Looking for Love?

October 22, 2014

Quick notes on love stories by Ruskin Bond

Publisher : Rupa & Co.
Author : Ruskin Bond

Rating : 3.5 / 5

Falling in love again....Stories of love and Romance is a collection of short stories showcasing the myriad variations of romantic love - fleeting, intimate, joyous and heartbreaking. Ruskin Bond has been writing for over sixty years, and has now over 120 titles in print—novels, collections of stories, poetry, essays, anthologies and books for children.

There is reason why Ruskin bonds work even after so many years. His writing is selfish - he writes for himself first and then for his readers. And there in lies his success and his endurance. The book not only has short stories, there are other forms of writing too - poems, verses, letters and book extracts. I am not sure how many of these are first time works and how many have been published before in other books. But honestly, it does not matter and it should not matter to any readers.

These stories capture beautiful moments of life, interspersed with fleeting emotions.The book also has Susanna's Seven Husbands, made into a Hindi movie by Vishal Bharadwaj whom Ruskin dedicates this book, along with Bhardwaj's wife, Rekha. There are couple of book extracts - The Room on the Roof and Delhi is not far from his earlier books. Read and enjoy the marvel Ruskin bond because he is just one of those writers who have little to do with literary world but to write for this world - its pains and pleasures.

October 6, 2014

Book Review - 174 : Private India

Crimes against women in India over the past two years set off a wave of outrage and reflection over their treatment in the South Asian country. They also inspired the plot of “Private India,” the latest installment in author James Patterson’s best-selling “Private” series co-written by Ashwin Sanghi, an Indian businessman-turned-best-selling author. Private is called one of the finest private investigation agencies with branches around the world, a smart but obvious technique for Patterson to be in cahoots with writers from various countries and churn out Private Berlin, Private LA and Private London.

Private India is India’s biggest and best detective agency, a branch of Private Worldwide, run by the inimitable Jack Morgan. Santosh Wagh heads Private India, though in this novel, Jack Morgan makes a few appearances and has a substantial role. When visiting Thai surgeon Kanya Jaiyen is killed in mysterious circumstances at the Marine Bay Plaza, Private India gets to the scene first since apparently it is employed by Marine Bay Plaza. The police come by later, but they are happy to let Private India get on with it, since they are overworked and have their hands full.

It begins with a murder, goes on to take reader around town in Mumbai (with stops in exotic places like Dharavi and the Parsi Tower of Silence in Malabar Hill), and ultimately tries to find a fine balance between Hindu mysticism, current affairs issues like violence against women and the grit of an all-American spy thriller. Problem with the book is mainly that it tries too pack in too much, sacrificing logical consistency and ignoring fatal loopholes.

It does maintain a brisk pace, but as we move forward in the narrative it fails to maintain that tension despite a very strong and interesting 100 pages or so. The main mystery becomes repetitive (done 9 times to be exact) and that's where it tests patience. I am going with 3/5 for Private India. It would have been much thriller if it was not trying to pack in everything in one book.

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October 1, 2014

Quick Notes on Devdutt Pattanaik's new book on Queerness

Author : Devdutt Pattanaik
Publisher : Zubaan books / Penguin India

Rating : 3 / 5

Shikhandi and other tales they don't tell you reveal the unique Indian way of making sense of queerness. A lot remains hidden and untold in the Hindu mythology in terms of queer people - bisexuals, transgender, transsexuals and cross dressers but take a close look at the vast written and oral traditions in Hinduism, some over two thousand years old, and you will find many overlooked tales, such as those of Shikhandi, who became a man to satisfy her wife; Mahadeva, who became a woman to deliver his devotee’s child; Chudala, who became a man to enlighten her husband; Samavan, who became the wife of his male friend; and many more.

Pattanaik delves deeper into sexuality of gods/goddess and shows how they shed their original sexuality (if there is any) and molds into other with ease. Lord Shiva becomes a woman to deliver the child of a devotee, Arjun takes the form of a snake to enchant a difficult princess, Lord Ram welcomes hijras to his kingdom, and so on.

Clearly, these stories has been extensively researched and different points of view of modern vs old queerness has been exploited. From same-sex desire to gender-bending behaviour to cross-dressing to bestiality, the range of activities these texts describe is exhaustive. What i particularly liked about these stories is that it reinforces the basic premise - that soul has no gender and really what you make of feminism and patriarchy lies more in you mind than in you organs. All of them are backed up by solid footnotes and clear illustrations.

These 30 short stories push the envelope of sexual imagination, boundaries between man and woman and queer people. It tells about their fluidity and not rigidity of gender - in turn enforcing the basic concept of enjoying life. They are not provocative - and does not enforce any beliefs but just questions them. Some times, in life that is the most challenging thing. Read the book to allow you to challenge your queer notions.