After forcing myself to finish King, Queen, Knave by the celebrated Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov (best recognised for Lolita), I was desperate to read a book I could relate with and enjoy. Although it has been praised for its ‘delicious prose’, I found the excessive metaphors and personification in King, Queen, Knave tiring. The pace too was a real drag. I was eager to begin a new novel.
A few days earlier, my ex-colleague and friend Shiwangi sent me an author signed hardcover of Land Where I Flee by Prajwal Parajuly, all the way from Gangtok, Sikkim, as a belated birthday gift! Shiwangi has always been the super sweet girl so I was more touched than surprised. Last year, I had borrowed from her and read the debut novel by Prajwal (who is her friend) called The Gurkha’s Daughter and quite liked it.
Now, coming to Land Where I Flee. To put it very simply, I had a good time reading it. Land Where I Flee is set in Gangtok, where the author himself grew up. So, it’s a culture and people he knows well. At it’s core, it’s a tale of fractured familial relationships, old wounds, and the refusal to patch up. The characters that people the novel are interesting, real, conflicted, layered, and thankfully, not complex to the point where you do not fully understand their motivations.
An old, formidable, beedi-smoking, Nepali-speaking Hindu widow Chitralekha Nepauney is set to turn 84. Her 84th birthday, or chaurasi, is an event to commemorate. Her grandchildren, who she single-handedly raised after their parents’ death in a car accident, are coming from different parts of the world for the chaurasi. She has, however, a bone of contention to pick with all three of them.
The eldest, Bhagwati, had eloped at 19 to marry a low caste, untouchable Damaai. She, of Brahmin ancestry, had ruined the family reputation. Her Baahun grandmother left no opportunity to taunt her slither by. The second in line, Manasa had done the respectable thing by marrying a man from one of Nepal’s most prestigious political families but by refusing to get her husband along for the chaurasi, earned the wrath of her grandmother. Chitralekha’s only grandson, Agastaya, stubbornly remained a bachelor at 34. Apart from Chitralekha’s incessant mocking, complaining and rebuffs, the three siblings have their own demons to fight and hope only to come out of the chaurasi unscathed. The novel follows the events that unfold when they all congregate in their childhood home. As if there wasn’t enough melodrama in the household anyway, a mischievous eunuch maid and an uninvited guest take it upon themselves to create even more.
The sentences Parajuly weaves are quite simple in structure but every third page contained a word or two I was unfamiliar with! An aspect of Land Where I Flee I particularly noticed and liked was the liberal doses of dialogues and the muted, crisp narrative. The author doesn’t waste precious words in describing scenes and settings in great detail, and lets the story flow freely and quickly. The tension among the siblings and with the grandmother is brought out appropriately well by the words the characters chose to speak. The novel inevitably has a sprinkling of the Gorkhaland movement. However, one does wish that the author move out of his comfort zone in his next outing.
To sum it up, Land Where I Flee is a non-pretentious novel—literary enough but not absurdly, unbearably so.
On an aside, I hope 2014 turns out to be a great year for Indian authors and of course, the publishing industry in general. People of the world, please buy more books and show them damn Kindles and e-Readers who’s the boss.
PS: I also reviewed Sangeeta Mall’s Flight of the Flamingo recently. Click here for the link.
Flight of the Flamingo by Sangeeta Mall
To put it simply, this is chick-lit with brains. In that, it’s fairly easy to read through but has enough substance and poignancy packed in. This novel is first in the ‘Beyond Pink’ series by Westland publishing. And if the first is this good, I look forward their upcoming titles. The attempt here is to tell stories about the contemporary urban Indian women-their dilemma, choices, aspirations, et al. And the author here definitely succeeds.
The novel follows the life of Preeta Dhingra, a short, plump woman in her early thirties. Preeta works in a publishing house in Mumbai and is tired of editing brainless romance novels that her company so loves to churn out, The story begins when an extraordinary manuscript lands on Preeta’s desk. The submission is by a high-profile celebrity banker. Preeta’s boss shoots down the idea as ridiculous and risky. In flat defiance against her boss’s wish, Preeta decides to go ahead with it, and in doing so, risks her job. Along the way, many things happen. There is also a love angle in the novel. But that is hardly the focus of the novel. If, like me, you are tired of reading women-centric novels that deal only with love and relationships, you’ll appreciate The Flight of the Pink Flamingo for going way beyond that.
Preeta leads a tough life. But there is none of that wallowing in self-pity or lengthy ruminations about how tough life is. You tend to understand and also admire the way Preeta deals with life. The character feels real. It could be someone you know. The novel scores on plot, narrative and characters. What more does one want, really!
A long overdue post. Sharing some pics from my trip to Goa. Went there a few months ago when my sister was living in the beach state. So she took me around. Zooming around on her two-wheeler, we went to beaches, a funky French Bakery, met her friends, discovered a small Tibetan restaurant, drank wine instead of water at her house, went club-hopping in the middle of the night, missed a silent night party, shopped some, sent a postcard to my friend in Thailand, and lazed around a lot. Think that sums it up.
Unfortunately, our digital camera was acting up, so had to click everything from my cellphone..
And since I don’t have too many pics from Goa, thought I’d upload a few pics taken over the months.
Just so pretty!
My friend Partho is a chef turned demo lecturer at a hospitality college. He invited me to his place for lunch one weekend and made amazing pasta, completely customised. Big thank you to him and his lovely wife Medha for having me over.
This is from my recent press trip to Della Luxury Resorts and Adventure Park, Lonavala. Quad biking on a dirt track in the rains. I’m sure I must have looked hilarious but I had a great time.
Walking into the Mulund outlet of Reliance Digital, one would be surprised at how big the store actually is. I’m assuming the store was launched very recently, as the celebratory balloons were still around. Shiny gadgets surround you and the latest technology is on display. Reliance Digital offers everything from batteries for a remote to air conditioners to gaming consoles.
I was quite impressed by the sheer variety of electronics out there. So they had cell phones right from iPhone to Nokia Asha to phones by Lenovo. They had ovens, coffee makers, induction stoves and cameras. And I swear, Philips has the cutest range of irons and hair styling appliances. They had irons, curling irons and straighteners in neon colours of pink, blue, red, etc. I must say, fridges come really huge these days! I have never been such gigantic, fancy fridges in any other store. Like they had some really nice technology on the front doors, where you can water, ice cubes, child-lock it, adjust the temperature, etc. I felt like sitting inside a few of them- I’m sure they would have easily accommodated someone of my frame. Then they had PS3, Xbox, video games, some movie DVDs, sleek speakers, tablets and laptops, of course.
One of the coolest things were the 3D enabled television sets. I mean, I was simply blown away by the superior picture quality where you could see the images right down to the last detail. The best part is, wearing the 3D glasses, you can move to the left or right, and the image will move with you! I was infinitely fascinated by how that could be. Also, the home theater systems were pretty cool.
The staff was adequately polite and well-informed. They also didn’t hover around you while you checked out things but were always somehow around when you needed them. The place was squeaky clean and everything was shining in a typical electronics store kind of way. All in all, I would feel comfortable visit and making a purchase here.
Note: My visit to Reliance Digital, Mulund, Mumbai was as part of IndiBlogger’s The Reliance Digital Experience.