Sunday, August 26, 2007

Indian rib-ticklingly funny book

Forgot to mention one really funny book I came across a couple of years ago - No onions nor garlic. It's about caste-politics in a South Indian university. It's by an Indian author based in Canada and so funny that I actually laughed out loud more than once. I'm not sure everyone will get it, i.e. if you're not South indian/ clued into caste politics in South India, so I have given it to a friend as an experiment, but i loved it. Deliciously ironic and peppered with funny characters.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Indian authors

Let me, first of all, admit to my pretensions to non-intellectuality. That means I'm a little scared of books that seem difficult or intellectually challenging, and usually don't go there. By and large I prefer easier reading - classics like Pride and Prejudice, the whole genre of Golden Age detective fiction including Sapper et all, swashbuckling adventures and romances, fictional biographies etc. One genre that I have unfortunately never been able to get into is Indian Authors.

I have tried to read some of them, and my husband used to buy all of them once upon a time, but now we have decided we're too old to pretend to grey cells we don't have ( anyway post 30 one is supposed to start losing the few we had acquired till then!). I find many of them very difficult to read, angsty and depressing. The one I do like is Chitra Banerji Divakaruni - though she does get repetitive. I used to read a lot of Nayantara Sehgal at one time but not lately. I also feel that what many Indian authors write about hits too close to home - I'm an escapist when it comes to reading and would rather read about a better/ more interesting world than the same old - if I wanted reality, I'd curl up with the daily newspaper!

It's interesting - I had never analysed this before but now that I have and the cat's out of the bag, I feel happier - no more pretending/ feeling intellectually challenged for not wanting to read about the miseries of Parsis/ partition/ urban/ rural Bengal/ whatever!

Speaking of which let me also admit that I thought the book The Namesake sucked. What was the big deal - it was just another second gen immigrant's tale. Gogol never came to life! What was amazing was the luminous film Mira Nair crafted out of it, and the fact that she realised that the story lay in Ashima and her husband, their evolution and the struggle to adjust.

Also, I did not like The God of Small Things, apart from the last chapter which describes the affair between the mother and Velutha. The rest of the book was badly over-written and incoherent!

Liked: Swati Kaushal's Piece of Cake. Light, witty and charming. Contemporary.
Born Confused, I think by Tanu...Desai. Intelligently and movingly written 2nd-Gen tale.
English, August by Upamanyu Chatterjee. Funny and heartfelt.
The Cuckold by Kiran Nagarkar. Poignant and lyrical in its writing.
Chitra Banerji Divakaruni - Beautifully written, real characters, poignant moments
though I do wish all the Indian characters weren't from homes where women were
suppressed, and who found freedom and self expression once exported to America. There
are a few of us self-expressing non-suppressed types even back here in India. In fact,
going by reports about the Indian community in the UK, there may be more suppression
and oppression going on there!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Book-buying spree

I love it when I go shopping for books - and given my fatal addiction, that happens about once a week on average. It's ruinous on bank account and house space but certainly makes up for it by the happiness generated before, during and after the purchase. I was out for a meeting yesterday evening and found myself in a market I rarely visit nowadays because of its severe parking problems - Saket main market.

It has a couple of bookshops, but I headed for the big one, Om Book Shop, to check out their collection. I had been wanting to buy a cookbook by Jamie Oliver for a while but unfortunately they were all out of stock of those. I eyed several Culinarias wistfully - they look gorgeous and the pictures are wonderful, but they cost such a bomb. And weigh a ton, too. I finally bought Ismail Merchant's cookbook and another interesting one called Spices in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Spices one has lots of interesting recipes from Turkey which is a country I recently visited and have a soft spot for, and the pictures are great too. I find that in cookbooks there are 2 categories - the food memoir and the instructions manual. Tarla Dalal tends to err on the instructions manual side, and while I love her cookbooks, have most of them and admit all her recipes turn out brilliantly, I can't quite curl up in an armchair with her stuff. What I like to read ( even bedside reading) is the food-memoir - Shoba Narayan, Madhur Jaffrey et al.

I also bought an Indian 'chicklit', I guess, though I haven't yet begun it, called The Hindi Bindi Club - one of my friends has been mentioning it for a couple of years - one of her writing club friends began it a couple of years ago - it sounded interesting. And ShahRukh Khan's biography by Anupama Chopra is out, so I got that too.

My husband, who's the complete non-cook apart from making tea, started leafing through the Ismail Merchant book and was tempted to try out some of the recipes, so that's probably a good book to buy for someone who likes non-vegetarian Indian cuisine and can't cook! The Shah Rukh Khan book is well written, and traces the growth and development of India alongside the trajectory of both Bollywood and King Khan. It does a good job of getting inside his head and explaining what he is all about, though it leaves out a few facets. Definitely worth a read and a buy, especially at its price of Rs. 295. Only thing that irritated me - the sanskrit play Mrigacchi Kattika was changed to mirch kattika!

What I love about the process of buying books is the adventure - will I find a new author or a new book by old favourite author today? Will I discover a new genre? Will I bankrupt myself in trying to buy 25 new books all at once?

Ooh, lots of lovely reading to do now!

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Lure of Biggles

I have been quite stressed at work lately so I decided to head for comfort reading - digging up old favourites. Interestingly, rather than head for humour as my husband tends to do, I tend to go for old favourite authors in the adventure category when I have limited bandwidth. I re-read a whole set of Biggles books, in any old order since at present my library is in a shambles and not organised enough to keep books of a type together. From the one where he first turns up in France to fly to the ones where he is an accomplished Ace to ones where he is outwitting a specific enemy of the 'Hun' type and those where he is merely fighting off a bunch of's great bedtime reading.

I found myself wondering what was the appeal of these. To me, first of all, I love reading books about the World Wars - II preferred to I, but either will do. Then, the characters are straight-forward. No bellyaching about their motivations or tortured thought-processes. Simple credo really - fight for your country, defend your friends, go off at half-cock if someone throws you a challenge or implies that you can't do such and such. Don't flinch at danger. And always be up for a bit of fun and adventure.

The stories range across a wide canvas geographically and in terms of specific situations and cast of villains. Characterisation is not the hallmark of these stories - the surrounding cast is pretty mich interchangeable, apart from one or two sidekicks and villains. The stories have a racy pace and display a nice sense of humour and irony from time to time.

But ultimately what gets me is the feel-good payoff - the good guys always win!