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January 30, 2011

Book Review - 5 : Right Fit, Wrong Shoe

Author: Varsha Dixit
Publisher: Rupa Publications

What does a woman want? Shoes, sex, money or love? And RFWS shall give it to her. The story of Nandini or as her hesistant paramour describes her 'lassi in a wine glass' is set in Kanpur. Her spirit is undefeatable; she mocks certain death (Aditya) and suffers stoically for love (Aditya, again). Her accomplice in all her escapades is Sneha Verma that function as a chaddi-banyan friend and a BFF to her. It encases a young women's thoughts on the society she survives in.

RFWS isn't a particularly bad book, it' just not a good book either. Priced at INR 95/- and paged at 227, it's a breezy read if you are a sucker for mushy romance. All the titles of the chapters are Bollywood one liners or movie titles which is innovative to the point of craziness. Set in Kanpur, it's an Indian version of 'Mills and Boons' and honestly speaking, it should be judged strictly within those parameters only.

There are dozen of characters introduced right at the start of the book and if you are not attentive, you may just have to re-read them to place who-is-who in the narrative. Even though it settles nicely after that as it starts to concentrate on the lives of two main protagonists - Aditya and Nandini. There are some really witty, charming moments peppered through the book between them that are the best bits in an otherwise standard Bollywood style love story disguised as a realistic take on modern love. The conversations between them are the best portions, their smoldering chemistry and playful flirtations are a few things that actually make this book not a complete waste. I even enjoyed the woman-to-woman conversations between Sneha and Nandini, though the hangover of sex-and-the-city type dialogues is pretty evident.

Problem is, there is no element of surprise or unpredictability in the screenplay, and it is the kind of book that won't stay in your head once you are done reading it .The characters in Nandini's office disappear miraculously, never to come back till the end which raises doubt - what was the need of introducing them in the first place and create chaos at the start. And can anyone please tell me, what kind of office is this where hardly no one ever talk about work but ex-bf and relationships. It is even hard to imagine that even though Nandini visits Aditya's home every now and then, no one in the immediate family hardly bothers or know about the kind of relationship they have developed over the years. Considering the fact that we live in an age of extreme media intrusion, the hot shot business magnate Aditya's relationship with Nandini is never out in the open is again tad confusing.

Coffee reads like these should not be over-analysed, but all other characters are typical Bollywood stereotypes and utter dialogues which are straight out of those family oriented Rashri Movies. It's idealistic and uncomplicated in its plot, its all characters are either good or misunderstood, and in the end everyone stays happy without any complaints. You see my point, it is constructed in a world where all families should stay under the same roof without the slightest bumps and makes a perfect universe around them. But i guess, i am just being cynical here.

I don't know about others but i can't take even one more book (or even a movie) where someone from the older generation chides the younger generation to stop following their dreams and do as per the family wishes. It is the oldest cliché in writing, exploited in numerous movies ad nauseam. How you wish the writer came up with a better logic behind the break up of the two main protagonists rather than relying solely on such regressive and retarded ratiocinations.

I am going with 2/5 for Varsha Dixit's debut novel, Right Fit wrong shoe. I felt like being transported to those 1980's Bollywood movies, where the parampara and pratistha of the parivaaar were kept ahead of your own wishes in life. It is corny and mushy but at the same time predictable and often senseless. It's got its heart in the right place, but its other parts scattered all over. Read it if you must.

January 27, 2011

Why bitch is the new black?

Statutory warning: If your feminist quotient lies anywhere between 1-100% , stay away from this.

I was sitting in my car at a nearby supermarket store penning down a quick shopping list. A women in her mid-20s pulls in besides me and slams open her door right into the side of my car. She hit it so hard that BOTH the cars shook. I came out of my car and gave her a deadly look or as deadly as i can get with a puppy face of mine. Instead of saying sorry, the next line which came out of her was - 'I didn't do it, The mark was already there'. Fuck you. Are you kidding me? Are you like fucking kidding me. I saw you do it. I felt you do it. I shook, my car shook, the pen and paper in my hand shook, the coins in my jeans shook. And how the hell you know that there was a mark on my car before when you have never seen my car. Fuck you again.

I understand that it's 2011 and this new wave of feminism has dawn on our society, in both good and bad form. But it has made the personal relationships confusing to me. Nice gestures which i once upon a time thought to be sweet and courteous goes completely unappreciated and somehow perceived as offensive. I would probably fall over dead if a girl actually owned up to her fair share of mistakes and simply said "sorry". So, if you are going to be rude... i am going to be rude too. I don't care anymore. I'm sick of caring. Chivalry is dying because women are killing it, period. If you are going to push the boundaries of relationships with such brute force, that ultimately it is going to hurt you only on rebound. I do believe good karma exists but if it is not coming around back to me, it will probably never happen and in that case, it is better to just leave it out there and dissolve on its own. But why bitch is the new black? why? why? why?

We men used to like everyone, conveniently assuming that people are nice until proven otherwise. But now that i have grown up a little and experience this beautiful world, i know some things never change - which includes Indian women too. I secretly hoped elementary high school will make you go along with women more, but sadly things took even the more horrifying status when you are past college now. Yes, the reasons may have changed for your craziness from school to college, but the bottom line still remains the same, you cannot be friends with another woman and you will not allow us to be friends with men. We are quite used to the fact that you will hate people for no good reason. You will flip out any poor unsuspecting men and accuse him of being libidinous. You will burst with ravenous jealousy of your best friend and still find it absolutely normal that we just have to comply with the same, otherwise we will be accused of flirting with your best friend. I am absolutely thrilled with the fact when i come to know from your boy friend how much you hate me when the fact is that we don't even talk to each other. I am freakishly amused at the fact that whenever there is police involved, the guilty party is already decided just because i don't have a fucking 3 inch deep cleavage. I am nauseatingly feverish at the time when i am expected to handle all the mood swings because there is a chemical process of loosing nutrients is going on in your body and the brain. Why bitch is the new black like you? why? why? why?

Why Indian men should change the way which comes naturally and conveniently to them when Indian women does not want to change the way they look at us. Why it is so difficult for you to accept men as they are. We are labelled as emotions less when we watch porn, however we are also termed as incompetent when we don't perform adequately to your perfect 'Edward Cullen' like love making.With a woman, what you see is temporary and is usually a giant plastic smile coated in thick nasty make-up and later turns into a raging, hormonal beechnut that complains about everything imaginable and spends all your hard-earned money. Learn some fucking manners when someone takes you out, open doors for you, pay the damn bill. We are always accused of being born liars, however its absolute OK when the first thing a women does in order to chase you off the scent is to play dumb and naive, totally ignorant of the fact that someone is genuinely interested in you, totally manipulating to their advantages the fact that someone is supremely caring for you. We absolute love when you chose the opportune moment of throwing a 'guilt" ridden excuse, as we are naked and horny and absolute incapable of any rational explanation. Why bitch is the new black like you? why? why? why?

PS: Yes, i know there are a lot of douche bag guys out there too who are just as rude and who lack as many manners. Unfortunately, common courtesy has become uncommon these days. In fact, it has nearly become non-existent. But bitch is the new black in 2011. Yes... all the way, your way, my way, highway.

January 24, 2011

Book Review - 4 : Pink Sheep

Author: Mahesh Natarajan
Publisher: Gyaana Books

The eighteen stories in this collection deals with relationships – love, confusion, contentment, desire, fear, hurt, happiness, bitterness, victory, or loss – in a slightly different context. The author highlights different aspects of gay life, and shows how these men yearn for the same things everybody yearns for – acceptance and a fulfilling life.

Written against the background of conservative South Indian society, most of the stories deal with the tender moments in gay relationships interspersed with the coming-of-age kind of realism. The closet breaking scenes are well intended and there is an inherent sensitivity attached with conversation of all the protagonists. Two stories deserve a special mention - One in which the couple manipulates the mother (or mother-in-law, whichever way you look at it) to be part of the annual religious festivities. There is another poignant one which deals with the first realization of gay feeling while engrossed in a reading session of Indrajaal comics with a friendly neighbour.

But the main problem is the book loses its steam too quickly, the thoughts start going all over, and few of the stories appear too contrived and forced into the book. At 168 pages, it is not a difficult read; but the book fail to touch a chord because there is no real dramatic conflict at all, making it hard to feel either sympathy or great affection for any of the stories. Few Stories are so tedious and bird-brained that it's surprising to know that anyone above the age of 10 has written them.

There has been a bit of hype around the book as it brings the queer literature in open with the mainstream fiction which is a noble thought, no doubt. However, the major problem in India has never really been within the homosexual cliques but the issues that start to surface when they start interacting and intermingling with the heterosexual communities. That's where the differences, the deliberations, the dichotomies start pouring in, which in turn make queer literature more "exciting" and worthy to read. Having said that, it is completely writer's prerogative to draw boundaries or define scope of his writing.

I am going with 2/5 for Mahesh Natarajan's debut collection of short stories. If you are a fan of linear and simplistic storytelling, you may just like it. A few are thought provoking and touching, but most are bland and boring. Read it, if you are in a mood to indulge in something different (and i don't mean it in a sexual way).

January 18, 2011

Bollywood Best Lines - 1

There are certain one-liners from Hindi films which have stuck with me, even to the extent that at times...i use them in my everyday conversations. Just in a mood to jot down some of my favourite lines, here is the first post in this series.

Shruti Ki feeling nahin hurt kar saktha yaar....Insaan banaya hani ussne mujhe.

- Band Baaja Baraat (2010)

Yeh sahi hain khaalu, tumhara ishq ishq...humhara ishq sex

- Ishqiya (2010)

Unka beta hoon, koi bank ka fix deposit nahin.

-Udaan (2010)

Kharidi to maine IPL ki team bhi nahin hain, par pata hain.

- Do Dooni Char (2010)

Risk to Spider Man ko bhi lena padtha hain

- Rocket Singh - Salesman of the year (2009)

College ke gate ke iss taraf hum life ko nacchaate hain to dusri taraf life humko nachati hain

- Rang De basanti (2006)

Iss Duniya mein sirf do tarah ke log hote hain. Ek jo sunthe hain aur doosre Jo bolthe hain.

- Bunty Aur Babli (2005)

Be positive yaar

- No Entry (2005)

Emotions bhi kitne stupid hote hain na, logic hi nahin samjhate

- Tum Bin (2001)

Bhagwaan ke sath tera discusssion ho gaya na, bhai ...buss...finish

- Munna bhai MBBS (2003)

Apne hi paani mein ghul jaana burf ka muqaddar hota hain

- Swades (2004)

Aur agar woh meri sab se acchi dost nahin ban sakthi, to mein usse kabhi pyaar kar hi nahin saktha

- Kuch Kuch Hota hain (1998)

Kyunki Yeh Duniya bahut choti hain, aur zindagi bahut lambhi

- Hum tum (2004)

Har pyaar milna to nahin, judai bhi to ek pyaar hain

- Kisna (2005)

Tum prem se jab milogi, prem ke prem mein prem diwani ho jaogi.

- Andaz Apna Apna (1994)

Lekin pyaar faisale se nahin kiya jaata, bas ho jata hain

- Dil Chahta hain (2001)

Mujhe Humhare beech ki yeh dooriyan bahut pasand hain. Agar yeh na rahe to mujhe tumhare kareeb aane ka bahana na mile

- Dil se (1998)

Maine usse pyaar karne se pehle yeh shart to nahin rakhi thi ki woh mujhse zyada jeeyegi....Pyaar mein shartein nahin hoti hain, to afsoos bhi nahin hona chaiye

- Mohabbatein (2000)

Pyaar ko Waqt ki nahin.....bus ek lamhe ki zaroraat hoti hain.

- Kyun... ho gaya na (2004)

Mein tumhe bhool jaaon, yeh ho nahin saktha...aur tum mujhe bhool jaaon, yeh mein hone nahi doonga

- Diljale (1996)

Maachis hoti to duniya mein aag nahin laga deta.

- Gunda (1998)

(AB)Tum samajh kyun nahin rahi ho mein tumse pyaar kartha hoon....(AR) aur tum kyun nahin samajh rahe ho ki mein tumse pyaar nahin kar sakthi

- Kuch na Kaho (2003)

Kabhi kabhi bade logon ko yeh ehsaas dilwana padhta hain ki woh kabhi bhi chota ho saktha hain

- Company (2002)

Mere bete aayenge, zameen ki chaahti paadh kar...aasman ka seena cheer kar aayenge

-Karan Arjun (1995)

Jo Ladki apne baap ko thag sakthi hain, woh kisi aur ki sagi kya hogi.

- Omkara (2006)

Jis kavi ki kalpana mein zindagi ho prem geet, uss kavi ko aaj tum nakaar do... Bheegeti nasson mein aaj, phoolthi ragoon mein aaj... aag ki lipat ka tum baayan do..
- Gulaal (2009)

Aam aadmi se yahin umeed ki jaati hain, aam aadmi ki tarah jeeyo...aam aadmi ki tarah bardaasth karo aur aam aadmi ki tarah maro.
- A wednesday (2008)

PS: Do you have any of your favourite killer one-liners. Share them around....Have a great week ahead, cheers!

January 13, 2011

Book Review - 3 : Mediocre But Arrogant

Author: Abhijit Bhaduri
Publisher: India Log Publications

Mediocre But Arroganta story of love and life is set against the backdrop of a fictitious business school, MIJ – the coveted Management Institute of Jamshedpur. Abbey – the narrator and protagonist considers studying in MIJ as an act of “serendipity”. This is a story of how the two years of doing an MBA transforms Abbey’s life, perspective and relationships. Will Abbey find the love of his life? In a Darwinian microcosm of the corporate world, MIJ has taught Abbey to hone his survival instincts and shave off jagged edges of his character. Is this what he wants to be? what is the end result?

The book is set in 1980's India which places it a little differently from the numerous campus novels we have seen in recent times in the market. However, realistically speaking difference ends there...Stripped to its bone, it is a collection of same old cliches' of having bad and horrible professor (they are never good!), some quirky fellow students and friends, the parantha wala bhaiiya, dealing with the hectic MBA life and couple of love stories thrown in to complete the picture. Yes, you don't have the internet, the social networking, the mobiles and the madness about placements in the screenplay which eventually provides a respectable way out in making it not just another run-of-the mill novel.

Despite having a predictable plot, the book is engaging because all the characters are flesh and blood and the narrative very rarely digress from the main plot. You do find it unsettling when there is a constant hip hop between past and present in the first 100 odd pages of the book...which to be honest is quite unwarranted since it does not achieve much purpose as the final set piece and increases discontinuity in relating with the characters initially.

Having said that, it is still an entertaining read with light-and-frothy signatures style stamped across every chapter. The dialogues are hip and trendy (in sync with the time-period) and it is a light, cool, easy kind of book which either you have a great appetite for or absolute no interest. Adding to the fun quotient are the various handouts and drawings which are interspersed between the chapters. They are quite hilarious to glance through and portrays the depth with which the author know about his characters.

However, one particular plot point which i find really offensive was the ease with which relationships are taken here for granted. The love tracks between Abbey and the 2 girls in his life - Ayesha and Keya are superficial and remotely settles into anything concrete. Infact, there is a particularly awkward scene on the dance floor when Abbey gets caught between the jealousy of the 2 girls and really don't know how he should get out of the situation.

The portrayal of Keya is even more confusing to me. She is modern (even by the standards of 1980s), is cool with one night stands and don't shy away from being materialistic when it comes to using men for her advantage..which is all fine with me ....but surely some thought process must be gone into why exactly then he feels so strongly about Abbey. I don't have a problem in showing students having low moral values or confused about their sexuality, but somehow it leaves a bad taste. I just wished the central protagonist didn't came out to be so arrogant and cocky. It leaves you with an empty feeling which is a pity because essentially it is his coming-of-age story and ideally it should leave you on a high. Sadly, you don't feel much for him by the end because he don't care for the people in his life.

I am going with 2.5/5 for Abhijit Bhaduri's debut novel. The book is not really rocket science, it is one of the dozens of campus novels we have come across post Five-point-someone era. But it surely cockles the chords of your heart and brings a smile on your face.It is a pleasing tapestry of tender moments and of diverse characters straight out of your own college life, enough to keep you engaged. Don't read it with too many expectations, perhaps you won't be disappointed.

January 12, 2011

The wordless evening...

He was quiet. She was quiet. The silence was killing, for her, for him, for them. She wanted to cry, he wanted to scream. She wanted to hit him, he wanted to hold her. She wanted to ask why, he wanted to ask why not? But there was no space for words, they don't hold any importance now....

When they used to talk, the words used to flow. Nobody selected the words...they ultimately selected themselves to be part of their conversations, to be part of their relationship. Those touches, those subtle nuances, those cataclysmic highs and the heart-breaking lows of love will not be there, from today, from tomorrow, never, ever.

When they used to talk, words used to just facilitate their telepathic thoughts. Today...there was no pity nor sympathy between the words, just the empathy to try not to suspend their belief in love. Even if it requires suspension of their ego, utter disregard to the ubiquitous I-me-myself in their space, their lives, their belonging.

When they used to talk, words were just not alphabetical symbols carrying some significance. They were a substitute for oxygen in their life support system. Words gave meaning to what they felt inside, they could not say but experienced always. Words that decided their fate, words that decided their togetherness.

Yet today, there were no words between them. Just a screaming waft of silence, a screeching noise of emptiness. The words have taken a circuitous route to efficiently practice and effectively travel to the end of their journey together. Words that brought their souls together, words which tore their hearts apart are no more. Like a loaded gun, some wounded words shot dead their wordless evening.

January 5, 2011

Book Review - 2 : The Mysterious E-mail

Author: Anirban Basu
Publisher: Rupa Publications

A business magnate - Banibrata Mazumdar greatly perturbed on the receipt of an e-mail, seeks the advice of Aki Ray- a detective by passion and an independent software consultant by profession. Aki advises him to lie low. The very next day, Mr. Mazumdar is kidnapped. Aki rushes to the spot, trying to solve the crime wrenching the truth from the particular incidents. Will Aki be able to solve the mystery behind the email? Will he be able to place the jigsaw puzzle of the kidnapping piece by piece?

Tauted to be a thriller, a race against is written with such a heavy hand that reader with a non-technical background may just need a jargon side-book to decipher the language. The basic premise is based on such a small thread of phishing, you want to mock at the intentions of the author. It has a clumsy screenplay which is so simplistic, you don't feel any interest by the time mystery actually unfolds because you have guessed it well in advance. The dialogues are clunky and the twists and turns are superficial to say the least.

Based in Kolkata, the plot is formulaic, tried and tested... seen in numerous movies and plays. It has absolutely nothing to offer new and there in lies it's biggest problem. The main protagonist Aki is too contrived and over the top, placing too much self importance with himself...something which could have been deviated in bringing better twists and tales in the story. There is one particular good chapter in which we discover the whole agenda behind the phishing e-mail, but that's about it. Rest details are just too far fetched and bores you completely with the technical mumbo-jumbo. Considering it is just 146 pages long, it still seriously tests your patience.

I am going for 1/5 for Anirban basu's The Mysterious e-mail. It's a half baked predictable mystery book, read it if you have 200 bucks to waste. For a more satisfying reading experience, i suggest you better get back to Robin Cook's Medical thrillers or John Grashim's Legal thrillers. It is indeed a mystery how such a book can be published in the first place.

January 2, 2011

Book Review - 1 : The Dollmakers' Island

It's a little ironical that i have hardly ever discussed openly about my love for writing, or for that matter about favourite authors & books, new and old waves originating in writing. I may have talked about it in passing or touched upon it briefly in couple of posts, but not really discussed in detail as i would have ideally wanted. After all, the love of books is also always new... it always keep changing with time, with new styles, with new structures, new authors. So this new year, i promised myself i will get back to my favourite hobby i.e of reading books. Here is the first post on book reviews for this year...

Author: Anuradha Kumar
Publisher: Gyaana Books

Do the elusive dollmakers, on a strange island forever adrift, really exist? What makes the new government and countless other suspicious of them? Are they simply waiting to return and claim their home once again? Ronen Ghito would give his left hand to find out. But he needs Leela's help. And Leela is too preoccupied, sitting under the watchful eyes of a cagey government, waiting for her Shyam to turn up on this very mysterious isle that exists on no map. When Leela does decide to cooperate with the government, she does it through irregular long missives and emails, now that her voice is mysteriously lost too, revealing in bits and pieces lost myths and disquieting tales about the dollmakers from the time of the Mughal emperors to the present.

As the author puts it, the books is Alice-like in its feel and treatment, the Dollmakers' Island is an interesting perspective on the socio-political scenario in India through the ages. Her narrative style is fresh and interspersing today's characters with the past historical figures is innovative and intriguing. The problem lies in defining the character, their emotional depth, their right place in the narrative. Too many characters are introduced too quickly in a haphazard manner. As a result, few of the characters comes out to be just puppets in the box and really have no significance to the main plot.

I have both bouquets and brickbats for the book's dialogues, which are punched with clever one liners and carry euphemistic tone. Pay subtle attention to how the word 'Dollmakers' is changed to 'smugglers' to fool the government officials or how she manages to utilize Gandhiji's glasses as an efficient prop at various plot points in the narrative. The problems arises when every character keeps throwing repartees, it is just not funny anymore. There is a streak of madness in the way story unfolds, but as they say it lacks appropriate method to back it up. As a result, it turns out to be an incoherent story which mars the experience of enjoying it more.

There are certain questions left unanswered or you are expected to guess them on your own in this fairy tale, which is not bad if you ask me. Problem is that some of the ideas are so down right stupid, you cannot forgive the writer for taking the readers for granted. It is only because of tongue-in-cheek humour that she manages not to bore you completely.

I am going with a generous 2.5/5 for Anuradha's Kumar second outing as a novelist, with a hope that next time she invests a little more on her characters than concentrating on creating best environment and setting for them. It's an honorable attempt to do something different and for the sheer novelty, give it a shot.