This book was "Thissing" and we should have more such "That-thing"! Well, that is the best way to describe how I felt this book was, since I could hav...moreThis book was "Thissing" and we should have more such "That-thing"! Well, that is the best way to describe how I felt this book was, since I could have used so many adjectives , in so many contexts... Em, or Imelda Mendes, what a woman...and yes, her "Big Hoom", matching upto her, stride by stride. It's a book about madness and what are the myriad associations, the hows and whys and why nots and ifs and buts of madness, a journey into madness for Em, a journey with madness for the three others, whose lives are so closely entwined with Em's. The flashbacks through notes, diary entries and sometimes, relayed with such delicious scorn by Em herself paints a picture of a sepia-tinted past.. a past where a Portuguese way of life dominates, through the eyes of Burmese refugees and Goan farmer families. Shuttling between Byculla and Mahim, the lives of the characters seem so different from ours, their religious beliefs, their cultural traditions, the way they talked, walked, dressed and courted..yet the Indianness unflinchingly shines through, and makes this story so memorable and familiar, at certain levels. The central point being Em's descent into madness and the narrator's constant search for the hypothetical "trigger", once established, one jumps headlong into the other major trope...Imelda and Augustine's love story, the anchor which pulls you away from the brink, as you try to make your way through the maze that is Em's mind now... The love is rosy, it's beautiful, it's the stuff of black and white romances...12 years' courtship in bookstores, and occasional hand-in-hand walks along Marine Drive, while cautiously munching on dates, sometimes sharing Coca Cola floats (pity they don't make those anymore..)..with a flurry of letters with inconsequential content, but with adorable addressals.. "Angel Ears", "Beloved", "Mambo", "Buttercup", and no, it's as far from cheesy as it can be..which becomes apparent as soon as this parallel love story between two wonderful, 'normal', witty people is juxtaposed with the screaming fits, the manic depression, the suicide attempts, the stoic silence, or the few big "hmmm"s.. Some images will always stay in my mind...the narrator trying to flush out the "hairball" like blood clots from the bathroom and failing miserably, Em smoking her beedis and sipping countless saccharine sweet cups of tea, the Granny's hilarious "thissing"s, trying to provide comic relief in a setting which is like a perpetual funeral, that mint-chocolate moment when Em realises she's no more an "I", but part of a "We"... the book is full of such gems, since Pinto's characters are justifiably amazing and the equally evocative language remains etched in your consciousness long after you have turned the last page...(less)
I really feel that I should have read Serious Men first before going on to Manu Joseph's second book, The Illicit Happiness of Other People. Not to ta...moreI really feel that I should have read Serious Men first before going on to Manu Joseph's second book, The Illicit Happiness of Other People. Not to take anything away from Serious Men, which is an exceptional, and a very courageous debut at that, but Joseph's second book is a tour de force which takes you to an entirely different level of cherished literary hangover. Serious Men is a work, where so many things happen at so many levels, so many issues are tackled or brought forward, that you tend to lose your way at places, but Joseph does manage to bring you back to the shore deftly. Joseph's prose is again sparkling, racy, his vitriolic sarcasm and ready wit regaling you in almost every page. The book is full of myriad characters, with their individual quirks and idiosyncrasies masterfully described, but for me the standout performance was always Ayyan Mani's. Ayyan is the rogue who went to Mensa, he is the Everyman, and also the Big Brother, with eyes and ears everywhere, he is the little big man of his 'chawl' society, and also the Dalit secretary who decides to wage war on his Brahmin superiors, and how! Ayyan's scheming mind is a puzzle that you revel in unravelling, and every time you feel that 'this is it, this time Ayyan Mani, you have gone too far, you and your lot are done for', the man comes up with yet another ace up his sleeve... Sometimes it's absurd, it's crazy, it's like hitting the jackpot, but you never stop rooting for him and his son Adi, his puppet extraordinaire, because of the very familiar middle-class yearnings that makes him do what he does. It's also because of the very real treatment of the prevalent class divide, which becomes a direct catalyst for the supposed 'intellect-divide', that you are not forced to suspend your disbelief anywhere. The plot, though having parts, where you are somewhat taken for a ride, a "balloon ride" at that, is ultimately grounded in the base realities of living in a honeycomb-chawl, the Indian attitude towards education and prodigies, the hypocritical behaviour that one encounters at every strata of society, where serious scientists can drop the mask of politeness and engage in washing dirty linen in public just like politicians, where infatuation turns to obsession, and betrayal is a double-edged knife... How does one rise above all this? Ask Ayyan Mani, the seriously ultimate "Un-serious Man".(less)
This is the first book by Manu Joseph that I read, and I won't lie, the fact that this book was a runner up for the Hindu Literary Prize 2013 actually...moreThis is the first book by Manu Joseph that I read, and I won't lie, the fact that this book was a runner up for the Hindu Literary Prize 2013 actually shaped my decision about picking this up, as I'm normally somewhat apprehensive about new Indian authors. I was literally blown away by the whole premise of the story..the blurb was enough to entice me, and then the reading experience was pure, abundant pleasure. The prose is crystal clear, not a word out of place, not a thought forcefully brought in and the sarcasm is bang on. It starts off as a mystery but is slowly entwined with such tragic..rather tragicomic and philosophical elements, that it took me to a different level altogether. The characters, each and everyone of them will be clearly etched in my memory for eternity, they were that delightfully sketched. The protagonist, Ousep Chacko, has-been reporter, bereaved father and drunkard extraordinaire tries to solve the baffling mystery behind his teenage son's sudden suicide and takes us on an unforgettable trip. The boy, Unni Chacko, is a force to reckon with, he is a hero and an anti-hero at the same time, you root for him one second and you become shocked and awed the very next. The mother, Mariamma Chacko is another colourful character, she is indeed the Rock that stands true, eroded by so many tragedies, one can write a book on her only! All the side players... Mythili, Thoma, Somen Pillai (who creeped me out!), Sai, Balki, Iyengar...they played their parts so so well, as if none else could have been imagined in their places. The descriptions of nature all around, the tiny details of the rooms, the different quirks of the characters...everything seems to fall into place and take a life of their own as you read on. So you basically feel the warm, humid climate, you see the plantains and rubber trees, you can hear the superstitious whispers, and you are suffocated by the middle-class ordinariness and associated mundane affairs. And then you are liberated by Unni's cartoons, which weave through the printed letters and leap out in front of you as solid images and you can't help your amazement, as every layer of the cartoons leads you to deeper layers of meanings and connotations. I could hardly breathe through the climactic moments, as one can of worms opened after another, and the truths all spilled out, and the rush that I felt is indescribable. The wit and humour,in sudden, unexpected gems, are completely necessary and completely justified. It can be understood so clearly that here, Manu Joseph is both Ousep, the wild genius tied down by societal chains, and Unni, the wild genius who broke all barriers and chose to be free.
This book made me ponder over lots of issues, many very pertinent to the society that we live in, a society that has been wholesomely mirrored in this book, and moved me to feel some powerful emotions that was not expected, and hence, was exhilarating!(less)