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.
Shobhaa DE’s latest offering ‘Superstar India : From Incredible to Unstoppable‘, released by Penguin India in April,2008, is a deviation from her racy novels. This work of non-fiction by the author reminisces her sixty years of existence on her 60th birthday which also coincides with independent India’s 60th birthday celebrations. In her words, “‘Surely my life has taken the same trajectory as the country’s?’” After reading the 434 page long book, I failed to draw any similarities between the independent India and her life.
I love the columns De writes in the Sunday edition of The Times of India. And that’s where my exposure to her writing stops - haven’t read any of her previous novels except ‘Spouse‘ which I didn’t have the patience to complete. ‘Superstar India’ seemed interesting or let’s just put it this way that the marketing gimmicks of Penguin worked well in addition to the huge effort put in by authors these days in post-launch / promotion of their books. And, I fell a prey to it. I had just finished reading Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns and was in no mood to read more heavy duty stuff. So, I picked up a copy of Superstar India early May soon after its launch.
It was a few years ago that I first read about Khaled Hosseini in the Sunday literary review section of a national newspaper. His debut novel, The Kite Runner had won rave reviews. I never got an opportunity to read his first book. His second, A Thousand Splendid Suns has been in the top of the best sellers lists this year. Not reading the debut novel book is sometimes a good thing because you have no expectations on reading the second one - nothing to relate to, no comparisons, no familiar characters or even second guessing the plot.
The image of anything Afghanistan is dark, destruction, violence, oppression of women, terror and a complicated society that redefines conservatism. What subsequently follows is sadness, poverty, hunger and death. The afghan-born author makes women the central theme of his latest book, A Thousand Splendid Suns. It focuses on the relationships between women in prosperity and in adversity, their friendships transcending generations, the plight of women in general and the cultural complexities of this war-torn nation worsened with the Taliban coming to power. What is surprising is that the Taliban are not shown too much in bad light in their dealing with the women as the world knows. Rules are rules to all - men and women, non-compliance of which will be met with punishment. It is the punishment that is extreme for women for ofcourse. It is written methodically with the stories of two women alternating chapters as they finally merge into one in the latter half.
I have to confess that its been over 4 months since I started reading a book and went on to complete it. Many books lie in the to-be-completed part of the book shelf among them being, Michael Moore’s Dude, where’s my country, Humphrey Hawksleys’ The third World War and Benjamin Graham’s The Intelligent Investor.
I’m digressing now. Before I drift any further and lose your attention, the story I’m going to tell you all is that of Cinderella, not a best-selling fiction or Pulitzer winning book or something from the grapevine on the last Harry Potter book.
Baby Center’s newsletter advised that kids enjoy listening to stories and develop an interest in books, when they are around 6 months old. So here, I was hunting online for a book of fairy tales and gave up because I did not find one with good illustrations, the thin big book of fairy tales with colorful pictures we are used to. So I went to my book shelf to pick up something for myself when my eyes fell on this teeny book titled, “The story of Cinderella and other fairy tales”. My joy knew no bounds. A pencil note on the first page indicated I had gifted this to my husband on his birthday four years back. Who would have thought of it as a thoughtful gift then to a 26 year old?
This one, from a local publication is anything but fancy. Spanning 194 pages it has ll the fairy tales from Cinderella to Thumbelina to Goldilocks and the three bears and Snow-white and Rose-red. Neat sketches illustrate the event on every page that is complemented by text on the other page. One first look at the page and I was not too happy as it would have been too dry to get Lil General’s attention minus the colors.
But this also provided me an opportunity to turn on my dramatics becoming the beautiful princess one minute and the wicked sibling the next to the charming prince the next.
What was amazing is these fairy tales have been told over and over again for ages and different reworkings have appeared since they were first told in the ninth century.But one never gets bored. It was almost like reliving childhood when I read it myself and then read it out to my brother and ow to my son. These fairy tales do take you in to the world of fantasy if only for a short while away from the drudgery of everyday life. Interestingly, these tales do have the ingredients of our everyday lives from sibling rivalry to wicked step mother to love at first sight. Yet all is well that ends well and fairy tales always end with a they lived happily ever after.
In all, I enjoyed doing the fairy tale bit. Reviews of books meant for grown ups will soon appear once I become an adult again - far away from the fantasy land.
“Five Point Someone”,a novel by Chetan Bhagat exchanged hands yet another time at work over 5 months back. I had heard a lot of “wows, this is great, I did that too” every time a member of my team read that book and religiously passed (or promoted? ) it over to the next. It is beyond my understanding why they didn’t pick up a copy of their own from the bookstore on MG Road that have been flaunting a copy of this book on the front racks for months now.
Four months overdue, on one of our customary visits to Crossword Bookstoreon M.G. Road in Bangalore. I recommended this book to Vivek not knowing quite what he would expect. He read the back cover and picked it up. I started reading it that evening. Flipping through the pages, I read out a few lines aloud. Every time I did that he had this reminiscent look on his face with a glimmer of satisfaction that perhaps said “I’ve been through this.” The turning point was the line on insti-rood, Floyd and Vodka. He snatched it from my hands and went onto complete reading the book in one sitting, as most under grads would do. Just so I made myself clear, one sitting in this case meant even while having dinner, trips to the looo and a 4 hr sleep that night eager to finish the rest next morning.
This 300 odd page book starring Ryan, Alok and Hari is a smashing success. It took me 2 more months to start the book all over again. And definitely not one sitting for me. Every time I asked what someone what was so great about the book or what it was about, came the monotonous reply, “It is about an IIT grad about his 4 years at Indian’s Premier Technology Institute”.
This is partially true. There is much more to thee book that the 4 years at IIT. It is a mockery on the Indian Education system. Be it a premier Institute of India or a third rate Engg. College built ina no-man’s land, our system leaves no stone unturned in churning out and recognizing muggers year after year.
This book attacks the mythical equation :
top of the class === smart
under performers === dumb a*s
More importantly this book is about friendships. A friend of mine from College had recently said, “I made a few friends at College and I intend to keep them for life whether you like it or not”. Friends made in college are for life!
This book is about survival of the smartest. It is about the transformation of obedient boys coming out of home for the first time getting acquainted with don’t-give -a-damn guys like Ryan, getting easily influenced and making a comeback in the last year landing a job and turning into fine young men. Life teaches them a lot more than muggers like Venkat go through!
Written in simple English, Bhagat is a master story-teller. Of course I don’t buy the fact that Hari had the guts to sleep with the prof’s daughter in broad daylight. Fiction it is. He went a lil overboard but I guess its ok just as we can live with the item numbers in mainstream Cinema for commercial success.
Believe it or not, if you were a top performer, there are times when you are going to hate this book. There are times, when you would think, “OMG, I was so much like Venkat. Shut myself in a room for hours together mugging the 8 hr notes ready to vomit in the tests.”It would make you think “There existed a LIFE outside while I was in the company of books.” (Just for the record, No , I don’t regret what I did back then).
Ryan’s character is difficult to identify with but one that everybody fantasises to be. Memories of the adrenaline rush the night before the sem exams, a flurry of activity around the hostel rooms in search of the right photocopies, quarrels over lab practicals and cooking of obsy readings came back…
Surprisingly, normal IIT girls didn’t figure in this book. Probably because they were Mech guys or do such guys find better company in insti roof, vodka and Floyd than ..
Overall, the book was entertaining. Guys can draw an instant connection. If you want to the revisit the 4 years of your under grad again, then this is a must-read.
It is actually fun to borrow this book and read. You can then buy a copy of your own. Priced at Rs.99, it is a steal. This book is very difficult for Western readers to relate to but if you want to understand how Indian Education System works, then do read this. On a closing note, don’t ask me again how the book is. If you have to ask, you wouldn’t understand.