Monday, August 30, 2010

My latest collection

I have no book reviews yet because since the time I have picked up ‘Tamas’ by Bhisham Sahani, I am stuck. I have reached halfway but the only thing which is keeping me going, at however slow pace, is just my policy of not leaving any book half-read!

Well, after my 10-books frenzy, a couple of days back; I have again bought some more books, some planned, some on the spur-of-the-moment. Here’s the list:

Stay Hungry Stay Foolish by Rashmi Bansal. Frankly, I had been avoiding this book for a long, long time because I have seen Rashmi Bansal on TV a couple of times and did not like her much…the way she keeps driving the point that she is from IIM and yet how she is not in the rat race, blah, blah, blah. But I wanted to know these inspiring stories of people who have taken the unconventional road and made it big.

Temptations of the West by Pankaj Mishra. I have bought this book only because I have read Pankaj Mishra’s earlier book ‘Butter Chicken in Ludhiana’ and I wanted to pick something from ‘Travelogue’ section. Hope it is good.

India: A Million Mutinies now by V.S.Naipaul. This is my first book by Naipaul. Whatever I have read of him online, I look forward to discovering his style of writing and hoping that I like it.

I feel bad about my neck by Nora Ephron. It was available at steal price of Rs 50, and found the first few pages quite funny…so thought, why not!

Talk to the Hand by Lynne Truss. I have read the author’s ‘Eats Shoots and Leaves’ which was a witty book on Punctuation. Bought it only for Rs 50

Mein Kampf ......finally! I think the whole world has read this book by now. But I was not ready so far. I got it at the Sale for Rs 100

The Perfect Store by Adam Cohen. The book is about e-bay. I am fascinated by the potential of online media and really wanted to read this book….one of the first movers! By the way, also for Rs 50

I also bought, some books on Interiors:

How to Decorate

Healthy Home

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Witness the Night by Kishwar Desai

I don’t know what led me to this book, but once I read this, I was certainly hooked to read it:

“In a small town in the heart of India, a young girl is found tied to a bed inside a townhouse where thirteen people lie dead. The girl is alive, but she has been beaten and abused. She is held in the local prison, awaiting interrogation for the murders she is believed by the local people to have committed. Visiting social worker Simran attempts to break through the girl’s mute trance to find out what happened that terrible night. As she uncovers more and more, Simran realises that she is caught in the middle of a terrifying reality, where the unwanted female offspring of families are routinely disposed of. Brilliantly atmospheric, hauntingly real, this is a major debut from an exciting new author.”

The book deals with an important issue of female infanticide in Punjab. Quite a coincidence, these days I have also been watching this serial called “Na Aana Is Des Meri Laado”, which also deals with the same issue. Apparently, the women in the interiors of such places believe that if there are few of them, then they will be valued more. Well, there’s this movie called “Matrubhoomi”, and it is one of the most horrifying movies I have ever seen. One thing is that it is badly made, but the main thing that disturbed me was the premise of the story. The movie is about this woman, “Kalki”, who is the only surviving woman with only men around her. You can imagine what would have become of her.

It is a well-known fact that Punjab-Haryana has the lowest sex ratio across India. Here’s an article on the alarming numbers and how education has not been able to curb this evil, and it stands out as prominently in urban Punjab, as much as it does in the rural areas.

Such strong inclination for a male child is not only for dowry because it is quite prevalent in affluent families as well. The issue is also deeply rooted into property and social status (read stigma).

Coming back to the book. The fact that the writer feels quite strongly about the issue stands out starkly through the book. There are definitely a few shortcomings, but we must give her credit to create such a page-turner, and yet drive home the point. The beginning is as much shocking as much it is intriguing, and sets the stage for the story to unfold. I finished this book in 3 ‘week’-days, with only a few hours of reading each day. It was almost unputdownable - sometimes you were absorbed in the flow, sometimes you rooted for Simran to keep up her spirit, sometimes you got all boggled on ‘who-did-it’! At some point, it also gets quite alarming to just think of what is happening to so many girls, may be our age, may be a few years younger, may be who never could take birth.

I would say it is a worthy book. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


I did a post on which magazines I absolutely love and follow, and I have been thinking about adding another of my favourites, but never actually went on to do it. I hardly read any newspaper. Not enough time, is usually my excuse, although I do find time to finish off fat books and watch FRIENDS everyday…mmm well!

The Saturday edition of Mint called Lounge is my favourite, and I make it a point to get it every week. I don’t take it everyday because I’m definitely not interested in financial news, though occasionally I have read the editorials, but that’s that. I like it because it dwells more on Lifestyle, Culture, Food, Travel and well, books! If you can’t get the paper itself, log on to their website.

You can also go through their Archives and read several delightful articles and interesting posts. I first came to know about kitschy Indian-design based firms like PLAY CLAN, DESIGN TEMPLE, HAPPILY UNMARRIED, etc, in one of the articles covered in ‘Lounge’. Even their book reviews are quite nice.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Butter Chicken in Ludhiana by Pankaj Mishra

I had received strong recommendations for Pankaj Mishra’s “Butter Chicken in Ludhiana — Travels in Small Town India”, and that is how I bought it long time back. For quite sometime, I would stop at the book and keep it back on my shelf because I was not too fascinated by a travelogue.

A couple of days back I picked it up for good. Though I took unusually long time to finish it, but I liked it. On certain occasions, I did find a general feeling of aimlessness and regular chatter in the book, somewhere in the middle; yet o be fair to the book, a couple of times I also felt the book was unputdownable. So, basically, it was an interesting read.
The book was written in 1993, with the objective of experiencing and narrating the changing diaspora of Indian society in the small towns, and when the writer chronicled his experiences, he never loses focus.

Being from a small town myself (not even town!); I already know the essence of small towns. The coming of age of people from little hamlets or the transformation of smaller towns is apparent through the lives of several people. Perhaps, the small-town people are more single-minded in achieving things in life. It is a dream that we are all living. Frankly speaking, I never even dreamt about this kind of life. Perhaps due credit should be given to education, more of our parents and less of our generation.
I liked the book, to the extent that I would recommend it to other people and also would like to re-read it in the future. It has also sparked my interest in travelogues. Now I am hunting for some good travelogues. Suggestions are welcome, preferably for good Indian travelogues.

‘Butter Chicken in Ludhiana is an endearing sociological study of small towns in India. Small-talks with different people, short conversations, functions that the writer attends; all of them give glimpses into the psyche of people there and their lives. It makes you nostalgic about your own journey from that small township to the big cities of the modern India. If somebody would have told me, ages ago, while I was still schooling at the tiny township in the interiors of Jharkhand, that I would be staying in almost all the metros of India, I would not have believed. I used to be overawed by city life and had that lack of confidence, which is inherent in almost all small town people. But now I feel proud to have belonged to a place so far off, and yet to be able to build a life here. Unlike, what Pankaj Mishra says, I do not want to shrug off my life there, but I am not hung up on that either. I have always liked ‘present’ than ‘past’.

Coming back to the book, it was easy to relate to the various conversations that the writer has with different people in different places in India. What stands out in a lot of his conversations and observations is that the apparent modernity which the small town people are so desperate to embrace, has actually not reached their thinking. I would say, it is not only with the small towns, yes, certainly more stark there, but one comes across the narrow-mindedness in a lot of city-dwellers also, and it surprises you even more because you are not expecting it.

Small towns are not just the idyllic, romantic, cozy places. Since I am from one, I have complete authority and clarity to comment on this. Small towns are full of their own idiosyncrasy. There is certainly an aspiration for the modernity, to get rid of the small town tag. I remember from my generation, English songs and bands were not part of my teenage. I read Archies only after growing up. But several people would like to associate themselves only with English channels, movies, bands, music, just to drive home the point that they are not into Hindi (read ‘lowly) films, channels, etc.
I am enamored by the books which Mr Mishra mentions in a lot of places. I am also jealous by the fact that he wrote such a book immediately after his education or during (not sure!). Obviously, he is well-read. When he mentions someone as the only person he has met who has read s0-and-so book, I am a little ashamed because despite all my claims about reading, I am still ignorant about a world of books, even classics. Mr Mishra, I am slowly getting there! Don’t judge me :-)

Well, in short, you will like it if you like non-fiction, or travelogues or small town stories, little conversations. It will make a difference if you are yourself from a small town or are inclined towards exploring them. Remember, non-fiction genre are not stories or page-turners, you really have to have a liking for this genre. 

Read more about the book here