Category Archives: Book Review

Romi and Gang: Book Review

romi and gang

By Kartik Kannan

To paint an image, this is basically a ‘Swami and Friends’, for the kids who grew up playing Gully cricket in the 90’s. While ‘Swami and Friends’ and ‘Romi and Gang’ are different from the generations that they picturise, the quality and simplicity in writing is similar. The book is a refreshing read into the daily lives of Romi, Sulkhi, Golu and Sunny, whose lives are based around the 3 pillars of cricket, school and their tryst with the maidan. The story re-connected me with my childhood, and brought back memories of gully cricket. As an Indian, most of make that transition from child hood to Adult hood, by spending more time with our studies, gradually leaving the memories of gully cricket a distant and fading dream. This book has taken me back in time to re-affirm the importance gully cricket once had in the list of ‘priorities’

The first chapter draws the connect to its audience, like Tendulkar took to opening the batting in his first game. The image of a helmet(albeit a scooter helmet), 4 stumps, bat and gloves lying unused, as the 4 of them were busy searching for the lost ball in the bushes, replaying the trajectory of the shot to locate the ball. During my growing up years, I remember searching for a lost ball in the bushes , usually with a lot more gusto, so as to make hay (read as getting a few overs to bat), while the sun shone( make use of whatever little light was there).

Adding flavor to the description are the real world connects to ODI cricket played in the 90s’. Whether its the 1992 World Cup labels, the Bumper Sportstar issues, the posters adorning the walls or the parallels drawn between Romi’s innings of 47 and Sachin’s 47 ( In the 1995 New Zealand Cricket Centenary tournament). The innocence of the conversations makes you nostalgic of the simple 90’s, when ‘priorities’ had still not swamped you. I basically rediscovered that lump-in-the-throat feeling, that was last felt when India chose to turn up on Friday’s at Sharjah to lose to Pakistan in the 90’s.

The backdrop of the school, adds more memories, whether its the PT room’s active inventory, or a scooter (I imagined a Bajaj) within the school premises of a teacher which we eyed with mischief, or conversations with a topper girl, whose parent taught at the school.

I am not going to talk more about the suspense or the climax, but I’d recommend this for a beautiful Saturday read, so that by Saturday night you are hunting all your childhood friends on Facebook to re kindle the emotions of childhood so beautifully captured by Tushar in ‘Romi and Gang’.

PS: While we don’t require to any more handle clumsy antenna’s on the terrace to get any free feed/signal from Prime Sports any more, I’d give anything for the sheer fun of what we did growing up in the 90’s, to be associated with cricket(even if it means looking like Sachin in Ambrose’s pads) I am going next month to my native city, to catch a glimpse of whatever’s left of the little maidan that we once used to play cricket in. Thanks Tushar for rekindling the memories.

Some More PS: You can purchase the book here in its print avatar, or buy the kindle version here

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Review of The Maid Servant’s Story

Arranged MarriageThe Maid Servant’s Story is a part of a compilation of short stories called Arranged Marriage, by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, the author of The Mistress of Spices. This story is a typical example of meta-narrative. The maternal aunt exemplifies her disapproval of the colour orange for the bridal outfit of her niece by relating an unfortunate tale about a family which hires a maid servant who supposedly wrought devastation on the family.

The title, in my opinion, should imply the content of the short story. But the title of this story is misleading in a way that it seems to suggest a story narrated by the maid servant rather than a story about the maid servant. Moreover, it is unclear till the end as to why and how a maid servant could impact so tremendously on the mistress so as to bring about the drastic change in the latter’s personality.

There are four women characters and one male character in the story, each of whom are given equal importance so much so that it becomes difficult to decide as to who is the main protagonist – the indifferent and morose mother, the sophisticated, America-returned Manisha, the intrusive but concerned observer, Deepa mashi (aunty) or the dark, sensual, intelligent maid servant.

Another conspicuous fact about the story is that the narrator and niece, Manisha, is unable to Chitra Banerjee Divakaruniconvey the crux of the story with clarity. The wife’s recognition of the infidelity of the husband which might have led her to develop a cold attitude, the companionship between the wife and the maid servant and their sudden separation, the niece’s realisation of her family background and the consequent detachment of her mother from her – any of these issues can be said to be the core aspect of the story.

On the whole, the story was very verbose, vague and unnecessarily melodramatic in certain places. However, the other short stories in the same book are not as unclear as this one. Keep a lookout for the review of The Palace of Illusions, a phenomenal rendition of the Mahabharata, from Draupadi’s point of view.

Battle of the Sexes in The Story of an Hour

The Story of an HourTrue to the title, The Story of an Hour is a story of one hour in the life of the protagonist, Louise Mallard, who is ‘happily married’. When she hears about the death of her husband her immediate reaction is remorse. However, a while later, she feels ecstatic on being free! Mrs. Mallard cries with abandon instead of being paralysed with shock at the misfortune. While she withdraws to her personal space to reflect on her future life, a realization dawns on her which makes her cry out “free, free….Free! Body and soul free!” Ironically, she dies on seeing her husband alive and unhurt by the train accident.

The simple words of Mrs. Mallard allude to her subjugated status. The experience of ecstasy at being liberated from what seems to be an agreeable marriage is the crux of the story. Mrs. Mallard’s situation is not an isolated incident of repression in the lives of the so-called ‘happily married’ couples. The significant sentences which convey the rigid patriarchal domination and Mrs. Mallard’s subsequent relief at her husband’s demise were, “There would be no powerful will bending hers in a blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime….”

The subtlety with which Chopin delineates the mindscape of a woman trapped in a despotic Kate Chopinmarriage and her realization of her zest for freedom is commendable. Mrs. Mallard’s first name being revealed only towards the end of the story is significant since it shows the subsumption of the wife’s identity in her husband’s. Ironically, the protagonist experiences tragedy and liberty at the same time. But the real irony and paradox lies in the doctor’s comment of “a joy that kills” at the death of Mrs. Mallard.

A hardcore feminist, Chopin’s intention behind writing the story seems to be to emphasize the damaging results of the battle between the sexes. The subtle expressions, metaphors and paradoxes combined with the economy of words add to the impact of the story.

Ba Ba Lu Ba Ba! Books! Books! Books!

Yet another post by Sampurna Majumder, depicting her eccentricities! Yes Sam, we know that you love books!

reading-owl

Reading. I have always been passionate about this physically torpid activity. However, I pledge to make myself clear, that it is reading, reading for pleasure am talking about and not studying. I hate the later while I love the former. Just as I derive pleasure from writing, I experience similar emotions while reading. It’s my goal to read up as many books as possible in my entire life, until and unless I lose my eyesight. Even then, I can continue, because am sure I will be able to convince someone to read out a bestseller or a classic to me. However, let’s now ponder over the later part of the paragraph and concentrate on some of books which influenced me largely.

Pride and Prejudice – I am truly, madly and deeply in love with Mr. Darcy and will continue to do so.darcy Austen rocks!

Crime and Punishment – Raskolnikov! What a persona and Dosteovsky’s insight in to the human mind; can give Freud a run for his money.

Far from the Madding Crowd, Tess of D’Urbervilles, A Pair of Blue Eyes, Return of the Native – Fate and chance; only Thomas Hardy can.

Count of Monte Cristo – Still long to attend the wedding of Mercedes and visit Chateau’df.

treasure-IslandTreasure Island – I still read it and the couplet ‘Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest! Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!’ ( it was adapted in one the trilogies of Pirates of the Carribeans, featuring Johnny Depp in the lead role) continues to linger in my mind.

Jane Eyre – Bronte’s silent rebel who emerges as the winner in the end.

Wuthering Heights – Heathcliff. Wish I could have him! Emily Bronte’s masterpiece.

The Second Sex – Landmark work in the history of French feminism by Simone de Boueveir!

Around the World in Eighty Days, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, A Journey to the around_the_world_80daysCentre of the Earth – Jules Verne, a seer and an absolute genius. Submarines were not even thought of and yes I am Captain Nemo.

Robinson Crusoe – Defoe’s hero or made the hero by Man Friday.

Frankenstein – A rare combination of gothic and science fiction. Mary Shelley is an absolute genius.

gullivers-travelsGulliver’s Travels – The best satire ever by an Irish. Definitely very ‘Swift’.

One Hundred Years of Solitude, Love in the Time of Cholera, Memories of My Melancholy Whores – Political history marvelously weaved with some of the best love stories. Marquez, the prodigy of Latin American history.marquez

Heart of Darkness – Conrad’s portrayal of Kurtz and the way he describes the dense forest, Congo basin comes alive in my mind. Long live Conrad.

Importance of Being Earnest – Hilarious play ever. Amazing work by Wilde!

Gone With the Wind – Frankly my Dear, I don’t give a Damn!

Of readin

g and books. Books can be a person’s best friend. No complains no demands!

Love In The Times of Recession: The Last Day

last-meet-sad-couple

 

Our Anonymous Author gives us her first, a prologue of yet to be published book “Love In The Times of Recession”. Have a read. 

Till 3 a.m. they were together speaking to each other, both were portraying they were normal, but then there was something in there mind. Tomorrow they will probably see each other for the last time.

The only question in their mind was “Whether they will be able to see each other after this?” Ayushman was going away, to resolve some unresolved questions of life with the hope that he will convert his dreams into reality. But he was leaving behind something, which even if it was a dream was probably better than many realities. What was that?

Ashima was not able to sleep that night. She had waited for the morning with all the breath she could accumulate. At the same time she did not want the morning to come because she knew that that could probably be the last time she would see Ayushman.

There was a certain heartache today that she could feel. Those last four days had been an era for her. She knew that she just might not live like that again or may be this was the beginning of a life where-in everyday would be like the last four days. Four days which made her feel like a princess, most loved and the luckiest person on the planet. As time passed, both continued to struggle with the feeling of “Going Away”.

6 o clock, morning of 5th Jan 2009, Ayushman called Ashima and said. “I am reaching there in 15 minutes….” 15 minutes plus 5 minutes of stay and he will be gone. Gone for no idea what duration. Ashima was struggling again.

The morning was beautiful but as they say Beauty can kill. It looked like one of those days when a beautiful morning was about to kill two young individuals. Ayushman left his hostel. Ashima came down from her 1st floor room, eagerly waiting; her eyes were on that noisy road which was for a strange reason seemed silent for her.

Ayushman was leaving everything behind, those days, friends, his college and now Ashima. Though they were going to meet each other but today there was a sense of melancholy floating in the air. The excitement of the last four days had disappeared.

The auto-rickshaw finally appeared. Ayushman stepped out but for some Ashima could not go towards her. Something was stopping her, maybe the thought that the sooner she meets her, the quicker he will leave. But she has to because Ayushman has to leave. That is how life is, cruel sometimes, lovely on most occasions.

Ayushman was looking in those eyes. Ashima was trying hard to stop herself, asking tears not to disturb her eyes which wanted to see her Ayushman last time. The moment was amazing and unforgettable for her, that last touch, that last hug and that last…………..

Goodbye

A Gentleman’s Game. Why Question Now???

Pak Players

Ankush Kumar talks how irresponsible talks and books only take away the interesting and unpredictable factor away from the game. This one is as straight as it gets and we hope it reaches Ed Hawkins.

Bookie update… India will bat first and score over 260, 3 wickets fall within the first 15 overs, Pakistan will cruise to 100, then lose 2 quick wickets, at 150 they will be 5 down and crumble and lose by a margin of over 20 runs.

I happened to read the book authored by Ed Hawkins. For people who don’t know him, you have Google. For those who know him very well, Read On!!!

India beat pakistan

Mr. Ed Hawkins ‘you’ have been awarded the prestigious sports betting writer of the year award. You know what? It is like our filmfare awards, when Shahrukh Khan cannot win the most coveted prize; we honor him with the power award.

It has possibly become a fashion statement to criticize every good performance by Team India in cricket matches. And for writers like you and many others from the west, it is pretty easy to post such scandalous blogs and taint our glory forever.

‘The only source of defense the book has perhaps is that ‘this information was passed on by an Indian source/bookie/punter’. Can the author tell us one thing, how do you trust such people when the law of the land says that they are doing illegal activities?

If you look at that script very closely ‘Sir’ (pun intended) such predictions are made by kids galore in different parts of India every day. And trust me quite a few actually get it right. So does that makes all these people fixers?

If this script is going to be a benchmark for you to ‘SELL’ your books (and people like me buying it). I can give you better screenplays, that can actually fetch you the most ‘coveted prize’.

9-aussies-e-celbrate

The first script dates back to 1999. The Australia vs South Africa world cup Semi final. Oh Boy! It was a pot boiler. Australia’s top order crumbles, Steve Waugh’s catch is dropped, and he goes on to say possibly the finest line in cricketing history ‘Mate! You have just dropped the world cup’. South Africa starts their modest total chase in a brisk fashion and then Warnie spells doom. Lance Klusner gets them to the finish line and they still lose the spot in the finals. Isn’t that quite similar to the above script? There is a difference though, this one had dialogues too!!!

The generic defense I am sure will be ‘Oh South Africa’ is a jinxed team! Maybe the jinxed factor can be used to good effect and we can have a potential story!

World Cup 1996 Semi Final: Australia v West Indies

The second script dates back to the 1996 World Cup semi-finals. (Must say semis are a big bet). Australia make a lowly total of 208 on a flat batting surface, thanks to batting efforts by Ricky Ponting and Stuart Law, West Indies make heavy weather of that chase, once again Warnie weaving his magic and Courtney Walsh getting bowled attempting a big heave when Richie Richardson was on the other end. Was this one fixed too?

Authors around the world might argue that it was not, because Australia was firm favorites to win that match. India were favorites too, to win the semi final against Pakistan in 2011. In fact we were tournament favorites to win the championship and we did it pretty well.

ireland winning

There are numerous other examples you have mentioned in your book, that ‘suggests match fixing’. ‘Sir’ the only problem is that you have very conveniently forgotten the ‘Ireland v/s England match’. I believe it was on pure merit that the Irish won that match, but since you have said it through your book ‘that cricket won’t be watched without suspicion again’ I have raised my doubts here.

With due respect to all the people who have questions on their minds, ‘when Team Australia won the world cup nobody raised any questions, when Sri Lanka an island nation won it for the first time nobody raised any questions’. It is time to respect the fact that ‘Team India won on pure merit and nothing else’.

Cheap talks will linger on for time immemorial but this is where ‘respected’ people like you and others come into play, rather than believing what an irrational idiot says for generating eye balls to 24 x 7 media channels, we should applaud the efforts of cricketing nations.

P.S: The jinxed factor has a potential story ‘Sir’, and the ‘coveted prize’ is all for the taking.

 

Outcaste: A Memoir

Outcaste Book Review

Book Review

Outcaste: A Memoir encompasses the voices of three generations of the Jadhav family, beginning with the grandsire and protagonist, Damu Mahar and his wife, Sonu, then goes on to the author himself and ends with the author’s daughter, Apoorva’s perspective. The story begins with Damu, performing the customary Yeskar duties of a Dalit by announcing the arrival of the Mamledar in the event of a mishap.

After the mamledar’s departure when he looksforward towards having his meals, he is told by the Fauzdar to guard the dead body until the policearrives. Damu’s obeisance and hard labour is awarded by abuses, whippings and insults to his mentor and God, BabasahebAmbedkar when he refuses to bend down further to the dictates of the higher caste Fauzdar.

The whippings and the insults damage Damu’s sense of self-respect more than his body and he takes the decision to leave the village forever. The story about his past life unfolds during his journey with his wife towards freedom. The flashback sequences show the trials and travails of his childhood.

Both Damu and Sonu hailed from extreme poverty-stricken agricultural families, and their hardships were augmented by the fact that they were Dalits. They were looked down upon as sub-humans and their shadow was believed to pollute the sanctity of the religious place of worship. But the city life proved to be an eye-opener for Damu who tasted freedom from casteism in his friendship with Robin whom he addressed as Missybaba, understood the concept of human rights by listening to speeches and imbibing the values of B.R.Ambedkar.

Damu’s success lies, not only in his transformation from a “country bumpkin” to a broad-minded and somewhat educated man but also in applying Ambedkar’s call of “Educate, Unite and Agitate” to his life and educating his children to ensure a better future for them.               

The book is a personal narrative of the social and historic transmutation of the Dalits in India. Jadhav intermeshes personal and national history to recount a touching tale about the state of affairs of the lowest of the low castes in India. The story is multi-dimensional – at one level, it is a personal saga of a man’s journey from untouchabilty to touchabilty, at another level, it is a loving tribute from a son to his parents and at a third level, it is full-fledged historical account of the caste system and its debilitating effects.

The text is a social and political documentation which gave me an insight into the Dalit issue in context of their awakening under the leadership of B.R.Ambedkar, the Independence Movement, The Civil Disobedience Movement, Mahatma Gandhi’s relation to Ambedkar and the mass conversion of Dalits to Buddhism in 1956. B.R.Ambedkar’s call to “Educate, Unite and Agitate” reverberates throughout the text.

Written as a first person narrative, this book gives the perspective of NarendraJadhav’s parents, (Damu being the main protagonist here) and deals with the issue of the caste system in its contemporary reality.

The hypocrisy of the caste system is unveiled through incidents which reveal that although the upper castes felt “polluted” and “defiled” by the mere touch of their lower caste counterparts yet this did not prevent them from hitting or beating them whenever necessary. Damu’s metamorphosis from a servile village bumpkin” to his eventual assertion of dignity is related with amazing simplicity and poignancy.

We hear the author’s own voice in the fourth part of the text which gives an account of the perpetuation of the caste system in modern India. An unfortunate but indelible truth of our society remains that “whatever heights a man might scale, his caste is never cast off….” Caste remains a stigma and the destiny of a man.

The author’s question – “Will I ever be able to free myself from the bondage of my caste?” – is answered by the eventual realisation that the dignity of man lies in his own heart and mind and not in the society.

Although it begins as a heart-rending tale, the story is interspersed with humorous episodes in the lives of the protagonists. This serves to lighten the heavy atmosphere of oppression and deprivation. The text ends with a ray of hope when Apoorva claims, “…I know who I am. I am just Apoorva; not tied down by race, religion or caste.”

I knew about the rigidity of the caste system through history books but I realised the whole implication of it only after I read this book. This text’s relevance to mass media studies lies in the fact that it addresses the social, cultural, religious and political issues which is the basis of media studies.