Archive for the 'Books' Category

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’

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’

Book Review: A Newlywed’s Adventures in a Married Land

(I must begin with apologies to the author who sent me this book so long ago and I unprofessionally forgot about it. The memory of this lapse would nag me at most inopportune moments when I was in no position to make amends. This delay is writing the review is deeply regretted especially since it was an entertaining book.)

DZT_1267

Photo courtesy The Rebellious Bride at http://www.rebelliousbrides.com/2012_03_01_archive.html

‘A newlywed’s adventures in a married land’, as the title suggests, is a newly married woman’s adjustment to married life in an unfamiliar, foreign city. Mythili’s life undergoes an elephantine change when she marries the man she loves and follows him to Manila, capital city of Philippines away from her family. She also has to deal with the accompanied shift in her identity: from a successful crime reporter in Bangalore to a wife in Manila on dependent visa. Mythili , while recording her impressions of Manila–jeepneys, flashy malls, tanduay and Tagalog, does her best to settle in her new life. But it is not easy. When her husband inevitably returns to work, her job searches prove futile, she increasingly feels she is lonely, homesick and devoid of purpose. Continue reading ‘Book Review: A Newlywed’s Adventures in a Married Land’

Book Review: Arjuna: Saga of a Pandava Warrior-Prince

Mahabharata is a fascinating, mammoth work of fiction with millions of sub-plots. Personally I have found Mahabharata much more intriguing than Ramayana. The sheer amount of conflicts, latent themes and contradictions engage your mind in constant debate. (The only other book that has turned over my mind such is perhaps Wuthering Heights.) No wonder dozens of variants and narratives for the same story exist. Not only variants, the whole saga has been written from perspective of so many characters such as Draupadi (The Palace of Illusions), Duryodhana (Mahabharta ki ek saanjh), Karna (Karna ki atamkatha), Bhima (Randamoozham) and so on. Arjun is a similar attempt with the third Pandava prince, Arjuna in focus (notice I do not say Arjuna’s perspective). This means, story of five brothers will be told closely as well. Even with five different personalities, the five brothers presented a single entity as Pandavas. Panchali only solidified that unit.

The language of the book is simple and does not draw away from the story, and often it feels as if this book is a collection of parables. I treated this book as a refresher of all the stories I have read before in Mahabharata. Also, book doesn’t always attempt to present the events in chronology, however, the way it was presented, I assumed that it was expected that readers are familiar with Mahabharata. This, though I gather may have been intentional on author’s part, was a mild irritant to me. In terms of narrating history and choices of sub-plots with Arjuna as focus, the book has been successful. However, did it provide occasions to pause and debate or throw a light on a philosophical perspective, or bring out innermost conflicts of Arjuna (other than those well-known at battlefield)? In that, book is wanting. Other than few notions of Arjuna – his arrogance that humanizes him, his mild indignation at what he thinks is Bhima’s naivety, and lastly, his belated realisation of everlasting love for Draupadi – Arjuna remains same character that we knew him from our earlier reads. Book doesn’t conjure anything new in in our minds. For example, Mahabharat ki ek saanjh is compelling in presenting an argument from Duryodhan’s perspective. But then, as I clarified, it is not really a perspective book. It is a re-telling,Image where Arjuna lies at the crux of it. It is fast read and worth a trip down the memory lane of your favorite epic.

P.S: 1. I noted a disconcerting gender usage. When Arjuna hits Duryodhan in his nails in the battle, he ‘cries like a girl’. Oh, no.

2. It was a relief to once again read a mythology book where the characters did not say, ‘hell, yeah’. Touche! ;) Also, unlike last few review copies I read, the editing was decent and I didn’t not find any of those punctuation issues that are eye sores when reading a book.

Book Review: Amreekandesi – Masters of America

I have read many first books by very popular bloggers. They have mostly managed to disappoint me successfully, be it Sanchos, Dorks, Reluctant Detectives or Mighty Bongs. ;) I have donated the signed copies of these books to the unsuspecting. Reading some of these books also made me very angry, since I had bought them after reading, as it turns out, untruthful reviews full of undeserving praise. So, as a rule, I have learnt to keep away from books from blogger-writers. Until Amreekandesi wrote a book.

Continue reading ‘Book Review: Amreekandesi – Masters of America’

Book Review(s): ‘A Bolt of Lightning’ and ‘Dating, Diapers & Denial’

Satyen Nabar at the launch of his book with Naseeruddin Shah

Satyen Nabar at the launch of his book with Naseeruddin Shah

A Bolt of Lightning is story of Shiva, who has so far been a successful corporate executive. Unsurprisingly, work stress is getting to him, his marriage is disintegrating. When it seems his wife has moved up on career ladder, he seems to have been stuck somewhere in his career, even after coming all this far. And there are his friends, Adi and Sid, who he is not seeing as much as he would like to.  After few unforeseen setbacks, Shiva moves to Goa to ruminate or recuperate. It is when story shifts from Metro city to Goa, Shiva undergoes a-life-changing-experience. After this event, he embarks on a journey of self-realisation,  and makes peace with ‘real life’.  I could not help but notice the author’s emphasis on keeping a restrained, realistic end.

All the elements of a racy book can be noted– a prophecy by a face reader in train, drugs and foreigners in Goa, doctor jokes, death and suicides, life-threatening situation, and strands of spirituality. As a story, his book is a breeze to read. Though I must confess, I was not the right reader for this book, I don’t much understand spirituality and journeys of self-realisation. Or, maybe I am a skeptic since I haven’t undergone a mammoth life-changing experience. Self-discovery and realisation for me have been painfully slow, one moment at a time.

Continue reading ‘Book Review(s): ‘A Bolt of Lightning’ and ‘Dating, Diapers & Denial’’


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