Sunday, August 31, 2008

Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan - You are Here

It is a dream situation. Girl writes a blog. Girl catches attention of publishers (Penguin for gods sake). Girl gets a book contract. Hey that is one situation I would love to be a part of. It has happened to a couple of girls (Sonia Felaro , Meenakshi Maadhavan) and I would not mind being a part of the hoo haah going on about chiclet .. errrr chick-lit.

I happened to be in a bookshop on Saturday evening and as the store manager was chasing me around and asking if I needed help, I set him to look for Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan's book You are Here. After a bit of rummaging, he found it. The price was reasonable, Rs.199/- so I took it.

I started the book and felt a bit let down. After a preamble that seemed a bit high flying, we got down to the business of Arshi trying to shock conservative readers by admitting to a few vices, namely, drinking, smoking, having sex, some bra talk. Hey girl, been there, done that.

However, the story settles down soon enough and we get to know that Arshi is on a re-bound and has just met a gorgeous guy in a pool party. He aint perfect, but is great. Only Arshi does not know where she stands with him. In the meantime, her friends, Topsy, Esha and Deeksha are coping with issues of their own. Topsy belongs to a conservative Hindu family and is in a clandestine relationship with a nice muslim boy, Fardeen, which is the mother of all NO NO's. Esha is obsessing about Akshay and it is obvious to all he is not really that into her. Deeksha is blissfully on her way to getting married to a gorgeous Canadian guy.

So what is the problem? Problem is that Arshi is not happy about where she is. She has this feeling that she should be doing something else, being with someone else. How she comes to terms with her situation is what this book is all about.

I would not call it the perfect book. There are too many digressions, that really take you away from the story and make you forget where you were. Right in the begining, one minute Arshi is wondering what to wear at a pool party, the next minute the story goes off tangent with Arshi reminiscencing about something else. It happens two or three times. She has repeated the phrase - "rolling of eyes" a bit too often.

If she had stuck to the story, and cut out the meanderings, it would have been much better. After a few initial descriptions of lingerie, probably offered up to pander to male curiosity or maybe female approval (yeah-it-happens-to-me-too), she stopped, thankfully. Despite claims of being slutt-ish, she does not really see so much action, often stopping at making out, which is more 16 than 25.

I liked the way she wound the book up, it was refreshing. It wasnt all fairy tale-ish with the handsome prince riding in, but it was with an admission that fuck-wittage happens to the fuck-witee.

Which is true.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Amitav Ghosh - The Calcutta Chromosome

Luckily for me I picked up the scintillating Sea of Poppies first. Egged on by my friend Oxymoronic who waxed eloquent about Amitav Ghosh, I made bold to order The Calcutta Chromosome too.

Right in the first chapter I was highly gratified when Ava was introduced. It is not often that I find my namesakes in literature and this one is not merely a woman, she is a computer, a worthy successor to Hal. Ava is an intelligent, interactive computer who is equipped to solve ALL the problems of the world.

The story goes something like this. Antar is some kind of a worker for an insurance firm who need not leave his home. He is (sigh – yeah dream on) connected to work from home. His computer, Ava (sounds lovely eh?) pops up some information at him which intrigues him. He finds himself in pursuit of a colleague Murugan, given up for lost since long. Murugan had been hot on the chase of Dr Ronald Ross who was the person who discovered all about malaria. In his pursuit Murugan had found out that Dr Ross, who had conducted most of his experiments in India, had mysteriously acquired two assistants, Mangala and Krishna. Murugan pursues all the leads relentlessly in his quest for truth, culminating in his disappearance.

The book is full of medical-scientific references, after all it is about malaria. Murugan discovers (thru Ross) that malaria, apart from being fatal in instances, also cured syphilis. And that the fever was not all bad. And that the Indian natives, with their acute observation, had cottoned on to these facts and were in fact, feeding the information to the good doctor. It was the earthy, wise and manipulative natives versus the stupid, easily influenced Brits.

From being a racy, cerebral thriller, the book, towards the end, disintegrated into almost an Alice thru the looking glass finale when all the characters turn into cards and fly at her. I felt a little like Alice myself, lost and puzzled and wondering why the pace picked up so much towards the end, why all the clues were coming so fast towards Murugan, why was he making so many discoveries. I almost drowned in the sea of information and forgot what we were all looking for in the first place, Me and Antar and Murugan and Urmila.