Posted in Books

Book Review: Boats on Land by Janice Pariat

About the author:
Janice Pariat is a writer from Shillong, India. Her work has featured in a wide number of national and online magazines and newspapers. She spends most of her time walking city streets in search of stories.

My thoughts on the book:
The power of a short story lies in its ability to keep the reader interested. That might mean delivering something that’s unique. I personally find the Indian readership of recent years to be romance addicted. I remember telling friends that I wish there was an author who could bring something new to the scene. I’m thankful to have found the collection Boats on Land by Janice Pariat.

Through the magic of her words, Pariat takes us to the lands of North East India, in the times of the British Raj. Fifteen stories of brilliance. Let me give you an inkling of what you can expect. If you close your eyes and let someone read the words to you, how good do the words have to be to turn your imagination wild and let the scene unfold? Pretty darn amazing… right? That’s what this book does, at least to me. I’ve found myself whispering the words as if I’m reading it to someone, got lost in their power.

Let me quote a line from the story “At Kut Madan”. Lucy, one of the characters says, “I used to dream of golden eggs. They fell all over like rain, whistling through the air, bursting when they touched the ground.” That the dream should be a premonition of something isn’t something that flashes, but the story is of that, of premonitions and how what we know we see and others believe we have seen varies, and how they even don’t believe.

The story “Secret Corridors” is of being different, yet somehow being just the same. It’s of a young girl trying to fit in with the “in-crowd”, and lying to do that. It’s about Natalie, who day dreams in her classroom that overlooks a serene setting, and is sent to sit next to Carmel, who is at the center of rumors at school, and in the town as well. Nat tries to fit in with Iba and her group, as they try to distance themselves from the less classy crowd, trying to find the secret passage that leads out to a boys’ school.

“19/87” talks of the rift between outsiders and locals. How in such times, the little things do seem to matter more. The little joy of flying a kite, or interpreting a dream… how they could help someone win money, or predict danger… yes, it does happen. Suleiman, the protagonist’s view is described as “he could see the town spread out before him, with its red tin roofed buildings, dark pine treetops and tangles of wires and kite strings stitching the sky.” It’s that nonchalant, sort of dreamy language that gets you into the story and makes you imagine it. That’s something present in these set of stories.

These aren’t romance stories, or horror stories or such set genre. The point of commonality is perhaps a sense of magic. Not literally of course, not always, but Pariat’s wordplay and language is such. I love the stories for that sense of place, the beauty of the North Eastern parts of India. The stories from third person point of view still is done from the view of a youth looking at the life of an elder person, or learning some little nugget of life and wisdom. From a poet’s perspective, the language is particularly poetic too, like words put to music.

Other than a wish that it was a paperback rather than a hard-cover, I don’t have any faults to say.

This book is a keeper. It was a revelation that Indian literature in English does have its brilliant points, and that the simplest ways can be the most beautiful.

Rated a perfect 10/10
Rated a perfect 10/10

Book details:
Title: Boats on Land
Author: Janice Pariat
ISBN: 978-8-184-00074-0
Genre: Fiction/Short Stories
Publishers: Random House India
Price: Rs. 399


This book was given to me for review by Random House India. This is not a paid review.
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced.

Shared with First Reads challenge at b00k r3vi3ws and Indian Quills at Tales Pensieve.

(February 24th, 2013)

Posted in Books

Book Review: Chanakya’s New Manifesto, by Pavan K Varma

About the author:
Pavan K Varma is an acclaimed Indian author whose chosen niche is non-fiction. He is at present the ambassador of India in Bhutan. Some of his other works are Ghalib: The Man, The Great Indian Middle Class, The Book of Krishna and Being Indian. He has also translated poems of Gulzar, AB Vajpayee and Kaifi Azmi into English.

My thoughts on the book:
Non-fiction is not my favorite genre, but sometimes a book comes along that would merit attention and make sense. Chanakya’s New Manifesto is a book that speaks of change, and how the nation needs it very urgently. The book brings ideas to the fore as to what must be solved in order to progress quickly, for the present and for the future. Like the blurb at the back says, “We cannot continue as we are, and must gather resolve to bring in effective governance, a true democracy, a corruption free State, a security conscious nation and an inclusive society.”

The author calls upon the ancient treatise Arthashastra written by Chanakya and takes from that some ideas that youngsters can imbibe to stop the reverse progress. That change needs to happen in 1) Governance, where he says the coalition form of governance cannot help progress because to each person, each faction in the coalition looks at themselves and puts the coalition’s decisions at a knife’s edge. Such decisions taken to keep the coalition happy would put the nation at risk because the people elected to manage crucial agendas would not be those who are actually having expertise in that area. 2) Democracy, where we as people who elect those who govern us, must start to question the way they are governing us. So far we’ve accepted the way they are, and lived with it, though we know it isn’t right. 3) Corruption, which can be stopped if we force the governments to, if we step up and say that it is possible and tell the government they must be willing to act on that change. 4) Security, the present state of which in our country is lax. It’s time now to enforce a vision and start a system that can respond quickly and efficiently when breached.

The book proposes strong ideas that if taken up and acted upon by us can bring about change in the constitution of India. The voice the words project is strong, and it brings our attention to it. Not that we don’t already know of it, but the book pushes it in, makes us want to act on it. What the book does is bring the points we usually disregard into focus, and tell us what can be done to remedy it.

Personally, I feel that change in any country depends not just on the people at the helm, but also on the people, and in no meager proportion either. Whereas the book does tell that it is we who must change too, it also puts it on a level of English that even I might need a dictionary at the side to refer to. If the book could have put it on a simpler level, then it would have catered to a much wider audience. I would also think the security lax is more inward. We as a society have let ourselves down more often. The book speaks of Kargil, lack of offensive and defensive armory, nuclear power etc. but the inclusion and strengthening of that would be protection from external attacks; that would stop the rot from coming in, but what about the internal rot, the security we can’t give to ourselves? Even that needs focus. I couldn’t find anything on that.

The book is strong on what can be done when it comes to governance and military at the helm. Perhaps this is indeed what might have transpired if Chanakya would be alive today and devising an updated treatise for the country. It’s a good book for seeing what is wrong, and what needs to be made right.

Rated a 7 on 10!
Rated a 7 on 10!

Book Details:
Title: Chanakya’s New Manifesto
Author: Pavan K Varma
Genre: Non Fiction
ISBN: 978-93-82277-09-5
Publishers: Aleph Book House
Price: INR 295


This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!
The opinions expressed in the review are my own, and remain unbiased and uninfluenced. This isn’t a paid review.

Also for the First Reads challenge at b00k r3vi3ws and Indian Quills at Tales Pensieve.

(February 21st, 2013)