truth to say that the whole subject of Love has mostly been left to amateurs to explain as there is no science of love because it is too various and protean to fit a theory, and the dubious Freudian theories are clearly insufficient explanations for it.

But the story of Gowri to the reader is not unlike the experience of climbers who attempt to scale Mount Everest high enough to get a view that is so magnificent when the same view, albeit fainter, could even been had from the foothills, because to my mind this remarkable lady showed potential for greatness from very early in life.

In life there are no happy endings because all endings are the saddest part of life. So it is good to have had a happy middle and a great start, and the price of greatness is a sense of responsibility and commitment.

This book is about a life which with all its early bitterness became a story of success with its enduring and stabilizing values to weather the storms and bring bliss to the survivors.

To quote Conficius, “To love a thing or a person, means wanting it to live”, and Gowri lives on through this book.

The entire moral compass of this book may be found in its closing sentences:

“… Righteous acts however difficult, carries no Karma debts … Knowing all beings to be eternal souls does not mean that their hurtful actions can be absolved.
Lord Krishna wants Arjuna to fight the cruel Kauravas, but to do so with a strong and compassionate hand.”

That in a nutshell is Gowri, a courageous and resilient soul.Immortality is granted when the dead continue to live in the hearts of the living and this book is a fitting testimonial to a remarkable lady and an example of a life well lived. Hers is a story that needs to be heard.”

Dr George John
Emeritus Consultant Psychiatrist (Retd.)
Kochi, October 2019

Review of “Gowri” by Prof. Beena Giridharan

V.G. Kumar Das’s biographical debut Gowri is a stirring account of one woman’s journey from pre-independent Kerala in India, to colonial Malaya. The book’s central character Gowri is the heir of many traditions deeply forged by her matriarchal lineage. Her journey away from her motherland is in many ways symbolic of transformations; transformation of a young woman into adulthood, launched into motherhood, shaped by her cultural heritage and challenges of context. She is the pillar of strength while she defines herself in her quest for her own identity and that of her family. Das enthralls readers with his evocative prose that invokes an era of romanticism blended with historic realities. His portrayal of the Indian female is a sharp contrast to the traditional suffering devotion of Indian womanhood enslaved by male hierarchy. Instead, his Gowri pushes the ideal towards the full expression of a woman’s potential.

Das illustrates Gowri’s grapples for survival in her adopted homeland of Malaya, notwithstanding her widowed status, encumbered with seven children. Her commitment to her departed husband’s dreams and conviction that his family had the promise of a better future in Malaya, rather than in India, keeps her steadfast to her path. The image of the woman she projects is strong and determined as she argues for a sense of family, community and companionship. Das quite eloquently renders the closeness and yet destructive limitations of the extended Indian family values. It is sometimes a dark world where emotions run deep, and dignity may suffer a slow death, and human nature conforms to numbing accuracy.

Unflinchingly, Gowri carves for her children the higher education avenue and future in Malaya that she perchance would provide to her children in her homeland Kerala, had she chosen to return to her ancestral land where education still remains the bastion of the populace. She recreates memories of tradition, language, and customs that sometimes result in contesting values across geographical milieus. Gowri’s capacity to adapt, assimilate, and blend cultural influences in her new neighborhoods with diverse ethnicities is exemplary, and her innate flair for learning dialects and new languages, and appreciation of South East Asian cultures, notable. Her forays into local markets and acquaintance with Chinese, Malay, and Eurasian fashions, and delectable delicacies, in pre-independent Malaya spans across current day Singapore and Penang, giving readers glimpses into a fascinating bygone era.

The book interspersed with culture, tradition, and rich diasporic narratives delivers on many fronts, and is a valuable contribution to the new definitions of the Indian female, one that is not overpowered and confined to inner spaces of domestic households and repressive patriarchy often predominant in literary works from the sub- continent. Gowri’s diasporic tale provides agency to female characters emerging from nationalistic identities to transnational experiences in new societies that present challenges beyond that of gender.

Professor Beena Giridharan
Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor,
Curtin University, Malaysia

Book Review by Dr R. Rajakrishnan

BOOK TITLE: “Gowri: A Biographical Tale about a Spirited Resilient Malaysian Indian Woman”

AUTHOR: Professor Dr. V.G. Kumar Das

PUBLISHER: Partridge Publishers

REVIEWER: Dr. R. Rajakrishnan

The author, who is also a character in the book, tells the story of ‘a woman’s exceptional courage, a mother’s unconditional love, and a matriarch’s uncompromising will to see her family survive against insurmountable odds’. That phrase, in essence, sums up the biography of the protagonist, Gowri. Presented in an unassuming manner through the experiences of Gowri, the narration is a down-to-earth and easy-to-read depiction of events that helped shape her life.

The narration provides glimpses of life’s both good and pleasant moments and difficult and challenging times experienced by the protagonist prior to her marriage, during her marriage life, as a single mother with seven children and subsequently as a family elder who witnessed the establishment and development of her extended family ‘tree’. This is wherein the intrinsic value of the book lies where the effect and intensity of the pain and emotions felt by the protagonist leaving her ancestral home, experiencing life in a foreign land, accepting the demise of her partner, bringing up her children as a single mother are all portrayed vividly and effectively. This alone suffices for a ‘good reading’. I could easily relate to and empathize with the protagonist since my mother, too, became a widow at the young age of thirty eight with six school-going children to fend for. It is, undoubtedly, Gowri’s personality traits and positive outlook that helped her confront the difficult and uncertain times and, at the same time, evince magnanimity and love to all those who came into contact with her.

The extrinsic nature of the text lies in the narration of historical events both in India and Malaysia, including life during the Great Depression years, during the Japanese Occupation and the May 13 racial strife; presentation of cultural traditions and lifestyles of Malaysians, including their food habits, religious practices, marriage ceremonies and festival celebrations; and social life, including relationships within the family and outside, struggles for survival, conflict situations, reconciliations and mutual support. The presentation of the finer details about temples in India and Malaysia, tourist sites, religions and cultural traditions and ceremonies will definitely provide good reference material for tour guides and students of Malaysian society.

It is evidently clear that the author’s main purpose to portray the entire life’s journey of the protagonist has been realized. The deliberate inclusion of the different facets of Malaysian life,
including the social, political and economic events that have taken place in the course of the protagonist’s journey through life, has been to present a realistic picture which, inevitably, had added some ‘spice’ to the narration. The book will definitely serve as a good documented record of the protagonist’s family history. Although it might seem that the inclusion of other family members’ lives, events and activities has in places inadvertently relegated the protagonist to a secondary role, their very inclusion, which is central to Gowri’s uncompromising view of what constitutes a cogent family unit or ‘Tharavad’, has in point of fact further enriched the biographical presentation of Gowri’s life history.

In conclusion, this book, as a biographical piece of work, is well written and an excellent record of the family events of the protagonist. It also presents the many facets of the social and cultural traditions of both the protagonist’s ethno linguistic community and also the other Malaysian communities.

Review of “Gowri” by Prof. Helen Nair

[Partridge Publishers, Singapore]

A laudable tome by a devoted son!

The book is fascinating for its vivid and detailed narration about a remarkable Grand Dame, featured also as a Mother, Matriarch, Grandmother and Great-grandmother. It’s a narrative of an amazingly strong and resilient woman who found herself in her teens separated from her parents and placed under the guardianship of her aunt as a result of intense family squabbles that broke up her tharavad (joint family household) in Kerala, India.

The author as the eldest son, and no doubt the apple of his Mother’s eye, has faithfully documented the trepidation, fears and challenges of a naïve and innocent young bride, travelling from her all-too-familiar village environment in Kerala, to the “wilds” of early twentieth century Malaysia, which was then under colonial rule. What is particularly impactful is the carefully documented details of the Keralite tradition and culture under the meticulous tutelage of the matriarch, whether for births, naming ceremonies, weddings or funerals. Yes, indeed it will prove an invaluable source of information to many a descendant of the Nair clan and other expatriate Malayalee communities, whose forefathers also made the brave and daring decision to sail the seas for greener pastures in new colonies around the world.

But the character of Gowri is central to the book; her brave and caring nature not only for her family but all who interacted with her, as evidenced by numerous documented episodes, reflects clearly how the culture and traditions of her upbringing in Kerala helped to steel her for the numerous challenges she faced. The early demise of her loving husband at age fifty-two, who was also the sole breadwinner for the family, is truly heart-wrenching as it left young Gowri with seven children to care for. The anguish and fear were circumvented only by a deep spirituality as well as a profound pragmatic approach to the day-to-day challenges her family had to surmount.

Significantly, and compounded to Gowri’s deep understanding of her religion, was an astounding intellect and sensitivity that generated an openness to examine, study and readily discourse on a wide range of topics, including other religions, cultures and traditions, both at home and outside her comfort zone. Thus Gowri maintained a candid understanding of the fast evolving changes around her from the war-torn days of World War II to Malaysia’s Independence and growth pangs, (including the Black Day of May 13 1969) till her demise in 1998. Her delightful excitement during a tour of several countries in the developed world, with the author and his wife, must have enriched her outlook on life even more. The cementing of a firm tharavad overseen by The Matriach, at her eldest son’s home was obviously a source of enormous joy and contentment. Malaysia had truly become her “home-away-from home”. Through it all, Gowri was indeed able to provide a firm and solid anchor to her fast-growing family and extended family, especially her cherished grandchildren upon whom she religiously emphasized the importance of a sound education.

“Gowri” will surely bring back memories of similarly strong and remarkable matriarchs, who nurtured their growing families in a new country far away from the land of their birth while providing the pioneering spirit and rock solid foundation required to steer their families through thick and thin. In return, it inadvertently resulted in a deep reverence for the matriarch not only by kith and kin, but also by all and sundry. In fact, each such narrative is a true story of the first ever group of feminists who ingeniously showed the world how strong is the hand that rocks the cradle and how much to be honoured and revered.

This book therefore, contains details invaluable not only to Gowri’s kith and kin but also to a broader readership, including historians, Malayalees and intergenerational readers who value the true meaning of “Family Bonds” – peoples who if they would but stop and reflect upon the gems embedded within this masterpiece, would be the richer for it.

The fact that the story pans out as a very readable, novel-like tome, can be attributed to the mastery of the writer, Professor VG Kumar Das, who with this first novel has revealed his versatility in switching impressively from technical, scientific writing to the new genre of a descriptive, historical family narrative.



Prof. (Retd.) Dr. Helen Nair, PhD, FASc, FMSA

Fellow, Academy of Sciences Malaysia


Postal Address

Unit No. 152-17-01

Villa Flora Condominium

Jalan Burhanuddin Helmi

Taman Tun Dr. Ismail

60000 Kuala Lumpur




Mobile: +6012 3816171 3 October 2016


Review of ‘Gowri’ by UHeruron

5.0 out of 5 starsGowri, an immigrant experience
By UHeruron 6 October 2016
Format: Paperback

Gowri, a biographical tale, is an absorbing saga of a Malaysian Indian family through three generations. The story is narrated from the perspective of Gowri, the matriarch of the family. In the early part of the twentieth century, 23 year old Gowri migrates from Kerala in India and a few years later, becomes a naturalized Malaysian along with her husband and children. The early death of her husband in her adoptive country brings out an unexpected strength in the young widow. She successfully supports her seven children born in Malaysia to become highly educated and distinguished subjects contributing to her new country. The story has anthropological overtones, with clear and interesting descriptions of the Nair community of Kerala and the multi ethnic Malaysian society. Simultaneously the story is placed within the historical context of Malaysia, starting from the Japanese invasion during the Second World War, where Gowri hides her uncle, an escaped prisoner of war, from the Japanese soldiers and continuing through the formation of the Malaysian state, its subsequent reorganization without Singapore and its further economic development.

The author, her oldest child, treats the subject with an almost feminine sensitivity, at the same time bringing in objectivity and openness to the narrative wherever needed. The interlude with his aunt Kamala reflects this. With the best of intentions, Kamala volunteers to take care of the newly widowed Gowri and her seven children but is unable to cope with the ramifications of such a big responsibility. The reader is left with sympathy for the travails of both Kamala and Gowri. Another example is the reference to his own anger at this incident and his human inability to let go of it for many years. The characters are well etched particularly that of the protagonist, where her piety, wisdom, strength of character, her adaptability and intelligence becomes apparent to the reader through the interestingly written recital of various events in her life. The language flows smoothly and the descriptions are riveting. One of the strengths of the book is that it has a flavor of vernacular writing in India. It makes available an authentic Indian sensibility to people of Indian origin who do not read Indian languages, and otherwise can only get this from sometimes indifferent translations. The number of characters that weave in and out of the story, however, necessitate some references back and forth. The events occurring in the last part of the narrative add little to the development of Gowri’s character in the narration as there are few challenges facing her at this stage of her life.

A captivating aspect of the story is the insight into the Indian immigrant experience. While it is a particular narrative of one woman from Kerala adopting and adapting in a new country Malaysia, the detailed description throughout of the experiences, the disquietude, the choices, the happinesses and the successes of the immigrant is generalizable and will be of particular interest to those who are interested in migration narratives and identity. Overall, an engaging book that can be read in one sitting.

Review of ‘Gowri’ by Dr Rita Ray Chaudhuri

Dr Rita Ray Chaudhuri, Watford,United Kingdom

I did enjoy reading GOWRI as it was so very interesting about her life and that of her family.The book has achieved its purpose which was well written by the Author.At times I found it difficult to put the book down.

The black and white photos were helpful as one could match up the names of the individual characters mentioned in the book.
The author has mentioned stories of the Japanese invasion of the then Malaya and Singapore during the British Rule.This I can now recall as my own parents have mentioned to me that those were times of much anxiety and apprehension for the people of the country.

I must say I do highly recommend ‘GOWRI’ to my friends and other readers.

Review of ‘Gowri’ by Dr Mohamed Keshavjee in Awaaz Magazine, vol. 13, issue 3, 2017

Author: V G Kumar Das

Publ: Partridge Publishing, Singapore, 2016

Reviewer: Mohamed M Keshavjee

Gowri is the biography of an Indian woman written by her son some 18 years after her passing as a tribute by him, as an eldest of seven siblings, to a mother whose trials and tribulations, as a widow, he witnessed first-hand. Being the eldest and a male child, he was perhaps best placed to understand the travails of his mother, and being in a diasporic setting in British Malaya where minorities had to struggle to survive, greater responsibilities devolved on his shoulders to care for his widowed mother and his siblings than would have been otherwise the case. So far then, the biography says nothing new. It is about the struggle for survival of millions of people across the globe and the sacrifice of a kind, gentle and caring mother is what all stories of motherhood are about. How the family grew, what they did to survive, how they sent their children for further studies, the new recipes they developed, the friends they made and the new members they embraced into their family through interfaith marriages, is what all Indians, in one way or another, have experienced in both India and the Diaspora and are still facing today.

The book’s limitation in not being able to bare it all is understandable, particularly when one is writing about a family history in the context of colonial expansion, administration and decolonization with which its own history has been coterminous. This calls for meticulous balance. Also, any family in that situation must have faced enormous challenges brought about by the struggle to survive. These usually entail squabbles and disputes and also a number of successes and failures where some win and others get relegated to the margins of existence. Most Indians have faced similar experiences in the Indian Diaspora and have elevated their status by sending their children ‘overseas’ for studies. Often, this implies the United Kingdom, the main colonial power under whose sovereignty most overseas Indians lived. For British Malaya, this term included Australia, whose proximity made it more attractive than colder and more ‘alien’ destinations such as Canada and the USA. In this context, the author, despite, or because of, his family circumstances, was able to go for further studies to Australia and ended up as Chair of Inorganic Chemistry and Dean at the Faculty of Sciences at the University of Malaya. He also became a Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive of two universities in the country – Kedah and Perak – both of which he founded.

For Malaysian Indian readers, the story may be commonplace and could be dismissed as being self-serving. For Diasporic Indians, there are insights to glean, even though the writer may not have intended these. As Roland Barthes suggests in his ‘Death of the Author’ that when an author finishes writing a book, he ‘dies’ and the book takes on a new dimension in the mind of the reader, I have taken the liberty as a reader to ‘rewrite’ the book from a Diasporic Indian perspective to show that there is much to learn from this book through the sharing of family narratives.

Firstly, the story reflects the tenacity of the Indian mother, bringing up her children in a foreign country trying to juggle with four or more cultures coupled with all the challenges posed by acculturation. Gowri does this on her own terms, stressing to her prospective Christian daughter in law not to religiously convert her son from Hinduism to Christianity but assuring her that she will not insist on the same for her daughter in law’s children. Here, she was embracing, ahead of her time, the new reality of today’s families which are biracial, binational, bicultural and, in some cases, even bi religious. She accepts her daughter in law into the family with open hearted magnanimity and christens her “‘Shanti’ which means ‘peace’ – something so desperately needed today at all levels of society.

Secondly, the book highlights the role education played in the survival and upward mobility of the Diasporic Indians. ‘This is nothing new’ as many Indians would say, but sufficient enough to strike a resonant chord in the hearts of many Diasporic Indians who, like the Indians of Malaysia, have produced some outstanding people who are playing an important role in civil society in many of the countries where they are settled today (see Planet India by Mira Kamdar to gain an insight on the part played by overseas Indians in the USA). While this is true of many immigrant communities across the world, what is important for Diasporic Indians, referred to by Yash Tandon as ‘stepchildren of the colonial empire’, is the salutary message that education has been, and continues to remain, their greatest asset.

Thirdly, and purely for historic reasons – and many may ask ‘who reads history these days?’ – is the story of the struggle for the emancipation of India. While not much is really known of the early struggle of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi in South Africa and how the emancipation of India had its seeds in South Africa, not much is known of the struggle of Subhas Chandra Bose and his struggle in Malaya against British colonialism by flirting with the occupying Japanese power in British Malaya. While Das’ book does not dwell at any length on this part of colonial history – and understandably so being a family memoir – it does give an insight on what colonial Indians had to grapple with in their long journey towards their own emancipation as well as that of India’s.

Lastly, and most importantly, the book shows the role minorities played in post-colonial societies where massive reconstruction of society was called for in many parts of the world. While this may have passed as a phenomenon associated with the dying embers of colonialism, it does raise its ugly head today in ongoing debates revolving around contemporary issues such as mass migrations, greater acceptance of diversity and how a country can meaningfully embrace pluralism. A better understanding of the past helps to engender a culture of live and let live. The book, from its reading, does touch on the race riots of 1969 in Malaysia but not in any depth about its long-term implications in a country where race is now progressively being conflated with religion as an important determinant of identity and therefore about belonging. Perhaps here, a better understanding of the overseas Indians’ own narratives, albeit by way of family chronicles couched in a ‘down memory lane’ language, do provide deep insights of what mattered to people and how their humble contributions went to make up the pluralistic societies that constitute many of the nation states of today – a reality to come to serious terms with though denied by many. In Milan Kundera’s words ‘the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting’. Narratives such as Gowri, no doubt, help a great deal in locating the overseas Indian contribution to the evolution of many countries of the world of which overseas Indians are, and have always been, an integral part.

BlueInk Review

Gowri: A Biographical Tale about a Spirited, Resilient Malaysian Indian Woman
V.G. Kumar Das
Partridge, 329 pages, (paperback) $22.66, 9781482866506
(Reviewed: March, 2017)

Author V.G. Kumar Das offers readers a thorough and loving portrait of his mother, Gowri, a woman who ensured the survival and success of her family through her courage and tenacity.

In this eloquently written homage to his mother, Das recounts how Gowri emigrated from South India to Malaysia in the late1930s immediately after marriage. Her story is contextualized within the Japanese occupation of Malaysia during WWII and a half century of Indian and Malaysian politics and cultural shifts.

When her husband passes away from health complications, Gowri is widowed at a young age with seven children. She makes the bold decision not to return to India but to stay back in her domiciled country, which she believed held a better future for her children and where she also had a married sister. Through her many travails, she transforms from a woman who didn’t dare address her husband directly and had never eaten in a restaurant before marriage to someone who stands up to her sister’s emotional abuses and travels the world.

Gowri’s “inspirational positive attitude drawn from her unflinching faith in the Divine” is evident throughout; she raises her children with a deep understanding of their Hindu heritage. Despite the importance of Hinduism in Gowri’s life, she adapts and expands her heart to accept her son’s interfaith marriage. She acts as a support for her family well into old age, exhibiting “a capacity to soothe with her storehouse of experience and wisdom.”

A family tree included in the biography’s appendix helps readers navigate the complexity of characters. A more extensive genealogy is also offered of the earlier generations of Gowri’s matrilineal bloodline, who have a contentious history examined predominantly in the second chapter.

The book includes more detail than average readers may find interesting, including many minor family incidents. As a result, it’s perhaps best suited for those in the family’s inner circle. Still, the culture of Kerala and of one unique family is well preserved within this text.

Review in Tabla, 15 Dec 2017, page 6
Review by Farouk Gulsara

Hidden content

Review by Farouk Gulsara

As our leaders frantically try their level best to rewrite history as they seem fit, to satisfy their personal agendas, there is no better time than now for books like this one to come out. In fact, books of this kind are long overdue.

Family narrations of this nature must surely be a regular feature in most Malaysian Indian family circles. In fact, it is the story of economic immigrants the world over. The push factor drives a brave group of fortune seekers to go beyond their shores to explore greener pastures. Accommodating to the demands of their new found lands, with the trust in God Almighty, these new sojourners persevere.

Losing everything and gaining nothing by becoming sluggards, they know that hard work is the only way to unshackle themselves from the clutches of poverty. Inadvertently, their labour pays back in their and their offspring’s standard of living. The incidental beneficiary of all these is the development of the nation-state.

‘Gowri’ is a dedication of love from a doting son to his mother. The author had to grow overnight to adulthood to be the de facto ‘head’ of the family after the demise of his father when he was mere seventeen. He, in great details, tries to trace his immediate relatives and puts the records straight for the descendants of Madam Gowri Panicker to know where they came from, the labour of the family in establishing themselves and exerting themselves vigorously as lawful citizens of this country.

Treading through thick and thin, from 1939, along with the history of the country, through World War 2, the communist insurgency and the dizzying era after Malayan Independence, the family, can proudly say, “they were there!”; from the inception of Malaysia to its current state.

Another recurring theme in most Malaysian Indian family’s success story is education. Its importance cannot be overemphasised here too. Gowri, who had the misfortune of being deprived of higher level education because of some family issues, understood its importance. She ensured that her children had the opportunities for what she had missed. She herself was a role model for her kids as she self-taught English and Tamil and was a voracious reader.

It is enlightening to see how siblings of the bygone era sacrificed for the wellbeing of their siblings. In this fast-changing world of self-centeredness, I wonder if this virtue would still hold in time to come.

The generation before us was definitely a resilient lot. They encountered adversities headlong with calculated risk and with the trust in God. It is incredible how the belief in the divine forces can make one stronger beyond their own expectations. Rather than thinking and overthinking, sometimes putting the responsibility on the celestial bodies and entering combat wholeheartedly allays uncertainties in life. If you win, you thank God; if you fail, you accept that it was not meant to be.

Life is an unpredictable journey. There are no distinct paths to follow. The road least followed could open new frontiers, but conversely, it could be your coup de grâce! Accepting that the Gods are silent, Man looks for other telltale signs. Astrology and signs of Nature are taken as guides; chirping of lizards, fluttering of eyes, sneezing and chiming of clocks all denote hidden messages for us to consider!

The story of Gowri is the story of her new Motherland. Just like how Gowri and her family grew their roots deep into Malaysia, Malaysia also prospered in tandem. Like her children who spread their wings to the four corners of the world, the pride of the country flew majestically over the globe via the hard work of the immigrant population like Gowri who decided to call this country home and of their descendants who were willing to toil, sweat and bleed for this nation.

Running through this biography, one gets the feeling as though the ultimate question about our existence may be answered. The dilemma whether our presence here on Earth is to savour the fruit of our previous favourable karmas or to be a testbed for future births. The answer is neither; it is to propel our kith and kins forward, one notch higher than the generation before them. Period.

Review by Khurshid Makani

An appreciative review by a passionate reader from Singapore:

“The biography entitled “Gowri “ is not just an ordinary chronology of a matriarch. It is also not just an account of an amazing individual, but in my opinion, more that of a Saint. A Sage of her age and era. A TRUE Lady.

While there are many strong women out there and those who survived many catastrophic events in their lives, I cannot think or see myself giving this honour to anyone else but Gowrima, as I would like to address her; for a soul like her needs to be addressed with more respect than just her name alone. Coming out of my attendance recently at the United Nation’s International Day for non-violence in Singapore at which Mahatma Gandhi ‘s granddaughter was present, my thoughts began to centre on who might fit the bill of a female version of that great soul- the Lady Mahatma of the 21st century.

If there are any, then going by the biography of her life and her legacy, Madam Gowri, wife of Mr Govindan Kutty of the Velloli Panicker household of the Pallakad district in Kerala and MOTHER of his seven precious, pious and professional children who are the mosaic fabric of the Malaysian Malayalee community, should stand tall among them.

While the writer, her filial son, Emeritus Professor Dato’ Kumar Das, scribed his beloved mother’s life journey, the most beautiful thing that came out for me as a reader was the writer’s ability to convey his faith in the most unassuming way which allowed me as a Muslim to understand what this wonderful ancient religion expounds.

The bit where Gowrima goes “Narayana Narayana” at one of her son’s description of a nondescript dish in PNG, insinuating that it may have been human flesh completely had me fold over in laughter as his attempt to pull his Mum’s leg was a success, and I could just imagine the grandchildren falling off their seats too; after seeing their Ammama’s reaction:)!

I could feel the camaraderie that Gowrima must have had with her Chinese neighbours and how her Malay friends trusted her even though she was someone of another faith; especially during the time when the general Malay public mingled very little with other races. This shows that this great Matriarch’s practice of pluralism which resonates with the times of Prophet Muhammad in Mecca was in actuality lived and experienced by this family in Malaysia. Echoing this, Professor Das mentions how it warmed his heart to hear the Azan simultaneously with the sounds of temple and church bells ushering in devotees for prayer. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Hence Professor Das’s stand on the matter like that of his beloved Mother, Gowrima.

Being an educator myself tells me that while some of us needed our paper qualifications, this Mahatma lived it!! She proved that while children are the future, a sound Education built on Love is the key. However, she also put into perspective what I have long felt and many a time expressed, that Family is the fabric of society and like the saying goes, “The family that eats together, prays together, stays together:)!!”

This is the legendary Gowrima of her Puthussery Kollaikal Tharavad who lives in the hearts of her three generations and who to-date is being emulated by many. Including myself who has only had the good fortune of making her acquaintance through this beautifully scribed account which has wit, charisma and decorum.
A read that I assure you will move you to tears even as you laugh, but emotions which will bring you down memory lane by the pioneers that helped shape the demography of Malaya, now known as Malaysia and Singapore.

I wish I had the good fortune of making her acquaintance in person when she was alive. However, meeting her first born and his wonderful loving and kind hearted partner, wife and mother of his three children has given me a glimpse of what this great woman must have been like. I am proud to know her through her Child & his Bride who both hold her torch and run this race in her NAME… Gowrima the Light, the Vision and the Present for her family and the society they all lived and continue to live in…may it be across seas. She is a Force, a Statement and a Personality who stood the test of time and held her own. Like a good stew, her biography is like Chicken Soup for the soul, only this one happens to be Vegetarian; punn intended:)!

Gowri, A Biographical Tale about a Spirited Resilient Malaysian Indian Woman by V.G. Kumar Das is a MUST Read!! Trust me, you won’t want to put it down until you finish or when one of her grandchildren, Suraj, makes you cry as he pays his tribute to his Ammama.
She is a TRUE Mahatma.”

– Khurshid Makani

Review by Gail Gibson

5 star: An uplifting legacy of love: 24 December 2018

An incredible human spirit who survived thrived lived and loved. Gowri was beloved by her family and all who knew her.

This book encourages you to think about who matters to you, how you can live life with a purpose which focuses on others.

Highly recommended

Review by Arul

Review by S. Prabhakaran

5 star: June 2022

“In writing the biography of his mother, the author has shared the legacy of the past in a moving and readable form that will benefit everyone, especially the younger generation. The book effectively captures the spirit of the times in which the story has been set; and the primacy of values that is embedded gives the narrative an enduring quality. The message that comes across is that values constitute the bedrock of our success and happiness in life, and such biographies as this ensure that values are remembered, treasured and cherished, and transmitted across generations. I am sure many of us will enjoy reading the book. Having read it, we should attempt to share it with the younger generation.”
– S. Prabhakaran, Kuala Lumpur (June 2022)

Review of Mission Sabah

5 star: Mar 2022

Saadam Elwan, a well-known and feared terrorist, sneaks into Sabah of Malaysia, which occupies the northern part of the island of Borneo, to start a jihad that he believes will lead to the formation of an Islamic State there. This poses a significant threat to the national security of Sabah and Malaysia as a whole. Saadam’s intention is backed up by the support of some prominent leaders in the State and the “Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters,” who will serve as a tool for unleashing fear in society. The jihadist movement was soon discovered by the defense ministry, resulting in the formation of an emergency defense unit of six trained security personnel headed by Inspector Zainal Abidin. The group goes through three months of training before beginning its mission. The reader should read and find out what their outcome was.

Mission Sabah: The Manhunt by V. G. Kumar Das is a thrilling and action-packed novel revealing the combat between terrorists and undercover security agents, also known as Pahlawan. Their mission is to protect the state of Sabah and their nation from intruders. Inspector Zain, the new assistant superintendent of police, was committed to apprehending the insurgents carrying out the jihad alongside his team.

This led to many unforeseen challenges, as this mission turns out to be more convoluted than expected, and Zain crosses paths with an old foe. The thrills, twists, and turns in this risky mission reveal a whole lot and the fears and bonds of the Pahlawan (Zain’s team). The story gets more intriguing when there seems to be a spark of romance between two team members. It was amazing how the author weaved in this exciting part of the book.

Mission Sabah: The Manhunt by V. G. Kumar Das is a fiction mixed with both intellectual and cartographic properties, which explains in detail every aspect of the geographical features of Sabah. Also, the description of the mountainous regions, beaches, and tropical rain forests added to the analytical combats. This kept my attention on every event in the book. The unfolding of events and the suspense add more spice to the story. These were the positive aspects of the book.

Hence, I rate this book 4 out of 4 stars. The plot was indeed very impressive and exciting, especially when there was a deviation in the characters’ personal lives and experiences. Also, Mission Sabah: The Manhunt by V. G. Kumar Das was well edited, as there were only a few errors. I recommend this book to lovers of action-packed, adventure, and suspense-filled books. I didn’t find any negative issues in the book. The author did a great job of creating a thrilling crime thriller.
Post by Patty Allread » 19 Mar 2022, 10:22
The location of this story is interesting to me because Malaysia is not a country that I’m familiar with, and it is not a place that pops into my mind when the subject of terrorism comes up. I love action, adventure, and what you call, “cartographic properties,” especially if it is well-laid out. I am interested in reading this!
I also want to comment on your very well-written review. It was just right!
Post by Amy Luman » 19 Mar 2022, 10:38
I have taken a real liking to reading about terrorists. I think it has to do with trying to figure out how they think. I am glad to hear of the description In this book. I like to feel as if I’m in the middle of the action. Thanks for the review!
Post by AlphariusRE » 19 Mar 2022, 21:27
I grew up reading Tom Clancy books and love the fast paced narrative of this genre. Thanks for this wonderful review Nazzy!
Post by Pauline Parnell » 20 Mar 2022, 08:17
I think I would like this novel with all the drama, suspense and thrilling moments. Thanks for your review.
Post by cutemami » 20 Mar 2022, 12:04
This book seems to have very descriptive scenarios and i would love to read about them and enjoy the plot twists as well.
Post by Raymond N » 21 Mar 2022, 10:52
I love action, adventure and suspense, so I should be checking this out. Thank you for the review.
Post by Essy Nma » 31 Mar 2022, 06:04
U am planning to read this book this weekend. Yet to imagine how adventure and suspense will make me feel while reading. Thanks for the review.

Book review of Mission Sabah – Readers’ Favorite: Book Review

5 star: September 2022

Reviewed by Essien Asian for Readers’ Favorite

The assassination of a top commander in the Malaysian security force sets off a chain of events that throws the community of Sabah and its environs into turmoil. Zain Abidin puts together a crack team of his best operatives with one deadly mission in mind; to capture the notorious terrorist Saadam Elwan who has snuck into the country unnoticed and is planning the mother of all attacks with the ultimate aim of bringing down the government. Zain and his cohorts use their counter-terrorism training and some help from an unexpected ally to combat this developing menace but what they do not know is that the plot is bigger than they imagined and their adversaries are equally monitoring their every move. Trust the wrong person and face the consequences in Mission Sabah: The Manhunt by V.G. Kumar Das.

Mission Sabah is an action novel set in the Malaysian peninsula. It sets the pace with all out-action from the opening chapter. V.G. Kumar Das does a splendid job of describing the operations of the heroes and their antagonists in detail. The interrogation process, the surveillance, and even the wildlife in the region are not left out. I had fallen in love with Malaysia by the time I was through with the book. He did a thorough job with the backstory to the crisis in the country, making it easier for me to get into the mood for what follows in the account. The subplots are interesting enough to create completely new stories. This book is in a class of its own and the author’s style of gripping storytelling is fantastic. If there was ever a case of too much of a good thing then this novel fits the bill.