Few Indian English books that I picked up recently: here are my scattered thoughts about them. Didn’t want to put formal reviews, just wanted to share my observations.
Ladies Coupe by Anita Nair
Indian English authors keep on fascinating me (so do Indian regional language authors, but then I hardly know regional languages other than my mother tongue Marathi). So when I saw this book in the local library, I picked it up. I knew nothing about Anita Nair then, so didn’t know what to expect. The book turned out to be worth the read though.
Ladies Coupe is the tale of Akhila, and five other women that she meets in train. The novel is split into multiple stories, interspersed by Akhila’s own story, which can be a little distracting because of so many POV changes, but after a while, I got used to it. Most of the stories, and the characters are ordinary, as far as the literary value goes. But that’s the success of Anita Nair’s book IMO, because it becomes very easy to relate to or believe in in those stories. And although the plots are outright beaten, the perspective Anita throws on them is quite interesting. The same characters, that one would hardly notice if they come face to face to us in our daily lives, spin a surprise or two, as if saying there is more to me. She has done a good job of spinning these tails, making the reader think, and question. None of Anita’s characters are feminist rebels, quite the contrary, and yet the novel ends up questioning the patriarchal equations. I think it’s the kind of book that most Indian women should read, and so should most Indian men.
The day in shadow by Nayantara Sehgal
My wife picked this one up from the dusty shelf of our local library, and again neither of us had heard a thing about it. Later when I tried to search on net, I could hardly find any reviews, which I think is surprising considering the quality of the book. Written in the license raj times, the book tells the story of a divorcee lady, and a mother of pre-teen children, who is struggling to find life again. It’s the story of resuming life, once paused — telling us that it’s never too late to restart living.
The central character is a bundle of contradictions — of independence and dependence, of strength and weaknesses. It’s one of the most alive characters that I’ve come across in my (no doubt, all too limited) reading of Indian English literature. The storyline itself is predictable and does not throw any surprises at all, but the book is certainly not about the story. It’s about the nuances, of relationships, of perceptions — and there are plenty of those. Most of the characters are well formed and believable, the dialogs engrossing. All in all a very very readable book.
Making The Minister Smile by Anurag Mathur
Yes, this is the same Anurag Mathur of The Inscrutable Americans fame. I have not read that book, so had no opinion about him, and going by this book, I would rather read that one before I have an opinion about him, for this book is pretty sterile, full of stereotypes, and utterly humorless. I don’t know if it’s intended to be humorous, but it definitely does not seem serious either. The characters are uninteresting, and of cardboard verity, the storyline is predictable till mid-way at which point I put the book away for good. I just hope someone reads this and tells me, hey, that’s where it starts to get interesting. But if someone asks to bet my money on it, I definitely won’t. I think the author is confused about what he wanted to do with the story — make it hilarious or relevant. As it comes out, it’s neither (unless again, the second half is where he picked up his acts). And although I rarely write review of books I didn’t like (forget those which I didn’t complete!), I decided to put this up anyway, for completing the potpourri.