The Town That Laughed by Manu Bhattathiri

unnamed (1).jpgI received the book The Town That Laughed by Manu Bhattathiri as a review copy from the publisher, Aleph Book Company and am thankful to them for the same.

The blurb:

Change is coming to the tranquil town of Karuthupuzha, nestled deep within the lush Kerala countryside. The mighty black river, after which the town is named, is now no more than a trickle. People have begun to listen to weather forecasts on the radio rather than looking out of the window to see if it’s going to rain. The jackfruit tree in the middle of town has suddenly started fruiting. And, most seismic of all, Paachu Yemaan, the Inspector of Police, who has terrorized the town for decades has retired. Desperate to find him something to do, his wife, Sharada, and the good-hearted Barber Sureshan decide that ex-Inspector Paachu’s post retirement project will be the reforming of the town drunk, Joby. What the two good Samaritans haven’t counted on is the chain of extraordinary events that their project is about to set in motion.

The story:

Karuthupuzha, a town in south India, is still somewhere in the seventies/ eighties as no one has a cell phone and people actually talk to each other by either going to their homes or shops.

The book begins with what changes have happened in the town and the most important change is that the only bus to the town has been repainted.  The other change is that the police inspector, Paachu, has retired and thus, there is a different police inspector. This book also has characters like Joby, the town drunk; Sureshan, the barber; Chako, the electrician and Varky, the photographer.

Paachu lives with his wife and his orphaned niece, Priya.

Sureshan cannot see Joby kill himself with alcohol, so he hatches a plan, Joby to take Priya to school and bring her back, he feels it is a win win for everyone, it would keep Joby busy and away from arrack, mainly because Joby is scared of Paachu and it would save Paachu the trips. So very reluctantly Paachu agrees with conditions.

My take:

This book has been written in a lighter vein but then it is serious at times.

Some characters have been developed in detail even with backstories and some are superficial. But that did not discourage me from the book, but I kept reading it. I loved Priya, she was like a breath of fresh air and also Mrs Paachu, Sharada.

The pace is slow and the stories in the book can be read as a standalone as well as in continuation with one another. They are like episodes of different TV series. They are about family relationships, friendships. This book reminded me of Malgudi days.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher, Aleph Book Company, in return for my honest review. I have NOT received any monetary compensation for the same.

The Bride’s Mirror by Nazir Ahmad, Translated by G.E.Ward

Brides-mirror-1I received The Bride’s Mirror by Nazir Ahmad, Translated by G.E.Ward as a review copy from the publisher Aleph Book Company and am thankful to them for the same.

The blurb: 

The Bride’s Mirror (Mirat ul-‘Arus) was the first bestseller in Urdu. First published in 1869, within twenty years it had gone into several editions and sold over 100,000 copies. An English translation was published in England in 1903 by G. E. Ward, and the book has been almost continuously in print ever since. The novel tells the story of two sisters, Asghari and Akbari, who are married to two brothers in Delhi.

Akbari, the spoilt, mean-tempered and impetuous sister, fritters away all the advantages she is offered and makes a mess of her life. Asghari, who has to contend with all sorts of disappointments and setbacks, prevails in the end and makes a success of everything she turns her hand to.

All through its existence, The Bride’s Mirror had been hailed as one of the most important works of Urdu literature ever published. The portrait it provides of the lives of those who lived in Delhi over a hundred years ago is an indelible one.

The story:

This book is the story of two sisters, Akbari and Asghari, married to two brothers. Both the sisters are opposite to each other. Sister 1, Akbari Khanam is foolish and ill-educated and bad tempered while sister 2, Asghari is very intelligent, sensible and kindly dispositioned girl. The younger one is loved by parents and everyone in their neighbourhood and the elder one was always on bad terms with her younger sister, but the younger one always treated the elder one with respect.

The elder one is married to Mohd Aqil and the younger one is engaged to his younger brother, Mohd Kamil. Seeing the behaviour of the elder daughter-in-law, their mother wants to break the engagement but, Mohd Aqil tells her not to do so.

And then Asghari comes into the household as the new daughter-in-law and we read about her and how she carries herself in the family.

My take:

I liked the story. There was a lot to learn from Asghari. Though the story was slow, I loved the way the book was written. Truly, a classic, the book has an old world charm to it. I liked the language style too. The letter from Asghari’s father is beautiful. But the end, it made me sad.

 DISCLAIMER: I received the book as a review copy from the publisher, Aleph Book Company, in exchange for an honest review. I have not received any monetary compensation for the same.

Punjab, Punjabis & Punjabiyat: Reflections on a Land and its People by Khushwant Singh & edited by Mala Dayal

image006.jpgI received the book Punjab, Punjabis & Punjabiyat: Reflections on a Land and its People by Khushwant Singh & edited by Mala Dayal as a review copy from the publisher Aleph Book Company and am thankful to them for the same.

The blurb:

Punjab, Punjabis & Punjabiyat brings together Khushwant Singh’s best writings on Punjab, Punjabis and the Sikhs. Divided into three parts, the book deals with various aspects of the region—its geography, climate, history, culture, religion, politics, language and literature. Part I of the book delves into Punjab’s history, culture, language and Sikhism. Part II covers the burning issues that affected the state during Khushwant Singh’s lifetime, including the pains of Partition, the Khalistan movement, Operation Blue Star, the anti-Sikh riots, and more. Part III is a collection of profiles of well-known Punjabis—poets, politicians, activists, friends and family.

The pieces in the book celebrate the culture, determination and spirit of the people of Khushwant Singh’s native land, a place he identified deeply with. Taken together, they give us a peerless portrait of Punjab and its people.

My take:

This book is an interesting account of people and religion about which so much was not known to me. The author has divided the book into three parts and seventeen chapters. He has used a simple, flowing language making the facts sound like a story and pulling the reader in.

The book talks about how the land of seven rivers (yes, seven) gets its name as Pentopotamia or Panj-ab. He also talks about the geography of the state, the shape, the boundaries, the rivers and the mountains. The author has also talked about the landscape, the climate, the seasons and the flora- fauna of the state. The book then talks about the various, people and the how the language was developed and then about Chandigarh and Panipat.

The author goes on to tell about the Sikhs- who they are and also the reasons why Sikhism is a unique religion and why the Sikhs are a special community. The author talks about Guru Nanak and his ‘Shish’ disciplines which became Sikhs and the roots of Sikhism. Then there is the relationship between the Hindus and the Sikhs. The author goes on to talk about how the Sikh order changed from peaceful one to a militant organization under the last Guru and then about the Nirankaris.

The author talks about the partition, Sikh politics, the riots of 1984 and the aftermath. And then he talks about the well known Punjabis.

I liked the book and felt that it was an eye opener.

DISCLAIMER: I received the book as a review copy from the publisher, Aleph Book Company, in exchange for an honest review. I have not received any monetary compensation for the same.

 

54 Reasons Why Parents Suck and Phew by Swati and Swaran Lodha

414EAG9XBeL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_I received 54 Reasons Why Parents Suck and Phew by Swati and Swaran Lodha as a review copy from the publisher Rupa Publications. Thank you for the book.

The Blurb:

The book is a tongue in cheek take on things parents should and should not do. It talks about various beliefs, behaviour, and biases held by most parents that make them annoying and difficult. So, all you parents out there—be a good sport, pick up this book, and see for yourself the heart of a teenager. 54 Reasons Why Parents Suck and Phew! will leave you with one big reason to understand your child, all over again.

My take:

A beautifully written book. I can actually call it as a letter from an offspring to the parents.

It actually made me realise a lot of things that I hated when my parents did when we were kids and I do it myself.

The language is simple and the book has a way of making the parent in me feel guilty. But I loved it anyway and it took me around 35 days to finish the book as I was reading it in bits and pieces like short stories.

And now I plan to preach less to my kids, if that is possible……

And my daughter is reading it now and sharing her thoughts with her brother so…..

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in return for my honest review. I have NOT received any monetary compensation for the same.

 

 

Race Course Road by Seema Goswami

51oIBfOkAFL._SX334_BO1_204_203_200_I received Race Course Road by Seema Goswami as a review copy from the publisher, Aleph Book Company . I would like to thank the publisher for a copy of the book.

This book is an out and out political thriller.

The blurb:

Set largely in the Prime Minister’s official residence, the Race Course Road complex, Race Course Road revolves around the aftermath of the assassination of a sitting Prime Minister and the battle for succession that ensues within his family, with the elder son and heir, Karan Pratap Singh, trying to fight off the challenge presented by his charismatic half-sister, Asha Devi.

As the search for the murderer continues, sex scandals surface, revelations about dodgy arms deals rock India and rival TV anchors shout and spar even as the country undertakes one of its most bitterly-contested general elections ever. Who will get to live in Race Course Road once the votes have been counted? Who will get to rule India for the next five years? Who will be the new Prime Minister of India? Read the ultimate insider’s political thriller to find out.

The story:

The story begins with the Prime Minster of India, Birendra Pratap Singh, addressing a rally and as he is making way back to his car, he goes and shakes hands with the fans and suddenly collapses. The Prime Minister is dead and his son, Karan Pratap Singh is made the interim Prime Minister. And then the elections are announced. There are many contenders for the post, not only from the main political party LJP but also from the opposition.

What happens in the general elections? Read the book.

My take:

An out and out political thriller, this book gives the reader a perspective of how the political parties, politicians and the media play a role in our country.

The characters have been developed in detail, are realistic, relatable and the conversations between the characters are very natural. The author has portrayed the softer side of the politicians, when they are family people like all of us.

The story has everything: assassination, power and what comes with it, intra familial conflict, TV debates, media competition, sibling rivalry, political families and what goes on in them, how people protect their public images, family politics.

The author has made the book relatable by adding real events that have happened in India. The language is simple and the narration is done well.

A book that is an unputdownable page turner.

DISCLAIMER: I received the book as a review copy from the publisher, Aleph Book Company, in exchange for an honest review. I have not received any monetary compensation for the same.

 

 

 

 

 

The Bengalis: A Potrait of a Community by Sudeep Chakravarti

hahmpkwyfm-1509114461I received The Bengalis: A Potrait of a Community by Sudeep Chakravarti as a review copy from Aleph Book Company and would like to thank the publisher for the book.

The Blurb:

The Bengalis are the third largest ethno-linguistic group in the world, after the Han Chinese and the Arabs. A quarter of a billion strong and growing, the community has produced three Nobel laureates, world-class scientists, legendary political leaders and revolutionaries, iconic movie stars and directors, and an unending stream of writers, philosophers, painters, poets and musicians of the first rank. But, bald facts aside, just who are the Bengalis? What is the community all about, stereotypically and beyond stereotype? In order to find the answers to these and related questions, the author (a Bengali born and steeped in his own culture but objective enough to give us a balanced reckoning of his fellows) delves deep into the culture, literature, history and social mores of the Bengalis. He writes with acuity about the many strengths of the community but does not flinch from showing us its weaknesses and tormented history. He points out that Bengalis are among the most civilized and intellectually refined people on earth but have also been responsible for genocide and racism of the worst kind. Their cuisine is justly celebrated but few remember the cause and effect of millions of Bengalis dying of famine. Renowned for their liberal attitudes, they are also capable of virulent religious fundamentalism. Argumentative and meditative, pompous and grounded, hypocritical and wise, flippant and deep… Bengalis are all this and much, much more. With erudition, wit and empathy, this book manages to capture their very essence. Unarguably, it is the definitive portrait of one of the world’s most vibrant and distinctive communities.

My take:

The author has researched, researched and researched to give us a book which would be cherished not only by generations of Bengalis but also people who are related to Bengal in one way or another or want to know about the people from Bengal.

The author begins the book with a note on Bangla, the language and how the Bengali words he has written in the book should be pronounced. He mentions that he has deliberately used Bangla phonetics in the book.

The book begins with a Prologue, ‘Āmrā Ké? Where, What, Why?’ and then is divided into three parts: Book I: “Utshō”: Genesis and More”; Book II: “Shōbbhōtā. Oshōbbhōtā”: Culture Chronicles; and Book III: “Ōgni Jūg”: Age of Fire.

The author has describes the Bengalis, their nature, their habits, their likes and dislikes and their love hate relationship with the not-Bengalis in the first chapter. He has then gone on to describe the history of Bengal, the rivers, the genesis, the various periods and the various dynasties that ruled the region. He has even talked about the partition of Bengal.

He has then gone on to describe the culture, the games, the marriages (I have enjoyed many such weddings when I was a kid, Bou Bhat was my favourite part of the wedding), the goddesses they pray to, their travel (Bengalis love to travel, I can tell you that), the food (it is mouthwatering, take my word for it), sports, especially football and scattered Bengalis the world over. He has then gone on to talk about the turmoil, and the unrest. There is so much more in the book that I am at a loss of words as to what I should add and what I should not.

I loved the book and actually enjoyed how the author has used his experiences as a Bengali to explain a lot of things. The use of humour to describe many things makes it funny at the same time. The language is simple and easy to follow and it feels as if someone is narrating the entire story. What I loved in the book was the author’s use of the Bengali dialect and its immediate translation to English. Some places, there were words which I could follow as I can follow the language but a footnote giving the meaning of the word would be welcome.

The editing is excellent and the bibliography, extensive.

A highly recommended book, with a small note of caution, please be prepared to pick it up to read what you liked last time just to refresh your memory.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher in return for my honest review. I have NOT received any monetary compensation for the same.