Monday, July 21, 2008

Book Review-The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri

“What’s in a name?” It is precisely this issue, that this book by Jhumpa Lahiri, writer of the memorable 'Interpreter of maladies', sought to tackle in the “Namesake”. Gogol, the protagonist of the story, had been named so, as the grandmothers letter bearing his true name did not cross the oceans from Bengal to his place of birth, America. His tribulations with a name that didn’t inspire confidence in him, not knowing the significance of his name, all cascaded into waves of revolt against his name and made him change into another “Nikhil”. But..he still felt like Gogol.

The book also talks about the identity crisis that ABCDs are supposed to go through. Though Gogol and his sister Sonia were born of Indian Bengali parents, they completely felt American and had completely imbibed its values and social systems. There is no discombobulation in their minds; they are clear about the fact that America is their homeland, and not India which might be their parents’. The fact baffles the parents who feel torn apart as their minds live in one continent and bodies in another. The children on the other hand associate their whole and soul in the country they have always inhabited do not really understand the customs of their parents’ native country . Gogol in his search for an identity must have realised that there was more to it than just a name.


Thursday, July 10, 2008



Mobile phone etiquettes are something that indeed need to be taught in India. Meetings, movies, shows are interrupted with a rude “Mauja hi Mauja” ring from a mobile phone. I guess this is much talked about in any case. What I am speaking about is the use of mobile phones for hollering in public places.

I was traveling from Calcutta to Mumbai in a Jet airways flight. While take off, as usual there were the repeated safety warnings of seatbelts, mobiles, no smoking etc. Despite everything, a sardarji was bellowing on his cellphone about his next meeting and his entire tour itinerary. Not one Indian raised his voice in protest at his blatant flouting of rules. One foreigner finally raised his voice. The sardar instead of being apologetic started abusing the guy who asked him to switch off his mobile. Look at the irony of the situation. On one hand we grumble about defaulting airlines, lack of procedure, babudom and what not. On the other hand, we, the so called educated and civilized people cannot handle miniscule inconveniences due to rules for our own safety and welfare.

A Mumbai-Pune travel had become torturous once, when there were people discussing their office deals loudly, a girl telling her friend about the entire history of her relationship with her boyfriend and her travails with him. Another woman was exchanging entire recipes for her darling 6 year old daughter who was studying in “abc school” and who loved putting on make up. Damn, who is interested in all their lives, when all you wanna do is put ur head down and sleep after a tiring day?

Another day at Café Coffee Day, where ppl come to chill and relax, there was this guy with two others. He was bellowing at the top of his voice on his phone for a good 20 mins.. “You baboon, how could you go ahead with this deal…blah blah blah…You lollypop, do u know the implications of this blah blah blah, you ass, you moron, blah blah blah…” In short, he managed to ruin the atmosphere of the entire café by making himself heard for a good 20 meters.

Why cannot Indians, just learn to be simply courteous? There are other people around too. In a public place, can’t they really keep their affairs to themselves? We do not want to know about their clients and their multi crore deals and their boyfriends. Will the world really tumble down if they switched off their mobiles during flights and if they didn’t blabber so loudly?


Monday, July 07, 2008

Book Review- Sea of Poppies

Writing a book that avid readers don’t forget is a sign of a prolific writer. When I read ‘The Glass Palace’ by Amitav Ghosh, I anointed his book into my gallery of unforgettables. Sea of Poppies though is immensely readable is not unforgettable. The theme is excellent, the narrative riveting, but the characters I felt lacked depth. Do read my previous blog too on what irked me the most--the parlance used. Amongst the characters, there is Zachary who rose rapidly in rank, Deeti whose life was completely influenced by poppies even though she didn’t partake any of its products, Neel, the erstwhile king and the only character I found a wee bit interesting-Paulette, the Frenchwoman, turned Bengali who flees from a desolate present, Jodu, Paulette’s foster brother.

The story starts of with the delineation of the individual lives of the characters, later, their fates get irrevocably intertwined as destiny brings them aboard the IBIS, the schooner that carries them over the black waters.

I however liked the part of the story in which Heeru gets married, the spirit of brotherhood that thrives during trying times, and the ‘girmitiyas’ attempt at making the best of their circumstances was touching.

Everyone ofcourse wants a complete story that either ends with the happily ever after or the tragic ending. This book being the first of a trilogy, obviously does not end…so despite all that I didn’t like about the book, I liked it enough to buy part 2 of it when its out!


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Sea of Poppies (Samandar of Poppies)

I’ve been reading this book called ‘Sea of Poppies’ by Amitav Ghosh. The book has an excellent theme, is set back in time of the nascent British rule. More on the story after I finish reading it. His earlier work ‘The Glass Palace’ had me hooked and prodded me to read more of his works.

Well, I will not say I am disappointed with the ‘Sea of Poppies’. It’s just that I couldn’t appreciate the parlance used; I understand that the story is based in Bihar and West Bengal, and that he is trying to bring about the rustic appeal by usage of Bhojpuri, Bengali and Hindi. I m not a purist or anything but only a smattering of it is understandable. When one is faced with it in every other sentence, it gets mildly irritating. Perhaps Amitav Ghosh is merely trying to make a style statement, or is furthering the cause of hindification of English language.
Consider a layperson and especially one, who is unfamiliar about the Indian languages coming across with statements like

“..She should be sent off beech-o-beech where I don’t have to listen to him. I'll let you have the windy old poggle.”

“the kubber is that there’s more than one young missy-mem whos got a mind to bundo the fellow”

“I'll put you beside him. There. Chull”

“she bundled them all out, the farrashes, bichawnadars and harry maids.”

Besides these, there are also several completely illegible statements such as
“ ‘Malum hab cuttee he head?’ he said.’What for wanchee this-piece boy? He blongi boat –bugger-no can learn ship pijjin. Better he wailo chop chop’. ”

I wish Amitav Ghosh who otherwise spins beautiful tales, sticks to simple story telling without resorting to using garbled languages. I hope in the second and third parts of the trilogy that he plans to write, are easier on the mind.