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Title :- Prodigy Of Errors

Author :- Manisha Gupta

Publisher :- Partridge India (Penguin)

Pages :- 240

To tell the readers right at the beginning of this review of ‘Prodigy Of Errors’ that its writer Manisha Gupta is a hugely gifted and talented writer and you will enjoy reading her first work of fiction titled ‘Prodigy Of Errors’ will be akin to serving desert before the main course.

But such is the lucidity of Manisha Gupta’s prose that much as I hate, I’m complled to admit that this novel leaves the reader marvelling at the deft use of language and uncanny word plays that are ready to seduce the reader into the make believe world Manisha Gupta has created so masterfully between the pages of ‘Prodigy Of Errors’.

This novel tells the story of a girl next door Nitya. Nitya herself is the narrator and she is successful in grabbing her reader’s undivided attention in the first few pages only which is a huge achievement for any story-teller. Nitya is not a super woman. She is way below an average woman. Her life is full of goofy misunderaventures told through 28 chapters in a style that evokes both laughter and sadness in equal measure.

We find ourselves laughing at Nitya because the mistakes she committs are so silly. At the same time, we feel a twinge of sadness for this girl next door who somehow finds herself in no man’s land for no fault of hers most of the times. ‘Prodigy Of Errors’ has 240 pages and all these pages are full of funny and cantankerous characters but the heroine is unarguably Nitya whose life interests the reader the most almost at once.

I found this chapter 19 ‘In Exile with Daniel Sir’ the most hilarious. It describes Nitya’s first crush with her music teacher who doesn’t give her second glance and whose yearning for some other woman leaves Nutya hallucinating much to the amazement of the reader.

The strict father, moody husband, cunning roommates at the hostel, prankster friends, loneliness, assassination of a famous political leader followed by a retaliatory communal bloodbath and not to mention an overseas trip are what make ‘Prodigy Of Errors’ such a forceful and racy read. The punch at the end of each and every chapter makes the reader want to finish this novel as fast as possible.

Manisha Gupta comes across as a bold and unique novelist who has the guts to choose this type of subject and story line for her debut novel. Normally, when we are writing our first work of fiction, we tend to portray central characters as having all super natural powers to overcome any tough challenges. But Manisha Gupta surprises her reader by her simple yet in-your-face portrayal of not so larger-than-life Nitya who begins to tug at your heart strings by the time you reach the last page of ‘Prodigy Of Errors’. Do pick up this book. It’s worth going for.

The verdict is ‘Prodigy Of Errors’ is a highly recommended book to read and savour forever.

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“Our Moon Has Blood Clots – The Exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits” by Rahul Pandita

Published By Random House India

Rs 499/- Pages  258,  Genre Non-fiction

When the reader finishes reading a book, he emerges from the experience either entertained or more knowledgeable. Very few books have it in them to leave their reader completely speechless and moved to tears for hours on end. Rahul Pandita’s “Our Moon Has Blood Clots” is one such book.

This work of non-fiction is a masterpiece as far as the telling of the controversial exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits from their homes way back in 1989-90 is concerned. Unfortunately, Rahul Pandita belongs to a generation of the Kashmiri Pandits that both experienced and witnessed the exodus.

The  book tells one of the most tragic tales of the modern times. The issue of the exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits is laid bare in bone-chilling and mind numbing details. This brutal and most inhuman saga reads like a thriller. Rahul Pandita is successful in keeping the reader turning the pages with the honest account of those turbulent days in the history of the valley.

The book is divided in five parts. In the beginning, the narrator traces the origins of the Kashmiri Pandits and how  misfortunes after misfortunes have befallen upon them at amazing regularities since good olden days.

Soon the narrative shifts to the events of 1989-90 that led to the exodus leaving the Pandits as refugees in their own country. The conspiracy to uproot and scare them into exile is so well-orchestrated and perfectly executed that at the plight of these harried souls often falling to the bullets even the most cruel heart melts like the wax from the burnt-out candle.

The hardships and the betrayals they face at the refugee camps or at the hands of the hostile landlords leave the reader with only one prayer that the almighty must never put even enemies through such tragic and unfortunate conditions.

The events of 1947 when the most horrific tribal raids took place are gory enough to give any reader sleepless nights. How brave Kashmiri Pandits choose to fall to the enemy bullets rather than compromise their dignity and surrender honour. The account of those incidents is so vivid that the tears do not, even once, dry up while going through them.

The fourth and fifth parts deal with how the narrator tries to come to terms with the catastrophe of his homelessness, his special and priceless bond with his elder brother Ravi and his mother’s failing health. As the narrative unfolds at the lightning speed, the reader’s admiration and respect for the lion-hearted narrator only grows.

Who can come to terms with the trauma of his childhood home inhabited by unknown people? What can the visit to such a home abandoned in the most hostile conditions bring forth? The account of this visit is so emotionally charged that the heart goes out to the narrator immediately.

What makes “Our Moon Has Blood Clots” extremely readable is its lucid prose. It is so free flowing with attention paid to every minute detail that the reader feels as if the entire saga is unfolding right before his eyes. The tension keeps building to the last page. The end leaves the reader heart-broken and  thoughtful beyond one’s imagination.

To sum up, these lines from the book come to mind, “When I saw Nehru for the first time in Lal Chowk, I was a refugee in my own state sixty years later, I am a refugee in my own country”. They pierce like an arrow and set us thinking what kind of apology to the Kashmiri Pandits will make them feel good.

“Our Moon Has Blood Clots” is a must read for all those who want to know the first hand authentic account of the exodus that took place twenty three years ago. The readers with weak hearts will want to think twice before plunging themselves in to the beautifully evocative and emotionally charged “Our Moon Has Blood Clots – The Exodus of the Kashmiri Pandits”.

 

THE BEST THING ABOUT YOU IS YOU!  – Anupam Kher

Publisher :- Hay House

Price :- Rs. 399/- (Pages 228)

 

The title  “The Best Thing About You Is You!” makes you want to buy the book the moment your eyes fall on it. What makes the decision to buy the book hard to resist is the name of the author. Who doesn’t know Mr. Anupam Kher? He is a well-known face every Indian has seen on the celluloid countless times. The list of his famous roles is endless. When the star of Anupam Kher’s caliber writes a book that has got as catchy a title as “The Best Thing About You Is You!”, there’s no choice for a book lover like me but to buy it and finish reading it within hours of having brought it home.

The book has 228 pages filled with author’s deep philosophical insights on the subjects ranging from success to failure to sadness to the concept of change to the meaning of self-discovery to final destination (death). Those interested in reading books on self-help may have come across the above mentioned subjects in various books. But the most striking quality about “The Best Thing About You Is You!”  is Mr. Kher discusses the most serious things of life and career without being preachy. While reading the book, the reader feels as if the author has put his hand around his arm and taking him through various ups and down of life like a true friend, philosopher and guide.

Throughout the book, the author insists that no human being is inferior and the  solutions to the most complicated problems are available deep within us. There is no need to look outside. All we need to do is spend some time alone and seek answers to the questions that have been rankling us the most. If we practise the magic of solitude regularly by going deep inside us, the answers will reveal themselves one by one. To drive home these points, he quotes many examples either from famous books or plays or from his own experiences. The thread running in each chapter of the book is the best thing about you is you.

What makes “The Best Thing About You Is You!” both readable and recommendable is author’s lucid prose peppered with plenty of anecdotes that sound convincing and straight from the heart. Nowhere in the book Mr. Kher hints that his readers ought to believe what he says because he is such a big actor. In one of the chapters he quotes that famous Gandhian line , “There is enough for the world’s needs, but not enough for the world’s greed”. This is true but as far as this book is concerned, one wishes there is neither enough for the world’s (the readers’) needs nor enough for the world’s (the readers’) greed. In other words, the book could have gone on for another two hundred and odd pages and the readers wouldn’t even have blinked.

“The Newsroom Mafia” – Oswald Pereira

Published By  GreyOak India/Westland

Price :- Rs 245/-     (Pages 258)

 

What an exciting start to the year 2012! I kicked off the new year by picking up Oswald Pereira’s “The Newsroom Mafia”. Soon after watching Don 2, I think the nicest things to do was to read this debut novel of journalist-turned-novelist. “The Newsroom Mafia” is the story of the Don whose real name is Narayan Swamy. Basically It tells the story of the fight between the good and the evil. The answer to what’s good and what’s evil depends upon whose side you are on.

Donald Fernandez is the Bombay Police Commissioner who has vowed to smoke out the underworld Don Narayan Swamy. Narayan Swamy may be the Don according to the police but to his followers he is no less than a saint with a heart of pure gold. Even the Don is fed up of his life as the underworld Don and he’s been trying hard to go in for an image make-over of that of a quintessential social worker who believes in wiping out the tears of the poor and putting the food on the plates of  the hungry.

The Don is smarter than the police commissioner Donald Fernandez who is waging a war against the Don in cahoots with the powerful daily newspaper ‘The Newsroom’. The Don has many aces up his sleeves with his writ running large in the entire city of Bombay. Donald knows he has a tough battle at hand with half of his Police Force on the Don’s pay-roll.

Will the Don survive the onslaught of the determined cop who won’t settle for anything less than the Don’s head on the silver plate? Will the Don be successful in outsmarting the cops? What will happen? Who will win the battle of nerves? These are the questions that the reader keeps asking himself right from the first page to the last page of “The Newsroom Mafia”.

The novel is supremely crafted with plenty of twists and turns. The suspense keeps the reader on the edge till the last page. The Don has loads of attitude with some smart lines dedicated to him. Sample this, “When the Don desires, the lights go out and the birds stop chirping. Such is his power and glory.” The Don too keeps saying with a smile, “I love my people and my people love me.” He firmly believes in the love and adulation the poor and the needy shower upon him. He is the Don with a difference. He doesn’t lust after money. He knows he can make the money appear out of nowhere with a sleight of his hand. Then what does he want? He wants the control to the entire city. His aim is to rule the city like an Emperor.

“The Newsroom Mafia” is also about how the media colludes with either the underworld or the police to make or break news. The novel is relevant and the reader can instantly relate to it since we live in the era of the 24×7  Breaking News. This gripping novel also tells the story of what goes on behind the scenes before the Breaking News reaches the viewers or the readers. “The Newsroom Mafia” boasts of high octane moments coupled with endless chase, traps and counter traps, bouquets for the loyal and bullets for the traitor. The adrenaline will pump more blood so the warning for weak hearts  is stay away. The green signal for those who love action, emotion and drama.

Kudos to the debutant novelist Oswald Pereira for weaving such a wonderful yarn.

India’s number one weekly news magazine OUTLOOK and its editor-in-chief Mr. Vinod Mehta are the two legendary names that nobody can ignore. The rise and rise of OUTLOOK is the stuff of folklore in the contemporary India Shining story. The list of stories OUTLOOK has broken shocking the nation is a long one. Who doesn’t remember the match-fixing saga of the sub-continent at the turn of the century and Mohd. Azharuddin’s – the then Indian cricket captain – subsequent fall from the grace?  Its bold and chilling coverage of the Post-Godhra riots in Gujarat, and, in the recent past its unearthing of the Niira Radia tapes. OUTLOOK has always carried on its responsibilities fearlessly. Therefore, the autobiography of a man – who has been at the helm of affairs for past sixteen years at OUTLOOK – might carry within it the secrets of its unparalleled success and also the decoding of the man himself.

Well, to say “LUCKNOW BOY A MEMOIR” doesn’t disappoint at all would be a huge understatement. In fact, it entertains the readers with aplomb. The first half of the memoir deals with the author’s formative years in his home-town of Lucknow and then England following his graduation. In these chapters he details his growing up days and the coming of age dilemmas. After staying for eight years in London, he returns to India. He goes to Bombay to make it big. He gets a job as a copy-writer and then follows a big break. He lands himself an editor’s job at DEBONAIR. From a copy-writer to the editor of DEBONAIR, the journey has been relatively smooth, interesting and awe-inspiring with the occasional humorous tit-bits thrown in.

The journey gets somewhat complicated when he decides to switch the job. The initial few months at the “Sunday Observer” are successful.  He is well on his way to achieving greater heights when differences between the editor and the proprietor crop up culminating in the former’s resignation. The readers feel a lump in the throat rising as they go through these turbulent times in the author’s career. After moving out of “Sunday Observer” the author goes on to edit the “Indian Post”, the “Independent” and the “Pioneer”. Somehow the history keeps repeating itself wherever he goes. Initial success gradually begins to give away to proprietors’ discomfort with his style of journalism resulting in the eventual fall-out. In all the cases, the ultimate Greek tragedy befalls upon him. The circumstances render him so helpless that he can do nothing but quietly put in his papers and move on. Although he writes about these troubles phases with a certain melancholy, there is no hint of self-pity or name-calling for that matter. He doesn’t blame anybody or gives theories for his inability to hold on to those jobs. He accepts with enviable dignity what the life offers and moves on with his head held high.

The second half deals with the rise of OUTLOOK. Right from how he landed up the job to how the format of the magazine was designed and conceived to how the cover-story for the inaugural issue was chosen to how OUTLOOK gave tough competition to its only competitor ‘India Today’ forcing it to change into a weekly news magazine. This part of autobiography is packed with interesting anecdotes about what goes on behind the scenes when OUTLOOK decides to break any major story in its next issue. The die-hard OUTLOOK fans will find this part irresistible for the simple reason that when a story captures the imagination of the entire nation by pricking it collective conscience, we like to know the men and women behind it who have apparently put their lives into danger to bring the truth out. Like a true leader, he generously gives credit to those who deserve it for their breakthrough stories. It is a true hallmark of Mr. Vinod Mehta’s personality.

What more? There are important and invaluable pearls of wisdom contained within the three hundred and odd pages for those aspiring to become journalists. Last but not the least, his portraits of V.S.Naipaul , Salman Rushdie and Sonia Gandhi throw some interesting insights on their elusive personalities which were hitherto not well-known. The autobiography leaves its readers in no doubt that Mr. Vinod Mehta possesses some super natural power or any special talent to get where he is today. He too is a human being with his fair shares of ups and downs.

“LUCKNOW BOY A MEMOIR” is an autobiography to cherish for a long time. However, those who read author’s Delhi Diary in OUTLOOK regularly may find some parts repetitive and irksome. Barring this, Mr. Mehta has lived up to the reputation of being brutally honest. It is less like an autobiography of someone who wants to pat his own back and more like a racy thriller of whose pages readers keep turning to know what next.

LUCKNOW BOY A MEMOIR, Penguin Viking, Pages 325

Some books create a lot of excitement even before they reach the shelves of the book stores. “GET to the TOP: The ten rules for social success” is one such book. Ever since I read the excerpts of this book in an issue of OUTLOOK a few days back, I’ve been eagerly waiting for it. At last, I was able to lay my hands on “GET to the TOP: The ten rules for social success” after an anxious wait of nearly two weeks. Needless to say, I finished reading this book in a single sitting. “GET to the TOP: The ten rules for social success” is so interesting and gripping that I don’t remember having yawned once even while reading. It is a sure page-turner. After reading this book, I don’t regret having waited for it so anxiously. It was indeed worth it.

Who doesn’t know Mr. Suhel Seth? Does he need any introduction? He is a well-known figure whom we watch on TV almost every night. We have also seen him in guest appearances in the latest Hindi films like ZNMD and Guzaarish. Those who follow him on Twitter will vouch for the fact that they cannot stop laughing after reading his perky tweets. He is a man who likes to wear multiple hats.  Therefore, “GET to the TOP: The ten rules for social success” has to be a special book since the man of Mr. Suhel Seth’s stature has authored it. Sure enough “GET to the TOP: The ten rules for social success” doesn’t disappoint at all.

The book is all about how to become popular, how to organise and throw parties, how to get new friends and retain them, how to behave while attending high-profile parties and more importantly how to present yourself with successful and important people. In a nut-shell, “GET to the TOP: The ten rules for social success” can be categorised as a how-to manual for successful social networking. In this book, Mr. Seth has shared many trade secrets of how he has reached where he is today. This book gives a real insight into what big people are like and how to behave with them if one wants to have long-term relations with them.

What makes “GET to the TOP: The ten rules for social success” is readable is author’s style. While reading the book, the reader can feel the author’s voice directly talking to him. There is nobody else in the room and the author is sharing all these tips with the reader alone. What makes the book unputdownable is lots of anecdotes about the rich and famous. We know Rajdeep Sardesai, Arun Jaitley,  the Bachchans and the Ambanis. They are in the news all the time. Now it doesn’t reveal much about their private personalities. But thanks to Mr. Suhel Seth we can guess a bit about their private personalities too. They too are human beings like us who love to be respected and treated with warmth.

Many readers may feel “GET to the TOP: The ten rules for social success” is for those who rub shoulders with the who’s who of the country. But it’s not true. The author has given their examples because their names are familiar and relating to these examples may be easier. In fact, “GET to the TOP: The ten rules for social success” is for every young executive or entrepreneur who wants to leave a lasting impression upon the people he/she is likely to come in contact with. If you have any doubts, check this quote out from the book.  “Be interested in people, not because of how wealthy or intelligent they are or how old, but because of what they are like.”

“GET to the TOP: The ten rules for social success” is both informative and entertaining. It gives readers first-hand knowledge of what goes on in the elite circles. Go for it. Mr. Suhel Seth has packed the pearls of wisdom in 196 pages of his book without holding anything back and with utmost sincerity.

 “GET to the TOP: The ten rules for social success” – SUHEL SETH.

Publisher:- Random House India.

 

 

A blurb from India Today on the cover of “Our Lady Of Alice Bhatti” reads ‘Brilliantly executed….. At last we have a Pakistani writer who faces up to his political ancestry with explosive brio.’  Well, after all this is a second novel from a writer who is the Winner of the Commonwealth First Book Award for his debut novel “A Case of Exploding Mangoes”. So having gone through this much lofty background I started reading ‘Our Lady Of Alice Bhatti’ with lots of expectations.

Mohammed Hanif tells the story of Alice Bhatti in present tense. The story reads like a part thriller and a part monologue on how the Christians are treated in Pakistan. Alice Bhatti is a born fighter who has an uncanny knack of landing up at the wrong places at the wrong times. She has served her time in prison for ‘causing grievous bodily harm with intent to murder’ to a famous surgeon. After serving her time, she looks forward to making a fresh beginning.

She gets a job as a Junior Nurse at the Sacred Heart Hospital where he meets Teddy who works for the police and the reader remains confused to the last page what he actually does for the police. Teddy falls in love with Alice Bhatti and finally they get married in a submarine in a dream like situation that seems plucked directly out of some Hindi film. They both are a mismatch. She is a Catholic and he is a Muslim. The marriage is doomed to fail is obvious from the first day of their married life.

Apart from Alice Bhatti, Teddy and Joseph Bhatti (Alice Bhatti’s father) who cleans the streets of the city and performs miracles when he is not abusing Muslims, there’s this boy Noor who works at the Sacred Heart Hospital in return of a bed and the cancer treatment for his ailing mother. He is a secretary, a peon, a trouble shooter – all rolled into one for the Sacred Heart Hospital. While introducing Noor, the novelist goes on extolling all his virtues in such a way that readers feel Noor is the main protagonist who will take “Our Lady Of Alice Bhatti” forward in her mission. Sadly, there is nothing much Noor does except worrying about and caring for his ailing mother and receiving deadly blows from Alice Bhatti’s angry husband and a-friend-turned-foe Teddy who suspects Noor and Alice Bhatti of cheating on him.

In the opening chapter of the novel, Alice Bhatti surprisingly comes across as a timid girl. After a couple of chapters readers are made aware of what a strong and brave girl Alice Bhatti is when she nearly slices a Kalashnikovs wielding toughie’s penis with a blade who forces her to give him a blow job by pointing a gun to her head. The novel is full of such absurd situations. Most of these situations feel as unreal as the characters. The way patients at the Psychiatric ward are described leaves the readers feeling that the novelist has never taken the trouble to tour the Psychiatric ward before writing that chapter. There is a dark humour in the novel but neither it invokes any laughter nor it provokes any serious thoughts. We don’t feel any genuine sympathy for the main protagonist despite of her various sufferings. She is reduced to a caricature with big bosoms that get stared at wherever she goes.

“Our Lady Of Alice Bhatti” has the potential to really cause grievous cerebral harm to its readers.

 


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