Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My affair with Indian authors

My affair with Indian writers started recently. i realised about a year back how the presence of books by Indian authors had become ubiquitous. i know there have been stalwarts like Jhumpa Lahiri, Anita Nair, Jaisree Misra, Amitav Ghosh etc who have been writing serious prose. But i am talking about the fresh wave of authors in the last few years. Ravinder Singh, Preeti Shenoy, Durjoy Dutta, Sudeep Nagarkar to name a few. It's heartening to see that the times are so fertile to encourage new writing talent. These are all young people, mostly in their 20s and are published authors. Their books, set in contemporary times, are pretty easy read. They write for the common man who an identify with the college or office setting of the books. The characters are also of today's generation with cell phones and skype ids.

Whenever i flipped through pages of these books in my library, my general impression was that these books are so easy to write. All of them appeared to be the same. There was a particular recognisable non-literary, if i may call that, style of writing in these books. My real exploration began when i bought a load of books on Amazon sale last month plus the range of books by these authors that my local library has. (Which is also another source that helped me notice Indian authors who happened to be on the book stores shelves too)

i realised that some of it is the result of someone hacking away at his/her keyboard. But some others definitely managed to carry me away with them. Out of the books i have read so far, the one i'd choose to say a good one would be "I too had a love story" by Ravinder Singh. The story talks about a couple in courtship. You can really feel the emotions as the book progresses. You are anxious or happy when the characters go through the same feelings. Even though the narrative does slow down a bit in the second half, the story very well salvages itself towards to
the end giving the it the much needed push to keep up the readers' interest. The style of writing is breezy and with a decent reading speed, one should be able to finish it in a day.

The one i wasn't impressed with is the second book i read by the author Durjoy Dutta. i discovered him among the books in my library shelf and liked the one i read first - "Hold my hand". But this one - "She broke up, I didn't" came across to me as pointless narrative about issues i didn't find serious enough to worry about. The book is set in a college with students as the main characters. i think of college as a fun time as opposed to being deeply involved in relationships. So when things go haywire among the characters, i don't feel for them. Sometimes the narrative just seems to talk about the day to day college life of these characters and you wonder - so what's the point?? Gradually you realise that the author is, unconvincingly so, trying to show how does one react to infidelity (a stupid kiss with someone other than one's boy/girlfriend in the book). Is it the same for the boy and the girl to indulge in such behaviour? Since those relationships did not come across as serious to me in the first place - i am like grow up guys, you are still in college - it was hard for me to get involved in this whole debate. Or think of it as a turning point in the novel.  i thought the equations were too easy. The girlfriend leaves and the guy starts to live with someone else, stays with her rather.  He loves the other woman but has no qualms having a bit on the side with this woman also. And this guy hasn't even started his first job yet. So all said and done by 20, dude?? i may be a little harsh in my judgement of the book here but this is exactly how i felt. Beyond a point i just wanted to be over with the book rather than reading it because i liked it.

i have a shelf full of more authors to read up. Watch out this space for more. You can also drop your comments at @pseudopunju on Twitter or leave a line on the blog comment.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

All is Well!!

My old pair of shoes looked perfectly fine when i saw someone with no legs

Traveling to distant places to see the world lost its charm since people living close by became distant

My everyday complaints were silenced when life changed completely for 2 little children orphaned by their father's untimely death

It didn't seem right to fuss about what i ate when i found street children fighting over the contents of a dumpster

Running to lose weight appeared pointless looking at people too diseased to ever gain any

It didn't matter where i lived seeing an old man make his bed by the corner of the street

Hunger shrunk and died in my stomach when a street child looked up at me with expectant eyes for some of the food i was waiting for

My piling shopping bags brought guilt when the maid asked to borrow a few since she never went to "places like that"

Luxuries i took for granted seemed gross and unjust in the light of people who spent their entire lives going nowhere near them

My painless limbs and legs felt more valuable looking at someone who's life would never be normal and pain free again because a part of the body had given up

i valued the magic of sight as i saw hands groping in darkness because their owners weren't blessed with it

i am sure we find a lot of flaws in our everyday life and crib about it. But when you look around you, you will find several things that you take for granted but are definitely blessed to have them. So take a few moments to look around you and find those things you can be grateful for. This post is my thank you prayer to God for making me one of his own children and giving me a healthy happy life.. Despite how flawed I think it is! :)

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Manners maketh a man!

Given the changed times today, everything about the way we function has changed. Technology rules our life and i am particularly disturbed about the way it affects children born in the last decade or so. Compared to my childhood, it has become increasingly difficult to retain the attention spans of kids, thanks to a million distractions, most of them as addictive as technological gadgets.

No, this post is not about the ill-effects of technology on the younger generation. Reams must have been written on it already. Even in the context of today’s times, i strongly feel some values/habits are the bedrock of a person’s personality and can not be compromised irrespective of what times we live in. It can be challenging, very actually, to inculcate these in kids today given their exposure to a totally different world from mine. mostly full of bad influences for those young minds. Here are the timeless values that, i feel, are important to become quality human beings:

Good Manners: Respect for elders. Obedience. And generally doing things the way they should be done. i know this sounds really last century, but my general observation is that today’s kids have a mind of their own and they just have to get their way. i am all for democracy in relationships, but there is a fine line between putting forth your thoughts and putting your foot down on your elders’ views. i know we cant get good old times back but it’s about embedding respect for others as a life long trait. This is helpful not just in personal life but also in professional life later on.

Social skills: i recently visited someone’s place for dinner. The host’s daughter, a teenager,  came in shyly, said hello and that’s it. She was all awkward after that. i think it is important that children be able to conduct themselves with confidence in social situations. So whether it is being able to handle guests when parents are absent to holding a decent conversation is a must. Even in real life, i have realized, success has more to do with how confidently we are able to connect with people and get along rather than about academic excellence.

Reading: This is a very personal favourite habit where reading has taught me so much. It has helped me fill a lot of empty hours with writings that took me to vicarious romance, travel and knowledge of different worlds. For children, the advantages of reading can be endless. Apart from improving language levels, children can enjoy reading their favourite stories and build their foundation to reading more interesting books through the future years. Parents abroad make it a point to read to children before they go to sleep until kids can start reading on their own. That’s their way of inculcating love of the written word.

Hobby: Depending what the skills a person have, the children should always be encouraged to indulge in some kind of hobby in free time. i know someone who’s going to be out of college in some time and is totally lost in her free time. It’s either general browsing n the internet or just lazing around. When i suggest reading, the reaction is “Ehh! Thats boring”. The hobby could be painting, reading, music - anything that serves the dual purpose of adding to a person’s personality and positive channelizing one’s free energies.

Limited technology: Keeping in mind the times we live in, i want to add that it’s very important to limit the amount children are exposed to technology. Gadgets can be very educative if used well, but more often than not they end up being used to for addictive gaming. This is indeed a great time to show them that the pleasure of reading a real book is so much better than an ebook. This applies at least till the time children are grown up enough to use their own discretion in the use of technology.

You may or may not agree with my list. Feel free to add your own!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Diary of a Househusband by Sam Holden

Diary of a Hapless Househusband by Sam Holden happened to be a book which i just couldn’t put down till i finished it within 24 hours. (this doesn’t happen to me often because real life intrudes!) You know, one of those books where you just can’t tear your eyes away because the narrative just flows!

At the face of it, the book is about a husband, Sam Holden, who loses his job and ends up becoming a househusband. And then starts his almost disastrous attempt at trying to take care of their 2 kids, 3 and 1 respectively. Written in the form of Sam’s diary, the narrative makes us laugh at the clumsy man trying to be a housewife and a mother to the infants. But it also ends up having us see through the serious issues that arise while taking care of young children full time.

The story of rearing children takes a twist in the book because it's a man doing it. Apart from struggling through the endless daily chores of cooking, cleaning, feeding and laundry, there is the inflated ego of a man doing a woman's job to be dealt with. Sam goes through the same depression that probably a woman goes through while doing unlimited rounds of nappy changing with nothing else to give a sense of purpose to life. He realises that while he is neck deep in unfulfilling work day after day work, he is falling back on being able to converse on manly talks with his old buddies. His pride goes through an all time low with no opportunities to try and salvage it. The fact that his wife works necessarily means he has to continue in his current role.

Not wanting this post to be a spoiler, suffice it to say that he lands in a few sticky situations trying to cope with his predicament. And also makes a couple of attempts at making him feel macho once again.

Though it was undoubtedly a great read, i thought it could have been a 100 pages shorter. Somewhere in the middle of it, i felt it went on and on about the daily routine of child rearing and wondered what will happen next.

Last word: You can't miss this one!! :)