On a flight back to US from India, about half an hour was left to land in San Francisco, everyone was asleep, when we heard the captain speaking overOn a flight back to US from India, about half an hour was left to land in San Francisco, everyone was asleep, when we heard the captain speaking over the intercom. All I heard was something about how we were about to land in Japan. In my sleepy state I assumed that something was wrong with the plane and was about to panic when my husband told me the rest of the captain's message. Apparently we were denied entry into United States because a passenger was on their no-fly list.
On landing in Japan, as we all emptied the plane, I saw a family of about 6 - a young boy, bearded, about 20, and women of different ages wearing burkha's - sitting quietly in the center seats not meeting anyones eyes. I remarked to my husband about how horrid they must be feeling, that just because they are Muslims they must have shown up on the security radar for US. Once the aircraft had been emptied out, the family was brought out with about 10 men surrounding them and taken away. We boarded the plane again and went on our way. Once there, we told our friends about our "adventure" and had discussions about racial profiling, heard stories from others about how they had been subjected to profiling. Pro's and con's of racial profiling, US government, security, prejudice, patriotism, terrorism.. I'm sure you can all imagine what was discussed and debated. I remember sympathizing with the family on the plane.
About a week later, I read that the young boy had later been sent to US and arrested on arrival. Allegedly he had gone to Pakistan and had taken part in a terrorist camp. I did not follow the case since then.
Those of you who are still reading this post, thanks :). Throughout the book, as I heard Changez (the young Pakistani protagonist) talk about his life in America, I followed him on all the various issues he tackles in the book. Be it his social identity, his professional acceptance, America's fair treatment to him and his achievements. But as I finished the book, my thoughts forked out to this incident. I don't know what happened to the boy in the plane. How accurate were the accusations? Did he or why did he join a camp and many questions that went through my mind. Many that would remain unanswered. I did wish Mohsin Hamid had ended the book on a definite note, but then that would have made it more fictional than real in account.
This extremely fluid, unapologetic, frank, point of view had me hooked from page 1. Changez a young muslim, confident, achiever, confused, looking for acceptance, searching for identity, guilty of abandoning family, trying to define his patriotism, enjoying the fruits of his labor - all his layers come through with such clarity. I really enjoyed the narrative style. It flowed naturally. It felt like you were right there listening in on an actual conversation.
Mohsin Hamid has not held back Changez's thoughts to be politically correct, or tried to portray Changez as a victim. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is an honest, at times appealing and at times disconcerting, account of a man's internal thoughts, who knows that he may be a few feet away from death and has nothing to lose by telling all.
Gifted, Nikita Lalwani's debut novel is an effortless read. Nikita balances the strong immigrant theme and that of a child's angst (at a time when theGifted, Nikita Lalwani's debut novel is an effortless read. Nikita balances the strong immigrant theme and that of a child's angst (at a time when the child is too young to even understand such emotions) very naturally.
Rumi is 5 when she is identified as a gifted mathematician. A label that takes over her life, her thoughts and her family. Mahesh, Rumi's father, channels all his immigrant insecurities into making sure that Rumi is his proof to his adoptive country. The proof that his rigid belief's are the right way to raise children.
Rumi's daily life from the young age of 5 is not unlike a bootcamp. Her rigorous schedule reminded me of my study timetables, just that mine started in the 10th grade and her's, when she is barely in the 1st grade. Her thoughts and emotions are peppered with numbers and equations. Her affinity to use maths to even understand and explain herself is endearing. She equates her dad's expression to an approximate sign (~), trying to decipher if that indicates his mood as "approximately happy, or sad".
Nikita has captured the Indian family of the 80's very well. A strict disciplinarian father who sees excellence in education as the only way out. An emotionally tuned in but clueless mother,Shreene, who can see her child's changing personality but is incapable of understanding why. An impressionable child, who is living in two cultures, yet is complete withdrawn from both. Her only release from her anguish being an entirely odd addiction.
Nikita has bluntly etched out the characters of Mahesh and Shreene. I thought that was a very bold move. There are no late realizations about being open to their daughter's feelings or turning a new leaf and finally being together as a happy family. To the end each character stays very real. Just as in real life, the generation gap coupled with immigrant sentiments is too strong to just come out of.
I was very curious to read the book since it was long listed for the Booker 2007. I have to say Nikita has brushed through so many issues, loneliness in a new country, the quintessential confused child balancing two cultures, parenting, without forgetting that which is core to the story. The little girl and parental expectations. That which makes it universal. I think the simplicity through all of this makes it a good book.
Confessions of a Shopaholic was just the book to get me over a book hangover. It is a quick and funny read.
The book follows Rebecca Bloomwood who is dConfessions of a Shopaholic was just the book to get me over a book hangover. It is a quick and funny read.
The book follows Rebecca Bloomwood who is deep in debt solely because of her shopping excesses. Her weak and naive attempts at controlling her shopaholic nature have as much success as... as doing yoga while gorging on potato chips would. The irony of all, she is a financial journalist writing for Successful Savings magazine. Sure the book is quite predictable, but that doesn’t take away from the entertainment of watching her stumble through tricky situations and come out clean. Makes me wish I was a character in a book.
Bridget Jones Diary is a personal favorite and I found myself comparing the two, and Confessions lagged behind. However, if you want to read something in this genre, then pick it up. But be warned it is not for the weak-hearted(read weak-walleted). All the shopping expeditions... made me feel like I just spent a bomb at a mall....more
This is one of the quirkiest books I've read. If you are one to hit the papers first thing in the morning to solve Sudoku, Kakuro, Mind bender, then gThis is one of the quirkiest books I've read. If you are one to hit the papers first thing in the morning to solve Sudoku, Kakuro, Mind bender, then go ahead and read this book. This is definitely your kind of book.
The Man Who Counted is about a mathematician Beremiz Samir and how he solves different problems with his knowledge of mathematics. Sort of like your Arabian Sherlock Holmes, just that the problems may not be that gory in nature. More like fights over camel distribution and such. He is not your regular human calculator, rather someone who sees romance in mathematics just as he sees it in nature, poetry. It is a collection of logical puzzles, stories, observations, anecdotes. The stories are written by Malba Tahan in the manner of storytellers of old.
The quirkiness doesn't end there. Malba Tahan is a fictitious person. The book is really written by a Brazilian mathematics professor, Júlio César de Mello e Souza's. This isn't just your regular pseudonym, Julio Cesar created a complete persona of an Arabic traveler Malba Tahan and wrote the books completely from his perspective.
The book uses interesting fables like dividing inheritance of camels amongst brothers to show how seemingly complex mathematics can be so simple and used in ordinary things. I think it can be a good tool for teachers, when mathematics becomes a chore for kids, to them the "cool" aspect of mathematics.
For those who enjoy solving logic puzzles, or even those wondering the point of Microsoft interview questions, this will be a good read. The problems may not seem like much, but the combination of storytelling with mathematics is an amusing read.
Go Tell It On The Mountain is a very bold book. In an era when "Ebonics" had not been coined yet, when being black was not every white kids style, JamGo Tell It On The Mountain is a very bold book. In an era when "Ebonics" had not been coined yet, when being black was not every white kids style, James Baldwin stayed so true to the African-American colloquialism. James Baldwin has written with complete truthfulness and self-questioning this parable of finding yourself, finding your belief, finding your God. Are these even different things, or is it one? It is this honesty which keeps you engrossed. Whether you'll end up loving this book or not probably depends on your personal equation with the Supreme Being, but what you will definitely admire and carry forward is his honesty, honesty about the lives of African-Americans, honesty which is also echoed in the language.
Go Tell It On the Mountain is a biblical story of a youth dealing with his personal demons with regards to religion at an age where sin has not manifested itself in any form whatsoever in him. John finds himself in the difficult position of questioning his faith. John's mental turmoil in separating the men of god from god itself and paving a religious path for himself is very touching. This mirroring of thoughts which are timeless in nature, pulls you into the story. You find yourself questioning along with John, praying along with his mother Elizabeth and feeling betrayed by his father Gabriel.
James Baldwin delves into each characters personal quest to achieve a place next to God. He frankly describes the African-American homes, the depth to which they are influenced by Christianity. So much so that at times you find it disconcerting. The two-facedness, the fake righteousness of the sanctified men makes you cringe with discomfort, followed by skepticism. Which is why, when John ends up being saved, I felt deceived. What brings about John's confirmation to the faith? Is it the hope to be freed from suffering that is passed on to him from generations? Is it to assuage the curiously skirted guilt of homosexuality? Could it have to do with the evangelist nature of African-American church services, where the charged up atmosphere, the childhood influences, the trance-like energy which may make one forget all inhibitions, insecurities and embrace that which is core to one and all, an eagerness to believe.
That this is a story of a different era is not to be forgotten. The depth to which James Baldwin writes about the African-American psyche, their hope in being freed from their suffering, their expectant belief in their faith, gives you reason to half-heartedly agree to the biblical end to the story.
This book, makes me curious of the role that guilt, fear and a hope for change, plays in bringing people closer to their god. Yes, signs of a true skeptic, but maybe in one of my trance-like states caused by certain unmentionable substances that might change and make me a believer.
Sarnath Banerjee has found an unlikely source of inspiration in Indian publishing. Both his books have been very high in kitsch content from a coupleSarnath Banerjee has found an unlikely source of inspiration in Indian publishing. Both his books have been very high in kitsch content from a couple of decades back.
Graphic novels, the genre in itself seems a bit rebellious in nature to traditional novels, so criticizing him of not sticking to the usual style seems to detract from the defiant spirit of the genre. But though his mixing of different print forms like old adverts, photos,naked women drawn on ruled notebook paper, history book illustrations is mildly interesting, its no different from a comic book attempt in TimeOut or a MTV collage.
Sarnath Banerjee's habit to use kitsch as a tool seems passe. This worked fairly well for his first book, mainly because of the nostalgic 'Ha Ha!' that looking at old movie posters or calendars propagating hygiene, evokes. Carrying the style through to his next book in a similar fashion takes away from the story telling.
He definitely has a story to tell, going by the oddball Calcutta characters and their eccentricities that he has threaded together using his comeback character, Digital Dutta. The decadent British and just plain crazy Babu's of old Calcutta would surely fill up a lot of pages with their antics. But when the best illustration is actually a photo with black marker outlines on it, it doesn't say much for the illustrator.
In a graphic novel, you can say so much more with just a few well placed swirls. I would really like to see him do just that, be more brave with the illustrations.
I would say, go back to the drafting table and draw... just draw.
In Moth Smoke, Mohsin Hamid crafts a complex story and leaves you to judge the characters, their insecurities, their arrogance, and their crimes. He hIn Moth Smoke, Mohsin Hamid crafts a complex story and leaves you to judge the characters, their insecurities, their arrogance, and their crimes. He has written a candid and uncomfortably honest account of contemporary Pakistan. Dara has lost his job, and all desire to pull out from the economic slump that leaves him in. He is resigned to let his insecurities take him over. Reuniting with his childhood pal Ozi and Ozi's beautiful wife Mumtaz, bring out all the hitherto buried uncertainties. Dara's clandestine attraction for Mumtaz and his envy for Ozi cloaked under morally uptight condescension thrust him into the belly of Pakistan's corrupt judicial system.
Whether it is the drug addiction or his insistence on becoming martyr to his love, Dara's decline is not unlike the much scrutinized moth fatally spiraling towards the candle flame. From being a banker to a drug peddler to a petty criminal, Dara smokes through to the inevitable end.
Mohsin Hamid has inferred interesting parallels between the characters and the nuclear rivalry of blood brothers India-Pakistan. And the fatalistic nature of the moth to bring forth certain unstated thoughts of Dara.
It is a cleverly laid out book which unravels as a play with each character recounting their side of the story. The writing style for the narratives of each character is very similar and this is where I feel Mohsin Hamid left me desiring for something better. Each character's narrative sounds similar in language, their diversity and disparity is not manifested in their language.
Mohsin Hamid's achievement in Moth Smoke is that he has steered completely clear of the immigrant literature formula. A lot of South Asian author's first books fall for the obvious and tend to talk about their immigrant lives, childhood memories triggered by smells of pickles or jasmine oil, houses full of aunts and uncles. There is none of the sepia-toned flashbacks which make even the hottest day appear mellow, beautiful in our memories. Rather he says it like it scorchingly is.
South of the Border, West of the Sun is a good travel read. I liked the title, it seems mysterious. The existence of a yearning in every person, yearnSouth of the Border, West of the Sun is a good travel read. I liked the title, it seems mysterious. The existence of a yearning in every person, yearning for dreams to come true.. the inexplicable sense of emptiness when you know that there is something more.. but that its left behind or is not in your destiny.. is well elucidated in the book.
But ironically, as in Hajime's life, there is something missing in the book.. I understand the protagonist's feelings in theory, but I dont feel them with him. I can see why he's wistful of the past, but frankly I don't care. Maybe because the language felt so flat. I wonder if its because its a translation. Or maybe I expected some Japanese-ness(?) to the language. A lot of the phrases and words used seem very American, so the characters don't come across as Japanese or of any particular culture. That should probably be a good thing, shouldn't it, to be able to write across borders. But I like to read non-English author's works as it gives a sense of the place, of the people, their culture. I think I had a lot of expectations from the book. All said, the book is a decent read so I will definitely give a try to one of Haruki Murakami's more famous books.
For lack of anything more apt to say, this book was just a case of lost in translation for me.
If I ever had to choose someone to rewrite history William Dalrymple would definitely be top of the list.
Wonderful book to read if you are interestedIf I ever had to choose someone to rewrite history William Dalrymple would definitely be top of the list.
Wonderful book to read if you are interested in Indian history but can't read through some of the textual, verbose and factual books you usually find on Indian history.. books that my dad would love, but I find the writing styles extremely difficult to relate to.
It was refreshing to read about a culture crossover at that time and age. WD's curiosity as to how after being in India for 300 years, the British at large didn't carry Indian influence with them. Shilpa Shetty and Indian curry are still alien and exotic for them.
WD's depiction of historical figures makes them actual flesh and blood, rather than just names. Reading through the really thick but gripping book, you can see these people of centuries back..
WD's detailed research of the letters, between all the different historical figures, makes for a very interesting read. You can almost see where they sat while writing those letters, their clothes, the expressions on their face, hear their thoughts through the letters in the colloquial language. James Kirkpatrick is not ancient anymore. His thoughts, his feelings that you see through the letters makes him contemporary. Khair un-Nissa from 200 years back has the same stubbornness and determination to insist on getting her love,her way as any young girl today might.
Smart and sensitive James, beautiful and in love Khair un-Nissa, old man Nizam, wily Aristu Jah, villainous Mir Alam, ambitious Henry Russell, dancing courtesans and poetry in moonlit gardens, wow.. what a story! Quite the inspiration for a blockbuster Bollywood movie.
Its a heavy book, but I'm definitely carrying it with me to Hyderabad to do a "White Mughal" tour through the city. See the British Residency, the Mah Laqa Bai Chanda's tomb, the Maula Ali shrine.. see where they lived.. the river, the bridges, the pleasure gardens.
WD's interpretation of the reasons behind some of the political decisions of the Mughal and British empire makes you question what you've been fed as kids in school history books. The hero's and villains of pre-independence era are very subjective. Something you see in contemporary politics too.
History seems fun now.. Maybe I will try reading Discovery of India again..and if I go beyond a few pages, you'll know about it. :)