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June 29, 2011

Book Review - 38 : Cricket Till I Die!



Author: Upneet Grover
Publisher: Cedar Books

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Vineet was an average engineer at an IT firm. His office sucked the life out of him making him hate every moment he spent there. Cricket was his passion, a passion which he never had the guts to pursue until fate bestowed upon him an opportunity which would change his life forever. Shrugging off a sparkling career – as a management consultant – that lay ahead, this rubber ball stroking bloke embarks upon the most mercurial excursion to fulfill his dream of donning the navy blue jersey that reads INDIA. The expedition which is riddled with the most crushing lows and mind numbing highs proves to be the ultimate test of his fortitude and makes him even more resolute. How much more can he sacrifice to get there? And most importantly, will he get there?

Cricket is a religion in India, something which we all have adulated on for years now. Cricket till i Die is the story of Vineet - who left his job at IT infotech to start MBA at FMS and then a plum internship as a management consultant to take up cricket. Now, if you can get past a few OTT plot points along with numerous spelling and grammatical mistakes in printing, there are quite a lot of things to savour in this book. To start with, the pace of the narrative is brisk and never dwells on a particular plot to the point of self-indulgence. Even if you are not a cricket fan, it is still an easy read because it keeps the cricketing jargon to a minimum.There are factual errors with the chronology of cricketing events and player stats but if you don't know these details, you will most probably not even notice them. The love story in the book is just not there for ornamental purpose as is the case these days with young fiction, but holds a very important and defining thread in the narrative. It highlights the importance of being in touch with the right people when you are getting all the success in life.

The most touching scene of the book comes when Mr. Sharma, coach of the local cricket club forces the lead protagonist to go ahead with the plans of joining a bigger club than the one he currently plays for because, as a coach he is clear that a talent like him should not be wasted in the mediocre realms of his own club. The book constantly swings in the deliberations of following your dreams and having a safe corporate career. It also doesn't shy away from showing the ugly side of cricket politics and how inadvertently cricketers get affected by it in their personal and professional lives. There is an unexpected twist at the end of the book which is ironic and dramatic in equal measures. The book does go for a hurried ending, but is enough to make you understand that to be successful...you don't really need to travel a fixed path. If you are mentally strong, you can achieve success if you put your mind and heart into it. In all honesty, it truly celebrates the spirit of cricket - When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.

The only time the narrative flounders is when it gets into description of one IPL match to another, showing how the cricketer with hardly no cricketing background rises above the ranks. These scenes not only comes across as a little unrealistic but also tend to get monotonous because you know all of them would end with the main protagonist coming out on top in difficult match situations. These portions could have been toned down to induce a practical factor, in turn leading credence to the quick rise for the gifted cricketer.

I am going with 3/5 for Upneet Grover's debut novel, Cricket Till I Die. It is fast paced, breezy read and won't take much time to finish. It is touch inspiring and entertaining and will make you absorb in the milieu it has set itself into. Don't treat this book as a cricket or a management novel, at it's heart it is nothing but about the triumph of the human spirit.

June 28, 2011

The E-mail Conversations...


She: Coffee?
He: Depends.
She: on what?
He: Who is paying the bill?
She: Duhh....kanjoos
He: Cool, so you are paying it.
She: Yes, Mr. non-courteous.
He: (straight face) OK
She: Move from your seat now.
He: Where are we going?
She: You say....CCD or Barista?
He: Wherever your salary allows you to pay.
She: I get peanuts, dude.
He: Count me in too.
She: (Straight face) OK
He: Shall we go?
She: No, let's talk here only on e-mail.
He: What nonsense.
She: When you have talked sense?
He: Let's go now, i have to attend the conference call at 3.
She: I am not going.
He: You only asked me...and now this
She: Mood change.
He: Fine

3 minutes later....

He: Let's go naa....
She: Who is paying the bill?
He: Huh, you.
She: Why me? you are inviting me.
He: But we decided you will pay.
She: Yes, but that invitation stands cancelled now.
He: I can see you are mad.
She: I can see your nuts.
He: (shocked) What?
She: oops, i mean ...i can see you're nuts.
He: Don't cover up, you like nuts too (winks)
She: Shut up, i did not mean that.
He: Why denying baby, you are crazy about them.
She: Dude, this is office.
He: Lucky you, otherwise would have served nuts with coffee.
She: Will you ever stop being cheap?
He: Areee...i was talking about hazel nuts with cappuccino at Barista.
She: Do you think i am dumb?
He: Don't have to think about it.
She: Fine.

"He" don't reply.

3 minutes later....

She: Hello, let's go

3 minutes later....

She: OK, i am sorry. let's go.

3 minutes later...

She: OK baby, I will pay, let's go now.

3 minutes later....

She: To hell with you, I am not going anywhere.

30 minutes later....

He: What, are you crazy. I had a conference call at 3, remember.

3 minutes later....

She: OK
He: Angry?
She: No
He: Doesn't seem so.
She: No, its ok
He: Sure?
She: Yes
He: Confident?
She: Yes
He: Lock kar doon....
She: Yes.
He: Coffee?
She: Who is paying for the bill?
He: Me, who else?
She: You are a sweetheart.
He: I know
She: (smiling) I love you.
He: Specially when i pay the bill.
She: (giggling) yes, absolutely
He: I love you too!
She: See you in 5 minutes at Barista
He: Cya.


June 23, 2011

Book Review - 37 : We Can Pull It Off



Author: Suresh Taneja
Publisher: Frog Books


It was the most unusual vacation for Vikram, Yuvika, Manisha and Akshay - the G4, as they called themselves. In the first few days of the vacations, they experienced some shocking incidents of declining moral values and corruption. These completely shook them up when they understood the implications. They dreaded the thought of being labelled as citizens of a corrupt country. G4 found this deplorable and decided to plunge into action. They had two weeks of vacation, which they productively used to start an initiative to address this issue. They used their creativity and a number of unique strategies which left an indelible mark on the public, making their initiative a mass movement. The result? A complete cultural change and attitude shift in the citizens' minds leading to a complete transformation of the nation, earning it respect and recognition globally.

Set in two different time periods - Washington 2030 and Delhi 2009-2013, the narrative describes how India has become a super power and what exact shift triggered that change by G4. Corruption is a major issue in India at this moment and is eating into the social fabric. This book provides a possible, probable solution with an optimistic point of view. Only glitch, the point of view takes superhuman and at times, impractical ways to achieve its agenda. The solution offered is too simplistic for the problem of this magnitude and does not offers enough reasons to convince its readers.

I can punch in a lot of financial and strategical loopholes in the agenda of G4 to bring about the change but that will get a little too academic for this book review. Let me just say that the whole strategy of bringing around a mass movement undermines the intelligence of its readers. There are never enough explanations given for any of the resulting positive outcomes and you are left lurching how exactly it worked out in the end. The author works with a straight two-piece narrative structure - show a problem and tell the solution, never sufficiently delving into the details how it is achieved. For example: We have been told right at the beginning of the book that in just 20 years, India have become economically sufficient to grant aid of 100bn USD. Fair enough, but it is never explained till the end of the book exactly how US has degraded their own economy so much that tables have turned against them. You got to provide justification for a reader to relate to this, not just superficial one-liners.

The sub-plots clearly ignores the diversity and cultural issues of India which in a way are the major stumbling blocks while implementing any change at a national level. Moreover, the change is brought upon by keeping the affluent or upper-middle class of India in mind. I don't have to remind where the majority of Indians live and what are the economic conditions they are subjected to. The book could have worked better if it was done at a micro level - applied to a city or maximum, a state. But since the 'change' is bought on an all Indian level, it comes across not only bizarre but in turn, undermines the spirit of the premise with a juvenileness that is hard to fathom.

If you are kind of a reader who looks for character depth or nuances, then you will sorely be disappointed with this narrative. Almost all characters are clones of each other: all speak in the same tone, style and are cardboard replicas who believe in the perfect world around them. However, the pace is fast and never stagnates. The 'Corruption Density Index' - how parents are rated by their children for corruption is a unique concept and stretches the imagination but never shows us way in which 'single' people are rated. The author seems fixated with two incidents of corruption - the Satyam scandal in the IT industry and the cash-for-vote scandal in the Indian Parliament. There are numerous references to them and all of them are succeeded by a moral lecture. The dialogues are bland, boring and editing leaves a lot to be desired. By the end of the book, you will be exhausted and drained out like coming straight from a political science lecture. Considering it is just 160 odd pages long, it is still a serious test of your patience.

I am going with generous (2+0.5)= 2.5/5 for Suresh Taneja's debut novel, We can pull it off. The author starts with a promising premise and the noble intentions associated with it should be applauded. But there is no excuse for giving us uni-dimensional characters, cheesy dialogues and even repetitive incidents in the narrative. Every one has an ear for hearing out preachy stuff, but there is no room for boring us. Read it because at least it tries to be different.

June 20, 2011

Have we lost our sense of humour?


All those on twitter must be aware of the latest controversy irked by Chetan Bhagat 'Coke' statement. Here is that tweet, which was later deleted by him:

Mothers give birth, but the coke belongs to the guy who puts the coin in the vending machine. Happy Father's day ;)

This was followed by outrage on twitter, soon Chetan Bhagat started trending and we have other celebrities joining the bandwagon bashing the writer. And so does my favourite brand - Finicky Feminist came into picture.
The most pathetic tweet was by the author and activist, Taslima Nasreen:

Shame on #chetan_bhagat who celebrated #fathersday by humiliating, insulting, offending, degrading, abusing, hurting all mothers and women

Are you kidding me? Are you like fucking kidding me?

Let's just put the things in perspective - It was a silly joke, made in complete jest. I do believe that celebrities should be more responsible about what they say on public platforms, he even apologized twice for it. But have we lost our sense of humour? To conclude that by writing this tweet, someone has offended (and all the above jazz words) women is absolutely ridiculous. Coining this tweet as misogynist and urging everyone that it's time for a women revolution is just not outrageous, it is preposterous to even think about it. You may term yourself feminist, but first become a human at least.

So called psuedo-feminists should look into themselves before pointing finger at others. They keep spitting venom in the form of blog-posts and tweets but don't think twice by making a joke on men or their actions. However, if a female joke is made by a man - it's blasphemy, horrendous and violation of women's respect. If this discrepancy is pointed out, they will evade the issue by pointing out their "right of expression" in a democratic world. So what - right of double standards also comes with it? Right of being a hypocrite also comes with it? Right of being non-courteous to all men also comes with it? Right of violation of men's respect also comes with it?

I am against any kind of injustice or harassment females are subjected to. But to view every statement from the lens of feminism is quite disgusting. Where is the objectivity gone? Where are the sham values now? Has your humour is also now gender dependent? Has the rules for judging someone is based on sex? Is this not sexual discrimination? Or my earlier statement holds true - Why bitch is the new black?

Moreover, linking this tweet with any of Bhagat's novels and writing pieces is ridiculous to say the least. I am a neutral about his writing, liked some, hated some. But issuing such statements is nothing but over-reaction by the enthusiastic or may be, even jealous people. I don't care if you agree with CB tweets or not, i don't care whether you like his novels or not. But don't act like a prick and carry on a bandwagon of men bashing just because it suits your sensibilities and agenda of being a feminist celebrity.

@surrealsurya put it down very aptly in one of her tweets:

Some women need to realize, its not fashion to call everything misogyny and chauvinistic. You need to be objective about it. Not obsessed.

I sincerely hope more women realise this. By constantly relating everything related to men as sexist and feminist, you don't gain anything. Rather, you lose a lot of respect. And very quickly, mind you.

June 19, 2011

Movie Songs I can listen again and again - 2


Wishing everyone a very happy Father's Day!! Here is a list of the songs i have loved over the years of Father-son/daughter relationship from Bollywood...check them out.


Picturised on Srriram Lagoo and Master Raju, the song is reminiscent of the basic tenet of father-son relationship: Stern, affectionate but always filled with expectations. Heard this song after a long, long time yesterday night.

Thande Thande Pani se (Pati, Patni aur Woh, 1978)

I guess everyone must have sung this song during Antakshari or while taking a shower. Sung by Mahendra Kapoor, a great song to hear anytime. And yes, if you decide to watch the video....just try and ignore the 34C cup size and 3 month-pregnant belly of Sanjeev Kumar.

Tujhse Naaraz nahin (Masoom, 1983)

Arguably the most poignant father-son song ever written in the history of Indian cinema, it brings around the irony of a father torn between his own turbulent past, his present family and a hazy future for the people he loves the most in his life.

Rote Rote Hasna Seekho (Aandha Kanoon, 1983)

A perfect melodramatic song for Father-daughter relationship, yet filled with a sense of security for doing well in life. Good memories attached with this.

Papa Kehte hain (Qayamat se Qayamat hain, 1988)

A farewell anthem in the late 80s and early 90s, it was a huge hit among the youth. Still carries that effervescence feeling, it shot Udit Narayan to fame as a singer. Not to forget, the chocolate-boy Aamir Khan who rose to stardom with this movie.

But you love me Daddy (Akele Hum Akele Tum, 1995)

Shamelessly plagiarized by Anu Malik from a 1959 hit by Jim Reeves, it brought the father-son duo of Udit & Aditya Narayan together for a song for the first time. This song still brings a smile on your face.

Mujhse naaraz ho to ho jao (Papa Kehte hain, 1996)

One of the most under-estimated songs of Sonu Nigam, much before he made it big with all those private albums of Deewana & Jaan, much before songs of Pardes and Border took him to stardom. And lyrics to die for by one and only Javed Akthar.

PS: Do you have any one of your personal favourite, share it around, cheers!

June 17, 2011

Book Review - 36 : Escape



Author: Manjula Padmanabhan
Publisher: Picador India


In a country where women have been exterminated, one little girl remains alive. Her name is Meiji. Her uncles, Eldest, Middle and Youngest, have raised her against all odds. As her body buds into puberty, her aging guardians realize they cannot protect her from the vicious Generals who now nominate their world, assisted by artificially created slaves called Drones and marauding bands of witless Boy Soldiers who rove a brutalized landscape through which Youngest and Meiji must travel to escape. Youngest will have to deep dig into his resources to ensure their survival. But he has a greater challenge along the way: explaining to Meiji what it means to be female in an all-male world and why she must learn to control the powerful forces that are being unleashed within herself as she matures.

A gripping adventure and an oddly poignant romance, ESCAPE is rigorously imagined, philosophically powerful book that takes a raw fact of our present world- the declining sex ratio- and turns it into a vision of the future. At its core, though, it is an examination of love, of growing pains, and that of sexuality. Meiji is just not protected well by his uncles but also her physical development has been suppressed so that she remains a child only. Each detail about her living and approaching even the minutest every day work has been perfectly captured, turning her into a fascinating character. How slowly and gradually...she is exposed to her own sexuality, how she comes into terms with it - both in shock and awe is quite magnificently captured.

Escape works at different levels: It is a thriller, cat-and-mouse adventure set in an unique women-less world, it is a budding quirky romance between the two protagonists, it is sexual awakening for the last lady in the country to an obnoxious world of pervasive all-men world. The characters are amoral and disturbing; but have layers over them which are elucidated gradually to effectively exploit their trials and tribulations. The narrative flows smoothly, and even when it gets into reflective mode... the narrative is hold on tightly by some sharp writing and graceful restraint. When the screenplay plunges into exploring Meiji's sexuality - wearing of a prosthetic penis or painful realization of her first period; you are compelled to fully empathize with these situations.

The youngest uncle who takes this journey with Meiji turns out to be a one hell of a character. He is caring and affectionate towards him, but can't help being turned on by her. After all, he is a virgin male and she is the only female in the country. You can feel the irony in his actions; he is responsible for safeguarding Meiji to the destination but at the same time has to teach her exactly how different she is in this world and inside a female body. The ideas thrown in are novel, the situations are unique and hence, the reactions of the protagonists are varied. All this ultimately makes this book a perfect weekend read.

I am going with 4.5/5 for Manjula Padmanabhan, Escape. It takes a pertinent social issue and turn it on its head to give a throbbing portrait of human emotions, love and lust. I would have preferred a close ending rather than open one, but that give us all the more indication of a sequel to this one. Read it because it explores the possibilities of the human mind, stretches your imagination. It never preaches, still weaves an enthralling tale which will be difficult to get out of your head, days after you have finished reading it. Strongly recommended, read it if you haven't yet!

June 16, 2011

Book Review - 35 : Crossroads



Author: Mohit Badoni
Publisher: Maple Press


Major Rajesh Singh is a decorated soldier with two gallantry awards to his name, Shaurya Chakra and Sena Medal. During his college days he discovers friendship and is smitten by love only to lose both at the crossroads of his life. Defeated and dejected he leaves home to begin a new life in Rajpur, a small village nestled in the foothills of Mussoorie. There he forges new friendship, bonds amongst the local people he encounters and most importantly meets Diya, who instils a new hope and revives the languishing flames of love...but rarely do two eyes dream about the same thing. Fate beckons him to loftier goals and he is commissioned in the Indian army where he battles against anti-national elements and exhibits prodigious courage and fortitude. After receiving his second gallantry award, he however decides to quit the Army and move back to Mussoorie where he has lived his best and worst days. He quits not because he is a misfit in the Army, but because he wants to embark on a spiritual journey towards redemption and fulfillment.

The above blurb pretty much encapsulates the book and this will make you wonder in the first place, why you have to actually read the book when every twist and turn has been panned out so clearly? In the first 100 odd pages, we are exposed to the college and love life of the main protagonist, which goes on and on without making any real progress. There are new characters thrown in the screenplay at every 5-10 pages, but most of them are introduced at a superficial level and you can hardly relate to them. There is one particular good scene between Rajesh and group of his friends on campus where they discuss about compulsory voting and retirement age of the politicians. It highlights the mindset of the Indian youth and the frustrations associated with their life. It also brings around the irony of a generation who is too busy with themselves to bring around a change, but easily blames the country for not providing anything.

The twist at the "crossroad" of Rajesh's life is filmy and defies any practical logic. It is never fully comprehended why he avoids meeting his mother all this while or hardly bothers about his abusive and wife-beating father.To be honest, his character turns out to be selfish and escapist rather than inspiring at this juncture in the narrative. Even Rajesh's romance with Cloudie and Diya is never fully explored and just touched upon at surface level, never allowing you to sympathize with him completely. The final 50 odd pages where Rajesh joins the army are still engaging, but eventually marred with a ridiculous plot point of finding a terrorist through Orkut. Coming from the author who is still serving in the Indian army, this was a complete shocker to say the least. This is nothing but careless writing and editing where no common sense has prevailed to avoid such logical loopholes. The final part where Rajesh decides to leave the army and join back his village has noble intentions but lack credibility because it is never explored what exactly he wants to do in this new "spiritual" quest.

I am going with 2/5 for Mohit Badoni's debut novel, Crossroads. It starts off with some promise in the prologue, but gradually goes down the hill like any run-of-the-mill young Indian fiction novel. It tries to recover at the point when the lead protagonist joins the army but is again let down by the ridiculous climax involving a terrorist attack. The soul in this book is missing, read it if you must.

June 9, 2011

Kuch Kuch Hota Hain - Last Bubblegum Romance?


During last week, Kuch Kuch Hota Hain trended for more than 48 hours on twitter. Reading the re-ignited and re-thoughtful opinions about the movie was quite fascinating. I say 're-' because it has been close to 13 years since its release but the movie has become a polarizing one - you either hate it or love it. This is also compounded by the fact that people bring personal characteristics of the stars associated with it and hardly provide any objective opinion on the movie. It is not a generalization, but my personal observation that people who have grew up on the movies of 1990s tend to like it more than people who have grew up on the movies of 2000s. But then latter is a generation for whom 'showering of love' means having 500 blog followers and 2000 twitter followers. Oh, well!

KKHH will always remain benchmark in Indian cinema because it started the trendy-hip-cool young romance in movies. Before it, the college scenes were shot in real, shabby locations which no doubt provided authenticity but hardly any visual appeal. It brought the escapist romance genre back, one in which you get drowned into the world of emotions and feelings and still enjoy it completely. Of course, the top notch technical team took the film to an altogether level; be it , cinematography(Santosh), art direction (Sarmistha Roy) and editing (Sanjay Sankla). But at the bottom of it all, it was the freshness and a lot of heart which took the movie to great heights.

It's not that film was free of flaws. Here are some nitpickings - (a) Tina leaves 8 letters to Rahul's daughter Anjali with a wish that each letter be read on her 8 birthdays. Fine, but what does a child till the age of 3-4 read in those letters, forget understanding it. (b) The character of Rahul turns to be extremely contrived, how can he be selfish to come right back in the life of Anjali when she was about to be married to Aman. That too when he has never bothered to be in touch with her in all these years or confess his feelings. Sexual frustration or emotional vacuum, some would say.

The tidbits associated with the movie are now tales in their own right - (a) How the role of Tina was rejected by at least 8 actress at that time including the newcomers Twinkle Khanna and Aishwarya Rai till it went to Rani Mukherji, a relatively unknown face who made her debut in a B-grade flick Raaja ki Aayegi Baarat. (b) How Javed Akthar refused to write the lyrics of KKHH after penning down beautiful lyrics for Yash Johar's Duplicate released earlier in that year only. He found the title of the movie too cheesy and asked KJ to change it. (c) How Salman Khan graciously offered to star in the movie in a relatively smaller role, rejected by low-grade actors of that time including Saif Ali Khan and Chandrachurn Singh.

The star of the movie for KKHH, however will always remain Kajol who transforms from a gawky, outspoken tomboy to a sexy, demure siren. Watch out for her in the scene where Tina gives a befitting reply to Rahul by singing the devotional song Om Jai Jagdish. Without uttering even one single dialogue, Kajol steals the show just at the strength of her pitch-perfect expressions. She is one actress you can't take your eyes off every time she appears on screen.... And then we had the the cute sardar who always left a smile on your face every time he appeared on screen and just ONE dialogue in the whole film - Tussi jaa rahe ho, tussi na jao!

The success of any film depends on how it brings around a cultural shift specially towards its target audience. The lines between Rahul and Anjali became folklore among the teenagers. The irritating nasal twitches, the i-don't-like-you punchline, the 3-step-handshake and the triangle-head-photographs; all this became part of life. It also brought back film merchandise into the market long time after Sooraj Barjatiya's Maine Pyaar Kiya started the trend. Instantly, the market was flooded with those tight red-and-black jackets, those multi-coloured POLO shorts, those C-O-O-L chains hung around the neck, those fancy cartoon-ish school bags of Anjali Jr., those Channel orange ladies handbags and soft toys with F-R-I-E-N-D-S-H-I-P engraved on it. Hell, it even brought back basketball into fashion...The badminton court at a club near my house was turned into the BB court overnight because of constant pressure of teenage children to play the sport.

Obviously, all this was repeated ad nauseam in the 2000s by the directors of Dharma Productions and Yash Raj Films that it all became plastic, too common and sadly, lost its charm. The high gloss, branded clothes, NRI tagged synthetic syntax became too overbearing and implausible to relate to. Everyone got into a herd mentality, the change from relatable cinema to escapist cinema became the way forward. The over line sensibilities were seduced and because it went for too long well into 2000s, it all turned unbearable and consumer started rejecting it.

The question is can there be another Kuch Kuch Hota hain? I doubt it. The innocence and the vulnerability has gone out of relationships. Everything has become materialistic and had to be satisfied instantly. The understanding of companionship has become more virtual, complicated and devoid of straight communication. The earthy feeling of being in romance has been substituted with the sudden bouts of unrealistic expectations and inherent puckishness. And that's why, KKHH will always remain the last genuine bubblegum romance of Bollywood.

June 7, 2011

Book Review - 34 : Dilliz Boyz



Author: APS Malhotra
Publisher: Niyogi Books


Let me ask you a simple question - what is the first thing which comes to your mind when i say the word 'Sardar'? Jokes, sarcasm, cynicism. We have pretty accustomed to this notion and take it as a matter of fact in our everyday life but hardly bother to acknowledge it's impact on young kids who are way above religion and all that jazz.

Dilliz Boyz, story of Angad Khanna, a teenage, middle class boy from a family of Hindus and Sikhs was madly in love with Delhi, the only city he knew as Home or Homeland, a city he passionately loved with the fervor of a devout. He was imbibing the elixir of life, discovering the little joys that growing up brings along – of the first love, the surreptitious initiation into sex, the first drink in the company of a childhood friend, when disaster struck. It was the Orwellian year, 1984, also Angad’s sixteenth year when the riots broke out after the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her own Sikh bodyguards. It was time to learn new lessons, of hate and bloodletting, of compassion and bravery, of despair and death, of hope and optimism. Living as a refugee for fourteen turbulent days in his own city, he found that luck and time were on his side. He returned Home, unlike his father Iqbal, who as a sixteen year old had fled his home in Rawalpindi, dictated by destiny to seek a new Home and Homeland.

The basic and biggest flaw in Dilliz boyz is that author can't decide what topic he wants to write the book - is it a dark brooding tale of a father who had to migrate from Pakistan in 1947? Is it a coming-of-age story of a 16-year old whose life changes when embroiled in the 1984 riots? Is it a tale of Delhi and the eccentricities which have become so common now, but were beginning to show it's true colours three decades ago in the aftermath of the disaster? Multiple narratives are alright, but none of them are sufficiently developed to create an effect. All of them are introduced at a superficial level, described and then narrative moves on to the next plot point. While putting down the review, i came to know that this is the second book in the trilogy of Delhi, all pen down by the same author. The first book, meanwhile, dealt with the 1990 riots due to reservation law passed under the Mandal Commission and again traced the life of a young man in Delhi. This book can be considered same in the spirit, different in the time period. Despite of some really competent, even brilliant-in-parts writing, the book did not work for me because of a disjointed screenplay.

To be fair, the author does set up an ominous mood giving cameo descriptions of Delhi – the real metropolis – warts and all, its psyche and social fabric woven into the main story line in a beautifully knit, seamless pattern. A malice-free tongue-in-the-cheek comment on Delhi and Delhiwallahs interspersed with the grave and somber description of 1984 riots and the all-pervasive goodness in man that effectively thwarts evil forces and defeats their malicious design and intent through compassion and common sense. A triumph of good over evil, you can say. The author creates beautiful portraits from each nook and corner of the city - be it the sugarcane juice wala from UP, the migrant workers from Bihar, the visits to the Hanuman Mandir near Rivoli or even the jealous, almost obnoxious Delhi middle class.

The portions of adolescence activities and sexual awakening of Angad are well captured. Two of these incidents stood out - The Kashmiri girl whom he chases in the by-lanes of Panchsheel Park everyday after school or even the feisty Pubjabi Kudi who can't keep her clothes on seeing our young sardar. Both of these captures the essence of a Delhi romance adequately and arguably, the best portions in the book. But all these good things are messed up with some inadequate writing in almost every sub-plot. The riots portion are not gripping enough, leaving you wanting more details about the incidents. Even Angad's emotional metamorphosis on realising how Iqbal was involved in 1947 riots is contrived.

I am going with generous (2+0.5)= 2.5/5 for APS Malhotra, Dilliz Boyz. It is well intended and neatly packaged. At 140 odd pages, it is a brisk, breezy read. But the disjointed narrative will make you feel reading pages from the diary entry and not a novel. Read it for the beautiful descriptions of Delhi, the story is inherently incoherent to be enjoyed more.

June 6, 2011

Book Review - 33 : The Boss is NOT Your Friend



Author: Vijay Nair
Publisher: Hachette India


Are you appalled by the latest Radia revelations about your corporate heroes? Sick of the'nurturing' talent like tiny plants' spiel doled out by most management manuals? Wondering why they never acknowledge the ugly truth about success: that the trick is either to use your cunning and flattery to rise to the ranks of those who lay down the rules, or at least learn how to massage the egos of the rule makers?

The book is disguised as a candid, hands-on guide to surviving in the Indian corporate world, complete with questionnaire to help you identify the particular malevolent subspecies your boss can be classified under - The Oily Oyster, The Vicious Viper, The Flattering Fraud, The Crafty Conman, The Burly Bastion, and The Horny Harry. The description of each of these bosses and the back story attached to it is extremely practical and relevant. It clearly spills out the "unhidden truths" that management gurus are always skeptic to reveal openly. Without taking any names, it takes pot-shots at big corporate honchos and literally pans out the drawback of Indian organisational structure. And as the tag-line suggests, "It is a handbook for all managers to survive all things organisational".

What fascinated me most about the book is that it delineates itself with minor details of every day work. It explicitly puts out the feelings of most employees who works for big corporates - How an employee is treated more as a bonded labourer rather than someone who genuinely contributes for work? How an employee should maintain distance with boss/colleagues and keep the matters strictly professional? How an employee should never reveal the plans of moving to another company or higher studies to the management? How an employee should deal with appraisal meetings and the resulting consequences of it?

All this is not new, but the approach to deal with each of the issues is revolutionary and indeed refreshing. Interspersing contemporary issues with practical examples, it spells out the do's and the dont's of working in a corporate world. Working with a basic premise - "All organisations are evil"; it shows the ugly side of the corporations and take big digs on various management books and the people who pen them down only to promote their own company's sham values and cultures. The book even venture out in times of recession and shows how the organisations decides to cut the employees rather than cut profits, quite contrary to their bogus vision statement who claims to nurture employees.

I personally found the questionnaires to be too long; something which can be skipped without destroying the essence of the book. The two 'summary' case studies at the end of the book are bit of self-indulgence and could have been edited out. They are well written, but made the same points all over again giving you a feeling of emotional repetitiveness. It also tends to get a little too academic while describing the management theories and their effects on the employees. Anyone who is exposed to these corporate jargons can safely skip them.

I am going with 3/5 for Vijay Nair's, The boss is NOT your friend. It does get a little filmy and OTT while making suggestions about how to deal with 6 type of bosses, but makes some pertinent points about what is SO wrong with Indian companies in these times. Read it on a day when you are pissed off by work or boss or both, and you will enjoy it even more. It's tough to be different, and it's tougher to do it right being different. The book manages to achieve that in best form of the word.

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