Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Arun Prakash Jha (1948 - 2012)

Death is a great equalizer. Or perhaps not.
For the first time in the many years of my living, I saw my dad shedding a tear for a dear friend lost into anonymity forever perhaps. His friendship for the last 30 years or so with ‘Jha uncle’ was something he didn’t discuss very often. But it remained, especially spoken of when he would talk about his days of struggle in Delhi. How they did masters in Mass Communications together both in their mid fifties with the gusto of three 20 year olds. Sometimes, every now and then he would mention how the man single handedly made a ‘rags to riches story’ for himself. ‘Riches’, not in the way you would want the story to be, his life was rich, in ways only an artist would want it to be. Arun Prakash ji, or Jha uncle as we remember him, was a man of strong convictions. Someone who lost his father very early in his life, he struggled, educated himself, wrote and retired as quite a well known hindi writer in the last 30 years. He was also the editor of “Samkaleen Bhartiya Sahitya”, the hindi version of “Modern Indian Literature” a bimonthly magazine with poetry and literature from Indian poets and writers across the country.
He established himself as a writer with a strong sense of roots to the Indian setting. With surrealistic approach to the pains and struggles in India, he wrote both about the urban and the rural India. Whether it be the controversial ‘Abhisamragya’ based on the slums of Delhi, or ‘Bhaiyya Express’ based in the riot and terrorism struck Punjab, he made his mark, not wanting fame or fortune, but for the pure pleasure of writing. I am not claiming to have read all his work, but some of his work that I have read leaves a mark, just like his life did on my father’s.  

He wrote:

"Arun Prakash wrote a few short stories and only three novels. But he was noticed by avid readers, critics as someone who ushered in the beautiful people of Biha, their simplicity, love of life. The day I read Bhaia Express I felt this is the best story on Punjab and terrorism ever written. Then I read his story Bisham Rag. The maid servant living in a jhuggi came alive with her passionate love, and immense mental strength.So were his other stories: Jal Prantar, Gaj Puran etc. I translated two of his short stories into Bangla and the response I received was mind boggling.
He was my friend for 25 years. But even today I don't understand how he gathered the strength to defy his own pain, sufferings and bring out the positive side of life amidst penury, deprivation and exploitation.
Arun Prakash, eminent writer in Hindi and editor of Samakaleen Bharatiya Sahitya passed away on 18th June, 2011." 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Delhi OMG - Vinod Nair (whats wrong with Flipkart)

'Delhi OMG' is a classic case of "Don't judge a book by it's cover". Especially... back cover...

It looks interesting, the cover is jazzy, the back notes look tempting... they look positively funny.
And then you open the book to start reading. You start to think that you may be missing the humour, or the humour is yet to walk in the book... or maybe even  cynicism. But trust me all I managed to read in the first 50 pages were rants. Rants about how 'Delhi' is all that the world and most bloggers like me have been complaining about on their personal blogs. How it is a city with more pompousness than the erstwhile kings of lucknow, how the people are hypocrites, women are promiscuous, bribery, cheats, et al. It is a book of rants. 

The first 50 pages pass, but please dont expect a miracle... I was left wondering, how come Flipkart gave it such rave reviews... What have those guys been eating? Really. Or are they all people who never really read but picked up this book cause it looked like SMSese?

Sorry Mr Nair, your book does get a reaction... OMG!!! WHY DID I EVER PICK IT UP?

I really feel sorry for my friend who got me the book thinking this would be interesting... He picked it with all good intentions. But sometimes the best intent cannot get good books off the shelves.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Love stories and guilt- Mills and Boon

I am guilty of reading Mills & Boon, totally guilty, and I probably should be hanged for it if it were a crime. Intellectual minds in the society have shunned me, and those who haven’t, haven’t only because so far I have not mentioned my taste in trash romances.

They are the gooey, sticky, mushy story of ‘girl meets guys-hates him-loves him-marries him’ and there are no other plots. They have no intellectual substance and are probably the reason why there are so many women looking for passionate love stories that can never go wrong and end up disillusioned and depressed. In essence there seems to be no particular reason for anyone to pick up these pocket books to read. This century old paperback editions have been around for a reason....
The Love stories that never change
And like all the heroines of M&B say at the end, I do. Not without good reason. One, they are light and small, hence easy to carry. You can put them in your bag, and even in a pocket that is big enough. Secondly you can leave them unfinished for months together and you won’t miss it. You can even pick up a completely different one and find you don’t really need to begin it again. They were easy to hide behind school books even in a classroom. They are dirt cheap, you don’t mind if they get stolen and/or borrowed and lost unlike good literature. Bottom line, they make you believe in love. What with all the breakups and divorce rates all sky rocketing, it maybe a very needed dose of good, warm feelings when the heroine in all 200 books is told how much she is loved by the man who is ready to sacrifice the world for her. Plus it gives me the added advantage of reading about all the Australian outbacks, and the English countryside, Newzealand coral reefs, and the great plains of America without having to pay the cost of visiting each and everyone of them.

Obviously all the ladies in the books are extremely good looking and may give a negative body image to most of us, but keep a strong head on your shoulders and you will find a prince charming despite what you look like. Faith is all it takes.

Lastly in my defense, haven’t we all loved all the Hugh Grants and the Sandra Bullocks for their rom-com movies for the same reasons? They are not possible but, we all watch them. And love them. And quote them. So what if I like reading the same 2 and a half hour mush on a book that costs 20 bucks on the street? And as far as story lines and plots go, I, being a delhiite have grown up watching DDLJ, KKHH, HAHK ‘Far fetched’ is a phrase that I don’t think the entire universe can beat Bollywood at churning that out 365 movies a year.