Monday, July 07, 2008

Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra: Impressions


What more appropriately titled book could there be for me to be writing about this morning? Vik Chandra's (that's what I've decided to call him) Sacred Games kept me up reading late into the night till I finished the last of its nine hundred pages. Yet I was up with the first sounds this morning and have been awake ever since. Like Vir aptly put in his 'Good Morning' message : Sleep does not come to the anxious.
But it's more anger than anxiety that's been keeping me awake - or perhaps both. The anger is about an 'ongoing' wound - one that I can't dress, only scathe with. The anxiety is about not feeling anything in particular. Today is my last day as a Miss anyone. Tomorrow I shall have to cross the threshold to become a 'Mrs.' and stick to it for the rest of my days. Perhaps it is a big deal or perhaps it is just another day. I can't decide what to feel. Pretty much like the protagonists of Chandra's epic novel; pretty much like the humanness of Ganesh Gaitonde and Sartaj Singh.
In the backdrop of the city of Mumbai - the city that is a representation of all possibilities of the human situation - the novel ebbs and flows and with it, so do the descriptions of lives - each big and small in its own right. This is the city of filth and squalor, hopes and dreams and of course - a million sacred games.
A racy crime thriller with the usual mix of emotions thrown in, in the right places for the right effects, it keeps you hooked and wanting. Through violence, sex, murder, mayhem, and love, betrayal, friendships and estrangements, profound truths about life, Vik Chandra keeps his promise of sacred games.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini: Impressions


That I've summoned my pen for the third consecutive review of a read book bears testimony enough to the greatness of Khaled Hosseini's work of art. It also pleases me that I'm keeping to my resolve to never let another book be lost to time or memory.
The first day of reading the book was a 'weighing down' experience. Literally so. The pages drained me - the emotions asphyxiating me so much that even a small band-aid strip on my finger felt like it was choking me. So I shut the book, took a walk and came back with such defences that the rest of the book couldn't reach my heart. I quickly donned the - as I call it - 'scientist' mantle. Took to the objective standpoint and locked up the 'artist' in the farthest corner of my mind where Amir and Hassan couldn't wreak havoc on my heart.
But even with my defence of distance, the Kite Runner will be an unforgettable book for me, as it is for a countless others.
Hosseini's story-telling is masterful (a word I've picked up from one of the critics' acclamations on the book cover) but there wasn't much meat in it for me to identify with. Neither are my relationships with my parents so spun with tragedy nor have I had anyone I can truly call a best friend. The other relationships remain on the periphery and hence tug no strings.
But what endears the book to me is the style of writing. Oh, I relate so much with the author's cut-the-crap-and-talk-business style of writing. Kudos to a writer from another one (at least a wannabe). Hosseini's descriptions of the setting blend in so fast and so seamlessly with the plot that one has no time to start wondering when the colour of the sky and the bottle in the trashcan will be gotten over with. The language is refreshingly light, the sentences thankfully short (a skill I woefully acquire). And hats off to the way the book sucks the reader right in, whichever page you are on after a break. I also admire the way meanings of the Afghan (Pashtu?) words have been placed. Simply. Unapologetically. For this lovely read, Tashakor Mr. Hosseini. Thank you.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

An Equal Music by Vikram Seth: Impressions

Today there are no more pages of Vikram Seth’s An Equal Music to curl up in bed with. So, as one clutches at the last straw, I write about the book to savour my last bit of association with the book. And it amuses me to no end, as it doubtlessly will others, how I chose my favourite Parker fountain pen to write about it (yea, yea, before I typed it here). I think it really is a reflection of the high regard I now have for the book.
Seth’s An Equal Music can be summed in a no less a word than ‘delectable’. I don’t know how this word occurs to me as the most appropriate adjective; but I suppose it has to do with the way I have savoured every nuance of the book, found every bit of the experience delicious. The delightfully sensuous feel of the story may very well have been the inspiration. Odd, though, that Seth’s offering of auditory delights should translate into a distinctively gustatory one for me.
Every day I would look forward most eagerly to my time with the book. As one would save his favourite piece on the plate for the best aftertaste, I saved pages of the book. I didn’t read for more than an hour a day for fear that it would get over. But like all good things, the book came to an end yesterday and it has left one of the most lasting impressions ever. Yessir! This one’s going into my ‘favourite books’ list.
Vikram Seth’s rendition of the story in the first person narrative as the protagonist Michael is mind-blowing. Never has a fictional character appeared to me as so ‘real’. After a long, long time, I cried when the hero did and laughed loudly at his wisecracks. Michaels’s relationships with his quartet friends - Piers, Billy and Helen, with his Tononi violin, with Julia - the love of his life, as even with himself is so brutally honest in it portrayal. Through pages and pages that spoke about B majors and F minors - musical jargon that I have NO clue about - Seth kept me rooted firmly. Not once did I wish to cheat, skim or skip thought the pages. I was a compelled partaker in the world of Michael and his friends even as they discussed Western Classical music!
Another fascinating world that Seth so confidently led me into was the world of the deaf. The pathos of Julia’s condition is truly soul touching, yet one may not feel sympathy for her. So wonderful is the author’s exposition of ‘to each his own’, that one only emerges with a solemn respect from situations even whence the characters have suffered their worst defeats. Though vastly different from Ayn Rand’s style, like her, Seth’s book reminded me the undying spirit of the human who likes to love and who likes to live.