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June 26, 2012

Book Review - 84 : Skid Marks of Logic

Author: Divya Diana Dias
Publisher: Frog Books

Skid Marks of Logic is a collection of three not-so-short stories, each of them dealing with sexual awakening and the tryst with sensual touch. The author takes female protagonists to illustrate these stories against the traditional and sexually oppressive Indian society. All the lead characters want to shatter the chains that society has bound them with and eventually, win the war that rages within them, once and for all. Will they succeed? Or destiny has some other plans in store for them?

Ostrich deals with Payal who is stuck with a sad life (and even sadder people) in Ahmedabad. In between her strangely quiet ways and shy demeanour, she longs for a guy who can take her away from a life of drudgery and enforced hypocrisy. She meets Xerxus at a sangeet function and can't get him out of her mind. Thereby, starts a journey to find ways to be with Xerxus and cajoling him to do the unthinkable. Relying solely on hide-and-seek gimmicks, the author creates a believable world of a middle class family in a Tier-2 city. The Catch-me-and-kiss-me game goes on a little too long for my liking and at that time you are bound to feel frustrated at the lack of any common sense by most of the characters. It also a tad unbelievable how no one from the family ever catch Payal's hidden activities nor any other student bust this seduction balloon. But if you can overlook these fallacies, there is fun to be had. The lines are quirky and the narrative relies solely on the camaraderie of the two main characters both of which comes unscathed when it comes to making the sparks flew.

Friends with Benefits even though not new in concept, puts a fresh spin to such similar tales. Danielle is a 21-year-old-virgin who has never dated or kissed a guy. Seeking ways to satisfy her curious void, she resorts to surreptitiously writing erotica which is naughty and fantastic at the same time. Things get steamy when Satya, her best friend reads the blog post and proposes a mutually beneficial scheme. I particularly enjoyed the sexual frankness between Danielle and her parents, latter of whom seem surprised but still goes with her choice of life. The final sexual escapade with Satya even though stretched to unmanageable proportions still titillates enough to keep you hooked. You are bound to get restless with the constant chatter and few flat dialogues in the narrative, but it wraps up with a delicious surprise which is irresistible and funny.

Mergers and Acquisitions is the story of a forced entrepreneur, Janvi who is trying to manage the company her dad has left for her.  Then an employee goes behind her back and commits a crime that could put the company at risk. There is a demand for vindication by the culprits but will it be so easy for a crime which is not-so-easy? I felt underwhelmed with the development of these characters, none of them felt someone i can emotionally invest. The concept, an affair between an employee and the boss, is centuries old and was not elevated through smart writing as it was evident in the first two stories. In the end, lines felt laboured, over-written and the end can be seen as far as apocalypse.

I am going with 3/5 for Divya Diana Das's ' Skid Marks of Logic'. Just like the intriguing title, it does provide occasional flashes of brilliance. Most of the stories based on cliches elevates themselves by smart writing at places. I just wished it was more compact and judiciously edited. Nevertheless, a competent debut by the writer from whom we can hope to read more in the future.

June 20, 2012

Notes on 'Karma Sutra - Adventures of a Street Bum' by Rajendar Menen

[The following book review first appeared for the blog, The Book Lovers]

Author: Rajender Menen
Publisher: Harper Collins India

Rating: 4/5

Karma Sutra - Adventures of a Street Bum by Rajendar Menen is a powerful book about the Indian street - a journey into the murky urban underbelly. It tells the varied stories of those who live on - and off - the street, an amazing cast of characters that includes sex workers, bar girls, hijras, Devadasis, drug addicts, runaways, migrants, hustlers, the homeless, the dying and the abandoned. 

The book does not pass any moral judgements. It just tells stories as it is and leave the whole process of draw-your-own-conclusions phase to its readers. The author takes us through various places in Mumbai - starting from the red light area of Kamathipura and Ladies Bar which once upon a time were a major employment avenue for the people coming from outside for work in Mumbai. These chronicles extend to Colaba, Kala Ghoda, Juhu, Saundatti and even touches on the migrants from Goa and young, nubile sex workers from Kathmandu. 

The realistic tone of the narrative allows you to feel for each of the flesh and blood characters and leaves a indelible impression on your psyche. It helps that author has literally got his hands dirty but living in these dingy places, sharing space with these varied crumbling personnel and hence, in turn aware of those small nuggets which are fascinating to know. Fortunately, all of that real-time experience is translated into the book even though non-profanity form and at times, sugar coated humour softens the blow at various plot points.

The author cleverly stays away from his own personal experiences of living with the prostitutes, and i am glad it happened that way which otherwise would have taken out the gritty touch and in turn, infused the narrative with a voyeuristic tone which gets difficult to fathom for best of the readers. The experience with transsexuals - their religious ceremonies and festive enormities is my most favourite section of the book. Underneath the humour on this community, there is a real insight into the new consumerist, yet traditionally acquisitive India and terrible though subtle strains of sadness and loss palpitating across hierarchy of society. 

The book does not offer easy answers, neither put forward questions which you don't know before. But still it makes you think, it makes you introspect your own life and your existence as a human being in a complex city like Mumbai. It is difficult to understand the pains till you have been on street but sometimes it is so easy and deliberate to exploit it to your own advantage. Like the various intermingled worlds the book represents, it is witty, charming and heart breaking tales, all at the same time. I strongly recommend you make time to read it.

June 15, 2012

Why is it so hard to move on in life ?

“You can spend minutes, hours, days, weeks, or even months over-analyzing a situation; trying to put the pieces together, justifying what could've, would've happened... or you can just leave the pieces on the floor and move the fuck on.”  ― Tupac Shakur

Isn't the above quote true? Ok, let me try one more time. Isn't the above quote so fucking true? Why is it so hard to move in life? Why people are always scared of changes? Why people are reluctant to take calculated risks in life? Why people limit their ability and themselves cut the wings to growth. 

Well, the reason which i have observed and now can pass on as judgement is this - people just don't want to come out of their comfort zones; mentally, emotionally and physically. They are not necessarily happy with their current situations, but does not want to make any efforts to change it. They are not satisfied with their work profile or personal lives, yet are ready to rut in the declining moral fiber which in long turn is extremely detrimental to their own personalities. 

I have never understood this ostrich mentality or may be i don't want to live in illusions, so i think more about this than some other people. But really, how long you can live thinking that best things are around the corner? How long you can survive the bad times deliberately thinking that good times will come soon knocking at your door? There is a thin line between keep fighting and finish fighting. Better you decided, easier the life becomes.

So, there you are. Don't count the pieces of life. Don't wait for the pieces to come back in your life. Go ahead, pick the remaining and move the fuck on. There will be better things for you waiting in the wings. Just hope you will scrape through, just hope that in the end things will work out well. Trust me, it is not at all difficult to move on in life. All it requires is a blind step of faith.

June 11, 2012

Book Review - 83 : Not Just Fate

Author: Shilpa Arora Sharma
Publisher: Pigeon Books

Not Just Fate is a grossly overwritten book, which goes in circle in the middle portions without achieving much of substance. What it desperately required is a deft touch of a good editor who could have cut down tremendously on the material to make it a taut, engrossing thriller. It sucks the fun out of the ride seeing so many plot-points which contribute nothing to the main narrative.

This is not to take way the earnestness with which author tries to string together the various events in the lives of various protagonists and even, the antagonists.
The author throws in every possible twist turn just like a Bollywood potboiler - love triangle, corporate politics, underworld, revenge drama, friendship and bit of cuss words to show the 'coolness' quotient. Without giving away the key twist, let's say the handling of 'all the revenge drama' by the main leads saves the day in this book.

The book start with three principal characters - Nivedita, Shriya and Kaya and things are smooth till the author starts to bestow us with a new character every other chapter. Things become messy, narrative dwindle and there is very little emotional heist you get out of the growth of these three leads. It is a fresh take on revenge drama but ultimately led down by over-writing.

I am going with 2.5/5 for Shilpa Arora Sharma's 'Not Just Fate'. There are lot of positives from the writing style and engaging curvature, unfortunately it just becomes a little too laborious to make you feel satisfied within a Sunday afternoon reading session.

June 1, 2012

Book Review - 82 : The Wednesday Soul

[The following book review first appeared on Writers Melon, in association with Westland Publications]

Rating: 3.5/5

The Wednesday Soul is the story of Nyra, Chittr and their lives or after-lives to be more precise.  It effectively captures the mayhem of the urban youth as the author effectively picks up this plot point and then intersperses it with the youth in an after-life scenario, giving us funny, witty and sarcastic situations to deal with. It is not an easy read and not everyone would find it to their taste, but if you have the patience to read something different, yet be amused by it you should try this one. 

Nyra Dubey is an urban vigilante who roams around Delhi in the night avenging any crimes against women. She meets the love of her life, Chitr Gupta but when she is busy making future plans with him, she gets run over by a bus. To make matters worse, she finds her soul in the midst of a destructive plot to destroy the life after life, the plot is engineered by monstrous creature known as Eledactyl and the only way to escape is by rubbing its bottom from the inside. She wants vengeance and from none other than Death's masters for the love she has had to leave behind on planet Earth. Things lead to more things and there are creatures' unknown, mighty eagles and bad puns that have the power to kill.

The writing, at most places laced with humour will make you think and ponder over the vicissitudes of the urban life. However, certain situations and scenes have been literally coaxed into the narrative simply because they sound “funny” but hardly go with the flow. Take the pun intended on the mythological characters; it is full of caricatures and so out of place.

I particularly enjoyed the fun thrown in by the Agatha Christie who functions as a psychic detective even though there are logical inconsistencies and half-hearted attempts to make it tonally in sync with other characters. But then, when you have stepped on the genre of fantasy within fiction; such kind of liberties becomes inevitable. But these nitpickings have nothing to do with the fun you will have while on the ride of reading this book.  Read it on a day when you are in a cynical mood, you will enjoy it even more.

PS:  If all indications go by, there is a sequel in the making.  I must say, bring it on!