Doordarshan and Those Pricey Thakur Girls

Doordarshan gave me a traumatic childhood. I remember what a bully my brother used to be, he would catch hold of my hand even as I would start imitating a furious windmill. I knew what he was up to. I could just see the devil in his eyes, that glint. I would cry out to my mom for help but she would just smirk at me, chide him a little and go back to watching TV. One of many reasons which made me think if I was really adopted.

Making me forcibly drink milk was another.

“They picked you up from a garbage bin” My brother’s words, harsh but possibly true, would ring clear in my ears.

“Nooooooooo please no…” I would shriek but he continued pulling me by my arm towards the TV screen. I thought the creature in the screen would just suck me painfully into its ugly hell of a mouth. I kid you not.’

Before you accuse me of being a drama queen, watch the video  and if you still fail to understand what I am talking about, may this alien of a creature suck you.

And I just pray it’s not a very painful affair(but only on grounds of humanity).

See, this is what I was talking about. It still gives me goosebumps. Now, you might ask  why am I suddenly all about my bloomer days, well the thing is I just finished reading Those Pricey Thakur Girls by Anuja Chauhan and it  made me nostalgic. There was a time when we didn’t need to beat each other black and blue for the TV remote, the time when we were at the mercy of a sole lonesome channel Doordarshan, it was later followed by it’s – ahem- more fashion forward, broad minded counterpart, DD metro and somehow life became dream like, too good to be true. Image

Those Pricey Thakur Girls  is about Justice Laxmi Narayan Thakur and his five alphabetically named daughters. All a source of worry for the Judge sa’ab but for various reasons. Anjini, married and (un)settled, whose first words had been ‘I sabse pritty’ has since not  grown out of them. She has entitled herself the role of the axis around which the whole of earth  rotates. Binodini, the most irritating of the lot is married and the match is made in heaven. She wants to live and die in her hissa of the property. Chandralekha, has eloped. period. This is what she remains, an eloped figure, nothing is ever discussed about her. The Debjani, the intended heroine of the novel and the Judge’s favorite, who had long been under the effect of supta vastha (some error of horoscope) has just landed a job with DD, India’s only news channel, as a news reader. Eshwari, the daughter in her teens, the Modern school Barakhamba one. Need I say more?.

It all starts when Investigative Journalist Dylan Singh Shekhawat writes a column in his newspaper ridiculing Debjani, the newly appointed newsreader at Desh Darpan(DD) calling her miss Dolly-Dotted chin, plastic and unwinking. Dylan, whose  failure to fall in love((Aren’t such heroes much in demand)  has given him a image but predictably falls for our very own lover of losers Debjani(why?why?). Yeah the same Dylan who would normally shudder on saturday morning at the sight of his hot friday night date. The novel has tried hard to encompass everything under the sky. You name it, it has it. Irresistible hero. check. Equally irresistible but clueless heroine. check. Puppy Love. check. Extra marital affair. check. Politics. check. *insert you choice*. check.

The novel mostly was fun to read.

The judge’s near eccentricities

-‘What ruddy histrionics,’ the Judge mutters as he stirs his evening tea. ‘ I live in a house full of Meena Kumaris. It’s just one persons rant in one miserable publication. Will somebody tell that girl she is overreacting?’

-Stop him, Shekhawat, stop him! Arrey don’t run down those mongrels…my daughter ties rakhi to them! That’s better nobody dead or maimed. Haan you! Young man! Arrey what hello-sir hello-sir? come out of the car. You know how to play kot – piece, don’t you?’

The chachi’s love for everything beyond the realms of natural

– I just have to take one of her pubic hairs, stuff it into a halved nimbu, add a drop of AN’s blood, then tied a rakhi over it and burn it in the sink. He will lose all lust for her immediately.’ She cackles happily.

Eshwari’s and Satish banters

‘I wanted to ask you something’

But Satish is busy having a crises. ‘Shit help me Bihari. I can’t remember what amma asked me to get. Coffee? Condoms? Cockroach killer?’

‘Soap maybe?’ Eshwari hazards pointedly. ‘Deodorant? Nose plugs for herself?’

What I don’t like though is the heroine(Debjani) herself. She comes across as somebody who is strong minded and quick witted to begin with and does make you chuckle with her subtle jokes.

‘Is that mole real?’

‘Yes. its real,’ she flashes. ‘what did you think? That I painted it on before the news bulletin because I want to look like Aruna irani?’

But soon it all fizzles out leaving us with a mere shadow of Dylan’s expectations. Yes she is drab, incapable of feelings for people’s suffering(of course other than her beloved dog). Dylan supposedly falls for her brutal honesty but that honesty itself comes from her foolishness. I would have retired peacefully(from the job of reading this novel that is), with the satisfaction of the only  heroic act she does, had she not ruined it by saying

‘If I’d known, I probably wouldn’t have done it.’

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There are loose ends. Justice has not been done to certain characters who could have been a strong aspect of the story and were abruptly put on the back burner. Anjini’s for instance. One of the five sisters never and I mean never appear in the novel as Chandra’s elopement is taken too seriously by the author, And the sneaky ventures of the judge were fed raw and therefore were puked out at the end of the novel with least satisfaction.

Verdict: Even though the novel isn’t the best example of immaculate or superlative writing, I still enjoyed it and is surely worth a read.

Lines that struck the perfect chords: ‘It’s horrible.’…’Like the ghost of a dead baby crying for his phantom momma. And that logo – it’s like a massive unwinking eye – I think it’s the conspiracy to mass-hypnotize the whole country into mindless submission.’

And I knew instantly what Eshwari was talking about. We became best of friends from that moment on.

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And the Mountains Echoed

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And the Mountains Echoed takes you on a journey both  metaphorical and literal. A journey embarked by a hopeless father with a belief that the end of it would rescue at least one of his children from the claws of misery that a deprived childhood brings with it. What it does, however, is tear a family apart leaves them with a void that takes shelter within the life of everyone involved. The story travels back and forth in time and with it travel we, the reader, as it explores the intricacy of human relationships, the maneuver of the powerful, the feebleness of poor, the darkness that resides in hearts, and most of all a hope which make everything seem trivial.

It always pains me to read novels written by Khaled Hosseini. The intense portrayal of the unjust and insensitive world. There is so much agony and sorrow that exists and when you come across it in words that are so powerfully woven it leaves  you with a heart ache by the end of it, which lingers on days on end.  The kite runner and the thousand splendid sun had the same effect on me.

And the Mountains echoed is about  separation which shatters a culminating bond between a brother and her sister. The novel starts with a folklore consisting of divs  and jinns  narrated by a man who is going to make a life changing decision for those involved. In this story we see the reflection of the man’s(narrator) dilemma, who is just a few days away from taking an imperative decision . The little story well portrays the plight of the helpless father who has to do away with one of his child.

The novel covers a span of 58 years from the fall of 1952 to the winter of 2010, it takes us to Afghanistan, to Paris, and to USA. Apart from the brother and sister, Pari and Abdullah, the novel revolves around characters who lie within the same realms as them. The author has done justice to every character and thus the novel has many heart touching stories to tell.

A woman, Parwana, bound by duties and mostly guilt to her crippled sister, Massoma, like she was “… joined at the torso with a thick band of flesh. Two creature inextricably bound, blood formed in the marrow of one running in the veins of the other, their union permanent.”

An unconventional bond between a master, Suleiman and his servant, Nabi,  which regardless of their social differences, become so strong that none wants to break free of it.

“Suleiman said I should marry. but the fact is, I looked at my life and realized I already had what people sought in marriage. I had comfort, and companionship, and a home where I was always welcomed, loved, and needed.”

A son who idolizes his father, and wished he had got a chance to  be a war hero just as he thinks his father is. But his fantastical world comes down like a pack of cards when he realizes that he has been living a life full of delusions.

The novel bring together life of different people in different world and sometimes at different time and yet with such close resemblance. Where people are bound to each other sometimes out of will, sometimes by blood and other times because they have fallen into a pattern that they are afraid from breaking away. Sometimes there is  fear, the fear of life itself and what will it bring along, that death seems an easy and less painful option as compared to living. Yes there are Separations. There are deaths. There is misery. There is sorrow and helplessness but above all there is hope.

What turned me on : The narrative technique and the style as well. Travelling back and forth in time and flashbacks make the narration effective.

What put me off : okay, now, like I said that other than the main theme of separation it is a novel about many different characters and their life accounts . There are a couple of these narrative which are mighty good if we read them on their own but I am not sure if they were really needed in relation with the novel.

Verdict :

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Serious Men

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Author: Manu Joseph

Genre : Adult fiction

Narrative style : Omnipresent narrator

I will not support people who presume that somewhere, far away in space, there could be beings so human that they will build machines that will send us a radio signal. Man is not searching for aliens. Man is searching for man. it’s called loneliness. Not science. – Arvind Acharya

Ayyan was tempted to write another invented quote. that would be risky. He usually inserted only one phoney quote every week or so. That way his subversive abuse of the Brahmins would not attract too much attention. But that morning he could not resist the temptation. He pretended to look into a piece of paper and wrote a fresh thought:

  Reservation for the low-caste is a very unfair system. To compensate, let us offer the Brahmins the right to be treated as animals for 3,000 years and at the end of it lets give them a 15 per cent reservation

– Vallumpuri John.

Serious Men is a novel about revolting ideas and what happens when these ideas co-exist in close proximity with one another. There is disagreement among scientists regarding their belief on the existence of aliens, a growing displeasure between social classes, a tale of insatiable love and unchecked ambitions.

Ayyan, a Dalit, works among upper caste Brahmin scientists and loathes the fact that he is from a social system where he is regarded as beneath them. He is the lowly personal assistant of the top-notch scientist Acharya working for the  Institute of Theory and Research. His secret pleasures involves  gawking at “modern young mothers” and young high caste girls well beyond his reach, inventing and writing thoughts for the day offensive to Brahmins, opening and reading mails meant for Acharya, making other scientists wait for their appointment and keeping phone off hooks so he can listen to every possible conversation in the Scientist room.

Arvind Acharaya, a peerless scientist in the institute who would go to great lengths to show his displeasure including hurling a shoe at the wedding altar and whispering abuses into pope’s ears. He belittles the research plans of other scientists. He blames them of making the whole process(of finding Alien signals)an effort to make it appear glamorous and media and layman friendly. Irked by the power Acharya holds and the fear of having to put down their own stature the other scientists try to dethrone him by sabotaging his image and career.

The novel is about how  the world of two characters so dissimilar to one another merge into one. How one’s ambitions come to rest upon the shoulders of the other. The novel portrays the varied human emotions beautifully or should I say ruthlessly? The characters are crafted adequately and they do manage to hold their power on readers. The novel was a pleasure to read. Pleasurable not because it is one of those novels which will revive your trust in humanity , on the contrary the novel has more to do with the darker aspects of human nature. But because the novel does reflect the efforts put in by the author you fall in love with the imperfectly carved characters.

So now lets come to the part of the novel that I didn’t like.The lack of a strong woman character. Now you might overlook it like it is no big deal. But somehow it struck me odd. The novel throws in a couple of incidences which I as an Indian woman relate to. You know the ones where women breasts are elbowed and butts pinched in public by man for his pleasure. There is a highly learned woman, Oparna, in the all man institute, who of course is made aware of the same,  by her male fellows. But she too is somehow at the disposal of men. The author might have started off well by giving us a small picture of woman survival in a society dominated by man by introducing Oparna to the institute. But by the end of it all the purpose was lost.

At the end of the novel the exits and re-entry of women are abrupt and convenient. I felt that just as the woman characters are at the disposal of male characters within the novel, they have been treated the same way by the author. Isn’t author mirroring the male characters of the novel by disposing off the female characters conveniently.

Favorite Quote

I really loved what you could call a comeback one liner by Acharya in the Novel

‘Don’t look at me like that son. When I was your age I was so smart that if you wanted to kiss my arse you would’ve had to take an entrance exam.’

What turned me on: Everything. The multi dimensional characters, the humor, the way the story develops,.

What put me off: Like I said there was lesser justice done to the Female characters. But then it might be just me and the story could have intended wholly for the two men.

Verdict:

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