I got my hands on ‘Neon Noon’ (the debut book of Tanuj Solanki) accidentally (the review copy was sent by the publisher), but by the time I completed it (which was within a few hours), all my friends knew (because I told them vociferously) how much I loved the melancholic tale of love, longing & heartbreak.
Needless to say, when I came to know that the author is releasing his second book (which would be a collection of short stories), I knew I had to prebook my copy.
An unknown, unpublished author commits suicide while his friend ponders on the probable reasons behind it. An uncanny friendship between two teenagers which ends up with a feeling of guilt, remorse & regret. A fresh architecture graduate has bitten the ‘wanderlust’ bug, only to realize the realities of much talked about ‘Solo trip’. The title story- ‘Diwali in Muzzafarnagar’ which is a meditation on the lives of ‘small town middle class ambitiousness’, which manifests in multiple ways as the time passes. ‘Reasonable Limits’, which is a single sentence story, spreading across a few pages, nothing but a chaotic ramblings of mind. A girl had been sexually abused during childhood, but when she should try to forget those scars and just ‘let it be’ so that her present life isn’t affected? ‘The Mechanics of Silence’ where the protagonist learns about the ambiguities of life & the unavoidable existential crisis when she watches an old silent movie. A girl in her late twenties finds herself in the middle of corrupt bureaucracy and never ending paperwork, when she suddenly had to return back to her hometown and take the responsibility following the untimely death of her father.
Most of the 7 stories in this book are set up in the small town of Muzzafarnagar in UP (the home town of author himself). While stories such as ‘Diwali in Muzzafarnagar’ and ‘B’s first solo trip’ has distinct undertone & prose strongly reminding of ‘Neon Noon’, other stories such as ‘My Friend Daanish’ are written in extremely simple, straightforward way. What makes this book rich & worth a read that the stories are versatile, their central theme varies so does the prose & plot. A word of caution- all these stories have already been published in various magazines & journals. So it might be repetitive if you have been following the author’s column.
As I always say, “When in Doubt, Read Murakami” and this book is no exception. As clear from the title, the book is a set of short stories (7 in total) that revolve around a common theme- life of men who have been devoid of presence of women in their lives due to different reasons. All stories have plots, characters and setups common to a typical Murakami tale- lonely men who love to read, mysterious women, disappearing cats, quaint bars with weird frequenters, overthinking characters and endless rumbling about life, loss, death & sense of being.
While the first four stories actually follow plot and seems normal, you experience the real Murakami in last three stories- mindless rumblings, chaotic thoughts, and random brainstorming overpower the central plot and you are reminded what it is to read a story which is very typical of Murakami.
It’s the 6th book of Murakami that I have picked up. I didn’t regret.
First of all, thanks a lot to Harper Collins India for sending me a review copy of this book. To make things clear, this is not just another book invoking memories of partition. Remnants of a Separation is a unique and honest attempt to revisit the gory days of Partition through ‘materials’- the objects that were carried by the refugees with them when they left their ancestral land and crossed the border. These objects range from jewellery, utensils, clothings and so on, remaining latent & undisturbed for generations. They are now testaments to the struggle, sacrifice, suffering and belonging of their respective owners.
This actually started as an academic project, eventually converted into a book by author Aanchal Malhotra, who is an artist & oral historian and is a must read for history buffs.
Nadia Hashimi debuted with ‘The Pearl That Broke Its Shell’, which soon topped many bestseller charts. While that book described the trials & tribulations of two Afghan females from different generations, while highlighting the ugly menace of ‘Bacha Posh tradition’ in Afghanistan, ‘A House Without Windows’ is different. It is set in modern post-Taliban Afghanistan, a land torn by years of war, trying its best to adapt modern code of conduct, but still tightly shackled in the traditions of past where a woman’s testimony is still counted as half of that of man and her honor is something that lies between her legs and must be protected at all costs.
Zeba has killed her husband (or she hasn’t) and has been put into Chil Mahtab, a women’s prison. Yusuf is an Afghan-born, American raised lawyer who is willing to put all his efforts to get Zeba acquitted. Then there is Gulnaz, Zeba’s mother, the sorceress of yesteryears who is all set to put her powers in use to get Zeba out of Chil Mahtab. The book, with its description of ‘jadu’ (magic) has a mysterious touch to it, even when dealing with the sensitive topic of ‘zina’ (adultery). I did find the narration a bit dragging, but still it never digressed from the core plot- the trial of Zeba. A satisfying & engaging read to start off my reading journey of 2018.
This is one book in a long long time that I finished in less than 12 hours- I picked it up and just couldn’t put it down! “An Unsuitable Boy” is Karan Johar unabashed, unadulterated and unedited! If you have watched lots of “Koffee with Karan” episodes, you can actually read the book in his own voice- it feels as if he is sitting just in front of you rambling, bitching, dissing and appreciating.
With an innocent, no-nonsense narration, Karan Johar bares his heart out in this memoir- his initial struggles with weight, low self esteem and being effeminate, his emotional equations with an aging father & a strict mother and so on. Then there is an entire chapter on ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ which is an admirable account of how a young boy with an experience of just one movie (he was the assistant director of DDLJ) came, saw and conquered. In this book Karan has been extremely open and candid about everything- his vanities, struggles, vulnerabilities, anxiety issues, fallout with Kajol, his relation with Shah Rukh and Aditya Chopra and in my opinion he couldn’t be any more honest and profound.
The chapters where he puts down his struggles and vulnerabilities of consolidating Dharma Productions (having no sense of business whatsoever) are not only gripping but also motivating. The book has its own share of vanity, flamboyance and elitism and Karan never tries to hide it. Neither he tries to be politically correct while saying “Screw you” to all his twitter trolls. The book might seem a bit dragging when he discusses his friendships but then it looks justifies given the fact that how emotionally attached he is with his friends. At the end he even reveals that he is thinking of having a child just because of a selfish reason that he wants someone to take care of him when he gets old! All in all, this is a candid, gripping and honest memoir- something that has come straight from Karan’s heart and deserves a read for sure.
There are books that you like, there are books that you love and then there are books that shake you, make you introspect and force you to rethink about many conventions, comfort and things that you take for granted. The story of a neurosurgeon (Dr. Paul Kalanithi) dealing with terminal cancer, written by himself and the epilogue written by her wife after his death- the memoir is not only different & ground-breaking because of its theme & content. What makes the book that it has become to be is that Dr. Kalanithi, who had been a literature major and then, being a neurosurgeon, had seen & experienced death & its various manifestations and consequences, has woven an extremely pristine & profound piece of memoir. ‘When breath becomes air’ is a meditation on death, the practice of neuroscience & neurosurgery, god & metaphysics and the gory question of “What matters & what not when your time is limited”
As Indians, we often relate ‘poverty’ to rural and bucolic. The moment we encounter the word ‘poverty’, images of emaciated poor people living in mud houses in unhygienic surroundings envelop our mind
“Who me, Poor?” by Gayatri Jayaraman captures something we all know about, still feel awkward and uneasy to discuss even if it’s happening to us or our closed ones- Urban Poverty. The book has multiple first person anecdotes, ‘struggler’ stories and case studies of urban people who are cutting on their food, living standards and health just for the hope of making it big someday. All anecdotes are followed by a thorough analysis by the author on the reasons behind this phenomenon- what drives the millennials to succumb to pressure and live life on debts, loans and credits. The role played by evolution of cashless economy, corporate work culture, expensive degrees, overemphasis on ‘networking’, in the exacerbation of this menace has also been clearly analyzed.
The book discusses a much less talked about but an inescapable menace that is making its headway (infact, has already made) in Indian urban fabric. The author has done a commendable job in putting together relevant anecdotes and case studies, though the analysis part has turned out to be a bit complex. A few sentences might seem unnecessarily intertwined, thus undermining the sole purpose that the book is supposed to deliver- acquainting the reader about the phenomenon of Urban Poverty in India and its various manifestations.
All in all, the book is an impressive and well-researched work and I look forward to read more from the author in future.
While I write this review, I am simultaneously thinking if there is a way to give a negative rating- negative because the 2nd half of the book ruins all the charm and exuberance that I felt for the unearthly prose and surreal analogies in the 1st half of the book. I wonder why Ms. Roy didn’t go ahead with another non-fiction if all she had to do was to push her propaganda with a fiction that she came up after 20 years of the legendary “God of Small Things”
The first half of the book narrates the story of a transgender Anjum, her trials & tribulations as he transitions from Aftab to Anjum, her life and struggles as a “hijra” in contemporary Delhi and her coming out of age when she finally chooses to be independent and make a graveyard her permanent dwelling. Even in this half, Ms. Roy leaves no stone unturned to propagate her political beliefs- addressing Modi as “Gujarat ka Lalla”, incongruous addition of 2002 Gujarat riots- calling those who burnt the train as ‘miscreants’ while the Hindus become ‘Hindu Terrorists’. However, this half still mostly revolves around Anjum’s life, her maternal feelings and finally her independence.
Come the 2nd half and the reader is introduced with the Kashmir issue and this is where Ms. Roy completely loses it and pours all her hatred for the Indian Army on the pages. The prose becomes extremely chaotic, interspersed with multiple anecdotes of army’s cruelty in Kashmir and for hundreds of pages, the story seems to go nowhere. The reader is made to believe that all the army has done is killing innocent civilians.
I had been anxiously waiting for this book, had pre-booked it months ahead in advance (and hence got an author-signed copy) but now I feel sorry that I have to abandon this book. 20 years after The God Of Small Things, Roy is more of an activist rather than an author and this clearly shows up in the book. Expecting another path-breaking narrative from her was a gross mistake from my side.