Tuesday, 7 August 2012

But rest assured: This tragedy is not a fiction. All is True.

Hence started my journey of a fine book, A Fine Balance. I have no sane excuse for my ignorance about Rohinton Mistry novels. I just didn’t have a single clue about him or his achievements till I joined Goodreads. Yes!! Though it’s not a big deal as one is not supposed to know everything but here’s a writer of Indian origin, writing unbelievably great books about Indians and is still remain unacknowledged by a common Indian reader is densely pitiable. His Facebook page has 7000+ odd likes where, as I gauged from the comments, majority is of non-Indians. But then he is no marketing guru but a writer who writes and writes well, so well that it can make you cringe at the comfortable life you’re having or at least makes you open your eyes to take a good look at the hardships of the hapless lots around you. 

I don’t read about Politics because it disgusts me. I don’t have a deep understanding about the 1970’s Emergency period because fortunately nobody in my family or acquaintances got affected by it, so basically it’s the experience which tells a story, watching gives an indifferent shrug. On the surface I know that it happened under the PMship of Indira Gandhi. School mainly tells you: She was the First women PM of India. She was the daughter of honorable Pandit JawaharLal Nehru. She was the mother of one of the youngest PM of India, Rajiv Gandhi. She was the reason why India didn’t face another partition by launching Operation Blue Star, hence reduced the idea of Khalistan into ashes because of which she was later assassinated. Nothing more, nothing less always a glossy and martyred picture of Daughter of India, Ironically. 

So how does it feel to read A Fine Balance? What does it promise to convey its readers? What makes a 600+ page novel readable or rather a page-turner? What’s different about the lives of Dina Dalal, Ishvar, Om and Maneck that you haven’t witness before especially being an Indian? Well the answer could be “May be nothing is different, all trite”, or; “It’s helluva great story, I haven’t read anything like this before”. But the answer remains somewhere in between and the secret is Rohinton’s great writing. His matter-of-factly narration, awesome character building and plot settings can give you the pleasure like watching ‘Hum Log’ on high definition channel. He is not a man of big bulky words, dictionary is almost dispensable while reading him but the words are piercing enough to make you feel the subject. The story reflects through them in an unmatched finesse. There is no room left for any improvement as he has used every single component at his disposal in building this masterpiece, just like Dina’s quilt in the novel. 

So, the story revolves around four main characters, Dina Dalal, a widow and a self-respected lady who treats her independence dearest than any of the relations left in her life. Ishwar, a darji (tailor) whose father sent him to get equipped with tailoring in order to earn him a life of repute which he wouldn’t have got under the fate-imposed Chamaar profession. Om, Ishvar’s nephew, again a darji, a young and aggressive lad and an orphan whose life is dedicated mainly to his uncle Ishvar and vice-versa. And, Maneck, a guy from Mountains, whose struggle to know and feel his worth in lives of others especially his parents and a college friend remained unending. The story is about how four of them got together in one flat not willingly but due to twists and turns life threw at them. It’s a journey of how reluctance was over-powered by compassion, how loneliness made room for companionship and how a house became home , how four of them amidst many doubts and objections became “there for each other” Kind, but it was a home of cards waiting for a gush of insensitive wind to tumble it and its housemates. 

It’s a sad novel, heart wrenching in fact. It will make you cry (except in case of defective tear ducts) and it will make you very angry. It has its dose of humor but simultaneously it carries an air of apprehension around it like how a moment of happiness is short-lived and shall soon be replaced by gloominess and sorrow. It’s something I felt while watching Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby and Gran Torino, where as an audience one starts to feel that good days will be balanced out with bad days because Life, the bitch, usually gives us lemons, and to the unfortunate lot, it plants a lemon tree at the backyard of their wretched life. But throughout, this book echoes one universal law, that despair doesn’t have a favorite victim. It befalls upon everyone at some point of time, triggered by fate, destiny or power hungry human beings. 

History is a witness to how Power breeds evil, breeds mainly on the blood of innocent lives who would have never imagined that their destiny would sacrifice them to such inexplicable atrocities. This book depicts the story revolving around such atrocities and enduring them, living through them, dying through them or merely surviving through them and resilience is the main key to such survival. Rohinton has captured life through his characters, has captured India through an unfortunate time, has captured ugliness of human face and has finally captured resplendence of human soul through his mesmerizing words. More than 5 stars.


Thursday, 2 August 2012

So after 8o days and numerous headaches I finally managed to complete this book. The experience was pretty similar with God of Small Things, though the writing here was less pretentious and more witty but tedious nevertheless. In spite of all this, its subtle brilliance is undeniable. V.S. Naipaul is a world renowned writer and that shows in his writing prowess. Sometimes it's not a right time to pick a particular book. This book, in my opinion should be read when one gain some experience on life front but then again, you never know what tomorrow brings so why not read it today. For me, it's a 3 Star ***.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Well firstly, Calvino didn’t write this novel (or antinovel, like I read somewhere) so that some random reader would read this epic book and dare to have an opinion. He has already pampered his readers enough to expect any kind of judgment on this awesome work of his. He made you the effin Protagonist for heaven’s sake or was it a master stroke on his part? 

Anyways, so I read this another book, Goosebumps- Escape from the Carnival in my childhood, wherein the reader needs to make a choice from the various options given at the footnotes in order to ESCAPE from the Carnival and as a result, the book became suitable for n no. of re-reads. And no, I am not trying to establish a relationship or comparison between the two books but can’t help myself admiring this kind of experimental literature where the reader feels like a part of the book from both inside and outside. 

So what could be the possible aspiration behind such inventive writing? An aim to constitute a cult or to write something which being a reader one always wants to read (He mentioned Arabian Nights more than once which could be a possible influence). Having read Invisible Cities before, I expected the unexpected from this book but didn’t expect to be completely knocked out. The structure is not the sole winner here but the content too about which I was not entirely convinced with Cloud Atlas (That reminds me, Thank you Mr. Mitchell for introducing me to Mr. Calvino). Of course there are no lessons learnt from this book, no philosophies thrown in your face to make you consider bigger questions about life but it's an experience about the experience of reading. Well Of course you can ask yourself, “ So, what kind of reader are you? Or; What kind of books you like? “ Hmmmmm

Here’s an excerpt from an interview Of Italo Calvino :


Turgenev said, “I would rather have too little architecture than too much because that might interfere with the truth of what I say.” Could you comment on this with reference to your writing?


It is true that in the past, say over the past ten years, the architecture of my books has had a very important place, perhaps too important. But only when I feel I have achieved a rigorous structure do I believe I have something that stands on its own two feet, a complete work. For example, when I began writing Invisible Cities I had only a vague idea of what the frame, the architecture of the book would be. But then, little by little, the design became so important that it carried the entire book; it became the plot of a book that had no plot. With The Castle of Crossed Destinies we can say the same—the architecture is the book itself. By then I had reached a level of obsession with structure such that I almost became crazy about it. It can be said about If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler that it could not have existed without a very precise, very articulated structure. I believe I have succeeded in this, which gives me a great satisfaction. Of course, all this kind of effort should not concern the reader at all. The important thing is to enjoy reading my book, independently of the work I have put into it.

Enjoyed to my heart’s content Sir.

Definitely a 5 star *****

P.S. I need to know the ending of that Arabian Nights story. Hope it’s available somewhere. 

Sunday, 8 July 2012

I read this book around 2years ago but the impact it had on me is still fresh and very strong. There are many things which I can’t recall about it, but I am very much aware of the message it carried for its readers.

The story is about a 16-year old Indian boy, who along with his family and their zoo animals (the family owned a zoo) decided to move to Canada for better living prospects and embarked their journey on a ship, which fate had it, drowned and left Pi stranded in the huge ocean but not alone. He was accompanied by a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a 450-lb Bengal tiger named "Richard Parker”, and hence began his quest for survival amidst that huge man-eating beast.

This book propels you to ask many questions about life, faith, destiny and mainly the existence of God. Had Pi being a non-believer, ordinary fellow, would it had been possible for him to go through this ordeal all alone, by not being the only living being but being the sole Human Being? May be yes, may be No! But here not only he was a strong believer but a rational believer too as he adopted three religions, not for the sake of it but to be closer to an invisible supreme power who protects us, and I quote here:

"And so, when she first heard of Hare Krishnas, she didn't hear right. She heard 'hairless Christians', and that is what they were to her for many years. When I corrected her, I told her that in fact she was not so wrong; that Hindus, in their capacity for love, are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion to God, are hat-wearing Muslims."

70% of the book engages the reader with the adventures of Pi and Richard Parker, but along the journey there are many symbolisms which need to be noticed in order to catch the true essence of this story. Though it gets a bit slow and tedious in between but it’s worth the effort, and no harm in skipping few pages.

Now, there are certain books which strike you all along with turn of every single page and there are some, the ending of which is the main hero. That’s exactly the case with Life of Pi. Its ending shall leave you baffled and mystified. It will make you feel responsible to answer something, and if you won’t answer it, you’ll feel anxious and perplexed, so better answer it..No!!

It’s a 4 Stars for me ****.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

An Open Letter to America

which unfortunately I read late, around 5 years late. Why unfortunate? B’coz I might have liked it or may be loved it as I was a na├»ve reader back then i.e I was into Sheldons and Archers and closer home Bhagats *blushes*. Anyways, I was well aware when this book hit the literary world and took it by storm. The dashing title, a Pakistani author, a reluctant subject, a movie in the making by Mira Nair and that’s precisely the reason I wanted to read the book before watching the movie , so bought a copy and was yayyyyyyyyyyyyyy…finally…great read it’s gonna be!!

1st page: ok.

2nd page: yea okk.

3rd page: Ahan! I know where you are heading.

50th page: err…no, I don’t think so where you are heading, but I sense a twist just around the corner.

100th page: A love story…girl’s lover dead…can’t forget him….a clinic…I once had a girl…Norwegian wood…Yes! Yes!...No! ok :|

183rd page: just few more lines and then contact Agent J a.k.a. Will Smith and request for the memory eraser toy and move on to your next Murakami read. 

And Noooo!! (Kindly excuse for the superlatives) I didn’t hate this book but hating the fact that why I couldn’t appreciate it in any way possible. It made me uncomfortable throughout rather than excited and the most irritating part is that you are compelled to read it till the end in the hope of getting hold of the whole idea of this book. At the end, the author hurled a very smart curve ball towards his readers…leaving most of us in dilemmas, some on the side of Changez (the protagonist), some on the side of Mr. America (envying that delectable Lahori food he had) and some wishing to watch the re-run of 2011 epic cricket world cup semi-final between India and Pakistan and marveling at its brilliance and that moment when…Aargh..I never knew writing the review would be a similar experience like that of reading this book..distracting!! 

This is the second book I read of a pakistani author, first being My Feudal Lord by Tehmina Durrani, which I judged on the basis of its subject and not on writing style and since I read it around 6 years ago, all I could recall was that it was simple but affected me enough to evoke emotions of empathy which might not hold true at present having read many great books and becoming more aware and objective about the world around me since then so it might not feature in the league of extra ordinary but it definitely left an impression which reluctant fundamentalist as I highly doubt shall fail to do so. As the story was unfolding it became, hardly audible and incredibly distant. And the writing style!! I wish the narration was in one to one style as it started bothering me after few chapters, may be the execution was unconvincing or plain dull *oxymoron*. 

This book has some great ideas but somehow fell short of the elements that would have made it a great page turner. It felt too safe and too confined for my taste. Islamic Fundamentalism is a sensitive subject and needs to be handled carefully without actually conveying any negative message or an ambiguous one but what Mohsin Hamid as seemed, resisted from going out of his comfort zone and stating everything at a superficial level without actually diving deep.

The only thing I found acceptable was his realization of being victimized or prone to victimization because “I am a Muslim”, but like I stated that I read it a bit late so in today’s time this has become a bit redundant and again not helping in scoring brownie points for Mr. Hamid. 

For me it's 2 stars ** ,  simply because as a writer he definitely has potential provided he let himself go of all the inhibitions if he’s having any, from his literary genes.