Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Review: The Discreet Hero

The Discreet HeroThe Discreet Hero by Mario Vargas Llosa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

My first book by the author and to say that I found it amazing would be an understatement. I am huge fan of fiction and The Discreet Hero is an epitome of brilliant fiction. Two parallel stories, in alternate chapters, each as riveting as the other. Switching between the stories turned out be really hard - which a testament to Mario Vargas Llosa's great writing. I wanted to continue reading about Don Yanaque's predicament and was simultaneously kicked about reading what happened with Don Rigoberto!

I knocked one star just because of too many red herrings and distractions. Although the book would have been incomplete without them - even the distractions were written so beautifully that I wanted to keep reading about them. Most of them had enough meat for a self sustaining spin off novel!

After a very long time I read a book of fiction that made me sad because it was ending. I realised I slowed down the pace of reading towards the end to prolong the experience of reading the book. It definitely makes me want to read the other books by Llosa. Hopefully soon!

View all my reviews

Monday, April 20, 2015

Review: Our Lady of Alice Bhatti

Our Lady of Alice BhattiOur Lady of Alice Bhatti by Mohammed Hanif
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Things that didn't work - Disappointing read. Weak character development with no consistency in behavior or motive for almost all the major characters. Too many jumps in timelines as well as character personalities. Unexplained events, miracles without any overarching context to wrap them in. Plenty of unnecessary events that don't contribute to anything.

Things that did - unabashed dark humor that's both laugh out hilarious and gut wrenchingly painful at the same time. Quite a talent to be able to do that. Brave commentary on the state of women and minorities in Pakiatan; seemed very astute and never inauthentic or contrived. Hanif can step into the heart of his characters to communicate their pain and at the same time mock them in ingenious ways for their idiocy at feeling that pain.

A brilliant author, by any standards. All the more reasons that I felt let down by the glaring inconsistencies.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Destructive Interference

Started a story; stumbled over a twist
Here's a summary; can't spill the rest
It began with a tingling; like most beginnings
Two kindred souls; one little fish bowl
The inevitable chaos was swift; the damage, colossal
The crack on the surface; a ship in shamble
Adrift on the wreckage; the survivors found harbor
The sea of unknown between; made the separation profounder
Beyond the infinite; stood what once was her half
But a shoulder appeared presently; offering to carry her raft
The shoulder asked her who she was;
before there was time to comprehend her loss
With one half beyond the finite;
she struggled for an answer through the night
Light shone, with the morning sun
but all on the dilemma, on the solution none
Obviate the beginning to start afresh?
Or labor with the details and hope for grace?

Thursday, February 5, 2015


While I am still figuring it out, I am sure that this one is going to end up looking like a rant. But I have realized one thing - that we need to rant. This is the only way to make sure that there are enough words written, said, read and heard on this topic. I am sending out a few bytes in this posts - a few bytes that need to be the quintessential drops that constitute an ocean.


We fought for it,
we died for it,
we paid  a very heavy price for it,
and 67 years later, we must go on

We cherished it,
we adored it,
we were lost in romancing it,
to the extent that we let it become just a romantic notion

We let another steal it,
No, not steal, but in broad day light rape it
Spoiling the good name of the white knight we needed, but did not deserve
We became midnight's children because sun refused to shine on

We are back at square one today
When we refuse to tolerate one another

Tolerate another man's faith
Tolerate another man's lack of
Tolerate yet another's need to mock
Tolerate an artist's need to create whatever he wants

Tolerate a woman's choice of dress
Tolerate her choice to travel alone
Tolerate her need to let her hair down
Tolerate her desire to dance

Tolerate. For now. Tolerate till tolerance becomes a virtue. Tolerate till tolerance becomes a stepping stone to acceptance and embracing another thought, another way of life.

Tolerate because expressing yourself does not need to be about curbing someone's expression.

Destruction cannot be the response to creation
Bans cannot be the response to expression
Violence cannot be the response to assertion of independence

Give everyone the Freedom they need
Don't tell them what to think, wear, say or do

We need Freedom to create without fear of acceptance
We need Freedom to never restrict a creator's thought.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

On Opinions

Opinion has 'pi' in it. It's, hence, bound to have some semblance of irrationality. If you take away the irrationality ('pi') from opinions they are like onions. Which could mean two things:
1. If you consume opinions that try to be objective (minus their inherent irrationality), hence oversimplified, they'll make you stink like onions. We need to learn to live a little bit of irrationality. That's an integral part of an opinion.
2. Onions have layers. So if you look at an opinion 'rationally' (minus the irrationality) you can actually see the layers. You need to dig a lot for it to make sense.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Part 6 - A Friday Evening, In A December

I do hereby solemnly swear that I am up to no good.

I reach up to her from behind her. I tap her on her left shoulder and quickly move to her right. I remember having learned that from my grandfather when I was kid. A lot of people used to do that a long time ago. Then like most harmless things that bring out smiles, it died.

She turns, first to her left and then to her right, and sees me. There is a smile that begins to appear on her face.

Mission accomplished. I walk up a step so that I am besides her now.

She stops walking and I am a step ahead of her now. I turn to face her. Her smile has reached its maturity, it's pinnacle. It's literally from ear to ear. She arches slightly backwards and spreads her arms only a little. It seems like a call for a hug. I am not too sure about that, but I give in.

A bear hug that follows makes me remember all the time I have lost. I could have experienced this amazing feeling every single day for all these years since we have parted ways. At the time it seemed like I would have to pay a steep price for it. Now it seems more worthy than anything I have come to posses.

But had I settled for this hug at the time when I still had the option, would I still value it today? It's several years down the line and most married people I see lack the warmth and chemistry once a quantum of time passes between them. Some papers that I have read on the matter (yes, I am quite jobless) have quantified this time. It's 18 months. 18 months of the much bollywood/hollywood/'xollywood'/Nicholas Sparks/Other chiclit celebrated passion and romance is followed by life. I am not sure if people start taking their loved one for granted, implying that the love is still alive beyond that point or if it just that the love between two people cannot survive beyond the 18 months?

Anyway, back to my situation here. My heart is beating wildly and I am afraid that she will feel the idiot thumping. I can only hope that my overcoat is thick enough to absorb the shock that my heart is trying to apparently transfer into hers.

I try to hug her back, but my hands are arrested under hers as she has locked me in her embrace. And I am not sure if her hugging me means the same to her as me hugging her. I decide it's best to not cross the hypothetical line.

"So? What's up?" she asks as she let's go of me.

"Nothing much. I was just driving here after I spoke with you," I said. Demonstrating an utter lack of social skills is a unique strength of mine. I have been unable to keep pace with the rapidly changing social styles with the advent of the internet generation.

"Ok then. Shall we?" she says, pointing towards the staircase to our restaurant.

"Yup, we shall," I say. I cringe mentally. I haven't managed even a single decent sentence so far. But who's keeping score, huh? Well, I am.

On the stairway, I walk behind her and remember the times we had together. It's almost like one of those flashbacks in the movies. We had been inseparable friends. Once upon a time. We talked about all and sundry when we were together. Once upon a time. We were so frank with each other. Once upon a time.

What happened? I think to myself. What happened, you ask? My subconscious raises it's venomous scorpion tail. Remember that dreadful day when you kissed her atop the roof of Deepak's house in a state of utter inebriation?

Life happened.

Mischief managed. Or not, I don't really know.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

About a writer...

First I would like to make an attempt at defining who, or rather what, a writer means to me.

Ever wondered what goes on inside the mind of that seemingly troubled soul in your peer group or in your school / college - that coiled up personality, who wouldn't express his feelings, no matter how challenging and undulating the circumstances might be. The one who is always more interested in listening to your feelings and opinions on all issues rather than bore you with his?

A writer has opinions, do not be confused. But he is the one who always understands that his opinions are not the only ones that matter and the fact that he lacks access to more points of view always perturbs him. He will thus hang on each word that you say with spider-legs. Most of his friends fail to recognize their words when they read his blog / short story / novel - because what is a fleeting expression / outlet of emotion for them is something for the writer to latch on to with all his mind and attention. Its all that matters to these people. Yes, I believe writers are a kind of people. One of the many kinds. And as I always like to say - it takes all kinds to make a World.

Being an introvert, it is not his nature to go and confront the world, rant senselessly. Nor can he just take refuge in banal things or get intoxicated enough to forget the burning questions: Who am I? Why am I? Why this life?

Nor can a writer frolic in the lightness of being, however strong the temptations.

There are some writers who begin for fame but if that is the real intent, then their journey is extremely short lived. Their beautiful words, wrapped in intellectualism fail to connect with the readers because they only seek self-glory. There is no interesting story!

But if you are a rebel with a cause, any cause, then, one day, you make the world pause: make people sit and turn your pages and share your view point. In short captivate them.

I’m into writing because for me it is a healing process. If I don’t write for long, it’s as if I am not breathing. The works of exceptional writers like Somerset Maugham, Khaled Hosseini, Orhan Pamuk, Kazuo Ishiguro, Milan Kundera  etc have helped me to look at life from a completely different perspective and I thank them for giving me that perspective. I wish to pass on another creative perspective to my readers, one that can makes them think: Wow! This is a new angle!

If we are all here to make our contributions to this world, then I am trying to make mine in the way I like - the only way I know how. If my readers appreciate my perspective,then as a writer I would have done justice to the thousands of words spewed by my thoughts and imagination.

Writing to me is one of those adrenalin pumping rides that thrill, amaze and leave everlasting memories. So far the ride has been good.

First published here: http://nnivedita.com/portfolio/personality-of-the-month-january/