Why Read Manto?

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

That’s a fairly easy rhetoric with complicated reasons as answers. There’s been a lot written in recent years about Manto and his writings, which would make you feel pseudo-erudite and jump into the bandwagon of discussions. Manto’s writing is a revelation, yes. He’s been working on such gems of stories while my father was still a kid, and I was just initiated into the realm of his existence about a decade ago! Now I will confess that most of my puny knowledge bank is stuffed with inputs from Bangla Literature, including Manto. I read about him in some Bangla short story, as being referred to what a great writer he was, and was interested in finding out about his writings. It is this lack of awareness I’m not happy about. If an average Indian like me takes two decades to find out about Manto, when will we read and discern his work?

Manto is not just a writer, he’s a phenomenon. The way he did unclad our ‘modern’ subcontinent society of its taboos and prejudices is not only rare, but revolutionary. If we could, even after 5-6 decades, accept a chunk of what he wanted to convey, life wouldn’t have been so difficult. Most importantly, he lived in our favourite Bollywood and thrived there for some time in its initial prime. His views on the then stars of Hindi film industry expose a lot and yet again the hypocrisies that they couldn’t conceal beneath snow, Pometom and kohl. It’s astonishing that he is described as Pakistani in the Wiki page – you can’t contain Manto within the thin air boundaries of greater India. He has been able to shred and imbibe pieces of him through Toba Tek Singh into the hearts of all. He is indeed, the Toba Tek Singh that neither countries can digest even after decades. Banned, discerned, condescended, abused – he went on writing to his heart’s content. I think that’s what any writer dreams of, not in these bloody days of slaughter though.

41oEIR9oh3L._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve read more about him than actually his stories as they’re in Urdu. The English translation by Aatish Taseer was brilliant and yet lacked the little something that makes Urdu resplendent. Since I believe in reading as many books in their original languages as I can to grasp their flavours, especially the lyrical Urdu, I will read Manto’s books in Hindi now. And may be someday in Urdu too. I’ve learned Hindi (actually Hindustani as a language) in school and college for 14 years and the beautiful Urdu words mixed in Premchand or Nirala’s stories made me fall in love with the discourse.

I’m not an expert coaching you about why read Manto. Just read, get a sneak a peek of our society some odd sixty years ago, which still hasn’t changed much.

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Book Review : Mandate – Will of the People

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Image Courtesy: Flipkart

Image Courtesy: Flipkart

This is the first easy-to-read book about recent Indian political history. Pegged on the general elections that shaped today’s India, Mandate: Will of the People tells the story of Indian politics in a gripping, page-turning style.

Vir Sanghvi, the well-known journalist and TV anchor, draws on his personal experiences and memories as well as scores of interviews to piece together an incisive and candid account of what went on behind the scenes. Peppered with little-known details and insider information, this book tells the stories behind the story and brings alive the men and women behind the headlines.

Mandate: Will of the People contains the real story of the declaration of the Emergency, the rise and fall of Sanjay Gandhi, the Punjab insurgencies, the assassination of Indira Gandhi and the bloody riots that followed her death. It tracks the emergence of Rajiv Gandhi and explains the Bofors scandal that contributed to his defeat.

Many of the questions that linger over Indian politics are answered here: how did Narasimha Rao become Prime Minister? Why did he liberalise the economy? What was the Ram Mandir agitation really about? Why didn’t Sonia Gandhi agree to be PM? And how did Manmohan Singh’s weakness clear the way for Narendra Modi.

Review:

Mandate: Will of the People tells an important story : how the world’s largest democracy came of age and how it has affected our lives.

Indian politics is perhaps the most interesting phenomenon in the world. With such a vast expanse of ideologies and scope for work, it provides a great topic for research. 67 years post independence, the Indian people are still unsure about their politicians and their motives. Each election has paved the way for something new in the country and changed the course of its people. Mandate captures bits and glimpses of these elections and their aftermath for our generation and the ones to come.

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Book Review : The Caretaker

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Image Courtesy: Flipkart

Image Courtesy: Flipkart

A compelling thriller that introduces a new hero for our times: Ranjit Singh, former captain in the Indian Army, illegal immigrant in the heart of white America and caretaker to the rich and famous.

One harsh winter, Ranjit illegally moves his family into an empty, luxurious vacation home belonging to an African-American Senator. Ensconced in the house, he tries to forget his brief affair with Anna, the Senators wife, and focuses on providing for his family. But one night, their idyll is shattered when mysterious armed men break into the house, searching for an antique porcelain doll. Forced to flee, Ranjit is hunted by unknown forces and gets drawn into the Senators shadowy world. To save his family and solve the mystery of the doll, he must join forces with Anna, who has her own dark secrets. As he battles to save his family, Ranjit’s painful past resurfaces and he must finally confront the hidden event that destroyed his career in the Army and forced him to leave India.

Tightly plotted, action-packed, smart and surprisingly moving, The Caretaker takes us from the desperate world of migrant workers to the elite African-American community of Martha’s Vineyard and a secret high-altitude war between India and Pakistan.

Review: 

I have always proclaimed how I love thrillers. They take me to another world, where every moment is pumped by adrenaline rush. The chases, hideouts, clues, investigations, even murders make me happy. Not many thrillers are doing the round in the Indian Literary Circle these days, they still are dominated by the Romance genre. Themed thrillers are also gaining momentum gradually – banks, media, police, even Bollywood!

In this hiatus, The Caretaker is compelling. It has a setup that I’m vaguely familiar with – not the Martha’s Vineyard part, but the one about immigrants in the US of A. Many Indians, despite having legal visas would grasp the dilemma and fear of Ranjit Singh, the protagonist. An ex-military, he escapes with his family from India to Boston for shelter. You have to read the book to know why, since that is the parallel plot. Stifled in a grocery store run by his wife’s relative, Ranjit moves to Martha’s Vineyard for greener pastures (not literally!). He and his daughter like the quaint coastal tourist spot for the rich.

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Citius, Altius, Fortius

Image Courtesy: Indiblogger

Image Courtesy: Indiblogger

Health and immunity are the keywords in life when we speculate about ourselves and especially, our children. Immunity, besides being genetic, mostly depends on what we eat, where we live, the air we breathe and the habits we acquire. It is a known fact that while we are being technologically advanced with each decade, even each day, the biosphere where we reside is deteriorating at a faster rate than we know of. I was born in the late 20th century, in a more polluted environment than my parents were born decades earlier. Since the ’90s, global warming and massive pollution have poisoned the world for children these days. Most of us are cognizant of the fact that India ranks quite high in being one of the most polluted countries in the world. Frankly, do we even need any index to prove so? Each of us can feel and are compelled to breathe in the malicious air every time we step out of our homes. Immunity is heavily dependent on pollution, among other factors. It is upto us to adopt correct measures and build a healthy and immune India for the future generations.  Let’s take a look at what we can do:

Image Source: 123rf.com

Image Source: 123rf.com

What is Immunity?

A sneak peak into the coveted word used very often these days – the immune system in our body is made up of a complex network of cells, tissues and organs which work together to protect us against germs and harmful organisms. When a foreign body like antigen enters the body, these cells get together to build antibodies, which are specialized proteins to attack the invaders. These antibodies actually remember their antagonistic antigens and fight them every time. Humans have 3 types of immunity – innate (the one we are born with), adaptive (the one we develop while growing up) and passive (temporarily provided by external factors like breast milk or medicines).

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Book Review : The Vague Woman’s Handbook

Blurb View: 

Image Source: Self

Image Source: Self

At twenty-two, Sharmila Chatterjee has just married her sweetheart of a few years, Abhimanyu Mishra, a somewhat eccentric if handsome, twenty-three-and-a-half-year-old with obscure academic interests and a small fellowship that never arrives in time. They start a household in a tiny rented flat, fending for themselves in the big, bad and very snooty world of south Delhi, with penny-pinching landlords, some romance, and a lot of anxiety.

At fifty-two, Indira Sen is not sure just how she meandered to where she finds herself now. A senior government officer and single mother, she lives with her daughter and three opinionated old people in a rambling house, drives a battered car, and has a history of credit-card-induced-shopaholism. 

The Vague Woman’s Handbook is a story told with equal parts of humour, hysteria ad tenderness, about the sparkling friendship between two women as they hurtle through life and its mini-crises while trading secrets in the art of survival.

Review:

There are a few books which attract you in the first few pages, the words take you under their wings, make a comfortable nest for you to snuggle in and read away. I wasn’t sure if this book was a chick-lit by the cover and blurb, something told me it will be better than that. It did make my journey much better, though. I was transported into a world of vague women whom we encounter closely in our daily lives.

Who are vague women and why did the author write a handbook about them? These women often reside inside us, for a brief period or for a lifetime. They are absent-minded, geographically and directionally challenged, emotional and stubborn people. Now that pretty much sums up nearly most of us. Being somewhat vague myself, I started enjoying the author’s perspectives on the protagonists. The book is about two women, Mil and Indira, as briefed in the blurb. They are like chalk and cheese in their appearances and lifestyles, and yet they share a lot of similar traits which allow them to bond with each other.

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