Showing posts from September, 2013


By Colum McCann
“When you get up to sit with God or the devil you can curse them both for me. This god-awful manufacture of blood and bone. This fool-soaked war that makes a loneliness of mothers.” The war in question is the Irish conflict. It is a conflict that has been documented well in English literature. Yet it is one that is unfamiliar to me in a very fundamental way - and I have to go back to google to pick up the bits and pieces of that history that McCann litters his Booker-nominated novel with. Which is probably the reason the book does not grab me the way his Let the Great World Spin did. Lily, Emily, Lotty, Hannah - four generations of women who live through love, loss, pain, loneliness, joy. This is their story, set against the larger political backdrop of Irish (and North American) history. The Irish famine, the civil war in America, the waves of Irish immigration to America, the conflict in Northern Ireland, the peace process… it’s all in there. Through it all, the first…

The Lowland

Jhumpa Lahiri

Grief. It’s the primary emotion underlying the book. Everything is tinged with it - even the most evocative descriptions of beautiful landscapes - warm, marshy Tollygunge in Kolkata in the ‘70s, the harsh yet gorgeous Rhode Island coast. This is my first Jhumpa Lahiri and the emotion doesn’t surprise me. I watched The Namesake and saw the same. 

Subhash and Udayan Mitra are brothers growing up in the Kolkata of the sixties. It’s a middle class childhood spent playing football in the fields beyond the lowland that flooded in the monsoon, sneaking into the exclusive Tollygunge Golf Club in the neighbourhood, spying Bengali actresses outside Technician's studio, working hard at their lessons in school. Subhash, older by a year  is the conventional, timid brother; Udayan the quick and impulsive one. While Subhash is content to let things flow, Udayan questions, prods, pushes. As they move into college, their lives diverge irrevocably.
The Naxalite movement in the ‘70s alway…

Forbidden Kingdom no more

7 days in Bhutan
Bhutan, the land of the Thundering Dragon, the last Shangri La, the Forbidden Kingdom, the place time forgot. Well, it’s not quite all that in the summer of 2013. There was wireless in almost every hotel and restaurant we went to. The TV had more channels than Tata Sky gives me at home. Mobile phone penetration was nearing 100%. Hindi film songs and the Indian Army were ubiquitous. Jeans and sneakers and Starbucks-style coffee shops seemed the norm in Thimpu.. There is a construction boom as the Bhutanese build newer hotels and homes everywhere. And they are a democracy - that most modern of political theories.

Yet, people still talked of that quaint term, Gross National Happiness as something real. They wore the traditional gho and kira. They seem to love their kings, especially the one who abdicated - K4, they call him. They still have an amazing 70% of their land under forest  cover. Dzongs and lakhengs continue to be important hang-out joints (as opposed to malls). …