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The Ministry of Utmost Happiness : An authentic, beautiful mess

It’s untidy. Like the India in which it is set. Characters, each of whom deserves a novel himself/ herself, drift in and out. All the causes worth fighting about, in this strange, beautiful country of ours, find their space - gender, caste, religion, class, Kashmir. All the major political events in the last three decades are there in some form or the other. Like I said before, it’s a complete unholy mess. Like watching the world in Krishna’s mouth. It works, though. Because somehow, in spite of the overwhelming political backdrop, Arundhati Roy does what she does best. Makes you care about the small people - the boy Aftab who becomes a girl Anjum, my favourite character in the book; the IB officer Biplab Dasgupta, on the wrong side of the war in Kashmir; Gulrez, the old, simple Kashmiri, who is killed and paraded as a dreaded militant; Dayachand, aka Saddam Hussein, the lower caste boy who sees his father lynched by upper caste Hindus as he clears a dead cow’s carcass; Azad Bharathiya…

Goa, beyond the beaches

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The received wisdom of what to do in Goa is find a shack on the beach, and enjoy the sunset with a beer and some seafood, and either chill or party, depending on what floats your boat. Over the years, the restaurant scene has picked up and these days, deciding where you will eat is part of the planning you do before you land in this state. Goa though, can be different things to different people. And if like me, the beach scene and the food scene are too sybaritic for your taste, it has other pleasures to offer. Here are three of them.
Forts: When I dream of Goa, I dream of forts by the sea. My favourite spot in Goa is atop Chapora fort in Vagator. It’s a short climb up a very small hill. A little effort for some absolutely fabulous views of the shoreline from the top. Fort Aguada is of course the most popular fort in Goa - and if you get there at sunset time, the stone, the sun and the sea can prove magical. There are other forts worth your time as well - Terakhol up north and Reis Mago…

2016: My year in reading

54 is the number of books I read this year, says my Goodreads app. That is about a book a week - pretty much what I have averaged most of my adult life. What was a bit different this year, though? My list had more non-fiction than usual. I am a fiction junkie through and through, and when I find myself drifting towards non-fiction, I worry I am growing old.
In any case, I enjoyed some great books here - Krakauer’s Into the Wild was a revelation. Who knew you could turn the story of a foolish young man into a page turner!. Alain de Botton’s The Consolations of Philosophy was a five rater for me - and led me to read Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, which I have resolved to read in a more modern translation soon. Travel was a big theme. Colin Thubron’s In Siberia was a moody, dark study of post Soviet Siberian hinterland; and his Shadow of the Silk Road described his Marco Polo-esque journey through possibly some of the most interesting places in the world today. Alice Albinia’s Empires of …