Category Archives: Books and other Interests

Salman Rushdie’s Open Letter to Rajiv Gandhi

Today is the Karnataka Bandh, here I sit, bored out of my mind(Never thought I would get to appreciate the routine of work and weekends). Even though it is a weekend, I cannot venture out(Well, I can but choose not to); cannot watch TV(The geniuses to control the switches to my TV box think it would make a better statement to the Tamilians, who are accused of forcing us to withdraw excess water, if the Kannadigas not get to watch some TV and are deprived of entertainment).

So I turned to the only logical place in these troubled times – Youtube. I started off with the interview of Salman Rushdie on The Hindu and started thinking about the book I am currently reading(and, which I cannot get enough of) – The Midnight’s Children. One thing led to another and here I was watching all sorts of Salman Rushdie videos; the best one being this:

Huh! How he rips into Imran Khan! I loved the part about Chetan Bhagat, though… Chetan Bhagat is primarily responsible for the Dumb-ification of the Indian public, who after reading such junk as ‘One Night at a Call Center’, think they can be qualified as book lovers; Chetan Bhagat is also responsible for the emergence of all those writers who have questionable writing and story telling skills, who know their weaknesses and yet derive hope from the successes of Chetan Bhagat novels.

Heck, even I know I can succeed in the literary world(I got the spelling of literary wrong at first; thats how good I am!) if I come up with a simply worded book, with a few funny tales, a more than a few boring sequences put together unintelligibly; and an excellent excellent cover, which just appeals to the reader to buy the book; not to forget the media blitz. People like me should not be given such hope. Its good for me, but bad for Art in general. I daresay Chetan Bhagat writes only marginally better than me. He is an IITian, I am from third rate Engineering College in Bangalore(Even though it is generally considered bad, but I love to death that college, the campus and the people.. More on that in another post some other Bandh. I see the Diesel and Petrol prices will be increased soon, so keeping my fingers crossed). So, I take it as a plus for me.

Now, to the topic at hand.

Salman Rushdie after writing this wonderful, spectacular book – The Midnight’s Children – wrote another book – The Satanic Verses. I’ve read half the book before my cousin’s constant pestering (If she is reading this, I am embellishing of course.. I gave it out of Love!) made me give her the book half way. I read the dreaded Mahound chapter so that gives me the right to talk about it, I am concluding all on my own.

So, this book was published when I was just born and it was banned India’s PM(my favourite when I was 10) on grounds of, well, to quote Rushdie – “..proscribed for.. its own good”.

I didn’t find any Blasphemous material, apart from the question it forces you to ask, but doesn’t ask itself – “How strongly do you believe in the tales your elders lead you to believe about God and the Godliness of God?”. The question he never asks to the Muslims is,”Could Prophet be not Prophet at all?”,”Could he have been.. “, well, I don’t want to commit such Blasphemy. If I run for office sometime in the next 30 years I also want the Muslim vote bank. I can take the path of Manmohan Singh, yes, but the Muslim vote bank will stop voting for my party and that again reflects badly on me. So, I will stop here. I don’t want to comment on the level of Blasphemy perpetrated by a book more than 2 decades ago but its aftermath in my India; the India to which I had just been born.

Salman Rushdie writes an “Open Letter” to the then PM Rajiv. I quote from it..

These persons, whom I do not hesitate to call extremists, even fundamentalists, have attacked me and my novel while stating that they had no need actually to read it. That the Government should have given in to such figures is profoundly disturbing.

It is indeed disturbing isn’t it. After the cave in with the Shah Bano case, this was Rajiv Gandhi’s second cave in to the same set of extremists.

This theme is being repeated even today in India. When the World over the people are fighting for their Rights; when people in West are up and defending their Constitutionally enshrined Freedom of Speech, we are least bothered.

Rushdie says Freedom is like a war, if you don’t fight for one, you will eventually lose it. Those words were reverberating in my head for a while and I decided to put them down on my blog. Feel much better now.

Its 7 already! A weekend wasted? Well, at least, a good post came out of it. I am heading out to meet my incredibly funny friends, some of whom are stuck in torrential rain.

So, Ta-Ta!

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Filed under Books and other Interests, India

Book Review – Part 1

Been super busy. But, the consolation is that I get time to read during the commute from home to office and vice versa. So, have finished quite a few books in the past few months. So, thought of reviewing some of them.

1. Nehru – The Making Of India, by M.J.Akbar

Very few book do you come around to read will change your whole perception of a grossly misunderstood historical figure. It is even more significant if that individual was the first Prime Minster of your Country.

In one go Jawarharlal Nehru went from being the first PM of independent India to one of the greatest freedom fighters, who gave everything he had to his Country, that he loved dearly and followed values acquired though reason and the basic understanding of the human psyche.

My father never talked of such topics but others around me did and I was thoroughly influenced by part-Right-Wing, part-Ignorant view of Nehru by my peers and elders. After reading this book all that changed, I became more aware of my own History. I became aware of the part of History of my Country that is really relevant to the Country that I call my own and the values it is based on.

The writing of M.J.Akbar is sublime and a joy to read. His anecdotes, irony-filled remarks enrich your understanding of some of the greatest and not-so-great-but-appear-to-be-great beings of that era, but also enriches your language and writing skills.

If you read M.J.Akbar articles and like them, you will love this. If you like to know more about modern India and think your knowledge is insufficient, this is the book for you.

To sum up, you will realize how India’s Constitution is moulded on Nehru’s philosophy and vision, which in turn is partly, but substantially, responsible for everything good that India is today.

4.5/5

Chanakya’s Chant, by Ashwin Sanghi

Well, it was a fun read. But, honestly, I really don’t know or could not make out with certainty how much of the background and circumstances in the story about Chanakya is true.

The book is about two stories, intermittently told, very pacy and intelligently written. One about Chanakya’s path to glory and anothe of a Gangasagar Mishra, from UP, who goes on to become a King Maker in India, much like what Chanakya accomplishes when he installs Chandragupta Maurya to the throne of the Emperor of all of India in some 340 BC, defeating all odds and with some massive brain power. The line between good and evil is very blurry in the story, which is, in a way, nice.

3/5.

Immortals of Meluha, Amish Tripathi

This is one such book which will take you into another World. To be more precise, to ancient India. Well, with some changes, of course.

The book is about Shiva, a tribal-warrior-Chief. Sick of violence among the tribal clans of the area he moves to a Ram Rajya of a city, literally, called Meluha. But, he is drawn upon to fight evil there too in the form of the supposedly notorious Suryavanshis but, in quite a surprise, realizes that the only fault of the Suryavanshis is that they are different, which is symbolic of the divide among Human Beings in the real world; the hate of ‘the other’.

The concept is great. But, the writing is not. I don’t know if it is just me because I found the word ‘Flank’ repeated too many times in the book. Apparently, the word is a hot favourite for the author who uses it in every other chapter.

And, guess what! Karan Johar, the simple-minded fellow, is making a movie out of it with Hrithik Roshan in the lead. I can’t tell you how much perfectly Hrithik Roshan fits into the character of Shiva. While the story is too slow, the fictional characters Tripathi builds up are very powerful and potent; and they stay with you long after you have finished reading the book.

While it was a decent read, the movie based on it has the potential to be really good, that is of course Karan Johar has nothing to with the Direction aspect of the movie, and also the scripting part. Karan, dude, it’s not supposed to be a chick-flick, so better you stay out of it. I hope a good director is roped in.

I almost forgot to mention, this is part of a trilogy. Anxiously waiting to read the second book of the trilogy.

I would give 3/5, purely for the brilliant concept.

Okay, that’s it from me for this post. There a lot of books I’ve read but not reviewed for a variety of reasons. Next time, maybe.

Happy reading.

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Filed under About Anoop, Books and other Interests, Gandhi, Geo-Politics, India's Freedom Struggle