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Book Review: Goodbye Freddie Mercury

The title of the book is hardly an indication of what this book is about. Title is merely symbolic of love that one of the two key protagonists has for music. It does hint at how the book ends though.


Book opens with a reference to an honor killing like that of Qandeel Balooch’s – while it does set the cultural backdrop it really has nothing to do with the story. Story is set in a Lahore summer when it is burning hot. It is set in upper echelons of Pakistani political society and revolves around the lives of privileged 20-somethings, progeny of some influential and rich politicians or army men. Their lifestyles, funded by their fathers, are essentially a series of unending drug-fueled parties followed by sex.

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Book Review: What Kitty Did

When I had first heard of this book title, I thought that the title is obviously a nod to What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge. Sure enough author Trisha Bora quotes from What Katy Did in the book. This is obviously a point in favor of the book. I can’t imagine anyone who read what Katy Did while growing up not to like it.

what_kitty_did.jpgKitty is a clichéd heroine of those romcoms we read and watch: clumsy, make fool of themselves when drunk, with shit job and clichéd shit life with a ‘scum’ ex and dysfunctional family. However, as a blessing, she does have two things: she is a fantastic baker and has three good even if eccentric friends who hang out together through thick and thin. Her job takes her to an opportunity where she gets to write a piece about recently demised celebrity actress, called Roxanne Merchant. :eye roll:

I am not sure whether this book belongs to a mystery or romance genre. Until the 80th page, there is no sign of a mystery and until 120th page there is no sign of any cause for any investigation either. Even when the hints are dropped in the book, it is so outlandish and puerile that you know right away you shouldn’t expect much by way of a mystery solving. Then, we come to the love interest of Kitty: an obviously dashing character with intellect and kindness is included, only you are not sure how they grow so close in span of four dates.  It felt too rushed and unrealistic. This romantic angle could be the weakest link of the book.

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Book Review: Zero Percentile 2.0

Zero Percentile 2.0 (ZP2) is sequel to Zero Percentile written by Neeraj Chibba that was published by Rupa in 2010.  The characters in Zero Percentile have grown up and stepped into big, wild world of corporate business.

ZP2 is set up in Gurgaon, a colossal noveau center of India’s IT hub. This is where two best friends, Motu and Pankaj, set up an IT business together. They begin well, bagging crucial first, big contracts until the past intervenes. Friends separate and businesses are divided. But there’s more. Their closest friends and business associates are forced to choose amongst them. A wife and a mother have to decide the side they are one. ZP2 is story of these friends who strive to survive in cut- throat world of software industry, where a bigger shark is always ready to gobble up the smaller ones. And the lines between friends and foe aren’t always visible.

ImageEach character in ZP2 has his/her unique personal problem – they juggle this beside their demanding jobs where they are fighting against a hostile takeover. The book is divided into three parts – the first where a small but robust IT company is facing a threat from a mysterious source, the second the flashback where all friendship and closely-knit relationships are revealed and third where culmination takes place.

The story in ZP2 moves pretty fast, therefore, you do not mind it when you see blatant filmy moments like a helicopter ride to Haryana and ensuing mutual admiration in the conversation between pilot and the passenger. Or how the husband and wife bond with each other over an anonymous chat online. (I can’t recall but there is a movie like that by Revathy). You are still engaged because so much is always happening. Every time Taj was mentioned, I expected a reminder of past tragedy and I was right it does weave one of ZP2 characters.

And yet you do not mind any of its small predictabilities, because ZP2 has a heart. It is never judgemental of its characters and refuses to pander to traditional righteousness. For example, It doesn’t judge a mother harshly when she is unable to shower her love unconditionally at her offspring who she considers as her failure. Neither does it judge a person for ambition.

It also carries forward the story of Nitin from Zero Percentile; Nitin is the guy with AIDS. It stands up for his right to have privacy and live with dignity. Nitin’s story reminds me of true story of Dr. Tokugha of Nagaland who sued the hospital for making his HIV status public. Ironically, the court case only ensured that his HIV status was a newspaper headline. To me on this story, focus was not how Dr. Toku might have got AIDS, but rather his right to live with dignity and love.  (Believe me, he finds both in real life). I am not aware if Neeraj has read the story of Dr. Toku but that is exactly what he has focussed on in ZP2 – the right of an AIDS patient to live with dignity. Nitin for me is brave, fictional version of Dr. Toku.

I happened to read another book Aftertaste by Nandita Devidayal a day after reading ZP2. Aftertaste is also a story of Marwari family of business class, who run a mithai business. While Aftertaste is so deliciously salacious and wicked, ZP2 manages to retain tenderness and warmth even with such a competitive setting. I suggest reading both the books for their realistic and unique narrative in world of Indian business and subtle differences that both books throw upon.

You may know more about the author Neeraj Chhibba on his Web site and his blog. ZP2 is available on Flipkart for Rs. 105/-.

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