The Lives of Others by Neel Mukherjee, which was on the Booker short list 2014, is a saga of Bengali upper middle-class life juxtaposed against the Naxal movement of the late 1960s. Sketched on a large tapestry and involving three generations of members of a joint family who live in a sprawling multi-storeyed bungalow in Bhowanipore, this is no diaspora take on life in 1960s-‘Calcutta’. The hard-bound volume of 500 pages revolves around a people who have no sahib -connect or English-proficiency; they think, thankfully, in the vernacular; and effectively so, which is to the author’s credit. Continue reading
I have a special pleasure and pride in doing this interview.
Years ago, I was being considered for ghost-writing a series of children’s books for a client from the U.S. I didn’t expect to be selected because I was a newbie and unpublished. But when the selections came, I was the client’s top choice and the reason for it was my sample story. ‘The style quite reminded me of Lavanya Sankaran.’
This was in early 2006, and I hadn’t heard of Lavanya back then. But my project co-ordinator Shiv Nair told me, ‘actually that’s quite a compliment, you know, her writing is fabulous’, and went on to tell me about Lavanya and The Red Carpet. Online book sellers were not so popular at that time in my world, and I started looking out for The Red Carpet at every book shop I visited. I finally got hold of it, and fell in love with the writing, and realized what a compliment it was to be compared to her. It was also about the time that I started taking my fiction seriously, but that’s another story.
I later came across Lavanya again at the Sangam House Residency, she is one of the sponsors there, and then again on Facebook, and kept a look out for her next book. And now here is ‘The Hope Factory’ and Lavanya again. This is the complete unabridged interview she very kindly gave me and an edited version of this appears in the Hindu Literary Review of June.
Remember Fatty and his team in the Five Find-Outers series? Or Snubby and Co? Or the Famous Five? Or the Adventure series with Jack, Philip, Dinah, Lucy-Ann and Kiki the Parrot? When I turned the pages of Gypsy Escapades by William J. Jackson I was pushed into memories of those childhood reads by Enid Blyton; this time in an adult mode, blended with a Bollywood style, and with an American heroine.
Jhangir Kerawala’s JFK might, at the first instance, lead you to think so, but the book has nothing to do with the U.S. Presidential elections or the assassination of that former President of the same name. This is a simple thriller, a story set in the streets of Kolkata, a whodunit right in the traditions of the city of Feluda. The man who goes after the killer is not a dashing, specially gifted or fated-to-be-solver of crime, but someone like you or me, with a perfectly day-to-day profile. He is out-of-work, job-hunting, middle-aged, and his life is slowly turning sour because of his unemployed status, which again is his own fault. His only oasis in this life is his pal Manish, who is everything he is not and his support in troubled times right from day one. So, Jatin the hero, is thrown off his balance when Manish- the-alter-ego, calls him up on a rather bad line, and says ‘JFK”, and the next thing he knows is that Manish has been murdered. Continue reading
The first thing that strikes the reader about Sheila Kumar’s Kith and Kin: Chronicles of a Clanis the multitude of characters in the 237 pages of the novel. The author actually has a page devoted to a rather intimidating list of the 35 habiting her story, and briefly sketches their relationships to each other. And this, across generations and geographies. Continue reading
There is no dearth of ‘Olympic Fiction’. One that comes to mind immediately is the Alex series of young adult novels, and there are a couple of more novels released in July 2012, to coincide with the London event. Swimming, gymnastics and running seem to be the popular Olympian events in fiction but Chris Cleave takes on a much-less discussed event here. Cycling, with relentless and brutal training schedules and desperate and dangerous racing moments, is the theme of Gold . Continue reading