Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Book Review: My Father Drank My Lover and Other Stories by Ashok Banker

A collection of stories that are edgy; stories that might make you uncomfortable but nonetheless will inspire awe in you. For My Father Drank My Lover and Other Stories the author has found inspiration from mythology to the common traits of the citizenry world over; the stories are as interesting as they are shocking.

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My Father Drank My Lover and Other Stories comes from the pen of the journalist turned author Ashok Banker. He is the man behind the Ramayana series which some people would say laid the 
foundation stone for the country's biggest segment of fiction right now- mythological retellings. 

Coming back to the book, My Father Drank My Lover and Other Stories has 11 stories in it. The book has been published by Pan Macmillan India where these stories have been compiled for the first time (says the back cover. Also I have not come across the stories individually before this)

The book has 11 stories whose inspiration ranges from Indian mythology to the concept of parallel universes as well as life in outer space. The writing is fluid and almost all the stories are woven with extreme care and strong imagination. 

While I found some of the stories like Blood Mangoes where a certain Goddess extracts her pound of flesh in a sinister way- shocking; there are others like the Six-Gun Vixen and the Dead Coon Trash Gang written in the traditional style of ol' time westerners The Quiltbag about a bag that consumes evil worlds highly amusing and entertaining.

Actually shock and awe were two emotions that I constantly felt while reading the book. A story that will probably always stand out in my memory is the one titled Tongue. When I started reading the story I could not comprehend much. I must mention here that I am not a major sci-fi lover, [Horror is another genre that I maintain a safe distance from.] so it took me time to get used to the parlance and other nuances of sci-fi. Tongue is probably the shortest story in the book and as I neared its end I was blown away by the depth of this one story. This is a story that takes place in almost every second household in India. This story dealt with dowry, domestic violence, the (wrong kind of) values we teach our girls and the training we provide them in the name of being a good wife. This story struck a deep chord with me as did another one called The Fisher Queen about a man and his faith and what it brings to him.

All in all I could barely put down the book without finishing it up. My initial reaction to the length of the stories or number of pages each story takes up was that they run longer than what would ideally be a short story but as I read on I realised that it was a useless bias to hold against any story at all.

The stories in the book are varied and man are they meaty! If you share a special love for the short story you will like most of the book. These stories will for sure jostle you out from your comfort zone and leave you asking for more.

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Title: My Father Drank My Lover and Other Stories
Author: Ashok Banker
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Sci-fi, Short story, Fantasy
Paperback: 326 pages 
Price: Rs 399
Publisher: Pan Macmillan India
Language: English
My Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

In The Supporting Role

Today was the first time I used the salon services of Urban Clap. My beautician was a woman named T Mondol. She was of 32 years, married with a daughter aged 16 and a 5 year old son. This is her story:

I ran away from my home and married the boy I loved when I was in Class 9. At 16, married for a year, I gave birth to my daughter. I knew nothing much about anything. My husband was an only son. I had an elder brother and doting parents who fended for me. I don't know why I ran away but I did and this is a fact. Maybe, I am paying for my that mistake now.

My husband works as a driver and he did not make much money. My father-in-law drives a rickshaw in Sonarpur. He, my father-in-law said, I should learn something. Just in case, his son abandoned me, he added. I asked my husband to give me some money so that I could learn this work in Gariahat. He refused saying that he would earn enough to sustain the three of us. My mother-in-law was also opposed to the idea of me stepping out. 

Somehow my father-in-law was adamant. He took a loan against his rickshaw and gave me the money to enroll in a beautician course. I contacted my parents and convinced them to come live near me. I would leave m daughter in my mother's care and go to the classes. Gradually I learnt and found employment. I managed to free the rickshaw (from under the loan) and that is the proudest I ever felt.

But going to that one institution had kindled a fire in me and I wanted to learn more. I joined another classes run by a famous beautician and worked as an apprentice for sometime but it did not satisfy my yearning. I still wanted more. I discussed this with my family. All of them except my father-in-law were opposed to the idea. His rickshaw again came to my rescue and I joined Habib's (hair) academy. I paid them Rs 60,000. I can cut hair and make many hairstyles. I worked in various salons and parlours for over 10 years.

Today (after joining Urban Clap) I pick and choose the jobs I want to do. I leave the house after my husband goes for work as he still resents my stepping out. My daughter and my father-in-law are my biggest supporters. If I am late to return home in the evening, he even cooks and feeds my children which my mother-in-law refuses to do.

My mother looks after my son after he comes back from school. My daughter helps me in the household chores though I want her to focus only on her studies.


Saturday, June 09, 2018

The Happiness Connection

Suicides by two hugely popular public figures- Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain- within three days of each other.

One a fashion designer and business woman par excellence and another a famous cook, TV personality.

There have been many others before them. Though I knew just a thing or two about them the news about Robin William's suicide was heartbreaking for me. I remember thinking how could someone who laughed so much and made people laugh, do that. While there is so much being written in the social media about mental health in light of these two suicides I was stuck by a particular post in part on Ariana Huffington's Instagram feed. It is a Repost of a tweet by editor Elaine Welteroth and says:

..... And in your death we are reminded once again that there is simply no correlation between happiness and success.

How true is that! We have no idea about what makes us happy. It is easy to confuse happiness with material things, isn't it? Getting a Kate Spade bag any day would make you happy won't it? But what I think we need to analyse is would that be a means of lasting happiness.

I have seen happiness evaporate. I have felt happy a moment and despondent the other. I know what losing sight of happiness means. My children who are the source of joy in my life make me happy in a moment with their hugs and in another they suck out any happiness or joy I have been feeling because their behaviour does not match my expectations. Same is true for my husband and others around me. Are you agreeing with me here?

Well don't.

I don't think the onus for making me happy is on anybody. It rests with me. When I consciously take charge of my well being- physical and mental, I have felt happy. When I consume a book, a fruit or a movie without being on an auto pilot I have felt happy. I have felt as if I got something out of those experiences. Something that becomes a part of me and which when recalled will light up a dark corner of my spirit like a firefly.

Some say happiness is like a butterfly. the more you chase after it the more it is difficult to capture.What the learned ones probably are trying to tell us is PAUSE.

 I conclude from the many things that I have read about him since the news of his death that this is what Bourdain recommended. HIGHLY.

So this is a reminder to me and anyone else reading this piece-

  • PAUSE when you feel something is making you unhappy, uncomfortable, stretched beyond your capacity. Find a firefly to shine a bit of light on you.
  • Loosen the grip- of the gadgets that demand attention before a human being; of feelings that incite anger, fury and wrath; of emotions that are negative, leave a black taste in your mouth or people in guise of friends and well-wishers who make you think that you are not enough as you are.
  • Put some sort of distance between the place, person and source of unhappiness. Physical distance. Move away. Go to the next room. Breathe. 
  • Sit down. Just sit still
  • Maybe sometimes the thoughts wash over you as you would let the water from the ocean wash your feet at the beach.
  • Think- about good times, of what all you have instead of what you don't have or probably don't see/ realise at the moment.





  

Book Review: My Brother's Wedding by Andaleeb Wajid

Is there a thing like pre-script? Anyway much excited to share that the author announced on Istagram that she has started the sequel to this book. The first three chapters are available on Wattpad for free.
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I finished reading My Brother's Wedding by @andaleebwajid a few days ago. The book is a peek into what all goes behind a Muslim wedding written from the POV of the groom's youngest sister who starts an anonymous blog to describe it. What you get on all those pages though is more than just that!
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Saba is the youngest sibling among three having been largely unseen and ignored by her elder brother Zohaib and taunted and traumatised by her very beautiful sister Rabia.
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The blog starts as a rant about her brother's wedding but gives a sneak peek into her life, love and interests as well. She is a college goer with not much aspiration in life. Her friend Ria is a great character helps her realise the need to recognise her talent and give herself a chance to make something of it. The other thread in the book (a narrative) takes the story further and keeps you engrossed through Saba's emotional journey and her journey of discovery of the self. She discovers her affections for her cousin brother as does he. The magnetic pull that the two feel and are unable to act upon is a cute part of the story that builds the tension in this sweet little book. Adding to the drama of her teenage life is Rabia who discovers her pregnancy and is shaken. She comes to her parents' house blaming her husband for her condition. Zohaib takes an overseas assignment to avoid getting caught up in the aftermath of a office romance gone bad and this also stresses saba's parents and makes the climate in the household warm.  
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Wajid's My Brother's Wedding made for a nice, little read after I had tackled Michel Bussi's After the Crash. I liked the pace and the setting of the story (In Bengaluru, in a Muslim set up) as well as the writing (contemporary and flowy). I have a personal thing against whimpering (figuratively speaking) heroines in any conditions but given Saba's age and circumstances towards the end of the story, I am willing to overlook the teeny tiny episodes of that. Everything falls in place by the end of the book or let me just say that Sabka dimaag thikaane aa jata hai- and I wish this was the way with real life as well.

Read it if you are looking for a respite from the heat or are hole up in your room because of the monsoon. The book is uplifting in a way and I assure you that this author's way with the words will not let you down.


Friday, May 11, 2018

Book Review: Glitter and Gloss by Vibha Batra

Glitter and Gloss by Vibha Batra is funny, warm and endearing. Misha is a make up artist (whattay refreshing choice of a career for our heroine!)who is witty, hard-working and suffers (literally and figuratively both) from a huge mothering instinct.

This very instinct is the cause that she ends up falling for Akshay Aggarwal a dishy, heir of a Marwari business family. Now please focus on the word Marwari. These families are largely rich, make that stinking rich- he sends her a Cavalli gown when she complains she has nothing to wear for an after work party- annnnd more importantly if you want to be expected into the fold then you need you to impress the entire community. Here we have Akshay's overprotective didi who parades Misha to ensure that she gets approved by all the aunties of the Marwari smaraajya in Mumbai.

Misha's story is heartwarming because of the life that the author has managed to breathe into the character with her words. She is flawed yet endearing. Misha is extremely critical of herself and is carrying some extra  baggage from her childhood. These two facts are enough to make Misha relatable to any girl anywhere but Batra takes it a notch higher by giving us a heroine who really wants to do everything to make her relationship with the guy's family work. Don't we want to be accepted everywhere or haven't we all done something for others just for the sake of a certain relationship?

Unfortunately this also becomes her undoing. Misha and Akshay go their seperate way. To know why that happens and what thereafter, I suggest you pick up Glitter and Gloss. The book will keep you either laughing out loud or smiling gently as you take a peek into the life of this make up artist.