2 States

Chetan Bhagat’s latest offering ‘2 States’ proves yet again that he is undoubtedly India’s favorite author. Simple story; unpretentious and sharp language; subtle humor; and a narrative that is packed with emotion, drama and romance – 2 States makes the perfect lighthearted and entertaining read.

Set against the backdrop of IIMA, Ananya and Krish meet, become friends and move onto becoming a couple. They have their share of fights, laughs, tears, funny moments and even sex. That storyline would seem enough for an entire book but this is what Bhagat covers in the first few chapters. The real action begins when Krish’s mom – a stout, plump, loud and ostentatious Punjabi lady who lives in Delhi meets Ananya’s parents – soft spoken, traditional South Indians who are content with their sambar rice, Hindu paper, carnatic music and simple Chennai life. It’s a clash of the titans from the word go and the rest of the book takes us through the events that transpire between both the families – the “boys side” and the “girls side” which eventually takes a toll on Krish and Ananya themselves. So does their love blossom into marriage? Do they manage to convince each other’s parents?  To what extent are they willing to go to make it work? Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out. 😉 The book provides an insight on the Punjabi and Tamilian mindset, for those of you who aren’t familiar with either of these communities. Parts of the story are set in the cities of Chennai and Delhi and you can expect numerous references to iconic buildings and a splattering of local slang. The storyline is predictable; yet Bhagat’s ability to draw you into the lives of the characters makes this book an absolute page-turner.

Born into a North Indian family but having been brought up in Chennai I could very well identify with the book. There is no doubt that 2 States will appeal to the sensibilities of its readers – almost every Indian will identify with Bhagat’s theme and message. ‘2 States’ is absolute value for money. Critics may not find Bhagat’s latest offering to be “Booker” material; but who cares, it’s appealing, engaging and…kick-ass!!!

This is a must-read. Go get your copy.

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Paddy Indian

‘Paddy Indian’ is yet another “NRI” novel, battling the all-so-familiar issues we come across in books of this genre; yet it is refreshingly different. For starters, Madhavan has chosen an off-the-beaten-track locale for her debut novel – Ireland. So, fancy a young Indian (Tamil to be specific) doctor, who lands in Dublin to practice at a local hospital there and eventually appear for his Fellowship exams. That is Padhman (or Paddy) for you. Hailing from a wealthy, medical, “westernized” family in Madras, Padhman finds himself in the company of his childhood friends, Renu and Sunil (an easy-going, fun loving, happily married couple). He also finds himself being self-conscious for the fact that he is an “Indian”, a “foreigner” in an Irishman’s world. Yet this is the land  where he finds his true love – Aoife. This love interest ruffles doubt and speculation for both the Irish and Indian families. Does their love survive the cross-cultural test? What happens when Padhman’s world is shaken by a traumatic incident?

The novel is fast-paced, interesting and makes a good read. There is a healthy sprinkling of Tamil slang and references to iconic buildings in Chennai, which makes the reader silently smile; the relationship between Padhman, Renu and Sunil is well brought out and totally identifiable; the situations, people and conversations are all something you can relate to. All in all, ‘Paddy Indian’ is old wine in a new bottle – nothing spectacular yet definitely worth reading.

Unaccustomed Earth

A few pages through the book and one can feel Lahiri’s style of story telling surging forth. Simple yet classic literary fiction. Casual narration that carries tremendous weight when you ponder upon the latent meaning it encompasses. The collection of stories have a common thread – the relationships, emotions and experiences of first generation Bengali immigrants and their parents who are torn apart between nations.

Each of the stories appears seemingly simple but has profound implications, touching upon sensitive issues, providing ample food for thought for the readers. Characterizations have been well established and the narrative keeps the readers engaged throughout the book. It has also explored relationships in a delicate, interesting manner making them appear simple yet paradoxically complex.

My personal favorite stories were ‘Unaccustomed Earth’ and the ‘Hema-Kaushik’ trilogy. The former story brings out the delicate relationship between a father and daughter, subtly portrays the bond between a grandfather and his grandson and ends on an ironic yet poignant note. The ‘Hema-Kaushik’ trilogy was very well presented and the three parts were seamless and a wonderful way to end the book.

Read, Read, Read!

I‘ve traveled the world twice over,
Met the famous; saints and sinners,
Poets and artists, kings and queens,
Old stars and hopeful beginners,
I’ve been where no-one’s been before,
Learned secrets from writers and cooks
All with one library ticket
To the wonderful world of books.

It was just last night during a bed time conversation about a book that both my husband and I read that I said to him” You know, I always feel a wee bit of sadness when I finish a book. Coz you get so used to the characters and their lives, it’s almost like you’re a part of the story yet you aren’t.”

Books have always held a great place in my life and are invaluable. Some might say why spend so much on a book when all you’re going to do is stash it away once you have read it. Well I think books are priceless because although you may stash it away today, you cold always turn to them several years down the line, when you aren’t so busy anymore or just wish to unwind and relax. My dad was the one who introduced who me the wonderful world of books and insisted that I don’t place a tag on it. “Books will always be your friend when you are alone” is what he used to tell me and today, I find that books are infact my company most of the time. The way I look at it, you have all to gain and nothing to lose by developing the enriching habit of reading.

With the internet, video games and so many other forms of entertainment available I wonder how many children really take to reading today. As a school kid I used to so look forward to the library hour, so that I could lay my hands on a secret seven or famous five and read my way through the week. And of course I still have fond memories of the local neighborhood library – just a stone’s throw away from home, where I used to stroll down in the afternoons and pick up my Archies and Danielle Steels during my teenage years. Of course with the passage of time you get introduced to more matured reading and the range keeps widening. It’s a pity that the National Library in Chennai (India) is a dreaded place to go to. I remember frequenting its portico only during my masters thesis and was not surprised to see why it seemed like an ancient relic. Dusty shelves with outdated books, poor lighting, creaky tables and the slow whirring of the fans could easily send you scurrying out of there like your tail were on fire. However thanks to Easwari and the more recent Eloor libraries, Chennaites have something to look forward to. My National Library experience in Singapore was a refreshing and welcome change. The library actually fosters a healthy and reader friendly environment. Well lit, air conditioned, carpeted, sofas and music lounges, a café, computerized book search system, monthly events, tables and chairs for those who wish to work/write makes you want to frequent the place.

A wonderful thing about a book, in contrast to a computer screen, is that you can take it to bed with you. ~ Daniel J. Boorstin
You know I almost always try and have a book on my bedside table. Many a time when I am courting sleep I use the book to help me get through.

Where is human nature so weak as in the bookstore? ~ Henry Ward Beecher ~
I couldn’t agree more. I lose track of time whenever I enter Landmark and I always step out with a lighter wallet in one hand and some faithful friends bagged in the other.

Readers may be divided into four classes:

1.) Sponges, who absorb all that they read and return it in
nearly the same state, only a little dirtied.
2.) Sand-glasses, who retain nothing and are content to get
through a book for the sake of getting through the time.
3.) Strain-bags, who retain merely the dregs of what they read.
4.) Mogul diamonds, equally rare and valuable, who profit by
what they read, and enable others to profit by it also.
~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge ~
Believe me, I have been all of these at some point in time or the other.

Never judge a book by its movie. ~ J. W. Eagan ~

I remember reading Jhumpa Lahiri’s “The Namesake” and then watching the movie. The latter was nowhere close to the experience of reading the book. The written medium gives the reader the creative license to imagine. It’s also a much deeper and heartfelt experience drawing you close to the characters. Whereas the visual medium does nothing but to push you into a passive mode.

Never lend books, for no one ever returns them; the only books I have in my library are books that other folks have left me.~ Anatole France ~When it comes to books, it pays to be selfish. I have personally lost so many expensive and favorite books by lending them to friends and family. You can be sure of them disappearing from your shelf forever or if by some miracle, they do find themselves back onto your shelf they appear different- dog eared, battered, scribbled on and so mutilated that you’d rather have them remain missing.

On a final note:
A great book should leave you with many experiences and slightly exhausted at the end.You should live several lives while reading it. ~ William Styron ~

 

Once Upon A Time…

We’ve all read them as children, some of us have read them to our children and still others to our grand children. The evergreen characters of never never land – the once upon a time fables of dragons, imps, pixies, fairies, witches, beasts, dwarves an gnomes, talking pumpkins and castles, helpful mice and ugly frog princes. It’s ahoy fantasy land!

The reason I talk to you about the Enchanted Woods or the Three Lil Pigs and Hansel and Gretel is because as I read them out to my lil niece I noticed a thread that weaves them in a common frame…a faint thread of violence. All tales seem to encompass an element of the good, bad and the ugly.

But aren’t fairy tales after all supposed to be exactly that?…Tales of fairies in far away places meant to swish you away on a magic flying carpet to a land of fantasy and make believe? But instead there is always the conflict of good vs. evil. Young innocent minds being introduced to the bad wolf or the wicked step mother or the cruel step sisters and the ugly frog and the beasts and witches casting a dark demonic shadow and an eerie spell. The Grimms brothers must have quite a brutal imagination and their tales have since long been watered down and Disney has made them more palatable.

One school of thought rationales that it’s a good way to introduce a child to reality and to the dark side of life. I however beg to differ and subscribe to the antithesis. As the child grows he will fall and will learn to get up and walk. It’s natural. And as he discovers this that and the other he will also discover the darker side of life and quite naturally learn to navigate towards the light. Fairy tales needn’t introduce a child to the concept of good and evil.

It would be nice to have fairy tales confine to mere fairies and pixies and countless stars and ballroom nights and friendly chipmunks and squirrels. If I had it my way I would just wave my magic wand and turn those wicked creatures to dust – never to rise again!

From an avid reader of IWE

While strolling along the aisles of a bookstore the common encounters of genres are the fiction, non fiction, self help, classics, cookery, art and architecture, management, science, religion and philosophy, computers, fashion, children, humor and last but definitely not the least “ Indian Writing.”. IWE or Indian Writing in English seems to have carved a niche for itself and today has many a novella, anthology, short stories, novels stacked under its label.

I remember a time when Indian authors merely spanned a controversial Rushdie or a feisty Tharoor, a poetic Tagore, a fiery Khushwant Singh and of course the simplistic Narayan of Malgudi chronicles. But today I find a sudden cartload of books tumbling over ….pick up a few and turn them over …Anita Desai, Anita Nair and Shoba De waving the feminist flag (Ladies Coupe and Speed post were enjoyable readings) , Arundhati Roy (who transported me to Rahael and Esthappen’s world in Kottayam), Jhumpa Lahiri (taking me along with Ashima and her trials n Gogol’s struggle with his identity), Sudha Murthy (her narratives seemed to reflect my own experiences), Chetan Bhagat ( who seemed to strike a chord with his IITian experience). But these are names that would still seem familiar in the faint light of the night. One can cite numerous other writers like Amit Chaudhri, Chitra Banerjee, Pankaj Mishra, Gita Mehta, Gurucharan Das and their contemporaries.

So what characterizes this brand of authors and their work …what makes an IWE experience?…Most often than not I observe that the protagonists of these tales are Indian characters who think and feel and react the way Indians do…long winding descriptions of anything and everything is a hallmark of IWE….be it a page long description of rural India or bustling Mumbai or the rain falling in the stillness of the night or an urchin defecating on the street or a bride adorning herself …its all in the details…the ABCD theme will stick its head up once in a while…the first few pages of the work will serve no purpose other than creating some speculation ..but you see that’s the beauty of the IWE reading experience…it takes you to places in India and makes you feel them…it takes you to the idleness and boredom the protagonists are experiencing…it takes you to an “Indian” mind…it presents to you irony which is a reflection of what India is all about. It takes you on a deep unforeseen journey and leaves you with memorable endings…

 

 

 

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