Sunday, May 18, 2008

Maximum City: Bombay Lost & Found by Suketu Mehta

I was never interested in Non-Fiction. I found Non-Fiction very disengaging for it is not a story per se where you are involved with the characters and their lives. Obviously, it was completely my personal opinion.

I picked up Maximum City from a Book Stall outside Andheri Station in Mumbai. I was intrigued by the subject. I really wanted to know more about the city where I embarked upon my professional journey. I stayed in Mumbai for over a year but still know nothing much about it. I have stayed in Jharkhand, Orissa, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune and Mumbai; and I can say Mumbai is different from any other city in India. It has a very inexplicable air about it. Mumbai is like a small world in itself. I think people have taken Johnny Walker’s “keep walking” a little too seriously. They just walk, come rain, come blasts, come what may.

I found Maximum City deeply engaging, for it was also a story, the writer’s journey into the interiors of real Mumbai -- in fact, it is like a bunch of short stories clubbed together. You get all the masala in this, there is Bollywood, there is politics, there is religion, there is even a bar girl. But what I remember, most vividly, is about a Jain family, who renounce everything. I came to know about certain Jain customs which were deeply discomforting and startling; difficult to comprehend and empathise. I do not understand why a man and woman who have all the riches in the world would renounce everything, even their children and each other, to lead a life of nomad. The daughter and mother; and the son and father can be together but people from opposite sex from the same family, cannot see each other for the rest of their lives; they eat what people give them and have chosen to live a life of abstinence. There are several other rituals related to this “custom” which are even more complex. Read the complete review here.

Then I also read about the life and thoughts of this young man, who is aligned to a certain Political Party. It was shocking to read about his thoughts. It was reminiscent of what I saw in the documentary called Father, Son and Holy War by Anand Patwardhan. To quote verbatim from Patwardhan’s website, “In the politically polarized world, universal ideals are rare. In India, as in many regions, the vacuum is filled by religious zealousness. Minorities are scapegoats of every calamity as nations subdivide into religious and ethnic zones, each seemingly eager to annihilate the other or extinguish itself on the altar of martyrdom. FATHER, SON AND HOLY WAR explores in two parts the possibility that the psychology of violence against "the other" may lay in male insecurity, itself an inevitable product of the very construction of "manhood." All of Patwardhan’s documentaries are worth a watch.

Coming back to Maximum City, it is like voicing my own doubt, 'Mehta asks in frustration, “'Why do people still live in Bombay?''. (I have asked this a thousand times to myself when I was in Mumbai, and hundred times to people who continue or dream to live there). Mehta says, ''Every day is an assault on the individual's senses, from the time you get up, to the transport you take to go to work, to the offices you work in, to the forms of entertainment you are subjected to.'' (I could not agree more!).

So to explore the lives of people who make Mumbai what it is, go ahead and grab a copy.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Red Sun: Travels Naxalite Country by Sudeep Chakravarti

This is not a book which I have read myself. I generally refer Book Reviews of The Hindu or Business World to find out about good books which may not be of popular genre. You might not get it in Crossword. I could not find it in most of the online book shops.

V.R. Lakshminarayanan states in The Hindu - “Reading Sudeep Chakravarti’s Red Sun, a travelogue-cum-political narrative of his travels through India’s ever lengthening Red corridor, is intimidating. The picture of young Indian intellectuals, a collection of educated, unemployed and unemployable youth coming out of schools in JNU fashion is demolished by the stories that Sudeep unveils. One better watch, he warns of the imminent peril that a large chunk of India may explode any moment, for the stories are real.” You may want to check out the complete review here.
I have not been majorly into non-fiction till now but of late, I feel I need to get out of my ignorance about our own country. Watching Sudhir Mishra’s "Hazaar Khwahishen Aisi”, which is set against the Naxal revolution, was quite intriguing. I had only passingly read about Naxalite attacks in the interiors of Bihar, Bengal, Orissa and Andhra Pradesh; though the gruesome cover page of Outlook, from years ago, has stuck to my sub-conscious. It had the picture of a policeman carrying the head of a victim.
Engrossed in the mushy romances of Indian cinema and Mills and Boons, I never really tried finding out more about the cause for this struggle. When I came across this book, while my usual skimming through of Hindu Book Reviews, I could not ignore it. It definitely goes on my bookshelf!

Available at Rs 396 @ Strand Book Stall, Rs 470 @ Flipkart and Rs 386.10 @ BSBazaar. Strand Book Stall charges Shipping at actuals. The rest two have Free Shipping. Check out the respective sites for more details.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Man Woman and Child by Erich Segal

Whenever somebody asks me about my favourite book. This is the one name which comes to my mind instantaneously. I am yet to read another memorable book like this.

I have always loved reading. When I was a kid I was heavily into comics, our own homegrown Super Commando Dhruv, Nagraj, Chacha Choudhary, Raman, Pinky, Billoo and the likes. I graduated to Enid Blyton novels in Class 5 and 6, and subsequently to the likes of Sidney Sheldon and Mills & Boon. In fact, I discovered Archie’s and the gang after growing up.

Man, Woman and Child was one of the first “grown up” novels that I read. I was completely bowled over by the author’s lucidity and glibness. I was amazed at the level of detailing; it actually creates images in your mind.

I don’t want to write the story here; one can easily get the outline on the net. I don’t even want to write excerpts from the book because anyways it does not make sense to read it out of context, and it would be too bad to spoil the beauty of this book like that.

What I really want to share is, if you love reading about relationships and if you are not looking at fairy tales, this is the one for you. It is a wonderful book which illustrates the changing relationship between people and human emotions in the most beautiful way. You will feel the emotions yourself. It is the story about a family – a happy, loving family and something which changes their lives. I can safely say all girls would love it and most guys would too if you like this genre.

A Classic film in Hindi has been made with one of the best actors in Bollywood, based on this book. So there you go, just grab a copy and read it. It is definitely worth your time. You will be deeply touched.

If I were to say one sentence on this Book – you cannot not like this.