Saturday, 19 October 2013

Shalimar the Clown - Salman Rushdie

Date of Reading: 24/06/2008
Author: Salman Rushdie
Publisher: Vintage Books
Place: London
Year: 2005
           A story on Kashmir brings its own faces as well as prejudices. As the name of Salman Rushdie is synonymous with 'Midnight's Children', Kashmir is tagged with terrorism and war -- the one time pride of Hindustan turned into a deadly nightmare and issue of pride. Its mere mention is enough to cause ripples in the crowd and the atmosphere grew tense whenever a Kashmiri guy stands up to speak. Governments have come and gone, but their pains have remained as pains.
           The aura around some writers makes it embarrassing to confess that this is not my cup of tea. Rushdie, no doubt, is one. I still remember reading the acclaimed 'Midnight's Children' for the sake of reading it. This book, on the other hand is a different story; set in Los Angels and Kashmir, Rushdie has drawn a verbal portrait on the transformation of a victimized generation. Its been years since I have last read the story but two images haven't yet faded -- the cunning brain washing in the terrorist camp and the stunning stand of the Kashmiri women against wearing purdahs (they preferred to be naked instead). Fresh and crisp, 'Shalimar the Clown' smells of India.
         On the year 1991 in English calendar, Maxmilian Ophuls is knifed to death at the doorstep of his illegitimate daughter India by his own taxi driver who is mysteriously called as Shalimar the Clown; place is Los Angeles. Max, a French Jew and a World War II resistance hero was a former United States ambassador to India and subsequently been working as America's counter - terrorism chief.
         Pages turn to Kashmir to trace the story of Shalimar. His real name is Norman Sher Norman, a Muslim. Married to a Hindu girl, Boomi (also called as Boonyi) he was settled in the village of Pachigam. The village dance troop, with Boonyi as the leading figure once performed before ambassador Max. Boonyi stayed with him to master the dance and a forbidden relationship bloomed; she gave birth to a daughter. Max's wife, Peggy Rhodes adopted her and named her as India, her pinnacle of humiliation in this foreign land.
         Boonyi is declared as an outcast and her enraged husband joined with the terrorist group. He began his sacred killings with Boonyi and years after Max too succumbed to the same fate. India became the next target ever though he was arrested and sentenced to death.
          India collected the details of her mother and renamed herself to Kashmiri. When Shalimar escaped from jail and came in pursuit of her, she was ready. India bowed an arrow to kill; as often she never missed.

Friday, 4 October 2013

In Love of Honey, Money . . . and My Virgin Passport - Mita Jain

Subtitle: Story of Indian Youth in IT Industry
Date of Reading: 13/09/2013
Author: Mita Jain
Year: 2009
From: the author in exchange for an honest review

           There are two types of men (or women for that matter) -- Jumbos and Dumbos. The former goes high up in the social ladder, adapts to tricks and traps, gets fat with fame and wealth and becomes the caricatures of excellence and success. And Dumbos . . . alas! its a sad case. These 'idiots' stick to the fairy tale ideals of their childhood and consequently flagged by truth and simplicity ends up in the ditch. Excessive cases might have the rare opportunity to be a part of history, thereby they become instrumental in making future dumbos.
         Mita Jain's story is all about a dumbo, a hard working, truthful one who with his steadfast policies proves that goodness shall indeed prevail, even inside the competitive environment of an IT company. Last week I heard my fellow researcher commenting that Indian English literature is booming. True, at least some of them have left behind the topics of past to deal with the trauma of the new generation. 'ILHM' covers most of the aspects which an Indian youth passes through, especially the role of social networks, job promotions and of course finding of the true love. A true, funny outlook on today's software industry with laughter bubbling over each line. Thank you Mita for sending a copy.
          Vinay Dave is an aspiring engineering student from Uttar Pradesh who finally bagged his job on the 17th campus interview he attended. Company is SolBytes Ltd and he is placed at Hyderabad along with other new recruits from his batch: Cyrus, Farheen, Rajlakshmi, Nikhila and four others.

          Training for two months proved hard which also included a series of written tests which they thought they passed behind. Some of the work ethics too began to come to light which for Vinay was hard to digest. While Cyrus and Farheen copied each other's tests and passed in flying colours, Vinay stood steadfast to his honesty in spite of the difficulties faced. Eventhough it took him double time and twice work, he got his passport too without paying any bribe.
With the training period over, he is put into the group of Paramjeet Sodhi and is later on passed to the mentorship of the cold hearted Samar Reddy. Days passed without any work or invitations to projects. As a resume's value is zero without being in a live project Vinay with his friends approaches HR who entrusts them with an internal project. Though Vinay was the brain to solve the major issue Cyrus takes the credits nonchalantly opening up new doors for further projects to him.
          With Rajlakshmi's recommendation he too flies abroad in the end. The project handled by Samar in France was sinking the ship and he resigned leaving it to rot. Vishal Sadana who was on Vinay's interview board took charge and the scene shifted from internal politics to mutual trust.

         Vinay has by then recognised the lover in his best friend Loveleena who is studying in France and the project united the couple. A happy Dave goes back home knowing to full that hard work and honesty has its rewards.

Some quotes from Goodreads:

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