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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Book Review : 'Marry Go Round' by Sadiqa Peerbhoy

‘Marry Go Round’ is definitely a book for a true Hyderabadi.  When I received this book, I was under the impression that the author knows me. I am a Hyderabadi, so I could understand the city with its laidback Nawabi attitude. 
Also, I was away for almost two years and I had a similar funny feeling about malls popping up and the city, itself undergoing the dramatic change with its IT wonders, huge cars and the never ending traffic, the property prices hitting the roof replete with the horrible smell of garbage.

But of course the language, with words used on a daily basis with the liliting Hyderabadi touch, the eccentric relatives, and the jocular friends, the irritating maids and the talk of all the delicious food.  Biryanis and Gajar ka Halwas, indeed.

Sadiqa Peerbhoy immediately appelaed to me. Not only is her style of writing hilarious, with its blend of Hyderabadi touch. The subject of the novel itself is marriage! 

So, shall we begin? Presenting, Sartaj Jehan. She with her stickling love for her large Nawabi heritage, and a sharp tongue is the true blend of a typical mother, who is desperately trying to marry off her son. The ever - hungry literature professor is her nonplussed husband complete with the maid, who has her own love story to boot. 

The Amreekaa returned son, Riaz who is still trying to come to grips with the blackmailing mother, Sartaj Jehan, who entrapped her NRI son into coming back and marrying a desi girl. The story moves ahead, with Riaz checking out the girl, Sana and immediately ‘falling’ in love. Then, of course we have the American girlfriend, who comes to India, is largely ignored by Riaz and ends up spending all her time with his cousin, Dilawar. The whole thing becomes a confusing mess, until the doctor comes calling. Dr Meera is the heroine of the soap opera. Read up, to see what happens at the end. 

Though the book is a fairly good one, I do wonder how it would appeal to the non-Hyderabadi. There are instances and nuances in the book which, I could understand but one has to be at least someone who has lived in this city for ten years to actually get the whole idea. It is a book, wrapped in time. In the Nawabi time…

Of course, marriage is a universal topic, and grand weddings are very much part of the Indian culture, so that could be easier to understand. But if it has to be a true Hyderabadi wedding then, then of course, only Hyderabadis would get this.  

It is a well – written story, though. Am sure 'Sheik Peer' would be pleased.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Book Review : 'Arjuna - Saga of a Pandava Warrior Prince' by Anuja Chandramouli

Arjuna, Saga of a Pandava Warrior Prince. That is how the book was titled. As a reader, with a penchant for mythology, I wanted to pick it up in an instant. The cover, however was not attractive. It did not show Arjuna, in the warrior pose, as it should have. I liked the humble warrior image there is on the inside of the book, better.

This book's text isn’t really different and reads like what I had read when I was a child. It seemed to have everything straight from the best of Amar Chitra Katha’s comic books. And so, actually it wasn’t that difficult imagining the whole scenario in my head.

It became easier, as page after page, I could remember ACK's Mahabharata, as I had read it for the first time. In ACK comics, every bit of it. Yet, the adult reader who has never read the ACK comics is probably given a glimpse into the story. I have found a few readers who have never read the full version of the Mahabharata and have limited knowledge of the story. They might find the odd interesting parts.

The only parts, which I found to be a little different was when Chandramouli hit the so - called adult stuff. She had to use her imagination because the comic variety missed Urvashi’s story, for example. Chandramouli fails to write for your imagination. There are also parts such as the Kuru line, the ten names of Arjuna, Duryodhana’s ancestries, the weapons and their origins, which are all new. 

But let us go back to the title of the book. ‘Arjuna, Saga of a Pandava Warrior Prince’. The book is just a Mahabharata comic book, rehashed. It begins with an entire cast of the characters. This was a superb idea, something which I have missed forever in most books, I’ve read. Especially, mythological ones. 

We then go on to the prologue, which is basically telling us how the story began. From Pandu to Kunti and Indra, their early days, moving on to Drona, Karna’s arrival, the immediate  beginnings of the Karna - Arjuna’s hate story, the arrival of Draupadi and the various wives of Arjuna. Moving on, the clash of dice, the forest, and Arjuna’s quest for celestial weapons, the Brihannala angle, then the start of Kurukshetra, and the end of the war, with Duryodhana’s death. There is the midnight massacre, ending with the walk to heaven, which the Pandavas undertake.

It is not Arjuna. Though there are parts in which, Arjuna is given the importance, but he is hardly ever treated as a different kind of a hero. He is given the importance he requires in Mahabharata. But the reasons behind why he is so important, why he is the true warrior, and why he was ‘the best there was, and the best there ever would be’ is missing. 

And despite everything, I have to say this, Anuja Chandramouli, take a bow. Because you have managed to rewrite the Mahabharata for the adults who have never read the ACK.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Book Review : 'Kaurava' by Krishna Udayasankar

Kaurava... the second part of the Aryavarta Chronicles is not just any book. I've read a lot of books that are parts of series, which could easily be understood, (at least a little bit, if not all) but not Kaurava. It is a true sequel because it refuses to be understood without having read the earlier part of the series. And so it begins...

Firstly, I felt that if Govinda was heading the first part, this one was if not in whole, led by Panchali. From the weapon wielding heroine in the first part to the calculative diplomat in the second half you are pretty much on her side in this book. She isn’t the only one with more of new shade. Everybody has one...

I was starting to think that the five roles of the brothers have melted into that of the ultimate Pandava. Whether this Pandava would come through remains to see in the third book. 

In fact, there is an additional development to all the characters. Dharma Yudishthir Kauravya who is the anti - hero of this part, comes out with a whole new self. There is the man, who is trying really hard to be an emperor what with the arguments which go on between him and his wife. Then there is the dice wielding gambler, who throws away not just the kingdom, but his brothers and even his wife.

You almost cringe at the disgusting behaviour which, Yudishthir feels that he has to go through during Dusshasan’s lewd behaviour. You are half wishing for Govinda’s entry into the playing field. But it was not to be. (Kinda intriguing that Draupadi’s sexual harassment is described  with so much detail when we hear stories of a horrible time in the world, when women are subjected to sexual harassment every other day).

One is almost left spellbound with Udayasankar’s excellent portrayals of Sanjaya, Vidura, Shikandin, Asvattama, Dhrstyadymn, and Abhimanhyu that are rich and vivid. The imagery that she manages to paint in your head could leave you with a cringe, a wonder and a beauty that is the chronicles. 

You find Govinda going to Greece, with a whole new set of intense pictures that are drawn through various characters. You then are shown the elaborate descriptions of science during the making of weapons, the coming together of the Pandavas, Panchali's brothers, and Govinda and Abhimanyu in Matsya. 

The love fable of Panchali and Govinda, Vasusena’s wicked angle which comes through, as well as Syoddhan’s excellent handling of the Aryavarta region. None of the characters really come out looking as a true hero in this episode. 

I only felt that the battle descriptions could have done with a backstory to pull it together.  Also, its drawback seems to be the mistakes in the text.

In all, I am looking forward to Kurukshetra, because this book has left me feeling with a certain need for closure. It has left me on a path…

PS: A little less of text on the cover, because it seems to distract the reader’s eye.