July 29, 2011 § 1 Comment
Intricate, detailed and beautiful.
The details they hit you, they tickle you and they mesmerize you. The book is like that statue which holds your breath and makes you forget yourself. Yet there is something lacking- the warmth, that which makes you curl up in your bed and forget everything else, except the tranquilizing world of the book. The problem is with expectations, Ghosh to me is not merely an author- he is a writer, he is a storyteller; He is that boy, that uncle, that aged R who you love to listen to.
One can’t but help being lost in the pidgin speaking world of Canton. The Pearl River, the avant-garde paintings and the opium all seem to spin around the ball room, pulling us, swaying us. We are at his mercy- we want more, it does not matter what awaits us, yet just when we think we are about to be hung or lost in ecstatic love, we are shoved rashly into a different world. Familiarity breeds contempt- if only I hadn’t read Calcutta Chromosome, The Glass Palace, The Hungry Tide and The Shadow Lines(currently reading).
The book takes us across oceans, rivers, cultures, people, love it has it all. The trilogy is no doubt is an adventure like never before yet none is there to haunt me like Laakhan, make my heart beat faster like Ila and Piya or make me wonder what Tribid would say. Each character is so fit for his part that I am left wanting that imperfection that makes him human and brings him alive. The character who for me is trademark Ghosh is Paulette aka Puggly. She is quirk, beautiful and smart. If only we could have had more of her.
The artist Robert Chinnery and his letters while being a very clever way to give a different perspective, do seem to yearn the secret ingredient and at a couple of places had me longing for more of Bahram Modi.
Neel, the erstwhile ruler turns into a Munshi and is a man of his own. Nowhere do you find evidence of a fall in station; The time spent locked in a cell seems to have sucked away the royalty and yet he maintains a poise which speaks of his breeding. Bahram Modi, his employer, paces him room, brilliantly dressed and imposing with Chi Mei, always lingering, haunting and comforting him.
The characters make the story. Considering the amount of intricate detailing and the gargantuan information thrown in, the book is inspired. It is amazing how he manages to make us sympathize and hate the same person- to narrate and to be unbiased is restraint which is worth admiring.
The book engages and presents a city like none other where men stride across a maidan and smuggle opium in boats. The author enunciates the sing-song language used to trade in Canton and recreates a melting pot like none other. The city with the awe-inspiring Commissioner Lin, who takes it upon himself to try to end the opium trade, its friendly locals, stuck up Englishmen, Indians and people from around the world, is an enchantment, painted in Chinnery’s grotesque ways.
The book is a must read. Especially if you have read The Sea Of Poppies. I have refrained from talking about the story, simply because it isn’t about what happens, but who make it happen. But, there is a part of me, that wishes he wrote like how he did before. It feels like my favorite teacher has become the school principal.
July 8, 2011 § 2 Comments
Crisp, precise, informative and gripping!
While Vedas and Upanishads are the ‘backbone’, epics such as Mahabharta and Ramayana are the nerves of our ‘culture’. In his telling of Mahabaratha as ‘Jaya : An Illustrated retelling of the Mahabharata’,the author informs, educates and makes sense of the massive story in a little over 350 pages.
The book has each of the important events in simple paras with the author’s interpretation(and two cents) following it. The book moves along nice and quick with the events that have the major baring on the great war.
Don’t expect to be enlightened the book is lesser about that and more about giving a quick account of the epic to people who haven’t heard about the epic. One nice thing about the book is that the author has collected tales from different regions of India and other countries such as Indonesia and included them in his ‘explanation’.
The book is also illustrated(by the author himself), but it probably would have been a better idea to have images from famous artists, considering the book is a 2 minute version of the epic probably aimed to impress.
Personally, I liked the book, it was like brushing up through the Mahabharata. The tales from across the country and abroad add value to the narrative. The book is pretty much no frills and does not try to glorify the Pandavas overtly. The author stays true to being impartial and provides a balanced view of the epic. It is easier to see cause and effect, especially with the author reminding us of the same, time and again.
The book was a gripping read no doubt. It had been a while since I read anything regarding our mythology and thus it was a reminder of the moralistic uncertainties and the essence of the epic. Read it if you want to remind yourselves about the Mahabharata. A quick and effective version of the epic, it cuts straight to the point albeit with some of the magic being lost.
May 27, 2011 § 2 Comments
Engaging, entertaining and thrilling.
Sometimes all you expect out of a book is to have fun reading it. You want it to pulsate, hold your attention, make sense and have an element of surprise- this book has it all.
On the last day of med school exam, Danny Benson receives a letter from his fiancée Heather. The girl he wants to marry informs him that the engagement is off. Danny isn’t satisfied and your home bird sets off on an adventure to find Heather. He takes the Magic Bus and though he finds his fiancée, he suddenly is caught in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and loses her again. Helping treat the injured in a make shift hospital, he discovers true love in the form of Emily- the girl he met during a childhood trip to Ireland.
The writing is simple and easy to read. Initially I expected the book to deal in detail with each and every destination the Magic Bus stopped at, i.e. more like a travel book(the blurb does say the author was inspired by his travels), but the book doesn’t. It is fast paced thriller.
The book is tightly packed and at no time do you feel that the author has taken liberty to make it easy(or difficult) for the protagonist- the story progresses naturally. Initially you get the impression of passing through too many places rather too quickly, which we do. The book first takes us to London and from there we transverse across Europe, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and the book concludes rather romantically and fate-slapped in Kathmandu.
The characters are easy to understand and relate to. The book does not seem boring or a drag at any point. You might have guessed the ending, but it is still exciting. You can see where the inspiration from traveling comes in. Unlike other authors, Levy does not try to paint the Orient in bright romantic hues, he stays grounded.
There is also a parallel story running along, which seems to peter out, but on the whole it is a very good read. A paperback which you can read while traveling(took me about a couple of hours to finish it), it is worth it. There are enough twists and turns to keep you guessing and immersed. I just wish the book had a better cover.
May 23, 2011 § 8 Comments
I love reading. Bur very rarely do I keep a tab of the books I have read over a period of time. But a tweet by qtfan on twitter prompted me to make a list. Well without further ado, here is the list:-
1)The Catcher in the Rye by J.D.Salinger – A light and thoroughly enjoyable read. Narrated by Holden Caulfield, the book is about a guy who keeps getting kicked out of school. I guess the book captures the mood of that generation.
2)Catch 22 by Joseph Heller- Possibly pointless, but isn’t war pointless anyway? It makes a point by being pointless, Catch 22.
3) Trapped wings, Open sky by Nisha Arppit – Received for review but did not publish the review. Still laying in my drafts, did not enjoy the book.
4) The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga- Overrated.
5)Demian by Hermann Hesse – Review. I love Hermann Hesse’s writing.
6)Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse – Tale of a lonely middle-aged man, who opens himself up to new ideas. A bit of a drag, but meaningful and probably a Roman a clef of the author.
7)Hickory Dickory Shock by Sundip Gorai- Review. The author spammed my comment section because of the review had to delete the comments.
8)Chanakya’s Chant by Ashwin Sanghi- Review.
9)Fate, Fraud and a Friday Wedding by Bhavna Rai – Review.
10)1984 by George Orwell- Review
11)The Metamorphoses by Kafka – Weird, deep and very depressing.
12) The Old Man And The Sea by Ernst Hemingway Engaging, Simple and Beautiful.
13)Aunts Aren’t Gentlemen by P.G.Wodehouse – You should have read the book already.
14) Mayil Will Not Be Quiet by Niveditha Subramaniam and Sowmya Rajendran – Review by sister on bookrack. Oh! and Sowmya is none other than Gounder Brownie 😀
15&16) I read the entire Hitchhiker’s Guide in one go. So probably, I read the last book or two in early January. Now that I look back, think it was the last two books.
So well that’s 16 books which I remember reading. Then there is “The Brothers Karamazov” By Dostoevsky, which I never seem able to finish. I do pick up random books laying about the house, read a few pages and drop it. Generally I tend not to read while travelling, as I prefer to observe what is happening around me. Right now, I am reading Overland by Mark Stephen Levy. I also have Stilettos by Rashmi Kumar waiting to be read next. While Overland was sent by the publishers, Rashmi sent me the book personally for review.
I generally don’t like to set targets. After all, I read to learn, understand and appreciate the world. To me each book is a journey. I let the book set the pace. For example, the books by Hermann Hesse are slow-moving and spiritual whereas Chanakya’s Chant is fast and thrilling. Of the list I would suggest you read 1984 first, if you haven’t already.
So what have you read this year?
May 17, 2011 § 4 Comments
I would love to stand on top of the tallest hill in the world and shout my lungs out and roll on the grass at that tallest hill laughing away like a maniac. But since I cannot for myriad reasons(like for eg. me being really lazy person), I just decide to think about it and end up day dreaming, rather evening dreaming while doing the chest press at the gym.
It is rather significant fact that life is so much more enjoyable when you pretend it to be enjoyable. Over a period of time it does become enjoyable. In that way anything and everything is enjoyable, including walking in 40C and sweating all over. Life is in pretense than in the actuals, simple because there are times when one has no clue as to what is real.
It is easy to say gulping down a tetra pack of apple juice is your reality but it probably isn’t the reality of a prodigal daughter sitting in a bar and drinking away or that kid in the corner of the road trying to sell coloring books for some unknown mafia. But you learn to ignore both and still fall in love with that costly car and that dark street with a single street lamp and cool evening sea breeze.
Not that you are poor or something. You have reached material contentment and it should last a while- as long as people keep making annoying ads.
I stopped calling myself a writer. Not that I can’t find time, but I don’t see the point in writing. You can feel depressed and bothered and writing does ease it, but you don’t make anything out of it. You take a stance on a topic and you can argue but you don’t achieve anything. Thinking is one thing, doing is another. I am trying to figure out how to get things done.
I will start writing stories and the like again sooner rather than later but I continue writing poems every now and then- poetry is that verse that reminds you of your joyous self. Some say I read too many depressing books, but I enjoy them. There is a part of me that enjoys being grave. There is no use fighting my love for melancholy, I embrace it, enjoy it and continue. And while it my sound bad, it was necessary to reach this point- now I can enjoy those smaller things which I couldn’t before. I am happy because I don’t have a reason to feel sad. And even when I feel sad, I know I am happy about it.
I went to North India for the first time. There are as many Indians as stars in the universe. You can never put it in words nor in pictures. It is one long motion film, never ending and never ending. The contrasts are too much but Jai ho! and corruption followed me all the way to Wagh Border. Someone told me corruption isn’t in our DNA, but I tell you it is.
I refuse to write about things that bother me any more because I know they bother me and that if something has to be done about it, I need to do it. All that is important is that I remain happy forever. And that is possible only when sources I seek happiness from exist and are happy.
I still dream and I always will, it is just that I see things differently when I am awake, but my dreams always inspire me.
I exist because I think, but more importantly I exist.
April 8, 2011 § 5 Comments
Complete, contemplative and beautiful!
The story of Sinclair the narrator how he grew up and the influence of his friend Demian on his life. Simple yet powerful, this coming of age book is like no other.
Hermann Hesse is one of favorite authors. His writing has this force which is calm yet stimulating. While his protagonist is clever, knowledgeable and talented he is still brash, raw and innocent. One cannot but help identifying with him and in my case, this book is a landmark, just like how Siddhartha was. Like Siddhartha here too the protagonist is someone who moves from the existing conventions and lives a life of his own.
Hesse gives you hope, while reminding you that there are many obstacles you have to conquer- the biggest being yourself. The writing doesn’t merely appeal to you- it talks to you. While the book was intended to represent how a generation felt(Hesse has published it under a pseudonym as he felt that youngsters would feel that an older person will not understand how they feel), it is universal and personal at the same time.
The beauty lies in the simplicity of the writing and the depth of the theme. The book brings in art, music, writing, spirituality and religion- factors that influence and have a grip on you. The book is truthful and makes you think. To me it brought back memories of earlier times. In a way it reminded me of where I am today and because of what and gave me a renewed confidence.
I could completely identify with Sinclair, though Demian and his mother seem rather mystic. But that is part of the book- as everyone else except the author are influences that appear in the person’s life. There are some among humanity, who live with, for and because of a greater force, the characters in this book are such.
Simple and powerful, this is a must read book.
April 4, 2011 § 2 Comments
They say nothing is constant except change, but no one seems to have any change! I treasure change- no way would I part with 5, 10 or even 20 Rs. , I need to have enough of ’em! As it is, bargaining with the Auto drivers is madding, I am not going to fall for the no change excuse- no sir!
The summer is here, already. It drove in a Nano, whizzing past the Altos, Autos and well the thermometer got all hot for it apparently. Hopefully it knows that Nanoes are prone to catch fire- time we replace our veins and arteries with Havells?
Too many things happening, though everyone seems to be talking only about the World Cup. Time for hockey to get a jockey- the next best thing to naked you see?
Bad jokes apart, I am busy playing a game with the universe. And I think we have a NDA(Non-disclosure agreement), so can’t say much about it. Well expect:-
1) One can become calm without studying B.calm.
That book was amazing! I did hear many people couldn’t get past the first page- blame you not- that is why it is really good! Catch 22, you see? My life is being defined by these ridiculous books and terrible books(the ones authors send me- one fellow even spammed me for giving a thumbs down!), which frankly I am enjoying.
But on the down side, reading a lot means, I cannot write. And anyway, my brain is dead, almost. Guess I haven’t done anything intellectually challenging for a long time now. It probably is going to take a lot of effort to get it back alive- maybe I should eat Aliva?
The heat is unbearable! And for the first time in my life- no proper summer holidays! I feel all grown up- need to keep reminding myself, that I am only 19.
No exams for 2 years! Doesn’t that sounds wonderful? Apparently not, for some. Not that the exams are challenging or anything. See, now I sound all snobbish, which I am not. I am just a normal person, who suddenly seems to like using ‘I’ a lot.
But of course no one thinks I am normal. I am so used to standing out in a crowd that, that has become my way of blending in. You know that lemon slice on your drink? Some love to give it a squeeze, others just look at it curiously, while the rest throw it out without another thought.
I am of course, not a lemon slice, I used to be, maybe, but not now. What is the point in trying to make friends anyway? I have enough of them(they can be counted with one hand) to keep me happy for now.
Anyway, take care, be nice and use nycil, nicyl or however you write it.
February 23, 2011 § 6 Comments
Fast, exciting and thrilling!
The book begins with a flurry of activities, skipping across various places both home and abroad confusing, but nevertheless exciting. We dwell into the lives of various people and we reach the climax at the wedding. The book gives us what it promises Fate, Fraud And A Friday Wedding.
One thing I liked about the book was the simplicity. The demography chosen is what we are familiar with Higher middle class/Rich Indians. The author has avoided long descriptions and tells the story- and pretty well at that. The beginning was slightly nebulous and confusing, but this adds to the excitement and has you wondering. The chain of events take shape pretty well, albeit the chapter where everything merges, seems badly edited(not badly written the editors could have given better spacing and had demarcations when shifting from one person/scene to another).
The style is simple and the voice suits the characters. There are times when you can feel the tension and sympathies with the characters. The book flows without any inhibition and does not meander.
A thriller which is thrilling. A book which I would recommend, if you want something light and entertaining to read, probably when on the move.
Rating:- 6/10. There are places where I feel the editing could have been better. I read The White Tiger before this book and this book was surely more engaging(as is this book).
P.S:- The author’s website.