Tag Archives: westland books

Book Review: Tamarind City by Bishwanath Ghosh

Title: Tamarind City – Where Modern India Began
Author: Bishwanath Ghosh
Publisher: Tranquebar, Westland Publishers
ISBN: 978-93-81626-33-7
Genre: Non-Fiction
Pages: 315
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

What comes to mind when one thinks of Chennai? The heat. The Marina Beach. The food may be and nothing beyond that I guess. Chennai has been a different universe for most who do not belong to it. One cannot relate to it easily if one hasn’t lived there. I think that applies to every city, however as one of the metros, Chennai gets the most flak.
Bishwanath Ghosh has brought Chennai to readers in a different light. One that is beyond misconceptions and shatters perceptions. The book “Tamarind City” (Apt title considering the city he is talking about) is all about Chennai – from when it was Madras to present times.

Ghosh talks of the city as a muse at times, as a lover and sometimes an indifferent friend. He takes the mood of the city (so to say) and travels with it – from people he meets along the way to talking about Tollywood (the Chennai film industry) to the local cuisine and places surrounding it, Ghosh takes the critical and unbiased perspective.

The Chennai that Ghosh takes us through the book is very different from what we have imagined. He cleverly merges both – the traditional and modern aspects of the city, without favouring any. He visits historic sites, neighbourhoods, people and introduces us to varied lives led and dreams dreamed.

The writing is fluid and doesn’t jump too soon from one topic to the other, though it tends to drift a little, which can be ignored given the content. The people one meets in the book are quite different, belonging to different spectrums – from a transsexual to a yoga teacher to a top sexologist. With such people, the anecdotes and stories also get very interesting. In fact there were times while reading the book, when I forgot that it was non-fiction. The voice is casual and doesn’t demand too much intellect while reading it.

All in all, Tamarind City is one of its kinds book on Chennai as a metropolitan city and in some ways still a city that is taking its own time. I would recommend this book to those who want to know more about the city and also to those who know but like I said have a different view.

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Book Review: One and a Half Wife by Meghna Pant

Title: One and a Half Wife
Author: Meghna Pant
Publisher: Westland Publishers
ISBN: 978-93-81626-48-1
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 296
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Too many characters in a book sometimes just make the reader lose interest in the narrative. The reader is too caught up in the relationships of characters, and loses sight of the bigger narrative. This however did not thankfully happen to me while reading, “One and a Half Wife” by Meghna Pant.

“One and a Half Wife” may at times feel to be a clichéd book with a plot that is not very unique, however don’t be fooled by the writing that starts off as a simple narrative and then veers into the a little more complicated manner of writing – in the sense the shift between characters and their personalities and how it all interweaves through the story.

The book is about Amara Malhotra and her so-called American Dream gone wrong. She is everything a girl could ask for and has everything a girl could want. Intelligent, spirited and with a strong head, she leads a life worth being envious of, till she marries a Harvard-educated millionaire, Prashant Roy. It doesn’t seem to get better than this for Amara.

Till but obviously the twist in the tale has to occur and it does. The fairytale marriage doesn’t last the way it is supposed to. Amara returns to the place of her birth, Shimla and there starts another episode or rather a series of episodes of her life.

The juxtaposition of the life she had led and the life she would have to given the circumstances is beautifully done by the author. Amara doesn’t know what to believe in anymore – the old is in constant battle with the new and that is not even the start of her problems. She makes new friends; there are new battles to be fought and new territories that need to be explore.

What I liked about the book is that it doesn’t force anything on the reader. The writer says what she has to through the book and leaves it at that. My favourite character in the entire book has to be Baba – the silent, supportive and sometimes someone who speaks his mind nonetheless. Amara is strong, independent and yet sometimes quite not sure of her decisions, which I liked, as it made her only more human.

For me, the book represents the age-old tug-of-war between the old and the new and how much can one or should compromise? Or should one compromise at all?

This is one of my favourite parts of the book: “This is all hogwash, she told herself. All marriages were a consequence of security, tradition, money and beauty. Love was a chance, a lucky coincidence. Its existence was an after-thought, for more serious matters cemented marriage.”

This excerpt is enough to show you the skills of Meghna Pant as a writer – sometimes razor sharp, assured and knows where to take the story and at what pace. I did not get bored reading this book and I am sure neither will you. One of those reads that is perfect for a lazy summer afternoon.

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Book Review: The Reluctant Detective by Kiran Manral

Title: The Reluctant Detective
Author: Kiran Manral
Publisher: Westland
ISBN: 978-9381626115
Genre: Mystery, Humour
Pages: 184
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

It isn’t easy to write by mixing almost two genres together. It takes not only gumption but also some good writing skill. When I first started reading, “The Reluctant Detective” I did not think much of it. I mean come to think of it, here is an almost bored housewife (well not really bored) and she has the habit of poking her nose in other people’s affairs (but obviously – as the cliché would seem), till dead bodies turn up in quick succession around her and how she teams up with a detective friend to solve them.

So that is the plot in a nutshell. As I however read further (give it beyond the first three chapters), I was taken in into the book. Kay’s (Her name is Kanan Mehra) exaggerations and little vanities add the much needed humour in this one. Runa is the main detective, while it is Kay who happens to stumble on most clues as they go along solving the crime/s.

What I found most fascinating in the entire book, was how Ms. Manral has managed to create a character (interesting one at that you might note) out of the ordinary, whose major problem is controlling her cellulite and being first in queue at the next sale. Kay’s character is well-etched and for one most housewives would be able to relate to her, or at least some parts of who she is. The humour in the book doesn’t let the mystery element get ignored and vice-versa.

The book strings all elements in place – humour, mystery and the events of ordinary day-to-day living. I liked the writing. It is to the point and does not delve too much into descriptions, which makes for a light Sunday read. The Reluctant Detective is a read that I would recommend to almost everyone. It is fast, well paced and will keep you glued till you finish it.

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Book Review: The Wednesday Soul by Sorabh Pant

Title: The Wednesday Soul
Author: Sorabh Pant
Publisher: Westland
Genre: Humour, Fiction
ISBN: 978-9381626252
Pages: 226
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

The Wednesday Soul is nothing like you have read before. It is funny, sarcastic, doesn’t-try-too-hard, simply written, and a whole lot of afterlife. Yes! You heard that right. The book is about the afterlife, or as the tag line goes, “the afterlife, with sunglasses”.

The protagonist, Nyra Dubey, dies in the first chapter and that’s where the story takes off. Nyra – the infamous vigilante, the Delhiite who knows how to deal with its men, is reduced to yet another corpse. Of course, she doesn’t want that. She wants vengeance and from none other than Death’s masters for the love she has had to leave behind on planet Earth. Things lead to more things and there are creatures’ unknown, mighty eagles and bad puns that have the power to kill.

The plot has never been heard of. It is too experimental, some might say. I loved the book. The writing could not have been simpler and Pant knows how to inject humour in every page. Death to him is not a tragedy; it is just another topic that can be written about keeping funny in mind. The writing is taut and perfect. The right amount of sarcasm and sometimes somewhere an emotion will take you by surprise. Sorabh Pant knows his audience and also what they expect out of him. A sequel is in the offing so I am definitely most excited about it, as somewhere some characters had too short a span in this one and I for one wanted to know more about them.

Sample this: “Living in India you automatically earn an honorary Ph. D. in Queues. You study them closely as you wait for licenses, liquor, movies, and brides i.e. shaadi.com” See what I mean! This is how he writes. I would definitely recommend, “The Wednesday Soul” to one and all.

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Book Review: Mafia Queens of Mumbai: Stories of Women from the Ganglands by S. Hussain Zaidi with Jane Borges

Title: Mafia Queens of Mumbai: Stories of Women from the Ganglands
Author: S. Hussain Zaidi with Jane Borges
Publisher: Tranquebar Press
ISBN: 9789380283777
PP: 308 pages
Price: Rs. 250
Genre: Non-Fiction
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

Yes it is true, behind every successful man, no matter what the profession, there is always a woman. A Woman who is not only strong-headed but also sly enough to accelerate the man’s thoughts and decision-making process, in the direction she wants to. And yes women rule the roost (though for some men it is hard enough to accept the fact) and that’s true.

The reason I say this is because I have just finished reading Mafia Queens of Mumbai, a realistic and hard-hitting portrait of women who were the Mafia Queens of the metropolis. It is not weird to think that young Dawood Ibrahim in need of the hour would turn to Jenabai – a freedom fighter converted to a bootlegger. Haji Mastan and the other gangsters would also consult her and act on advice given when needed. That’s what got me thinking the most while reading the book, and come to think of it, it is just but one of the thirteen accounts of the book and Jenabai stays the most in memory as she has also been portrayed by many on the silver screen.

Each of the 13 narratives are real, pieced from official documents, case reports and anecdotes. From a woman who fell in love with a gangster to avenger her husband’s death to another who convinced her husband to join the underworld only to cheat on him and forced to flee the country.

There are so many more real-life incidents in the book such as these and it makes you wonder about what takes place behind closed doors. Mafia Queens of Mumbai is real and the writers do not mince words. Almost everything is layered and nothing is ever as simple as what meets the eye. I loved the writing. It is direct, in-your-face and unapologetic and that is what makes the book so readable.

Wives, Lovers and Mistresses – they are all there in the book. They seep through the pages and their voices are clear. They have had the will to survive and all of them are survivors, in one way or the other. From prositution to being a moll to silently being hidden behind the scenes and running the show, so to say. These women fall down and rise back to action with clearer minds and stronger determination to do what it takes to find their place in the throes of the underworld.

You can also order to book here on Flipkart