Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book Review - RIP by Mukul Deva

Multi-crore rupee scams and scandals have caused much havoc in India. Anti-corruption movements have gained ground in the recent past and the nation is seething with anger at the blatant misuse of their hard-earned money.  In light of the public sentiment, Mukul Deva has penned a page turning thriller which has a deceptively simple idea – death penalty for the corrupt.  This book can strike a chord with many a young Indian and I wish, really wish, strike some fear into the hearts of the wicked who rule us.

‘This book was born out of an extreme sense of anger and shame. Anger at the appalling, naked greed so shamelessly displayed by the Indian political class. And shame that they happen to be fellow-Indians.’ – Very well said Mr Deva.   Common Indians feel your anger and shame.

The K-team or the R.I.P –the Resurgent Indian Patriots is introduced in the first chapter where they are about to carry out a deadly assassination of a powerful politician embroiled in several scams.  The K-team, an outfit of a handful of handpicked men from the military forces led by Colonel Athawale, is out to send out a strong message – Stop messing around with public funds or die. Amidst tight security, they carry out the assassination, and send out their warning through media channels leading to shock waves through the country.  Not only do they do this, but also give away hints on their next strikes. With such powerful targets, it is but natural, that the K-team is the target of many. Equally wily forces are hired in addition to the official investigators and the race is on to see which force finally wins.

Alongside, some side romances, involving an obviously beautiful woman, are introduced. I thought these were completely unnecessary although the necessary links were all present. Thankfully, these did not meddle with the climax of the book.

All the characters, right from the K-team were very well etched and had the trappings of the roles they played. The other characters are mostly well known and it wasn’t hard to derive parallels from real life.
Much as Mukul Deva ‘stresses’ on the fact that the book is a work of pure fiction and resemblances are coincidental and fictitious, it is amusing to note that he must have been forced to do so to be politically correct. The names have only been twisted a teeny bit from the originals although the scams that originated from them have been almost named as they are.  For the same correctness reasons and to show that the RIP outfit is secular, the members of the team include a representation from all religions. I almost thought Amar Akbar Anthony when I saw Krishna, Kashif and Kevin in the first chapter! The politicos' hired gun, Raghav Bhagat has been well sketched as the rogue ex-para commando, a ruthless man who can go to any length for the money.

For the young audience the book targets, a romantic angle has been thrown in for good measure with the character of the pretty news anchor Reena.  Although she takes up a good chunk of the book, she is like one of those Bollywood heroines, who are nice and pretty but needn’t really have been there in the world of cold, steely men with missions!

The language of the book was not exemplary, but was the typical Indian conversational English and easy to understand like most new Indian authors.  There is some use of expletives.

My view
Overall I enjoyed the book for the topic and the a-la Rang de Basanti storyline. I don’t think I would exhort this kind of justice, but like the author said, I wouldn’t shed a tear of sympathy if any of these corrupt politicians are done away with.  I would rate this book a 4/5 for the entertainment value and for the fleeting pleasure it gave me in thinking of a corruption free country.

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About the Author
An alumnus of La Martiniere College, Lucknow, the National Defence Academy, Pune and the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, Mukul Deva was commissioned in December 1981 into the Sikh Light Infantry of the Indian Army. He took early retirement from the army after fifteen years of service, including a decade of combat operations in India and overseas. Now settled in Singapore, he is an entrepreneur, motivational speaker and an executive, business and creativity coach. He is also a Mentor on the United Nations Institute of Training and Research Afghanistan Fellowship. He is India’s leading writer of military thrillers, including the bestselling Lashkar series.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

Book Review - Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai by Rishi Vohra

I don’t usually read romantic novels, but a few comments on the book intrigued me enough to read Once Upon the Tracks of Mumbai, a debut novel by Rishi Vohra. It promised to be a cross between romance and drama backed by some strong characterization. 

The Story
The story is partly narrated in the first person by the protagonist, Babloo who has ‘psychiatric problems’. The story revolves around Babloo who lives in a railway colony at Bandra with his parents and brother. He has managed to study and graduate but cannot find a job given his limitations. His parents dote on his ‘normal’ younger brother which Babloo resents. The only light he perceives in his dark life is Vandana, the ubiquitous girl next door who always has a kind word to say to him that sets his heart fluttering.

Babloo deeply in love with Vandana, takes the help of his sinister loafer friend Sikandar who is up to no good, to woo Vandana.  The story goes on about Babloo’s pining after Vandana,  Vandana’s quest for the perfect man and Babloo’s fantasy of a super hero ‘The Rail Man’.

My view
What worked -
What I liked was some of the typical things pointed out in the book around Indian families. Like the arranged marriage scenarios, compromising attitude of the girl’s parents, the importance given to the son who earned as compared to the one who did not, and a girl’s basic expectations of her life partner. 

Characterization -
Vandana’s character is well etched out as the typical ambitious middle-class Mumbai girl with strong values and expectations of a decent guy to marry who will care for her. I also liked the character of the kind taxi driver who saves the day once and that of Sikandar, Babloo’s wicked friend.  However, The author didn’t seem to make up his mind if to make Babloo autistic, schizophrenic or psychotic. So he labeled him as all three, despite the fact that Babloo could do pretty much everything! I am sure it is difficult to get into the mind of someone who is mentally challenged, and I am not sure if the author scored really well on this count.  

Narration –
The book started off with a first person narration which seemed to work well, but later wavered between third person and the first person which I found a bit distracting. The language was lucid and descriptions were vivid. The pace was good and kept me hooked to finish the book in one sitting.

The story was not bad at all as compared to many Indian authors I have recently read – it had all the elements required in a Bollywood potboiler which I strongly suspect was the main reason behind writing this book! There was romance, drama, action, and some good characters audiences might like, but what is required importantly was a strong reality check!  I didn't really concur with the end, which seemed highly unrealistic to me, but well, it was expected right at the beginning of the book! All in all, this book provided a few hours of entertainment and will certainly make a worthy film not unlike My name is Khan.

My rating for the book is 3 stars out of 5.

About the Author
Rishi Vohra recently relocated back to Mumbai after completing a Green MBA from San Francisco State University and a Masters Diploma in Environmental Law, prior to which he had a successful career in the Indian entertainment industry. Having been a guest columnist for various newspapers in India, he currently writes for delWine and is a Certified Specialist of Wine. This is his first novel. Visit for more information.