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.
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.
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.
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
…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.
“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?