Daily Archives: February 22, 2012

Book Review: The Habit of Love by Namita Gokhale

Title: The Habit of Love
Author: Namita Gokhale
Publisher: Penguin India
ISBN: 978-0-143-41772-9
Genre: Short Stories
Pages: 184
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

The Habit of Love by Namita Gokhale is a collection of thirteen stories that reflect and internalize the lives of women. Of course one cannot generalize anything basis these stories, however yes they provide the necessary framework needed to understand the environment around us. Some women do not belong to the present, some are parts of today and now and some are just wanderers.

Namita Gokhale speaks to you through her characters and stories. She wants you to believe and there are times you do, only wanting more. I wished at times, that may be the stories would continue and lengthen to a novella or so, because some of them had that potential. The women in these stories are not extraordinary. They do not take life-changing decisions, or change the world. What they do instead is connect with the reader and make them see things and situations a little differently.

The stories are well laid out. From an older woman’s infatuation with a younger man to the messenger swan narrating a story of doomed lovers, Nala and Damayanti, the stories capture the essence without becoming pedantic or superficial. The profundity of the stories are revealed through what goes on in the minds of the women, the not-so-quiet lives lead and the uneasiness with which their lives go haywire sometimes and sometimes are in control.

My favourite story in the entire collection has to be the three-parts, “Grand Hotel”, where each part is unique and different, like a quilt of different patches and merging in the end. The Habit of Love is different from her earlier books, which were flippant and funny. This one is serious and makes you think a little. The woman’s heart is not laid bare and at the same time there is enough and more of a glimpse to make readers wonder. The writing strikes you in a couple of places and in some it seems a little hurried, however it is a great read for a summer afternoon.

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Book Review: The Extras by Kiran Nagarkar

Title: The Extras
Author: Kiran Nagarkar
Publisher: 4th Estate, Harper Collins
ISBN: 978-93-5029-204-4
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 467
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

Kiran Nagarkar according to me has somehow always been under the microscopic view of readers and reviewers. May be it has to do with the way he writes and concocts themes and ideas, but one thing is for sure, there is never a dull moment in his books. I got hooked on to his books, like any other teenager (then) with Ravan and Eddie. Ravan and Eddie (though according to me was loosely based on, “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving) was a delight to read. The intricate moments of post-independent India was not hidden. The slums, the chawls, the abuses and the interwoven plots were all there – almost like a nice stew, boiling slowly, served to perfection. Ravan and Eddie was published in 1994 and now after eighteen years, there comes a sequel to it, titled, “The Extras”.

The Extras spans the lives of Ravan and Eddie as adults, in the big bad city of Bombay. I love how the title on the cover reads, “The Extras – Starring Ravan and Eddie”, with a very 70’s film poster like visual. The story of course takes on eighteen years from where it ended in the earlier book. Ravan and Eddie are adults, striving to make something out of them in the big, bad world and aspire to be actors. Bollywood is the seductress and they are easily seduced. Ravan is a taxi driver and Eddie is a bouncer-cum-bartender. They want it all – fame, money, easy rise from their chawl existence to the skyscrapers. At the heart of this, are their complicated love stories. Ravan who is in love with Eddie’s sister (yes that’s the one twist in the tale). Eddie on the other hand has to battle with both families to obtain the love of his life in the Anglo-Indian Belle.

That’s the gist of the story. The writing of course cannot be compared to anything else. Kiran Nagarkar has always been a master of his game. From Seven-Sixes are Forty Three to God’s Little Soldier; post-independence blues has always been at the center of his books (except Cuckold which was a Historical Fiction centered book). He knows the pulse of the city and can describe it beautifully. Nothing has changed much, except for the name of the city and a mall or two springing up in the past couple of years, and Mr. Nagarkar knows how to depict the sadness and claustrophobia in his book.

There are so many funny parts as well in the book – sardonic and dark at most times, and in-your-face funny too. Ravan and Eddie as characters evolve a lot more in this book and their motives are clearer. Nagarkar adds more stories to this one, though their families still remain a part and are always in the background. For me, The Extras was like a roller-coaster ride, full of unknown turns and bends. A definite read for all those who want to know Bombay in its early days.

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