Book Review: This Unquiet Land by Barkha Dutt

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This Unquiet Land

Author: Barkha Dutt

Publisher: Aleph

Rating: Four and a half

You can buy the book on Amazon.

 

This Unquiet Land

You cannot observe India from a distance, our rich history, painful past, the caste system, cross-dressing politics, plight of women treated as second-class citizens, terror or Kargil war. India boasts of a rich history and legacy that no one can blithely claim to ignore. Unravelling skeletons in the cupboard is something many of us wouldn’t dare to do.

‘This Unquiet Land’ offers a subtext and narrative of journalism often aired live in recording studios about a country which is forever restless and provokes chaos entrenched in our lives as we wear the cloak of passive spectators. Barkha Dutt who is arguably one of the most talked journalists is never shy to explore the issues with depth and explore our contradiction as a nation.

Barkha Dutt remains for me a journalist of indomitable courage and someone whom I hold in the highest regard. One couldn’t stop smiling when she narrates anecdotes about her initial years in the profession.

The book starts with this anecdote that makes one smile on how a young Barkha Dutt leaped and sat on the bonnet of the car and obstinately refused to be buckled down. The brash brat TV kid, after all, started her career at a time when private TV has just seeped into our lives.

  1. War zone & conflict, terror, and peace

 ‘War is one thing but basic human right is another’

The Kargil war occupies a place of pride in our history, the Sachian glacier and of course, sons of our soil like Captain Vikram Batra and Vishal Sikka who gave a dose of realism and makes us shudder down the spine to think the soldiers walked past the barren and cold mountains. Barkha Dutt gives a first-hand account of negotiations between General Malik and PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee or the hard truth about the US’s colorable device who always jump the gun, albeit interference whenever it suits their vested interests.

It is very easy to succinctly give in to temptation on war zone not for the comfort offered but inherent fear of bombs and guns splintered. It commands respect and admiration when the journalist tells in an equivocal manner that she expects no special favor on the account of being a woman.  It is relevant in the present times where we debate at length on the place of woman in society.

The fear of terrorism is ingrained in our psychology.  Dutt reminds us of events that we have comfortably forgotten, be it the Coffingate scandal in the procurement of Kargil coffin and the security lapse when an Ambassador car hoodwinked security to find its way inside parliament. It simply blows the mind when we come with the lame excuse of being within striking distance. The lack of aggressiveness in our foreign policy and tackling terror is legendary.

Same echo during the 26/11 when we witnessed an entire collapse of the defense system, right from wireless communications to dearth of reinforcement and the support team. It’s blatant. It was an unequal battle where the bulletproof jackets failed to protect against 9 mm bullets.  The substandard protective gears show how corruption is deeply rooted in the system or the obsolete jacket worn by forces where a city was brought to its knee.

Dutt’s book portrays the shoddy state of affair and shows why blame game doesn’t amount to concrete action where Kasab and consorts were given a free rein. The lack of ambulance to ferry Salaskar or the missing jacket of Hemant Karkare raises questions that we haven’t been able to answer even nine years later. Headley, of course, is the missing link in one of the biggest terror attack considering that he was under surveillance for a year before the heinous crime that shook Mumbai and the why of the information that was failed to be passed to New Delhi by the FBI.

The disturbing scenes when Barkha Dutt reported 26/11 in front of Taj Hotel disappointed me for I felt she was swayed by the rhetoric mantra to garner TRP.  I am glad that she addressed the concerns of citizens and critics, alike. It was disturbing to see my favorite journalist hitting the wrong nail. There was a middle-class malaise that perpetuated since Mumbai was pretty much about us and was the first time this specific class complained about the scheme of things. Perhaps, the media wasn’t doing enough to give the people a voice. How I wished she spoke in a more expansive voice on what went wrong with the media on this day. The graphic of violence is something the urban community wanted to avoid and I agree with her. It disturbs but reflects reality.

  1. Poverty, women, and liberalization

 

If statistics could speak, we should have hung our head in shame when seven out of ten households in India remain rural and live on less than Rs 200 a day.  I think it is a human tragedy when we cannot fight poverty and let people die of hunger at a time we are speaking about Make in India campaign or furthering so-called development agenda in our quest to become a super economic power.

It hurts us as a country when a Pawan Malviya is stone pelted for taking his baraat on a horse. His only crime is being born a Dalit. Or, Maya Gautam shunned even by beggars and considered to be filthier than the washroom she mops. It’s a social malaise in an age of modernism which is not solely restricted to Dalits.  We cannot talk about growth or aspirations when half of the children in villages are dying due to malnutrition.  The stats in the book never lie: 1.4 million children die before they turn 5. Let’s not speak about India Shining. The food stock that gets lost or is pilfered and the remote distance to be covered to visit a doctor when the poor Kesar dies on his way should concern everyone, from the media to the policymakers, corporate and civil society.  It’s a criminal act. The poor boy’s nutrition was rabri made on atta chakki, ground maize thinned with water to last longer. No, a child cannot afford milk and his death is blame on fever.

We live in an ugly patriarchal world. The author taps into an important issue facing women the Triple Talaq where women up against it for a fair and just society were at the receiving end.  It’s something that the author spoke at length in the book on women fighting against it who were scorned upon and just now the cabinet cleared the bill to make it a criminal offense. The debate surrounding Uniform Civil Code for India makes for an interesting perspective on how the odds are stacked against gender equality. Triple Talaq or not, the prejudice that woman suffers remain in our society.

Unfortunately, like the author stresses out, India is still defined by cultural incongruities and the fight for women rights unrestricted to India remains the biggest battle.  Like Indra Nooyi the CEO of Pepsi Co once said, ‘No women can’t have it all’, it is something that should push us to reflect on one of the most important rights for women which legitimately belong to them. Freedom cannot be traded or compromised.

Barkha Dutt’s hits the right nail when she says the global rights of women that contains sexual violence and gender equality shouldn’t be treated as a marginal issue. “Feminism is about freedom.’ She calls for parity at home but at the same time, the sexy ads with taglines,  Superman, and Superwoman which are deemed by many of us as unfair balance mounted against women. How do we change our attitudes against women?’ remain the larger questions that call for a passionate debate much beyond social roles at home.

Of course, India is plagued by sexual violence with the rape of Jyoti Singh christened Nirbhaya or innocent children brutally raped push to ponder what has changed after the mass protest in Delhi. We continue to blame the victims but never the perpetrator. The author touches something personal when she faced an attempted sexual violence and the hypocrisy in the faculty telling her to be ‘practical’ in an age where the Vishakha Guideline was non-existent.

The chapter on ‘The Place of Women’ is treated with sensitivity for us to explore the issue in its entirety. There is not a woman who has been spared be it physical violence or groped in public.  We cannot remain as passive spectators and this chapter in the book provides fodder to us all on where to start and tackle the issue from its roots.

  1. Politics, rise of Modi, Moditva agenda and media relationship

Indian politics witnessed the frenzy of the Modi wave who thundered a massive election victory in 2014 that created history. It is important to go back to 2013 when the anointment of Narendra Modi as BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate was met with opposition in the form of Murli Manohar Joshi, Sushma Swaraj or Advani. The power of balance was shifted within the BJP ranks and Dutt rightly drew a contrast when Rajnath Singh wore a skull cap offered by a Muslim leader when Modi refused. It was the start of Moditva agenda that shifted the power balance with the original Hindutva mascot L K Advani bowing out.

The relationship between RSS and Modi is an important facet that Barkha Dutt explored in the book with the meteoric rises of the BJP and voted swing in favor of the PM as RSS mascot. At the same time, pertinent questions are raised on the silence of the PM where provocative statements are made by his ministers, often lingering on insanity sapping the secular fabric of India as a nation. Dutt’s attempts to find an answer to that but it remains largely open to debate.

I think when we speak about the rise of Modi as PM, it is important to assess how Rahul Gandhi always makes the wrong comment at the right or wrong time. He is a personality that intrigues me. Dutt emphasized at Gandhi’s technicality, a rare trait that never makes leaders or wins elections fought at the grass root level.

Caste syndrome, rise of Hindu mob and dark era in history

Unfortunately, our rich history as a country also bears testimony to a painful past with the Gujarat riots, Janbhoomi issue or Ayodhya or riots that claimed the lives of Sikhs after the assassination of Indira Gandhi.  Ugly politics were played both by the BJP and Congress over human lives at some point or the other in Indian history. We faced the darkest period in our history where bodies were charred and splattered where no FIR was filed and grisly murder or rape of minority women post Godhra. The chanting of Jai Bajrang Dal in the 2000s presaged the rise of Hindu mob in today’s times and mass conversion where humans are stripped of human dignity.  It sends us a chill down the spine where rape victims were ostracized in the name of religion and politics.

This Unquiet Land.

It can be argued with legitimate reason that today’s triumph of the BJP has a lot to do with the destruction of the Babri Mosque.  It led to the rise of the fringe elements and Hindu Mob who would not stop at anything. The Congress played the secularism card shamelessly as a political tool and case in point is the banning of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses or the Shah Bano case.

The topic of mass conversion makes us wonder on its relevance in modern India and the place it occupies with the proselytization of Muslims and Christians’ place of worship. The author raises pertinent questions on the issues where rather than empowering the poor, conversions is used as a false argument to damage the country’s secular fabric.

I feel a shudder down the spine when the author unveils the stark reality behind the curtain during the Tsunami that struck the country where the class syndrome of the rich and blurred cast lines serves as a reminder on how the Dalit community battered to death would get food only after being distributed to high caste fishermen. It is a chilling account that should incense us as humans.  There was silence on the part of the high-class which reveals apathy.  Barkha Dutt shares how she received a call or a complaint, “Do we really have to watch this depressing stuff on television right now?” It reveals a malaise in our society on the high-class entitlement or their sense of justice.

The fourth estate is a watchdog of democracy and the brutal assault or murder of journalists doesn’t augur well for our society. Time to stop this rhubarb by calling honest journalists as prostitutes or Lutyens for they often take huge risks at the cost of their lives. It’s one of the issues that I have with people labeling journalist with all kind of names, ‘presstitutes’ which showcases the prejudice we suffer as passive victims that turns into an overt aggressor.

Barkha Dutt’s This Unquiet Land offers a first-hand account in the valley of Jammu and Kashmir that serves as an eye-opener on the misfortune and pain endured by the people. A chronicle of pain, corpses, coffins and the valor of men in uniform or the disappearance of a family member or bullets pumped in children or innocent women which sadly doesn’t make the cut in the global media dehumanizes us. One is tempted to ask, ‘Are they children of lesser Gods or humans?’ No candle lit or marches of solidarity but yet Kashmir Chronicles hit us hard on the face.

Concluding Remarks:

Barkha Dutt’s The Unquiet Land is a holy book that should find its way in schools of journalism and the various issues should be discussed as case study. A book which doesn’t limit itself to the nitty-gritty of the author’s profession but serves as fodder be it in the way India has evolved over the years from a self-sufficient to a society of mass consumption. Right from foreign cars being a rarity, including Dutt’s ‘Benzy’ in the 80s to mobile India with Americanized food chains or single hall cinemas, the great divide between the rich and ‘chavanni’ ushering into multiplex, we are a country at the crossroad. Perhaps, there are lots of confusing as we battle an identity crisis, past achievements, and struggles. Or else, how do we explain the grisly murder of a Mohamed Aqlaf? Do we suffer from class inferiority forever ingrained in religion? There are questions that we perhaps should leave open-ended.

This Unquiet Land is not a book but a journey in the life of a country. It’s India. The author doesn’t content herself to give is peek but a rare insight into our identity and issues that never cease to prod us to reflect. If you want to study the country in its form and our knee-jerk reasoning often verging on the theory of irrationality, Barkha Dutt’s This Unquiet Land offers a subtle beginning and good base. A must read which no Indian or international observer can afford to stay away from.

 

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Book Review: Love across a broken map is searing portrait of emotions

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Book Review: Love across a broken map

Genre: Short stories from The Whole Kahani/anthology across Asia

Copyright Dahlia publishing

Rating: Four stars

Introduction:

In the foreword, Susmita Bhattacharya describes Love across a broken map as a collection of short stories spanning across the South Asian diaspora.  It’s not just an anthology but a stream of human emotions expressed through the stroke of pens touching lives and imaginations. The various descriptions are vivid, be it portraying migrants nestled in a new home in London and craving for this staple diet called love or coming face-to-face with destiny.  In short, the anthology of short stories finds its earnest place in the reader’s heart on account of the honest and sensitive expressions.

Blurb:

From London to Goa, Manchester to Mumbai, tales that span start-ups, girl crushes, virtual gigolos, obsessive fans and astrological mishaps. This eclectic mix of short stories from The Whole Kahani explores love and loss across the dividing lines of culture, race, and ethnicity. Love is celebrated, broken and forgotten; is embraced and remembered in this collection of stories of heartbreak and resilience.

More can be read here.

Narration:

The collection unfurl with ‘Watermelon Seeds’ where writer CG Menon injects prose pocked with gentleness and playfulness at the same time in the engrossing tale through the believable characters.  Alex Caan’s ‘Rocky Romeo’ stirs the taste bud in this heart-pounding offering where the words flow in the vein in narrating the otherworldly life fleshed in the most humane possible manner. Love can strike in the hardest way in the virtual world in this terrible fable beautiful marrying the road for thrill and unexpected love.

The Nine Headed Ravan served by Radhika Kapur is a real cocktail about an unusual love story between two incomplete humans and afflicted by the chasm of emotions or destiny, for that matter. The author throws an emphatic look at the gap in our relationships or fate’s way of snatching our identity that deprives individuals of becoming a whole entity.  It’s one of my favorite stories for the author doesn’t take the run-of-the-mill route but touches the story with a dash of realism, human emotions running high and the engrossing end in the quest for love built with a strong message about the heart’s peculiar way of joining the dots.

‘Three Singers’ is about well, three singers where Kavita Jindal weaves a compelling tale through her riveting language and effortless narration. You just cannot afford to put down this tale. Jindal has a rich language and the detailing in her repertoire, thus making it unique about the twin sisters and the subdued jealousy vying for love. The end comes as surprise but sensational in this down-to-earth story and refreshing story that captures the mind.

The anthology boasts of several heartwarming stories, right from Mona Dash’s ‘To London’ that gently reminds us that love needing no reason or logic. This impossible love story can get intense, repulsive and soothing at the same time which leaves a searing impact on the soul. Iman Qureshi’s ‘Naz’ brings an edge and rare intensity in depicting the gamut of feelings that we hide on the fear of being judged.  The story expresses the shady and dark sides of life’s various facets while at the same time, lending a ubiquitous charm and sensitivity to same-sex attraction. There is Rohan Kar’s ‘We are all made of stars’ who touches the issue of stars and planets in relationships and its violent bearing or the place of an independent woman in our society as well as the fact of coming to terms with the unpleasantness.  Reshma Ruia’s ‘Soul Sisters’ deserves to be read to understand the various nuances of human emotions and the therapeutic approach that effectively deals with darkness and disappointment.

Shibani Lal’s ‘Entwined Destinies’ is about the father-daughter bond where the theme of sacrifice captures the heart. Our relationships are precious so are our dreams, aspirations, and destiny that spans across generations. The book ends with ‘By Hand’ penned by Farrah Yusuf where loneliness is showcased as painful and the end of everything is the only reality.  It’s a heart-wrenching tale that makes one wonder about the fallacy of human existence.

Final Words:

Love across Broken Maps is a collection of short stories and it gets tricky to pick faults in the individually penned stories spanning across continents. The authors have offered a bouquet of emotions and relationships set most in England where hearts are strummed together and bearing souls open.  A commendable effort on the part of the various authors in narrative sensitive tales about lives, and unpeeling the layers of expression, love which is unrequited at times,  pain, angst and dreams to conquer ourselves and the world we live in.

You can click on the Amazon link to buy the book and click here for more information.

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Book Review: Love has its Various Ways is the invisible force of the universe

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Book Review: Love has its Various Ways

Author: Divya Kapoor

Genre: Self Help and spirituality

Rating: Four stars

Book Cover

Introduction:

Life is never known to put us on a pedestal. It is ruthless and often takes away our self-worth. Depression is one thing that gnaws us and bites us like termite in every breath that we take. Nobody can claim to be safe from the blows that life deals, be it a lack of self-worth, frustration and career swing where we suddenly find ourselves in shamble. The uncertainties and vagaries of existence can haunt us where happiness becomes a traded luxury.

Author Divya Kapoor approached me on Linked in for the review of her book, ‘Love has its Various Ways ‘where she takes a methodical approach to treat the issues that we face in everyday life. It would be wrong to confine this book under the tag of self-help but a gem that will accompany you at every step in life and push one’s boundary to fully explore the self at every stage.

Narration:

Divya Kapoor gently explores several issues that touch lives where she offers a step-by-step approach to face the downside of things. We often stumble but willfully ignore the factors that make us an emotional wreck.  The book touches several aspects where the human mind and the body are constantly at odds that hit a new low every single day. The mind is not free from ailments. We are often surrounded by several negative people who bring such toxic energy that bogs us down and contributes to make us lose our self-worth and mental peace.

I like the caterpillar and butterfly analogy which is striking and powerful at the same time.  The pain that the caterpillar goes through before it takes shape into the colorful butterfly reminds us how change can tear us apart but at the same time, it takes the form of self-growth and empowerment. Life calls for drastic changes that allow us to discover a world of extraordinary and limitless possibilities when pushed to the brink.

Self-destruction mode is something that none of us is immune to and there are many who live a dead existence, losing the zing and mojo. Divya explores this issue of ‘US against US’ where she taps into the energy flow that we attract through our psyche and energy. The ingrained pessimism inside us will only bring negativity and it’s interesting to see how the whole thing works like a tide. There is a need to question established norms and beliefs that lead us to grow from strength to strength as a human being. Accepting the status quo has never led us anywhere. The book serves as a reminder and it shakes us to act.

Ever wondered why we are in a pit most of the times! There is a fear within us and it grows mightier that sucks our energy, hence, paralyzing our well-being. It’s a conditioned response, Divya observes.  But, she brings to the fore small exercises that we can do to flush it out. It’s about killing the fears. Most of us have gone through the mental blocks which are fed inside our mind.

I really like the three bones advocated, the wish bone, backbone and the funny bone. The sense of oneness and purpose coming face to face with the real are priceless learning that will make this book not only your guide but a friend that will equip you to face the trials and tribulations. Loving the self should be above everything.

The book includes a work book, from day 1 to day 10 which is very therapeutic and as I glean through them, I not only felt light like the light feather. It’s the real me. The exercise explains in detail the Emotional Freedom Technique (ETF) which every person in my humble opinion must go through. It’s a must have book. I personally love what Divya says, ‘Invisible force of Universe.’ Don’t resist and let it carry you.

Final Words

It is not just a book but a friend, an inner voice that must be nurtured and made part of your journey. Don’t push this force and tenderness away from you! It’s called Divya Kapoor’s Love has its Various Ways.

You can check out Divya Kapoor’s blog, check out the book blurb on Gooodreads, and click to buy it here. Check here for more details and the You Tube channel.

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Book Review: KJO’s An Unsuitable Boy bare it all, is honest and triumphs with style

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Book Review: An Unsuitable Boy

By

Karan Johar with Poonam Saxena

Publisher: Penguin

Released in 2017

Rating: Four stars

https://i2.wp.com/ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51mUqfeTzYL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

Introduction:

Karan Johar is a brand name for success in the movie industry and it’s no secret that he is a man with the Midas touch, having a strong business acumen on the winning formula at the box office. There are very few people in the industry who are ready to make open revelations on what goes behind the curtain or bed sheet, giving an insight into his private life, paid sex or the different power games or the relationships balance that gives fillip to our minds. KJO has a larger than life personality and like his movies and chat show Koffee with Karan, An Unsuitable Boy offers a king size adventure not only in the life of the filmmaker but his growing up days, film-making journey, taking the mantle of Dharma Productions, Bombay days and grappling with sexuality. An Unsuitable Boy is similar to Karan’s movies, the ups, and downs faced in both his career and personal life but at the end of the day, triumphs with style.

Narration:

The book starts with his growing up years in this building called Acropolis in Malabar Hill in Bombay and according to the film-maker, finance was a real struggle at home. Now, that’s quite a revelation when Karan says that his Dad, producer Yash Johar was able to make both ends meet by profits earned through the family export firm. The only hit in Johar senior’s two decades old career before Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was the Amitabh Bachchan-Shatrughan Sinha starrer Dostana so much that Karan as a young boy was discouraged to get into films.

The book traces his interesting journey, right from assisting Aditya Chopra on DDLJ, to write sequences in the film, the story-teller quality that was always inherently present in him, to be clueless on the first day of shoot, striking a close friendship with Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol to ultimately making Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (KKHH). It’s quite hilarious to read about the film’s premiere when the new film-maker received death threats and was confined inside Liberty theatre while all he wanted during all these years was to see Shammi Kapoor walk out of his Mercedes to see his premiere. He did.  It was his moment of fame and glory but was soon sent back inside the room where two body guards played darban.

The book is honest to the core, right from taking over Dharma Productions to bringing back his college friend Apoorva Mehta from London to see things over and Anil Ambani handing him a chit that contained investment, bank account, and go-to-people details. Of course, Karan confesses on what went behind the scenes during the shooting of Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna which is based on extra marital relations. How many film makers would open tell that most of his actors, right from Amitabh Bachchan to Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee and Preity Zinta, except Abhishek playing the wronged guy, whined about the subject-matter? That’s quite a confession to make because as a creative person, there is a certain ego to justify your work but here is a man saying how he hated KANK and the reality behind the whole saga.

He provides a sharp, bare it all and insightful take on marriage and extra relationships that most of us prefer to hide:

‘You find me one marriage that has opportunity and hasn’t succumbed in it. They experience it at home, brush it under the carpet and move on. There is a huge latent hypocrisy in our society…sometimes you do love your spouse but you’re not necessarily turned on by them after two decades of marriage. So they come back with a guilt and a present…Is this the reality of our times? Where is that old school resilience? Is divorce the new marriage?’

How interesting! The questions asked by the film-maker are not something many of us are comfortable to face but we wilfully run away from. It’s the reality in today’s times. The confession of joining an online dating service, unrequited love in the past and the nerve-racking experience of paying for sex deserves respect for the filmmaker choose to come out in the open in a brazenly honest manner. He openly confesses of seeing a counselor after facing depression and the need for medication to calm him or experimenting with popping a pill in Goa that did nothing to him ecstasy wise but went to sleep. There is a certain fun in the seriousness that KJO injects in the book. It will make you laugh and cry at the same time.

KJO is not shy in speaking about the fall out he had with close friend Kajol following Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, gently broaching on his sexuality, an entire chapter devoted to his association with Shah Rukh Khan whom he consider as a brother or his closeness to Gauri and the kids.

Of course, being a celebrity in the age of social media is no easy task where you are subjected to all forms of ludicrous public scrutiny. It’s something that he assesses in a competent manner on how the younger kids are too worried about failure or too careful to take risks. Compare it to the Khans who hold a controlled megalomania but the people feel close to them because of their relatable quotient and endearing quality. Or, Amitabh Bachchan is an exception where no one knows what goes inside his head but there lies a certain mysticism and silence that makes him relevant and so loved even in today’s times.

What’s Not!

Karan Johar should have been more open about his sexual orientation taking into account that he speaks about the lack of relatable factor when it comes to the younger brigade of stars. Perhaps, that would have broken the ice and make his personality more endearing that people could have related more to him. But, then, it’s his personal calling and something that we should respect. The book is an odd 216 pages which give the feeling that it’s quite short on the enigma that Karan Johar is becoming in the film industry. Salacious and juicy, something which I feel is somehow missing in parts.

Final Words:

‘There is no nepotism any longer. Film-makers are bringing in new cultures with their own style of film-making…Hindi cinema is actually not an invasion, it’s an inclusion. A new kind of content is being made and appreciated.’

An Unsuitable Boy is not just a book but a vivid journey tracing the life of one of the most successful film makers in the Hindi film industry. It’s a bold account. The best thing about the book is that he touches the various issues with a certain raw reality and credit goes to him for saying how Indian cinema will become more relevant globally with the kind of experimental movies being made. I have always been against this commercial versus art debate for it’s my firm belief as a film critic and passionate cinema goer that either you make a good or bad product. Casting aside the whole nepotism fracas, An Unsuitable Boy gets so real and whether you adore or abhor KJO, this book is a compelling read and a page turner so much that you will laud the man for the courage shown. It’s the book’s USP for it lays bare everything under the sun. A must read in the world of glitz, glamor but also what lies behind the curtains.

Love

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Book Review: The House that BJ Built is trance to the mind

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Book Review: The House that BJ Built

Author: AnujaChauhan

Publisher: Westland Ltd

Rating: Five stars

The House That BJ Built by [Chauhan, Anuja]

‘I’ll make my sisters squirm like well salted earthworms.

I won’t sell. Even my jutti won’t sell. And if I die na, then even my gosht won’t sell!’

Introduction:

A dint of imagination, soaking readers in a trance at the posh Hailey Road in Delhi and making one swirl to the cocktail of romance, wacky characters, and pricey women, spate of lies and lusty encounter. A family feud in full throttle and the crazy Bonu who explodes at the drop of a hat gives a high that it’s almost impossible to recover from it. Anuja Chauhan’s writing hooks from start to end where she takes her readers in a flawless journey that win hearts to make it an eternal romance tale that flows like alcohol in the vein. The book is an addiction and the cherry on cake is that she takes, ‘The House that BJ Built’ where she left, ‘Those Pricey Thakur Girls’ to make it a cheek-by-jowl narration.  Certainly, Anuja Chauhan is the Queen of romance that tickles the funny bones and the non-veg jokes are lent so much dignity and once you flip the last page, it takes days to recover from it.

Blurb:

The late Binodini Thakur had been very clear that she would never agree to sell her hissa in her Bauji’s big old house on Hailey Road. And her daughter Bonu is determined to honor her mother’s wishes. late Binodini Thakur had been very clear that she would never agree to sell her hissa in her Bauji’s big old house on Hailey Road. And her daughter Bonu is determined to honor her mother’s wishes.

Narration:

‘Tharki Thakur…obvio…this abstinence shit you’re pulling out is fuckin’ unhealthy…Two months of no action…All your juice is gonna back up inside your body…clog your bloodstream and give you gigantic pimples. You could even burst like, one gigantic pimple’

Rolling your stomach and churning in pain for you know there is no GST on laughing. It’s Anuja Chauhan for you. Sensual writing, tickling, sharp and divvy characters that capture the hearts to make it an epic and joyful ride as you enter the world of shtick, sympathetic and jaunty faces that comes alive with force. Anuja Chauhan whips a storm of relentless laugh and her observation of quirky characters teasing the readers endlessly and giving their imagination wings to fly.

The characters,  from the Thakur sisters whom you love to hate to the endearing Trings are as sweet as the mouth-watering Gulab Jamun. Of course, Bonu aka Bonita Singh is explosive as one depicts her twisted mind, cham cham and on your face ‘I don’t give a shit’ meeting Samar Vir Singh. There is hate, love, friendship and, of course, Samar’s buddy Zeeshan bloviating at length on his ‘glorious’ vocabulary of cusswords. The romance between Samar and Bonu takes it to another level, serving sauce a la Debo and Dylan in the earlier outing, living up to the adage, the more the merrier. Of course, Steesh is back as the suave businessman and rekindling romance with Eeshwari in the ‘losing control’ moment that sets the adrenaline spurting on a high. There is nothing that beats the Pricey Thakur Girls, right from Anjini to Debo and Eeshwari with Chandu. The debilitating Chachi-ji serves the cracker pot right and her stories make the tickling sensation run amok from top to toe. There is evil of course with AN Thakur who is in contrast to Judge Narayan Thakur’s character.

Anuja Chauhan’s makes a strong and subdued statement at the same time on citizens we consider as second class…the Tring Brothers and the peek into the film and fashion industry which is effortlessly fun. Case in point is the epic conversation between Bonu Singh and Susan.

Hardly any brownie point, except if you want to count the forgettable Mustaq Khan which is more a blink-and-eye character that doesn’t really fit in the novel.

Final Words:

If there is anyone in India who can claim the mantle of rom-com writing, there is no dispute about it. It’s Anuja Chauhan. She takes The House That BJ Built to another level right from the spicy humor to the lovable characters and, of course, aur jee item song or Tharki Thakur. The one-liners are weaved in an intelligent fashion.  The spunky writing simply grows on you that you will abandon everything on earth to flung yourself in this universe. Time to move over Chetan Bhagat for Anuja Chauhan sashays like a storm. Sad, that I stayed away from her books all this while but gonna lap everything that comes from her, Battle of Bittora or Baaz. Dirty words can be sexy, glamorous and spicy! You cannot love romance and shamelessly confide not reading Anuja Chauhan’s Pricey Thakur Girls and BJ’s House.

Postscript: It’s a non-commissioned review and grab your copy at Amazon and follow the author’s FB page.

Love

V

 

Book Review: Love & Vodka is wine to the mind

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Christina Strigas is a wonderful friend, based in Montreal and her poems are gems that make sensuality a powerful affair. I’ve been off book reviews for a while but sometimes, you need a friend to kick the lazy bum that you are into action. I took a hell long time to do the review and reading the book but when I did, it flew like gentle breeze of caress. Chrissy words on her blogs can inspire someone to create poetry out of nothing and do subscribe on her space. Apologies for taking so long to put the review. Here you are:

 

 

 

Love and Vodka-a book of poetry for glass hearts

By Christina Strigas

Genre: Poetry

If poetry is sheer madness and exuberance, word is wine to the mind. A dash of emotions, oodles of sensuality gently caressing the mind, sheer passion running through the soul and it tastes like the hurricane force of intimacy. Love and Vodka is the gentle breeze that captures everything aesthetic as the author invites you inside her world and emotions running deep through modern love, resist, love, dirty talks, tug of war and see you anon. The book takes you by storm and doesn’t leave any shred of emotion unturned, flinging right in front of your fate and existence. In one shot, it’s exuberance in all its forms.

Narration:

Christina’s choice of words is fearless and limitless making the soul alive and vibrant in all its forms. There is no limit to anything yet it embraces everything. The ‘conversations with my daughter’ is gentle and removes all burdens of past, present, and future where gap is just a word that society imposes as a stamp. Words that simply cuddle you and snuggle into the arms of an invisible love reaffirm the faith in sheer madness and messy. Be real. Christina sends a gentle but provocative message. Her words provoke and push you to an octane level, whether making love, caress or fuck.

‘If you could fuck just dare

to fuck the art in me.

The kind of sex

That would put us

Both on fire.’

She is unabashedly unapologetic and her words create a stormy furor inside the mind and body. Outrageous would be an understatement yet we love it like the wind shaking our roots violently. The tales of cities be it Brooklyn, New York or Montreal builds a visual image of free spirited soul, unshaken by boundary to embrace love, sorrow or sheer intimacy. At times, the words weaved are poignant and arcane. The writer takes you on the wide roads and cities teemed with the bustling crowd to explore the You with passion. ‘Death’ brings you face to face with the reality that you avoid with comfort but punch you hard. It knocks you down. The world becomes a dreaded existence.

It’s one sentence, simple but pregnant with meaning: ‘You can’t break up with a soul mate’. How many of us reflect on it but shrug it off? It’s the reality, the tale of our lives. The bond is deep and eternal beyond lives.

As she depicts her city or cities she lives in, a flurry of emotions pans out and paralyzes the soul that we were and cherishing the words as if our universe has stopped in an abrupt manner. The moment of joy, craving for lust and breeze that kiss our skin to make it a living experience.

‘Naked before you…snug top…words between us like sand in an ocean…naked and embrace the demons talk to them.’

Isn’t it enticing and mysterious at the same time like the reality of life sounding like a mere illusion?

The segment ‘Dirty Talk’ transgresses the bodies and skins to make it the truth serum for the soul, hardness, stiffness, and sex expressed in art form. Lust can be aesthetic. Words that cover not just the body but the love, craving for a fuck, enslaved but caught in the flurry of intense emotions. It’s a masturbation but of the mind.

‘When you fuck me,

We still make love…Do you want to fuck me?

Like what?

So honestly.

Do I make you wet?’

There is a certain honesty that many of us are shy to ask and it’s a crude form of art that shakes us off our comfort zone. The human identity is given wing and reality told in a blunt manner.  In ‘Lines of Insanity’, Christina explores the shaky existence that we take pride in and reminds us how we stop living to become dead souls.

There is ‘see you anon’ where the author treads on earth, souls and the end of it. Death can be intense and the fallacy of existence is treated in such a powerful manner through prose.

‘It is when the coffin settles, the sculpted wood evaporates, the mud dries on our boots.’

It’s about live life on the edge, tromping dangerously with ‘weeds’ making rhyme and love to make one’s mind dance and swirl to heavenly bliss.

The poem ‘Ticket Train’ is the abstract observation of life and painting of the flow of human emotions depicting love affairs, murder, rape and the death of a cat that pricks the skin and sends shudder down the spine. There is pain that overpowers the soul as we wonder where one stands at the juncture.

Christina’s ‘12 steps to writing is a real gem, one after the other, exploring the nuances of words and is sensual art on canvas to make writing simplistic yet intensely beautiful. The writer has a gift, ‘For You, The Reader’ which tastes like honey, unbridled and mystic sensuality that flow like ink kissing the naked soul. The writer traverses minds to make poetry unabashedly sexy.

Final words:

In short, Christina Strigas through her book, ‘Love and Vodka’ takes her readers on a trance and a journey of illusion. I never know that illusion and imagination could look so beautiful and enticing. A brilliant poetry collection that will stoke your creative bulb and make minds steamy, transgressing barriers.

 

You can the buy the book on Amazon. The author can be contacted on her website. Connect with her on Twitter and Facebook.

Love

V

 

Indian Women and the Shaadi Conundrum offers scholarly, in-depth analysis of women issues

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Book Review: Indian Women and the Shaadi Conundrum

Authored by: Dr Rachna Arora & Deepika Sharma

Released in 2016 by Authors press, New Delhi

Rating: Four stars

Introduction:

Today, March 8, the world celebrates International Women Day and it is important to reflect on the place held by women in society who makes several choices that defines their life, career and issues that plague them in juggling family and professional life. The book, ‘Indian Women and the Shaadi Conundrum’ assesses issues faced by women in their married life which is often dictated by a patriarchal society that treats the ‘fairer sex’ as inferior and roles they are expected to play in society. Often, religion, rites and rituals get the upper hand where women face the ire of misplaced rules in society. The author addresses several themes pertaining to relationships, expected roles for women, stereotyping and equal values which seems to wane by the day. The issues treated in the book is timeless, relevant during the bygone era, the present and the future where it seems dogmatic views has not changed an iota no matter how much we shout hoarse about equality in society. In short, ‘Indian Women and the Shaadi Conundrum’ serves as guide in terms of practicalities in offering first-hand account and is a small bible that has explored in-depth the role of woman in their married life. Let’s analyze the focal points.

Narration:

“Post marriage, my life has become miserable because of constant interference from the family members. I am expected to take permission from my in-laws before buying clothes for myself. Privacy is an alien concept in the house, as my sisters-in-law walk freely into our room at odd hours.”

Authors Dr Rachna Arora & Deepika Sharma use first-hand accounts in exploring the situation of women who often lack the support of their respective husbands in several instances and points out at the so-called happy and long-lasting marriage. Pride is taken in a society like ours where divorce is taboo. Unfortunately, many of us prefer to evade the grim reality and we proudly wear the veil of seeing everything hunky-dory but had we chosen to look behind the curtains, a box of Pandora would unveil right in front of our eyes. In this book, the right questions are asking on the role of mother in-laws in the way they treat their daughters where honest questions and assertiveness is recommended for the woman so that she is not taken for granted.

The role of extended family is also being addressed and the courtship period where the mandatory six months is recommended before a woman takes the plunge. The authors recommend on the need for a woman to put things in perspective and not succumb to the pressure of tying the knot. Oh! The famous log kya kahenge and if needed call off the engagement off if the ‘stone-aged’ influence of doggedly keeping rituals, customs and traditions arise.

What I like the most in the book is that it has several Dos and Donts, checklist on how to gauge a prospective groom and aspects where a woman can work it out or cannot compromise with in-laws. I think before getting married each and every woman must have a checklist before going ahead. The book has a must have list that addresses pressing issues such as a realistic approach to marriage, knowledge about laws and legal rights and financial security, among others.

The uniqueness of women should be celebrated in all its forms and it whittle down to personal choice. The hair style, choice of jewellery, weight or shopping shouldn’t be a matter of seeking approval on the eve of marriage. These are simple things but something which the authors deemed right to remind women whose individuality are often lost in translation.

The book points out at life post marriage where a woman suddenly finds herself at the cross-road with labels such as bhabhi, devrani or jaithani. A strong message is sent: Treat us like a daughter and give equal treatment. The main points are often on the need for a daughter in law (DIL) to be answerable and boosting the image of an ideal bahu or the fact, she will learn and manage on her own. The authors explore the various issues and discuss communications as an effective tool for a healthy relationship. It’s about the need to engage directly with in-laws and be assertive when things go awry. It’s important to accept new relations which is often tough, taking into account that a girl is leaving her comfort zone and ‘privileges’ at home. It’s a two-way traffic, I’d argue. Be assertive and learn to say No matters above everything else not to crush the self or individuality.

A whole chapter is devoted to patriarchal nature of society where the father-in-law expects his morning tea and owing to the protocol for DIL in India, whose parents never get special treatment. It serves as a great contrast, as the authors rightly figure it out, how women don’t make demands to the Jamai Saab. It’s a tragedy in today’s time how parochial and patriarchal our society is ingrained in rules dating back to the dark age. Or, the preconceived notion when it comes to arranged marriage where the woman is controlling the man and this cliché that she is too independent.

There are passages like, ‘The girl is too cunning, that is, why she has brainwashed our son… He chooses a girl he loves, she would not want to live with us after marriage…This boy is married to a girl from the hills. These girls are so cunning and into black magic…He has married a different culture girl, these girls are mithi churi.’ Sounds familiar!

In the chapter, ‘Self-Empowerment: The Key to Happiness’, the authors points at common stereotypes where women grew up with rules such as women don’t laugh loudly, a shame to play sports, your rightful place is in the four corners of the home or a woman is respected after marriage because of her husband.

The authors make a great pitch for parents to instill equal values among girls, urging her to say no, curfew applying for both women and men as well as addressing the much-dreaded menstruation which is treated as taboo. It’s no secret in many homes girls going through menses are treated like outcasts and it’s time to throw out such illogical and ridiculous practice where society, albeit parents are to be majorly blamed. A woman going through menses is a normal being.

The authors devote an entire page in the form of a chapter to in-laws, reminding them of shared efforts in a household which is not the sole domain of a woman, the need for reciprocal relationships, keeping a check on personal boundaries and avoiding comparisons. It’s much-needed tips for parents-in-law in today’s times.

The husband or hubby to be is also urged to take a stand for women and it’s his responsibility as an equal partner to voice out against social injustice or helping during the adjustment period.

What’s Not!

Honestly, I am not going that route in pointing out at flaws in the book since it’s a scholarly product where the authors have used extensive survey, much to their credit and case studies to support their claim on something obvious. It’s a worrying aspect in the way we treat women as second-class citizens after marriage where she is expected to fulfill social obligations without reasoning.

Final words:

The work of authors Dr Rachna Arora & Deepika Sharma in Indian Women and the Shaadi Conundrum must be lauded for their in-depth analysis and critically assessing the position of women in the marriage sphere. This book should serve as a reference point for organizations such as National Commission for Women and the case studies as a guide in drafting legislations to protect women, upholding their rights in society. A brilliantly explored scholar work that serve as a guide to the Government, academic institutions, NGOs and helping to spread awareness, raise mass consciousness and educate. Full marks to the authors for urging us to question rules that discriminate against fellow human beings. Such nonsensical rules should not only be questioned but chucked out. It’s written in a simple and direct language, that makes it easy to understand minus technical jargons. Go and grab it.

PS: The book has been given to me for review by the authors through my good friend, poet and author Soumya Mohanty Vilekar. You can buy the book on Amazon and check out more on Goodreads.

V