Sunday, June 19, 2016

Beating the Censors with the Moral Yardstick

We Indians have become thin – skinned to an alarming degree and so given to taking offense at the drop of a cuss word that it has become the norm for citizens to go to war on social networking platforms every time somebody cracks a joke or gives compelling evidence to the fact that every one of us is as opinionated and judgemental as everyone else. When comedians embrace controversy with provocative material on the sacred cows of sport and playback singing to ensure that their underwhelming video goes viral and gets the attention it does not deserve, we are flooded by an outpouring of outrage that far more serious issues seldom get.
            Worse, since it has become common for runaway emotions and misguided passion to rule the roost in place of cool logic and common sense, the censors and moral police have taken the upper hand. As a result, decrees have been passed that trample on freedom of speech, artistic expression, and the right to tweet our peevish dissatisfaction while making tasteless jokes. Shockingly, despite the fact that India is a democracy, books are burnt, films are banned and Sunny Leone gets the free publicity she built her career on thanks to incendiary posters and press conferences.
While so much energy is expended on so much triviality, pressing problems persist and plague this proud nation which has still not managed to tackle the problem of providing the basic necessities for a vast majority of its populace. There are so many without food, clothing shelter, education or even a decent loo and yet we are far more preoccupied with nonsense, ours and others both. Surely this is not what our freedom fighters fought and died for?
Perhaps it is time to put an end to the endless chin – wagging, finger pointing and a collective tendency to froth at the mouth every time something mildly provocative starts trending on twitter. In short, unproductive and ultimately self – destructive habits including intolerance and strident censorship need to be put to rest in order to facilitate a conducive climate that fosters development, nation building and better understanding between the diverse factions that make up India. Nobody likes it when big brother gets carried away with his voyeuristic, tyrannical tendencies and starts rapping on knuckles to force political correctness down unwilling throats.

In order to stop dictatorial directives in its tracks, it behoves us to take up the role of moral watchdog and limit it entirely to our own selves. Nobody likes to be told their shit stinks but conversely everybody labours under the delusion that their shit don’t stink. Now more than ever, it is necessary to clean up our own act in order to mature into responsible citizens who can exercise every one of their rights while being sensitive and sensible enough to do so without stomping on toes and encroaching on somebody else’s rights. 
This column was published in The New Indian Express.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


Its confession time! There are few things in the world I love better than a rave review. It makes me feel all warm and tingly from the top of my head all the way to the soles of my feet. In fact, I cannot get enough of those. Blogger Namrata who has read every one of my books had this to say about YAMA'S LIEUTENANT.
"In the first 4 pages she has nailed your attention in a fashion that you don't want to let anything come in the way of you knowing what happens next. She thrills you, fascinates you, leaves you with mystery and in the end takes you on a high only she can with her words. The characters are so heart warming and close to real life you cannot help but feel their chaos. You are almost chasing the mystery with them to know who is behind it all. She has grabbed the biggest fear of human kind and merged it with myth to derive a perfect serving of a book called Yama's lieutenant which leaves you heady.
A strongly recommended read for people who love reading her works, this one will make you love her more. And people who have never read her, start with this one you will understand why people love her."
Be sure to read the rest of her review here. I particularly liked the bit where she compared me, sorry the book to a sweet called Kalakand which is supposedly a balanced that is nevertheless close to the hearts of those who have sampled it on account of its simple yet divine taste. Awww... I have never tried this sweet, but I just know that I love it!!

In more news, five author - signed copies of Yama's Lieutenant are up for grabs. In order to get your hands on them, please ENTER this contest organized by IndiaBookStore. Goodreads users will be happy to know that there are five more copies of Yama's Lieutenant available in a free giveaway.
For those of you who would like a fantastic read and to help a struggling author make some money please visit Amazon IndiaFlipkart or Kindle. Be sure to post your reviews as well!

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Real Meets Surreal

The book opens in a decrepit Railway station in a “City – State” that has seceded from the “Back – County” which we may surmise is somewhere in the Congolese region abounding with mines. Requiem, a no – gooder who clearly has his sticky fingers in every shady dealing of the criminal persuasion to be made in the city – state is there to meet his writer frenemy, Lucien who conversely is so noble and idealistic, it is ridiculous.
The duo frequent Tram – 83 a popular bar that caters to the runaway appetites of all kinds of humanity such as tourists (for profit or non – profit), miners, officials, students, globalizers, hungry hookers, spies, soldiers, gangsters, journalists, poets, petty thieves and killers. Together, the duo are sucked into the seamy underbelly of a chaotic world run by a corrupt warlord where “the mightier crush the mighty, the mighty defecate in the mouths of the weak, the weak sequestrate the weaker, the weaker do each other in and then split for elsewhere.” 

Tram 83 is dominated by wild, jarring rhythms, smooth sounds and pulsing beats that plunge those in for the ride into a bleak and truly terrifying place whose violence afflicted past has paved the way for a dark reality that is riddled with vice gone on a rampage. It is a dog eat dog world where everybody eats dog kebabs. Of course, this can be discomfiting to say the least. There are too many baby – chicks (underage prostitutes) and notorious child soldiers to be comfortably borne and the degree of exploitation doing the rounds is enough to make even those hardened to the foibles of human nature feel queasy.
Conversations are not straightforward and rudely interrupted by the musings of those in the bar who have little patience for conventional niceties, forcing one to keep up using all the senses if need be. Nearly every page is peppered with the sexual innuendo of those who eat by the sweat of their breasts to paraphrase the author, which definitely cannot be repeated in polite company. Regular homilies on the reigning preoccupation with steatopygia are thrust into every other page. Everything seems to be permeated not only with the rank odor of the regulars but the fouler stench of dull cynicism and lost hope. This is not to say the proceedings are fully dark and dreary interspersed as the narrative is with bright bursts of humor.
   At the center of this maelstrom are the former friends. Requiem takes it all in his stride, throwing himself into the demands of living in such inhospitable terrain with savage determination and ill grace. Lucien on the other hand is practically a caricature who clings to his principles for dear life even when faced with the prospect of rotting in a prison cell. Mujila invites readers to closely examine the viewpoints of both men and take sides, inviting the occasional laugh or shocked gasp while keeping alive the curiosity to see which one will triumph over the course of events that clearly indicate that there are likely to be no winners.
Mujila’s debut has been long listed for the Man Booker Prize and is one of those books which have already won in addition to being in the process of winning, a slew of prestigious awards. Whether this translates into a winning read for the average reader depends on his or her openness towards an unconventional style that takes more than a little getting used to. Some of the stylistic devices and conceits on display such as mind – numbing descriptive lists or constant refrains run the gamut from exasperating to engaging. And yet the author has captured the morass of decay redolent of this land and the teeming undercurrent of vibrancy that is the essence of this unnamed place.

Nothing is sacred here and there is mounting evidence that the horrific past will bury the present and obliterate the future. But even so, Tram 83 may just be worth the visit if you are not unwilling to plunge into the depths of hell for a brief glimpse before getting the heck out of there. 

This review originally appeared in The New Indian Express.