Saturday, 18 October 2014

Two sisters and some wonderful, witty writing

I have been reading a lot of so-called light stuff lately. But, light doesn't mean 'fluff' or 'dumb.' Far from it. I haven't read lots of chick-lit, so I don't know if Anuja Chauhan's writing qualifies under that segment. What I can tell you is that she is brilliant at what she writes. One of the reviewers had called her writing style 'Bharat meets India', and it's very apt description.
Only she could coin witticisms like 'Bhainscafe.' I guess 'Bhainscafe' doesn't sound terribly bright when singled out; put it in a perspective of the book (Battle for Bittora) and you are bound to break into laughter.
I read her last book, (Those Pricey Thakur Girls) first and her debut book, (The Zoya Factor) last. They aren't sequels so I didn't miss out on family history or some such trivialities.
She is one Indian author who has got the small town part, damn right. So, terms like 'Bhainscafe' and 'yeh to bada toingg hai' are, and not just seem, real. Also, having worked in the advertising for 17 years (or more) long, she gets the detailing very correct. Except that she doesn't have to fit it into a 2-3 minute long advt.
My personal favourite bit is that chapter in The Zoya Factor, in which the internet is swarming with suggestions, abuses about how lucky Zoya is for Team India (Anuja has combined cricket and advt in this one). Those who have been trawling the net, know how 'personal' this medium can get. Also, to spill the story further, the bit about Zoya cashing in on her image decides to shoot for an agarbatti brand, and in the emerging hoopla, is claimed by political parties as 'their own.' It's an Indian circus, alright.
In Battle for Bittora, two childhood friends, are pitted against each other in Lok Sabha elections (Sonam Kapoor and Fawad Khan are to star in the movie based on the book). One owes her political legacy to 'Secular' ideology and the other to the 'Rightist' party. One of them is a Hindu and another is Muslim. One is a girl and another is well, a man.
While they are slugging out in their constituencies,
some cleric sniffing their romance calls out for 'Love Jihad!' Besides Sarojini (Jinni) Pande and Zain Altaf Khan, the story is driven by Jinni's Amma, Pushpa Pandey, who is a canny, old politician. The descriptions, the whole trodding of the constituency and the people, Jinni meet is an authentic (or shall we use the word 'real') account – Anuja Chauhan's mom-in-law is Margaret Alva, an old Congress hand.
What do I say about Those Pricey Thakur Girls? I have already written an entire post on it. All I can add is that I am looking forward to read its sequel, 'The House that BJ built.'
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If I have to write about another book, which falls into the 'light' category, then it will be 'My Sister's Hurricane Wedding', written by Nandini Bajpai. She's Anuja Chauhan's sister, and like her is a delightful writer. It's written for Young Adults (YA), but I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Both the sisters (they are four sisters) bring out the relationships really well. Maybe being one of the four sisters and several cousins (as their author's bio says), or just the fact that they are good writers, they have a firm grasp on the subject they are writing on.
The 'my' in the title, is Padmini Kapoor, who calls herself Mini Kapoor and drives a Mini Cooper! She is almost 17 and has decid
ed to get her older sister married off to her doctor boyfriend. Set in US, there are no hassles over a Punjabi girl getting married to a Tamilian boy. The only hitch is that there is no woman to take care of the preparations. Mini and Vini's (Yashasvini) mom has passed away six years ago because of cancer. And, their dad, Vinod, is in the process of setting up a start-up and wants to run away from all things Indian. Simply because his wife isn't there and he doesn't know how to handle himself in the scenario.
I guess my is writing too 'dry' about this book. But, as the words fly out from the keyboard, I'm transported to the pages of the book who weave love and laughter, misunderstanding and reconciliation, and the mother-daughters, older sister-younger sister bond! Do read! Reading about a normal, loving family is very reassuring. I want to take a break from reading about 'dysfunctional' families.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Proud of you

Disclaimer: I don't cover the civic beat and I have not visited many corporation schools, so this is not an expert commentary on how these schools are run. I only have something good to say of the students and teachers of K C Thackeray Vidya Niketan.
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I happened to visit the school last year in December when there was a literary event in the city. The writers were visiting the school as part of an outreach programme. The first thing that one of the author (she isn't from India) said to me was that the school had a 'first-class' computer lab. That's encouraging. What impressed me was the cleanliness standard of the school - extremely high. A very good sign considering that the school is not located in the poshest of locality. Even the dog, (a stray)adopted by the students/school, was clean. Yes, the dog acutally attended the story-telling session along with the students. He lay quietly in one corner - not a whimper or a bark from him. When the story failed to interest him, he quietly left the classroom.
The authors and I were told that the students were first generation English speakers and so the stories that were told to them were simple. But, the students grasped them pretty well and answered questions put to them at the end.
The teachers are young - all of them wearing Fab India type kurtas over jeans and are addressed as bhaiya and didi. The school is run by Akanksha NGO and the 'teachers' work for the body.
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I also happened to visit Chaitanya English Medium School run by Camp Education Society. I love old buildings, especially stone structures, so I was mighty pleased when I parked my scooter in the school's campus. The building was stone structure and surrounding it were tall mango trees.
The classroom was cramped with two classes waiting for their drawing class. But, it was cool thanks to the breeze. Some of the students were typically restless and were brought to order by Chaitra Nerurkar, who wouldn't stand nonsense at all.
Later I learnt that Chaitra was an under-graduate student - History major - and a Teach for India volunteer.
A young person who brought a whiff of fresh air in the teaching methods. Sample this: 'I want to see students of Std V in smart positions - straight backs, no slouching.' The craft products made by students were also different!
Visit these schools!