The Importance of Zadie Smith

I fell in love with Zadie Smith, the writer, with her very first book that I read. It was On Beauty. A book which in all fairness wasn’t an original story, as it was loosely based on E. M. Forster’s Howard’s End. I didn’t know it back then. And when I finally read that one, I still loved On Beauty more. Since then she’s one of the few writers I have been stalking [1], literally, I mean. I mean, not literally. Literarily. But there is no such word. Long story short, I was eagerly waiting to lay my hands on Smith’s latest book, as soon as it was announced, having already consumed all her previous novels, and an excellent essay collection “Changing My Mind”.

The novel Swing Time takes its title from an eponymous 1936 musical. At the heart of the novel though, are, like any Zadie Smith novel, relationships. This time, between two girls growing up in the London’s housing project, the unnamed narrator, and her friend Tracey; and then as their paths diverge, between the narrator and Aimee, an older singer/celebrity.

The two girls, who have come together thanks to their love for dancing, aren’t really rivals in that department because while Tracey has natural talent for dancing, and looks like is destined for big things, the narrator has doesn’t have any gift, rather is born with a flat foot, and at the very start, the dance teacher has gently but unequivocally made it clear what she cannot achieve with it. But while the friendship flourishes based on this common love, it’s not a relationship between equals, and the narrator is under the spell of a confident and willful Tracey.

In fact this power equation doesn’t change even with Aimee, for whom the narrator starts working for as an assistant, after  a rather disastrous first  meeting. Ironically she is chosen to work for Aimee for speaking her own mind, not caring for her celebrity status.

The story moves from London, to US, to Africa and is structurally Smith’s most complex plot till date, as we move between different timelines, and different geographies, having to hop on and off different trains, rather suddenly, yet smoothly. In terms of characterization, Aimee comes up as a bit of caricature, or a collage of different contemporary artists, and their eccentricities. And the novel suffers in terms of Smith’s primary competency of sketching the characters through their interactions with each other, one on one, mostly, in those parts with Aimee in the picture. But then again, large part of this timeline is with Aimee only as a ghost figure, as the narrator explores life in a small African village while setting up and monitoring a school for young girls, a pet project of Aimee for a brief time.

Arguably, Smith has achieved so much with two of her first three novels — a brilliant debut in White Teeth, and a rich and complex On Beauty — that she is always going to be judged for what she didn’t write. And somewhere, she seems conscious of it in both NW, and Swing Time, trying to do more than the kind of storytelling that her first three books do so well. But I for one am not complaining. Because to an extent this started at On Beauty itself. Only it does the tightrope walking between story telling and philosophizing/cultural-dissection so well that it seems easy enough to repeat, especially for some like her. But of course, it’s enormously difficult. Especially with weight of expectations on a relatively young shoulders. And yet Zadie Smith does it well, again and again.

On the backdrop of the not-so-linear stories of Swing Time, are nuanced explorations into various tricky human subjects – racism, identity, privilege, ambition, friendship, philanthropy and cultural appropriation, dysfunctional homes and virtual homelessness, hurt and shame … To even conceive of an edifice that could hold all this together is a itself a challenge beyond many. That Zadie Smith does take that challenge, again and again, is why she is such an important writer to have among us.


[1] The term “stalking” in this context is not mine, but a friend on twitter used it to denote my excessive obsession with David Foster Wallace. When I complimented him for that term, he said it was used by his friend who happened to be a self-confessed DFW stalker. Incidentally the other writers (apart from Zadie Smith and DFW) I’ve been stalking are: Orhan Pamuk, Amitav Ghosh, Alexander McCall Smith, Hermann Hesse, and Umberto Eco.

 

 

 

Review: Litanies of Dutch Battery

The first thing you notice about the book is this weird title. What does it even mean? And as you start with the book, trying to get a grip on random set of things happening, you realize that Dutch Battery is actually a place (also known as Lantham Bathery). And as Madhavan takes us on a whirlwind tour, anchored at this (imaginary: wikipedia entry tell me) island — which is a, and I understand it’s a cliche but, microcosm of India, in one sense, and yet very very individual/eccentric place with a personality of its own — it’s like a Jigsaw puzzle taking shape, with colors and contours forming abruptly, shapes materializing out of nowhere, and you start to have some bearing on the place — just as it happens in real life, as you spend time with a place, with its people.

img_20151218_220411But the anchor point, imaginary as it may be, is vividly painted, and soon, you’re there, in the middle of it all — the tiny little dreams, the puny little political battles, the local Church and the communists trying to establish themselves, the grand political figures from distant lands, the crazy fears, the biryani feasts, and hundred little stories. While “Dutch Battery” tends to stay local, its aims are much grander, as Madhavan tries to weave in the history of Kerala, from the time of Vasco da Gama, to the battles fought on the shores of Kochi, to the post-independent scene, when Communism started to take a hold there. In many ways, the book reminds of Marquez’ classic, “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, as it goes about telling intimate histories of a region, while creating quirky characters, with difficult names.

The narrator herself, named Edwina Theresa Irene Maria Anne Margarita Jessica, and it could have been longer, if not for the Priest being impatient about his need to wash his hands (off? a not-so-subtle allusion to …), an OCD of sorts, is the keeper of all these stories — some she witnessed, right from the time in her mother’s womb, to before and after. Jessica is herself a quirky character, and so is everyone around her, it seems like, including her grandfather who (spoiler!) materializes suddenly, after being assumed dead, lost at sea with a capsized boat, blinded and old, but sharp of mind and memories.

Mixed with a dose of history, is a delightful telling of the lives of common people, their cinema obsessions, their longings for an operatic drama form called chavittunatakam, their love for Kundan Saigal’s songs, their fear of smallpox vaccine …

Few writings are so evocative, so enthralling, and completely satisfying. This is an English translation of the Malyalam book Lanthan Batheriyile Luthiniyakal. A disclosure: I know the translator, Rajesh Rajamohan, as he and I were a part of a group of bloggers who shared a few “blog-homes”, so as to say. Although, to be fair, I don’t believe that would have had any impact on this review, the only thing it counts for is that I picked up the book to read, in the first place. The rest, I’d say, is my objective assessment, as objective as such things could be.

Highly recommended, to anyone who loves good writing.


PS: Oh yes, how could I forget: humor! There is an undercurrent of tongue-in-cheek humor throughout the narration that is so difficult to get right — but done absolutely right here.

 

 

 

Rosshalde: Portrait of the Artist as not-so-young Man

July 2016 was a rare month when I read two (great) German authors side-by-side. One was Mann, who’s Magic Mountain (his first for me) I read (or rather heard) in parallel with one of my all time favorite authors, Hesse. There is a temptation to compare them which I’m going to entirely forgo, because it’s a futile exercise.

9782253013570-us-300I picked up Rosshalde five years back when I was in San Jose, California, on a work trip. I had managed to steal some time to visit a lovely bookshop: Recycle Bookstore. Now, any amount of time is less in this den, with its cute black cats, and its bookshelves stacked all the way to top with all sort of used and new books, and its super friendly staff/owners. But there on one of the shelves, this one peeked at me, and I bagged it without a second thought.

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For five years, then, it sat on my bookshelf. Unbelievable, given it’s a Hesse, but then I guess the time was not right. Or ripe. In fact, in this time I  read two more of Hesse. Then suddenly, few weeks back, I picked it up. These days, I consume books mostly in the audiobook format as that goes very well with compulsions of life — commute, walks, chores. So the time for reading paper books is really hard to find, and that’s so unjust when books like these that need to be read, and digested, and returned to.

Rosshalde is probably not as celebrated as some of Hesse’s other works. No one had recommended it to me. I picked it up without any prior “ideas” about it. Maybe that’s why it worked. But really, if you ask me, it worked for me because this one reminded me of his another not-so-celebrated book: Peter Camenzind (which I reviewed quite some time back), which, like James Joyce’s Portrait of the artist as a young man, deals with the “making” of the artist, really, not the craft, but the “mind” behind the craft, as it takes shape. Rosshalde, is like a sequel to that — the mid-life crisis of an artist, who struggles to come to terms with the mundane existence beyond the successful career.

 

Deriving from his life, to what extent I am not sure, Hesse paints for us the canvas of the bleak emotional life of a great artist trapped in unhappy relationships, trying to break free, but held back by his only emotional bond — with his younger child. This simple story is deceptively deep, and warrants a great deal of rumination. Johann Veraguth, the protagonist, is a painter who has achieved success, and fame, but is estranged from his wife, and his elder son, and resigned to a loveless, dry life, with only his work to escape to. When his friend Otto visits, he seems suddenly alive, again. We’re reminded that he is capable of human relationships, and simple pleasures of life. But even that lightness of being is temporary, and as the surface is scratched, oozes out the pus, baring for his friend the empty inner life of the great artist. And it’s this exploration that makes Rosshalde so poignant, as he tries to take control of his life again, but not everything goes according to plan. Rosshalde is filled with pathos, of pain, longing, tragedy, but, also of acceptance, and redemption.

This one does strike a deep melancholic chord.

 

 

 

 

A Strangeness In His Istanbul

A Review of Orhan Pamuk’s “A Strangeness in My Mind”

It’s no secret that Pamuk’s infatuated by his city, Istanbul. To be fair, infatuation is a wrong word — It doesn’t last decades, even years —  love bordering on obsession probably is more apt. What else could explain his ode to the city, Istanbul: Memories and the City, intertwining personal history, with the streets and shops, the sights and sounds, of the city, loving tribute to a city he grew up in? And yet, being the story-teller that he is, his non-fiction work about the city doesn’t do justice to the city, as it’s preoccupied with how it affected him, growing up.

strangeness-in-my-mind-a-sdl607561833-1-06adb

It’s been over a decade since he wrote that one, though, and a perfect time for a sequel of sorts. And so we have :  A Strangeness in My Mind, a love-story on the surface, but really a tale of the city, which just refuses to become a backdrop to an engrossing story of Mevlut — from his small-town beginnings, to a drop-in-the-ocean existence in a metropolis bursting at the seams; underlined by his strange love that lasts a lifetime, and his travails, his naivety, and the tragedies that punctuate his life with a deadpan regularity. Through all of it, the city keeps on raisesing its head, both figuratively, and formatively (through mosques, and houses, and skyscrapers) every now and then, as Pamuk moves Mavlut’s story along with the story of his beloved city.

While Istanbul (the non-fiction), is more interested in the spaces, and the temperament, and the overwhelming feel of the city, and that too, for someone living on the more Europeanized side of the Turkey’s cultural fault-lines; in Strangeness, Pamuk takes more interest in the evolution of the city from the point of view of those on the other side of those fault-lines: the peasants, who flocked to the city in search of opportunity, the daily-wage earners, the communists and the Islamists, the housewives, and the uncles, and the mothers, and the customers, and the religious gurus … It’s a vibrant picture of a city that Pamuk painted gray in his earlier work. Not that gray is used sparingly here either.

Mevlut comes to Istambul, already a dauntingly big city for someone coming from a village, and watches it grow to a megapolis, transforming people around him, in more ways than he could have imagined; while he tries to hold on to a trade that’s already on the decline (a boza [a fermented drink, possible etymological origins of the English “booze”]  seller), even in his father’s time. Mevlut, who finds his love-of-life, thanks (!) to a cruel trick played by a cousin, never really comes out the trumps in life, which isn’t that unexpected knowing Pamuk’s fatalistic view of existence (at least what comes out as one, from his books), where happiness is always fleeting, and melancholy (or huzun, as his other Istambul book educates us about) enduring; with his quintessentially un-heroic (but also un-villainous) characters. But as he struggles with, and then begins to accept the whole existential strangeness, inside his mind, as exemplified by his tortured love/life story, and outside — in the streets, and back-allies of the ever changing city. In Istambul (the  non-fiction), Pamuk tries to capture “hüzün” of the city in words, and images. He almost succeeds. But here, he paints with it, and it’s hard to miss. If one goes back to the “Memoir” now, one would get it right-away.

In terms of the narration, Pamuk resorts to a mix of third person narration, with the multi-narrator technique that he so well employed in his best book to date: My Name is Red. That technique, in its measured application, works very well for this one too, as it gives a glimpse into more lives, more point-of-views, and builds a context to assess Mevlut’s struggles, and tiny triumphs. And Pamuk is in fine form here, with a countenance  of a test match specialist batsman who is reassured that time is on his side. Which means, for many, it is too slow for their comfort. Not me. I like books that water the plant, and wait patiently, for the bloom to come. And if you have time too, then Pamuk is enormously rewarding. The hüzün and the grays not withstanding.

 

 

 

Numero Zero: End of Conspiracies

“Everything always fits with everything else,” says Braggadocio, an outlandish conspiracy theorist, and a fellow journalist of the novel’s narrator and central character, a self-declared loser, ghost writer of third-rate novels, Colonna, “you just have to know how to read the coffee grounds”

Eco, the wicked story teller with seemingly inexhaustible source of conspiracy theories, I seem to recall, had declared the Prague Cemetery as his final fictional work. I guess, the temptation of conspiracies is too much even for someone so well versed with them.

“There are many small conspiracies, and most of them are exposed,” Prof. Eco says in an interview after writing The Prague Cemetery. “But the paranoia of the universal conspiracy is more powerful because it is everlasting. You can never discover it because you don’t know who is there. It is a psychological temptation of our species”

In Numero Uno, while still continuing his long lasting love affair with conspiracies, Eco also goes a step further. He creates a conspiracy that’s sounds like the most outlandish conspiracy, when it’s probably not even a conspiracy.

As Braggadocio again — while defending a charge of looking for conspiracies where none exists — says:

Look at the court cases, it is all there, provided you’re able to find your way around the archives. The trouble is, facts get lost between one piece of news and another.

But a little bit of context first. Numero Uno is about a private newspaper that Colona, Braggadocio, and Colona’s love interest Maia, are working for, for one Mr. Simei. The newspaper, named Domani (Tomorrow), is not meant to be widely circulated, and will have “zero” editions (0/1, 0/2 …) to be published over a year, with news that’s based on facts, but with a handsome spin doctoring. Domani, then, is a newspaper that could have been: a conspiracy of a newspaper (again, as Braggadocio says somewhere else in the novel: “The point is that newspapers are not there for spreading news but for covering it up.”), meant to scare someone in power to get an entry for someone into some elite circle of power. Colona has been trusted with this information, and asked to be the editor, while Braggadocio, with a keen eye for conspiracy has half guessed it, with Maia and others completely unaware of it.

numero_zeroWhile working for stories for the paper, Braggadocio approaches Colona with the story of an elaborate conspiracy, folding piecemeal, involving a right-wing secret terror group/army, and an alternate end for Mussolini, among other things.

Much of Eco’s fictional work centers around losers being obsessed with crackpot/conspiracy theories of one kind or another, and losing track of reality. What rare female characters are there in his novels, typically see through this muddle, but the men are not ready to let go their obsession, even when sensible alternative explanations are put forward, sometimes at terrible cost to themselves, and others. In that sense, Numero Uno is no different, either.

But while Belbo of Foucalt’s Pendulum finally sees the truth when it’s too late, here, there is a sweet twist at the end. Maybe because, Prof. Eco really is tired of writing novels, and wants stop with an end to all controversies (Indeed, the Novel, short in length, does seem hurried and abrupt in the end, and could have been much more riveting, and substantive, had Eco been Eco of few years back. Still, it has its moments, and a typical Eco charm in parts. Also given that it’s his shortest novel, it’s not anywhere near as taxing as his earlier works, so ROI is probably not bad, for the effort. That said, give me Foucalt’s Pendulum any day over this). In the words of Maia, then:

“This truth will make every other revelation seem like a lie. […] As of tomorrow, you can go around saying that the pope slits the throats of babies and eats them, or that Mother Teresa of Calcutta was the one who put the bomb on the Munich train, and people will say, ‘Oh, really? Interesting,’ and they’ll turn around and get on with what they were doing”

When a conspiracy turns out to be true, the truth can become a conspiracy. And people stop caring about either, if they ever did care. In that, somewhat carelessly tossed, stratagem lies the redemption of Numero Uno, despite being less than impressive by Eco’s standard.

 

Pico Iyer’s The Man Within My Head

I don’t read non-fiction works that well. No, I’m not saying I’ve something against them; just that, as a rule, I tend to enjoy fiction more. But once in a while, I do seem to pick up non-fiction books, and I’ve not been disappointed by them, not recently, that is. From Zadie Smith (Changing My Mind), to V. S. Naipaul (A Writer’s People), to David Foster Wallace (Consider the Lobster and Other Essays). But you see, I loved them already, before reading their non-fiction (except for Naipaul, whose India trilogy I had already read before reading his fiction), as these are all heavyweights as fiction writers, too.

IMG_20150819_193601Then again Pico Iyer had me in very first few words of a piece I had read long back, in Time Magazine (August, 2015). That lyrical piece, Experiment In Exile [1], about Tibetans in exile finding a home away from home, in Dharmashala (Himachal Pradesh) made me take notice of Pico Iyer, and I bookmarked him for a later time. The time didn’t come for almost a decade!

When I chanced upon his book, The Man Within My Head, browsing the shelves in British Council Library, I picked it up right away — mainly because writers writing about writers can be very interesting. And when you already have read a bit of that writer (Graham Greene in this case), it could be so much more interesting.

Turned out, I was not wrong.

In The Man Within My Head, Pico Iyer attempts something very difficult, and almost manages it! That too, with amazing style and substance. On one hand it’s just a book about Graham Greene, the author (as his chosen father). But like all good non-fiction, it is about a lot more than that. What you get, for the price of one, is a potpourri of thoughts on sons, fathers, inheritances (not the mundane kinds), spirituality, belief (or the lack of it) in God, plus a good dose of travel writing (as if the rest was not plenty enough)!

And while he tries to connect the dots — experiences, characters, events, thought patterns — between Greene and himself, and punctuates it with stories of his father, and growing up/living in two diametrically opposite words (actually two sets of them, first England and California, and then Japan and California), somewhere the magic happens, and it is Pico Iyer who is in your head, with Greene, and characters from Greene’s novels, and Iyer’s parents, and his friend. Iyer writes with such fluidity, such total mastery of the form, that he had me enthralled, just like before, reading that essay in Time.

Not the least of the reasons, for that enthrallment, are the insights into Graham Greene, an author that I have always wanted to read more of, but always found heartbreaking to read — the impending (very personal) doom in his books is all too pervading to be proved wrong. Still, reading Iyer talk about Greene made me want to pick him up again. And I finished reading The Quiet American, taking a break from Iyer’s book. And it was as if I was reading an author I knew a lot about, when in reality I had read only two of his books, that too a few years back.

This is a book worth reading for so many reasons. The lyricism of the prose is just one of them.

This for instance (bold emphasis mine):

All those Marcus Aurelius sentences we’d had to read and memorize, all the lines from Hecuba we’d had to recite in Greek were telling us that it wasn’t the world and its trials and sufferings that made us, but our response to them. The fault was never in our stars, or even our fathers.

My recommendation: if you’re anything like me (and I understand that’s not something you’d want to publicize), please read …

Footnote:

[1]: Experiment in Exile is no longer freely available on Time (needs Log In as subscriber), however, you can read it here. Not sure if that’s a full version, though.

 

 

 

 

Review of Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows

There is something instantly likable about Kamila Shamsie’s characters. Hell, it’s even easy to fall in love with the central characters, like Raheen in Kartography, or Aasmani in Broken Verses (or for that matter Samina). But it’s one thing coming up with such characters, and another to actually weave a story around them that does justice to them, and to paint the canvas of their thoughts and emotions with intricate colors. With Shamsie, though, even that seems to come naturally.

It’s her third book that I have now read, and while the first two were rooted mostly in Pakistan, or more specifically, in the urban Pakistan, Burnt Shadows starts during second world war in Japan, and takes us around the globe, to India, Pakistan, America, and Afghanistan, with the story spanning three generations, and many nationalities.

Undoubtedly, this is her most challenging book, because of the scope of the canvas, and in parts it does seem to be weighed by those challenges. The story moves a little jerkily, unlike the ever smooth Cartography, and slow but sure Broken Verses — especially when the story moves away from India/Pakistan. But plot wise it still works overall. And after seeming like it’s going to drag and disappoint, it picks up again, and even as you’re anticipating this ending or that, Shamsie delivers. And in the hindsight, the most logical ending to this fascinating saga.

At the heart of it, though, is not the story, but relationships, and thoughts. The ideas of nationality, of belonging, of race, and prejudices. Of capacity to forgive, to understand the other, across borders, religions, races.

Going by the body count, it’s saddest of Shamsie’s books I’ve read so far, with death lurking around to take away the characters you’ve finally got to know, and love, but Shamsie does not let the reader or the characters to linger on in those losses, and keeps on moving, although, truly neither gets over them. It’s to the credit of the book, that despite all the sorrow, it’s not melancholic. Well not entirely, anyways.

Looks like, I can never have enough of Shamsie.

Verdict: Loved it. 4/5 stars.

Review: Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi

Geoff Dyer’s Jeff in Venice Death in Varanasi is a strange book on many level. I don’t mean strange in the negative or critical sense, but may be in statistical sense. Split in two parts, the “novel” is actually a set of two stories/novellas, if you look at it one way — that is if you choose not to make connections. But if you do, it fits well too. For Dyer has left enough ambiguity to support both interpretations.

dyer_coverThe split isn’t just structural. The former is a third-person telling of Jeff’s tale, where, curiously, Jeff is there all along. Never is there scene where Jeff is not there, and the narrator is kind of proxy narrator, as the only person who’s mind it seems to have any insight into, is Jeff. Not your typical third-person narration, hinting at Jeff being Geoff the author, trying to look at oneself like a third-person (in the sense that Jeff is partly based on him). The latter half is in first person, but the (now in first person) narrator is nameless. However, both the protagonists are middle aged, English, reporters, in a sort of mid-life crisis.

The first part, set in Venice, uses the city more as a backdrop, while the story goes on to tell the excesses and in certain sense, emptiness of the art world, and Jeff goes through it, sleepwalking, with only thing that seems to really excite him is Laura, an American is on her last assignment before she quit her job at art gallery and slated to move to Varanasi (don’t start thinking this explain anything). The story goes on, telling of their rendezvous which turns into a torrid affair. In a sense Jeff is living his dream in a city of dreams. Love, sex, drugs, spirits — part one is unmistakably about western civilization — its promises and decay.

In Varanasi, the second novella starts off like a typical travel writing — and here Dyer is probably trying to blur the boundaries of genres, as he has written before admiringly about Kundera:

“After reading Immortality what I wanted from Kundera was a novel composed entirely of essays, stripped of the last rind of novelisation. Kundera duly obliged. His next book, Testaments Betrayed, provided all the pleasures – i.e. all the distractions – of his novels with, so to speak, none of the distractions of character and situation. By Kundera’s own logic this ‘essay in nine parts’ – more accurately, a series of variations in the form of an essay – which has dispensed entirely with the trappings of novelisation, actually represents the most refined, the most extreme, version yet of Kundera’s idea of the novel” (Out of Sheer Rage)

Stripping off any semblance of a story-line, then, the second novella follows the narrator’s journey from a typical westerner outsider’s vantage-point to a curious (even extreme) acceptance/internalization of the eastern experience. If these lines seem to hint at any superiority/inferiority of cultures, or anything of that sort, Dyer, mercifully stays away from any quick (or even nuanced) answers, one way or the other. He just presents how he (or his narrator, if he’s different — something Dyer wanted to obfuscate by calling the first narrator Atman, aka self/sour, and the second narrator kept nameless, to live the possibility of all the three being same)  sees, which itself changes …

Yes, the book has its flaws, although I won’t delve into them — mainly because, I suspect they are not accidental, and Dyer wanted it that way. He probably never wanted to write a masterpiece. What he has ended up with, is still worth our time, for it has all the good and bad of Dyer — the insane wit, the keen eye, the roving narrations always going into all sorts of tangents, and excesses of all kinds. I’m not complaining. And all said and done, I enjoyed the second half a lot more, mainly because it’s lot more pensive. Surely not the best of Dyer, but darn good still.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hence Cooked (Review of Michael Pollan’s Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation)

Or is Emily Matchar reading challanged?

Cooked400x290I cannot thank Emily Matchar enough for making me take up Michael Pollan’s Cooked for immediate reading. Of course, I’d have picked it up sooner, rather than later, as I’m an unabashed Pollan fan. But Matchar’s piece in Salon (actually the headline), really made me take notice of the book.

Matchar’s piece, is of course, not about Cooked. But it’s timing is curious. Just within week or so of the book’s publication comes the sensational headline. What’s more, lot of quotations used by Matchar (selectively and incompletely at that, but we’ll get to that), are from Pollan’s older New York Times piece “Out of the Kitchen, Onto the Couch” — which, incidentally is one of the originating material for Cooked.

Enough about Matchar. For now, at least. Continue reading

Em for Imelda, P for Poignancy and Pinto

I cannot recall the first time the name Jerry Pinto captured my attention. Back in high-school days, I had asked the paperwallah to deliver Sunday Times — because I wanted to improve my language, and English reading (yes, believe it or not, back then the now much maligned TOI, and especially its Sunday edition, with glossy yet quality supplement, was pretty much a big deal). Problem was, the paper would be delivered Sunday afternoon, as it would be printed only in Mumbai back then (explaining its quality, my Mumbaikar wife may add), and by the time it reached my hometown, it was half a day gone. And yet, I would wait with anticipation for the afternoon delivery — my only other window back then to the ‘other’ world (apart from the iconic The World This Week — from the same NDTV productions that’s enjoying the same fate of empty success).

em-and-the-big-hoomJerry Pinto, was pretty much a part of that other world. The world that I did not share with my peers, and neighbors. And although I don’t recall when I got hooked on to his articles, I recall one particular article that I had (yes — we used to do that in those days) cut-up and filed in one of my binders. Sadly the binder’s lost now, and so is the article (and I tried googling but alas, I still haven’t found it). In it, Pinto shred to pieces two of the biggest bollywood hits of the time DDLJ and HAHK. Hang on. Not for they being meaningless entertainment, but because they seemed to be harbingers of (and I may be off the mark on this, this is 18 years or so back memory) an age that had renounced rebellion for conformity. Okay, maybe that’s what I read from the article, because that’s pretty much what I wanted to read from it, but that’s not the point. Pinto had become one of my idols. Continue reading