Monday, 3 March 2014


Prague is the kind of movie that brings you dangerously close to who you actually are inside... I mean deep inside. So close in fact that you might start scaring yourself. The movie plays on at its own asymmetrical progression but at the back of your mind you’ll hear another reel whirling, it’s the sound of your conscience and it is terrified.  Terrified to identify with Chandan, the schizophrenic architect chased by demons he creates himself. As you watch the movie progress there will come a time when the thin lines separating the real from unreal, legitimate from illegitimate, your past and present from your future will all begin to blur and your consciousness will roll into a pile of things you don’t know whether to keep or throw.

That’s what happens to Chandan, he doesn’t know whether to keep or throw, save or delete. Somewhere at an unreachable pocket of his toxic memories lies guilt so intense that it can only be quenched by delving into more crimes. He should have thrown his shame long ago; he should have washed his hands off it and pretended like it never happened. Don’t we do it all the time? Pretend like nothing happened and move on? But his tragedy is that he cannot. Maybe this is how he plans to redeem himself: to dive headlong into a bottomless pit of self imposed blame which multiplies and consumes him every minute; it destroy all possibilities of happiness that crawls his way, maybe it’s his way of punishing himself for things he takes responsibility for. The only way to break free is to sink deeper and deeper into it.

I have always been fascinated by how people and places get inextricably interlinked to the point where one cannot judge whether the place changes the people or the people alter the places. Prague, a city burdened with World War II brutalities demonizes Chandan a step further. The gypsy girl Elena, he falls briefly in love with is a chink which offers him a momentary glance at the Utopic world of freedom and emancipation which is awaiting him; but Chandan is disgusted with its liberties and he cannot bring himself to trust its elusiveness. For him it is too symmetrical, too perfect, too satisfying to be true, so he demolishes it.

Gulshan is the guy from college all of us, at some point in our lives, have met and known. He is uninhibited and carefree. He can flit in and out of places and blend into his environment so well that you wouldn’t be able to tell he doesn’t belong here. That’s his thing you see, unlike Chandan he knows what to keep and throw. His nature is contradictory to the awkward, reserved and mysterious Chandan, who longs to have the effortless charms of Gulshan but ends up envying and distrusting him instead.

No one can be prepared for a movie like Prague, no matter how much you’ve read about it, no matter how well you’ve researched, it is bound to take you by surprise and fill your head with images you cannot connect together because you had decided to let go of them long ago. You did it because before watching the movie you knew what to keep and throw. After watching it however that knowledge might begin to evade you. You will remember the movie like a half forgotten dream and it will grow in your memories as years pass by.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013


Orhan Pamuk
Penguinuk (2005)
Rs. 256

Much like Bertolt Brecht’s concept of ‘metafiction’, Snow begins with the narrator addressing the readers directly thereby establishing the fact that there will always be an unbridgeable reader-writer-protagonist gap throughout the length of this book. The reader after being thus cautioned by the narrator is then gradually encouraged to identify himself with the poet protagonist Ka and similarly the narrator, who we later come to know is the author Orhan Pamuk himself, sets an example for the readers by irretrievably merging his own identity with the protagonist to the extent of drinking what Ka drank, sniffing the coat and bed sheets Ka came in contact with, reading his personal diary, visiting the places Ka visited (as if metaphorically following his footsteps), watching the porn he watched, sleeping in the bed he slept and falling in love with the woman Ka loved.
The readers towards the middle of the book discover that the first person narrator is none other than Pamuk and this revelation lends a mock autobiographical element to his tale and this authorial sanctioning makes the tale appear even more credible than it perhaps actually is.

Snow cannot be separated from its political agenda and this raised a question in my mind…is having a strict and well defined political stand point (apart from dillydallying with postmodernist tendencies) cursory for winning a Nobel Prize?

From what I could gather, given my limited knowledge about Turkey, is the book demonstrates how an inconspicuous city/town called Kars battles for its identity beyond the limitations of rigid Islamists, beyond the dictations of power thirsty fascists and beyond the monotonous “stereotypization” of Europhiles.

The town Kars and the poet Ka have a common thread which binds them together: just like Kars is frozen into stagnation because of steady snowfall,l Ka, who has stepped into Kars for poetic inspiration, is undergoing writer’s block – or his own mental stagnation. Just as Ka’s presence makes the snow thaw right from the third day of his visit, Kars’s influence clears his mind and allows him to note down nineteen beautiful poems thereby curing his writer’s block. The relationship between the artist and nature therefore is very symbiotically symmetrical.

Kars means snow in Turkish and snow as a motif has various purposes to fulfill. For Ka, each axis of the hexagonal snowflake symbolized an inspiration that resonated into poetry and luckily for him Kars was blanketed with such inspirational snowflakes that constantly fell from the heavens, like cheerless confetti, as human drama unfolded on earth below. Snowflakes stood for different sentiment and metaphors throughout the book and the author must have mentioned its presence in every page.

Coming to the structure of this novel, Pamuk seems to have used various Post Modernist literary techniques such as the Roman a clef, ‘play within a play’, ‘book within a book’ and stretched it even to a point where it appears to be a book about how to write a book or more precisely a book about how a book is written….there is a difference and the difference lies in activeness and passiveness grammatically speaking since Ka repeatedly mentions that he did not write poems, rather poems, ‘came’ to him.

Snow is the name of the collection of poems which ‘came’ to Ka while his stay in Kars and which he subsequently lost; and Snow is the name of the novel which Pamuk writes where he records how these poems came and went away from Ka. So it is a book about a book.

The boundary between real life and theatre is lifted during the enactment of the State sanctioned play where the actors open fire at the audience and Kadife, the leader of the ‘head scarf girls’ unknowingly shoots Sunay her co-actor and the future autocrat of Kars. The bullets used in both the incidents were real. The play spills into real life and all the world indeed becomes their stage. The fictitious audience in the novel unknowingly becomes a part of a drama they had not agreed to be a part of, so fiction further enters fiction.

The next boundary to be dissolved is between the author and his creation. Pamuk enters his story in person and steps into the shoes of his protagonist Ka and willfully unites himself with Ka’s persona. Therefore author enters fiction and blurs the reader’s concepts of real and unreal. Flashback and flashforward though present are sparingly used, and the deliberate parallels drawn between Ka and Pamuk, are made obvious right towards the end of the novel.

Pamuk discusses sensitive issues related to the political upheavals in Turkey and the sudden outbreak of suicide among Muslim girls but he never crosses a line, he never stimulates a discussion that might give rise to a riot, never is his tone demeaning and he is not really pushing his readers into believe anything that might spur world-wide violence. He even takes the pain to put a few ‘politically correct’ words (almost forcefully) into the mouths of his characters before closing the book as a precautionary measure just to clarify that he meant no harm, his tone is the unmistakable NO-OFFENCE-WITH-ALL-DUE-RESPECT thereby separating himself from the Rushdie brigade (maybe wisely so).

Snow is a kind of book which will remain with you for a very long time and you might often confuse its memories with fragments of your own half remembered dreams.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

A Maverick Heart: Between Love and Life

A Maverick Heart: Between Love and Life

Ravindra Shukla
Leadstart Publishing 2012
Rs. 195

A Maverick Heart is a book that is bound to take you back to your college days. A romance with the campus hottie, bunking boring lectures, hullabaloo at the canteen, managing to somehow scrape through exams…A Maverick Heart has it all. The plot gradually takes a serious turn when it subtly discusses about the contemporary socio-politico structures of our country. A Maverick is a realistic piece of work that discusses about today’s youth and the social factors which condition them. Their journey from that of an individual to being a part of a wider social environment is charted in this story. If you have forgotten how it feels like to be surrounded by an unsettled life, chased by professors for timely submissions, pursued by girlfriend for settling down and hounded by parents for finding a good job then you must read this book as it takes you to a blissful trip down memory lane. 

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Scenes from a Writer's Life: A Memoir

Scenes From a Writer's Life: A Memoir

Ruskin Bond

Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd (2000)Rs. 225

Ruskin Bond's "Scenes.." shines with a sense of basic honesty. This sort of honesty is not the type people muster up in order to sell a large number of autobiographies, it's a kind of honesty that reflects an inherent harmony embedded deep within the self. There are no unnecessary revelation of scandals to spur the voyeuristic curiosity of the inquisitive reader…just that enviable sense of satisfaction that one arrives at after spending a good number of mellow years reflecting over all that came and went.
What emerges to the readers is a certainty that the author has been true to himself, a characteristic that is of course vitally important to autobiography readers. His discordant childhood chiseled his sense perceptions, his self confessed laziness helped him emerge out of this ennui and convert the stuff of mundane trivialities into literary masterpieces.
Since I have always envied people who can deftly explain themselves without the use of too many words I find Bond’s language delightful. Very rarely does he employ a complicated phrase, which itself must be an implication of how uncomplicated his thought processes must be. Only a man who can think without the fetters of regret can afford to view his life with such unblinking clarity.
What charms me most is his acceptance of mistakes and how these mistakes are divorced from any sense of guilt what so ever. This is a rare virtue…to look at one’s faults and come out of it all purged and so much more wiser…I guess it comes with age and of course a comfortable home overlooking the luscious Doon valley!
“Scenes…” is a simple book written by a simple man and it talks about a life simply lived. In spite of the tragedies and the frustrations there is hope mingled between every line…a sort of reassurance that everything will ultimately work out in the merciful bosom of the Himalayas. 

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The Secret Letters of the Monk Who Sold His Ferrari
Robin Sharma
Jaico Publishing House
Rs. 250

There are books one picks up for a soulful read, there books one reads to know what love is all about, there are books about a thrilling adventure...about how a single man travels all around the globe to save someone's life and there are books people pick up because of the lessons they teach. Now what if I say that one would no longer need to flip through a variety of books in order to experience love, thrill, laughter, suspense and spirituality? Well that is what Robin Sharma's "Secret Letters" is all about.
The author himself of course needs no introduction, his previous work "The Monk who Sold his Ferrari" had already earned him global recognition.

"Secret Letters" is based on a man's triumph over worldly obligation. Jonathan is anyone who has ever had a rough family life, or one who feels guilty for not standing up for what one believes in, the beauty of this character lies in the fact that he is a reflection of everyone...he is that bothersome part of one's existence which will not allow one to rest in peace, which will hinder one from understanding who one really is and what one exactly desires. He is a weak man enshrouded by myths of his strength, unable to battle his ego he falls prey to its grasps which becomes more powerful with each passing day. The book opens at that point of his life when he is at the verge of breaking his marriage even though he is still deeply in love with his wife and feels helpless towards his little son, his work is all that he can think of and this becomes his only motive for survival,  this as a result takes a huge toll on his overall well being. His mother is devastated to find him in this sorrowful state and decides to contact Julian, the monk of this story, and help Jonathan prioritize his needs and thereby get back to his feet.

With the commencement of his journey around the globe begins his journey within himself. He has been instructed to collect talismans that represent various aspects of life as a whole. Now as he embarks on this quest he is simultaneously ushered into a journey of self discovery that will help him in understanding his flaws and embrace his life like he should have done many years ago. Each geographical destination gifts him with one valuable insight into his life. The journey is full of adventure, solace and self revelation which not only Jonathan but also the reader undertakes along with him.

The person I was before I picked up the book and the person I am after having read it is different. I do not know how would the others respond to it but I feel each little "nugget" of wisdom will speak to each one in a personalized way even though it is a book meant for everybody. This is one of those books that I would love to flip through every now then...this one is for remembering...and this one is definitely for keeping.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Along The Way

Along The Way
By T.G.C Prasad
Rupa Publication
Rs. 295

TGC Prasad's book "Along The Way" took me by surprise. Apparently it might seem like just another book  dedicated to the software engineers and everything else that surrounds their lives but when probed beyond the surface it becomes a book all of us will be able to connect with, the characters are almost three dimensional because we have inevitably come across real life people exactly like them in our everyday lives; their love story becomes our love story, their experiences are things we have read about in the newspapers, the reader begins to feel like the narrator is not only telling his own story but also the stories of every other person that one might bump into somewhere along the way.

Venkat the "hero" of this book and his darling "heroine" Anjali fall in love while they are both in college. Their subsequent romance and cute petty tiffs are stuff that fresh young love is made of. The couple long with Raj and Adi make quite a youthful and dashing group who have chosen to step out of their middle class comfort zones and experience the life that awaits them beyond their homes.

A few incidents from this book, for instance Venkat's attempt to win Anjali's father to his side by bribing him with a bottle of expensive scotch, made me smile to myself because this is exactly what my fiance (now husband) had done when we were dating. Raj's complaint about South Indian food is typical of most North Indians as they all seem to find it extremely challenging to survive down south. Apart from all the fun and frolic the book also touches upon some serious issues like the homophobia and reckless alcoholism.

The author employs this group of youngsters as an instrument to highlight a few vital factors that seem to steadily become a reiterative trait in our society. The social alienation of the ones who belong to deviant sexuality, the steady rise in the number of youths who die because of drinking and driving or attempting to do feats without the required professionalism.

The book has been a good read not because one gets to know about something that one had hitherto never heard of before, but, because it compels one to recall certain personal experiences, or bits and pieces of information that had carried a lot of value for the time being, but which sadly faded away with the years.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Trans Ganization

Trans Ganization

Rohit Arora
Times Group Books
Rs. 225

To begin with let me firstly warn my readers that I had always presumed Management to be way out of my league. I am a student of literature and I was never a genius in mathematics so when I picked up Rohit Arora's book "Trans Ganization" I was not sure whether I was biting off more than I could I asked my fiance Debarata Basu to coauthor this review with me. Thankfully he agreed, the pages kept turning, printed words made meaning and finally I did not regret taking this up.
In his book "Trans Ganization" Rohit Arora deals with a phase in change revolution called “Crisis of Leadership”. Change is the most inadvertently unpleasant yet unavoidable organizational phenomenon. A change however minuscule requires great foresight, belief and determination from an able and adept leader in order to be successfully implemented. A phase which demands a full-scale organizational shift in control from entrepreneurs to professionals calls for a lot of apprehension, confusion and dilemma for the employees. The focus here is to elaborate on “how to” instead of “how I did” make a change. 
Arora's array of pictorial representations, cases, tabulations and simple language is very involving and academic. Unlike other books dealing with similar topics which goes on to narrate the personal victories, and biased point of views of the authors, Arora has successfully managed in maintaining a very textbook-like and systematic approach while narration. The book also comes with a complimentary CD which further graphically explains what the author attempts to communicate.
His book is indeed very simplistic in approach towards a very complex yet everyday need; this at times may make it seem like the author is deliberately following a safely traveled path by adopting a highly measured approach and catering to a wider base of readers and addressing too many of them simultaneously. However he has evidently taken pains to map small chapters and lay down steps to explain, communicate, standardize, benchmark and evolve change. Another unique point about this book is that the author has touched upon topics like 'Non Market Factors' which are rarely discussed whether in books or boardrooms these days. 
 With his impressive academic background and extensive experience as a change leader, in diverse industries, Arora has beautifully scripted the human like journey of an organization through multiple phases of change in crisp concise chapters. Management can be made everybody's cup of tea if authors like Rohit Arora take the initiative of launching books which simplify and explain each terminology instead of complicating it even further.