I like to read more than I like to write and I like it even more to write about the words I read. My reading habit started as early as when I was 7 years old, all thanks to my mother for passing on her genes and introducing me to the pleasure of seeing pictures in my head while reading through the words between covers. Thanks to my uncle for his colourful story-telling, the suspense elements of which provoked me to go ahead and read the story before he continued it for the rest of us , cousins, the next day. Beginning with Fairy Tales to Tinkles to Champaks to Enid Brytons’ to Children magazines to Nancy Drews in my childhood, endless number of Mills & Boons, Sidney Sheldons, Robin Cooks and chick-lit fictions in my teenage years, it took me a long while before I started reading serious fiction. And from there my reading taste has now evolved to the boring histories, autobiographies, activist fictions and controversial narrations.
Whether it is because of me getting older or not, it boosts my vanity to boast over the gradual maturity in my reading habit. Yet a long way to go, I know, but at least I know I am on the right track. Moving ahead doesn’t mean leaving behind the past. I still immensely love light fiction, stealthily enjoy romantic and sometimes even erotic Mills and Boons and revise past Enid Blyton, Tinkles and Fairy Tales. But the present craves more for the past and the future realities of the world, seeking an insight into carefully tailored and tainted histories. All said and done by the way of introduction, I want to collate some of my early book reviews, very choosey picks by Indian authors or about Indian celebrities in particular into a blog post. The reviews, which I’d rather call my opinions instead, are not new to those who have read them as my Facebook statuses. For the others, there you go.
The God of Small Things By Arundhati Roy
‘The God of Small Things’ – A debut title that doesn’t give away the genre of the story, had won the Booker Prize in 1998. That was why I picked this book and kept it waiting on my shelf. I wanted to relish it at leisure, tastefully savouring the hype that it has gathered over the years. Relish I did, every metaphor that Arundhati Roy had carefully chosen to paint the scene live in front of our eyes. The rich frothy vocabulary that blended in smoothly without being forced upon and yet not complicating the narration keeps the reader hooked till the end. I’ve been to Kerala a couple of times but none of those visits made me experience God’s own country like this book did. The earthen smell of the river banks, the blue sky, dancing palms, the aroma of coconut oil, it is all there described in the minute detail possible. I loved this book for all these and more. But too much of detailing, which was a treat in the beginning, did sometimes bring a satiation feeling, especially as the story progresses. Nevertheless, it is a great work of fiction but Booker Prize really? I will never understand the criteria for nominations and victory of prestigious awards like Booker Prize just like I couldn’t figure why ‘Slumdog Millionare’, though a great movie, won so many Oscars in 2008. Maybe I will. The day I take my reading habit beyond entertainment, perhaps as a vocation by itself, then maybe I will.
How long has it been since I read an Indian writing untarnished by the young-adult-masala cult started by Chetan Baghat. Anita Nair has chosen the right choice of words to bring home the point, words rich in vocab still comprehensible and compelling. There were lines that I read again and again just to savour the befitting words to the situation one more time. Ladies coupe is a great read for women folks and a must read for men, an insight into a world that men, even some women carelessly oversee or take for granted. Loved every page of my journey in Nair’s Ladies Coupe!
The Company of Women By Kushwant Singh
‘The Company of Women’ – Not exactly a title that we expect from an eighty five year old author, Khushwant Singh. It piqued my curiosity to read the amorous creativity of an old man or at least that’s the excuse I gave myself for picking up this book from my shelf. The narration was simple and lucid, detailing the sex life of the protagonist without describing it, passing sarcastic snide here and there clearly establishing that it far from porn. Though I had my smiles at his very subtle references, I was neither on the same page with the author, nor was I left far behind.For an Indian conservative mind, this book is blasphemy. For the westernized liberals, it is another possibility. For the middle (wo)men like me, this story is controversy. Maybe that is what I should admit that I liked it.
Most often, we don’t recognize legends during their making. But when they are up there shining like brilliant stars, we go back, revisit their work and say WOW. I said more wows reading about these movies from the creator’s viewpoint than when I actually saw those. Such insights. Such details. Mani Ratnam is indeed a legend. I am not sure if I am more in awe of Maniratnam for his earthly movies or the author Baradwaj Ranjan for bringing out the best from an otherwise reserved director, perfectly balancing between a fan and a critic. Not a biography, ‘Conversations with Mani Ratnam’ is a bibliography for all his works from ‘Pallavi Anupallavi’ to ‘Raavan/Raavanan’. CLAP! CLAP! CLAP!
‘எப்போதும் பெண்’ – சுஜாதா
சுஜாதாவின் ‘எப்போதும் பெண்’, படித்தேன். ரசித்தேன், வியந்தேன்! இருபத்தி ஒன்றாம் நூற்றாண்டில், இன்னும் பெண் அடிமை கொள்கைகளை கலாசாரம் என்று நம்பி போற்றுவோர் வாழும் அதே மண்ணில், இருபத்தி எட்டு ஆண்டுகளுக்கு முன்பே, சுஜாதா எத்தனை முற்போக்கு வாதியாக, பெண்மையின் உண்மையை உணர்ந்து எழுதிருக்கிறார் அன்பதற்கு இந்த புத்தகம் சிறந்த எடுத்துகாட்டு. இறந்து மடிந்தாலும் மேன்மக்கள் மேன்மக்களே!
GANDHI NAKED AMBITION By Jad Adams
By exposing Gandhi’s eccentric sexual experiments, non-pragmatic politics double underlined with religious fanaticism, uncompromising emphasis on martyrdom and impractical purist virtues, Jad Adams has tried to unmask the man behind the Mahatma. I cannot decide how much of it is true and how much is exaggerated but I do know for certain that the stories of heroism that we’ve been taught and instilled with during our younger days are nothing but that – carefully woven stories with truth embroidered here and there. During those days when Indian uneducated population was more than the literate ones, the days when the country was strongly constructed based on caste system, a London educated opportunistic barrister became a celebrity by preaching celibacy. I’ve started to wonder if Gandhi is yet another politician who happened to be at the right place and right time and became the father of the nation. Without those purposefully lost pages in Indian history, we will never know.