Saturday, 17 November 2012

The Boy Next Door - Meg Cabot

Date of Reading: 02/09/2012
Source: Internet (e-pub version)
Year: 2002
Rating: 3.5/5

           One of my friends who is studying to become a nurse, once sent me a letter. Oh, not a mail, but a handwritten original letter. Needless to say, I am surprised. Glad to know that the post office still exists, thanks to the convent mode hostels which still scrutinises our letters and allows us to make a call to home only on Sundays.
            With this almost extinction of letters, gone are the days of epistolary novels. Or so I thought, until I have come by this one. Samuel Richardson has written the first novel in English, 'Pamela', in  a series of letters and it seems the tradition is not forgotten. Well, except for 'Colour Purple' of Alice Walker and 'Dracula' (though it is in the form of a diary), I don't have much favourites in this mode.
          This one is the modern form; story is all in e-mails and rest is left to the imagination of the reader. Its all about a romance which blooms in a crime scene; too bad, its all predictable. At least Cabot has made an attempt with an ordinary story. What should we expect next? A novel made out of SMS! (As for that matter Sophie Kinsella's 'I've Got Your Number' is a partial attempt in this field)
          Melissa Fuller, a gossip columnist of the New York Journal has just broken up with her longtime boyfriend, Aaron Spender. When the novel opens, Mel is late for work and her friend Nadine Wilcock, the managing editor George Sanchez and the style editor Dolly Vargas all send anxious, threatening e-mails to her, all for different reasons. 
        Her next door neighbour Mrs. Helen Friedlander is found facedown on the carpet of her apartment and Mel is with her in the hospital. The victim hasn't yet recovered her consciousness and so Mel is forced to walk the lady's Great Dane, Paco everyday and as a result is late always. She informs Mrs. Friedlander's super model nephew, Max, about the incident and the need to take care of the pets.
         Max is in vacation with her girl friend, Vivica and so obviously not in a nursing mood. He asks his millionaire friend John Trent to take his place in the apartment in return for a former favour. John is a crime reporter in the New York Chronicle, the main rival of Journal. He moves to Mrs. Friedlander's apartment and soon a relationship is underway between him and Mel.
          In the end Vivica spoils this identity secret to have her revenge on Max. Mel lashes out at John and they split up. Max occupies his aunt's apartment but Mel begins to doubt his intentions. By making a frienship with Vivica she finds out that Max has visited his aunt on the day of the attack.
Meg Cabot
          John's relatives are in a move together to join the lovers; his grandmother Genevieve forwords her grandson's e-mails which explains his attachment to Mel. The couple makes up the differences and brings Max to the justice. Story ends with Mel accepting the proposal of John.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

One Night @ the Call Centre - Chetan Bhagat

Date of Reading: 08/04/2008
Author: Chetan Bhagat
Publisher: Reader's Digest Selected Editions
Place: Australia
Year: 2007

          I have never seen a single Chetan Bhagat fan who loves this particular book. As I am not an admirer ( and also this is an edited version of Reader's Digest), that might be the reason I find this his best work. Other day I attended a pre-Ph.D synopsis presentation on anti-globalisation in Indian literature and this was one of the selected works. It seems I am not alone.
          What is special about this one? All his other works are quite evidently autobiographical in which IIT and its entrance examinations play a major part and so this is a fresh breeze. More over,   there is the added element of supernatural; call me old fashioned, but I like a little bit of deu ex machina. Sometimes an outer help is relieving in this fast paced world. Like in 'Canterbury Tales' Chetan has succeeded in bringing together a section of Indian society in a simple setting. There is the weeping lover, sighing money maker, victimized daughter and daughter-in-law and the estranged father. On running after the much desired fame, money and reputation, they have forgotten something -- conscience and inner peace. This is their story of  finding what is needed most; simple with no adornments but truthful. 
    The author is travelling alone in the Kanpur-Delhi night train. Soon he is joined by a beautiful girl who has read his first book. She offers to tell a story on the condition that he must write on it. Chetan, though at first reluctant, agrees to hear her.
           Story revolves around a single night in a Call Centre. Six people work there on night shift at that chosen time -- Syam, Vroom (for Victor), Military Uncle, Priyanka, Radhika and Esha. Author takes the part of Syam and writes this story.
          Each has their own unique problems to suffer. Syam has just broken up with Priyanka after a long relationship and is not yet recovered. Seeing her everyday at work is not at all helping. Besides, their boss Bakshi is behaving rudely after taking credit for what Syam and Vroom has done together.
          Priyanka is compelled by her nagging mother to drop her relationship with Syam and now she is engaged to Ganesh, a man chose by her mother. Marriage is fixed for next month and that makes her worried as she does not know this would-be-husband guy that well.
          Radhika has passed over these jumping the broom troubles, but the married life is nothing as expected. For her husband's traditional family she has changed to sari, still that won't help with the mother-in-law problem. The old woman pours her husband's ear with her faults; in this particular night she finds out that her much beloved husband keeps a girl friend.
           Esha is in modelling too, and she has slept with a man in order to go forward in this career. Instead, the man sends some money as compensation and now she is haunted by guilt. She cannot meet Vroom who has an earnest interest in her.
          Vroom's parents have quarrelled today also, and that affects his mood. He has taken this job only for his money interest and is consequently can't find any satisfaction. Military Uncle, the quiet man, has a different woe to tell. He did not approve her daughter-in-law's modern ways and this conservatism has separated him from the family. Now he misses his grandchild.
          On the heap of this the news comes that they may lose their jobs too. To relax they go out together in the car which meets with an accident due to Vroom's uncontrolled, angry driving. The Qualis is struck in metal rodes and underneath is a deep pit. 
           Mobile does not have any signals, but Syam's  mobile suddenly beeps and the caller is identified as God. He makes them promise to live by listening to their inner voice and indirectly help them to escape. That makes a change.
Chetan Bhagat
          Their plan succeeds in saving the company and Vroom and Syam decide to start a web designing company together. Syam is joined with Priyanka, Radhika divorces her husband, Esha gives up modelling and devotes wholly to the Call Centre and the Military Uncle is rejoined with his son's family.
            Chetan guesses that the one who is sitting beside him is Esha. Soon the girl disappears, it was GOD.
--- the Bollywood movie 'Hello', directed by Atul Agnihotri, is based on this story, but produced an average response in Indian box office. 
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