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Anuja Chauhan’s Baaz is a roaring and riveting love story set against the backdrop of the 1971: A Review

By Monica Arora

Baaz by Anuja Chauhan
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Harper Collins; 1 edition (1 May 2017)
Language: English

Anuja Chauhan has emerged as one of the most reliable contemporary writers of pop-fiction in recent years, with her effervescent love stories being set against the back drop of cricket in The Zoya Factor or the great Indian election in Battle for Bittora, the third estate in Those Pricey Thakur Girls or as a middle-class drama for property in The House that BJ Built.

The latest to emerge from the keys of her laptop is Baaz, a roaring and riveting love story set against the backdrop of the 1971 war when India helped the Mukti Vahini in East Pakistan (Bangladesh at present) in their war for independence. India joined the war on 3 December 1971, after Pakistan launched preemptive air strikes on North India. The formidable Indian Air Force took control of the eastern theatre of war and eventually the Allied Forces of Bangladesh and India left Pakistan with no choice but to surrender in Dacca on 16 December 1971. The pro-Pak bias of the then US President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was revealed when recently de-classified papers of the 1971 war describe how the American aircraft carrier USS Enterprise had orders to target Indian Army facilities. Baaz draws its climax by citing an episode of the Cold War and makes it a delightful mix of patriotism, romance, drama, cold-blooded action and much comic relief amidst the gritty setting. Continue reading


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Book Review: The Tree with a Thousand Apples by Sanchit Gupta

The Tree with a Thousand Apples

The Tree with a Thousand Apples

By Manisha Lakhe

The Tree with a Thousand Apples

Author: Sanchit Gupta

Publisher: Niyogi Books

Pages: 284

Price: Rs 350

Order your copy here 

You’d pick up The Tree with a Thousand Apples by Sanchit Gupta simply because of the stunning cover art by Misha Oberoi. It helps that the cover has a sticker that announces that the script based on the book is longlisted at the Sundance International Screenwriters’ Lab 2017. But also, you can’t wait to get embroiled in Kashmir. There are too many displaced Kashmiri poets in town and you want to know more about a book that talks about the tormented land.

For the first sixty pages or so, you will be impatient. The introduction to the characters, Bilal, Deewan and Safeena goes on and on. You get no feel for the colours of the Chinars, you don’t shiver from the cold breezes, you don’t picture the wooden homes, their creaking stairs. You only understand that the Bhats and the Maliks are neighbours, you understand how Deewan can fight for Bilal, and that Safeena is beautiful and that her tears are like diamonds and emeralds. The story takes its own sweet time to take shape, and that could be a negative for the book.

But then the action begins and the Bhats have to hide in their neighbour’s home from the burning and the pillaging. It is here that you begin to worry, to care for the characters. You realise how young they are and how the innocence of the city is systematically torn apart. Continue reading


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Book Review: A Tenant of the World by Madhura Banerjee

By Nilesh Mondal

A Tenant of The World_COVER-1Title: A Tenant of the World

Author: Madhura Banerjee
Publisher: Power Publishers
Pages: 79
Price: Rs 110

 

“The world is but a book, and those who don’t travel read only one page”, Augustine Hippo said, thus making travelling and literature two sides of the same coin, one a necessity for the other. Travelling doesn’t just open up new places to us, it also opens our eyes to newer perspectives, enables us to see the same places in a different light. Madhura Banerjee’s debut collection of poetry, A Tenant of the World, published by Power Publishers, aims to do just that by introducing us to familiar places, and helping us look and familiarise ourselves with them through her eyes, an attempt in which she succeeds to a large extent.

Madhura establishes from the beginning of the book itself what her idea of travelling is: the mingling of myriad cultures and taking the stories from one city and spreading it into the corners of another. Poetry for her is akin to the traveller’s spirit, unperturbed by boundaries and borders, spread across a range of geographical dissimilarities. The scope of her poetry stretches from the mountains of Kashmir, Himachal and North Bengal, to the age-old cities of Lucknow and Calcutta and even the illustrious desert of Rajasthan. Her voice is bold and seldom constricted, easily shifting from the dreamy narratives about the majestic Himalayas, to the nostalgic ruminations about changing cityscapes. This versatility of narration is in all probability, the most interesting part about her book.

This becomes apparent when we consider two very different poems, the first one called ‘If Pahalgam Were Love’, where she writes:

“Love is the conical shaft of highway highlights
Caught mid-flicker, against the wicker of fir,
Letting the red molten wax of daybreak
Flow into the valley of flowers mid-bloom”

The serenity in her tone however is swapped for one that depicts a sense of urgency in the poem ‘Bengali Jetties’, where she writes:

“When it rained at an unusual hour
In an unusual time that April,
It filled the trails of your footprints-
A muddy assurance of your departure-
Weighing down the red dust,
Making agony resist the summer wind.”

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‘The Ryukyu Kingdom: Cornerstone of East Asia’: A look at Okinawa’s distant past

By Iain Maloney

On May 15, Japan will mark the 45th anniversary of the return of Okinawa.

For 27 years prior, the U.S. administered the islands, a continuous period of occupation that began after the Battle of Okinawa in June 1945. This makes the new translation of Mamoru Akamine’s “The Ryukyu Kingdom: Cornerstone of East Asia” both welcome and timely. Many Okinawans today still feel like the put-upon runt of Japan’s prefectural litter.

Okinawa enjoys very little investment, its people have relatively low employment prospects and the prefecture shoulders the burden of hosting and supporting 50,000 U.S. armed forces personnel. For many Okinawan people, this has meant putting up with noise, threats of air crashes (such as happened in 2016), and a string of crimes committed by U.S. servicemen.

It is worth remembering amid all this that the island chain was once an independent kingdom, and according to Akamine, something of an important power broker in the region. In fact, he goes so far as to call it, in his subtitle, a “cornerstone of East Asia.” Read more

Source: Japan Times


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Book Review: The Golden Legend by Nadeem Aslam

By Imteyaz Alam

golden-legendTitle: The Golden Legend
Author: Nadeem Aslam
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Pages: 376
Price: Rs 599

Reading Nadeem Aslam is like living with the characters of his novel. The words keep echoing, the scenes keep flashing and the characters stay with the readers much after one finishes the book. The author has a penchant for detailing scenes, events, emotions and expressions in his writings. The reader experiences and visualizes colour, smell, sound, pain, fury, and cries, smiles, and laughs in the course of reading his stories. In fact, the portrayal is so vivid and engrossing that the reader is transported to the imaginary world created by the writer. Without rousing the sentiments, the author lets readers simmer with the empathy and sympathy for the characters.

“Many things in my books come from real life; but a novelist has to be careful in transporting a real event into the landscape of a novel. It is patient work, like moving a lake from one place to another with a teaspoon,” writes Nadeem Aslam about his own craftThe writer of five novels including Maps of Lost Lovers and The Blind Man’s Garden, and the winner of several coveted awards, has powerful context and content in his writings. His technique is that of meticulous weaver birds, of a master chef, of a music composer and of a brilliant painter. His sentences are lyrical, profound and precise. No word is out of place, no sentence is out of context. He involves the reader by the gripping content and by powerful imagery. Reading stirs the heart and mind. No wonder if he is associated with several literary movements; realism, postmodernism, imagism, and post colonialism.

Nadeem Aslam migrated to England from Pakistan at the age of 13 with his communist father who escaped persecution at the hands of General Zia-ul-Haq’s regime. He enrolled at college but dropped out, never to complete it. He lives in England but closely monitors the development in South Asia. The same is reflected in his writings too.

The Golden Legend is a timely, relevant and captivating novel. The story, set in the fictional city of Zamana in Pakistan, covers religious extremism, hatred and intolerance in society. There is a suffocating environment for religious minorities and also for liberals. The hatred in the society is so ingrained that even an eleven-year-old refuses to accept a drink from Helen, a Christian lady. Later on, the boy sneaks in, wielding a knife to attack and check whether Helen has a different colour of blood, as told to him by his mother.

Margaret adopts the Muslim name Nargis and wears a false identity all her life to avoid harassment, and remains in disguise. Massud, a fellow architect, falls in love with her in college and marries her. The architect couple later on employs Lilly and Grace for help in their work. Helen, daughter of Grace and Lilly receives the best possible education in Zamana with the help of the architect couple. Grace is killed by a person who is freed from jail when he memorizes the Quran in jail. Massud is killed in crossfire during an assassination attempt on an American citizen. The American retaliates by reckless firing that kills Massud and others. Later on, Nargis is tortured by a General from military intelligence to pardon the American and accept blood money invoking sharia law. A young Kashmiri terrorist, Imran flees from training camp in Zamana when he realizes that militants of training are up to brutal killings. He donates blood to Massud and later on comes closer to Nargis and Helen. Aysha, daughter of a cleric is widowed when her husband is killed in an American drone attack in Waziristan. Being a martyr’s wife she is prohibited to remarry. She falls in love with Lilly. The city Zamana is facing a dreadful new phenomenon that the secrets of people are revealed by a mysterious man from a mosque’s loudspeaker. One day, the loudspeaker announces the affair of Aysha and Lilly. Lilly escapes but the wrath of believers fall on his fellow Christians. Nargis, Helen and Imran escape when the frenzied crowd attacks Nargis’s house. They take refuge on an island designed and developed by Massud and Nargis.

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In ‘Murder in Mahim’, Jerry Pinto Pours out His Anger, Without Being Didactic

By  Shreya Ila Anasuya

murder in mahimYou can read Jerry Pinto’s latest novel as a noir mystery that could only be set in Mumbai, a city upon which darkness sets but cannot completely settle. Or you could read it as a heartbroken, searching political study about the people that are sucked in and spat out by the city’s dark fissures. At its best, the novel can be read and enjoyed as a potent, deft mixture of both, with a tremendous amount of compassion engulfing but never completely overwhelming the voyeuristic, fearful thrill of a murder mystery.

The retired journalist Peter Fernandes and police inspector Shiva Jende, who made their debut in a story by Pinto in Altaf Tyerwala’s anthology Mumbai Noir, reprise their roles as a detective duo as they discover that a young man (called Proxy) has been found murdered in a toilet in Matunga station. This is only the first in a series of deaths, and Fernandes – with the dogged determination of an old-school reporter – uncovers the stories behind each one, uncovering layer upon layer of the city he has presumably called home all his life. Pinto uses his discoveries to give voice to his own anger about the consequences of criminalising queer sexuality in India and about inequalities of class and caste in a metropolis that is opening up to neoliberalism even while clutching on to its parochial obsessions. It is to Pinto’s credit that the curiosity, and the anger, feel genuine, and never preachy. Read more

Source: The Wire

 

 


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Book review: Where death plays like a broken record

By Meghna Pant

small townAnees Salim’s new novel The Small-Town Sea is the story of an unnamed boy in an unnamed town who grapples with the consequences of his unnamed father’s death.

The novel begins ominously enough. On the first page itself the 13-year-old narrator loses his father, referred to only as Vappa. The rest of the first half is narrated as a flashback where the cancer-stricken Vappa, nostalgic in the face of imminent death, decides to leave the unnamed city where he resides with his family and return to the unnamed town where he grew up.

Vappa longs to get a front-page obituary that transcends the boundaries of his small town and artistic insecurities. You see, he is an almost famous author who has won an unnamed, but almost famous, award for which he is convinced he must be acknowledged in life as in death. Hedonism of the writer? Understandable. Halfway through the book he finally gets the obituary he wants only to have it turned into a paper cone for peanuts later that day. Such is our ephemeral life. Read more

Source: The Asian Age


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Book Review: Perumal Murugan’s ‘Current Show’ is a novel about the uncertainties the young feel

By Anjana Balakrishnan

current showThere is a scene in the television series Breaking Bad where brother-in-law cop Schrader is brewing beer in his garage. I knew right away that he would hurt himself while capping the bottles. Because Perumal Murugan wrote about the dangers of bottling soda in his book Pyre. The spell Murugan casts gives me the ability to consider the realities of his characters as my own, though it is far removed from my reality.

Who knew that there was joy in the glint of a soda bottle well-washed or the artful perfection of bottling soda until Murugan told us so? In Current Show, he made bile rise to my mouth with similar ease as he describes the theatre grounds squishy with stale urine. When he talks about the crowds for an MGR movie, I could feel the stickiness of sweat against my clothes and the push and shove of being in that crowd.

Sathivel is a poor, young soda seller at an old theatre past its prime. He sells colour soda during the interval and spends his free time with the other theatre boys, doing odd jobs or smoking ganja. Including their next meal, there are few certainties in life for the boys to rely on. Sathi’s friendship with Natesan is one of his certainties. They look out for each other, sharing food and cigarette butts. These boys are willing to get into fights, steal slippers off cine-goers, sell tickets in black and to do the bidding of anyone who will give them money, food or drugs. This is where we begin to see how poverty changes their worldview. Read more

Source: The News Minute


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Book review: Nanavati, the gentleman killer

By Bhaichand Patel

bachi 2On April 27, 1959, Kawas Nanavati, a young handsome Parsi commander in the Indian Navy, dropped off his wife and three children at the Metro cinema in Bombay. While they watched Tom Thumb at the matinee, he went back to his ship, INS Mysore, and requisitioned a revolver and six rounds of ammunition from its gunnery. He then drove to a posh flat off Napean Sea Road and fired three shots that took the life of Prem Ahuja, a Sindhi bachelor and somewhat of a ladies man. Once the deed was done he handed himself to the police.

The criminal case that followed grabbed the attention of the country like few others have before. It went from the sessions court to Bombay high court, and then all the way to the Supreme Court. It required the intervention of the topmost echelons of power, including the Prime Minister, the defence minister and the admiral of the Indian Navy. These interventions were not necessarily on behalf of justice. During the trial, the accused was put under naval custody, not police lockup. He remained in uniform and continued to receive all the salutes due to a naval officer.

At least two films have been made on this sordid story, none of them any good, and there have also been a number of unsatisfactory books. Now Bachi Karkaria has dug deep and ferreted out details of the case that were previously unknown. She is a master storyteller who keeps us under her spell, beginning to end. In Hot Blood: The Nanavati Case That Shook India reads like a thriller. She keeps her sentences short and simple — no humbug — with an occasional dash of wry humour. It’s a style of writing she learnt at the feet of Khushwant Singh, her editor at the Illustrated Weekly 50 years ago. Read more

Source: The Asian Age


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Memories of the father: Book review of Ruskin Bond’s Looking For The Rainbow

bondIt is almost customary for Ruskin Bond to surprise his readers with a subtle reference to his childhood. The readers on the other hand – having devoured most of his works – tend to assume they know all about the life and time of this timeless writer. But every time you think you know all there is to know about the writer, who has been writing for well over six decades now, there is some new bit of trivia that he surprises you with.

The elegance with which he does so is perhaps what keeps us intrigued. What do we already know about Bond’s early days? That he did not have a very happy childhood, that his parents were separated and that he was often lonely. But one splendid year from Bond’s life escaped the public eye and his new book ‘Looking For The Rainbow’ that releases on his 83rd birthday on May 19, lays bare the sheer joy that the then eight-year-old boy experienced living with his father. Read more

Source: Hindustan Times