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July 30, 2011

Book Review - 42 : Love on the Rocks



Author: Ismita Tandon Dhankher
Publisher: Penguin India Metro Reads


Newly-wed Sancha is excited about sailing with her husband, an officer in the merchant navy, on board the Sea Hyena. But Chief Officer Aaron Andrews is keeping a secret from his wife—a month before she arrived, the chief cook was found dead in the meat locker, his death ruled an accident. First Engineer Harsh Castillo is enamoured of his best friend Aaron’s bride, but that’s the least of his problems. The demons he’s battling have a stronger pull on him. When money is stolen from the captain's safe, the inquisitive Sancha makes a game of finding the thief. What she finds, instead, is a murder. With the evidence implicating her husband, Sancha is at a crossroads— should she tell Raghav Shridhar, the investigating officer, about the money or should she give her secretive husband the benefit of the doubt?

The book throws up a relatively unexplored setting in Indian Fiction about life on a ship. The narrative is full of twists and turns and the pace is brisk. All the characters, even though under developed in some cases, bring a tinge of humour and sarcasm with them. All this makes up for some interesting conversations interspersed in the background of solving a murder mystery. I particularly enjoyed the banter between Sancha and Aaron, latter of whom is dealing with a bitter divorce and still can't help falling for best friend's wife.

The thing which left me underwhelmed was that the murder mystery starts well into 75 odd pages. For a book at 210 pages, that's a really late start. No doubt, you need to establish each of the characters on the ship but i just wished it could have been done a little differently since the resolution of murder happens almost as a second thought. I personally found the change in the tone where the narrative is taken forward from each of the characters point of view a bit unsettling, specially when their real names and nicknames both are used generously all through the book.

But if you can get past these roadblocks, there is fun to be had. Most of which lies in the setting where all the events pan out. The mystery resolution done from the point of view of different characters is unique, though won't provide the requisite closure for many readers. The few poems in between the narrative are quirky and deserve the second look. The lucid and 'grey' interactions between the characters is the back bone of this book. The climax is all good in poetic justice sense, but is quite guessable much before the end.

I am going with generous (2.5+0.5)=3/5 for Ismita Tandon Dhankher's Love on the Rocks. It does not have the tight screenplay of No Flying from Fate nor the psychological games of The body in the back seat but will provide you enough fodder to keep going. Read it because it is set in an unique world and has bunch of wonderful moments to savour.

July 25, 2011

Book Review - 41 : Stilettos in the Newsroom



Author: Rashmi Kumar
Publisher: Rupa & Co.


It is seen through the eye of a bubbly 28-year-old journalist - Radhika Kanetkar - right from the time she took her first step into the newsroom, got her first story and made bloopers, to how she handled pressures to meet deadlines. In the midst of all this, she experiences a journey of triumph, anguish, jealousy and of course, finds her true love.

I know a few journalists in Delhi, but the common thread among their personalities has always been ardent passion towards learning nuances of journalism. They all have the knowledge and the skill set required off the profession, but what differentiates the good ones from the bad ones is the maniac, almost compulsive behaviour of staying ahead of the pack. The most fundamental flaw in Stilettos in the Newsroom is that it doesn't even try to make sense out of its lead protagonist. It is lazy writing and publishing at its best. It is a kind of a book where editor must have spent the time surfing porn at work...otherwise how can you explain the blunders in editing where the narrative hops from one plot point to another without providing any inherent logic or character consistency.

Keep aside the numerous grammatical mistakes and overkill of ellipsis, the book doesn't even engage you at the basic plot level. There are so many random characters introduced on every fifth page, that after a point i stopped bothering about any of them. Problem is that the author don't even develop any of the characters on the most basic level; most of them are just introduced and then forgotten for the rest of the book. Intrinsically amateurish in its humour, the book fails because it is trying too hard to be "cool", while hitting all the wrong notes along the way. Most of the 'lessons' at the end of each chapter can be applied to any sphere in life and very few of them are related to journalism.

There is no issue in showing amoral characters or the lecherous way to move up the corporate ladder, but there is no build-up in the flow of the narrative and the climax is a cop-out to say the least. There is nothing distinctive about the writing and none of the 'twists' are worth mentioning. The only thing which stays with you a little is that the journalistic activities are captured decently enough to make you feel the milieu it is setting itself into. But that is hardly a reason to go through the anguishing 130 odd pages of this book.

I am going with 1/5 for Rashmi Kumar's Stilettos in the newsroom. Trust me, watching paint dry is a far more enriching and entertaining exercise than torturing yourself with such a book. Sexist it may sound, but it is a kind of book which sell in the market because it has a hot chic pic at the back cover. Read it if you have 100 bucks to waste.

July 18, 2011

Five years of blogging and counting...


18 July, 2006: I had just completed one year in my first job. Totally frustrated, irritated and zombie kind - yet another IT professional in India. On this very afternoon, after increasing my CTC by having 3 pathetic cups of coffee from the Nestle vending machine....i decided to start a blog. As it eventually turned out, it became one of the best decisions of my life.

I had too much emotional garbage churning inside, i needed a vent at that time. I had problems with system, project, manager, people, friends, relatives - hell, even with myself. Hence, i took the anonymous way out. I blogged almost daily for the next five months and then it just became a habit, part of my life. I don't have that blog existing now, but the memories still linger on.

When i started this blog, ironically on Valentine's day.... it was an attempt to break the tradition. To write what you believe in, what you stand for, what you think of the world and never get affected by the rules of the blogging world. I guess most of us who come first in this world start with the same premise, though most fall apart in between.

You know, and this is just not related to blogging, but in India there is a very strong issue - To state straight facts on face is a BIG problem. People will give you umpteen suggestions: why you are so straight forward? Why you are so honest? Why you can't sugar coat facts? You are so mean, you can't say it like that? You don't have to be rude to say the simple thing?

Here are some of my favourite quotes over the years on this blog....

Your blog is not the same as before, too much of everything and anything - why you don't stick to the same old mush posts?

Really, who made these rules that a blog should only stick to a topic. It is a personal preference, isn't it? I never intended to write on one topic, and never will. If the people don't want to read, they are free to ignore it. It is simple process... like it-take it, don't-like-it-leave it. All i am concluding is that to write on my own blog is my prerogative, why should i weigh it down with someone else expectations. It is my space, right. It's not arrogance, it is just that i am extremely critical of people who invade other people space and dictate terms. I cannot force myself to write on a topic, this is a reason why i never participate in all those numerous "blog-and-win" contests.

Your blog has too much adult stuff, don't you think of the future - why don't you write something nice and clean?

Within minutes of penning down my last post, i got this exact question as an e-mail in my inbox. Now, i don't know what the person exactly meant by "future", but i guess he/she was pointing towards the fact that i am unmarried and may have difficulty in getting hitched. Sob story indeed for any unmarried, eligible bachelor male in India, isn't it? I have been asked this question numerous times through comments and mails, how come you are such an expert in these conversations? Kya hain bhaiyaa, creativity naam ki cheez nahin hain kya duniya mein? You don't write everything by experience, you make up stuff too. And yes, let's face it...my target audience is not the teenage people just out of their knickers whom i expect to understand the nuances though they may claim to have brains and maturity to handle such stuff.

I read your posts always but don't comment on them - you are already so popular, you don't need my comments. But hey, you don't visit my space...please comment sometime.

Right......Thank you very much, you invested your time on reading my blog but couldn't find enough time to comment. No problems from my side because as i said before it is your personal preference to pour down your point of view. But hell, show some courtesy than blatantly asking me to read your posts and comment on them. If people have something to say, they will do so in any case. You don't have to force it down their throats.

You can defend your point of view to the hilt. I don't feel like getting into discussion, i am just too lazy to write a long comment.

That's your excuse of not writing a comment, like really. Slap yourself, a tight one. No kidding. This is my favourite breed of readers, the one who spent hours and hours playing games on Facebook, bitching about friends, passing random links on Twitter and watching videos on YouTube...but are lazy to write a comment. Feedback is important for any writer, good or bad is not the point really. You have to judge me (if at all) based on what i write on the blog, not based on what i do in my real life.

In the end, I know people who matter to me will always read me and will say what they feel about my work. People whom i matter will know i will always get back to them with my comments. They don't have to say it even...bonds are formed instantly without uttering a word, relations are formed on the basis of trust. The people who will never get me are the one who are too busy making space and peace with themselves.

PS: I will never be a popular writer, but i will always be an honest writer. Deal with it :)

July 17, 2011

The Postcoital Conversations...


He: Stop doing that.
She: (Surprised) what?
He: Making circles with my chest hair
She: So what?
He: It's irritating.
She: Then get them waxed
He: Are you crazy?
She: Why not? Remove them.
He: You got to be out of your mind.
She: You hate them on me.
He: You are a woman.
She: You are a bear.
He: Bears don't have so less hair.
She: Areee...but that's not the point.
He: Then what?
She: If i can remove, so can you.
He: You can't stop making circles?
She: You can't start waxing?
He: No
She: You don't love me.
He: No, i don't.
She: (finger size 5) Not even this much.
He: (finger size 1) Not even that much.
She: Fine.
He: Thank you.
She: Next time, sleep with a woman with lot of hairs.
He: Ewwwwww...
She: Why not?
He: Scary it is.
She: Hairy chest, i know.
He: No, sleeping with another woman.
She: (smiling) But i thought i was boring in bed.
He: (sigh) Yes, that's also true.
She: (pillow throwing) You dog.
He: Ok, stop that kiddo...
She: I am hungry now.
He: Eat me, again.
She: Duhh....i mean for food.
He: Piece of meat should be good.
She: Thappad khaana hain?
He: You were hungry naa, i can serve you a tight one.
She: Let's order Pizza from Domino's.
He: No.
She: Why?
He: They bring it too early.
She: So, that's good na.
He: I won't be done by then.
She: Doing what?
He: Areee, I am a late-cummer.
She: (irritated) I better sleep with Domino's guy.
He: (picking phone) Ya, quick 30 minutes service they provide.
She: And allow you to do anything in circles.
He: Good for you.
She: Awesome, baby.
He: I hate you.
She: What makes you think, i love you.
He: (throwing phone) Fine, order yourself.
She: Aye haye, My baal-man.
He: what?
She: I mean, hindi wala baal (hairs)
He: Enough of your crap, let's have a hair-raising experience.
She: I'll hit you
He: Hit me hard, baal-baby.
She: (cries of no-no)
He: (cries of yes-yes)

July 14, 2011

Book Review - 40 : What goes around comes around



Author: Naveen BC Publisher: Frog Books


WGACA is a novel about faith, friendship, family values, love and trust. The story presents an account of endearing love between a husband and a wife, everlasting family ties between a father and son and true friendship between young friends that lasts long. The narration that spans three generations rebuilds your faith in true human values. The emotional quotient is high, though most of the female characters are poorly developed.

The book's major twists and turns comes from Peter's journey from childhood to adulthood. This is clearly a character driven plot and the incidents driving the intentions of the characters is elucidated with depth, though too many of the characters create confusion and chaos right at the start of the narrative.

No doubt, it celebrates the triumph of the human spirit but the whole way of taking the narrative forward is melodramatic and tad unrealistic. The climax is quite predictable and if you are a regular reader of fiction, you would probably guess it way in advance. It becomes a struggle to end the book and that's where as a reader you will let down by the laziness in writing. Also, the words of wisdom provided every now and then is not at all unique and add to preachiness quotient of the book.

I am going with 2.5/5 for Naveen's debut novel, What goes around comes around. The language is lucid and crisp that keeps the flow of the story soft and subtle as the author carefully handles even situations like death with placidness and tenderness. A well-written story that draws one in a little bit at a time; however, there are few editorial issues that are overly distracting and will make you feel disappointed. Read it because at least it tries to be different.

July 11, 2011

Delhi Belly - Too much fuss about the cuss


Have you watched Delhi Belly? If not, you could be missing something important in Hindi cinema. Saying that actually makes me surprise because story is not innovative, it does not have the usual melodrama nor anything to feel good about. I am the one who has constantly criticized on twitter regarding too much stress on promoting a film using vulgar language as a niche marketing tool. But boy, it has worked. And big time.

People have made too much fuss about the cuss words or the so-called abusive language in Delhi Belly. Some psuedo-intellectuals clearly feel the need to draw the line. The so called custodians of Indian culture think that the moral fabric of our entire society is at stake by allowing such language. I pity them, like totally. They are living in their ivory towers, so far from the real India that any kind of noise will just be a bee stinging near your ear. Cussing in India is the sole reason of still having lower number of heart attacks than some of the other developed countries where standard of living is far higher. It is cathartic, liberating and act as a balm to the distressed souls.

Cuss words have always been part of the Indian society and i guess, will remain so for some more decades. Imagine a life without cuss words...i shudder at the thought, like seriously. There are too many DK Bose in everyone's life. You need a vent, an outlet. Otherwise mind will explode, frustration will creep in. We will have fights on the roads, murders on the highways, rape in offices. Ok, i know i am exaggerating but really... how it can make a culture break-down is something i am still trying to get my head around. In a country where the fornication activities of females (and sometimes males too, if you are a little innovative!) are used as punctuation marks in a sentence, it forebodes a unique kind of unity in the society. Cuss words make this country control its temper, they make its people roll their eyes on corruption. Clearly it is an essential evil, it works, it definitely does.

I find it really funny about those people who abuse in English all the time but have a problem if a cuss word is uttered in Hindi. If you can say a C-word in English, why not its Hindi equivalent? If you can say a D-word in English, why not its equivalent L-word in Hindi? What's wrong with it? Why this differential treatment met out to Hindi? If nothing else, there is more passion, more feeling involved in uttering those liberal dose of Hindi cuss words. Isn't it?

Having said that, i am not encouraging anyone to become abusive and lose the sense of place and people. This can be and should be done with a group of friends, and that too the ones who won't take really offense in abusing and getting abused. This rawness in the lingo is what made Delhi belly a treat to watch. The magic is always in forbidden fruit, so what if it is in abusing freely, openly and often with shocking effect.

And all those who are thinking about how Delhi Belly can succeed with that liberal dose of cuss words. Well, S.H.I.T happens. So does a hit film. Deal with it.

July 4, 2011

Book Review - 39 : Der Deutsche Sommer


Author: Arnab Chakraborty
Publisher: Wordizen Books


Der Deutsche Sommer is a memoir of a young Indian student of DAAD (Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst or German Academic Exchange Service) who travels to Germany under a student exchange program. The author, an ardent soccer fan, is fortunate to experience the excitement of the FIFA Soccer World Cup 2010 held in Germany during his stay there. At a personal level, he is enamoured by the fair and beautiful German women, which entices him to visit the famous Amsterdam red light district where he and his friends exhibit their masculinity. The memoir captures his experience as a student who is travelling abroad on his own for the first time — the excitement, the anticipation and the enthusiasm to make the best of his three-month stay at Aachen, Germany.This opportunity makes the author determined to not only succeed in academics, but also to learn about the history of Germany and especially, delve deep into the background and characteristics of the iron man, Adolf Hitler.

Living abroad, even if it is for a short duration can be a life altering experience. It can make up for some riveting read as i mentioned before in the case of Neeraj Chibba's Zero Percentile. This book, however, is written more in the travelogue form describing the excitement, the anxieties and the various experiences of the visit to Germany. The author has an eye for detail and each of the initial incidents of taking the first international journey has been written competently. The immigration long queues, the culinary experiences specially if you are a vegetarian, the bouts of patriotism and the home-sickness are dealt with honesty. Most people, like me, who have lived abroad for some duration should be able to relate to it. It would have made a much more enriching reading pleasure if the author would have sticked to these experiences. Unfortunately, it doesn't quite happen.

The basic flaw in the book is that it plays with the inherent spirit of a travelogue. When you pick up a book in this genre, you expect to see a country through the eyes of the writer - his/her own experiences, observations and yearnings. Instead dozens of pages and pages describing German history - about Hitler and his whole life, his contribution towards the World war 2, his ultimate demise; all this is inserted into the book. Not only this, history about soccer, world cups, visit to London and Amsterdam and their history completely sap your energy. If i am looking to know such details about these people or places, i will buy a history book and NOT a travelogue - or worse, i will just use Wikipedia to know the details, for free mind you. All these details interspersed within the narrative is exhausting and the book falls into an incoherent mess. It requires patience to appreciate the portions of actual travelogue, once the author reaches Germany.

There is a huge build-up for the visit to the red-light area in Amsterdam. There are sexist jokes, females are looked and scorned with lusty eyes all through the narrative and lewd remarks are thought off each time a species with two breasts come in the vicinity. All this would have still worked if there was a proper closure when the group of friends reach the area to satisfy the carnal pleasures. But those particular scenes are shoddily written and are touched upon at a superficial level. To say the least, it is too much of a foreplay in the writing with very little reward in the end.

I am going with 2/5 for Arnab Chakraborthy's German travelogue, Der Deutsche Sommer. It is well researched and gives you glimpses about the European lifestyle. But in the end, it is neither a history book nor a travelogue. It is one of those books where editor slept his/her way through or may be was not paid at all. Just arm yourself with tons of patience before you decide to read this one.