Category Archives: Harper Collins India

The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan

The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan Title: The Association of Small Bombs
Author: Karan Mahajan
Publisher: 4th Estate, Harper Collins
ISBN: 9789351777878
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

I finished reading “The Association of Small Bombs” two weeks ago and I am still reeling from its effect. Sometimes you know when you love a book too much and you also know that you can read it fast and finish it but you want it to last longer, so you don’t finish it really fast. Ever get that feeling? Happens to me all the time when I am reading a book I’m really enjoying and that has occurred after a long time with this second novel by Karan Mahajan.

At this point, let me also tell you that I had read and not thought much of Karan’s first book “Family Planning” at the time of reading it (I am being extremely honest. Please don’t kill or hate me for it Karan). I will for sure go back to it after some time. For now, let me share my experience of this literary stunner of a book “The Association of Small Bombs”.

You will one way or the other get the title relation once you read the book, so I will not talk about it. Let me instead go straight to the plot: It all begins with a bombing that takes place in Delhi’s crowded Lajpat Nagar. The year is 1996 and it is not a big bombing. It is a small bombing. Lives are lost – and amongst those lost lives two belong to the Khuranas’ sons Tushar and Nakul. There is also Mansoor; their friend who accompanies them to get the Khuranas’ repaired TV home and while he is alive, he is scarred for the rest of his life by the incident. The book in short may seem about this but there is so much more to it. In fact, there is so much more that I do not know what to include and what to omit from this review.

So I will start with it all. The Khuranas’ live with their guilt for years and Mansoor lives with that terrible memory and how he is physically and emotionally damaged by it. There is also the terrorists’ (so-called) side of the story (which isn’t all that much but when you read it in the context of the plot – it makes so much sense and is needed there). The empathy, the rawness of the writing and above all the precision with which every detail is explained – you cannot help but fall in love with the book.

The book begins in 1996 and ends in 2003 (I assume because there is nothing more after that). Mahajan’s capturing of the seven years throughout the novel and its protagonists (there is more than one) is magnificent and taut. For instance, the relationship between the husband and the wife after the sons’ death is something that I still think of – the edge of the relationship ,the brink of it which they face and sometimes only to go back because there is nowhere else to go. Mahajan is a master of his craft.

I have so much to talk about this book and I know that words will fall short. I will not be able to explain what I felt every time some stunning paragraph or line hit me. A small detail you would have not paid attention to in your daily routine shines in the book. The mere simplicity and elegance of writing is what will make you turn the pages and not stop. I will not be able to put that in words – because you have to feel it as you read and wade through this one – hoping it will not end. All that I can say is: READ THIS BOOK NOW!

Here are some of my favourite parts from the book. There are a lot more but for now I will list these:

“It was as if, having failed to protect them in life, they felt double the responsibility to fulfill their duties in death.”

“The station was so bloated with people that the loss of a few would hardly be tragic or even important”

“The May heat was horrifying, violating the privacy of all things while also forcing you into yourself.”

“She was aware, suddenly, that the death of her children was not a metaphysical event, but a crime. A firecracker set off by uncaring men in a market. She did not trust the government or the courts to do anything.”

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There’s something about you by Yashodhara Lal

Cover Artwork Title: There’s Something About You
Author: Yashodhara Lal
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN: 9789351771999
Genre: Romance, Fiction
Pages: 268
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Fiction is definitely more interesting when you have someone to relate to in the book. Reading Yashodhara Lal’s “There’s something about you” reminded me of the fact that I could still relate to some characters while reading a book. In this case, it was the protagonist Trish, though my life is not as bad, but most aspects I could get. I will get to the story later, but don’t you think of characters time and again after you are done with a book? Don’t they stay with you? When that happens I feel so weird and yet it feels like I have reached home. Now to the book.

“There’s something about you” by Yashodhara Lal is about Trish. She is a twenty-eight year old woman. She is overweight, snarky and single. She is also now jobless. Sahil on the other hand is your almost perfect, thirty-five year old geek who wants her. Trish does not want anyone in her life. Sahil will not give up that easy. That’s when the fun begins and the rollercoaster ride called life has just begun for Trish. Okay so this is the story. It may seem this simple, however it is not. Also, let me add at this point that I enjoyed this book a lot.

The book is a light read. At the same time it speaks of modern relationships and love so accurately that you can almost read your life as you turn the pages or at least some incidents from it. The story is fast-paced and what I liked is that the secondary characters have as much a big role to play as Trish and Sahil.

I normally do not read breezy or so called chick-lit fiction but trust me this book is not that. If anything, then to me it falls in the genre of literary romance and that is a great relief from what gets churned out these days. I would recommend this book to you for a lazy monsoon read and before you know it you would be done with the read and a very satisfying one at that.

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Bedtime Story and Black Tulip by Kiran Nagarkar

Bedtime Story and Black Tulip by Kiran Nagarkar Title: Bedtime Story and Black Tulip
Author: Kiran Nagarkar
Publisher: Harper Collins India
ISBN: 9789351369998
Genre: Drama
Pages: 304
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

From the time I have started reading Kiran Nagarkar’s books, I have wanted to read the banned play, “Bedtime Story”. The play was banned when it first released in 1978 by the Shiv Sena and other fundamentalist parties. It has now been republished by Harper Collins India. For me the motive behind reading this book was only “Bedtime Story”. The screenplay “Black Tulip” did not hold much interest and yet when I started on that one as well, I was completely taken in by both – the difference in both is of another extreme but both are highly satisfying on different levels.

“Bedtime Story” is based on the Mahabharata. It also has a modern angle to it which is riveting, real and quite thought-provoking. The premise of course will not change. However, Nagarkar manages to add elements which are so real even today, after thirty-seven years – the issue of caste, women’s rights, the political warfare, the debate of what’s right and what’s wrong, all of it has not changed at all. This just goes to show the society in which we live. We are a regressive lot and the sooner we admit to that, the better it is for all of us. There is then scope for change, I think. Nagarkar’s writing of “Bedtime Story” is so brutal and real that sometimes I just wanted to shy away from it. The truth, when stabbed always hurts a lot more than it normally would.

“Bedtime Story” is delicious. It is snarky, holds a mirror to all hypocrisy and at the same time communicates what it wants to, without being modest or sugar-coating anything. On the other hand “Black Tulip” – a screenplay, starts off a little bland and then picks up pace. A woman renegade, her boyfriend and a cop in her top form battle against terrorism. The action takes place in the city of Bombay, bringing the screenplay to a brilliant end – with two probable endings actually.

I would highly recommend this book to people who want to read something different – something real and also something imaginary. “Bedtime Story and Black Tulip” together are plays of endurance, of class, society, change and battle in one’s mind, heart and soul. A terrific read.

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Epic Retold: #Mahabharata #TwitterFiction #Bhima #140Characters by Chindu Sreedharan

Epic Retold by Chindu Sreedharan Title:Epic Retold: #Mahabharata #TwitterFiction #Bhima #140Characters
Author: Chindu Sreedharan
Publisher: Harper Collins India
ISBN: 9350293951
Genre: Mythology, Fiction
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

There are now perspectives in mythology. This one’s perspective and that one’s. Maybe as readers we are just too used to such perspectives out in the form of books and what each one has to say about the epics and the lesser-known characters or the more well-known ones. There are different ways and means also to project this – sometimes with illustrations and sometimes through other unique ways of writing. Off late, it is the 140-character stories or through flash-fiction. While I do not read books in the so-called “new formats”, this time around, “Epic Retold: #Mahabharata #TwitterFiction #Bhima #140Characters” by Chindu Sreedharan managed to hold my attention, right from the start to the end.

Initially, the book was difficult to get into. For the life of me, I could not get myself to read a book in the form of tweets with hashtags. It just seemed inappropriate to me. And then as I started turning the pages, I was intrigued and sucked in so to say in the story. The difference in this format is that you as a reader feel that all the action is happening live, in front of you, when of course you know that it has been thousands of years since those events occurred.

Bhima has to me always been a fascinating character. He is strong. He is abled. He is also quite a mush-pot, from what mythology has to depict. At the same time, he is also the one who can snap the neck of an opponent in less than a minute. There is a lot going on with this character from the Mahabharata and yet the only brothers we ever know or speak of are Yudhistar or Arjuna. The other three are almost forgotten, which is not the case when it comes to this book.

Chindu Sreedharan tells the Mahabharata from Bhima’s perspective and through tweets. The book is written in an easy-to-read manner and does not just skim through the details. It might seem that way because of the format, but the format also works for the book because it is not lengthy, nor does it put too much pressure on the reader.

“Epic Retold” may just be one of its kind of book in a format that will work for more books to come. I enjoyed it a lot and if you are looking for a book that is mythological in nature, but with a different spin to it, then I recommend this one. A short read but highly satisfying.

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Bloodline Bandra by Godfrey Joseph Pereira

Bloodline Bandra by Godfrey Joseph Pereira Title: Bloodline Bandra
Author: Godfrey Joseph Pereira
Publisher: Harper Collins India
ISBN: 9789351364429
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 264
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Being a Bombay boy, I could not help but read, “Bloodline Bandra”. I had to read it for the nuances, for the smells, the language, the food, the culture of a subset and to relive Bandra, as it is already dead from what I knew of it, a couple of years ago. “Bloodline Bandra” made it come alive for me in more than one way. Maybe that is why it is so close to me. Maybe that is why every Bombay book is close to me. I do not know about the Mumbai books though. I never bothered reading them anyway, except for Mumbai Fables, which is simply spectacular.

“Bloodline Bandra” is about an entire culture that disappeared somewhere or it was made to disappear given the conditions of the world we live in. Godfrey’s Bandra is a Bandra that exists in most of the old-timers’ minds and hearts. It still breathes and is still there, but hidden. It is the invisible Bandra that we yearn for.

The book is about Catholics, it is about the “Maka-Paos” (as the local Bandra or Bombay colloquialism goes), it is about the Bandraites who left home and went away and are perhaps coming back and most of them do not even want to consider that. David Cabral is a journalist – an East Indian from Pali Village, which is a universe in its own. He wants to get out of this life. He does not want to be there. He is ambitious. He manages to leave Bandra and goes to New York, where he works like a slave for a newspaper, and falls in love with Hatsumi Nakamura, a Japanese cello student. David yearns for home and will never admit it. He wants to be there and yet soldiers on in an alien country.

“Bloodline Bandra” is about a dying community. It is about being hopeful amidst the craziness of every-day living. The book will speak to anyone and everyone who has felt at home the most and yet wants to run away. The writing sometimes can get a little tiresome, given the language but in a very strange way, that is what makes the reader turn the pages quite effortlessly. The characters are eccentric, real, and one can spot them all in Pali Village. All I can say is that you need to go to Bandra and then to Pali Village once you are done with the book. Breathe the place. Take all its sensations inside you and then go back and read this book all over again. It will make a whole lot of sense.

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