Monday, November 24, 2014

Our moon has blood clots by Rahul Pandita

This book is 'brave attempt' and an 'openly personal account'. It is man's take on how minorities can be treated under the frenzy of religious chauvinism but he hasnt forgotten to add his unnerving faith in humanity, always reminding us, even in the darkest of the hours, that we are humans first. The book, in the midst of providing bigger picture has always kept the ties of a family at the forefront. Of how the raison d'etre of the lives of his parents was always their children. 
The exodus of Kashmiri Pandits which took place in the year 1989 and 1990 with the intent of making Kashmir independent (or to be administered under Pakistan) has been told and retold in every page through eyes of docile Hindus who resided in Kashmir for centuries, as Pandits and who lost everything they had. Their homes, fields, jobs, identities (a lot were subjected to conversions), kins. What else does a man posses? Over half a million people were effected, out of which more that three hundred thousand were made to leave on the whip of overjoyed Muslims. 
The early part of the book, in which Rahul has narrated the customs and culture, made me realize that I as a Hindu have long forgotten similar practices which were once part of my life too. What I am hinting at is the excessive Modernity which has crept into our lives. For eg. Goodreads has taken over space which Saraswati Mata used to occupy. The Shloka, Vidyam Dehe Saraswati  almost brought goosebumps whenever it occurred in the book. It had been years I had read a shloka and it did brought memories of Basanat Panchami when we used to put our books in the Mandir(temple) and pray for better marks. This was once done, ritually. Perhaps, its only when your faith is challenged that you know you have one. Personally, this book has left a deep imprint on my views on faith and religion.  
He has also provided a detailed account of what all Kashmiri Pandits(as ancestors) have been contributing to in all these centuries and how they've always faced the brunt of carrying the Hindu flame at the hands of invaders, this being till 2014. The works of Kalhana, the famous author of Rajtaringini, Abhinavgupta, Somdeva, Ratnavaja, Kshemendra, Bilhana etc have found honourable mention for their contributions.   
One of the five parts of the book takes us back into 1947 through the eyes of one of Author's relative who provides details about the even brutal times he had seen at the hands of Tribal invasion which occurred when Kahsmir wasnt even the part of the Republic of India. The Tribals or the Kazakhs who came marauding on the Kashmiris looted them till death and went away. It was only after this ghastly rage that the then King of J&K, finally acceded to India and then upon deployment Indian army pushed the tribals away. 

Above all, 

This book is a story of exile, exodus and extermination of Kahsmir Pandits, who are suffering till date. The magnificent houses which they had once resided into are reduced to tiny flats across the country. 
This book also talks about the resilience and non-retaliatory example which Kashmiri Pandits have show to the entire India. They lost their homes but never lost their humanity. 
This book has given an entirely new understanding on secularism and the use of Government services (Security), in-time and effectively so that an entire segment of population could, in the future be safeguarded if not saved. I do think that we have come a log way from what happened in 1990 but till we have religion you never know. :-/

Although I've always liked the work of News Laundary (left) but I found the interviewer completely out of sync with the spirit with which Rahul Pandita has written this book. 

Rating: 7.5/10

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Householder by Amitabha Bagchi

Last time when I read him, some 4 years ago, it was his straight forwardness about expressing his stories in a very Indian-ized  manner, that I had particularly. Quite similar has been a case here too. Then, with Above Average, I was growing up in College and now with The Householder I am growing up with a Job (so to say) and in both the times I have related with his views, connotations and musings owing to two different periods. 

A story about a Middle Class
 Indian family
under the 5th Pay Commission
Here in The Householder (a perfect title) a story of man who works as an assistant to an IAS officer, him being a Govt official too, imbibed within which are another three stories about the members of his family, juggling and changing in between each other in this contemplative narrative. The limits to which a person's restraints and desires can be stretched and tested under the constraints of values and family liabilities can be heartfelt here. It will resonate with anyone who has worked/lived under the ambit of Govt culture, in particular. The way it juggles in between the past, present and among the different characters will keep the reader engaged in the fast paced presentation. 

However, the endings for the characters of Kamaljeet and Praveen could have slightly better. Praveen, who throughout the book was shown to be in need of guidance, support and a better job was, in the end simply overlooked for his grave if not heinous acts by the family. Similarly with Pinky being so emotionally carried away by the pursuance of Kamaljeet simply dint do the justice with her last act. Or perhaps, Bagchi wanted to focus more on Naresh
Above all, a book worth spending 8-10 hours on. 

Rating: 6.5/10

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Apprentice by Arun Joshi

I only came to know about Arun Joshi with this piece which appeared in The Hindu. I am glad I did.  The Tribune has aptly reviewed the book with these lines, 
“The Apprentice ceases to be a book. It becomes life and worst of all, the reader’s own secret life of illusions.”  Towards the end, I realized how true it was. 
An epitome in India realism.

The book presents a young man’s (Ratan Rathore) yearning  for a job and the friction a job hunt generates with his friends in the backdrop of a city he is new to. Only when he gets the job, the book assumes its true existentialist nature with Ratan beginning to understand the repercussions of his actions and reflecting on every of his thoughts as he gets carried away in the professional advancement. The novel has flow and yet it stops after every couple of pages and makes us think about Ratan's moves. The book highlights the issue of corruption in the power studded central bureaucratic government functioning of Delhi in the early years of Independence. The issue raised during 50s is as relevant as in today’s times when every govt. official can be seen with the eyes of suspicion towards his work ethics.
I don’t underline in Novels but very soon I was bound to do it. Almost halfway through, I found myself underlining at a rate I would only do in a Non Fiction. Such was the over lap of its Genre.
Arun Joshi, though has won Sahitya Academy Award is almost unknown to the reading community of the present generation. I couldn’t believe that it was not available on Flipkart and many other Online platforms. Joshi’s decision to stick to Orient Paperbacks(an Indian publishing house) over emerging foreign houses like Harper Collins/Penguin might have been a legible reason for the slow erosion of his novels from the bookshops.  Though the novel and the author needs a far greater recognition by the present generation. Its interesting to know that he held an MBA from MIT. 

Notable Excerpts:

1. In Winter’s you can tell the time by the intensity of fog. (Someone from North will understand this better).
2. It was not patriotism but money, she said, that brought respect and bought security. Money made friends. Money succeeded where all else failed. There were laws, but money was law unto itself.
3. It is our humiliations and not conquests, my friends that dominate our memories. 
4. Your modesty encourages one to be brash.
5. Because a faker soon forgets who he really is. 

Rating: 8.5/10

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Land of Seven Rivers

The case presented here, is rare among the books on India. It asks, how has geography of Indian Sub-Continent shaped the planning and outcome of events and thus written down the history. It then goes on to relate various human attempts to alter the geography, chronologically. This symbiosis of academic inference makes a very convincing read. The author has quoted several people as references and has at times gone all the way to criticize even noted authors like William Darlymple, Sir John Strachey etc. It presents a nationalistic case to re-consider our History, not based on what the historical records of Englishmen but one by ourselves, trying hard to highlight the mismatch between British studies and the Indian texts of earlier times.

An argument, which can be arguably attributed as a British propaganda during the 17/18th centuries and which I particularly liked was, “Historically, since Indians have not considered themselves as a nation, they have not cared for their History (and freedom)”. This has been excellent refuted in the book. However, unfortunately, the ancient Indian texts have been prominently religious in nature and have little to tell about the societal and national perceptions of that time. So a logical attempt to look for smaller clues mentioned in those texts have been made to draw historical conclusions. Eg. Kishkindha Jungles, Maharashtra where Rama met Hanuman and Jamvant is still there and thickly populated with monkeys. The book is indeed a mammoth attempt, catering to the unique blend of two subjects and the time frame it exhibits. Though at more than one instances I felt the lack of depth and factual clarity but somehow the flow has superseded the pause.  Another notable feature of the book was its detailed emphasis on fauna (lions, tigers, elephants etc), drawing conclusions on their lineage and correlating their scattered presence across the world.  I do know that flora and fauna are part of the subject of Geography but the extent of discussion was very insightful.

Indians have for once been aggressive and have played the conquest game, under Cholas was new to me. Personally, I will definitely look forward to any further work by Sanjeev Sanyal but for this I will have 7/10 as the rating. His staunch and apprehensive style, despite he being a non-academic is praiseworthy (in fact, personally, inspirational).

Rating : 6.5/10
Author : Sanjeev Sanyal
Buy : Here 

“The first thing which should be clear from the outset is that there are no ‘pure’ races. With the possible exception of some tiny isolated groups, the vast majority of Indian tribes, caste and communities are a mixture of many genetic streams.” 

On Delhi(70s), “Soon the city had to deal with yet another influx- that of civil servants and public sector employees needed to run the centrally planned, socialist economy. The PWD went into overdrive and created whole new government colonies.”

On Chandigarh, “Much of its apparent cleanliness comes from simply having left no space for the poor within its city limits. It remains a sterile and heavily subsidized city of tax consuming bureaucrats that encourages neither entrepreneurship nor tax generating jobs despite being the capital of two prosperous states.”