Saturday, February 27

The dog that made me weep..

Book Name : Marley & Me : Love & Life with the world's worst dog
Author: John Grogan
Genre :Memoirs
Publisher : Harper collins
My rating : 4/5

I am a self-confessed "No-Pets" person.I didn't grow up around dogs to appreciate their loyalty or cuteness. All i knew was that they slobbered,chewed on shoes and pooped at will.So,when other dog-lovers regaled me with tales of their dogs,i forced myself to examine my chipped-off nail polish.. Marley has significantly changed the way i look at dogs,now...Marley also has heralded another first for me .. more on that in a while ..

To say that i loved John Grogan's Marley & Me : Love & Life with the world's worst dog would be an understatement..I loved it to bits..The travails of an ordinary American family with a madcap-Labrador is too adorable to even start explaining..And,John Grogan's narrative weaves magic..Unexpectedly,i found myself rooting for Marley.

When Marley misbehaved,i felt indignation and wanted to spank the dog,when he bungled along the corridors of "domestic training",i wanted to hug him and say that it was okay.. that's how involved the book gets you..The book describes 13 years in the life of a lab against the backdrop of Florida and later Pennsylvania.Grogan describes the neighborhoods so well,that the words paint vivid pictures in your mind's eye.Incidentally,it is his memoir too ...Also,one cannot miss how the dog fits into the Lives of the Gorgans and how Marley is there by the side of his master through thick and thin.Through Grogan's wife's miscarriage,birth of babies,change in career et all ..

And eventually,when Marley is put down,i felt miserable.As miserable as i would have felt if Marley was my own. His antics,disobedience and loyalty at once leave you teary eyed..A beautiful book !!

Incidentally,this was my first audio e-book( edit: e-book read with microsoft e-reader..thanx Shona !!).. I was skeptical when i began the book and struggled with the pace of the first few chapters..As i part-heard and part-read the book,i settled into a groove which surprisingly was more comfortable than reading a normal paperback.Though,i must confess that it took me longer than usual to finish the 300 odd pages,i had the luxury of just relying on the audio when my eyes tired.

Lovely book and what an experience !! I haven't watched the movie adaptation and cant wait to catch it..

Thanks Veens,for sharing this`with me!!!

Tuesday, February 23

Russian sojourn !

Book name : Zero Percentile missed IIT,Kissed Russia
Author : Neeraj Chhibba
Publisher : Rupa
Price : Rs.95
Genre : Indian Writing (I might want to classify it as Young adult writing also!!)

On my own,I might not have picked up Neeraj Chhibba’s book Zero Percentile- Missed IIT Kissed Russia ,as the book’s name gave me the impression that this was going to be yet another IIT-centric story.A genre that has been done to death,IMHO. Thankfully for me,Zero percentile is much more than that.The book begins with a very elaborate account of Pankaj’s ( the Protagonist) childhood.Something I didn’t expect the book to talk about.I thought that the book would directly jump into the IIT- missed story..This part of the tale is fascinating,meanders and flows rather well.Most readers who grew up in India in the 70-80’s would relate to the incidents that Pankaj faces – tales of his ancestors,school -life, quizzing competitions and the competitive IIT-entrant scene.

Pankaj also meets his 2 best friends – Priya and Motu at school and their exploits are endearing.As Pankaj grows up,he is expected by his father to get into IIT.He finds out ingenious ways to get the coaching required as the family is not financially sound. The intelligent Pankaj also shows entrepreneurial skills and helps increase the student enrollment for the coaching classes he enrolls at. He expects to crack the IITs easily, but unexpectedly, disaster strikes and he is unable to realize his dreams. He sinks into depression and loses his enthusiasm for getting into IIT. He also withdraws from Priya, who he is secretly in, love with.

The second phase of Pankaj’s life starts with him getting a scholarship for Engineering (for 6 years) in the erstwhile USSR.This phase of Pankaj’s life is very entertaining.Apart from the usual exploits like alcohol and casual sex, the story also gives you a sneak peak into the times before the great USSR disintegrated.The writing style, one realises is pretty straight forward.No flowery language or metaphors.Narration style is neither complex or exquisite by any standards.The book reads like the script of a Hindi movie.A fast,racy Hindi movie shot in a foreign country.However,this happens to be the strength of this book-the author keeps you glued to the book from the word go.And, that is very commendable.

If not anything, the book is a page turner.The back jacket of the book almost gives away the plot,but you can be sure to expect the unexpected when you read the book .

Moving on with the plot, Pankaj’s tale in Russia talks about corrupt officials in university, Gang wars (literally!!) in the hostel and assorted sexual encounters.Pankaj also turns a successful entrepreneur and the rest of the story is about how he outwits his business rivals and finds love unexpectedly.In a way,I almost figured out the end ,despite the roller coaster ride that ensures before Pankaj is at peace with several issues that plague him.Any more information ,and I would have to give out a spoiler alert !! ..The last 2 phases of the book are so racy that, several times, I wanted the plot to slow down to give me some time to digest Pankaj’s exploits.However, the book doesn’t slow down for you.. The author also beautifully captures the socio-economic and political climate of USSR before it disintegrated.

For a first-time author, it is a good effort. The plot is definitely a winner.A thoroughly entertaining, unusual novel.At 95 bucks,it is a steal!.Its even available for 75 bucks in some sites

Four stars out of 5 for the plot,2 stars for the imagery and the Author’s writing prowess. Overall,3 stars out of 5 for Neeraj’s book. After this book,I am looking forward to his next book.!

This is an author requested review.

Thursday, February 11

The crabby watchman

I scowl at the crabby watchman.I can see him growling at me,like a tiger.A wounded tiger.The hubby complains that the "Crabby Watchman" has an attitude problem.I agree and crib some more."The crabby watchman" seems ancient.Skin wrinkled,he hobbled around.It seemed like he had contempt for everyone,the whole universe.Never a smile.Never a kind word.

Yet,we notice that he doesn't speak much.Hubby says he probably doesn't understand what we say.I let out a bouquet of expletives in honour of "The crabby watchman".We also notice that he has the most"dead" eyes we have seen on a human being.We call him weird.Weird,for having eyes like a stagnant cesspool.

I ask him for a favour."The crabby watchman"barks at me and waves concepts of "I am not your servant,empty your own trash" at me.I run to hubby to crib.He agrees, without me telling him that "The crabby watchman is a pain".I smile,knowing that the hubby empathizes with me.

We sit in the car and wait for the gate to open."The crabby watchman" doesn't show any signs of opening the gate.We cuss again.We discuss the duties of a watchman.And,finally open our gate ourselves.

8:30 PM.Our "Crabby Watchman" retires.He has had a long day.Weighed down by physical labour of gates not being opened and trash not being emptied.His "nest" is made up of bales of discarded clothing.We can hear his soft snores when we return at 2:00AM from a movie.He is visibly disturbed at the ruckus we create.He pulls up his bedsheet and snoozes again.We cuss again.

The next morning,"The crabby watchman" wakes me at 6:00 AM to give me the Electricity card.Do i detect a snigger when i fumble with my words?.I cuss and complain.Old men, i say.

Pongal."The crabby watchman" says to us "Don't you give any money for pongal ?".Hubby sighs,cusses and pulls out a 50 rupee note.We don't like the guy or his audacity.We don't want to give him any baksish."the crabby watchman" frowns his thanks.

A day passes.A week passes.A month passes.We barely notice that "The crabby watchman" is no longer "not" opening gates for us.We notice a new watchman.Hubby wants to know where the Old crabby man was.

The watchman tells us -He is gone.Dead.Heart attack.He has been gone for more than a month.

We didn't know.

Hubby feels bad.I feel bad.We knew he was unhappy.We should have been nice to him.Unexpectedly,i feel a lone tear trickling down my cheek.

We were busy with our lives.Hubby says.

We were indifferent and selfish.I say.

We promise to be nice to each other.To people we love.To people we dont know.To people who are mean to us.They cant help what they are,he says.Life is so weird ,i say.He nods.

"The crabby watchman" has affected us.Visibly.

What can be done now?.Help me pack my bag.The Hubby says.

I move on to help him pack.I have moved on.

70 years of life.

All we give him are a dozen scowls,a bunch of expletives,10 minutes of our mind space and a lone tear.Didn't he deserve better?.

Doesn't any human being deserve better ?.Unexpectedly again,while i am typing this,another tear falls on my laptop.

I didn't do enough.Never again.Never again would a life go unappreciated.I tell myself.

Rest in peace,Dear Crabby Watchman.I realize that i don't know his name.Even now.We are sorry.And we mean it.I say.

These are the nicest words i have shared with him.ever.

I move on..To my buring upma.

Tuesday, February 9

Daddy Long legs- old pyjamas and maggie noodles !

I know.. i can hear collective groans .. another review !! I just had to share this !!

Book name: Daddy Long Legs
Author : Jean Webster
Genre : Young Adult Fiction
Publisher : Penguin classics
Price :Rs.199
My rating : 4/5

I finally ended up reading Daddy long legs approximately 16 years after I resolved to read that book.I was in school and there was a mad clamour for Jean Webster’s classic.The queue for borrowing the book was so long that I shelved the book in the recesses of my memory as “To read Someday”.Comfortably forgotten,the book languished in the recesses until oneday,on a whim I decided to pick it up.. and boy,was i in for a treat..

Daddy Long legs is a beautiful story about a delightfully spunky and full-of-life orphan Jerusha.Jerusha or Judy, as she likes to be called is surprised when she gets to know that a mystery benefactor wants to fund her college education.In return, the benefactor’s only request was that Jerusha had to write a letter a month detailing her progress.So ,the entire story is in the form of letters from Judy to the benefactor,who Judy calls "Daddy long Legs"( because he has very long legs and thet is the only information Judy has about him).

Judy romps through college and there is sunshine in every word she writes.She aspires to become a writer and works towards the goal.She meets new people, makes friends, goes on trips and starts liking a man,eventually.Of course,there is a happily-ever-after ending.The book is ideal for light reading,with a few philosophical undertones creeping in occasionally.Mostly, the book is about everyday observations and activities of a highly intelligent and impressionable mind.

Energy and wit bubbles in the writings like some effervescent liquid.The letters are peppered with cute drawings that amuse you to no end.Absolutely lovable stuff !! .. I only wish I had discovered the book way back..A true feel-good young adult fiction.A bit of Trivia about Jean Webster…that was her assumed name and she was related to Jules Verne from her mother’s side.

4 stars from me for this classic!! .. I cant wait to dig into “The enemy”,Jean webster’s other successful novel.

Sunday, February 7

Eureka !!!

A post that is not a book review,for a change ..

I love most words.Period.Long ones.Short ones.Esoteric ones.Difficult ones.Funny ones.Serious ones.The works.But,not all words ellicit the same amount of passion in me. I hate some- but not with enough gusto.I love some -again with not the same amount of passion.

For some insane reason i like the word Cuckoo..i think it's a fun word!!..Some more words i consider fun.. Jamboree ! and Juggernaut..Maybe i have a "J" fixation !!..Also, i love words that invoke a sense of "sound".. like "Thud" and "Bang" and "Lub-dub" and "Rumble" and "Tumble" and "Splash".. Ok,Lub-dub might technically not be called a word.. I love foreign sounding words .. Like "Rendezvous" and "Razzmatazz"..They conjure up images of strange lands and people.

I discovered today that i don't like the word "licorice"..The hatred isn't too strong or anything..Just a mild hatred.No offense to the word,though.I also have a mild hatred towards the word "Avuncular"..don't know why !! ..There are some words that are so uninspiring.. Maybe more than the word "uninspiring"..Like "Baking" and "word" and "Best" and "Good".I think "Bravo" is a more inspiring word than "Good".

I read somewhere that "MOIST" is one of the most hated words..There is even a FB group proclaiming this.. Well,Moist doesn't evoke hatred in me.. it just evokes an uncomfortable feeling .. Like,the way you feel,when on a routine visit to your dentist,you realize that your wisdom tooth has to be pulled out !!.. Uncomfortable,but not fearful.."Screech" grates on my nerves like a chalk piece/fingetnails dragged against a blackboard..

So,i am reading JD Salinger's Catcher in the Rye and i bump into this word .. JITTERBUG.. and for some reason ,my tongue insists on rolling this word around and around and i catch myself grinning.I felt like a kid in a toystore or chocolate shop..Whatever works for the kid !...Jitterbugging,i learnt later is a dance form that was popular in 1940's.A dance form that involved lot of action and moving around..the kind of word i would like,anyways..

What's your favourite word? Do you feel strongly about any words? or is it just me???

On a differnt note,Hope Salinger and Erich Segal's souls rest in peace.2 great authors.My only qualm,why didnt Salinger publish more ??.. more about that in my next post !

Thursday, February 4

Liz rocks,and how !

Book name : Eat, Pray Love- One woman's Search for everything across Italy,India & Indonesia.
Author : Elizabeth Gilbert
Genre : Spiritual memoirs
My rating : 4/5

The book is sensual,spiritual,funny and serious all at the same time.This is probably the first spiritual memoirs i have read and i am not disappointed.Eat Pray Love chronicles Liz's journey to sanity after a very traumatic divorce.Liz takes a year off her "life" and decides to EAT,PRAY and LOVE. the book is divided into 109 chapters ,symbolically representing the Japa mala which has 108 beads.The 109th bead is for thanking the teachers.These 109 chapters are further divided into 36 chapters each devoted to the pursuit of Eating,praying and Loving.

Liz gallivants across Italy with the sole purpose of eating beautiful food.This part of the memoirs is very light and Liz's wit sparkles in the pages..Liz describes beautiful food and her hunger for gelatos.Funnily,the book reminded of the book Conversations with God.But,this part of Eat Pray Love is definitely more engaging and almost chick-lit-ish!.

The second part of the book was a little dense.The part in India,where she goes to pray.The humour that sparkled in the first half almost dries up,replaced by a serious narrative that describes Liz's struggles with taming her mind.She stays in an Ashram (edit: in the outskirts of ) Mumbai,scrubs floors,meditates,battles fears and demons and emerges cleansed.This is a boon for people like me who have 10 books about alternative religions with them,yet don't have the urge to read any of them as they are dense and tiring.Liz does compare notes about various religious ideologies.She seems so learned and spiritual at this point.

The final 36 chapters of the book deal with Liz's journey to Indonesia to find a balance between her spiritual-seeking and pleasure seeking nature.Yeah,that's where she meets the love of her life after almost one and a half years of celibacy.This part again is fun and full of interesting tit-bits on Bali's Socio-cultural aspects. Very engaging read.

All in all,a beautiful book.Hugely popular.Some critics have panned it saying that it has a very Chick-lit-ish approach to spiritualism.My take is that this is what makes the book what it is.. Funny ,poignant and yet serious.You can't help but like Liz and her motley group of friends at the end of the book.Wonderful book that lets us have a peak inside a troubled mind going to divorce.At the end of the designated year of eating,praying and Loving,Liz is rid of her negative thoughts and feelings about divorce. She doesn't however say that these will be kept at bay for ever as spiritual good health is something that has to be constantly strived for.If not given timely overhauls,the weeds will grow right back and draw you back to the negative circle.

I loved it.A book i would want to gift my best girlfriends(in the words of Julia Roberts!!).. A higly recommended read.