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October 25, 2013

Book Review - 140 : Wise Enough To be Foolish

Author : Gauri Jayaram
Publisher : Jaico Books

Wise Enough to be Foolish is a fictionalized memoir of Gauri Jayaram that traces the journey of an Indian girl's life, with all its challenges and surprises, as she blossoms from an insecure child into a confident young woman. This roller-coaster ride is filled with adventure, laughter and heartache, as she balances her love life with her struggle for independence.

Gauri Jayaram is behind the world's largest escorted touring company for adventure trips across the continents - The Active Holiday company [Correction : The author is employed with the company, not founded as was my initial impression]. With due respect to the author, i found the story neither extra ordinary nor engrossing. The narrative is brisk and editing by Divya Dubey of Gyaana books is exceptional, but it does not have the zing one would expect in a memoir like this.

One very basic flaw is that it hardly provides point of view of various people in her life. Jayaram nails it when it comes to telling about her own life, citing every small and minute detail but does not do the same when it comes to other characters. So her journey remains unclear, unmotivated and in the end, simply quite boring. I was also disappointed that her actual escalation of founding The Active Holiday Company hardly get any mention which I was most interested in knowing. [Correction : The company was founded in 2013 only]

Even if you disregard the one-tone nature of this story, it is difficult not to cringe at the overwritten lines and trite dialogues. How such an happening life can be converted into a boring novel is a mystery i have no answer to. One the plausible reason is that Jayaram takes pride in leading an independent life in the early 90s which may be difficult, but not impossible. If you have decided on a particular lifestyle and you are hell bent on following it, then you take the pinch with the salt. You cannot complain about it later on seeing/facing the repercussions of your actions.

I am going with 2.5/5 for Gauri Jayaram's 'Wise Enough to be foolish'. It is well written, neatly edited and nicely packaged. But somehow it just fails to touch chord owing to flat tone narrative and bland dialogues. An wasted opportunity!

October 23, 2013

Mythical Notes on 'Classic Tales from Mystic India'

Author : Kamla K. Kapur
Publisher : Jaico Books

Rating : 2.5 / 5

How much you enjoy 'Classic tales from Mystic India' is directly proportional to how much you have been interested in Indian mythology and how much you have read before. The concept is not new - it is a collection of 24 short stories of Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, Ganesha and Krishna and from the Ramayana and Mahabharata. Divided into 7 sections - Each section starts with an introduction to the stories which sets a concise background to the God and His story and nature and set of duties.

The book establishes the theory about the illusion of life and how the cycle of birth and death is essential to keep the continuity of Life going on and also the fact that one has a separate set of duties in a particular life. It also establishes the theory of destruction and evolution and finally culminates into telling stories about the two famous texts of India.

Stories of how Ganesha got the elephant head or Hanuman bares all to Ram after the war are done and dusted kind. So as the story of Narada trying to beat a Vishnu follower or the one in which Ganesha accepts the lunch invitation from Kuber. There are couple of stories from the Mahabharata - one involving Arjun and a bird just after hearing the Gita from Krishna and another one involving Gandhari's pangs of hunger just before she curses Krishna which provides different point of view than the usual.

The writing is lucid and editing water tight. The illustrations in the book don't necessarily always go with the story but the tone is brisk and always eager to provide something different than the usual. All in all, a book which can be more "fresh and new" to the younger generation who are less exposed to the Indian mythology. For me, it was a one time read to freshen up the usual stories i have been hearing and reading all these years.

October 22, 2013

Book Review - 139 : The Jadoo of your love

Author : S.R.Saha
Publisher : Srishti Publishers and Distributors

The Jadoo of your love!....yes, why can't we fall in love again? is one of the most ironic title you will come across in a long time mainly because there is very little chance that you will fall in love with this book once, forget again. Pulling off twists and turns in a novel does not mean we need to abandon logic in the narrative but that's exactly what the author manages to do. Changing your profession every alternate year without having any idea of financial security is idiotic to say the least, but somehow our hero of the novel manages to do that very well and successfully too!

In the final year of college, Anurag's life was falling apart - he vowed never to see Aditya, his best friend of many years again. His love, Urmi too get married to someone else the day unemployed Anurag got the job of a flight purser in an airline company. The narrative from there hops on from one plot point to another without providing any logical sense or explanations and as a reader, there is very little you can sympathise with what is going on in the pages.

Earlier portions are actually filled with Anurag's friendship with Aditya which has very little relevance till that point to the main protagonist. I guess the intention was to show their strong bond, but it comes off looking contrived and manipulative towards the middle of the book. I did not found the transition by Anurag from an airline job to a film maker at all funny and it shows the lightness with which author has treated this material.

I am going with 1.5/5 for S.R.Saha 'The Jadoo of your love'. There is some humour portions which are to be enjoyed in this book but those portions are far and few in between. The 'Jadoo' is certainly missing from this one!

October 21, 2013

Book Review - 138 : The Storm in my Mind

Author : Ayaan Basu
Publisher : Srishti Publishers and Distributors

The Storm in my mind....Ami, Kolkata and Confessions is a collective narrative of events, habits, stereotypes and idiosyncrasies revolving around the contemporary society of Kolkata as narrated by Aryan Roy, central protagonist of our story. It is a story of his love, hatred, passion, friendship, trust, misunderstandings, nostalgia and a boy's incomparable love for his city.

Narrated in the first person, the book delves straight away into the love story of Aryan who works at a call centre. I initially enjoyed their telephonic conversations and their first blind date is written with lot of sincerity and tongue-in-cheek humour. But soon the "Shut-up" punchline and "bodyguard" jokes become repetitive and the monotony sets in. With chapter titles such as "Short review of the next 8 months", this seems like a technical document and very less a novel. 

I also could not understand why so much stress on Kolkata in this novel - when actually half of the story is set in Delhi and Mumbai and is very quick to point out flaws of these two cities. Even when talking about Kolkata, the author take half-shots at portraying culture of the city rather he bombards us into Wikipedia type of entries of places he usually visits with his lady love. Really, can this be qualified as "incomparable love" for the city? If yes, then I am sorry I missed it completely.

I am going with 2/5 for Ayaan Basu's 'The Storm in my Mind". Bouncing off a nice cover, the novel needs to be more detailed to make strong case for the love of city or the novel. In its present form, it is a half-hearted one time read.

October 20, 2013

Book Review - 137 : The Curse of that Night

Author : Rochak Bhatnagar
Publisher : General Press

Good intentions don't necessarily make into good books and that is quite evident from The Curse of that night...she lived forever which is a sincere but amateurish attempt to create the horror of Dec 16 Gang-rape of a physiotherapist student while travelling in a private bus with a male friend. Biggest problem in the book is that it treats rape as a "separate entity" rather than weaving it into the narrative seamlessly to provide a solid story. Instead what we get bursting on its seam, 'Google-based' information of the cultural-physical-sociological aftermath of rape. All these portions stood out like a sore thumb because they do not portray the pain of the protagonist in any manner but provided to the reader as FYI slots.

Abhijeet Raichand, is the highest paid lawyer in Delhi who has sole intention to make money (though he always seems to be doing his own chores including in one scene, setting up table for his date despite being so rich!). Rohan Raichand, a bookie and a drug dealer can't see eye to eye with Abhijeet but has no qualms of taking money from him. As the case in such novels, Abhijeet obviously do not have any iota of clue regarding the intentions of Rohit to kill him. Malvika Singh, Abhijeet's secretary turned fiancee who is opposed and then supported by Abhijeet once the rape case becomes high profile. Darsh, an orphan saves life of Abhijeet and Malvika in a freak incident and it is rape of his sister which we witness, making this a Damini like situation.

There are abundant logical loopholes in the narrative and once the case becomes high profile, there is very little brain cell usage by any of the characters in the moment of crisis. Every one seems to think from the heart including Abhijeet leaving a trail of clues to be exposed as a lawyer. I also could not understand the significance of back (love) story of the prime witness to the rape case. I guess intention was to provide some sort of connection between Ananya and Rishi, central protagonists of Bhatnagar's  earlier two novels but that idea fails miserably.

In the end, what you can admire in the book is the sincerity with which author has penned down this book giving us an idea about how bad rape victims in India are treated and what their life has become? The editing is somewhat better than you would expect in such books and the narrative does maintain a brisk pace. I also particularly liked the way Malvika and Abhijeet relationship progressed even though there is lot of filminess to it.

I am going with 2/5 for Rochak Bhatnagar's 'The Curse of that Night'. It has got its heart in the right place, but all other body parts scattered all over. Not a bad book by any means, but just not good enough to make any sort of strong impression on you.

October 17, 2013

Book Review - 136 : I refused to Bribe

Author : Gireesh Sharma
Publisher : General Press

Jitesh, a senior bank clerk, rejects a business loan to an influential industrialist, Satish. The latter seeks intervention from a senior bank officer named Arora who conspires to get Jitesh removed. A few days later at the bank, Jitesh helps an unknown customer, who claims to be illiterate, to fill his withdrawal form. The customer is later identified as a conman who fraudulently withdraws money from someone else’s account. Arora manipulates the situation and on charges of abetting a crime, Jitesh is named in the chargsheet.

Jitesh is suspended and faces a judicial inquiry which lasts for 14 long and painful years. At every step he gets the opportunity to pay a bribe and get reprieve, but he adamantly refuses to give a bribe. His plea for innocence falls on deaf ears of vigilance officers, bank officials, CID officers, court clerks and even the judge. Does Jitesh succeed to overcome adversity and his adversaries or does he succumb to all kinds of pressures?

Author makes a brave effort in portraying corruption across generations starting from 1950. Sharma nicely builds up the characters including Jitesh's parents, his wife and children. He provides a back up human story to even the wrong ones - namely Arora and Satish. Even though it fails to portray bribery in today's world as the story ends in early 90s, it does ring a bell how tough it can be for an honest man to survive the clutches of dishonest men all around him?

The biggest problem of the book is its daunting length of 300 odd pages which is way too much for paper thin material like this. The narrative is ultimately saved by author's attention to detail. From the banks hierarchy to the changing social norms across decades to the changing economic preferences of children, author makes a valiant effort to showcase the pain of the central protagonist.

I am going with 3/5 for Gireesh Sharma's 'I refuse to bribe'. It has sincere intentions and a competent writing style. I wish it was much shorter to make a better impact on the readers. In its current form, it's a one time read for any one who feels strongly about bribery and corruption in India.

October 15, 2013

Flying notes on Rishi Piparaiya's 'Aisle Be Damned'

Author : Rishi Piparaiya
Publisher : Jaico Books

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Aisle be Damned...Swaying Hips, Praying Lips and Flying tips by Rishi Piparaiya (almost a tongue twister that surname!) is a hilarious account of just about everything associated with air travel. Contrary to popular conception, this one is not really a take on how to fly better but rather how you can make your travel fun. Once you can adjust to the fact that this is primarily a non-fiction book and the one which begs not to be taken too seriously, there is lot of fun to be had.

It has everything related to travel - getting upgraded to business class, micromanaging the pilots, how to kill boredom during the 'technical snag' routine check up, strategies to attract the attention of flight attendants, ice-breaking conversations with pretty co-passengers and breezing through immigration and customs. Author does get overboard with those not-so-hilarious taglines and photographs but then as I said before, you need to adjust as a reader to the humour side of the book.

The writing is easy and even at times dealing with airline industry jargon keep it simple enough for the layman. Being a to-notch sales personnel, author has travelled the world and it does help to efficiently pay nuances to the industry and poke fun at the right pores. What it does conveniently is take all the myths associated with the airline industry and turn it on its head. But if you look beyond those funny layers, you will realise the frustrations usually associated with the air travel for the customers and the inefficiency of the airline staff.

Just over 200 pages long, it is a brisk 3-hour read and deserves a go-ahead. It is well written, jokes come flying in all directions and will leave you with a big smile. Read it during one of those air travel journey or just before taking one, and I am sure you will love the book just a bit more.