Monday, January 25, 2016

A Parade To Remember

On the list of father-daughter pairs brought together by a common interest in national affairs, my dad and I would probably come in second only next to the Nehru-Gandhi duo. My dad and I don't exactly write elaborate letters of discovery  or plan to leave a long legacy of political achievements, but we sure live the hell out the Republic Day Parade every year.

It’s an event we prepare for, from going to bed early the previous night, to waking up early on the morning of the 26th, bright and fresh to watch the parade from the moment the camera spans in to catch the chiefs of the armed forces taking their stand near the Amar Jawan to welcome the president. The household would bustle with official excitement as though we were part of the logistics from a thousand miles away. I doubt if the actual bugle players would feel as pressured as we'd feel, over getting the notes right.

Photo Credits: Doordarshan
Dad and I would sit there gossiping like a pair of veterans, commenting (and mostly disagreeing) on everything from the golden tassels hanging from the neatly pressed uniforms the chiefs sport, the hats ("Why don't they add a lengthier strap? That thing's pretty much cutting his mouth."), to the guest book the President leaves a comment in, the way everyone's walking, the way the bodyguards keep a note of everything ("Look at that...look how they work like spotters! And so young too.", "Dad, that's a kid in the audience wearing big-ass sunglasses and roaming around.")

From as long as I can remember, I've heard my dad yell out the opening command to the parade in tow with the chief of the President's bodyguard (I still don't understand a word of it!); I remember standing in attention to the national anthem, both in the beginning and in the end.
Photo Credits: Doordarshan
I remember making sarcastic comments about the horses and camels that leave a load of crap (literally) on the parade path, (they've added dogs to the mixture from this year), and once the contingents begin marching down the road, Dad translating from Hindi what the commentator is describing. He thinks he understands Hindi and he will absolutely get every single one of them wrong. I used to believe him when I was a kid, I realized what was happening when I learnt Hindi myself, I used to go on a correction binge in my teens to match wits with him, but lately I just agree and give him full marks for enthusiasm.

We tease the marching contingents and chide the bands for not attempting to throw the baton ("Just throw it. We'll take it from there." , "Aww...c'mon, just throw the damn thing would ya?!" , "Will this band throw the baton? No way, they're all so old!" , "Ah! Look at this one; he didn't even bring a baton! Why did he even bother to come?"). We judge the contingents on their marching abilities, Dad yells out something to match each group's salute call (it’s simply ek-do-theen-chaar, and he silently adopted it from last year after I inserted it in a snide correction masquerading as a comment ;)). In general we treat those 3 odd hours as an affair of national importance. (Dad used to dance in his seat to the tune of the performers in the floats and tableaus but has since given it up after a particularly hard giggling fit from mom one year :D).

We are disappointed if the tea-drinker or the newspaper-reader does not turn up in the Daredevils agenda, and we always hear Dad trying to imitate the aircrafts from the flypast, long before they actually turn up on the Rajpath horizon. To us, the interpreter always speaks Tamizh no matter who she is translating for, (ironically so does the Duke when he visits the Wimbledon centre court to handover the trophy; that's just how our lipsync works :D).

Mum is not allowed to use the mixer grinder for too long, intrusions by way of doorbells, phone calls and food calls (unless delivered to the couch) are frowned upon. When the parade draws to a close, mum heaves a sigh of relief louder than the security escorts to the President and the Chief Guest.

I've never enjoyed any festival or event in the family, as much as I enjoy this one day at home every year. I have missed a couple of them when I was away doing my Masters, and I don't know if we'll get to share this day again next year, the quiet nagging that tugged this post out of my heart.

This year, I'm my daddy's girl; Next year, I might be someone's wife and who knows where that's going to take me? My father wants me settled, but I don't think he realizes how much we're going to miss about each other. I know it’s a world connected by technology and we can probably watch the parade at the same time from wherever we'd be at, but it just isn't quite the same as jumping up in joy together when those three girls from the Delhi Public School band kick some serious ass, throwing up their staffs in a spectacular display! (You go girls!)

I learnt to be curious about the world from my father, much like Indira Gandhi did from hers. My dad taught me to observe, to question (a habit he loathes when it comes to questioning him, hah!) and most importantly to learn. If you’ve borne the brunt of my annoying –pain-in-the-ass analytical skills, you now know where I got it from. My dad and I are at loggerheads with each other most of the time, but there’s no one who is in my opinion more badass at being a father, like mine is. I love him and respect him for all that he is and I am going to miss him terribly when it’s time for me to move out.

My only wish is that down the line, my kids would be hooked on to their grandpa’s intellect and his good heart and learn from him like I did. I hope they argue with him and absorb his wisdom, and have even more fun with him than I did. Strict fathers surprisingly make the most-fun grandpas!

And, I sincerely hope, by the time my kids are old enough to sit with him and watch the parade, he has learnt enough Hindi to go around!

My daddy strongest :)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

A Private Apocalypse

I'd like to think that the entire world would've ceased to exist like it does, if we hadn't met. 

The skies caving in...
Oceans draining into a sinkhole...
Birds forgetting their tunes...
People acquiring common sense!
Cooler summers in the city...
Decent coffee from the vending machine. 

Unprecedented changes on a global level that aliens would one day reminisce about over marshmallows in a celestial party by the beach somewhere on Venus. 

I'd like to think that the entire world would've ceased to exist if we hadn't met. 

I have to think that the entire world would've ceased to exist if we hadn't met. 

You don't understand why, because you see, if that were true, then it would mean that everyone else's world is falling apart too and I am not the only one holding pieces that don't make sense anymore. My sky would've been everyone's sky and my oceans wouldn't be the only ones draining into a sinkhole. It would've been easier to explain why the birds in my world don't seem to sing anymore, no more than I do. It would've been easier to bear, to empathize, because then, everyone else would be suffering too and I'd have hidden my anguish amidst the general chaos. 

But now, now I've got to find ingenious places to hide my pain. I tuck some in the memories of the laughter we shared. I push some behind the stories we told each other. I place only a tiny bit under the stolen glances; I don't wish to ruin their silent meanings. I throw a fistful in the air, at the moon that played mute audience to the script of our parting; The invisible weight only drifts gently back to me. I wipe some under my eyes to catch my tears; I leave a trail of dark circles behind. I sprinkle some in all the places we've been to; A little emotional garbage to lie with the polluting plastic. 

I arrive at the door you slammed. I see you've not acknowledged the care package I placed there. I don't knock. I merely pick up the last bit of pain I left there and place it in my heart. A lub is missed, a dub is forgotten, but the old machine picks its pace up again. 

I walk away; I still can't understand why we met. Why of all stories ours went the way it did. I'd like to think that the entire world would've ceased to exist like it does, if we hadn't met. I'd like to think that we broke our hearts to keep the earth on its curved feet. The unanswered questions between us hold the secrets of the ages. 

I'm going to continue to think that the entire world would've ceased to exist like it does, if we hadn't met. Because otherwise I'm going back to mine alone, and it lies shattered, and it doesn't make the least sense to me.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Garnier Pure Active Neem - Face it!

Over the years, two entities have exerted a faithful presence in my existence, through all important occasions – my mother, and the gang of zits that play peek-a-boo on my face as they please. From the horizon of adolescence extending to the better half of my twenties now, I am still very much under their whim and influence. 

They've seen it all – my first crush, and many thereon, high-school graduation day, birthday parties that translate into flirting opportunities, first day of college, department symposiums, wedding parties, class trips, first day of work, and client visits (especially when the cutest ones arrive)! They've poked, prodded and generally annoyed the crap out of me and while I swear by my mother’s love, I can’t term those nasty skin interferences anything but pesky.

They say love leaves its own scars. Well, pimples leave their own scars too and they don’t exactly love you! (Although they advertise your secret crush to the world.) I've come to understand that zits, like Spartans, work on principles. Here’s what I think their commandments are.

Perseverance – thou shalt not disappear just because thine host has decided to attack you with the latest powerful skin cream from the market. Thou shalt defend against swears and threats and in general respond by spreading vigorously and putting up a brave, bright red, fat front.

Laugh in the face of resistance – thou shalt laugh at your host when she makes one of her attempts at cleansing/washing/moisturizing your family away, armed with the latest formula face-wash/herbal packs/ grandma’s wisdom of the ages! Laugh out louder! Thou can also play her at her game by pretending to disappear from her cheek, giving her a night’s respite only to re-pop up smack in middle of her forehead the very next morning. Bwahaha my dear girl, bwahaha!

Cover the distance you can – the face is an expanse to explore. Thou shalt not limit yourself to only the cheeks and be modest about it. Open up! Break out! Between the ears are your limits. There’s always an annoying spot to sprout at. Have you tried the spot just beneath the nose yet?

If you can elicit a response, it means you are getting attention – thou shalt always strive to be your itchy and painful best. Make a huge statement. Seek the spotlight. Attract the complaining aunties and repel the cute guys right away. Remember, ruining first impressions is where your glory is at!

Wait for the best days – You shall know it. The excitement will show. The prayers will sound on. Thou shall nevertheless sit tight and put up your best front before the concealers and foundations are brought out to bury you under layers of pretentiousness. Fight harder to be seen. Never fear an icky display. The glory is worth it. Thine salvation lies in driving your host to hide out in the bathroom for atleast three quarters of any party! And if your host appears to make peace with your existence, act like she doesn't care, have patience my fellows. There’ll always be another crush, another party in the waiting. The horizon beyond the nose holds hope. The kingdom behind the nose is all yours to rule!

The last point resonates with me very specifically and the zits always win. I've made the lord proud over the years by turning my other cheek towards photographers in what has become my standard pose. I've gone through bouts of changing hairstyles to hide the little poppers from different angles. I've burnt money and patience over creams, solutions, and packs, all but the Red Orchid which to be frank is out of reach because of all those anacondas. 

Come what may, the little gangsters are here to stay. I sometimes work a deal with them and they seem to reluctantly offer me a good day here and there, but inevitably, as their commandments dictate, there’s always another crush, another big day in the waiting and negotiation is pretty much useless. Let the swearing begin!

This article was written for the Garnier Pure Active Neem Facewash contest on Indiblogger.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

The Divorce Papers by Susan Rieger - Book Review

Title: The Divorce Papers
Author: Susan Rieger
Publisher: Crown 
Pages: 271

This is a review of a Digital Reading Copy from Random House.

Story Brief

The plot follows the 'adventure' of Sophie Diehl, a criminal suit lawyer, who gets assigned to a divorce case due to a freak set of coincidences. She tries to put up with a category of defence she loathes representing and learns a dozen lessons along the way.

There are many characters moving in and out and they all correspond with each other via letters. 


This book took me by surprise. I started out liking the epistolary format, then the legal jargon began to flow and actual legal citations appeared and I knew this one was going to be a snooze fest I'd chuck any minute now. Before I knew it, I'd read through to the end! Where did I miss my exit?

Granted, Sophie's correspondences, relationships and parent problems bordered on annoying and boring a lot of the time, but somewhere, somehow this book managed to grow on me. There were definitely multiple instances that interested me very much; the plot and narration were thankfully straightforward and pleasant on my reading mind. Nothing left to say except, I thought this was a breezy read, definitely tolerable for a single run through. 



Saturday, November 15, 2014

Around A Child's Health

When one of the couples in my neighbourhood decided to adopt a baby girl after years of being childless, everyone was happy for them. It was a unanimous feeling that a baby would be the best answer to liven up the dull household of an otherwise kind and considerate couple. Let me call the baby Angel.

Little Angel arrived one cold winter morning, wrapped in cozy blankets and sporting a toothless grin. A few of the young ones in the apartment complex had gathered up crackers to welcome her, and she surprised us all by laughing at the sound of hundred-walas rather than contributing her own outburst. Angel was an immediate favourite with everyone. The couple had a steady stream of visitors, wanting their slice of time with the little one. For about a month, the outlook was very rosy.

Then, Angel fell sick. It began with a bout of vomiting, dismissed as an allergic reaction to the new environment and food. With medication she seemed to pull around, but within the next few days her condition began to grow worse. Her bowels joined the melee and where there had been cute baby cooing noises, there was only painful wailing to be heard. It was an incredibly sad sight, the baby’s chest heaving with difficulty, trying to beat a cough to catch her breath, her mother rocking her back and forth to try and find the infant some respite. 

Angel’s mother was constantly in tears, cleaning up puddles of vomit, staying up late at nights with the baby, washing clothes and cleaning without rest. From lactose intolerance to liver failure, the doctors contemplated and tested for everything! Between the multiple trips to the hospital, no consensus on what exactly to feed the little one, a plethora of medicines of all types imaginable, prayers and rituals conducted in Angel’s name, the couple was helpless. As neighbours we could but only do so much; a few minutes of cuddling the baby so her mother could take a shower, a few cups of coffee for the visiting stream of worrisome relatives, mumbled prayers and wrinkled brows wishing the baby a speedy recovery.

Angel suffered for two long years from a variety of illnesses that didn't tie up into a single syndrome or disease. She had to undergo treatment for the symptoms while the hospitals poured over her charts for a solid diagnosis. Angel’s mother was at a point of time convinced that the gods were punishing her and they’d take Angel away in the same breath that she’d been given to them. The couple, the family and the neighbourhood were all struck by the ill luck that had befallen a child and we needed no better example to illustrate the adage ‘If health is lost, everything is lost.’

A year later, Angel began to show improvement, whether from the treatment or from the prayers, or by mere coincidence, no one wanted to deduce. We waited with bated breath as she went from the ICU to the normal ward, began taking solid food once again and finally returned home, wrapped again in blankets too small for her now. This time we didn't welcome her with crackers; we were sure she’d cry. But Angel smiled at us once again and thankfully kept getting better.

It’s been over a decade now and Angel is in middle school, winning people over, excelling in academics and wit. But that terrible period still rings at the back of my mind, how one tiny resident of the area had defined our collective optimism and showed us the ugly side of ill-health. True to both her real and indicative name I've used here, Angel was and still remains a blessing in disguise. 

This post was written for IndiBlogger's Happy Hours segment.

Dabur Chyawanprash - A healthy child makes a happy home
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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Ghar Wali Diwali

It was just the other day I had posted on my social network about Diwali having arrived early on my street with a dozen kids having the time of their lives with albeit the puniest of firecrackers. I doubt there’s another Indian festival that brings people together as best as Diwali does. Lighting up everyone’s faces, stuffing in whatnot sweets and savories in sight calories long forgotten, meeting with friends and family, teasing newly-wed cousins over their first Diwali experiences, the warmth of this festival grows even as I type. 

For me two stories come to mind when Diwali approaches.

I was daddy’s daredevil girl growing up. (I still am :)) Like the dads of most tomboy girls out there, my dad would tag me along to participate in butch experiments one of which involved a rainy Diwali evening and lack of road space to set crackers on. I was around 4 years old then. Daddy Daring decided to shift the action to the verandah just inside the compound of our tiny set of apartments and before we knew it, I was happily assisting him with firepower. Things were fine for a while before a rogue flower pot ended up in my hands, dad and I went ahead with our now well-practised routine where he'd hold my hands as I lighted a flower pot and we'd both scamper to safety before it began to erupt into waterfall flames. Except, this one exploded on the spot sending a shower of hot debris at us, my right thumb under attack and stinging. Of course I wailed the town down and was the focus of all medical attention for the rest of the night. I carry a scar from that experience, one that has always added to my street cred, and it still remains one of my fondest memories of spending time with my dad. The best part was, we returned to the cracker pile the next day, mishap long forgotten, a different hopefully unrogue cracker to light. My daddy strongest. :) 

Story #2 happened two years later. Diwali is a time of very early rising in my household and I mean the dead of the night. For a kid, waking up during the graveyard shift, despite the temptation of delicious food in the waiting, is tantalizing. So this particular year I was completely knocked out after having woken up early, engaged in some serious cracker sessions with the cousins, and quite simply having exhausted all my energy by around 7 a.m. While everyone else continued to bring the neighborhood down with the loudest of bursts, I quietly snuggled in on my grandfather’s bed, neatly cordoned off by a cloth screen, lost in the wonders of rest. Four hours later, when I woke up, rubbing my sleepy eyes, wanting my hungry stomach to be filled, the entire house was in pandemonium. Everyone stared at me like I was a ghost, one of my aunts almost fainted; my mother was in tears, my father furious. I didn’t understand the gravity of the situation back then, only later. My family had been convinced I’d been kidnapped! I’d been missing for over four hours, they’d turned the town upside down and all the while I’d been snoring away in a corner of the house. :) Ah, Diwali!

This post was written for IndiBlogger's Ghar Wali Diwali category. 

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Picking Out That Next Read

How do you pick the next book you'd like to read? I'm sure you'd have gone through this predicament that most often leaves your TBR list glaring at you from somewhere.

Do you go with the mood?

1. I'm happy, make me happier!

If you've managed to distract the one obstacle between happiness and yourself, (YOU of course!) long enough to do the happy dance a la Pharrell maybe you'd like to keep the momentum going before bills, homework and things like that catch up with ya once again. My go-to genre for some high is obviously humour, with the added clause of dark humour. There's nothing like a sarcastic fix to keep your funny bone tickling and smirking your friends into annoyance. 

Then there's the good ol' feel-good genre (although the definition might vary depending on whether Hannibalism is you feel-good habit!). Read and ride the pleasant surf till the tide runs out. Here's a bunch of titles that held my adrenalin on an acceptable high in the past year.

2. I've got the feelies.

When you are in the mood for quiet reflection or dealing with the urge to understand the world at large in depth, you'd want to pick up books that allow a glimpse into your fellow beings who differ from you by choice. There's a whole spectrum of this emotion you can explore, from sad to sadder to indignation to war to why is this world so f***** up? Beware that this genre can bring you down if you are sensitive. The ghosts stay with you long after you've turned the last page and you might not look at people the same way anymore. They say reading is supposed to do that, shedding a few tears for an imagined character on paper shows your four chamber chronic pump knows what its doing. Afterall, this apparently makes readers best suited for relationships according to this study:

Why Readers, Scientifically, Are The Best People To Fall In Love With

So, here are a few tear-jerkers that sent my blood pump into overdrive. 

Reality just not your kind of entertaining?

3. I don't belong here, where's that door to Narnia?

Sometimes, (okay, very often) reality just gets outright boring. Nothing makes sense and people appear too normal. I mean, who are you without the cloak and the broomstick? How can you not be fighting for freedom from the Capitol or over a bunch of thrones? Nope. I gotta get back home where the real action is.

There's no dearth for literature in this genre, so many authors who bring such stunningly written prose, such worlds woven so convincingly, that you wonder why people are staring at you on the train, you with your thick winter coat in the middle of summer, you turning your magazine upside down to figure out a clue to the Lovegood crossword. Its no effort to fall into and be sucked into these tomes for a reprieve, really. How many of these have you read?

Then there's the stuff you HAVE to read.

Book report? A promised book review? A self-prepared must-read list vetted by literary bodies looking down at you through their pince-nez?

4. There is such a thing as a compulsory read.

There is. Quite possibly because these titles stand apart in some way or the other thereby challenging your readerly instincts. Simply put, these are the books that'll make you step out of your comfort zone, hear the Who's, feel the magic. And contrary to popular sentiment, it is perfectly okay if you don't agree, don't understand a word, or simply think they are too pompously dense. Your readerly right allows you to judge as you may. (No matter what they say, people will judge you anyway, so don't bother.) Just remember, this list also most often includes titles that make sense or no-sense as you grow up. The book changes as the reader changes. Isn't that simply amazing?

Have you tried these mandatory doorstops?

You could also use a little trick and cover them one slim volume at a time. Equally engaging and equally powerful. 

And then there's the freedom read where you stand in front of your bookshelf, close your hands and pick out a book. Any book. Let the reading begin.

The one other thing that for me comes closest to this thrill of discovery is the long walk I undertake from my desk at work to the gates to receive the next two books from my library. No better feeling of serendipity comes close!

Do these choices apply to you? What do you do to pick your next read? 

P.S: My library does deliver books to your doorstep. No extra reading charges aside from the subscription. No limit on the reading time. That is the thesaurus definition for awesome! Check them out here - Iloveread and here.

All images are from around the internet. The book covers are from Goodreads. I do not own any of 'em.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Sudden Light - Book Review

Title: A Sudden Light
Author: Garth Stein
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 400
First Published: Sept 2014

ARC review

Garth Stein paints a detailed and albeit spooky tale of an elaborate family’s struggle to deal with its secrets and promises. Trevor, the current generation Riddell who narrates the story, is a fourteen-year old who is on the brink of his boyhood, facing a possible divorce between his parents, being a teenager in general. A summer trip that his father forces him to accompany him on changes his life forever to come. It is during this trip that Trevor peels at the layers his family hides behind, of promises made, forbidden love long lost, evil selfish schemes being hatched and a big chunk of inheritance holding up the equation.

Can Trevor make the right choices that would lead his parents to stay together and his family to finally find some respite from the ghosts that have been haunting them for generations? (Pun intended)

This is a review of the ARC I received from the publisher on NetGalley. The book is set to hit stores on September 30th, 2014. This review contains spoilers. Only ye of the brave heart that can tolerate them shall venture further :) All the other ye's can hang around at the pub, have a couple of drinks and come back later.

What worked for me

1 - Language and narration – Both terrific. Stein writes intelligent and evocative prose that hooks you right in. There are no unnecessary ramblings and the multiple narrative tools (dreams and letters aside from the narrator) do much to ease your reading experience. There’s no trouble being engrossed.
2 - Characterization – Trevor was delightfully reasonable amidst the horde of teenage boy characters being portrayed as souls in the singular pursuit of achieving an erection. Trevor likes to play detective and he is smart enough to snoop around and piece things together. A huge plus. The other characters fill in as required. They are quite fixed in their roles but their dimensionality does not affect the genre framework so no issues there. (I’ll pick a bone later around this.*)
3 - Logic, Pacing and Ending – The plot flows neatly from start to end with the various points of view accounted for satisfactorily. There was one shocking element in the climax that added to the overall effect and sealed the deal. Good job!

What did not work for me

1 - Serena* – Why did Serena have to be portrayed as an incestuous personality? Wasn't she already effective in her diabolical, manipulative role? It would've still worked if she had been one of those relatives who take to extreme measures to ensure they get what they want. Murderous, I could've handled. But incestuous? Hmmm…

2 - Trevor being a little too mature – At times, when the narrative gets going, you forget that the older Trevor is telling you the story. A few minor details don’t sit well in that aspect. For example, at one point he says he has read enough Kafka to understand the goings-on. Fourteen-year-olds drunk on Kafka? Stein does have him dismissing his speculations now and then reasoning that he is just a kid and he doesn't have the life experience to understand the situation – the equilibrium isn't quite achieved. But, minor thorn really.

Intelligent writing that packs emotion, thrill and mystery throughout.



Off-Shoot Contemplation

This book runs on the strong theme that over-exploitation of a resource is leading to a loss of balance in nature thereby suggesting that what we take must be returned to the source to replenish it.  While I agree with this idea, (it makes sense to maintain a source so it can still remain a source) I am not very sure about certain arguments presented in the book. For one, the blame placed on Elijah for having been the sole perpetrator of such an uneven give and take. The extravagant North Estate with its palatial construction does scream unfairness, but there are instances when Ben and others object to trees being cut down at all (to be used to lay rail-roads for example).

Let’s think about this for a moment. Does that mean trees cannot be used at all for any purpose whatsoever? How about for building homes? Or furniture? Or as logs for fireplaces? Even if we go by the logic that what is taken must in due time be returned, with the turn of the century and the increase in population, wouldn't it only be logical that consumption has gone up? Post the 1900s with the improvements in medicine and therapy, population keeps growing steadily. How then would it be possible to force equilibrium when most of the world is forever constantly consuming? How do you decide who gets to use something and who doesn't?

Returning the North Estate to the forest floor might be a whim that serves as a metaphor for the general idea but I do not think it is a workable system in general. Resources are diverse and population has long gone beyond a point of no-return. One family assuaging their guilt over what they consumed centuries ago is not the solution. The Estate eventually gets turned into a park, but what would happen ten years down the line, when people from the city move to the countryside because of over-crowding?

These are just a few questions that I had, while reading about the whole exploitation argument. It seemed like a lopsided prescription that does not account for the practicality of human habitation. I'm not saying reclamation is wrong. I'm just saying blatant returns are not the right way to go about piecing the planet together.

What do you think?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

This Week In Books - 17th May

Its been a stinking bout of reading for me...not many titles that knocked my socks off this past month...but a bookworm just soldiers on doesn't she? Let me wrap up my reads from last week...

1. How It All Began by Penelope Lively
Publication: Viking Adult
Pages: 240
First published: 2011

Well, after that jump start, with the mugging initiating some changes the book takes a nosedive and becomes a complete bore fest. Probably because we have two kinds of old people complaining about their lives in two different ways, one middle-aged character going through a mediocre-level middle-life crisis, an adulterer and his psycho wife, a mistress and her failed attempt at a remodelling contract -all of them written in a way that does nothing to make you feel anything towards the characters.
Beyond a point I couldn't care less about what happened to them. Peace out!

2. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi 
Publication: Riverhead
Pages: 308
First published: 2014

This book was quite disappointing given that it has garnered terrific support in book circles. I think the 'Snow White re-telling' tag used to sell it only increased my disregard for it. I didn't outright hate it, it does have some bouts of superb writing but those clash with some really bland and illogical parts that don't make the end result satisfying. The plot deals with racism primarily, how prejudice against colored people worked in the time period this book is set in and for such a serious issue, neither the exploration nor development of characters did any justice to the points of view they were entrusted with. 

Snow just became a ruse after a point, Boy became unreasonable without solid backing and hence boring, Bird was just annoying and not quite drawn out well. I expected better.

3. Vanity Bagh by Anees Salim
Publication: Picador India
Pages: 248
First published: 2013

Which is why this book was a life-saver! A redeemer of bookwormly faith. My word the dark humour. I loved every page of it. We have one more terrific Indian writer on the scene and I couldn't be happier. 

Salim deals cheek, wit and sarcasm with an expert hand and it is the Indianness of this book that makes it brilliant and super-enjoyable. Mine was a library copy but I fully intend to buy my own and mark the hell out of those lines! Two thumbs-up dear author. Looking forward to reading more from you. 

4. The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
Publication: Scribner
Pages: 368
First published: 1993

So this book won a Pulitzer and comes from the author who wrote Brokeback Mountain which is a short story/novella that was developed into the movie. I love that movie, Gyllenhall and Ledger acted the crap out of it and I was only super excited to read a novel by the same author. 

I began reading like this.

It was nice to start with.Then came this weird kind of writing and that makes you think someone wrote the lines and cut it all up and when they put it together a lot of words went missing. And this wasn't even with good reason. I understand the urge behind complex prose. You use big words and try expressing big ideas that take a couple of reads to get through...that's fine. But missing words in between deliberately, writing like its a gimmick, making me wonder if you are hiding in my closet sniggering at my annoyance...that's just rude. I ploughed through to 50 pages. And then I did what most people seem to have done with this book.

We hear ya Bradley...
I wanted to burn this book, but you know...library copy and all that.

Coming to my current reads. After that mostly unsatisfactory list, save for Vanity Bagh, I really wish I could find my pace and bliss again amidst written pages. One of my Goodreads friends recommended this book:

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

The author herself calls it a re-telling of Cinderella, except Cinder is a cyborg machine. Sounds awesome. Let's see.

I also have Lisa See's China Dolls on my list this week. Its an ARC (Advance Reading Copy) and the book hits the market in June. I like what I've read so far. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

This Week In Books - 07th May

This is technically last week's post but I'm bending some boundaries here and posting a late-last-week, mid-this-week update. Maybe I've been time travelling and have lost my grip on the here and the now. Keep guessing! Here's the fare...let me know how I fared. (See what I did there? Bwahaha)

1. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Publication: Bloomsbury
Pages: 324
First published: 2003

I finished this book as promised. Another moving, gripping read from Hosseini that details the spoils of the wars in Afghanistan, if I may describe it thus. Hosseini tends to employ the drama tactic to deliver his stories and I felt they kind of did a backfire on him in this book because they came across as a little too forced/contrived at times. He didn't have to quite literally point out certain cause and effects or hint openly at a karmic or character conclusion for a touch of showmanship. I'm glad I read his second book first (A Thousand Splendid Suns) because the narrative in that one was more rounded and gut-wrenching that this one. 

The plot has many gaping holes, a few convenient elements and conclusions but it is once again a peep into the dark quite recent history that runs through Hosseini's home country and that is never a joke, no matter how you commercialize it. Give this one a shot if you'd like to know the background behind those far-away names you heard on the news now and then.

Moving on...

2. How It All Began by Penelope Lively
Publication: Viking Adult
Pages: 240
First published: 2011

This one was on my TBR list for quite some time and I finally decided to get to it. It is loosely based on the chaos theory, how some small incident can trigger changes in many lives completely at random, or otherwise. The story sort of begins off with such a random incident but after that it dives head along into the lives of the characters it deals with so chaos is free to retire. I didn't quite get the need to lay stress on this incident that kicks off the book, as opposed to causing a domino effect. I'm still reading this one so maybe fate turns up later too. We'll see.

So far the characters have been okay, none of them have left a lasting impression on me save for Anton and his English lessons. Everyone else comes off either as too detached and bent upon screwing their lives or too obsessed with being illogical. The narrative tries too hard to make a point and its gotten a little boring right now. Hopefully, I can chug through to the end. Fingers crossed.

3. Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
Publication: Riverhead
Pages: 308
First published: 2014

Ah this book. This is one of those refreshing reads that turn up just when you need them. My list has been quite heavy and dragging for the past couple of weeks and this is a welcome break.

Boy, Snow, Bird is the story of a girl named Boy (Bingo!), who runs away from her abusive father. How her life unfolds from that point onwards is the plot. The narrative, the language and the wit are delicious! Boy is a teenager when the book opens and you expect her to be dodgy and whiny but she becomes intriguing instead with a detached air that draws you in. When she runs away she is twenty and a bit of a drawl, she is one of those goth-characters who can either be super-mysterious or super-annoying, but Oyeyemi toys the line with such panache and control you keep reading on. Its a thrilling read with an ominous tone and I am loving it. Can't wait to read what happens next. 

Will keep ya posted. I'm doing this as a buddy read for May with Emily on Goodreads.

4. Vanity Bagh by Anees Salim
Publication: Picador India
Pages: 248
First published: 2013

And we come to the 4th book I am reading for this week, one by an indigenous author, and one that rightly merits The Hindu Literary Award that it won earlier this year. 

Salim's book is out and out regional.The language, the dry humour, the satire - they are done with a causal flair that pulls you into the book and if you like me read on the train, will make you laugh like an isolated loony. This is well on its way to being one of the best reads this year for me. More on this next week. For now, I leave you with one of those quotes that left me shaking with mirth. 

"Pather Pranklin frayed and frayed and 
balked and balked around the free.
- Ghulam Chacha (1902-2007)"

I mean there is a tree in this book, named Franklin really. SOLD!