Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Book Review : Neil Must Die

Rarely do you come across a book which tries, and to a great extent succeeds, in sensitively handling social taboos existent in a society. Neil Must Die (NMD), a novel by Kaberi Chatterjee, is one such brave attempt. NMD has been previously published in the United States, and is brought to the Indian bookshelves by a new publishing house, Blackbuck Publication, which is debuting with this book. 

The book has an interestingly laid out story which keeps you gripped much before the story actually starts. The acknowledgement and preface of the book explicitly inform about the presence of adult content in the novel which was enough to rouse interest (Tongue firmly in cheek). On a serious note, NMD shocks you, shakes you and presents before you an interestingly knit piece of events which moves back and forth in time and has its layout divided between different characters.

 The novel keeps up the pace nonetheless, which got disturbed by too many vernacular Bengali words with their explanations and references listed in the end. It is understood as the initial market of the book was non-Indian, and hence a detailed explanation of all the customs and rituals was required. But the to and fro mode of the story and the regular flipping through the pages exercise did take some time to wade through the book. It also lightened the intensity of the situation as I needed a break to look out the meaning of the heavy words. Though an inline explanation would have pushed up word count, it would have gone well with the narrative. Additionally, my copy of the book had many typos which dented my reading further. I hope the publishers rectify the mistakes in forthcoming editions.

Neil is a no-nonsense guy who lives in Calcutta in a joint family, with a strict father and stricter rules. His brother gets married to a happy-go-lucky girl, Tuli, who fills music in the bland environment of everyone's lives, who makes their house feel like home, and she slowly wins over everyone’s heart in the house. Even Neil’s. Tuli was prophesied after her birth that she would die soon, so she takes up risks, lives life to the fullest and happily awaits her death. Neil tries to flee away from Tuli, but there’s a bad world waiting out there for him, which overpowers him and sucks him to the core. Tuli tries to flee death as she finds greater solace of her thoughts and feelings with Neil. The Tuli-Neil romance forms the crux of the story and the developments in the plot leads to further complications and strains in familial ties which eventually shapes the question, why must Neil die?

Chatterjee has done a praise-worthy work by mixing together elements of thriller and romance with a fine dose of suspense as to which side the scale would tilt after a few pages. The author has intricately portrayed the key characters and the events which influence them. The book is a work of fiction but you find a certain sense of connect to the protagonists. The conflict plays out in your mind and you can easily relate it to epic romance sagas, where the love is sacrificed for the sake of love.

Book: Neil Must Die
Author: Kaberi Chatterjee
Publisher: Blackbuck Publications
Price: Rs. 190

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Wonder of a Woman

Today India celebrates its 67th Independence Day. The Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has probably talked the longest in the past year and made a speech about how India has progressed and would continue to grow under the UPA governance. Some clapped, some pulled their faces. Yes, India is a very balanced country. We have praises and brickbats for the same person. We have various developmental policies aimed at specific groups, and ironically these groups are one of the most under-developed sections in the society. We have grown as a nation in various aspects (largely in population) but a part of us still awaits justice. Yes, I am talking about the other half residents of this planet - Women. Largely overlooked and taken for granted, women have continued to strengthen our homes and societies to the best of their abilities. It is useless to go into the details of the women who have achieved success by their hard work and dedication. It is also useless to emphasise the need to uplift women. They are no inferior souls who need a masculine hand to reach up. They are equal homo sapiens who need respect and honour, which they rightly deserve. Lets pledge to become better citizens as we take on the patriotic mood and celebrate an extra holiday on the calendar. Lets correct ourselves first, the nation will follow.

Following is a poem, rather a plea and a hope to see the notion of equality held high in the coming days.

I call it 'The Wonder of a Woman'

Hopes are faded,
Dreams are torn.
Just because am a girl,
And yet unborn.

Plannings to kill me,
Have been for years.
They look for a boy,
Overlooking my joys, my tears.

I cry to them,
To spare me once.
Let me cherish this life,
And those lively runs.

I am a father's pride,
And a mother's hope.
I am a gorgeous bride,
And somewhere, mother to the Pope.

But now I lay down here,
Hurt, tranquil without a scream.
Few let me in this world.
For rest,  I am a broken dream.

There are striving people,
working for my betterment.
I need an equal right to be,
And pay for an early settlement.

This war between races,
Has grown so many faces.
For the question of me to grow,
People still raise there brow.

I can be so gentle
As the dew on a morning flower.
But still I am strong,
I command and symbolise power.

Give me a chance,
For unhindered growth.
Let me a hand,
For an unconditional support.

Just let this apathy be removed,
And you will discover, a world so improved.

I know this night,

is lonely and dark.
But a hope still persists,
I will walk across the moonlit park.

One day, I will come,

fighting all odds of pro-choice.
Seeing earth getting blessed,
Even He will rejoice.

- Aaqib Raza Khan