Colorful Notions: The Roadtrippers 1.0


booking-page-1Blurb: Would you give up your high-paying job and comfortable personal life to drive ten thousand kilometres across India? Just for fun!

Three twenty-something’s dare to do just that! While the two boys take turns to drive, the girl gives voice-over as they record their entire journey on a handy cam. Ab, Sasha and Unnati are ordinary youngsters, rendered special by the feat they accomplish. As they recount their adventures, I crave to live their journey. They look at each other with a glint in their eyes, as if refurbishing those memories while narrating their spooky time at Bhangarh Fort, strange escapades at Wagah Border and Sundarbans, car breakdowns, wild animals, near-death experiences and highway robbers! It’s nothing less than crazy.

I doubted if I’d ever have the gumption to create such experiences. So I did the next best thing – I penned a book about them and their road trip.

Colorful Notions is a journey of three young hearts on the Indian terrain and into the inner recesses of their souls, giving a new perspective to relationships, love and life.

The very first line from the blur of this book had me typing out a quick acceptance to review this book! And why not?? I have dreamed of something like this for most of my life and continue to do so! In my dreams I  explore the temples around India and their secrets or live in the Tuscan countryside, doing organic farming, creating recipes, reading and writing. Then the bubble pops (or the phone rings) and I am bang in the midst of the challenges that my mediocre life offers!  And I have never been happier while typing out a review for a book than I am now. The book met my expectations of going on an amazing journey across the length and breadth of India from the comfort of my own couch!

Three friends, Abhay (Ab), Sashank (Sasha) and Unnati (Unns) embark on a soul-searching road trip to about 25 places scattered over the wonder that is India. Each have their own reason (or not) to set on this arduous journey that would test their physical and emotional states of mind. Abhay wants to move away from his troubled past and a strained relationship with his parents. Having nothing to hold him back, he conceptualizes the trip and the idea to make a movie about the trip. His bestie and loyal sidekick Sasha, cannot help but join his buddy while escaping an over protective family and the pressures of having to conform to societal norms, in order to live it up without being judged. They convince Sasha’s girl friend, an assistant RJ who is a bit clueless about where her life is headed, to join them on their journey while also being the voice over of their movie. Friendship and love is challenged as they spend time in close quarters. True feelings make their appearances as jealousies are revealed, while emotional baggages threaten to destroy what could be beautiful and love is lost and found. What happens at the end of the journey? Do they find what they set out to discover? How does this trip change them?

From this point on it is a fun-filled emotional roller coaster as they try to spot tigers at the Corbett National park, take a dip in the Ganges at Haridwar, battle altitude sickness at Ladakh /Leh, cause a security threat at the Wagah border, chase and be chased by ghosts at Bhangarh fort at Alwar, get caught in the marshlands and quick-sands at Runn of Kutch and finally encounter a man-eater at the Sunderbans while setting foot on Bangladeshi borders and even obtain enlightenment at Gaya! If this is not enough, you will get to read about the culinary delight that is India, as your senses take in the description of delicacies like the momos at Ladakh, Hyderbadi biryanis, Lucknowi Kebabs, Punjabi chicken, Goan seafood, Udupi cuisine and of course Idli, sambar and chutney and other rice delicacies from my very own Tamil Nadu!

The language is wonderfully simple and immediately draws you in as the fourth member of this motley group! The chapter  where the group spends a night at a haunted fort will have you sitting at the end of your reading chair and at some point even send a shock down your spine! The book manages to impart some simple lessons while not being preachy. Some of the chapters will have you thinking about the life we live, our expectations from it and our perspectives on happiness… For example the following lines about how one feels on a road trip and why we can’t try living our lives the same way left me in a contemplative mood for sometime.

…there comes a point in your life when you leave your past behind too far and the future seems too distant. You start breathing the air that is around you at the moment,you think about the place you are currently at, and the meal you will have next. That is when you will truly start living in the present.

There are more gems scattered about the pages of this book. Words that will touch our heart and if we are lucky even sow seeds for personal growth.  I personally loved reading about the Lama’s speech and the events that followed after, which kind of re-establishes the fact that when you want something and go all out to do it, the universe will make it happen.

The cover of the book with its water painting effect is quite appealing and the title that has a version attached to it, makes me wonder if there will be a sequel.

Let me finish my saying this: If you want to hear stories about a jungle Goddess called “Banobibi” and learn all about listening to your inner voice (which seems to be the core concept of his book ) from a Lama, no matter what age you are this book is for you, it is for the adventurer in you and more essentially the dreamer in you.

Now, if only I could give up my day job….. 🙂

I won a review copy from The Tales Pensieve as part of Reviewers Programme. Register on #TTP for lots of #book fun and activities.

Matches Made in Heaven


I have been following The Book Club for some time now to get my fix of the latest happenings on the Indian Literary scene and appreciate their efforts when it comes to promoting new authors. I received a copy of Matches Made in Heaven by Sundari Venkataraman as a part of their blog tours initiative. I managed to finish reading the book within few days of receiving it but never quite found the time to post my thoughts about it. Here is a part of the blurb about the book..

Image Courtesy: Sundari Venkatraman

Image Courtesy: Sundari Venkatraman

A collection of 13 romantic short stories based in India; a culture rich country steeped in tradition. Inspiration struck me from newspaper articles, TV shows and hearing people talk. The short stories are based on that fact that arranged marriages thrive right alongside love matches in India

Though inspired by real life incidents, the author has thankfully chosen to leave the negativity, sadness or even boredom associated with many of those events and concentrated on bigger things like love and romance – we could all use tons of this in our lives 🙂  Using real life, Sundari has created  some sweet stories that many would love to believe and experience. Here are some of the stories that I enjoyed reading…

The book starts with “Groomnapped” where Ameya plans his own kidnapping with some help from his friend, in order to marry Surekha, the girl of his choice.  Things take a hilarious turn when his friend is the one who kidnapped and held captive in Surekha’s house. He is attended by Surekha’s pretty younger sister who thinks she is looking after her brother-in-law! In case you haven’t guessed it, read the book to know what happens next.

This was followed by “Beauty is But Skin deep” that throws light on the pet peeve of the Indian majority – fair skin! Lives are destroyed and people are made to feel small due to their skin shades…all is not well in the world of an Indian, if one doesn’t have fair skin and this is only accentuated in the case of women! Love knows no religions or boundary but what about skin tone? Read this to believe that love can transcend this as well.

The story that I particularly enjoyed was “Rahat-Mili“, whose subject dealt with love that transcends lifetimes. This story was very apt for a book titled “Matches Made in Heaven”. In fact I wish this has been the first story of the book…It would have been a great way to make an impression on the reader.

Though a pretty clichéd name for a dating agency, “The Red Rose Dating Agency” tells the story about a match maker who finds a match, but only this time the match maker is her father.  This was a fun read!

The other stories that make up this light book provide ample fodder for a romantic at heart. The author’s language is simple and her ability to tell stories – great!.

Read more about the inspiration behind each of these stories here

Check out the authors blog and more about her works at sundarivenkatraman.blogspot.com

The Prophecy of the Trivine


A book review that I did early last year, but got published only by the end of the year….I had to share it out here anyway.  The book was a very different read for me. Here is the blurb:

An emissary of an advanced alien race travels to the Earth to undertake responsibility of an experiment that has gone out of control. The outcome of this fateful experiment, which was conceived millions of years ago by her species, now rests in her hands. As she prepares to deliver her final judgment, she comes across three young men in a sacred forest who change her life forever.

These three men – a scientist, a hacker and an artist – happen to take refuge in that forest, trying to escape from the oddities of their own unfair lives. Struggling with their dreams and demons, they begin to explore the dark and paranormal behavior of the forest by forging a companionship. From the rare flora and fauna breathing alive on the ground to the deadly wide expanse of the whimsy black sky, everything they find is yet another puzzle unsolved. 

Little did they know that four of them hold in their hands the future of mankind, and much beyond imagination, they are connected through an ancient Prophecy that was long lost in the sands of time. . .”

Check out the review at: http://thetalespensieve.com/2014/11/bookreview-theprophecyoftrivine/

For more details on the book visit: http://scifinovelist.wix.com/theprophecyoftrivine

The Hunt for the Kohinoor


Image Courtesy: World Wide Web

Image Courtesy: World Wide Web

A spine-chilling ninety-six hour hunt through the world’s most dangerous terrain where history collides with gunfire – will Mehrunisa get out of this one alive?

One morning on her way to work, Mehrunisa gets a call that will change her life forever. The truth about her missing father is at her fingertips – but it will take her on the most desperate chase of her lifetime.

A chase that will pit her against hardened Jihadis plotting the deadliest terror attack on India, that will test her mettle against history’s deep secrets, that will teach her that the price of love can mean bloodied hands …

The Hunt for Kohinoor hurtles from from icy Kashmir to snow-clad Hindukush, from the sinister corridors of a military hospital to the warrens of Peshawar, even as the clock counts down to the impending catastrophe.

I was pretty excited when I received an email from the team of Westland publishing asking me if I would be interested to review this book. I had loads of expectations about the book, partly because book 1 of this thriller series “The Taj Conspiracy” was every historical fiction reader’s dream come true. Though I have not read it, I had read a lot about the book that had been #1 on many a reading list and also a best seller for a long time. Here was a female version of Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon and of course India’s answer to Dan Brown along with Ashwin Sanghi!I was in awe of the authors capabilities as a writer even before I read any of her works and was looking forward to reading this one. I am still in awe of Ms. Someshwar’s capabilities as a writer – who wouldn’t love a well researched fast paced plot filled with loads of thrills?? It would be an action fan’s dream come true!

Wait a minute! Did I just say action?? Well, if you got this book expecting historical fiction this time around from this author, then that is where your expectations would fail, just like mine did 😦 I kept flipping the pages with great gusto (and to be honest, the book does promise on this front) but historical facts on the “kohinoor” were minimal…All you get is a load of the diamond’s violent history and how it changed hands through the ages.

Mehr Khosla is emotionally blackmailed to complete a mission handled by her father. She does manage to decipher the details of the mission, using very little knowledge of art and history! Frankly, I felt that this was far too simplified – She walks into an UNESCO un-deducted  and it seems to have no security cams nor guards around the site? I guess I would know only if I visit the place myself, so am going to go along with the plot for now! My point is that an avid reader of this type of genre can probably guess what’s going to happen next.

Maybe, this was intended by the author, as the book does seem to focus more on Mehr’s dad, Harry the “snow leopard” as he is fondly called in RAW circles, his mysterious disappearance from Mehr’s life and his skills and abilities as a spy. Separated for 17 years, only to be reunited again in strange circumstances, will father and daughter still have the chance to make up for lost time?

Honestly, the hero of this book was “Harry” and the other male protagonists like Mehr’s special friend R P Singh,  her friend and partner on the mission Raghav and the director of the Pakistan special desk at RAW, Jag Mishra. Keeping this is mind, the cover of the book is close to perfect!

While reading this book, I felt like I was in the middle of the movie “Vishwaroopam” ; surrounded by Talibs, Afghans, American soldiers, CIA and RAW agents on all sides. A bomb going off here, a woman being put in her place there, trekking mountainous terrains and everything else that an Indian reader who is familiar with the movie and readers that have the knowledge of the terrorist crisis that plagues the world, can think of.

The book does serve to educate anyone not aware of the history of the Taliban and why some of them do what they do. I loved reading about the personal nature of the “Pashtun” and their cultures. Only a few weeks ago, a fellow passenger in a flight that I was on mentioned to me that “Pashtuns” were an emotional lot….and after reading this book I kind of agree. A very poignant line in this regard from the book, a reference to an old age Afghan saying explains it all – “With Love you could persuade a Pathan to got o Hell, but by force, you cannot even take them to Heaven

The motto that Mehr bases her mission is derived from the tag line of a war where a contingent of 21 Sikhs guarded the fort of Saraghai against a 10,000 strong Pathan army. How did they do it? They just willed themselves to win! “Nischay Kar Apni Jeet Karo” translated as “Determine to win”. I think that this is what Ms. Someshwar as done with this book! A great read for action fans and those that enjoy spy and war stories….

I wanted to leave you with some choice lines from the book that offer food for thought, especially during election season! The paragraph clearly describes the way our country works and why it is so vulnerable to outsiders who want to covet it. Yet another indirect attempt by a writer urging us to vote properly. Was it intended?? I am not sure but it does make a lot of sense.

Abu wasn’t the enabler, it was these politicians who were the real handlers, But for the permanent need to line their pockets, his task would be tougher. But then the biggest enemy of this country was its leaders. And where did they come from? Not outer space – they sprang from within the people and this entire infidel country was destined to ruin.”…..There was more, but I will stop here and let you process!

Happy Reading!

About the author Manreet Sodhi Someshwar

Author of Earning the Laundry Stripes, The Long Walk Home and The Mehrunisa Trilogy. The First Book of the trilogy was the National best seller “The Taj Conspiracy” (AC Nielsen Scan) and was the Flipkart Editorial Pick of 2012.

Her latest novel ‘The Hunt For Kohinoor’, the 2ndbook of ‘The Mehrunisa Trilogy’ is creating a lot of buzz too. Recently, Mr. Anubhav Sinha, Director Ra-one and Producer Gulaab Gang went on record to say that Priyanka Chopra would be the best to play Mehrunisa [the central character in the book] & media from Canada to Pakistan, not to mention India, splashed the news. HT, DNA, Zoom, Bollywoodlife & many more [YouTube Link: http://bit.ly/bollywoodlife ] headlined the same. Even Priyanka Chopra posted the same on Facebook.

An award-winning writer (Commonwealth Broadcasting Association), and copywriter (Creative Abbey), her blog-The Long Walk Home-(http://bit.ly/ManreetBlog) is popular as well. Her skillful writing and story-telling has caught the attention of critics, with Khushwant Singh calling her a “literary star on the horizon.” For more info http://bit.ly/ManreetWebsite | http://bit.ly/ManreetFB

Love is Vodka – A Shot Ain’t Enough


"Ever since I started deciphering the meaning of the word LOVE, it confused me. For some obscure reason to me it was just another overused, overrated and much abused word. Also the more I experienced it, the concept of spending ones life with just one man appeared so boring." ~~Page 4 Image Courtesy: Internet

“Ever since I started deciphering the meaning of the word LOVE, it confused me. For some obscure reason to me it was just another overused, overrated and much abused word. Also the more I experienced it, the concept of spending ones life with just one man appeared so boring.” ~~Page 4
Image Courtesy: Internet

Being a love child; Moon is anything but a conventional teen. With a leading TV news anchor as her mother, an aspiring entrepreneur as her boy friend, the word LOVE baffles her. The whole idea of having one partner and love being eternal intrigues her.

Life turns upside down when she falls for her mother’s boyfriend. Destiny further complicates things by blessing her with a mega modelling assignment and turning her famous overnight. A war between her head & heart exposes her to various hues of love.

Will she decipher the true meaning of love? Embark on an exhilarating rendezvous with Moon and discover love like never before

Of late, I have been reading loads of books that have been heavy on relationships and emotional quotients and wanted to take a break and read something as light as possible. When I found this book on BlogAdda with the interesting blurb and even more interesting cover it seemed like the ideal choice – a chick-lit that promised some light reading and some smiles. Well, the book was definitely light and did make me smile but it also made me squirm quite a bit [could be because I think I am a bit old fashioned!] but more on that later.

Can love be found with just one person? What is the difference between love and loyalty and why are the two connected especially when “Love is all about freedom whereas loyalty is just another form of slavery.~Page 6

A story about finding true love and how one needs to sample several “the ones” before finding the actual “one” (see inset above). And here comes the comparison to Vodka – a single shot is never enough to enjoy the heady feeling that the drink promises! The book has been narrated from the point of view of a nineteen year old girl with a unique name – Moon. With a powerful single mom who has given her everything that money can buy, Moon comes across as one of those confused kids who have everything in life but don’t feel quite settled. These kids seem to be looking for that one particular thing that could anchor them somewhere with someone – that crazy little thing called “Love”. Those of us who have heard of or seen kids of rich and powerful parents who don’t have much time for their kids can easily identify with the kind of rebel that Moon is.The plot is fairly simple – it details the evolution of Moon from a lost and spoilt teenager to that of a mature individual who finally finds her true love and accpets herself for what she is through a journey of bad affairs, jealous boyfriends and a strained relationship with her mother that mends gradually through the course of the book.

Things that baffled me about the main protagonist:

In spite of having a steady boy friend Moon is still on the prowl for “the one” and in the process falls for the 48 year old boy friend of her mom! Now, this I really didn’t get; only because kids these days are much smarter and mature than to get into a messy affair this complicated, especially when they seem to have the whole world on platter! Especially when they are 19! Maybe if Moon were in her mid 20’s it would have made more sense (or not!). The chapters describing her relationship with “D” and their amorous escapades put me off!(Recall my reference to what made me squirm!) And it just got worse because she happened to be cheating on her steady boyfriend whom she treated as an on demand chauffeur and a walking personal bank account whose job was to swipe his credit card for her whenever she required.

What are we trying to teach young Indian girls in post independent India? This does not make much sense when women are trying to break away from all shackles and establish themselves as individuals in their own right nor is it correct to make it look like men can be treated this way. I am not saying that the author is trying to do this but then when such statements are repeated often, that is the idea many readers would get.

Somewhere along the plot, the readers find Moon gradually getting addicted to alcohol! First she sneaks into her mother bar and pours herself a shot and this gradually becomes a habit. Soon she is sitting around in pubs, nursing a glass of the same (seems like a scene out of Sex and the City) but then the age of the protagonist doesn’t really make drinking look cool and stylish even if she is a model! I am sure there are many models don’t drink at every given opportunity. Thank God! she doesn’t become an alcoholic but all the tell-tale signs of the same are present – I wish this could have been handled differently..

Something that I appreciate about this book is that a male author has been able to reflect the turmoils and feelings of a teenage girl  well. I havent not read chick-lits by any male authors till date!

On the whole, a quick and light entertaining read if you have a few hours on hand….I rate this book 3/5

Leaving you with some lines from the book that make you think as a person and also if you happen to be an Indian woman immersed in the midst of the myriads of Indian culture, societies and practices :

  • Why can’t we all exist the way we like, without catering to anyone’s expectations, beliefs or value systems?
  • Why can’t there be freedom of choice in life?I mean, share when you want, close the doors when you don’t want to.
  • We spend so much time socializing, putting our best foot forward and trying real hard to make people like us, to garner social acceptability. In the process, we clog our organizers with birthdays, and anniversaries, just trying to show others how much we care. All this to win some so called friends.

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers.</a> Participate now to get free books!

A Maverick Heart: Between Love and Life


Image Courtesy: Internet

Image Courtesy: Internet

When people of similar frequencies come together – output is not a simple sum of individual work, but exponential. In science we term this phenomenon as resonance. 

Output at this stage is beyond any logical limit.

Three young kids, with different family backgrounds and outlook meet during their graduation days at IIT-Bombay campus and become close friends. Although, individually
they are in sync, but the same is not true for their interaction with the world.

How will their relation withstand the conflict of family and society pressure?

How do their characters shape out, as they traverse from an educational environment through the corporate world to the realm of the social-political world?

Inspired by the real events across the globe from the last decade, Ravindra Shukla brings you the characters based story – struggle and triumphs of a young generation
and their relevance in the current socio-eco-political era.

This a story of 3 bright minds that meet at IIT, their life at campus and beyond. Rahul, Richita or Richie(as she is fondly called) and Neerav are best buds on campus. They share most of their waking moments together, bonding over cups of “chai” and cafeteria food. Rahul and Richita fall in love and harbor dreams of getting married while Neerav is their pillar of support.

All is well until things start falling apart ; Rahul wants to contribute to the society and joins an NGO working with government to help out some local tribals. As his involvement in the movement to be a part of something noble starts taking priority, his relationship with Richie starts to suffer as she is trapped in the net of her parents antiquated thoughts and ideas. Neerav continues with the flow of life and soon all of them find themselves in different parts of the world pursuing their ambitions and careers.

Do all their dreams come true? What happens few years down the line? Does each one find what he/she are looking for in life? This book is essentially the tale of their lives on campus and beyond, their urge to do good with their lives, to contribute to society as they battle the realities of life while trying hard not to compromise upon their core personalities and values.

Since I was not really sure how to express my thoughts about this really different book, I decided to go the simple way and list down what appealed to me and what did
not about the book.

Characterization

The characters of Rahul and Richita have been beautifully fleshed out. There is a lot of background on why they are the way there ; Rahul is bright and is compared to the mathematical genius Ramanujan. His priorities are never money or fame or contributing to India’s brain drain as it is with most that graduate from prestigious institutions like teh IITs and IIMs. His focus to do something of value for the society and the country even at personal costs makes his character one of a kind. For those of you who have read Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead”, Rahuls character is close to a desi version of Howard Roark. I never imagined that I would comes across a character like this in contemporary Indian literature.

Richita is from an influential family with a disciplinarian father and a neutral mother. Values like hard work and discipline have been drilled into her personality by her father who is the greatest influence in her life. Her struggle to find a balance between Rahuls ways and ideas for life and that of her father’s who believes that Richita should marry the boy that they choose has been detailed remarkably well. Most women who go through the act of “convincing” their parents that the man of their choice is good “husband” material will immediately identify with this

Neerav from a rich business family does not seem to have too many planned goals and objectives but just goes with the flow. In fact his character was not really detailed in depth compared to the first two so I could not understand the relationship between what he achieved vis-a-vis what he wanted to achieve in life

Justice has been done to two other supporting characters that are equally important to this book, Deepak [Richitas husband] and Yeren [Neeravs business partner. Deepak is ruthlessly ambitious and lives by the saying “the means justify the end” and Yeren is a current generation entrepreneur with capitalist ideas who is trying to create business empire. I particularly liked the fact that she even learns Hindi in order to work better with her Indian counterparts

The book and its chapters

Reading the book felt like reading someones journal or blog. The chapters had simple and plain titles like “Campus academic life”, “Middle class family conflicts “, “Richita and Mother Interactions”, “Silicon Valley VS Wall Street” etc., to name a few. This kind of demarcation sets this book part from the usual books by Indian authors we read these days

The Language was simple though I couldn’t shake off the feeling that some of the dialogues just seem to have been translated from real life to text as is. Some chapters were excessively descriptive and could have been edited out [for e.g. cafeteria conversations between students, philosophical discussions] and these could have been toned down a bit. In spite of some grammatical errors [E.g. Sentences like ‘Do not you understand’]and hiccups in the flow in the initial parts of the book, the last half of the book more than made up for this. Similarly the book dragged for the first half while the last half started becoming a page turner.

The cover is not really impressive and I felt that it does not fall in line with the theme of the book with the exception of the shadows of 3 people that look masculine while the plot has a female maverick! In fact when I saw this book for the first time online, I was going to give it a pass. Then I happened to read the blurb which changed my mind. So good blurb! 🙂

The Plot is interesting and can be compared to a series of dots that connect 3 lives across multiple years and different geographies and time zones in the midst of various life events. It is interesting to note the different characters [essential to the plot of course] come and in and leave in tandem with the plot much like real life.

Size – The book is a whopping 330+ pages[which I felt a tad too long for a book of this genre] and sometimes you will wonder when it will end!But then you will keep going 🙂

Comparisons to “The Fountainhead” – Now, this is my personal thought on the subject. I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between Rahul and Howard Roark especially when it came to their ability to not compromise on anything! They seem to be living in what could be considered as an “utopian existence” to others…. Both want to do what they think is correct without a care for the thoughts of society and its ways and many a time this comes at a personal cost. Howard looses the love of his life the first time around and so does Rahul. There are many such parallels but I will stop, as I might give away parts of the book!

Final VerdictA very unique book brimming with human emotions, struggle of thoughts and the actions they motivate. A book whose pages reflect the different shades of life and the sincerity of author while trying to paint the lives of his protagonists. A read that may drag here and there but if you love campus life and miss it, enjoy reading about life and the various games that destiny plays or intrigued by philosophy then this book should not be missed

About the author:

Ravindra Shukla is a graduate of IIT-Bombay. He works for IBM in emerging technology and business analytics in IT software technology. His professional experience includes working with consulting firms – PWC and IBM in USA for 15+ years. He is a member of the Film Writers Association, Mumbai. His interest includes – writing fiction, literature and movie scripts apart from sports, movie and travelling across the globe.

Thank You The Readers Cosmos for sending me a review copy of this book!

This book  is a part of The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program. To get free books visit thereaderscosmos.blogspot.com

Keep the Change


Image Courtesy: Internet

Image Courtesy: Internet

Can the conservative, curd-rice eating Damayanthi become a cool, corporate babe? From 32 Amman Kovil Street to 124 Pine crest [minus the pines of course 🙂 ] 

The story of a good girl gone bad? Its more like the narrative of a good girl gone wild!! At least till she gets to her senses! The “Dear Diary” kind of narrative has been done to death in many novels (remember princess diaries) but this narration gets a new twist when conservative girl  from Chennai, Damayanthi or ‘D’,  who lives her daily life being the quint-essential boring good girl (so good, that her only vice is probably reading “Vogue magazine) writes to her imaginary friend  Victoria, an English doll gifted to her when she was a little girl,  yearns to break free of her life in Amman Kovil street and dreams of being a hi-flyer who lives life wearing fancy designer clothes and shoes with multiple men fawning all over her. But alas she is stuck with a bad horrorscope; what with Mars being in the 7th house her parents can never seem to find a good guy for her and even her youngest cousin has got hitched way before her with a spouse in the states with babies to boot!! Finding herself as a lonely maid at 25(?) “D” decides to take charge of her life when nothing seems to be going anywhere and that “nothing” does not seem to be in a hurry 🙂

In true “chick lit” style she lands a job as an assistant manager at a bank based in Mumbai and much to her mothers horror takes off to the foreign land to live the life of a modern city babe ala “Sex and the City” making new friends like her colleagues like Jimmy and CG, trying to hoist her flag in the corporate world while facing competition from a pretty size 0 flat mate, who pretty much hates “D” and looks down on her curd rice and pickle eating ways and trying to resist bad boy Rahul and his Casanova ways!

My thoughts:

The book was a pretty easy read – most pages had me laughing my head off!! Being a Chennai girl with stars in her eyes and dreams to keep me going I could identify with most of what “D” was going through. However the idea of “D” and her family as painted by the author for a novel released in 2010 seems a little out dated – these days there aren’t too many CA rank holders who do not possess a cell phone (even our maids and  veggie wallahs have cell phones!) or work at firms that don’t have even a single computer (seriously an accounting firm without  accounting software?? – a bit too backward I say) If they are rank holders they would definitely be gobbled up by MNCs and settle down for fat pay checks and generally make life miserable for their colleagues! Neither do such girls actually go to browsing centers to check their mails! This seems more like what the girls in the early 90’s would do and well, “Vogue” magazine was definitely not in vogue in the early 90’s in Chennai! And the idea of Chennai being “oppressive” – again that’s just nuts considering that Chennai has been rated as the top most state to live in a recent poll conducted by a leading news paper!

If you can forget these pre-historic notions about Chennai and the lives of its citizens, the novel is fun! I love the way the author has captured the rigors of arranged marriages. This I can personally vouch for! Many of us (Chennai gals or not) would have met the cheap skates and mommas boys that “D” meets! The author is also bang on when it comes to conservative women getting make overs when they get into  professional roles that they perceive would rescue them from their monotonous lives
The author has also done a good job describing the way most corporate managements work and how those that take up fancy titles and roles seem quite lost in their jobs, not knowing exactly what it is that they are doing as they morph into specimens that belt out swears and “F” bombs to look and sound cool. [You can tell I have experience dealing with such folks :)]

Also somewhere along the book, “D” just comes across as desperate – desperate for a boy friend, desperate to gel in a corporate crowd, desperate to look good, desperate for this and desperate for that – just DESPERATE!! And this desperateness just gets a bit repetitive! “D” is just a a confused girl who is not sure what she wants, but she wants it right away much to her own chargin and those around her.  Towards the end of her “Dear Vic” entries she resists a bad boy, makes a hip girlfriend and hopefully (?) finds her professional calling thanks to her good pals Jimmy and CG…thank God!

To summarize, a great book with a equally good cover and excerpt to match – a funny read, one that will make you forget your blues