Category Archives: India

Starting New Projects While Old Ones Die. Of Loneliness and Heartbreak

Ah, don’t t you just love it when blog titles promise cheery content?

 

A friend of mine and I have started recording vlogs and sending them to each other. (Private ones that aren’t really on the interwebz so don’t look.) I have always wanted a vlog but have been shy and also terrified of its implications for my job, etc. so this is kind of a great compromise. I’m so excited for it! Maybe once we start to suck less (Okay. I don’t know if she sucks; I definitely suck. She’ll send me her first vlog tomorrow. But I definitely do suck. ) and think of a good name for our vlog,  we’ll even go public!

However (There always is a however, isn’t there?) I feel a bit like I’m cheating on my blog with a vlog. Is this normal? Things that are talked about cannot necessarily be blogged about because just the act of speaking and motioning makes the topic at hand more interesting than if it were blogged about. So vlogging (in the sense of just recording and poorly-editing/not-at-all-editing a video) is easier than blogging.

Plus, once I start my new job, I’ll have limited free time, so if I have time for just one, which should I choose? I am of course accountable to my friend so I’d choose the vlog. Will my poor long-suffering blog then die out completely? How do I do this sensibly, guys? Any thoughts? I want to do both things.

On that note, I have a new job! I start on July 3rd. Stay tuned to hear about the scary misadventures of small Sindhu in large, scary law firm job!

It’s weird; I am making very few blogposts these days, and of those, a lot more of them are think-y random thought posts and very few are about books. ☹ I’m actually reading very few books and the books I read haven’t felt blog-worthy somehow. That doesn’t mean they’re bad books or anything, just that I don’t have any thing to say about them that would contribute to the discussion on them.

I don’t know why I feel like I owe an explanation about this because of all my friends, exactly one friend actually reads my blog and *he* said he likes the think-y life type posts more because he doesn’t read. As for my other followers, I don’t really know what you like, so may be let me know in the comments?

Should I diversify my blog and talk about all manner of rubbish? I feel like I could blog a lot more often then. It’s something to think about. What do you guys think?

Please comment. I really like comments.

Hoot.

SinRaowl.

 

 

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The Big Book Box | Review

In case anyone is wondering, I was paid no money to write this review. Or to post the photos that I’ll shortly be posting on Instagram. (Face it, nobody *pays* a book nerd with 100 followers on her blog to review their stuff.)

Now that that’s out of the way, hello all!

As everyone knows, I’m an avid follower of Booktube and I frequently suffer from a very serious affliction called “Owl-crate-envy” when I watch my favourite Youtubers unbox their fancy owl crates,. I’m certain I’m not alone in this. Right? Feel free to chime in indignantly in the comments, fellow-bookworms!

Weelllllll…. book lovers of India, I’m here to tell you that we have something of an equivalent in India! YES! Big shoutout to my friend Varsha who linked me to them! They’re called The Big Book Box . They have fun variants of their monthly boxes for people with different budgets as well as limited edition boxes. I ordered the Cappuccino box for myself, which is the biggest regular box, and decided to go only with a one month subscription because…well…money.

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Ooooooh wazzindis?

I’m going to tell you the negative things about the Big Book Box in this part of the post that shall come to be known for all eternity as the “pre-gushing”.

So, firstly, my box was very, very late. Their website says that they ship boxes ordered in the previous month in the first week of the month in question. I planned accordingly to have the box sent to my house, rather than my office, because I was home for the first two weeks this month. I figured it should definitely come by the 2nd week at least. BUT the box came today, the 23rd. So, I had to tell the irritated delivery guy who called me while I was at office, to give it to my elderly neighbour while my dog barked his head off that a rando is loitering outside his territory conversing with his human. Inconvenience all round. I’m chill with receiving the box anytime but I like to know with reasonable certainty.  So… that was an issue.  Maybe it was just a one-time thing. I’m unsure. 🙂

Secondly, one of the books that I was sent is a sequel. And I haven’t read the first book. I’m a bookworm with a serious book-buying problem. Why are you sending me three books, in addition to the three books I bought this weekend, and then making me buy a seventh book this month by making me buy the first part?*

Well, that was that with the complaints. Now, on to the loot!

This is how the box looks: ^_^

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As you can see, it’s a bright happy sky-blue, full of promises, like a clear summer day when you’re a kid.

It only gets better as you open it. The theme for the May Box is Women of Substance, which is fabulous on so many levels.

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The back of this card has a sweet letter from the management of the Big Book Box.

The box is a great collection of books, bookish merch, pretty goodies and FOOD.

They’d thoughtfully included a box of nachos and salsa so that I may munch as I read. That’s how I know for sure that the people who run The Big Book Box are true-blue bookworms.

They also sent a mason jar, which is something I’ve always wanted but which was a bit extravagant for me to buy for myself.  It will be put to good use during this sweltering tropical summer. 🙂 The best part is that it comes with a reusable hard plastic straw.

They sent a little scented candle, which the letter said is lavender-scented, which is one of my favourite fragrances. That’s a happy coincidence.

They also sent a cute floral coaster, which is a bit sad since I just bought uber-cool Batman coasters this weekend. It is pretty though, and probably more work appropriate that the Batman ones.

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One incredibly clever thing they’ve sent is a little sack of painted pebbles which can be used to play tic-tac-toe.

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So you lay this flat…

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…and then you tic-tac-toe!!!

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They sent bookish themed pins which took me back to a simpler time when my college bags were cloth and covered in pins. Let me tell you, guys, my pins were a conversation starter! Now I carry fancy leather handbags which truly stifle my original style, which is geek chic.

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That’s how they look!

They’re female-themed in addition to book themed (Well, except the first one below, which is universal :p) and I think y’all deserve a close-up of each of them.

They’ve sent a simple but charming Deathly-Hallows-themed dream-catcher which is a delightful addition to my happy wall.

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It dances in the breeze. 🙂

They’ve sent a Frida Kahlo bookmark. 😀

They also sent these information cards on inspirational women, along with lovely cartoons of them that I can’t stop staring at. Here’s a visual treat for you as well:

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And now we come to the item that I think will make more people eat their hearts out than anything else on here:

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THIS HARRY POTTER NOTEBOOK…

…Where the pages look like this:

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THOSE SYMPTOMS YOU’RE SUFFERING FROM? THAT’S CALLED A CUTENESS OVERDOSE.

And nowwww, the books! 😀

They sent the June issue of a magazine called Barefoot Sunshine, which is a name which makes me smile. It’s going to be my reward for finishing this post. If I like it, I may subscribe to it. They have a subscription option right on their website. I miss receiving magazines in the mail. 🙂

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The Cappuccino box has three actual books in it:

One is a paperback called Perfect by Cecelia Ahern. It’s the sequel to Flawed. That they’ve sent me a sequel upsets me, but the book itself seems interesting. So yay.

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They also sent a tiny hardback called Raymie Nightingale by Kate Dicamillo, which is giving off Jackie Wilson-esque vibes, which makes me happy.

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And now we come to the pièce de résistance, the book that has me the most excited, the book that I intend to read to my future children, the book that i am convinced will pass, well-loved and battered, through generations in my family is the best book that I could have ever hoped to see in my box:

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YAAAAAAAS

I will read one story from it each night, as suggested by the brilliant people at the The Big Book Box.

I definitely recommend that you buy this box at least once in your life. Indulge. Treat yourself. Why would you deprive your dad of the joy of coming home to you kneeling  by your teapoy fishing through packaging in a box while grinning like a maniac? Why would you miss the opportunity of having him chuckle that you look like a kid again as you rip bubble wrap off of your new mason jar? Get it, guys. Because it’s worth it.

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Go ahead and check them out. 🙂

Tell me in the comments if you guys have tried out the Big Book Box before, or if my review made you want to. :p Tell me if you’ve read any of the books here before, and what you thought of them. And mostly tell me which of my loot made you the most jealous! Let me know in the comments, guys!

Hoot.

–Sin

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*Purchase numbers indicated here are approximate and merely indicative and cannot be taken to include Kindle purchases

Book Review– The House that BJ Built

THIS IS NOT A SPOILER FREE REVIEW

As you guys may have deduced from my pointed silence, I am suffering from abject writer’s block. It may be time for that to end now, however. As you know, there no better inspiration that irritation and I’ve read a book today that’s irritated me for many reasons. 

The book is The House that BJ Built by Anuja Chauhan. 

First, a bit of background: After downloading the Kindle app on my phone, I’ve taken to randomly buying inexpensive (and sometimes slightly expensive) books that catch my fancy when I’m bored on my commutes. These are books that are usually easy to read page-turners.Potboilers, so to speak. (Although I did read The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood recently, which is a dystopic novel. I liked it at the time, although, on second thought, some of it irritated me as well. But that’s a topic for another day) The reason I do this despite having a long suffering, neglected and marvellously well-written Wolf Hall in my bag is that it’s usually 8pm by the time I leave office, by which time it’s too dark to read a regular book. 

A friend of mine told me Anuja Chauhan’s books are quite fun, so I decided to go for it. Needless to say, I may never talk to her again. (Kidding. Mostly)

Anyway, back to The House that BJ Built: 

This book started decently enough. I went into it expecting a light-hearted romantic comedy, nothing too heavy and it seemed to deliver. As I read on, though, it mostly only irritated me. 

I’ve decided to make bullet points on the most facepalm moments in the book.

SPOILER ALERT

  • The author uses the word “pugnacious” too often
  • The book treats issues of domestic violence too lightly and seriously trivialises it. What else do you expect from lower-class Muslims, right? Completely normal. And fixable by a vasectomy without the consent of the abusive husband
  • The male protagonist thinks it’s ok to kiss one woman while in a relationship with another so long as you don’t have sex with the woman you’re in a relationship with after having kissed the new woman.
  • The female protagonist not only agrees with the above, but also is touched that he didn’t have sex after having kissed her
  • Why the fuck are step-cousins romancing each other?! I get that y’all aren’t related by blood, but eesh. 
  • The Thakur girls repeatedly mock their sister for shaving her head and not having her upper lip waxed. Sure, she turns out to be “evil” at the end of the book but maybe she wouldn’t have hated your guts if you hadn’t mocked her appearance or her bodily autonomy. Just a thought.
  • Why the fuck are north-easterners referred to as chinks and other derogatory terms so often?! Is it supposed to be a wry social commentary or something, because it doesn’t seem that way at all. 
  • There’s a money hungry Muslim who’s supposedly standing up for the rights of two north-easterners (who are actually from Bhutan!) and it so happens that he was actually being an opportunistic asshole. Therefore, as the characters conclude, these Muslims are all like this only. Extreme facepalm
  • The representation of the judicial system made me want to weep. They discovered that a will was fake and they didn’t even have to tell the judge. The case, along with the interim order not to alienate, authomatically ceased to exist and they could sell the property. 
  • SELLING IMMOVABLE PROPERTY IS NOT THAT SIMPLE
  • Trademark infringement is fine so long as you have big eyes, curly black hair, and a big butt and big boobs while infringing the trademarks. 
  • The female protagonist is referred to as “brat” and does not mind it despite being a 26 year old entrepreneur. Other characters are also referred to as “brat”, mostly girls and women of various ages. They all accept it as a matter of course.
  • When a character calls out the male protagonist for making a sexist item song, he says that he has 4 aunts who would ostracize him if he made a sexist song and therefore it isn’t sexist.
  • The mother of a seemingly talented female actor yells at her daughter for not stealing the male protagonist from his girlfriend in the way that the female protagonist was able to. 
  • Everyone and his neighbour is concerned that the youngest Thakur girl is unmarried even though she seems successful and fulfilled
  • One of the characters talks about “the cheerleader effect”, which is from the sitcom How I Met your Mother, without any attribution whatsoever. But eh. We already know how the author feels about intellectual property. 
  • The only likable character, BJ, the grandfather, dies early on in the book. 
  • Seriously, what kind of name is BJ? You know about “cheerleader effect” but you don’t know what BJ is??!

    So… That was a painful book to read. I wouldn’t recommend it. But at least it made me blog again. So yay… I think. 

    If you’ve read this book, tell me what you thought of it? Feel free to tell me if you disagree. Have you read other books by the same author? How did you like them? Let me know in the comments

    Hoot.

    –Sin

    Book Review –Cobalt Blue

    This is a review of the book Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar. Honestly, I chose to read it because it’s been translated from Marathi by Jerry Pinto. I loved his book Em and the Big Hoom. I knew nothing more about the book or the author and I like it that way. It helps me to keep an open mind while reviewing the book.

    I’m swept away by this book after having read it over the course of a long day at court. It’s layered and well-written and transcends all genre. The fact that the author of this marvellous piece was 20 when he started the book and 22 when he finished it, makes me want to stand up on a chair and applaud and simultaneously to weep with jealousy.

    Simply put, it’s the story of a brother and sister in love with the same man. The book is divided into two parts, each written in first person by one of the siblings. It’s a love story, yes, a love triangle if you will;  but mostly it’s a portrait. It’s a portrait of lower middle class life in Maharashtra, it’s a portrait of a generation clever enough to rubbish antiquated tradition but not strong enough to break away from regressive familial bonds. It’s a portrait about how mundane love can be, and yet so overwhelming, how it can make one forget the world around us. It’s a portrait of a society where mosr types of romantic love are forced to stay hidden, of a society where homogeneity and acceptance are the biggest aspirations.

    It’s a small book, which only brushes the surface of each of the above aspects, but it’s nuanced enough that it does not remain a photograph. The work that was put into the resulting simplicity is apparent.

    I love both the main characters, Tanay and Anuja. However, the seem to be caricatures or uni-dimensional stereotypes, rather than fleshed out persons.

    I liked that Tanay’s part was in the form of a letter addressed to the man he loves, who remains unnamed. I like the digressions and the non-linear style of narration, and the way he circles back to thoughrs after having fleshed them out with background. I loved that Anuja kept a journal. She says that life felt like a hairball and keeping a journal helped to smooth things out. I completely agree. As everyone knows,

    I quite enjoyed the fact that she’s so clueless about her brother’s feelings for her own lover because it serves to demonstrate the invisibility of minority sexualities. It’s simply inconceivable, even to the most loving and well-meaning people.

    I felt that every line in this book was loaded with purpose and meaning. For instance, Tanay observed his parents’ relationship and craved a permanent relationship to “grow into” while Anuja only wondered why her mother does nothing for herself and has no space of her own.

    On Goodreads, I read that the author felt that Anuja and Tanay are just masculine and feminine sides of the same person and not two separate persons at all. That confused me because I didn’t get that feeling at all, even though my reading was coloured by that quote that I read. I kept looking for signs of that being the case, and I just didn’t find any. All I saw are two siblings who were close and compatible to each other, and “different” in a family that greatly valued homogeneity. One sibling recovered and started to go down the path of redemption while the other seemed to get lost in an ocean of sorrow.

    More than anything else, I saw this book as a portrait of a certain type of life in a certain type of family.  I also felt that the purpose of the third sibling, Aseem, the golden boy, is introduced only to juxtapose the reception of a conforming child with two other children who could not and would not conform to the values of the Joshi family.

    I want to end this review with my favourite quote from the book, from Anuja’s journal:

    Our house was big enough for middle-class dreams, but not for privacy.

    Has anyone read this book? What did you think of it? Do you agree with my take on it? Do you agree with the author? Do you think this is a “gay novel”? Let me know in the comments?

    Book Review — Pangea

    Woah. two posts in one day! Yes. I finished that book on the flight as expected. Two and a half hours without internet worked its magic.

    I am raging mad. I can’t believe I’ve brought this upon myself. The book,  Pangea? It’s a series. I think. It’s ended on a cliffhanger. I am too old for cliffhangers! It should say on the cover of books that they are going to be a part of a series. This is blatant misrepresentation! Ok. Rant over. Review to commence below. 

    Firsrly, this is definitely an author to watch, I think. The concept of the book and of a post nuclear Pangea is solid. I like that the main character is South Asian, after a fashion. I like her invocation of current social issues throughout the book. 

    However, there are things i didn’t like; the book was exceedingly clichéd and cheesy in parts. I didn’t like the narrative pattern one bit. The author tries to move between the past and the present in rhe form of memories being recollected but I was bemused that for every incident in the protagonist’s life, she recollects one memory which is immediately relevant to the next incident in her life. Just what.I didn’t like the entangled love story. I maintain that a love story has no place in a post-war adventure novel but they always worn their way in. They at least owe it to us to be interesting if they must be present. 

    All in all though, the book made me smile and worry for the characters which gives it points in my head. I’d give it a solid there and a half stars,whixh I’ll round off to 4 on Goodreads since it’s the book’s first rating.

    So… That’s that. If anyone wants a spoilery review, let me know because I have a hell of a lot more to say.

    Hoot.

    Sin

    Drowning Fish | Book Review

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    I picked this book up off the shelf because of the interesting title, and decided to buy it because I like family sagas and stories set in Calcutta. Also, one of the characters is called Nayantara and that’s the name of my protagonist in the book that I’m writing.
    I liked a lot of things about this book.
    I liked the style of writing of the author’s. I felt like there was an appropriate amount of balance between description and the actual narrative, which a lot of authors just can’t seem to manage.
    I really appreciated that there’s a character who’s from South India, who isn’t a Tamilian from Chennai. I loved that this guy was from Bangalore and he was a Telugu speaker. Research, authors who aren’t from here! There’s more to the south of the Vindhyas than just Madras. And not just cities. Cultures, practices and attitudes are diverse. LEARN THAT. Kudos to Swati Chanda on that.
    I also did like the storyline overall, even though it was dark and twisted.
    Now I want to talk about the things I didn’t like:
    I did not like the demonisation of prostitutes, especially those who were forced into the trade by economic coercion. It reeked of snobbishness and it was despicable, especially from a “liberated” character who engages in casual sexual intercourse to “discover herself” in her comfortable place of privilege. It’s just an abominably hypocritical viewpoint. How fucking modern are you any way if you judge a starving refugee for using their only available asset to help themselves and their family????
    Yes, I’m pissed off.
    Also, some of her characters are one-dimensional. All of the male characters are, in fact. Which is a refreshing change (Hahaha), but does not help the story along very well. Boy who has a girlfriend a week being friends with “friendzoned paavam* boy” is such a painful cliché I wanted to cry.
    Also, I felt like the meeting with Neelanjana’s uncle was written in just so that the phrase “drowning fish” could be used in the story.
    I also thought some of the scenes were overly melodramatic so much so that they struck a false note. There weren’t too many such scenes but most of them were at the end of the book and really stuck with me.
    Finally, I want to talk about the theme of the book. This is all subjective of course.
    If I had to, I would say the book was about escapism. The protagonist is an escapist and she doesn’t care whom she takes down with her in her quest to run away from her troubles. I feel like the author was going for survival but then there’s survival and there’s recovery. There’s continuing to live and then there’s contentment and maybe happiness. Can you really be contented when you’re just trying to put physical distance between yourself and the place of your trauma? This bit is up for debate.
    I gave it 3 stars but I would still recommend picking it up because the subject-matter is interesting. Also, the author does speak about important topics like racism, child sexual abuse, and women empowerment. (After a fashion) The protagonist is human and imperfect and not entirely likable, though she’s described as some kind of beautiful goddess physically, which is a trend I can completely get behind.
    If Swati Chanda wrote another book, I’d probably read it regardless of the ranty nature of this review because I liked most parts of this book.
    Have you read this book? What did you think of it?
    Are there any similar books you’d recommend to me? Let me know in the comments.
    Also, don’t forget to follow me on all these fun social media places because I’m on them, and most of you are on them, so you might as well add me. :p
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/owlishwriter
    Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/8681585-sindhu
    Twitter: @sindrao22
    Email: owlishreader@gmail.com
    Instagram: owlishreader
    Hoot,
    Sin
    *’paavam’ is a Tamil word meaning innocent or vulnerable. This is not the exact translation, but picture an eternal victim of life and/or unrequited love.

    30 Day Book Challenge– Day 16| A Book I Would Recommend to an Ignorant/Close-minded/ Racist Person AND A SURPRISE BOOK REVIEW

    I have figured out a way to kill two birds with one stone today because I am a genius! Yessss!

    I am not talking about racism/ ignorance/ close-mindedness in the American/ Western sense today, even though those are important too. I feel like enough persons are talking about those issues today already. I did consider recommending Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, which are both books I love. In fact, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the books that inspired me to study law and it moves me deeply every time I read it. But… it felt kinda like a cop out to talk about these books and leave it at that.

    That’s because that is not the world I live in, though we do share a lot of the issues. The world I inhabit is a lot more complex and a lot more diverse, I guess, and it’s just different. I wanted to think of a book that close-minded/ racist persons of India need to read. And that is why I will be discussing A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry.

    This is a book that I read recently and that I have been struggling to review since because it’s so layered and nuanced and it views the issues faced by common people, especially those from a poor economic background and those from backward castes during the Emergency which was imposed in India from 1975 to 1977. Being an Indian law student, I know a fair bit about what happened during this period and I have very strong feelings and opinions about it, and most of those are negative. I have a deep dislike for Indira Gandhi and her brand of politics, and I also have fears that it’ll be easy to impose another Emergency and turn our country into a dictatorship again. Perhaps permanently this time. It keeps me up at night.

    But that is not what this post is going to be about, because if I get started on my opinion about politics, I will never shut up. (Ask my dad. He knows.)

    The point of this book, I think, is to explain that these issues faced by these people didn’t begin with the Emergency, and they didn’t end when the Emergency ended. The problems were aggravated during the Emergency because of a suspension of basic human rights, but the point is that, for people living in the remotest areas of our country, especially those from the “untouchable” castes, there never are any human rights. The point of this book is to highlight the prejudices that we all carry towards the lower classes of society. And the point of this book is just to emphasize that human suffering is all around us.

    There is a quote at the beginning of the book that I just love:

    “Holding this book in your hand, sinking back in your soft armchair, you will say to yourself: perhaps it will amuse me. And after you have read this story of great misfortunes, you will no doubt dine well, blaming the author for your own insensitivity, accusing him of wild exaggeration and flights of fancy. But rest assured: this tragedy is not a fiction. All is true”

    It just sums everything up so beautifully!

    This book is about four persons: a widowed tailor who outsources her work due to her failing eyesight; the two tailors, an uncle and a nephew, who work for her; and a young student who lives in her spare room for a year as her paying guest to supplement her income.

    This book is largely set in that period of two years, but it also has rich backstories for each of the four protagonists that go back several years into the past. These stories made me feel deep affection for each of the characters, and I grew to love and understand the motivations of each of their actions and I loved watching them grow and evolve through the novel. I laughed at their jokes and cried when they suffered but I ultimately wanted them to be okay.

    Which I guess made this book even more heart-breaking. (Um… should I have said spoiler alert or something?)  I wouldn’t wish these sufferings on anyone but my love for the characters made it that much harder to bear. I think making a character suffer after you’ve come to love them is a literary tool designed to make a book more gut-wrenching and more memorable.

    As I said before, India is a country with deep-rooted class, caste and religious divides. Our motto is “Unity in Diversity” but diversity also breeds prejudice. The situation today has improved but in a lot of the country, the sufferings of our fellow humans continue. This book depicts all of that prejudice masterfully and quite gruesomely. I don’t grudge the author for that because the reality is in fact, gruesome. He tells us the truth of those times where basic human rights were suspended for ‘productivity’ and ‘beautification’, but mostly to keep a corrupt person and her and her son’s deranged experimental, paternalistic policies in power.

    More people need to know what our fellow humans are suffering and that’s where this book comes in.

    You know, I have an issue with the fact that this question clubbed in ‘ignorant’ with ‘close-minded’ and ‘racist’. If you’re only ignorant, just fix that. Research, read, learn. It’s what we’re all trying to do, right? On that note, go ahead and pick up this book. Rohinton Mistry is a brilliant story teller and this story will stay with you for a very long time.

    When put in the context of recommending this book, reviewing became a lot easier. 🙂 Do read this book. I absolutely recommend it to everyone. I know a few people who aren’t from India as well who love this book. It’s just… it’s excellent.

    Hoot

    –Sin