Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Miss New India


This is not about the Miss India beauty contest - but the book "Miss New India" by Bharati Mukherjee. Though, I daresay the book is as frivolous and meaningless as those contests.

From Amazon here is the gist of the book:

Anjali Bose is “Miss New India.” Born into a traditional lower-middle-class family and living in a backwater town with an arranged marriage on the horizon, Anjali’s prospects don’t look great. But her ambition and fluency in language do not go unnoticed by her expat teacher, Peter Champion. And champion her he does, both to other powerful people who can help her along the way and to Anjali herself, stirring in her a desire to take charge of her own destiny.

So she sets off to Bangalore, India’s fastest-growing major metropolis, and quickly falls in with an audacious and ambitious crowd of young people, who have learned how to sound American by watching shows like Seinfeld in order to get jobs as call-center service agents, where they are quickly able to out-earn their parents. And it is in this high-tech city where Anjali—suddenly free from the traditional confines of class, caste, gender, and more—is able to confront her past and reinvent herself. Of course, the seductive pull of modernity does not come without a dark side.

First off, it looks like Ms. Mukherjee read a brochure by one of the third-rate call centers in Bangalore. Also looks like she saw a documentary on the lives of call-center personnel and then just thought up a book.

Some things I found totally ridiculous:

Anjali wants to run away and the catalyst for this is a brutal and horrific rape. What was most surprising about the whole thing was that Anjali is not in the least bit traumatized by the incident.

Then just as if to compensate - some time later there are pages devoted to apparent PSTD after another horrifying incident. But most unbelievable and lacking in depth.

Add to the mix international terrorism(yes really!), a gay American cohabiting with a caricature of a trans-gender person, a series of crazy coincidences and altogether TV Soap like one-dimensional characters.

Bangalore wilts and dies with Mukherjee's descriptions. Call Center personnel are reduced to teeny-bops who will head for the nearest bar given the slightest chance.

Read this to recoup from the travesty that passes of as a book.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Learn by heart and say it back to me...

..doesn't seem to be popular here in North America. Nor is that quaint "explain with reference to context" that goes "explain who said this to whom and why".

Poetry seems to have taken a back seat in my son's classes - he rarely has any of those.

So for today I leave you with these classic "byhearted" gems:

Poem 1

Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
As born to rule the storm;
A creature of heroic blood,
A proud, though childlike form

Poem 2
For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Poem 3
Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland Lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.

Poem 4
Rise, brothers, rise; the wakening skies pray to the morning light,
The wind lies asleep in the arms of the dawn like a child that has cried all night.
Come, let us gather our nets from the shore and set our catamarans free,
To capture the leaping wealth of the tide, for we are the kings of the sea!

Poem 5

THE wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

Not a poem but one of the bard's finest:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar

...and finally not a very popular one- actually quite a creepy one - but I love the cadence;

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Haunting Jasmine

By Anjali Banerjee.

Quite an interesting concept.

Jasmine is asked to mind her Aunt's bookstore on a remote island, while the latter is away in India. As the name suggests - the bookstore seems to be inhabited by spirits. Not just any spooks mind you - but those of famous authors from Edgar Allen Poe to Kipling to none other than Jane Austen.

That's what got me irritated. Why Jane? Because everyone knows her? Because "Pride" has been washed, rinsed and repeated a million times over in a million ways? GAH!

Many of the events in the narration seem rushed and hurried - they are off to a slow start and it's like Banerjee wants that particular incident to come to a convenient and final conclusion and can not be bothered with the finer details.

However despite this it must be conceded - Banerjee writes well - and I love the non-appearance of "being brown" in a white world angst.