Tag: Book Review

Split Wide Open

Seance on a Sunday Afternoon is collection of short stories about emotions, situations and circumstances that reflect the little nuances of life. By Deeya Nayar-Nambiar

Set in the modern society of sex and the city, hard-pressed for time, every character is self-indulgent. Shinie Antony pens her stories mysteriously and mischievously like the contemporary artist who paints with bold brush strokes to bring out the symbolism and meaningfulness.

Giving the reader a slice of urban society with its confluence of the dos and don’ts, Seance on a Sunday Afternoon is a collection of short stories that reflect the little nuances of the lives, of human emotions, people in queer situations and circumstances. The stories are a trail of words and word play, poetic at times and prose otherwise.

Shinie lives through the characters, springing them to life to tell their tales as if in flesh and blood. Her bold writing style is not only her freedom of expression but also an expression of bold and sensuous themes on a lighter note. If one sentence provokes laughter, the other moves you to tears.

Even the harsh realities of life as a breast cancer patient, L finds a new meaning to her lost beauty. Elsewhere, a widow re-marries but still cannot come to terms with her first husband’s death. Everything is handled delicately.

Stories like ‘The Sofa’ and the ‘Seance On A Sunday Afternoon’ bring out the feelings of old people and the young, their memories, loneliness, detachments and attachments. In the process of writing, Shinie brings to life inanimate objects such as the sofa, fan and cancer.

Shinie’s tryst with writing is not new. As a journalist she polished her skills in imaginative and intuitive writing and has not looked back since her ‘Somewhere in Gujarat’ and ‘A Dog’s Death’ bagged the first prize in the Commonwealth Short Story Competition in 2001 and 2002.

Fascinated by the dark side of life, and an interest to keep pace with the Net savvy world, Shinie has also attempted to write like a blogger, uses sms language and similies, to explore the mind of a housewife who wants to connect with others in the cyber space.

Indeed, to understand the hidden facts of relationships and life in a city, the reader as a “common man” should sharpen his intellect to decipher or interpret the wit and the beauty of the language and idiom of Seance on a Sunday Afternoon.

Séance On A Sunday Afternoon

Shinie Antony

Rupa & Co, Rs 195

Published in June 2008, btw of Chitralekha Group

Hit Wicket

Politics, religion and cricket blend in relationships marked by friendship, trust and betrayal make a right mix in Chetan Bhagat’s The 3 Mistakes Of My Life. Making a cameo appearance, Bhagat plays to the gallery.

The story begins with an e-mail that Chetan receives from Govind, a small-time businessman in Ahmedabad who has failed in an attempt to kill himself. Bhagat tracks down the hapless man and the story unfurls when Govind narrates his life like a flashback in a Bollywood film.

While three friends – Govind, Omi and Ishaan – appear as the boys next door who dream to make it big in life. Cricket is the mantra that will fulfill their aspirations. A little boy named Ali is an exceptional cricket player and the three friends want to groom and sponsor the prodigy to make their own dreams come true.

Putting their situation in the contemporary context correct, the attack on the World Trade Centre, the earthquake that shook Gujarat, Ayodhya and the Godhra incident are relived through the characters.

The aftershocks haunt them when the communal riots involve the friends and Ali. “Life will have many setbacks. People close to you will hurt you. But you don’t break it off. You don’t hurt them more. You try to heal it. It is a lesson not only you, but our country needs to learn.”

The 3 Mistakes… is predictable and a quick read. However, it offers little scope for reflection and thinking.

By Deeya Nayar-Nambiar, Published in June 2008, btw of Chitrakeha Publications

Fantastic To Be A Female

Imparting a wealth of information through a collection of anecdotes, Jacqueline Shannon’s book for girls gives a boost to their ego. By Deeya Nayar-Nambiar

Far away from the madding crowd of the saas-bahu serials, tears and indulging in self-pity, Why It’s Great To Be A Girl: 50 Awesome Reasons Why We Rule! is a perfect treat for all girls entering adolescence, giving them a brushing up on girl power and the need to recognise their hidden potential.

Women have done better things in life than just be known for being talkative. Not only do they speak more number of words, they are also good listeners. Girls are better at communicating their thoughts with instant messaging and they even have longer attention spans than boys do. Jacqueline Shannon has in an interesting way gives many anecdotes from all walks of life to prove her point.

There is probably a point in the brain pattern and the way women think, but history has witnessed women as change-managers and intruders who entered prohibited areas and came out with flying colours. Otherwise, we would have had only men as doctors and engineers.

Shannon wrote the book based on her daughter Madeline’s pre-school experiences – the gender bias that she encountered when she was asked what she wanted to be when she grew up to which she answered “a doctor” being just one instance.

Shannon is fair in her observations and without being prejudiced has tried to knit both the positive and negative aspects to her reasoning. Hence, though “the bad news is that women run fewer than 2 per cent of Fortune 500 companies…. the good news is that the number of woman-founded businesses continues to rise every year.” She takes pride in the fact that girls drive better than boys do.

Moving from its original version, Why It’s Great to Be a Girl: 50 Things You Can Tell Your Daughter To Increase Her Pride in Being Female (1994), the latest book is updated and expanded with the help of Madeline, who is now in college. In the process she has attempted to go global with her anecdotes to reach out to an international audience. Still, most of her anecdotes cater to American readers.

A wealth of information, a collection of anecdotes, Why It’s Great To Be A Girl: 50 Awesome Reasons Why We Rule! doesn’t promise to be a guide but is an attempt to boost your self-esteem. “The choice is ours, and even the sky is no longer the limit. That’s why now, more than at any other time in history, it’s great to be a girl, wonderful to be a woman, fantastic to be a female.”

Published in May 2008, btw of Chitralekha Group

Book Review – Trust Me

Trust Me

by Rajashree,

Rupa, Rs 95

Filmi Fundas

Trust Me by Rajashree is a typical film-narrative – an action-cut of love, lust, deceit and romance. By Deeya Nayar-Nambiar

Life in a metro has never been easy for a newcomer. Dreams and aspirations are unlimited but in their pursuit one often slips from reality. Trust Me by Rajashree is a book of emotions and situations that many individuals get caught in. Woven together are the characters in a clear plot that flows with the situation. The concept of “trust” runs right through the plot with the characters defining and redefining the term.

Written in a typical Hindi filmi style, Rajashree’s characters easily remind one of the actors performing for the screen. The first person narrative goes on to evolve, making every small situation appear important. As the story unwinds, a reader can predict what will happen next after the ‘cut’. Indeed, the reader can visualise everything from the perspective of the lead character from a small town.

Parvati, a young girl, comes to Mumbai from Amravati to become a set designer after convincing her widowed mother and saving from her scholarship. After three months of waiting she finds herself with an advertising firm. Gradually she picks on the city’s way of life. Her brush with reality begins at the ad film company and continues to the film industry.

Unrequited love, heartbreak, an abortion, a bad boss, resignation, a new job and a fresh lease of life, the 22-year-old learns her lesson. The point to ponder is, “One good thing about Bombay is that one can always lose oneself in crowd.” She moves on undeterred, older and smarter, but still not having a control over her heart. Her job as an assistant director of a film gives her a real taste of life behind the camera.

Director Jambuwant, ‘Jumbo’ as he likes to be addressed, the struggling actor Rahul who tries to woo her, the debutant actor Mrignayani, blotted egos of the industrywallahs, unsystematic working patterns, the casting couch, statements like “subzi made by two women never tastes exactly the same as is with Hindi films” will appear familiar to movie buffs. Also to make the plot and character’s realistic, Rajashree uses explicit language in which slang and four-letter words abound.

Paro, as Parvati is fondly called, represents many such women who are yearning to make it big. The story, like a set in Film City, appears as picture-book depiction right from its colourful cover. Its filmy depiction morphs into real life situation. As Rahul says, “People do speak melodramatically in real life too.” The plot is entertaining but predictable and pedestrian. Yet, the complexity and indecisiveness of women, philandering, lust vs. love, “it’s a man’s world”, everything is given equal weightage. Meant as a light read, Trust Me is enjoyable with little drama and no suspense.

Rajashree is innovative in adapting a film-narrative into a novel. Her debut novel is truly a reflection of her love for Hindi cinema as well as an insider’s view being a film director. Rajashree, who is a National Award winner for her short film Rebel (1996), says, “I always want to try to figure out the rebellious side of my lead character but at the same time I feel films and books should work as emotional healers, like Munnabhai did recently.”

Published in BTW, Chitralekha Group, August 2007