Book Review: Democrazy

Democrazy is a satirical spoof of political environment of media – it caricaturises several key figures of media, politics and business (religious or non-religious). In truth, that pretty much sums up the book review. ;)

Characters in the book

democrazyPolitics is led by Badi sarkar and her inept and puerile son chote sarkar – a clear reference to bosses of a yesteryear (feels good to say so :P) political party. Chote sarkar is mentored by Mohammed Panja whose rival is a politician from Orchid party with a naughty name Girpade. There is BB, Buddhiman Buddhiraja, no less, who has a nightly show called ‘B for Budhhi’ on a channel called, wait for it, Bow Wow. He quite closely resembles an Arnab clone. There is Giani Seth, the richest man in the country, who disburses cheques of ten crores to beggars, hires people to defeat his rival Chaddha on candy crush and makes accident caused by his kid goes away. Sounds familiar, the last part? Oh yeah! Then comes another businessman, err, religious leader, er no, neem expert, Baba Neemacharya, who is close to Badi sarkar. Between Giani and Baba Neemacharya, they hire Miss Indias to be their personal secretary or hospitality girls. Again, any of these characters could be clone of any number people from same brethren (politics/media/business) that we have heard of. Needless to say, all these characters work hard to take the country to dogs. In this nasty mix, throw in an honest school Principal Ambika and her Twitter activist son Adarsh and we have our victims.

Thing about this satire was it was very close to reality. I laughed at the hyperbole and dark humor for 100 pages and later I quietened. I wish the writer, Atulya Mahajan better known as Amreekandesi, had put a Coen-esque disclaimer in the beginning of the book: This is based on a true story. I am pretty sure I can prove that just as well as Coen brothers can for Fargo.

The book has an end befitting for Priyadarshan movies, where all characters come together in a chaos. I won’t write how it ends but chances are you already know since you have witnessed it many times in real world and fiction.

I think I must applaud Atulya for his courage to write about it and mock these caricatures of our society. However, none of it was new to me; I could always tell what was about to come. The satire in the book was something reminiscent of what Twitter humorists (including Atulya himself) have already acquainted us with.

I loved the tweets in the beginning of each lesson; I thought that they captured the ‘Twitter essence’ of each character very well. A shout out to book cover designers, I loved it. The funny quotes in thought bubbles and the illustration are both a credit to the book.

This is Atulya’s second book with a subject different than his first one; his first book was a coming-of-age story. I will wait for Atulya to write a third book about, well, something new again. :)

 (I received a review copy courtesy the author and his publisher.)

Book Review: A Mirrored Life

The Mirrored Life reminds me of traditions of Kathasaritsagar, the story within story or of Scheherazade of the Arabian nights. It is story about life of Rumi recounted through the fictional journey of Ibn Battuta, the 14th century Moorish traveler. Ibn Battuta traveller on his way to China from Tangier makes a fictional stop in Anatolia. There he receives a secret manuscript from a calligrapher Yakut al-Mustasimi. Not only does Yakut play Scheherazade, which left me wanting for more, his manuscript also describes most famous friendship in the Sufi history – friendship between Rumi and dervish Shams of Tabriz.mirr_life

Rumi is an eternal subject for generations of the readers: it evokes powerful emotions of love and friendship. Personally I don’t much enjoy English translations of Rumi’s poems, but an Urdu translation of his verses never fails to move me. It is Rumi’s friendship with Shams, his pain at parting with his beloved that has to led to the writing of such marvelous verses in history.

Rumi, better known as Maulan Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Balkhī, is a revered preacher in Konya which is modern day Turkey. However, his life takes a complete turn when he meets Shams and he is engrossed in Sufi traditions. There is lot of prescience and faith in this extraordinary friendship between Rumi and Shams. Rumi entered a period of Chillah with Shams, alienating not only his disciples and students but also a few important people in Rumi’s life: his wife Kira, his son Sultan, his trusted disciple Hussam and Shaikh Bahauddin, who shows him the way in the beginning.

Continue reading ‘Book Review: A Mirrored Life’

Movie Review: pk

Pk has distinct Rajkumar Hirani signature – use of sweet satire. It is an art he excels in as evidenced by all his movies such as Munnabhai and 3 idiots. His characters always have unfortunately funny names (Remember Phunsukh Wangdu or Circuit). Now, we have Pk and Jaggu (Anushka) – you’ll need to watch the movie to find out her real name tho. And these characters are most loving iconoclasts you’ll ever come across.Pk poster

The movie is about an alien, Pk, who literally arrives naked on mother earth on his spaceship. However, the remote of his spaceship is promptly stolen by being of earth and hereby he is left stranded on this planet (gola, as he calls it) without a way to return home. Thus, begins his exploration of seemingly weird customs of earth to get back his remote. He learns to steal clothes and money from a ‘dancing car’ (you’ll have to find that out for yourself :giggles:) , check-in Dilli thanas for shelter and then he hears that all answer to his problems lie with someone called Bhagwan  – only one who could help him. So starts his quest for God. He is baffled by customs of different religions and sure enough is soundly thrashed by all of them. Eventually, he realises, there are many Gods, and each has established a ‘company’ of its own. They are all managed by different managers who have created conflicting, confusing rules.

Enter, Anushka err Jaggu whose superstitious family devoutly prostrates before a rich, Hindu guru, Tapasvi, played by roly-poly Saurabh Shukla. Between Jaggu, Pk and Tapasvi, when they meet, it is only your guess what capers will take place.

Hirani has once again questioned social norms, this time religion and also how we value Gandhi. (I love that scene.) Atheists are complaining that why was he not brave enough to question the existence of God, but I think he was questioning only religion and not the existence of God. His mettle lies in being able to mock all religions with love. :)

Continue reading ‘Movie Review: pk’

Dear PMO: Don’t ‘break’ the Internet

Dear PMO,

Your party has used social media very well for your campaign in this election. Your side campaign project ‘pappu’ was also popular, perhaps even contributing to your victory for who wants to vote for a ‘pappu’. You did leverage the power of Internet and social media. People acknowledged your promise of ‘digital India’ and ‘progressive India’.

Earlier this year, I noticed TRAI took a very good decision in favour of net neutrality. The mobile service providers’ lobby had wanted all over-the-top (OTT) apps such as Whatsapp, Viber, Skype etc to be charged. However, TRAI wisely rejected the proposal. Whatsapp may in future want to monetize and that is okay. At least government didn’t bow to business lobby.

Yet two issues related to Internet and freedom bother me. Two ongoing policy decisions by your government may threaten the very spirit of ‘digital and progressive’ India.

Internet censorship

We hear our Telecom Minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, is contemplating how to implement web filters for the country. As Medianama reports, he has been quoted saying: “larger issue of respecting cultural values of the country and sentiments of the Indian society need to be considered and all possible ways and means may have to be devised in this context.”Censorship_wiki

It leaves me speechless. First, I didn’t know our cultural values were under threat. Second, is the perceived need to ‘save cultural values’ more important than the respect for citizen rights? I can’t fathom why a government would want to regulate personal lives of adult citizens. So what if they watch porn? What is this to the government?

A state’s role is to prevent crime and maintain law and order. It is not to maintain ‘cultural values’ as they define it, especially in a diverse country like ours where definition of values are debatable. Does government have any case of porn leading to criminal/civil offenses? Until it is proven so, a blanket ban is infringement of individual rights, and your decision to use web filter to stop porn is arbitrary. (There are more productive/effective ways of preventing violence and rape, tho I notice you didn’t mention it since you were more preoccupied with protection of cultural values.) I won’t get into pros and cons of porn; but I expect any government to respect an individual’s choice to deal with their sex lives. Please don’t impinge on personal liberties of us individuals. Respect our rights and wisdom as adults and spare us the moralizing.

Continue reading ‘Dear PMO: Don’t ‘break’ the Internet’

Book Review: Private India

Private India is your regular potboiler set in the backdrop of Mumbai. I actually stopped reading James Patterson books long time ago. I had liked couple of Alex Cross novels such as Along came the Spider. However, his later mystery books and even non-mystery books such as ‘Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas’ were very boring, I was forced to give up.

James Patterson has made quite a living from collaborating with different authors and even working with ghost writers. It seems he likes ‘more to conjure up plot than craft a story sentence by sentence’. Private India is one such collaboration; it is part of Private series. Private is an international detective agency; and indeed Private India has a branch in Mumbai. private_india

This book starts on a very promising note for me. It opens with an intriguing first of many killings by a serial killer. There are whole lot of props staged around the murder scene. For someone who has watched so many Criminal Minds episodes (with pleasure if I may confess), it was very promising mystery. There are about 116 short chapters divided into two parts. First few chapters also promise a bit of steaminess – an integral part of any pulp fiction. However, that promise will fail to deliver.

Private India headed by Santosh, a ‘recovering’ alcoholic is investigating the serial killer murders along with Mumbai police. While the chase is on for the serial killers, there are is also a subplot about terrorism (how can it not be after 26/11), predictably involving babas and dons. And since the book is set in India, we are not even missing a touch of Hindu mythology and the cult of thugs. It often feels like you could go around all of Mumbai by following the locations in the book. Since Private worked with the government, the contrast between forensic facilities at disposal of a private firm and the government facilities was interesting but predictable. 

Continue reading ‘Book Review: Private India’

Unraveling of a ‘What The Black’ Mystery

Ah, I wrote ‘black things I would still like to buy‘ and mentioned that it was part of #WhatTheBlack activity. Now that promo is over, it is time to unravel.

An aside: This reminded me of a dialog (though it is not quite the same thing) from the movie ‘Prestige': Every great magic trick consists of three parts or acts. The first part is called “The Pledge”. The magician shows you something ordinary: a deck of cards, a bird or a man. He shows you this object. Perhaps he asks you to inspect it to see if it is indeed real, unaltered, normal. But of course… it probably isn’t. The second act is called “The Turn”. The magician takes the ordinary something and makes it do something extraordinary. Now you’re looking for the secret… but you won’t find it, because of course you’re not really looking. You don’t really want to know. You want to be fooled. But you wouldn’t clap yet. Because making something disappear isn’t enough; you have to bring it back. That’s why every magic trick has a third act, the hardest part, the part we call “The Prestige”.

#WhatTheBlack was an interesting campaign around the theme of colour black which resonated with me, and few small things that indicate beginnings or begin our morning literally. It was an interesting campaign to build a mystery, pique your curiosity just enough to wait for next day’s clues. Frankly I couldn’t; I could have guessed the product. Here are all the ‘clue’ pics:

Day 1 – A black egg, you break it to find a rock, solid chocolate :) Egg is symbol of beginnings.

Day1_1Day_1_2

Day 2 – Black newspaper, a thing you begin your mornings with

Day 2

Day 3 – a black tissue paper, a black glass (presumably for coffee) and an empty

Day_3_1

Final unravel – Tada!

This is what the #WHATTHEBLACK product is: COLGATE SlimSoft Charcoal toothbrush.

prize

You can find more about this special toothbrush here.

5 Black Things I STILL Want to Own

Whenever I say with glee and smug satisfaction, Black is my colour. My Ma contends that black is no colour at all. Few weeks ago when my father was very unwell, my parents were scared of a relapse. You know how parents have some superstitions. My Ma stealthily takes me aside (so father doesn’t hear) and say, ”you know, dear, I am very scared. You were sitting in a black dress near your father’s bedside. Why would I see you wearing black? It is bad omen.” And I calmly reply, ”Mama, that’s because I wear black a lot. Haven’t you noticed last three days I’ve been wearing black dresses.” Ma couldn’t argue with that and I am very happy to let you know there was no bad omen. My father, thank God, is doing well.

So, with so much black clothing and black devices, are there any more black things I aspire? oh yes! 5 more black things I could do with:

1. Black ornate bathtub: I love bathtubs. When I go on vacation, before booking a hotel I check, Do you have a bathtub, sir? It maybe awkward, but let me tell you it is very important criteria especially on a vacation. :) I found something like this on Pinterest, but I could with do more ornate one. ;)

bathtub2. Black three-sided bookshelf: Actually the bookshelf does have four sides, all I want is my bookshelf to surround me on three sides in a room. yes, heard it right. On three sides. My current bookshelves are proving to be very inadequate. I want something like this (again Pinterest image of a wardrobe actually), but of course, with a preference for a larger space in middle to put a bed, where I can lie and read in those very comfy postures.

bookshelf3. Black Moissanite ring: I am not fond of jewellery, esp gold ones. Diamond is passè. ;) I want a simple ring with black Moissanite. Something like this would do nicely. (It costs around $1500 last I checked.)

ring4. Black iPad: yes, you heard it right, I want a black wi-fi enabled iPad. Hopefully I will win it in #WhatTheBlack

5. Little black dress: I know, I know. 2 months ago, I bought 17 dresses, most of them black. In fact, my wardrobe is predominantly black. I remember posting this FB update few days ago, leading to a wry query in the comments  about ‘Morticia audition?’.

FB_rant
Yet, my search for that perfect little black dress is incomplete. There is still one out there that is waiting for me.

This post is a part of #WhatTheBlack activity at BlogAdda.com.


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