Wednesday 23 September 2015

Recent Indian Novels in English

On learning that I was going to study medicine in Bombay, someone had said to me, ' You've got to see two things in Bombay: the Bombay rains and the Bombay girls.'
When Adi - a small town eighteen year old with a gaint inferiority complex lands a chance to study medicine in big, bad Bombay, he is overjoyed. Although plagued by the thought that his success is a fluke and hence ill gotten, he plunges headlong into the sights and sound of this dazzling city.
Adi's initiation into college life isn't the most promising...... A night of ragging by a bunch of sniggering seniors brings him and his equally vulnerable batch mates close to tears..... But gradually, he finds his feet in the world and makes friends with a motley crew. He also has his heart broken and falls in love .....
Love, heartbreaks, fun, a bit of studying, and finally getting serious about the career sprinkled with a lot of my favourite city Bombay. Rains are the best in Bombay, however inconvenient life gets during those months. Not a literary masterpiece, but a good read specially during travel.
BREATHLESS IN BOMBAY - Murzban F. Shroff   2008
Shroff’s vibrant narratives in this concept collection of 14 stories set in contemporary Bombay feature a range of beautifully drawn characters in fascinating situations: from the laundrywallas’ water shortage problems, to the doomed love affair of a schizophrenic painter and his Bollywood girlfriend, to the wandering thoughts of a massagewalla at Chowpatty Beach, to the heart-warming relationship of a carriage driver and his beloved horse. Each of these stories is richly crafted and arranged against the grand chaotic backdrop of life that is Bombay. Shroff's love for his hometown shines through, but so does his deep understanding of its challenges and problems. The reader is afforded an insider’s view of this pulsating city, and through an unforgettable emotional and cultural journey comes to care for the characters presented in these stories.
A well-mixed Bombay Bhel and some food for thought as well!
Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found - Suketu Mehta 2004
 It was a regular school day on a lovely December morning(winters are warm not cold in Bombay. With just an hour left to mid-morning recess, there was a sudden flurry of anxious announcements calling certain students to report immediately with their belongings at the Principal’s office. After being little nosy about the happenings I go back to my daydreaming. Suddenly, I see my mother hurriedly demanding that I go and collect my younger sister from her classroom. As I walk through the school compound frantic parents rush in and out of the school premises with their children. As we walk towards the car I see my father tensed and horrified to some extent. He had just escaped death(which we knew later that evening. Four men had hurled bombs in front of him at a nearby housing development while my father was driving through traffic). A riot had broken in the streets nearby as we frantically rushed home, I could see shutters closing at the speed of light, people scattering, some flinging acid bulbs and destruction of harmless developments. That was the day the Hindu-Muslim riots let a demon loose for which innocents had to pay with their humble lives in the coming horrendous months. I still remember those days vividly for I have been a front row spectator to the bloodshed occurred in the name of religion ignited by few political rivals. I lived among trepidations that lasted for years to come by. Lost people I knew and religion once again became a crucial factor in our mundane lives. The citizens of Bombay (I resist from calling it Mumbai, always) bravely faced those murky days, which I witnessed closely with resilience and banishing all prejudices imposed by political cults. Over decades the city has seen its share of political violence and inter-religion hatred, but its people have always made it through with smiling faces.
Bombay will always be my home come what may. I have traveled around many superior worldly cities, yet the imminent landing announcement at the Bombay airport somehow makes me warmly smile every freaking time. The city is heavily crowded, poverty and richness juxtaposes every road that spirals into politically corrupt governing display of unreliable loyalties and prone to religious debates. But, this does not define its landscapes, its populace. It is a city where dreams are built; life is raw imparting valuable teachings of resilient determination, where people smile even in the most tedious times, ethnicities are celebrated with joyfulness and life is seen at it nastiest and its finest. It is a place where I grew up and took long walks with my grandfather relishing every aspect of this marvelous city. Bombay is not a place full of murderers or politically agitated goons, it is haven of magnificent, soulful people who fight all odds and nurture a ravishing tomorrow. Now, this is what I would term as “Maximum City”.
Lastly, one question that troubles me is why only those who bring together pessimistic opinions are the ones who have stayed away from the core of Bombay nudging stereotypes in a foreign land?
'Bombay Duck is a Fish' -  Kanika Dhillon   2011
My recent liking for Indian authors took me to the 'Indian Fiction' section in Crossword. I picked up the book 'Bombay Duck is a Fish' by Kanika Dhillon hoping to read some crazy stories about the city I've lived in and experienced since past 7 years.
To wrap up the plot in few words, its the story of an aspiring filmmaker Neki Brar who comes to Mumbai; "the city of dreams" and lands a job as an assistant to a famous choreographer turned director (no prizes for guessing who she is). Despite of finding the right kick to start her career she keeps running into troubles. The book is about all that Bollywood is infamous for; bloated egos, sleaze, wicked co-workers etc. And a not-so-subtle mention of Shahrukh Khan whom she (the thin line between the author and the character is smudged here) obviously idolizes.
When we first meet our heroine Neki she is sitting on her terrace, wine bottle in hand. While contemplating suicide she flicks the pages of her diary where she has documented all the accidents of her life. As we continue we find out that our aspirant director left a lucrative job to follow her dreams but the problem here is that I didn't understand her motivation. She looks star struck from the very first day and is already kissing (or rather being kissed by) the hot supporting actor Ranbeer Khanna within the first week of her job.
As per her diary she is hated by her co-workers because of the yellow shoes that she wore on the day of her interview. Now, I know that film industry is full of shallow people but I have yet to meet people who'll judge you from your shoes, that too good shoes.
She has moved to Mumbai for the love of it but makes a fuss when a colleague (who also has a crush on her) takes her on a tour. Her life in Mumbai revolves between the studio, Ranbeer Khanna's van and Ranbeer Khanna's house, resulting in pregnancy and attempted suicide. In short, Neki looks shallow to me and never for a single moment gains my sympathy.
The film industry that Kanika has created in the book is a tale that parents tell their children to scare them off from the unimaginable path. If you are an aspirant filmmaker, film writer or actor don't let your folks lay hand on this one. However, in this hell hole where everyone is ready to bite the only people with a heart of gold are either the extras or Shahrukh Khan and the super successful director.
'Bombay Duck is a Fish' indeed but a sukkha bombil with not enough meat.
Love, Life & all that Jazz -  Ahmed Faiyaz  2010
Tanveer is waiting at the airport for a much delayed flight to board. He realises that it has been a year since he joined Oceania Bank and remembers the first week of college when he made friends with Tania and Vikram.
The first day of college in Bombay where Tania, Vikram, Sameer and Tanveer cross paths.
A week before Sameer leaves for London for his MBA, Tanveer meets Sameer and Tania for a cup of chai at their usual haunt and talk about the life ahead for them and their future plans. They meet Naina and Vikram after a while and go out to party.
Sameer is adjusting to life in Oxford and his new friends. His thoughts go back to the night before he left Bombay when Tania and he spent some intimate moments and then went out with Naina and Vikram for dinner.
Tanveer's first day in his new job at the Bank. He begins to realise that his new life is going to be completely different from the fun years in college. He remembers the day Sameer left for London and the gang met at his place to help him pack.
The Great Depression of the 40s: A Novel by Rupa Gulab  2010
The book opens with Mantra losing her job as a journo because she reviews a restaurant in cutting rhyme: “While the spaghetti was a bit of okay/The meatballs stubbornly bounced/They’re only fit to be served at squash courts/And deserve to be severely trounced”. The result of course is to leave Mantra with nothing much to do beyond speculate on the state of her marriage, deal with her mother in law’s ghost (to be found in the guest bathroom) and try to sort out everyone else’s problems, while fielding her duties as corporate wife. Her driver Makarand is a Marathi Manoos with political connections and the cook Reshmi insists on plain dull food which is good for Mantra’s figure but bad for her morale.
Gulab has her finger on the pulse of 40 somethings living in upper echelon Mumbai, with its unending discussions of  what’s more tony, the Atkins or the South Beach diet, the nuances of acquiring limited edition pornographic DVDs and whether one should have a toy boy. “Acquiring a toy boy is the height of your ambition?’ Mantra squawked. ‘How crappy is that? How on earth would you explain him to your house help? As a long lost shipwrecked son who’s scared to sleep alone in the dark?”
It’s a world of gamesmanship, one up manship and who can put up the best front, including calling in the office canteen boy to masquerade as a butler at the CEO’s dinner. There are some witty turns of phrase such as “She seriously believed that drinking wine was a cultural accomplishment, on par with playing Mozart on the violin” and a use of words like ‘luverly’ and  ‘curmudgeon’ that add a charming old world flavour to the text.
What the book does require is some depth in the relationships – Vir’s silence and the chemistry between the two remain grey areas, as does Anjali’s marriage, though that is perhaps more comprehensible, and the happy ending seems slightly rushed – perhaps the book needed some more time before coming to an end.
Lucky Everyday:  Bapsy Jain
Forced to flee Bombay when her wealthy and charming husband divorces her and squashes her career, Lucky Boyce feels defeated and desperate for respite. Fortunately, old friends welcome her to New York where life begins with promise. Determined and trying to make a difference, she volunteers to teach yoga to prison inmates. But with her confidence in question and love starting to surface, a series of bizarre events leave Lucky searching once again for answers. Is her journey through life destined to be marred by duplicity and betrayal? Or does she simply need to overcome her fears and look within for the strength to break free? A stunning novel about one woman's struggle toward enlightenment, Lucky Everyday blends the principles of yoga with a thoroughly modern take on the quest for a fulfilled life.
"This beautiful story travels from India to New York through the past and the present as Lucky searches for meaning in her shattered life. One can’t help but feel compassion toward this character even as her strength and will power inspire."
Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions : Smita Jain   2008 
Take a single young professional, place her in Mumbai’s TV soap industry, throw in a murder and lots of (traffic-jammed) chase scenes, introduce a handsome ex-best-friend and voilá – you have a piece of desi chick-lit. If it sounds stodgily formulaic, rest assured that Smita Jain’s racy Kkrishnaa’s Konfessions is actually a toothsome devil’s food cupcake of a novel. The roguish streak running through this witty detective comedy is due to Jain’s irreverent indulgence in oddly specific stereotypes (creative directors are universally described thus: “short, fat, chain-smoking bitch”), unabashedly frequent instances of deviant behaviour and the feisty main character, Kkrishnaa herself.
 Kkrishnaa, like her creator, is a scriptwriter for teleserials and an amateur student of psychology. She’s also brazenly competitive – to the point of suspecting fellow script-writer, closet existential novelist and sexy love interest Dev Trivedi of plagiarising her every line. While our heroine is secretly observing a swanky apartment block for source material, the two happen to witness a celebrity murder.
 As the bickering pair try to stay a step ahead of the assassin, they hook up with a bumptious police inspector and a stuttering CBI agent and stumble into webs of conspiracy spun by hypocritical politicians, pimping swamis and adulterous housewives. Somewhere between dodging bullets and seducing her seniors, Kkrishnaa discovers that she still has feelings for former friend Dev, and that those feelings go beyond the merely Platonic.
Despite the broad strokes with which Jain paints her characters, this book is an engaging and offbeat caper. Like Kkrishnaa’s scripts, it’s “convoluted enough to guarantee viewer interest, but not to the extent of leaving them confused”. As the protagonist overcomesa case of writer’s block by weaving the murder investigation into her serial, the reader also notes that the book’s characters are thinly veiled allusions to actual dons, gangsters and film stars. Jain liberally cartoonifies her characters, but Kkrishnaa has the right blend of wit, sex and twists to keep this reader interested – at least for a few hours. Sonal Shah
The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay :: Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi  2010
When photographer Karan Seth comes to Bombay intent on immortalizing a city charged by celebrity and sensation, he is instantly drawn in by its allure and cruelty. Along the way, he discovers unlikely allies: Samar , an eccentric pianist; Zaira, the reclusive queen of Bollywood; and Rhea, a married woman who seduces Karan into a tender but twisted affair. But when an unexpected tragedy strikes, the four lives are irreparably torn apart. Flung into a Fitzgeraldian world of sex, crime and collusion, Karan learns that what the heart sees the mind's eye may never behold. Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi's The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay is a razor sharp chronicle of four friends caught in modern India 's tidal wave of uneven prosperity and political failure. It's also a profoundly moving
On one level, this book has everything: homosexuality, murder, the movies, love, passion, anger, hatred, betrayal, tragedy. But for all that it seems curiously empty.
It has many ostensibly shocking bits — the minister who lost his virginity to a buffalo and still fantasises about that encounter, violent death, a fleeting reference to anal sex — but even these lack resonance.
And though every Bombay cliché is firmly in place — brittle society ladies, dingy bars, Chor Bazaar, Ban Ganga, the traffic jams at Ganesh Chaturthi, the riots, hell, even the floods make their requisite appearance at the end — the city still resolutely refuses to come alive in the book.
The Story of My Assassins - Tarun Tejpal
Tarun J Tejpal is a journalist, publisher, and novelist. In a 26-year career, he has been an editor with the India Today and the Indian Express groups, and the managing editor of Outlook, India’s premier newsmagazine. In March 2000, he started Tehelka, a news organisation that has earned a global reputation for its aggressive public interest journalism.
In this India, democracy is a bitter joke, the machinery of the state wide open to exploitation by those with money, power and asses of iron. The only values to which nearly everyone in the book pays homage (the exception being Sara, the righteously campaigning mistress) are those of impermanence, equanimity and non-attachment pronounced by Lord Krishna on the eve of battle in the Bhagavad Gita. And if the different tales of which the novel is composed do not hang together, that's because India itself does not, and cannot. "There was no big picture," the narrator declares. "There were no grand connections. There were only endless small pieces, and all you could do was to somehow manage your own ...."
*** A muscular, deeply incisive and deathly funny comment on twenty-first century India, The Story of My Assassins is a multi-layered novel that skillfully slashes through the subcontinent’s dubious spiritual serenity to lay bare every crippling divide of language, wealth and class. Trawling life and death in the dark underside, it inquires into the inexorable codes of power and wealth that propel societies. A triumph of disparate voices, unbearable realities, and impossible conundrums, this is a book that will forever change the way we look at the world around us.
*** "This is a book of multiple roads to brutality, of multiple explanations for the central event. Policemen, crooks, village elders, journalists, venture capitalists, businessmen, lawyers, street children, whores – no one escapes Tejpal’s sharp pen which he sometimes uses like a caricaturist, at other times like a poet...The generation of Vikram Seth, Rushdie, Amitava Ghosh, Rohinton Mistry, Arundhati Roy is still writing and at the top of its form. But the literary equivalent of the cricketing question, “Who after the Fab Four?” continues to be taking on a big theme and finding in it a commentary on India – neither dark nor shining, but merely a world that is what it is – Tejpal has staked a claim to being taken more seriously than most others." - Mail Today
Of Course I Love You: Till I Find Someone Better :
Durjoy Datta and Maanvi Ahuja
Of Course I Love You: Till I Find Someone Better is a story of college days, love, heartbreak and reclamation of a young man called Debashish Roy. Written by Durjoy Datta and Maanvi Ahuja, Delhi’s life of nightclubs, bars and short-lived relationships is reflected in this book with a gripping storyline. Debashish never believed in being a serious relationship and had experienced numerous affairs with multiple girls. His philosophy of life was to be happy, no matter what comes. Never ready to take any stress or responsibility, Debashish met Avantika, a beautiful and serious looking girl. A casual attraction became serious day by day as Avantika started reciprocating Debashish’s feelings. for the first time in life, this young man had fallen in love, which ended up painfully after Avantika discovered his past. Confused and guilty, Debashish lost love and with nothing more to lose, he took on a public job. The pain of not being able to forget Avantika and a hope to get her back started changing Debashish, making him do things nobody could believe he was capable of. With intriguing characters and heart-rending events, this book provides a source of motivation for its readers. The book has mixed flavors of love, fantasy, resentment and adolescence compiled in one book. of Course I Love You: Till I Find Someone Better was published by Penguin India in 2013 and is available in paperback.

Almost Single : Advaita Kala
In a city where old is meeting new, daughters are surprising mothers, and love is breaking all the rules, this heartfelt and wickedly funny cross-cultural debut novel introduces a smart, irreverent young woman searching for independence and matrimony in a culture bound by tradition.
Between elegant soirees and the occasional mortifying mishap, Aisha Bhatia’s job as guest relations manager at New Delhi’s five-star Grand Orchid Hotel is intermittently fabulous—she certainly knows her wines and cheeses. But despite a life filled with good friends and first-class travel accommodations, the fact is that not many twenty-nine-year-old women in India are single—as Aisha’s mother never fails to remind her. Somewhere a clock is ticking, though as far as Aisha is concerned, it can be cheerfully drowned out by laughter over a champagne brunch. Yet when the handsomely chiseled Karan Verma arrives from New York, Aisha experiences an unexpected attitude adjustment. Karan is everything she’s ever wanted…that is, if she actually knew what she wanted. Is it possible that she’s about to find out?
Savvy, sexy, and unforgettable, Almost Single tackles the loving, exasperating tug-of-war between mothers and daughters, traditional customs and contemporary romance—and what happens when a modern Indian woman is caught in the middle.
Family Planning: Karan Mahajan  2008
Family Planning centres around the Ahuja family. The father, Rakesh, is Minister of Urban Development in India (as a member of the KJSZP (H202) party), and also presides over a huge family, a baker's dozen worth of children, with another on the way as the novel begins. The son that gets the most attention in the book is the eldest, by four year, Arjun.
       The novel opens noting that Rakesh is only attracted to his wife, Sangita, when she is pregnant -- hence the reason for seeing to it that she is constantly in that state. Still, the marriage seems to be working out fine enough, though with the constant bustle in the house there's little time to really give much thought to anything, and everyone -- Mr. and Mrs.Ahuja, but also Arjun -- seem very much preoccupied with their own worlds in any case.
       As it turns out, things are not entirely straightforward. The Ahuja's marriage certainly didn't turn out anything like they expected -- and Rakesh had, in fact, been married previously. Rakesh's first wife died in America, and Arjun is the son from that union -- though he has never been told that. But Rakesh thinks now is the time to clear that up. Meanwhile, Arjun is going through typical teen phases -- he has a crush on a girl, he forms a band, he's embarrassed by his family (and hasn't ever admitted to any of his friends having anywhere near as many siblings as he does).
     Mahajan has obvious talent, and it's a relief that his debut manages to avoid many of the pitfalls of debut-fiction (the tortured-adolescent storyline tempered by the adult side of things). It doesn't add up to quite enough here, but the skill he displays with what he works with here suggests once he has something more to write about he might manage very well indeed.

 A Love Story for My Sister: Jaishree Misra 2014
Jaishree Misra was fascinated by the mystery of Margaret Wheeler’s life, which she came across while researching her historical novel, Rani. A British teen, daughter of a British General and a Eurasian mother, Wheeler was kidnapped during the 1857 uprising and presumed dead. She reappeared in the local narratives in the early 1900s when an old Muslim woman admitted that she was Margaret Wheeler to a Roman Catholic priest, during her deathbed confession. “I was too involved with writing Rani to give this story more time but it interested me; what two women on different sides in the same period underwent.”
In 2011, three books later, Misra came back to Margaret Wheeler. Misra also located Amelia Horne’s journal at the British archives; another teen who was abducted during the uprising but returned. Amelia mentions how Margaret stayed on with her abductor, ostensibly in marriage, refusing to return. “I always wondered how Margaret could willingly stay with the man who was a part of the incidents that mutilated her whole world,” says Misra.
Misra’s books are in the news for other reasons too. Almost all her books have been translated into Malayalam, where she has a huge fan following. And the latest is that the film rights to Ancient Promises have been sold. “Half the story happens outside Kerala, so I can’t see yet how it can be made entirely in one language,” she muses. But with ace director Ranjith Balakrishnan expected to direct it, this could be a film to watch for. That’s definitely good news for the fans of both the writer and the director!

A beautifully told story of redemption, forgiveness and second chances Meera, the protagonist of the novel is a housewife and a writer for the society people. (Read cookery, etiquette for parties etc.)   One fine day, she went to a party with her husband and child but realise that the husband run away from her life, searching for greener prospects.   Struggling to face the new challenge with all emotional burdens, Meera meets an equally desperate person, Jak (JA Krishnamurthy).  JAK was deserted by his wife but had to look after his daughter who is in very bad shape right now, thanks to the society.   Two stories which are interlinking in occasions are told in this novel; One of Jack's and one of Meera's.  The characters and situations interlink but in essence they stand separated altogether, except that the nature of fate is the same for them. 
'Lessons in forgetting' is about losing family values.  It is about the perspective we maintain while entering the institution called marriage.   Giri marries Meera with an eye on her ancestral property.  The property actually is of rental which Meera don't tell the partner.  Root of separation was there before marriage and it took many years and two children to get away from the mask.  Jake on the other hand was nurturing his feeling for India but he didn't consider the international life his wife was looking for.  The ego clash takes on the children and now they are paying the price.  The insecure marriage arrangement in modern days is nothing but disaster invited for future.

'Lessons in forgetting' is about feminism, the modern way.   The slogan of feminist writers these days is very funny.    Don't expect a 'virgin body' in marriage.  Even if you got one, don't think that it is your private property and she may use it for her own purpose and satisfaction.   If she goes with another man, it is your inability and she has a right for that. At the same time, if her husband goes to another woman, she cannot stand that and will cry foul big way.   Pre marital sex is almost a must and if you do some adultery which is perfectly understandable.   I have read writers who write the above ideas, almost in the very real sense.  In Lessons in forgetting, Anita Nair presents a character who thinks the same way.   Yes, she carries the hypocrisy with her.   She will preach you about how you have to look at other woman, like your daughter and mother and worry about the growing daughter.   At the same time she will not keep her emotions under control even to young boys.  She conveniently forgets that she has a boy child as well.   The author reminds us that this is not an easy go.   When you forget your family life, the silence will not last forever but it will form an eye of cyclone which will not leave without giving some lessons to remember.  If one closely looks at it, whenever Meera was a bit involved with an eye for flirting, something hard hitting arrives to hit Meera, in the novel.

No comments:

Post a Comment