Archive | May 2014

Asterix and the Two Decade-Long Dream

It was one of those lazy summer holidays during my tween years when I first discovered Asterix.

I had finished my Nancy Drew even before we got off the train and had already memorised the Tinkles that we had bought at the railway station. The vacation that year was  in one of those nondescript towns in some corner of Kerala, Trikerripur or something and I was bored to death. I was lolling by the window and tearing leaves off the tree when Shashi maama handed me a large comic book from  his cupboard, and with a tilt of his chin, told me to try it. Very hesitantly, took it from him. The pictures were too cluttered, and there was too much text in the talk bubbles. But then, this did seem to be a better option  than stripping a tree bare. So I sprawled myself on the bed and started to turn the pages. Asterix in Switzerland. They had to literally drag me down for dinner that night.

I had only devoured three books from his collection and by then it was time for us to leave. I made puppy-dog eyes and tried to get Shashi maama to offer the comics to me, atleast one for the road. But no. Those were his treasured possessions and no manipulating child was going to get him to even lend those precious comic books, ones he had lovingly collected over the years and lugged across the country throughout his transfer postings. I sulked all the way back home. But over the next few years more vacations happened and I managed to read and reread the entire set.  And though I didn’t get all those puns back then, I knew that I was hooked. For life.

Update:  The Original Collection. Yellowed, dogeared, loved.

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***

Many years later, I stood in front of a wall of comic books at a colleague’s house in Oslo and thumbed through his well worn copies of Asterix in both French and Dutch. Treasures from his childhood. And over dinner my Norwegian colleague and I bonded over that Gaul. Asterix had helped to break both the ice and the language barriers for us.

***

When Shashi maama died, his wife packed up all their things and moved to another town. She gave away a lot of stuff, some out of necessity and some, just because she had lost the will to live. No, don’t look at me that way. But yes, I did wonder if that pile of yellowing, well thumbed through comics was part of that give-away list. It wasn’t. She sent over a Guy De Maupassant, she sent over sarees and beautiful blue baking dishes. She sent over DVDs and rotimakers. But that pile of Asterix? Never, she said. That’s his soul in there.

***

Last Friday, as usual, I woke up to my Twitter timeline. Someone had shared a link to an Amazon offer. The entire Asterix box set was at a 94% discount at Rs.999 !  It has been in my Wishlist forever, constantly mocking me with that five digit unaffordable figure. I rubbed my eyes and pinched myself and checked again. It was true. Thank god for fast 3G, I completed the order right there on my phone. A thousand bucks well spent at 6.09 am. But by the time I had put out my announcement tweet for the benefit of others, the offer had vanished. It was back to a reasonably discounted Rs.11999 again. What followed was a weekend of anger and frustration. Amazon sent everyone an email cancelling the order because it was a pricing mistake. But goof ups happen and they happen again for the best. This arrived on Tuesday.

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Finally. That two decade-long dream has come true.

 

 

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No Time for Goodbyes-Andaleeb Wajid: 30/52

‘This girl picked up a Polaroid photo she found in her attic. You won’t believe what happened after that’

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How I met my mother.

Tamanna, a typical teenager, goes up to her ‘attic’ looking for some peace and quiet to read her Harry Potter. A polaroid photograph falls out of somewhere, she picks it up. And the next minute she finds herself in her grandmother’s house. Only, she isn’t her grandmother yet. And her own mother and aunts are teenagers. And it is 1982. And with Tamanna, you also take that trip to those good old days of a cleaner, greener Bangalore.When busfares were paid with ten paisa coins and movie tickets cost ten rupees. But also a Bangalore where there is no Death by Chocolate icecream or Christmas sales in malls.

In an impossible world where Tamanna is actually older than her mother, she finds herself caught between a feeling of being lost and a feeling of being home.And to make things even more impossible, she falls in love with Manoj, the dishy neighbor. Manoj’s grandfather is the one who actually brougnt her to 1982 through one of his experimental time travel cameras.But this unassuming old man, who is not the typical timetravel mad scientist, has no clue as to how to send her back.
And so, while he works on his experiments with the camera, tying to figure out a way to send her thirty years into the future again,Tamanna sits back and enjoys 1982. She introduces her aunt to Harry Potter, tries to explain her cellphone that doesn’t work and gives out spoliers to the cricket world cup that India is going to win the next year.

But once back in 2012, a world where there is no trace of Manoj, she starts trying every trick possible to go back thirty years again. She succeeds. And then…

Written so differently from her previous books, this book is refreshingly light after the recent serious More than Just Biriyani.

Easy and fast paced, this is a book that you can pick up for one crazy Freaky Friday like ride

Sita’s Curse- Sreemoyee Piu Kundu: 29/52

She lost me at ‘Feminist Erotica’. And then I saw the promo video, the one with a woman eating a mango more sensuously than Katrina Kaif, and it got me curious. But if this is ‘feminism’, hand me my pink chaddis already.

Spoilers ahead. But hey, this is not the kind of book you read for the plot.

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‘After 15 years of a loveless marriage…’ it says. Love? Hah.

Meera. The ordinary girl from the village. The girl who starts off her sexual journey with incest, moves on to underage discovery, graduates to doing it with a stranger on a riverbank, experiments with another woman and finally gets into that supposedly loveless marriage.

The husband ofcourse is,well, inadequate.  Mohan, inconsistent wimpy creature that he is, tries hard. He really tries. He tries at home, he tries in a movie theater, he tries on the public road behind a parked car. He tries. He even calls her up in the middle of the day and has a very contrived, shudderworthy conversation describing various pieces of imported lingerie. The poor man.  He tries. But hello, what about love shove and all that.

In between the extremely graphic scenes a bit of story happens. And then she goes on to have Guruji sex, indulges in icky voyeurism ( thanks to the lustworthy brother-in-law and his wife), lots of self pleasuring and some more. And then some more. Wait. That’s not all. There is a rendezvous with the hot dance teacher neighbour and some cliched partying with classmates from her English class.

And finally she ushers in the internet era and discovers the pleasures of cyber sex using webcams in paid chatrooms. Oh, the book doesn’t disappoint. These scenes come complete with graphic chats with mumbailover (well researched, I assume ). And then that cataclysmic day finally happens with the earth shaking climax : A  gigolo who completes her search for whatever she is searching for. A godman, his assistant, a neighbour, cheesy classmates, chatrooms and a man who charges three thousand rupees per hour. What more can a woman trapped in a loveless marriage ask for? Seriously.

Yes, the book is not meant to titillate. It is meant to make you cringe. No, I’m not a prude. I’m so ‘modern’ that I was even disappointed with the level of erotica in the 50 Shades books. But this book is pure ick. I have no other words to describe it. Written in first person, it makes it even more icky. There’s so much of sex, that towards the end I skimmed through the scenes just to get to the damn story.

You know those sleazy websites like indian sax stories dot com ( how do I know? Puhleese). Those websites that have ‘true’ stories born out of suppressed fantasies and written in really bad grammar? This book is  like a compilation of all those stories, but with the grammar and spellings corrected. Complete with backless cholis and conveniently slipping pallus.

Sita. Where does she come in? I don’t know. She is plugged into the book in a few places, but I don’t understand the connection. Maybe I should read between the sheets. I have half a mind to call in the culturebrigade and outrage about misusing Sita’s name.

Verdict? Nope. I couldn’t digest it. But maybe you can.

 This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

 

 

 

Thinner- Stephen King :28/52

A dieter’s dream? Nope.

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You can take it two ways. Clean creepy horror or deep socialist message.

This fat rich whitemanfromtown lawyer is getting frisky with his wife in the car and runs over an ancient gypsy woman and kills her. The local policeman and the judge who sits on his case don’t take it seriously and let the killer lawyer off without any punishment. So justice is served, the Gypsy Way. Thinner, Scalier, Pimplier. While Scaly and Pimply surrender to their fate, Thinner goes on to fight it.

I swayed back and forth in my loyalties throughout the book. At one point I felt sorry for the poor fatman who keeps dropping pounds every day and is almost a skeleton by the time he reaches the gypsies to get the curse undone. But then when I read about how how badly the gypsies are treated, getting chased out of every town, getting their dogs killed, their cars exploded, I felt sorry for them. I wanted both sides to win.

Stephen King wrote this book as Richard Bachman, but you see his signature style all over the place.  But then his ego goes and describes Billy Halleck’s situation as ‘ a Stephen King novel’ .

This was not a nightmare inducing book. Just a creepy story that will make me think twice before brushing away the ‘lower classes’ next time.

 

The Likeness- Tana French :27/52

Well, Sowcar Janaki did this 50 years ago in Pudhiya Paravai. Anyway.

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Tana French was on that list of Books for Gone Girl Fans. But halfway through In The Woods, I made the mistake of reading a review that had a spoiler. (Spoiler: There is no spoiler). I just couldn’t bring myself to finish it after that. So I picked up the second book in the Dublin Murder Squad series. Hmmm. Not so great.

For starters, I’m not a believer in ‘exact likeness’.  The Second Lady had years of plastic surgery and acting classes. But the ‘likeness’ in this book was too far fetched to be believable. A girl is stabbed to death, a girl who not only looks exactly like Cassie Maddox, but also someone who goes by the identity of the made up undercover persona she used four years ago. *rolls eyes*

Whitethorn House, the main character, is dark. A sprawling, dilapidated house with a history, looming large over the tiny, dying Irish village.The four (five) inmates go back and forth from being sad little losers to borderline creepy. But then they also make you believe in human relationships that go beyond immediate family. And no surprise, as Cassie finds herself drawn deeper and deeper into this strange little family, the lines between Cassie the detective and Lexie the dead girl get blurred. And slowly, you too find yourself sinking comfortably into the ragged chairs and playing poker in the cold, wet living room of Whitethorn House. You’re in no hurry to find out who the killer is.

The book could have been crisper and racier. It went on quite aimlessly for several chapters even after the mystery was actually solved. The prose was beautiful, painting vivid pictures of the Irish landscape and moonlit rainy nights. But for a murder mystery, I would have preferred less of the prosey prose and a little more zing. Though this book tied up all the loose ends unlike (spoiler) the other one, the subplot was as far fetched as the exact likeness and it wasn’t something that gave it any closure.

No, I’m in no hurry to read the rest of the Tana French books.