Tuesday, December 25, 2012

John Green - Fault In Our Stars

The thing about books is they leave you with memories. The thing about characters is they take the form of life you want and permanently reside in your universe. Sometimes as a friend and sometimes as a reflection of what you want to be. The thing about books is that the story they behold stays with you. It becomes a part of you. They make you feel emotions you never thought you could feel.

I was looking for a certain book when I accidently came across John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars. Now even though it is not some extraordinaire work of fiction, it still has that spark. People who have read it might just call it a ‘chick book (like a chick flick)’. But I refuse to do so. Emotions cannot be differentiated on the basis of gender. That would be unfair and rude. Emotions are meant to be felt.

The book is about Hazel Grace and Augustus (Gus) Waters. Both are Cancer patients and both have a unique sense of humor which absorbs you as you walk through their journey. The thing about cancer patients is that we believe they start living death even before they actually face it. John Green managed to contradict that in a manner as if mocking us by proving us wrong.

A person leaves you with a void to deal with for the rest of your life when s/he walks out of your universe. You never knew what that void could be like unless it hits you in the face. That’s the thing about death. It leaves the others who are alive emotionally handicapped. Their lives are like stars that cannot fathom a constellation.

When Gus died, he left a void in my universe.

This book is definitely worth a read. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fifty Shades Of Grey - Book Review

When I started the much talked about Fifty Shades of Grey (trilogy), I had high hopes.  And I did try to sustain that level till the second part eager for something interesting to happen. Some unanticipated twist, some startling event, something that makes me want to be fond of this book.

Regrettably, none of that happened. The book in my opinion insults romance and love. E L James seems to have a dull understanding of love…err…lust. The books are divided in two parts –

1) Pages and pages of erotica which after a point becomes suffocating and frustrating.
2) The Twilight Saga

The story has two protagonists – Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. The former being a control freak, dominating, bossy, overprotective, stunning and filthy rich guy who apparently has a dark side to him which is not revealed until the first half of the second book. The latter being a clumsy, confused, take-no-bullshit and a hopeless romantic. (Remember Edward Cullen and Bella Swan?).

When the two are not making love they are thinking about making love. As usual the guy has a dark side and has had many girlfriends (or sub-missives as they are referred in the book) in the past but he tersely changes after he meets the clumsy soul who has never had any boyfriends in her past. Clichéd!

The plot is nothing which can’t be predicted. It establishes with a typical, hasty, unexpected meeting which results into love at first side. The guy stalks the girl and the girl instead of finding it utterly creepy falls for it. As the story progresses, somewhere in the middle of all the erotica, it disappoints. The events that bit by bit unfold are nothing novel or atypical from the conventional.

The girl craves for the one thing which the guy has plainly refused to give. The guy has a creepy stalker ex-submissive with a gun who wants to kill Ana. Without a second guess, Grey is all over protective of Ana and all he wants is for her ‘to be safe’.  The family is profligately affluent and they all adore Ana the moment they meet her.

Now doesn't all that sound familiar?

Looks like E L James filled in the blanks for what she felt was missing in The Twilight Saga. The crux of the story remains the same all the way through with just some minor improvisations which fail miserably. It’s distressing how she has looked at romance as a genre in such monotonic manner like there was no hope to explore and give something worth reading. The book has nothing new or exciting to offer (unless you like reading porn). Perhaps the answer to the writer’s every ‘what now?’ was Sex. Every time she didn't know how to advance with the story she laid pages and pages of erotica which after a while got dreadfully exasperating.

Fifty Shades Of Grey – Trilogy has zilch new to offer and is a sheer letdown. If you are a book lover and prefer to read good substantial stories then this one is not for you. 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Independence To Me Is...

Getting your quote published in a prestigious newspaper gives you another high altogether.

My quote on what Independence means to me was published in The Times Of India, Kashmir Edition on 13th August 2012. Hence, I am going to brag about it a little. :)

The quote goes something like this – 
"Independence to me is when I can think freely without any social or cultural boundaries. It is when I can express and behave the way I want to without worrying about the outcome. When I am allowed to pursue the kind of studies and occupation I want to without any kind of discrimination.”

Now to me, this quote is nothing fancy or extraordinaire. Yet it means a lot and I am happy.

Happy Independence Day! 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Read Instead

I fell in love with books. Some people find beauty in music, some in painting, some in landscape, but I find it in words. By beauty, I mean the feeling you have suddenly glimpsed another world, or looked into a portal that reveals a kind of magic or romance out of which the world has been constructed, a feeling there is something more than the mundane, and a reason for our plodding.
The thing about books is that they take me in a world I can only dream of – the fresh air, the coruscant sunlight, the devil-may-care environs.  I cannot feel all this even if I wish to – because firstly, I live in Mumbai and can only expect polluted air, abrasive sunlight and nerve-racking environment. While travelling in an overly crowded Virar train at the peak hour, the only thing that makes my 80 minutes journey not so cumbersome is Books.  

I respect writes the most. They have a God gifted talent to put words in such magical way that leaves me hypnotized. They somehow express my feelings in a way I can never even if I tried. When I don’t want to face reality, when I want to believe that the world is a better place, when I want the reassurance that I am not the only one with troubles, I turn to books. 

The sassy aroma, the crisp young pages and the words staring at me asking me to read them. That never-ending moment when I stare in the space thinking about what I read. People come and go, feelings change, life moves on but books stay and so does those moments and thoughts. I share my deepest secrets with them and they keep it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Darkest Nights

“I would like a refill”, she said without looking up. “I’m sorry Ma’am but we’re closed for today”, the middle-aged waiter told her nervously. She looked up at the waiter and stared with helpless eyes. Then quietly stood up, took her coat off the chair and slowly walked out of the bar. Her feet felt weak, her head dizzy. The gush of cold wind hit her face the moment she stepped out. She stood there still feeling the wind tear her skin wishing to lose all her senses and just give up. Why couldn’t she have the easy way out for once? She looked up. The stars that once gave her company had vanished. All she could see was a dark, dense sky.

It was midnight. The streets were asleep. The silence that was once insanely beautiful was screaming at her tonight. “What is it that you want? You had better tell me now. I don’t want this drama every day.” His words kept echoing in her head. She never had an answer to that question. Even today, she is looking for an answer. She wanted him. But she could not say it. 

Tired, she started walking into the dead of the night. Her hands were cold, her lips dry. Timidly she wiped her tongue on the dry lips to comfort them. But who would comfort her? All she wanted was a shoulder to cry on but all she got were opinions and warnings to be careful the next time.

Next time? Was there ever going to be a next time? This wasn’t some movie. There was no guarantee that the ending would be a happy one. The people who were once her BFFs were now strangers. She could never decipher their talks or their presence. Were they there for her or not? Too many questions but no one to answer them.

Standing outside her apartment, staring at the door, she wished if someone from inside would open the door and embrace her. She was dreaming of course. Letting out a vulnerable sigh, she unlocked the door and walked in. The cleanliness and order of things disturbed her. She liked mess. Apparently, nothing she liked was with her now. Dropping the coat on the floor, she walked up to the windowsill and sat there staring into the dark silent night.

She knew she had lost it all. That it would never be the same again. Those gone days were just memories now. Memories she wished to forget. They made her miserable. A part of her had died when he left. He was the one who had given her a reason to live, to smile, to believe that she was also one of the lucky ones. Today those smiles make her heart ache. How could she be so stupid? She felt ugly.

How can one person affect her so much that every time she remembered him the pain became unbearable? She longed to see him. She wanted him to look at her and smile like nothing had ever happened. But she was expecting a lot. And it was these expectations that were the cause of her agony.

The sudden loud ring of her phone startled her. She hadn’t noticed she was crying. Gently wiping the tears off her eyes, she got up to answer the phone.


“Hey! I hope I didn’t disturb you. Were you asleep?”

“No. It’s okay. What’s up?”

“Umm… I was wondering if you could come a little early tomorrow so that we can have a rehearsal before the final presentation.”

“Yeah sure. No problem.”

“Great. See you tomorrow then. Bye.”


It was quiet again. She stared at the phone debating whether to call him or not. She didn’t want to sound desperate even though she was. The tears had made their way back to her eyes. She knew it was just her. He wasn’t thinking about her. Hell! He would be busy talking to some other girl. Feeling like a fool, she went to the bed and cuddled herself in a blanket. She was tired. Listlessly she closed her eyes letting the last tear make its way down her cheek.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What Has Happened Is A Black Farce - Salman Rushdie

Salman Rushdie dominated the Jaipur Literature Festival. His book, The Satanic Verses has been in news since it was released. The book did not go down well with the Muslim Community. As a result of which, there were protests and the book was burned and banned. During the Jaipur Literature Festival, the author was persuaded to stay away and not attend the festival. 

In India, art is given top notch importance. We Indians are known for our love and respect for art. Since the ancient Mughal period, and even long before that era, art has been an eminent part of the Indian society. That art, then, could be anything - be it architecture, paintings or literature.

Bearing this in mind, it is a matter of great shame that we, as Indians, who are the biggest democracy in the world, who value the freedom of speech and expression and who admire art, supported the bigots of Salman Rushdie and his book The Satanic Verses.

Iran's religious leader, Ayatollah Khomeini, issued a fatwa against Salman Rushdie for his book The Satanic Verses because according to him, it hurt the sentiments of Muslims and was an insult to Islam. Ayatollah Khomeini, the man who was castigated for human rights violations of Iranians, can never understand the importance of freedom of speech.

The book got the publicity it needed and became a bestseller. The Ayatollah sure knew how to sell books.

Freedom of expression is the cornerstone, the bedrock of any democratic society. Such protests and violent acts are an assault to the liberty. This is not an attack on a particular individual or a specific piece of work. But it is indeed and attack on the artistic intellectual scholarly freedom. An individual, who is bestowed with the freedom of expression, thus has that freedom to express his opinions. He has the freedom to offer his full vision to the world through his work.

Talking about the freedom of expression, people have the right to express their displeasure. They have the right to demonstrate but they do not have the right to disrupt peace and stability. They can make their protests but they should be clear and peaceful. Because those who burn books will then burn people.

The Salman Rushdie issue, then, is not about the book that seemed to offend certain sections of society; it is not even about India, the failed state. This is about the opportunism that imbues politics in the country today. The fundamental commonness is that politicians see in such developments as opportunities to polarize Hindu and Muslim votes and gain one or other vote-bank.

Because if that was not the case, then why didn’t these leaders raise their voice when M.F.Hussain was in exile? Why did they let him breathe his last in a foreign land? Where was the respect of art then?

During a discussion, my father was of the opinion that why do these artists have to play with the sentiments of people? Why don’t they believe in creating art that pleases everyone?

However, I cease to agree with him. This is gamble of literature. Is it fair to have censorship on thought? Because if you do so, then in my opinion, you are a fool. Censorship of thoughts is the death of art.

India culturally is in a much worse state than it was 30 years ago. It is becoming intolerant of artists and creativity. And I blame the people sitting at the top for this. India, as a country values art and freedom. It’s the leaders that are putting the nation to shame.

If this continues, India might cease to be a free country.