Judy Balan’s debut novel “Two Fates – The story of my divorce” is an extension of the story of “Two States – The story of my marriage” by Chetan Bhagat. The plot is about separation of the couple (Deepika and Rishabh) who are like Yin and Yang, intrinsically different but complementary in nature. While the pair plots for their severance, their family unknowingly conspires against their divorce. Two Fates is story of these opposing forces, full of humour, sarcasm and some high schoolish turn of events.
Yin Yang Symbol
Judy narrates the story through the protagonist Deepika’s perspective and sticks to Aam-Janata syle of writing – use of plan language. Though the story is fun, Judy’s story is built around some very hard-core beliefs of the Indian society like inter-class or inter-religion marriages are social stigma, divorce decisions are not personal but family decisions, non-conventional form of vocation/studies/career like writing, vetenary doctor etc are not easily accepted by society. The author is also bold in presenting the sexual life of the couple in a very comic way.
The central characters of the novel might relate to many urban cosmopolitan citizens but the turn of events presented in the story like the baby making conspiracy by the families, the events related to the clandestine divorce, the union of the two inter-community families involved, the openness of the family to talk about sex etc are way-off from the life of a common man. The constantly-fighting-yet-loving-sort-of-relationship between Deepika and Rishabh is also expected to strike a chord with many couples.
Judy’s job of extending Chetan’s story line is remarkable as I believe extending someone else’s imagination is more difficult than creating a completely new plot. Hence, I think that the book is better than many other books belonging to modern literati genre. The book is a stand-alone success and does not require readers to have read “Two States”. The story is racy, dramatic and quick read (Should not take more than five hours to read).
Kanika Dhillon’s debut novel “Bombay Duck is a fish” is partly an autobiographical book on career in film-making. Fast paced novel set in the tinsel town of India – Mumbai – is about dreams and ambition of the film city.
The protagonist of the story “Neki Brar” chucks a cushy corporate job to follow her dream to become a film-maker alike the author of the book. Young ambitious Neki successfully lands in the Assistant Director role to a famous director Fiza but soon discovers the darker side of the film-making. Cruelties of the city and of the profession soon teach her the act of survival and she adopts to the bollywood’s way of moving up the ladder. However, her entanglement with second lead actor, Ranvir, of Fiza’s movie unfolds ugliness of true love, which brings destruction to her life. Kanika cites in the book “Test of true love is to ask oneself if one would happily be destroyed by the other person. If the answer is yes, it’s true love.” Neki’s love for Ranvir destroys her.
Kanika tells the story via filings of Neki in her diary “Nano” in a fashion similar to Annie Frank’s narration via a diary “Kitty” in “Diary of a Young Girl”. The timeframe of the story is less than a year and sometimes the reader might find the pace of the story to be unrealistic. Kanika has effectively used humor in the story and has christened the chapters creatively. The title of the novel derives its name from one of the chapters of the novel where Neki realizes that “Bombay Duck” is a misnomer and “Bombay Duck” is actually a fish. The interspersed allusion to Freudian theories and quotes from novel “Siddhartha” by Hermann Hesse makes the reading interesting.
Character of Neki is etched well and in parts seems to be heavily drawn from the real life of Kanika who also started out working as an assistant director in bollywood. The characters in the story are young and ambitious and the racy life of the characters presented in the story might connect with many bollywood aspirants. Kanika has been honest to writing and has presented charcters like Aslam, Minty and Ranvir giving a peek into the dark side of film-making.
Language of the book is plain. It sometimes throws film-making jargons like AD (Assistant Director), Vanity Van, location recce etc. but does not really interfere with the reading. One must not read this book for wellspring of information on movie making but for the narration. The book is fast-paced and a seven to eight hour read. The plot is bereft of surprise elements and is predictable; unfortunately the end of the story is a let down.
My verdict – Thumbs Up for narration and recommended for light readers. Must read for bollywood aspirants. A three of out of five to Kanika for the work.
Kate le Vann might just deceive many readers by offering a contemporary romance read under the disguise of a chick-lit cover page of her novel “Things I know about Love”.
Livia, the protagonist of the story – 17 year old Brit girl, has been suffering with Leukemia and is on summer holiday in Princeton when she decides to file her romantic entanglements in a private blog to make observations about love (read Livia’s observation about love in red ink below). In her blog posts, she also reflects upon her past relationships as she tries to understand how to work out love. During the four week break in Princeton she falls for Adam, which becomes the theme of the second half of the book. Livia is a strong teenage girl while Adam is a super-cool boyfriend.
1. People don't always tell you the truth about how they feel
2. Nothing that happens between two people is guaranteed to be private
3. I don't know if you ever get over having your heart broken
The author tells the story via blog posts of Livia and Adam – an out of box stuff. One might take some time to adjust to the format of the book and to the language of the book (words like blimey, sussed, woozy, yowza etc might seem strange to many). The pace of the story is quick but the story has flashes of thought provoking content and hence I am tempted to categorize the novel in the contemporary romance genre rather than in the young adult genre. The quick pace of the story often does not allow reader to connect with the emotions of the characters. The author should have invested a tad more in evolving the characters and emotions.
The story ends abruptly and is heartbreaking. Though a quick read (167 page book which one can easily read in one sitting), it is not completely a light-read as the themes of young love and loss speak to the reader’s heart.
“Ashwin Sanghvi” in his second novel “Chankya’s Chant” has offered his reader two fictional accounts of king-making, which are set in eras, separated by nearly two thousand five hundred years. A common thread of Machiavellian thinking (ends justify the means) runs through the juxtaposed stories in which the protagonist of the stories (Chankya in the older one and Pandit Gangasagar in the modern story) pull off wicked strategies to install their protégés in the corridor of power.
The protagonists are portrayed as very determined, omniscient & omnipotent. The events in the stories always sway in the favor of the protagonist – which as per me is the downside of the story. The machinations of the two king-makers finally fructify with Chandragupta being coroneted as king of old Bharat while Chandini ends up taking oath as Prime Minister of India. The plots give the reader a peep into corruptive and divisive politics of India, which is akin to the greed and venality of ancient Bharat. Some of the political turn of events presented in the story seems to inspired by past and current political events & environment of India. A politically literate Indian reader can easily relate these events of the story with the real events of today’s politics.
Ashwin has deftly combined his ability of story telling with his passion for history and mythology. The work feels to be well researched. The turn of events in the two plots is broadly similar and hence the reader might feel the story in the modern day to be slightly less intriguing than the older story. The author has peppered the book with quotes borrowed from television series Yes Minister & Yes Prime Minster and from famous personalities like Oscar Wilde, Benjamin Franklin, Napolean Bonaparte etc, which made reading more interesting for me.
The author has deviated from the common storyline of the neo-literature of India (campus stories, tragedy stories about love, urban life stories and office politics stories) by foraying into writing a historical fictional and will give the audience of the neo-Indian Literature genre a much needed change. The language of the book is easily comprehendible and the plots will keep the reader riveted for majority of the time and is a light read.
One must not read the book for educative purpose but for entertainment. For the confluence of mythology, history and fictional story-telling in his work, I award Sanghvi a 3.5 out of 5 rating for “Chankya’s Chant”. You can read the sample chapter of the book here.
P.S: By publishing the book, Westland publishers seem to have hit the nail on the head this time as well – “Chankya’s Chant” has sold more than 50000 copies within 7 months of its launch. Westland publishers have published many recent best sellers like “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish by Rashmi Bansal”, “Don’t Loose Your Mind, Loose Your Weight –Rujuta Diwekar”.
Bookshops and coffee shops have been my favorite hangout places in the last few years. Little did I realize that the section devoted to the Indian authors in the book shop and the readership of these books has increased over the last few years. As has the airtime and following of the new short format of the cricket Twenty-Twenty (read Indian Premiere League, IPL). This blog aims to draw parallels between the neo-Indian literature (referred to as Aam Janata Writers) and T-20 format of the cricket on some major themes.
Success Mantra: “Short, Light and Cheap” are the success pillars of the books by the new breed of writers and of the new cricket format. The books are short and meant for light read (generally less than 250 pages), written in plain language and priced around 100 INR. Similarly the new format of cricket offers an entertainment window of 3 hours (short), peppered with hosts who speak plain English (light ascricket jargons are kept minimal) and comes at a cheap price (ticket price).
Promotion and Marketing: The marketing and promotion of the two products has contributed to their success as much as their content has. The below two paragraphs gives a peep into the marketing tactics of these products:
– The posse of new writers has tested new channels to market and sell their books. YouTube has been used to stream trailers of the book, social media channels like facebook, twitter has been used to engage with the readers directly; free samples of the book are distributed to create buzz. The neo-books are easily spotted in most of the households in towns and cities of the country.
– IPL has created buzz by bringing glamour, money and entertainment together to the gentleman’s game. IPL has revolutionized the way cricket has been marketed to the mass and has been made it a household discussion topic.
Exclusive Audience: Both the products have managed to create exclusive following for themselves.
– The readers of the neo-writers want to hear stories about themselves – story on urban office life, a call center, a love tragedy, an affair across religion. The new audience likes to read in language easy to comprehend unlike the classical way of story telling done by literary heavy-weights like Amitav Ghosh, Salman Rushdie etc.
– IPL similarly has created a fan following which views cricket not as sport but as a medium of entertainment (recall your wife/girlfriend watching and discussing IPL games with you) as against the audience of test matches who vet their appetite to watch classic cricketing shots.
The success of the two has been astonishing but will the two new formats consume the other forms? I think Indian audience has room for both and appreciates variety. While the two forms will maintain their exclusive audience but the audience of both the forms will gain the most.
P.S: This blog has been inspired by the recent cover story of Outlook July 18 Edition – The New Aam Janata Writers. K.I.S.S in the title of the blog is the abbreviated form of Keep it Short and Simple.
“Exodus” is a novel built around numerous passionate attempts by Jewish zealots to establish a homeland for themselves – “Israel”. The title “Exodus” refers to the movement/immigration of Jewish community across the world to “Israel”
Leon Uris has been able to bring out the travesty faced by the Jewish community during the World War II and also offers insights into political stage during the era. The author has also spent considerable time in describing the concepts of Kibbutz (Collective farms of Jewish Community) and formation of Haganah (self defense army of Jewish community) which are indicative of the immense research work put behind the novel.
The story revolves around a few characters like Ari, Kitty, Karen and Dov. The characters of the story are quiet serious and is in line with the seriousness of the subject of the story. Leon has successfully tied the determination of these characters to establish Jewish nation with their past lives, which enables the reader to empathize with the mindset of the characters.
The story never deviates from the underlying theme of the story “Creation of Israel”; moreover the last hundred pages of the novel only describe the fighting, killing, murder and victory, which can be drab at times to the reader.
The language is simple and is easy to read. I will recommend the novel to serious readers only, especially ones interested in learning the story of Israel and the state of Jewish Community during World War II. For the light readers, the movie “Exodus” based on the novel is a good alternative. The novel is an excellent work of bringing together fiction and real events of the past and hence I award a rating of 3.5 on a scale of 5.
P.S: If you are interested in learning about state of Jewish Community and the travesty that befell them during World War II, “Diary of a Young Girl” is highly recommended.
“Romance with Chaos” by “Nishant Kaushik” is a story of young professional who finds his job as one without challenges & recognition and is in constant fight to find peace in his chaotic life. Life of Nakul, the protagonist of the novel, mirrors life of any other young professional in the corporate sphere who struggles with harsh realities of job and aims to identify an “X-Factor” in their life.
The author has used random events of Nakul’s life like betrayal by a colleague at workplace, breakup with girl friend, meeting with a co-passenger in a flight and coming across a few random sketches drawn by an acquaintance to shape the story.
The plot seems to be partly inspired by the experience of the author in the corporate and therefore many young professionals can find a good connect with the story. Description of Nakul’s relationship with Kavya has Nishant’s humorous touch and forms the most interesting part of the story for me. Reader might feel the characters of the story to be stereotyped as the characters might resemble many real personalities in an urban readers’ life. The book misses detailed descriptions of settings and characters, which seems to be a typical trait of the books of this genre.
The book as in the case of many Indian fiction books is a recommend for short reads and might not vet the appetite of true bibliophiles. Overall, a 3 out of 5 to Nishant for the piece.
“Two States” by “Chetan Bhagat” is a love story of individuals from two different states of India, who fall in love with each other in their campus life at IIM Ahmadabad and post the campus life work towards convincing their families, revolting against inter community marriage of their children. Female protagonist Ananya, unlike typical south Indian girl is characterised as a smart, intelligent and extrovert female while the male protagonist Krish, an intelligent IITian from Delhi is presented as a whizkid.
The book differs from the other campus stories in two dimensions: a) A larger portion of the book is devoted to post campus life of the protagonists of the novel unlike campus stories which are purely devoted to the campus b) Secondly and majorly, the book delves on slightly more serious subjectof “commitment and marriage” rather on the present day buzzword of numerous other campus stories “love & fun”. The author should be commended for his ability to present a very serious subject of inter-community marriage in his style of humour and fun and hence the book becomes a light read. The story has patches of gloom interspersed with happiness surrounding the small victories of the couple in events that helped them convince their families.
The book owing to its presentation style can be categorized in the genre of humorous writing rather than in the romantic novels. It is recommended as a light read and hence attracts a lot of young audience. From the perspective of a mature reader, I expect Chetan Bhagat to graduate to higher levels of writing and present to its reader a slightly more serious work.
“The Satyam Saga”, a Business Standard publication book, is an anthology of articles by journalists of Business Standard covering multiple facets of the Satyam Scandal, referred as biggest corporate scandal of India Inc. The book not only chronicles the turn of events in the Satyam Scandal but also covers other related areas like Corporate Governance, Multiplicity of Investigating Agencies, Regulatory Measures of Indian Inc etc.
The articles form a good ground for initiating discussions and debates on issues raised during the scandal like role of independent directors and auditors, business-politics nexus, principle agent theory and crisis management. The articles do not detail much on each of the above management topics and the readers should not expect to derive much detail on these topics as these are presented in a cursory manner.
The facts and quotes presented by the authors are not biased in nature. Book dedicates a few chapters to understand Ramalinga Raju’s mindset, though the articles are non-conclusive in nature. A few inferences about Ramalinga Raju’s attitude and business acumen are:
Ramalinga Raju was an aggressive but media shy businessman one who wanted to jump to 1000 from 100 without talking about 200, 300 etc. This aggression might have led him to inflate the books to be among the Big 4 IT league of India.
Ramalinga Raju played his cards close to the chest which precisely meant that the large section of the top management was unaware of the misdemeanours of the Satyam chief.
As expected from a true entrepreneur he was good at networking skills as displayed by his closeness with Chandrashekhar Naidu, Y S Reddy, association with Bill Gates and APJ Abdul Kalam Azad which allegedly might have won him many business.
Book also presents details on Social Enterprise of Satyam like EMRI, HMRI and Satyam Foundation. The reader would be awed at the doing good philosophy of Mr Raju which earned him great respect among his community and near-dears. The facts presented in the book drive the point that had the directors and auditors played their role responsibly the misdemeanour would have been unveiled ages ago. The book can be recommended to business and management book readers who want to get hang of events in Satyam Saga.
Jr Loius V.Gerstner’s book “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?” is not an autobiography of Gestner while it is brief of his seven year stint in IBM as its CEO. The book presents Gestner’s work of turning around the sinking ship “IBM”. Gestner has scripted his strategies of patching the hole in the hull to resurrecting the elephant to its position of market leadership. Gestner identifies Marketing Myopia and inward looking approach as the centre problem for IBM & also presents his opinion about Merger & Acquisition, leadership and corporate culture of IBM.
As the name suggests, Gestner has repeatedly mentioned “IBM’s massive size” hence the common noun “Elpehant” figures in the book’s title. Gestner is very vocal about the resistance in IBM culture to change. Every chapter of the book talks about internal resistance in form of internal department ego clashes, process driven culture & excessive decentralization which leads to slow decision making leading to an obsolete strategy of IBM. Gestner also talks about excessive love of IBM team with its Operating OS2 which in the marketing parlance can be termed as marketing myopia.
The decline of the IBM in the early 1990s can understood by “S-Curve Theory” also commonly known as “Innovator’s Dilemma”. In IBM’s case, IBM is the innovator of OS2 operating system and was obsessed with its brain child. This combined with the inward looking approach did not allow IBM to adopt greater return offering technologies springing in the technology environment.
Prior to Gestner’s tenure in IBM, IBM’s management team had laid out strategic vision for IBM’s entry into newer technological arenas. However, the internal resistance combined with a vision without details lead to non-execution of the laid out strategy. Gestner is of the view that “Good Strategy is long on details” and hence his ability to execute the strategy is commendable. He dismisses the common phrase ”Small is Beautiful, Big is Bad” and comments “focus combined with good leadership can enable an elephant to be nimble and flexible.”
The book may be misconceived by many as one filled with technical jargons, in reality the book is simple to read and does not bore one with management terms owing to the non-tech background of the author. Book should not be understood as one meant for offering management magical potions to its readers. Readers who have watched & understood the recent print & television advertisements of consulting giant “Accenture” featuring an elephant performing “Surfing Stunts in Ocean’s High Tides” can easily understand the essence of the book.