Monthly Archives: March 2012

HomeShop 18 Book Giveaway

Hello Everyone! So Homeshop18 has been very kind in giving away a book through TheHungryReader. Yay! All you have to do is leave a comment mentioning your favourite book. That is all. One lucky winner would be able to pick up a book on their website of their choice upto 300 INR.

This is a part of their #ReturnABook campaign.

The contest is on till Friday – the 30th of March 2012.

This contest is open to Indian Residents only.

You can email me at for any queries.

Book Review: Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo

Title: Behind the Beautiful Forevers
Author: Katherine Boo
Publisher: Penguin Books India
Imprint: Hamish Hamilton
ISBN: 9780670086092
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 280
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

When I first started reading, “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo, it didn’t strike me as a different book. I mean I had read the similar story in Suketu Mehta’s, “Maximum City” (Honestly I didn’t think much of it), though it was in brief. It was still more or less the same – Mumbai and its dichotomy (like every major cosmopolitan), its slums, its smells and sights and the hidden side to the city, which we ignore or pretend doesn’t exist most of the time. Then what made this book so different that I finished in almost a day?

The difference lies in the way Katherine Boo has written the book – from providing a perspective on the what, the why and the how to experiences that will sometimes warm the heart and sometimes break it, knowing that this is the condition of a city that never sleeps. Having said that, there were also gaps in the book – the way it jumped from one story to another and how that was written almost in a haste which at times provided some disconnect with the overall structure.

The book, “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” is essentially about “Annawadi” – a slum in Mumbai next to the International airport and close to the luxury hotels there (again another facet of the caste and class division). The Annawadians are full of hope as the Indian Economy rises without any realization that nothing is going to change for them. The parity will exist if not widen itself. The under-city and over-city are explicitly portrayed in the book and that makes the reader think: Is this my city? Or could this be any booming cosmopolitan in the nation? The story (I call it that because it reads like one at times) is essentially about these people and their lives – some more and some less.

Abdul, a teenager sees a future beyond counting the recyclable garbage that the city’s rich throw away. He is quick at sorting waste. He is almost there in fulfilling his family’s dreams of moving out of the slum. Asha, a woman of the world and witty at the same time, opts for a different way out of this misery: political corruption. She wants her daughter to become the first female graduate of the slum and will not stop to make that dream come true. And just when all seems to fall in place, there is global recession and Abdul is falsely accused of a terrorist attack and the dream-world they are hoping has crashed to pieces.

Boo’s writing is stark and in your face. There is no pretense and cannot be when one is writing life-stories. The people in the book may seem stereotypical but they aren’t. Each of them is as different as you and I and with their own story to tell, which Boo captures beautifully. There are times when she appears disjointed in the book and fragmented, however in the larger scheme of the plot and writing, the reader tends to easily overlook that.

“Behind the Beautiful Forevers” is a depiction of our times and where we live. It represents the societies we create and how we take advantage of those to fulfill our selfish ends. The book removes masks that we sometimes wear and compels readers to take a better look at their worlds and surroundings. A disturbing read at times, however quite stark and impactful in its essence.

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Book Review: Coltrane by Paolo Parisi

Title: Coltrane
Author: Paolo Parisi
Publisher: Jonathan Cape
ISBN: 978-0224094108
Genre: Graphic Novels, Biography
Pages: 128
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

John Coltrane is probably one of the best saxophone players who ever lived and performed and yet when music enthusiasts speak of Jazz they conveniently forget him. I had almost forgotten how much I loved his music till I started reading the very-well capsulated and drawn graphic novel of his life by Paolo Parisi.

I believe that if you are setting to capture an artist’s life through a graphic novel, it isn’t enough sometimes. You need more than graphics to do justice to the artist and his or her life. However, while reading Coltrane, I did not feel that way at all. Paolo Parisi has done a great job of telling the story of one of the greatest Jazz musicians beautifully – from his humble beginnings of a deprived childhood in North Carolina to his journey and stumbles along the way in form of drugs, a broken marriage and a successful second one to his solo recordings and his name high up there with the legends such as Miles Davis (who he started working with coincidentally). The book but obviously ends with his death due to liver cancer.

All of this in the book is layered with quotes from interviews and articles with Coltrane, Malcolm X (in whose movement Coltrane was highly involved), to the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church by the Klu Klux Clan (to whose victims Coltrane then dedicated a song).

The book worked for me as I wanted to know more about Coltrane’s life. About the artist who constantly broke boundaries in his music and was not afraid to experiment. Parisi through his writing bows to that musical genius by converting his life to a graphic novel. Or maybe at some level it is easier and more accessible for people who don’t have the patience to read biographies anymore. The book interestingly is also divided into four parts that mirror Love Supreme’s four parts: Acknowledgment, Resolution, Pursuance and Psalm.

At the end of it all, Parisi provides a simple and yet emotional insight to one of the greatest artists’ who ever lived. Read this one while listening to Coltrane’s music. It has quite a mesmerizing effect. Here is Love Supreme for you:

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Penguin Spring Fever : Twenty Five Years of Penguin India

Hello everyone! Penguin India has completed 25 years of glorious publishing years and to commemorate this, they are hosting the Spring Fever festival in Delhi till the 25th of March 2012, covering all facets of art from Books to Readings to Conversations to Poetry, Music and Performances.

Authors such as Amit Chaudhuri, Madhuri Banerjee, Vikram Seth, Rahul Bhattacharya and Gurcharan Das will be in conversation sharing their insights on topics of conversation and debates.

Please find the schedule given below for tomorrow:

20th of March 2012: The Ultimate Movie Quiz with a special round with the ultimate and superstar Rajinikanth!

Indian Cinema turns 100! This is at 7 pm at the Amphitheatre, India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi.

On-Spot registrations start at 6:45 pm