December 6, 2009
Call it a coincidence but there couldn’t have been a better day to post a review on Prisoners of Hate by C.V.Murali; today being 6th December - the anniversary of demolition of an age-old Mosque in India. A few weeks ago, Murali sent a copy of the book so that I could read it and post a review here.
Prisoners of Hate traces the lives of Farhan, Madhav and Sanjay, and their ancestors. The story weaves through different ages from the pre-partition era to independence and the violence following partition while narrating the lives of the protagonists’ fathers and grand fathers, and how they ended up in the city where they lived now- Mumbai. The book starts off with the stories of Farhan Rasool (a Muslim), Sanjay Dave, and Madhav Karve (a Hindu fanatic) are narrated independently. Farhan’s father Ghulam Rasool is a successful businessman in Mumbai; he had moved from UP to Mumbai looking for work before independence. An unfortunate turn of events during the partition made Ghulam’s employer move to Pakistan, only to never return. Before leaving the country, he entrusted the business to Ghulam who turned it into a profitable one. Mayank Dave, Sanjay’s father, ran a mill in Karachi. The family had lived there for generations. Trouble began fr the happy family when the partition was announced. The unsuspecting Hindu parents of Mayank met with a brutal end at their ancestral home in Karachi. That was the only home the Daves knew and the senior was reluctant to leave it; it costed them dearly - their lives. Sanjay was a toddler when this happened. Mayank was lucky to get his family alive out of Pakistan and move in with his in-laws at Mumbai. However, the transition didn’t go down well with the Daves. They endured enough misery and poverty taking away Mayank’s life in the process. Similarly, Madhav’s is yet another bitter history. The partition had a big role to play in the lives of all their parents.
In short, this book is about the painful history of Hindus and Muslims living in India post independence and the numerous agonising events that ensued afterward. Be it the demolition of the Babri Masjid mosque, or the Mumbai blasts, or the Gujarat train tragedy and the communal violence that followed it,the book delves into detail each of these shameful incidents by weaving a story around it.
Madhav, Sanjay and Farhan’s paths cross in the middle of the book influencing their future actions. They are all in their 20s now. While Madhav is an upcoming politician and now a leader of a radical national party, Sanjay is a journalist, and Farhan a professor. One morning, near Shivaji Park, after the demolition, Madhav leads a gang that alights Farhan Rasool’s family members alive in a car by dousing petrol. This is part of a series of incidents in which Muslim families are targeted. It’s Madhav’s way of taking revenge at the Muslims who took the lives of his uncle’s family. His uncle, aunt and niece were shot dead by terrorists in Kashmir while on vacation while Madhav had a narrow escape. The helpless, wailing Farhan is rescued and admitted to a hospital by a passerby- Sanjay. This incident changes the lives of all the three men forever. While Farhan goes reticent and silently rebellious from an outspoken youth, Sanjay can never understand the hatred that drove Farhan to commit such a dastardly act.
The last part of the book is a drag. It deals with the family lives of the three men, how they come face to face with each other, and who bears the brunt of the past.
Maybe a lot of it is true and is drawn from real-life incidents during the demolition, and what ensued thereafter. But it didn’t work for me. After five unsuccessful attempts, I finished reading the book n my sixth attempt. Maybe it was too dark and depressing; maybe it read like a history book packed with facts; and the author tried too hard to bring in the mystery element of how the protagonists fates are linked.
The editing is bad; the punctuation horrid. If you are game for dark fiction full of mindless violence and gruesome murders in the name of religion, pick up the book. Else, give it a pass.
The book is priced Rs.195 and is published by Cedar Books. C.V.Murali’s debut novel, Dreams Die Young, was published in 2007.
October 28, 2009
The book arrived one afternoon last week by courier. It lay unopened for a day. But once I started, there was no putting down. Work suffered as did dinner on time and sleep for two nights. I’m reading it for the third time now; can’t remember the last time I read a book in one (or maybe two!) sitting. Was it Angels and Demons five years ago when I’d just moved to Chicago? Totally loved 2 states. For me, it’s like having a personal memoir (well, to a large extent) documented by Bhagat. Reading the book brought back old memories - some good, some not so much; it’s nostalgic. Funny how how half-an-inchthick moustache, or curd rice for dinner, or bare-bodied chest of men were such turn-offs.
None of the reviews of 2 States have been encouraging so far, and I fail to understand why? I LOVED the book as did V. We had a connection. We lived the characters for two years. Could relate to many things. I’m already reading it for the third time as I write this post.
Written in simple English, the 269-page book is an easy and hard-to-put-down read. As in all Bhagat’s books, there’s a liberal usage of swear words and youth lingo. 2 States, the story of my marriage, is a story about Krish Malhotra and Ananya Swaminathan. Krish is a Punjabi born and brought up in Delhi, while Ananya is a Tamilian. Oh! I forget, she’s a Tamil Brahmin (Tam Brahm as is commonly in college circles). The Brahmin part is emphasised throughout the book. In Ananya’s words while introducing herself to Krish: “Tamil Brahmin, which is way different from Tamilians. I am born into the purest of pure upper caste communities ever created.”
Krish, an IIT-Delhi grad, meets Delhi University Economics grad Ananya at IIM-A. They fall in love with each other and decide to spend the rest of their lives together. Both the families are, however, against this marriage. The usual drama unfolds with Krish’s mother showing prospective girls from rich families (read: dozen petrol pumps and marble flooring mansion and half a dozen cars in the parking lot) in typical Punjabi style. Ananya’s parents, on the other hand, leave no stone unturned in emotionally blackmailing her and trying to convince her that a Ivy educated, Bay area-based groom is the best choice for her.
The rest of the story is all about introspection, juggling personal and professional life, stealing moments to spend time with each other, and a strategic effort in convincing parents and make the North-South connection happen.
It has all the ingredients of a love story minus the mushy element romance novels are made of. The wooing comes easily. It’s as simple as the boy loves girl and the girl loves boy. Descriptions of the IIM A mess, classroom sessions, the proposals, the dorms, cramming time, the cheap anna/bhaiya messes outside such college campuses, STD booths (this was pre-cellphone era), and placement tension are realistic, something one can instantly relate to.
Bhagat has done a splendid job in capturing the characteristics of a Chennai’s conservatism, obsession with Carnatic music and The Hindu, Tam Brahm household, and how they live life by the RULES. Their priorities in life : foreign degree, US-based groom, IIT-IIM if studying in India - in that order- is well portrayed. He does an equally great work in depicting the Punjabi household, their ostentatious lives, the high-drama that rules the weddings and how much importance is given to Paneer and DJ
The climax is not hard to guess. The father(s) made it happen. And the families married each other as it happens in Indian weddings. They smiled and lived happily ever after
Some snippets from the book I enjoyed. These digs at the Punjabi and Tamilian communities are not toe be taken personally.
If there’s nothing as attractive as a pretty girl, there’s nothing as repulsive as a cocky chick.
Tamil Brahmin, which is way different from Tamilians. I am born into the purest of pure upper caste communities ever created.
The oiled hair, geeky face and spectacles made him look like an IITian embryo.
The only nakshatram we (Punjabis) think of is the division of petrol pumps when we have to see the girl.
All the ladies in the room had a mini orgasm (on listening to Harish’s academic achievements). Marble flooring is to a Punjabi what a foreign degree is to a Tamilian.
My other roommates came to the living room. None of them wore shirts.
We never talk. At home, my mom and dad, they hardly talk. We’ll talk about the news, the food, the weather. But we never talk about our feelings. (yea, that’s another taboo thing to talk about emotions.)
Isn’t love the best investment?
It is amazing how much closeness two men with a laptop in a closed room can achieve in five days.
If you’ve been down the North-meets-South road to make your marriage happen, you’ll love the book. You’ll connect with it. Visualising the events that make up Krish-Ananya’s story comes naturally. Despite the disclaimer from Bhagat to treat it as a work of fiction, it seems more real than anything I’ve ever read.
February 11, 2009
It’s past 11:00 p.m. in this part of the world; well past my bed time but an unfinished task has been nagging me for a while now. So, here I am with a cup of strong coffee determined to get started, if not finish it before I tuck myself in. It’s an awful feeling for a blogger of more than six years (yes, that’s how long this blog has survived) to not post in nearly a fortnight and then to title the comeback post with a “I’ve been away. But I’m back now”, only to disappear again. That’s the #1 deadly sin a pro-blogger can commit.
I’m actually toying with the idea of closing down one of the two blogs: Reflections or Li’l General Rules; partly because it’s hard to post regularly on both the sites and partly because I’ve come to realise there’s a lot of intersection between the blogs. Reflections was more of a personal blog when it started and the stories I encountered in everyday life. In a country like India, one comes across a billion stories if you step out of home everyday; every person you meet has a story to tell from the photocopying girl at the shop down the street to the old vegetable vendor at your doorstep, which makes writing a personal blog like this easy. Sure, it had a good share of office politics, ups and downs of a relationship, “Happy birthday/anniversary” posts, and the general ramblings on I like this/I hate that/I loved this place…you know what I mean. But of late, I’ve come to realise there’s too much LG in here as LG is not just an extension of what I do everyday; he is all that I do. The hardest part is to decide which blog to shut down - I enjoy posting here once in a while and connecting with the few regular readers that I have. On the other hand, Li’l General Rules is something I can’t do away with for I’ve chronicled every significant moment of our lives with LG - from the day the journey began with his conception to his birth, every fall, first day at school, first birthday, first words, first steps, crawling under the bed and many more such memorable moments. Every day with him is still exciting; he does the unexpected, and says the unimaginable. So it’s going to be tough to shut down the blog …
This would perhaps be the last post on this blog, unless I find a compelling or inspiring reason to post again. However, I shall continue to update the “Portfolio” section with my published work. Hop over to Li’l General Rules, if you are not yet tired of the zillion baby blogs around! On a closing note, thanks to all the regular readers for stopping by. And, I would love to get to know all you lurkers…so de-lurk one last time.
January 13, 2009
Harper tagged me to do a post on seven things about myself - some random, some weird say the rules. I love doing memes but hardly ever get tagged so I’d rather not let this one pass. Since this is a personal blog,it’s hard to think of something about myself that I’ve not already blogged about over the past 5 years.
So I’m just going to find a relevant post wherever possible…
- I am SCARED of cockroaches.
- I can actually count the number of times when I haven’t fallen off a train while trying to board or get off.
- People find it tough to watch a movie with me so much so that my brother has sworn never to do it again (Interruptions and thousands of questions guaranteed!) Matrix gets the distinction of being interrupted the most.
- I met my husband in a hospital when he broke his arms, legs, and nearly fractured his skull - yea, he’s the adventurous type. If there’s one thing I would love to learn, it has to be skating.
- I loved to study but hated school and college. Went to 11 schools and 2 colleges.
- I suck at social networking.
- I can’t sleep alone at home during nights …. tend to be awake watching out for imaginary burglars. Known to sleep under the bed for protection. Weird?
Now I have to tag seven people to pass on the meme… Here, you go..
1. Mridu Khullar - a freelance writer I’m in awe of for her writing.
2. Moxie - a friend and former colleague I once went ice skating with and fell hard on my **
3. Poppins’ Mom - a mommy blogger with funny tales of older Poppin and the not-yet-naughty sweetpea
4. Chaos - college mate
..more to come.
The rules of this ‘game’ for those that I have tagged:
Link your original tagger(s), and list these rules on your blog.
Share seven facts about yourself in the post - some random, some weird.
Tag seven people at the end of your post by leaving their names and the links to their blogs.
Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs and/or Twitter
January 9, 2009
…that’s my goal for 2009. Losing mummy tummy, shedding that extra flab with regular exercise, spending quality time with family are resolutions which are passe now for me. Anyway, who cared about calories burnt after the first fortnight of the New Year…breaking resolutions was as much in vogue as having a wish list ready before the year began.
When careers change and one transitions from a full-time corporate job to freelancing, priorities re-align as do goals. For the first time in all these years, last year I targeted a few things (if only as a mental note) I wished to achieve before the year ended. My goals for 2008 were:
1. Get published in a magazine
2. Learn how to drive a car
3. Self-sponsor a trip to Bahrain
At the end of the year, I could cross off items 1 and 2. With 4 pieces published in a travel magazine, 3 in a national daily, 70 research articles for a industrial info website, and a few more copy-writing work, it was a good start to my first year of freelance writing. The sponsor part of item 3 was met though the trip didn’t materialize for whatever reasons.
Here I am, in 2009, writing down where I would like to see myself at the end of the year. One lesson learnt from past experience is that it doesn’t help to have a generalized goal. Having a target defined quantitatively and qualitatively makes assessment all the more easy.
January 7, 2009
“Welcome, Polar Bear! Keeping yourself warm, huh?”, remarked my co-worker one evening as I donned layers of clothing ranging from fleece jackets, gloves, woolen socks, cap, and a long coat, getting ready to head home after work . My skin show was restricted to eyes and nose, so it’s not hard to imagine what one would have looked like. This was five years ago in Chicago. For someone who had spent a better part of her life growing up in a tropical climate like India, living in sub-zero temperatures with the Lake effect was as good as moving to the Antarctic. Well, not really! In retrospect, I wish I had known the tricks of choosing appropriate layers of clothing without looking like a Polar Bear or sweat like a pig in the hot Indian summers.
One is not spoilt for choice in India when it comes to outdoor clothing especially for winter. It’s hard to shop for the right clothing at reasonable prices and it only gets worse if you are traveling from southern to northern parts of the country that get a good deal of snow and waves of cold air. For a recent trip to Delhi, here’s how I went about carefully packing the right kind of dresses for my husband:
- Inner layer - Woolen socks and thermals made of polypropylene.
- Middle / Insulation layer - Sweaters, woolen hats, gloves, fleece, polypropylene jacket, full-sleeve t-shirts and dark pants.
- Shell or outer layer - Long woolen coats, and wind gear.
Some points I keep in mind so as not to feel bogged down by the layering in winter or overheating in summer:
- Prefer woolen as it is an excellent insulation material. Looks elegant though it can be a little pricey. Shop for winter gear in one of those end-of-season sales to get the best bargains. It will come in handy for the next winter.
- Cotton is strict no-no for winter as it is a bad insulator in wet conditions. But this is the fabric to swear by in summer.
- While buying outer layer clothing, try not to get a size too fitting or small to ensure you leave enough room for other layers. This will keep you comfortable.
- Fleece is great at regulating one’s body temperature in winter.
- Wearing two layers of socks does the trick - a thin inner layer and athick outer layer. Often, I have found that if the feet is kept warm, the body feels much warmer.
So, what are your tricks of smart dressing for outdoors?
December 25, 2008
Back after the holiday break and don’t feel like getting back to work? Is that why you are blog surfing? Don’t worry, it’s an all too-familiar feeling albeit until a few years ago; I don’t wake upto alarm clocks anymore.
So while you’re here, I might as well narrate an incident that happened two days back at the parlour. And I promise that would be not as boring as the title of this post is. Parlour - yes, the same place where newly married husbands don’t mind driving their wives to while they catch a movie in the multiplex and still have enough time before the beautified wife emerges out; with time, the chauffeuring comes down as the husband prefers lounging on the couch on Saturdays to catch a Formula 1 race or basketball game than you know what! My trips were always far and few in a year and never lasted more than 15 minutes. After all, how long does it take to pluck a few hairs off one’s eyebrows, right? I’m glad LG’s entry has not affected that part of my life yet and I still sneak in a quarterly trip for 15 minutes. The much-needed haircuts are an annual affair, perfectly timed so that mom doesn’t see the tresses cut too short and the husband doesn’t find it too long.
One of the days this week, yours truly paid the monthly visit (frequency increases as child grows) to the same parlor of which she has been a regular customer. Choosing one requires strategic thinking in many ways - one that is no more than 1 Km far from home so that you can dash back, one that is affordable, clean and finally, one where I witness no attitude. This newly opened place was close to home and very near to where I shop for groceries, so it worked fine for me until this week’s visit. For starters, the lady at the reception was rude from the moment I entered. And then what perhaps irked me the most was guys dashing in and out of the room for no reason. Hey, this is a woman’s parlor, if you plan to have guys inside then you’re going to lose people like me. There were guys who were chatting up the girls while they were at work - threading, waxing etc. And they had no good reason to be there. Conservative you may say, but I found it odd for a well-kept and much-advertised place such as this one. Initially, I had planned a haircut but canceled on grounds of an uncomfortable environment. The lady at the reception had stepped away for a chit-chat with another dude inside a cabin while I waited to pay and leave. She merely raised her eyebrows when I told her the reason for canceling my haircut as if I was some alien conservative from a nearby village. Whatever! She randomly chose to increase the price by 10% and refused to give a bill or an explanation. Merely, said they had started collecting taxes. Fair enough, I was aware of it as they did the last time too. Instead of Rs.20 it was Rs.22. This time around, she wanted Rs.28 without a bill. Rs. 6 is not a big deal to have an argument but anything unethical even if it is 1 Re. does warrant an explanation. She just shrugged, went in, and sent the change through a helper after 5 minutes when I lost my patience. Those 10 seconds of non-spoken conversation and actions were enough to lose a loyal customer.
For an upcoming place like this, it is not the price of service you are offering to a customer that matters, it is the amount of good name you garner. Heard of word-of-mouth marketing, anyone? This place spends a substantial of money on marketing through paper ads regularly. And this happens all the time even at the biggest retail stores that spends thousands of rupees on advertising and marketing. So now I’m on an hunt for another parlor and that’s giving me sleepless nights. Seriously, no kidding
If you reached this far, I admire your patience. Now, get back to work.
December 24, 2008
Distance of time and place generally cure what they seem to aggravate; and taking leave of our friends resembles taking leave of the world, of which it has been said, that it is not death, but dying, which is terrible. ~Henry Fielding
Twelve days ago, on Dec. 12, my grandfather lost his battle to life after a prolonged period of misdiagnosed illnesses - from Alzheimer’s two years ago to brain tumor and more recently, cancer. He was 91. In a strange way, I was more relieved as he breathed his last late night on Dec. 12 with his beloved ones by his side, for he had suffered a great deal these past four months. Dad who was all set to travel that night but postponed his plans by a fortnight perhaps sensing the end was close.
The first time I got to know that thatha didn’t have long to live was in August this year. I cried miserably that day. At 90, he went about doing his daily activities meticulously getting up at 5:30 a.m. followed by a quick shower, visit to the temple, his prayers, reading newspapers etc..I find it hard to digest that until two years back, he would write letters to the editor regularly to magazines, solve crosswords, and attempt puzzles. Considering he had nearly lost his eye sight after multiple cataract operations - this was an achievement in itself speaking volumes of his perseverance.
My fond memories with him date back to the late 80’s and early 90’s when we three grand-kids would surround him after dinner by the veranda and he would narrate ghost stories with passion - not made up ones, these were real is what he had told us then. He had lived for a few years in the midst of a huge farm earning his livelihood from the family’s agriculture business. Stories of a lady clad in white sari walking through rooms after 6 p.m. was a common sight that scared the hell out of my granny, he would say. And then as years passed by, he often narrated about his travels across Tamil Nadu with the then DIG; grandpa was with the police force in an administrative capacity until he retired in the mid-1970’s.
A self-made man - he remains an inspiration for me to this day on living a simple life. He had worked hard to get his children educated through school and college, construct a house, and more importantly bring dinner to the table with a meager salary. Sometimes, I’m told it called for cycling over 30 Kms to get a bag of rice from the village to city that could feed the family of four. I shudder at the thought now that he was over 75 when he filled air in our cycles as we got ready for school every morning; I studied at my grandparents’ for a couple of years. Some other fond memories I have of him was his passion for gardening. Coming from an agricultural family, he tended to his garden in the city house himself - the drumstick tree on an average bore about 75-100 every day in season, sometimes even 200. He had a knack for climbing the coconut tree to pluck the tender coconuts and there was something magical about the papayas that grew in the garden.
His command over the English language was one to admire. Call it the fruits of the Colonial rule or whatever but I admit I would still have to refer to the dictionary if he were to write a letter. Unfortunately, in recent years most of his letters were addressed to the Treasury Department relating to his pending pension. The reticence of the state government didn’t deter him from trying what he believed he deserved. And that perhaps remained his regret till last day for he felt he never got his due. Unbiased, very affectionate towards his family, and totally detached towards materialism is how I would remember him forever. No favorite food, and a white dhoti and shirt was all he needed for an existence…never asked for more! I wonder what it would take to get those virtues.
His last few months were the most painful as cancer spread through the body and he writhed in pain, subsequently slipping into a partial coma and reduced to a vegetable state with absolutely no food intake towards the end. (The steroids gave him a violent behavior for a brief period.) In the last month or so, he was reduced to a skeletal frame and it was very disheartening to see a man of such physical might and mental strength getting so helpless. Thatha - undoubtedly, you will always remain my favorite grandparent.
A great soul like you is no more amongst us. I hope you find peace on the other side.
December 18, 2008
December has clearly been the month for “Education”. A 2200-word piece on “Earning and Learning” describing part-time work options for students pursuing higher studies in US, UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, Ireland, and New Zealand is ready to be published in a travel magazine. In yet another assignment, I was to work on a series of 8 articles relating to US on how to choose a school for graduate and post-graduate education, how to select a major, trade schools, hot careers of 2008, online schools vs local campuses. I completed a part of it before turning down the rest for whatever reasons (read: lack of time). There’s only so much one can do in 3 hours set aside for writing every day. And I’m just done drafting another 2,300 word article on “Studying in Canada”. With an overdose on studying, my head is spinning with names of Universities, tuition fees, statistics, visa regulations, and Ivy Leagues. On the bright side, I’m glad this has been a busy month for writing. That ofcourse does not necessarily translate to a good paycheck.
Signs of recession impacting the publishing industry are all too evident now. I’m waiting to be paid for an article I wrote last December. And the number of unpaid for articles just keeps increasing month. Hopefully, it will be a fresh beginning next year and finances will get sorted out.
December 17, 2008
This New Year’s eve, http://lakshvivek.com domain turns one. I’m not the kind who sets goals, makes resolutions on New Year, so let alone writing them down. However, last year I made a mental note of buying my own domain before the years ended. This was a recurrent item in the to-do list for over 3 years. Here’s the entry I wrote after launching this blog. I bought the domain 31st Dec 2007 afternoon and launched it a few hours later well within the deadline. From my past adsense earnings, I assumed this blog would be self-sustaining. But, it’s not. Still, I went ahead and renewed my hosting space and domain for another year. This time not expecting to reap me money any more than it already has. It would be foolish to expect different results by doing what I’ve done for 5 years here. Readership continues to me meager; I feel compelled to write so “reflections” will go on.
Surprisingly, what does earn me some money on monthly basis is from unexpected quarters - Li’l General Rules and the older version of reflections that I’ve not spent a penny on except my time. This blog is hosted by Nettigritty - a provider based in Bangalore. It runs on Linux with the XS plan. I’m almost running out of space now. I’ve renewed for another year but contemplating if I should move to someone else. Their service has been great. I get response for my e-mails within minutes. Any suggestions/opinions on pricing of other equally good providers in India, please leave a comment.