Of love, hate, passion and fury

Have you loved someone so much that when the relationship breaks, or is refused, it turns to hate? Love and hate are but two sides of the same coin. If you relate to this or think this sounds about right, you should probably read Andromache by Jean Racine.

A masterpiece of 17th Century French literature, Andromache is a story of love and hate. It’s a story of rage, fury and passion. For the most passionate are also the most ruthless. For we know that an object of affection can very quickly turn into an object of rage. It is a story of a heart torn between love and hate. Of a heart that refuses to recognise or respect one’s duty. Filial, national, royal duties mean nothing compared to the passion its characters possess for the people they love. A son can be murdered, a brother beheaded. Doesn’t matter. All the heart knows is love. A love so dangerous that when spurned, it could turn to murderous rage.

Andromache is a powerful story of human emotions, both fascinating and terrifying. For, how many of us have the ability to rein these emotions in? Not me. Not a vast majority of my fellow humans. Perhaps that’s why this resonates so deeply within our hearts even 300 years after it was written.

I was 20 when I first read it. I fell in love with the story, the raw honesty of the emotions. I could relate. I’ll even go so far as to say that I am probably the Hermione of Andromache. Capable of love and hate in equal intensity. Capable of destroying what I once loved. Age and experience may have tamed that fire, but hasn’t quite extinguished it. For the heart always wants what it wants. Right?

For the love of the written word…

Ever read a book that transports you into another world? Ever read one that makes you wish you inhabited that world instead of the one you actually do? One that makes the pages of history come alive in front of your eyes?
If you’ve never known what it feels like to get so involved in a book that you even forget to breathe, then you haven’t really lived. The written word holds a magical charm that’s hard to resist. It’s a world of its own, with no barriers or expectations. A well-written book is equal to a thousand movies rolled into one. It’s magical because it gives wings to imagination. 

My first tryst with historical novels was Kalki’s Ponniyin Selvan. Ah! Who can forget the handsome Arulmozhi, or the stunning Kundavai. I don’t know if these people actually looked the way I imagined them to be. But, for me, it’s the image that will remain forever etched in memory. Since then, tens of historical novels have fascinated me. The Ibis Trilogy and The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh, White Mughals by William Dalrymple, even Freedom at Midnight by Dominique Lapierre and Larry Collins. Each of these books have made me fall a little deeper in love with history. 
Don’t believe me? Just pick up a book and read. Let go of inhibitions. Let the story carry you forward. You’ll never regret it. 

Book review: Asura: The Tale of the Vanquished

This is perhaps the first time I’m actually writing a book review. That the book is so bad, is what spurred me on to actually writing this review. As a reader, when I pick up a book to read, I expect it to be interesting, engaging and internally consistent. Sadly, this one is none of the above. Having read Ajaya: Roll of the Dice, I expected a much better book from Anand Neelakantan. It’s always interesting to read the story from the point of view of the underdog and the story of Ravana, the Asura king is no exception. It is this curiosity that made me buy the book. But, this book is so disappointing at so many levels, that I don’t know where to start.

The plot & storyline

The success of a good writer is in sticking to the accepted plot of the traditional telling and still managing to convey a radically different viewpoint. This is what books like Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and Ajaya by the very same author manage to do. Those books do not radically change the plot of the traditional telling in an attempt to justify the doings of the antagonist. This is Asura’s primary failure. It overlooks basic attributes of Ravana’s character in Valmiki’s Ramayana to paint an entirely different picture of who he is. The writer conveniently sidesteps Ravana’s parentage, his knowledge of the Vedas, his love for music and his devotion to Shiva. Instead, Ravana is portrayed as a rejected half-caste, suffering in poverty and burning with the ambition to become the feared Emperor of Lanka. Towards the end of the book, the author tries to make some amends by mentioning, in passing, the codification of musical notes and Ravana’s expertise in playing the Rudraveena. Unfortunately, the mention is too brief and unsatisfying to add depth to Ravana’s character.

Secondly, this entire sub-plot of Sita actually being Ravana’s daughter seems to exist in the book solely to justify her abduction by Ravana. Given the context and the narrative, this sub-plot falls flat on its face, failing to really rouse the reader to internalising that relationship. At one point, Ravana seems almost apologetic that Sita is his daughter, unwilling to disclose the true nature of that relationship to Sita herself. To me, Ravana did not make a very convincing father.

As for internal consistency, the writer seems to be in love with the idea of the oppressed dark-skinned masses belonging to the Dravidian Asura race. First of all, the Valmiki Ramayana barely distinguishes the good and the bad on the basis of skin colour. Rama, the hero, is dark-skinned, as is his wife. Ravana, the principal antagonist is fair-skinned. The heroes and the villains in the traditional telling possess an entire range of complexions between these extremes. Somehow, this portrayal of an Indian apartheid just does not cut it.

The narrative

For any good book, a good narrative is essential, as is a good editor. Neelakantan seems to have lost out, not because his editor was bad, but because he doesn’t seem to have one. Sentences are long-winded and repetitive. The narrative is complicated for no reason. And to make things worse, grammar and spelling errors abound. If I’m paying 300 bucks to buy a book, I’d at least expect basic typos to be corrected.

Then, there is this character called Bhadra. What purpose does he serve really? All he does is lament his own fate, rant about the rape and murder of his first wife and child, and the rape and impregnation of his second. When he’s not doing that, he is grovelling at Ravana’s feet despite the fact that it was Ravana who actually raped his second wife. Why exactly do we need him in the book? The alternating points of view are actually tiring to read and add absolutely no depth or value to the story.

The characters

Practically every character is frustratingly unidimensional. Ravana is arrogant and foolish, rejecting all so-called Deva traditions, and not really upholding too many Asura ones either. Then pray, why is he our hero? Vibhishana is a coward and a traitor with no redeeming factor. Rama is a coward too, not to mention suspecting his wife of infidelity. Kumbhakarna is a drunkard, addicted to opium to boot. Sita is, well, either dumb or a complete idiot. I can’t quite decide which one. Bhadra shouldn’t actually exist in this book, for he has no role. What more can I say?

For the first time in many years, I actually skipped about 50 pages of a book in an attempt to just finish the book. If you want to really read a good book on mythology, don’t pick this one. Palace of Illusions is a better choice. Or Karna’s Wife. Or even Valmiki Ramayana.

Of love, art and Greek mythology

Looking around the Musee d’Orsay on Saturday last, I came across several works of art based on various Greek myths. I’m not really surprised given that most Greek myths centre around the theme of love and beauty. And who doesn’t like to talk of these two?

Of all the myths I’ve read, I find the Judgement of Paris the most fascinating. Haven’t heard of the story? Let me tell you.

One day, three Greek goddesses had an argument on who was the most beautiful of them all. Hera, the Goddess of Wealth and the wife of Zeus, Nike, the Goddess of Victory and Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love. Unable to agree upon a judgement, they invited Paris, the most handsome man in the the world to judge. These women, being women, each offered Paris a bribe to judge her the most beautiful. Hera offered him all the wealth of the world. Nike offered to make him the invincible ruler of the world. But Aphrodite, offered him the love of the world’s most beautiful woman, Helen of Troy.

Paris, being a normal man of course, accepted Aphrodite’s gift and judged her the most beautiful. And thus started one of the most destructive wars in history: the Trojan War. For wasn’t Helen’s the face that launched a thousand ships?

Love has been a powerful theme in art throughout its history. Who doesn’t love a good love story? And if it involves lust, intrigue, murder and war, even better.

What makes love such a powerful emotion? What makes people do things for love that they would never otherwise do? What makes them forget the rules of right and wrong, of social mores and of moral values and pursue something to the end of their lives? Is it really love? Or is it something more basic? Lust perhaps? Or perhaps it is a need for validation. Or maybe it’s none of the above. Maybe it’s just what the heart wants.

Did Paris really believe that by abducting the wife of another there would be no repercussion? Or did he not care about the repercussions? Did the love of Helen really mean so much that was willing to put his country, his family and his own life on the line?

We can never get completely satisfying answers to any of these questions. But, we are human and therefore not infallible. If there is one thing that makes us weak like no other, it is love, especially the forbidden kind. But great love is also great art. As is great tragedy. And by loving without reservations, we open our souls out to great achievement. And perhaps heartbreak as well. But, that’s really part of the game isn’t it?

Karna’s wife – The Outcast’s Queen

Sometimes, when you pick up a book entirely at random, the choice proves to be better than one that you make after much thought and deliberation. When I first came across this book on Flipkart, I thought, “Why not?”. After all, I enjoy reading mythology of any sort. Palace of Illusions by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni remains one of my favourite retellings of India’s most interesting epic many years after I first read it. I ordered it online almost on an impulse, given that I hadn’t even heard of Kavita Kane before. Better yet, I had no idea that Karna was even married according to the traditional version of the Mahabharata. The premise was interesting.

After reading about 30 pages, I found myself falling in love with Karna, much like Uruvi who marries him against social sanction and becomes his closest friend, confidante and conscience-keeper. The narrative is layered with the several contradictions that characterize Karna. His nobility and goodness is unquestionable as is his unflinching loyalty to Duryodhana. Beyond all this, what sets this narrative apart from all others is that no character, however good or evil is entirely so. Even Duryodhana is portrayed as essentially human, with all the flaws that accompany it. It is refreshing to see Bhanumati, Duryodhana’s wife as a real character of flesh and blood rather than just a name. Each of the minor characters in the traditional version gets an overhaul and becomes so real that their concerns become ours.

I could go on and on about what’s good about the book, but what’s the point? If you are one of those who likes mythology, this book is definitely for you. Kavita Kane has done a great job with this book, but I wonder if she plans to write any more. She will definitely have a reputation to live up to in her books to come!

Infidel – Ayaan Hirsi Ali – some thoughts

I just finished reading the memoirs of Dutch feminist activist and politician, Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I found it honest, refreshing, and very bold. This is not a review of the book, and my thoughts appear in no particular order. This is just a compilation of how I felt when I was reading this book.

I find that Hirsi Ali is completely honest about her feelings about Islam, even at great risk to her life. She has been accused by many of being neocon in the garb of feminism, but some of her questions strike a very deep chord in my heart, as a reader, as a feminist, and as a woman. Her repeated questioning of the logic behind obviously unfair practices such as segregation, veiling, and the demand for complete obedience of wife to husband stay relevant in contemporary, non-Islamic cultures as well. If God (whatever name you choose to give him) is indeed merciful and compassionate, why would he demand that women submit at the cost of their self-respect, their individualism and sometimes even their life? We have no answers.

Hirsi Ali’s account of her genital cutting when she was six is cold, detached and dispassionate. She almost sounds like she is narrating something that happened to someone else. And that makes it even more chilling. The idea of FGM is so repulsive, so depressing and so utterly cruel that you can’t help but develop respect for a woman who has made it through it all and is now fighting for women’s rights. Her turning away from Islam, and questioning the very existence of God is entirely understandable, even if you don’t agree with her. Maybe, just maybe, I would have been atheist too, had I been so brutally cut in the name of religion, and made to marry a stranger without even my presence being required to solemnise my wedding.

Finally, her struggles, against men, against the religion which demands nothing but submission, against forced marriage, against female genital mutilation and for women’s rights make us respect her immensely for the work she has done so far. As for the book, it is definitely worth reading for the many insights it provides on the wide variations in the practice of Islam, on the increasing influence of the orthodox Brotherhood and the political climate in the Somalian peninsula. Read it! You won’t regret.

The Secret of the Nagas – A review

Sometimes, we pick up a sequel due to the sheer force and charm of Book 1. And that sequel turns out to be far below the standards set by its prequel. This is exactly what happened when I picked up The Secret of the Nagas without a second thought. I was that impressed by The Immortals of Meluha. As I started reading, I realized that the book was not quite what I expected it to be.

This book is readable, engaging. I may even be charitable enough to call it interesting. But somehow, it falls terribly short of expectations. The first book had a story novel enough to hold my interest. I did not really mind the simple writing style or the absence of metaphors. It was, after all, written in the manner of a thriller. So, it was with great expectations that I bought the second book for the Shiva Trilogy. To be fair to the author, I didn’t really mind reading it. It took me roughly six hours to read. Although I finished it in two sittings, with a dinner break and a phone call in-between, I wouldn’t say I was riveted.

The most glaring problem with The Secret of the Nagas is the characterization. In Book 1, the author had painstakingly built each of the characters in the book. Each character came across as interesting and engaging. In Book 2, the author seems to have taken his characters for granted. There doesn’t seem to be any sort of effort to develop the characters. They seem strangely lacking in depth. I can only think of two reasons for this. Either that Amish has reached the true limit of his literary abilities with The Immortals of Meluha, or that he has become complacent with the success of Book 1 and hasn’t put in that much time and effort into the second.

This lack of depth is especially evident in the author’s portrayal of Ganesh. As a reader who is reasonably well-informed about Hindu mythology, I found the explanation given for Ganesh’s appearance entirely unconvincing. Also, his character seems woefully underdeveloped. There is so much material available on the story and character of Ganesh in Indian mythology that the author could have at least tried to build his character better. On the contrary, there is a certain laziness about the way the book is written that makes it mediocre, albeit engaging and interesting.

Another glaring example of lack of depth is the characterization of Kali as Sati’s twin. With jet black skin vis-à-vis Sati’s golden hue, an untamed mane vs. Sati’s beautiful tresses…every description of Kali seems to scream prejudice. I couldn’t help but notice that almost involuntary association of fair with the good and the beautiful (Sati) and of black with the ugly and the evil. After giving us a rather intriguing sneak into Kali’s character in Book 1, the author fails to build on it and ends up presenting to the reader a vague and sometimes confused portrayal of the Kali. Incidentally, the fact that Kali is worshipped in most parts of India as the destroyer of evil, but in the Secret of the Nagas, this fact seems to have been skipped entirely.

Daksha’s character sees the strangest evolution of all. For someone who swore by the Neelkanth all through Book 1, he seems strangely ambivalent to Shiva in Book 2. So ambivalent in fact, that he doesn’t think twice of storming out after shouting at Shiva on being confronted with the sins of his past. Wouldn’t a true believer in the legend at least be afraid of being cursed? Or apologetic? This turnaround is not too easy to digest.

Finally, the actual Secret of the Nagas is revealed only in the very last page of the book. For a book that is named after that much-feared clan, there doesn’t seem to be much weightage given to the Nagas. Instead, the book dwells extensively on the Chandravanshis and the Suryavanshis and every other conceivable people in the country. Also, as a South Indian, I had serious problems with the reference to SangamTamil as a country. For any South Indian, it is fairly evident that the very appellation is wrong. Sanga Tamil refers to the language and not a territory. Will Amish please take note that his readers extend to the South of the Vindhyas as well and try to avoid such basic errors?

In one line: Although The Secret of the Nagas is an engaging and entertaining book, it falls terribly short of the expectations built by The Immortals of Meluha. If the author wants his third book to remain on people’s must-read list and on the bookstores’ best-selling lists, he better get his act together and read his manuscript properly before sending it off to the press the next time!

Books, books and more books…

I’ve been on a reading spree since January this year. At the beginning of the year, I made a conscious effort to watch less TV (not that I watched any previously), chat a little less, tweet a little less, blog a little more, and read a lot more. Of all the aforementioned resolutions, managed to actually keep only the reading bit! I have till date read 12 books, with the 13th currently on my reading list. The thing about books is that they keep depression at bay, and end up being truly enjoyable experiences. Some books stay in your mind and heart long after you’ve finished reading them and others don’t even make a dent. My books this year were kind of a mixed bag. Some of them are so beautifully written that you truly feel the emotions through the book. Others are so pathetic that you wish the writer would just stop writing. Most others fall somewhere in-between. Since I am not too good at doing book reviews for each individual book, I thought I’d put down my thoughts on each of them in a blogpost.

Must-reads

The one book I would strongly recommend for anyone with even a passing interest in Hindu mythology is “The Pregnant King” by Devdutt Pattanaik. Beautifully written, the book explores complicated gender roles that have become the bane of our society today, but through a story from the Mahabharata. A king accidentally drinks a magic potion meant for his queens and becomes pregnant. The dilemma of nursing a child as a man, while still continuing to be king is beautifully explored. He is never fully a mother because he is a man and his aged mother could never become king because she is a woman. The blurring of gender roles and the uncomfortable questions it raises in a world obsessed with a male heir is as relevant today as it was in the times of the Mahabharata. And on that note, “The Immortals of Meluha” is also strongly recommended for reasons stated in my review.

I always knew Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni was a good writer, but never got around to actually reading her. So, when I couldn’t find her much-acclaimed “Palace of Illusions”, I settled for “The Vine of Desire.” Wow! There is no other way to say this. The book is fantastic. It explores with a touching sensitivity, some taboo relationships, and the eternal struggle between passion and duty. The author’s women are strong characters, with minds of their own. They decide, with a rather delightful determination, what’s good for them, even if the process of arriving at the decision is painful and confusing.

How does an author describe a South Indian Brahmin household and their practices with so much perfection when he is in no way connected to that life? The genius of Ameen Merchant lies in making his narrative both gripping and convincing, even to someone who is familiar with the practices describes. “The Silent Raga” is Merchant’s debut novel that delights even the most discerning reader. The beauty of his prose, the sheer poetry of the narrative and the authenticity of the setting are too good to miss.

Lastly, here is a book that must probably have been reviewed a million times by now. “A Thousand Splendid Suns” by Khaled Hosseini is a masterpiece. The descriptions of the horrors of Taliban rule in Afghanistan are gut-wrenching. The travails of the protagonists hits you with a force that is sometimes too much to take. But you continue to read because the narrative is too gripping to ignore. If you ever get your hands on this book and you haven’t read it yet, please do! That’s a personal request.

Read if you have nothing better to do

Nothing much to say about any of these books. They provide good entertainment and sometimes even rise above the mediocre. Dan Brown is an author you can read and enjoy without giving much thought to trivialities like authenticity and realism. Over the past month, I have read two of them. “The Lost Symbol” and “Deception Point.” Both are very good. Both are perfect examples of escapist fiction. You will probably enjoy both if you don’t give much though to how possible and realistic it is. And Dan Brown is just….Dan Brown! So there! Take your pick.

“The Reluctant Fundamentalist” by Mohsin Hamid has all the ingredients of a must-read book. But somehow, it falls short because of Hamid’s inability to convince the reader about the compulsions that led a Harvard-educated, secular, elite, beef-eating, wine-drinking Pakistani Muslim to becoming a fundamentalist. The girlfriend (if you can call her that), the job, the money, parents, Taliban…it’s all too confusing for us to relate to because we can never really determine what the trigger was. Definitely readable, but only if you can’t find a better book.

Advaita Kala is a chick-lit writer and that label should be enough to keep men away from her debut novel “Almost Single.” But being a single woman, aged 28 years, I could relate to the novel. It’s not great writing, nor does it have any pretensions of being classified as literature. In the same league, is Cecilia Ahern’s “P.S. I Love You.” Chick-lit, depressing, but still readable. You decide.

And finally, “Serious Men” by Manu Joseph. Was vigorously recommended by Praveen, Nikhil and other assorted people. I picked it up somewhat reluctantly. But, the book is definitely not bad. It is not something that I would classify as “unputdownable” but not something I would dismiss easily either.

Don’t touch with a ten-foot barge pole!

Do you think Chetan Bhagat’s book is eminently unreadable? Then Karan Bajaj is worse! “Keep off the grass” is mediocre in every possible way. At least Chetan Bhagat has an engaging writing style that keeps the plot moving and the reader interested. For all my intellectual snobbery, I still found Bhagat’s “One Night at a Call Centre” readable, and even interesting. Bajaj is just unreadable. The language is mediocre and so is the plot. At one point, you begin to wonder if you really should be wasting valuable time reading this tripe! I am not generally so critical of books. I try and give some credit to the author for the effort taken to write the book. Bajaj unfortunately deserves none!

So, here is my list for 2011. Take your pick, and if you’ve read any of the above books, I’d love to hear your take!

Some totally unconnected thoughts…

I have been meaning to put something down in words for a week now. But, every time I put my fingers to keyboard, I realize I don’t have enough material for a blogpost. You know? It’s one of those times when you have too much to say to fit into a tweet of 140 characters, but not enough to make a blogpost of! So, I decided to put all my random thoughts down into one single blogpost, instead of waiting forever to elaborate on them and basically kill the expression!

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The census guy was at aunt’s place last week. With apparent boredom he quizzes aunt about the names, ages, dates of birth of the members of the family. Getting to language, he asks what the mother-tongue was. My aunt says Kannada. He noted it down and asked, “Vera baashai?” Aunt said, Hindi, English, Tamil, and Sanskrit. The lady accompanying the man tells him, “Just write Tamil and English. Others are irrelevant.” Aunt insists for a moment, then gives up because the milk boiling on the gas is more important and the man taking the information down is refusing to relent. Then comes religion. He asks, “Hindu, Christian or Muslim?” And my aunt says Hindu. And that’s that! After a few more questions, he thanks us and leaves. This incident left a bitter taste in my mouth. First things first, you cannot and must not restrict the number of languages recorded in the census. For me, there would be at least 4 apart from my mother tongue, in which, incidentally, I am not fluent. Secondly, the issue of religion. Religion is a personal affair. People must not be forced to select their religion from a drop-down list, figuratively speaking. As an adult, I must ideally be allowed to declare myself as atheist, agnostic or Bah’ai if I please! Also, the religion of my parents must not automatically become mine! What about inter-faith marriages? The children should be allowed to remain sans religion until they are old enough to decide what they want to be. I don’t know if the census take into account such special cases, but I do know that the officials coming to collect information are very often quite rigid in their approach.

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On a different note, I finished reading A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. Gut-wrenching, yet hopeful. Some scenes describing the Taliban era are scary, intense and hit you like a ton of bricks. What it must take for a man to write so sensitively about two female characters! For a minute, I was transported into a world where being a woman is the biggest curse of them all. I was so emotionally affected at times that I had to put the book down and do something else. But, the book is so gripping that you can never stay away for too long. I would like to read it again, but I don’t know if I’ll be able to stomach that again.

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Finally, now that the euphoria of President Mobarak’s exit has died down, can we please get a bit more practical? Egypt has a long way to go before it becomes a fully-functional democracy. Gloating over successes even before the success is total is not only premature, but also carries with it the risk of people losing focus on the task at hand. Let’s not forget that it is still the military that is ruling. And a military in power is never a good thing. For now, the only thing we can do is wait and watch. And hope that for their own sake, the Egyptian people manage to set up a functional democracy.

Literature? Or not?

A few days ago, I came across these two posts by Jai Arjun. Both are rather old posts, but the issues raised in them are still pertinent, especially in the context of the reading bug that has bitten me since the beginning of the year. Now, I am not expert in literature, but I do read rather a lot. My taste in reading ranges from Jeffrey Archer to Salman Rushdie to Paulo Coelho, and I don’t mind experimenting with books. Jai Arjun’s posts set me thinking on what books are deemed read-worthy and what are not. Personally, I would, as I admitted read any book once. If I like the genre and find the author even remotely interesting, I’ll probably read the second or the third. The first link is on the end of pretension in publishing. While discussing the democratization of publishing in India, he says that literary critics often tend to lose sight of the possible directions Indian Writing in English could take in the coming years. I agree that literary critics, especially those who critic for a living tend to be rather partial to what might be termed as literary works. But, beyond the obvious definition of literature to most lay minds as serious, even boring writing, the second post on literature being often considered as “pseudo-intellectual” provided much food for thought.

As a student of literature, I tend to agree that much of what we considered worthy of being classified as literature is serious writing. Rarely, if ever, is any book on the recommended reading list of a literature student unless it wins some sort of award. I also distinctly remember cribbing that Midnight’s Children was eminently unreadable despite having won the Booker of Bookers. I also remember telling a friend that no matter how interesting the style, it just did not cut it for me because it did not manage to hold my attention the way a lot of serious literary works have in the past. I also plead guilty to considering books by Chetan Bhagat and the likes of him (referred to by Jai Arjun as dude-lit fiction) as nothing more than pulp fiction. While I enjoy the occasional chick-lit, Devil wears Prada-type fiction, I really wouldn’t consider adding it to my must-read list. I suppose the authors Jai Arjun interviews would consider me a bit of an intellectual snob! And I plead guilty. While I don’t belong to that group of people who wouldn’t go near a Chetan Bhagat book with a ten-foot barge pole, I also don’t think he is worth discussing or taking seriously by anyone who really loves books. The other extreme that Jai Arjun talks of is even more interesting. This equating of literary fiction with pseudo-intellectual and therefore boring, is also something that I disagree with. A lot of literature is extremely interesting. One of my favourite books is not even a novel: it is a play. Andromache by Jean Racine is the one book I have read again and again over the past 5 years and it is not even in modern French. It belongs to the 17th Century and there is something so appealing about it that even 300 years later, there is someone who finds it interesting.

What I find intriguing, and perhaps even a wee bit distressing, is that authors would want their books to be priced low because it shouldn’t eat into the going-out-with-girlfriend-to-coffee-day-budget! And even more distressing is the intention behind writing easy-to-read books: sells thousands of copies, make a lot of money! I agree that a lot of people do not read because they find it too boring to read. I also agree that the likes of Chetan Bhagat have brought the reading habit to people who wouldn’t have touched a book in their lives without a gun held to their heads. But, this trend of writing books just to make a quick buck is something I will never be able to understand or empathize with. I want to write a book some day. I don’t know if this is going to be fiction or non-fiction, humorous or serious, literary or pulp fiction. But, I do know that when that happens, how many copies my book sells will be the last thing on my mind. Much like writing a blogpost, I will be happy if just one other person in this world (apart from my publisher and editor of course) took the trouble to read the book and give me feedback. Maybe because, for some of us, writing is not a profession, it is a passion. Pardon me if I am being ranting right now because the idea of equating books to cup of coffee with girlfriend, as some of the writers themselves seem to be doing, is too much for me to take. And yes, if I have a thousand extra bucks to spend, I’ll probably spend it on books rather than on coffee….unless am having coffee with someone like Ameen Merchant! 😀