Monday, July 29, 2013
Sunday, July 28, 2013
This book had very little story. It was a bunch of fact, real or not, thrown in together in a mish-mash bound by such poor writing skills that I cannot believe it ever even got published let alone be bought. And no concept was even explained, but just somehow added together. Did you know that simply by being hypnotised you go back into your past lives, as many as you like. And you see the people exactly as they were, it doesn't matter that one time you were European, once Indian and once Japanese. When he did talk about things other than "facts" the descriptions were so weird and out of place.
In one place he described an East Londoner claiming that they usually wear Armani clothes and Gucci shoes. I was surprised. I never saw anyone like that and I wondered how did he get the idea. I did what everyone in my generation does. I googled. Guess what ?
An excerpt from The Rozabal Line published in September 2007
Saturday, July 27, 2013
Wednesday, July 17, 2013
I understand why people suggested I do not read it. It digs in hard to pull out the dirt of India. Or rather it tries to. The story in the 'darkness' of the Bihari village is a little made up. It is not really out right horrible or improbable but it tries hard to be horrible. I say it 'tries' because at some level it feels fake. Again, I'm not saying it's improbable; such stories do exist and even worse ones do. What I mean to say is that the author is not convincing enough. Like he is not sure how else to portray poverty. Like he doesn't really know it, feel it or even see it. Like he made up a story without living it and yet wrote the story from a first person point of view. So its like a man who is trying to paint a picture without seeing it.
If you put down a list of all the things about Indian society that can be showcased to the western audience and you weave a story around it, you get The White Tiger. When you write serious book reviews, or film reviews even, you talk of "themes" and "reading between the lines" and what the book is trying to say through the story, but not the story itself. Usually, writers would think of those themes I am sure, but would not have a theme to theme flow chart to let the story flow. This book feels like it has a flow chart. Like someone put together a story just to put together the themes. It doesn't feel like it's written by someone who loves to write. It feels more like it is written by someone who wants to get famous and spent a while researching the formula.
He got the formula right! I can see why this book won the Man Booker. It's a well brought together story that illustrates the way of life in India in the 'darkness'. It shows how common corruption is and at what levels. It shows how a society can absorb you into it and turn you corrupt even when you try not to be. It shows you the two types of India that diverge with every growth story you hear. And in spite of all the shit that it flings at you, it still shows you the hope that India carries with it and moves forward. The hope that anyone can get out of the darkness if they try hard enough. Do they have to kill for it? Well, the book also makes you question morality.
With so many deep thoughts, how can one ignore this book, even if it is badly written ?
What if the author may not have seen a village as poor as Laxamangarh other than in passing, what if the author may never have stepped into a government hospital? He wrote about it convincingly enough for most people who may never have been to India except while flying over it. It is true though, the stories of that India and this India do exist and do intertwine time and again. It is true. And so I can understand why this book won the Man Booker.
It's like Slumdog Millionaire, except more wrong and real. And the last Indian book to win was The Inheritence of Loss! The western world needs to get over the Indian poverty already. It's not romantic.
And apparently he beat Amitav Ghosh to the prize! Oh well, Sea of Poppies wasn't Amitav Ghosh's best writing.
Tuesday, July 09, 2013
after the quake is a collection of short stories with the Kobe quake in 1995 as the central character. Actually not, the quake is not central. It is omnipresent like a background setting but doesn't have a direct impact on any stories or characters. It is a brewing theme underneath the day to day life, and time and again it takes the form of simple emotions.
It's a small book. Just a few stories.
UFO in Kushiro - a man who lost his wife (she left him after the quake) finds out about a UFO sighting with similar consequences, and how to keep bears away.
Landscape with Flatiron - a man left his family to light bonfires in a beach town waiting to die trapped in a refrigerator, and how a young woman loves bonfires.
All God's children can dance - a man finds his father and in the dark dances because all god's children can dance.
Thailand - a woman hates a man enough to wish him dead in the quake, and how she finds peace in a small hut.
Super-frog saves Tokyo - a man fights along side Super-frog to prevent a quake in Tokyo, even if no one else believes him.
Honey Pie - a young girl is afraid of the earthquake man who will put her in a box, even as her parents are stuck in an unexpressed love triangle.
Stories are simple instances, some span over a couple of days, some span over an evening. All of them inexplicably sad. The type of sadness instilled by loneliness and longing, accentuated by the almost matter-of-fact narrative style that accepts the sadness without a fight. Pretty depressing actually. But almost all of them end in a tiny bit of hope, and a tiny hint of a smile. Sad stories with happy endings.
Thursday, July 04, 2013
(A first meeting conversation)
Where are you from?
Yes yes, where in India?
I doubt you'd know. It's a beach town on the east coast. Visakhapatnam.
Oh. I've actually been to India.
Oh you did? Where about?
Mostly north. ... I don't like what they did to Mumbai.
What do you mean?
I don't like how the government threw everyone out. All the other cities in the world throw people out organically. London becomes expensive and people leave. But mumbai was built by throwing people out. It could have been more organised.
(Not the first time. The rest of the discussion did indeed result in fair understanding of each other's point of view)
I would most definitely support a woman.
Over a man.
Yes, if they are equally qualified. I believe a woman worked harder than a man to get to this equal position.
Now that is discrimination.
(A first meeting conversation)
Calcutta is safe. As a woman I feel it's a safe place. People come to help you.
Really, like how?
Well one time some guy commented on us girls and I turned around and started blasting him and people came around to blast him too.
Have you ever considered that if you blast him, he'll get only more inclined to tease girls?
Monday, July 01, 2013
The door is the wooden design with horizontal slanting slits for ventilation. I googled it for an appropriate name for the design but could not find (I mean I googled it now, not when I was stuck inside). So I could get plenty of air and that was a good thing. But no one could see me because the slope is downward. I get light though because it was very bright and sunny that day. I stuck my hand out and I realised I could fit my arm almost nearly till my elbow out. And I could even reach the keypad for the combination lock. Sadly I did not remember the configuration of the numbers on it. It had 6 rows of 2 columns. I could only remember that the bottom right (from my point of view, the bottom left) was a cancel button. So I could keep trying but I need to put the cancel button before I try. I tried to push some keys and see if it works but it didn't.
I remembered I had my smart phone with me. I could slip it out and take a picture. For some reason I was afraid it would fall out of my hands and I would lose the only thing that I have to contact the outside world in case I get stuck here really long. I slipped it in a bit, got worried I would drop it and pulled it back inside. The problem is that my phone is slippery and big and obviously does not bend.
In the far end, the massive gates to the road opened up. It meant that a car was either coming or going out. Luckily it was coming in. I started to scream and shout and bang the doors. The car stopped. I was glad. Then the garage door opened and the car went in. No one came out. No one heard me.
Again I started fidgeting with the keypad. I remembered the location of the first character, but I couldn't remember the rest. I started to slip my phone out again when I saw a person walking past on the far side. This time I really screamed. I screamed out saying I m locked in. He turned around and turned back to leave. I guess he couldn't see anything so assumed someone talking inside a house. I screamed again and again till he finally decided to investigate where the sound was coming from . Then I started to direct him towards me and finally he noticed my fingers flapping desperately out of those slits in the door.
He got me out and the first thing he asks how did I get locked in. Err. I was taking the trash out?
Later my friend told me there is a worse place to get locked-in. The bathroom of a hotel room.