Those Pricey Thakur Girls: Cat on the cover, Indian love story, forgiveable anachronism.

THOSE PRICEY THAKUR GIRLS

Those Pricey Thakur Girls is Anuja Chauhan’s third popular fiction novel. However, I hadn’t read any of Chauhan’s books before this.  In fact, I’m not very swift to pick up Indian popular fiction especially because most of them turn out to be quite bullshit, frankly. Anyhow, two of my closest friends from college have read the book and one of them sent this one as a (two-months-advance) birthday gift, and both of them were raving about how amazing the story is so I decided to try it.

Part unwillingness, part sheer apathy for how Indian popfic writers pen down stories made the reading process complicated and LONG! But I dived into Judge Laxmi Narayan Thakur’s (LN to his wife; BJ/Bauji to his daughers) life. LN is an eccentric, suspicious, kot piece playing father to five girls who he names alphabetically. People might find this erratic but my OCD-laden heart finds it adorable and proper. In fact, this detail reminded of a story by Jean McDevitt I’d read as a child – it was about the Apple family and how Mr. Apple tries to find innovative names that compliment the surname, Apple (Mackientosh Apple, Jonathan Apple, Delicious Apple and lastly, Ann Apple). But I digress!

LN’s girls – A for Anjini is married to A for Anant and cannot have children; B for Binodini is married to Vickyji (LN believes this mishap of un-alphabetical disaster has caused her to be wayward and selfish) and has filed a case in court for her share in property; C for Chandralekha has eloped with an Estonian and LN hasn’t spoken to her since; E for Eshwari is in school, and still in tumult about how to express ‘hormonal feelings’ for guys; D for Debjani/Dabbu, our protagonist, is his favourite daughter and reads the news for DeshDarpan and falls for Dylan Singh Shekhawat – our hero: hardworking, honest, handsome journalist.

The story is set in the early 1980s: DeshDarpan is Doordarshan (obviously), the then-Prime Minister’s (Indira Gandhi) assassination is mentioned, the Sikh riots is the spine of the story. Dylan is chasing Motla (for every Indian story must have a villain) who is accountable for the Sikh riots and is completely smitten by Dabbu’s confidence, her moleonchin and her “love for losers”. The story starts with Dabbu beginning as a newsreader but she grows (?!) throughout the novel into a confident twenty-three old.

The cat on the cover, as my friend puts it, has a role in the story (and the cute little tortoiseshell really does!). The novel is about Delhi sheher in the eighties but there is some very obvious but forgiveable anachronism. The story has Hindi phrases, dialogues and one-liners that tickle the funny bone but sometimes are distracting too. However, it is a 400-page novel and seems to go on and on. It could have been better edited perhaps? Towards the end, it seemed like I was inside a Bollywood movie: police on trains, overpowering politician acting like an ass, hero in the hawalat (YES, SPOILERS!), heroine in copious tears, and then, the quintessential deux ex machina end.

Those Pricey Thakur Girls is hilarious in parts but only a one time read.

2/5 stars

The Fault in Our Stars

the_fault_in_our_stars_by_missheatherelizabeth-d5eptlw    I read John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars on my Kindle on my way to Dilli sheher. I wouldn’t say I haven’t tried Green’s work before; I tried reading Looking for Alaska but abandoned it after about sixty pages. Possibly because the stories are just too “light” for the likes of me. But on a train journey/flight, I normally like reading books of this sort.

There is a plot in the book, and it revolves around cancer, and how it starts a friendship and then kindles love between two teenagers who visit a Support Group. Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters and their journey through cancer, a book they have begun to love (Green makes up a make-believe book called An Imperial Affliction by a make believe author – mad, arrogant, stuck up – named Peter Van Houten), and a trip to Amsterdam because of the book.

It is a silly love story for sure, and I can’t deny that I’d love having an Augustus Waters when I was sixteen: the personality, the confidence, oh-the-sweettalker! However, I don’t know if I’d categorize this book as a young adult novel. It is not exciting; you can predict the end; the book dragged on in parts.

This is a one time read, if you aren’t a sucker for young adult/teenage romance like me. In any case, it has changed my opinion of John Green – the guy can write beautifully, without a doubt.

Two out of five stars for this.

The Sense of an Ending – Barnes Revisted.

Sense-001Photograph I took of the book with the battered dustjacket

So I’m going through something of a re-reading phase. Today I reread Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending instead of packing for a trip that I have to take to Delhi (I still haven’t started packing; I am lolling on the bed and writing this post and I have thrown all caution to the wind, and it’s after two in the night, mind you – also, I have to take a train tomorrow but who says one has to abandon book-blogging for that reason?)

The library sent in this book, with the dust-jacket a little battered – at first, I was annoyed, I don’t like books treated like garbage. But throughout this evening, I turned its pages and remembered the mundane but magical worlds of Tony Webster and Adrian Finn and the ever-intriguing Veronica. I felt excited that this book has changed hands so many times!

The book is short one, in terms of pages – one hundred and fifty only. But the story, the characters, and Barnes’ treatment of the plot will make it seem like you’ve travelled throughout Webster’s childhood, like you know Alex, Colin and most importantly, Adrian very intimately. You will resent Veronica Mary Ford’s existence, in the beginning. Time and again, you will wonder if/why Tony loved her, why he met her family and why he loved seeing her dancing in his dorm-room. And in the end, you might reconsider your views about her.

The novel talks is prosaic about how we choose to interpret our memories the way it suits us. And how our fickle memories leave us with vast histories that we ourselves might have created for ourselves.

“How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but — mainly — to ourselves.”

“It strikes me that this may be one of the differences between youth and age: when we are young, we invent different futures for ourselves; when we are old, we invent different pasts for others.”

“History is that certainty produced at the point where the imperfections of memory meet the inadequacies of documentation.”

The story is told to us by Tony Webster himself and so it may be possible that he manipulates facts to his advantage – the reader will sigh at his expressions, descriptions and delineations. Webster may or may not be an unreliable narrator but that is totally up to the reader to decide. The beauty of this novel is that everything is up to the reader: for instance, I loved Adrian Finn even after I read and put away the book, even after I read the ending; I wished to sympathize with Veronica but I couldn’t (perhaps I thought I was a little like her?); I genuinely waited for Anne to appear somewhere in the course of the book, she didn’t; I wished Margaret wasn’t right but she was all along; despite Tony’s self-righteousness, I refuse to be cross with him even as the ending approached – people make mistakes, things go horribly wrong, sometimes even ironically wrong, any of this could hardly be poor old Tony Webster’s fault.

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