Monday, March 26, 2012

Book Review: JOHNNY GONE DOWN - Racy Read, Quite Good

An extended weekend with Ugadi (New Year day celebrated in Karnataka) falling on a Friday fetched me some spare time to complete this book titled - Johnny Gone Down by Karan Bajaj. 

How I landed at this book? 

Casual browsing through books listed on - Books - Half price section yielded this find. The write up of the book and the reader reviews seemed promising. So summarily, I did not hunt for a Karan Bajaj book or have any expectations before beginning to read it. Published by Harper Collins and marked at Rs 99, I bought this one for Rs 50 last year. Good buy and good read for the money spent, I would state. 

The plot - its pros and cons 

The protagonist is Nikhil Arya, an ambitious graduate from MIT who is all set to begin a successful career at NASA, with dreams and abilities to make it really huge. But a completely unplanned vacation with friend Sameer to Cambodia post convocation starts the downfall for Nikhil. Caught in 1975 Khmer Rouge sponsored genocide just as their flight touches down at Phnom Penh, dramatic events unfold at a unbelievably fast pace. Nikhil makes decisions and acts in a way for reasons unknown and incomprehensible, even to him; lands himself in captivity, loses it all in two years, a seemingly eternal period of pain and anguish.  

There are different avatars he assumes, he turns a Buddhist monk from a genocide survivor in Thailand. For eight years, he meditates, tries to come to terms with his bitter past. But quite unsuccessful in accomplishing it, he travels across the globe to Rio, Brazil and renounces all tenets of Buddhism he slowly imbibed in one go. He turns a drug peddler, runs an empire, starts a family, hits everything right when the world turns topsy turvy again and lands him homeless in Minnesota. There, he works wonders as a software lord in one moment and in another, quite conveniently transforms into nothing but a deadly game fighter. The last leg of Nikhil's  roller coaster journey which is more of a steep, head straight plunge, ends in India. 

The pros of this book are - it is readable, fast paced and easy prose that requires undivided attention of only 6-8 hours for completion. The book offers quite a thrilling journey and authors' ideas are conveyed quite crisply without undue mess or confusion.  

Its cons are - though Nikhil's journey spans for 25 years of his life and is meant to be riveting, words used or style of writing employed does not convey that hard hitting, lasting effect. That's the primary reason why one can finish this book fast. In the end, the book appears a perfect material for a Bollywood flick. 

My Recommendations

This book is suitable for a train journey or say during an extended weekend stay at home. I would rate the book average and  okay. Karan Bajaj is definitely good in spanning great distances across the globe in about 300 pages and covering a myriad events that stand alone appear like unraveled threads but actually weave into a meaningful mosaic pattern in entirety towards the end. I am quite possessive about my books but I would not mind if some one borrowed this book from me and failed to return it. Pardon granted :) 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mere Symbolism

Happy Holi to one and all reading this blog! 

I hit my blog space today after a break, thoughts run in my head but they are all quite muddled up, not sure if I actually need to put them down here because over years these have become trite following redundant and ineffectual expression. 

There's been some brouhaha in newspapers since Mar 1 about International Women's Day celebrated today - Mar 8, 2012. Exclusive columns are dedicated in newspapers for entries on women, their achievements, their daily hassles and probable solutions. Bigwigs like Nita Ambani, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, Chanda Kocchar and  Shahnaz Hussain wrote over the last week on what they sowed in their young days to reap the success share they witness today. 

Advertisements are tucked into today's newspaper stating offers in Big Bazaar Supermarket and like places. Online portals shower cash credits and marvelous discounts on ladies clothes, cosmetics, jewelry and all accessories that a woman requires.

Supplements along with newspapers have featured articles on all topics like - 10 healthy foods for women, 10 ways to stop ageing in women, 10 most essential nutrients for women, 10 ways to fight acne, 10 ways for a lady to look good. 

A circle with a + sign at its bottom has become too familiar over the last few days. 
All of it just constitutes mere symbolism. 

By now, one reading this post would have inferred I am sort of a feminist, may be concluded I am going to speak of social evils and atrocities inflicted on women from birth to death. Strong NO!! 

Our society has functioned in a certain way over many decades, elders over generations have fashioned thought process in a meticulous manner. All this conditioning cannot be reversed/changed by observing a single day or a week full of merry. We had/have a varna or caste system which assigns a certain occupation to a certain community, likewise we also have clearly assigned some daily chores, probable ambitions, best suited hobbies, best suited educational degrees for women. Even certain character attributes like cleanliness, organization and neatness at work, multi-tasking and parallel processing abilities, foolproof memory to remember what lies where in the house are expected in stronger doses from women. 

Expectations from women folk are different, there are many reasons to it - while there may be limitations her  own physique poses, bigger responsibilities beckon her due to her greater mental endurance, patience and tolerance that only grows exponentially with age. 

I am not urging the world to celebrate women's day when women too drive equal number of buses and airplanes as men do or when women too participate in combat and trench warfare. That is absolutely ridiculous. But in a country, where a half-half probability of a girl child being born to a couple is rashly dismissed by heinous methods, aggrandizing  womenfolk for only a week or a day seems too much of trash to take. Many say, times are changing and literacy helps in reconditioning opinions. But even from the most literate folks of our grand parents and parents generation or from the most urbanized class, I am sure many of you would have heard overt wishes or seen covert expressions that favor a male child over a female one. No generalizations that all literate folks think alike, all women suffer and men are spared. Generalizations don't help and don't work in any walk of life. But why this symbolism and empty celebrations when man still tries hard to interfere with natural probabilistic mechanisms lies beyond my comprehension.