Book Review: – The Ministry of Utmost Happiness :- “Its not! trust me it’s really not”

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

1.5/5 Stars, Don’t Judge a Book by its cover, Seriously, don’t.

“Nietzsche believed that if Pity were to become the core of ethics, misery would become contagious and happiness an object of suspicion.” ~Arundhati Roy

And so it has, for Mrs.Roy at-least. She has followed Nietzsche beliefs to the T. This book is so full of pity invoking misery that you would choke on the lines, words, syllables and ..will…find…it…hard…to…turn…the…page, as it is so full of biased political nonsense! It was a mistake picking this up before reading ‘God of Small things’, by what I have gathered (just by reading reviews and such, not read the actual book yet) her first book is much better and more objective, than the pure bias that has oozed out of her and stained every page of this 464 page lengthy tome.

Goodreads Blurb :- The Ministry of Utmost Happiness takes us on an intimate journey of many years across the Indian subcontinent – from the cramped neighborhoods of Old Delhi and the roads of the new city to the mountains and valleys of Kashmir and beyond, where war is peace and peace is war.
The tale begins with Anjum – who used to be Aftab – unrolling a threadbare Persian carpet in a city graveyard she calls home. We encounter the odd, unforgettable Tilo and the men who loved her – including Musa, sweetheart and ex-sweetheart, lover and ex-lover; their fates are as entwined as their arms used to be and always will be. We meet Tilo’s landlord, a former suitor, now an intelligence officer posted to Kabul. And then we meet the two Miss Jebeens: the first a child born in Srinagar and buried in its overcrowded Martyrs’ Graveyard; the second found at midnight, abandoned on a concrete sidewalk in the heart of New Delhi.

It was a hell of a coincidence that I finished George Orwell’s ‘1984’ just before this. The novel’s name “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness” is a reference to George Orwell’s world where ‘Ministry of love’ tortures people and ‘Ministry of Peace’ conducts wars. Similarly Mrs.Roy’s Ministry of Utmost Happiness talks about utmost despair, also this is perhaps what she thinks of the Indian government, an institute that is guilty of extreme cases of ‘Doublethink‘ in her opinion.

The two main characters ‘Anjum’ and ‘Tilo’ , I found were her (‘Mrs.Roy’, the hater of Modi, the champion of insurgents, the comrade of Maoists, the self declared expert on what a hateful and shitty institute the government and society of India is, the very woman who any anti-India clown can use & say ‘HAH! she is one of you so she ‘knows’ things, you guys are really shit‘, herein referred to as ‘her’ now and later in the review) own two sides, or perhaps her one side divided into two people, because how can so much hate, misery, bias and venom be contained in only one person, people would just not believe it! So, two people, Anjum ‘the hizra’ to lay bare the total hypocrisy of the Indian society, of our communal frenzy and caste misuse, the bourgeois pigs all of us. And Tilo ‘the eccentric’ for Kashmir of-course, to showcase Indian atrocities and oh the evil designs and completely unjustified behavior of the army towards terrorists (ahh sorry, ‘Freedom fighters’ in her views, ‘Azaadi ka matlab kya ‘la ilaha illallah’, Seriously? Mrs.Roy? I have many Muslim friends who would be completely disgusted by what you consider ‘a just cause’). The characters main purpose is to show, point by point how unfair everything is in their world, and how they have become used to it, that the cradle of civilization, is anything but civilized.

I really wish I could review this book on purely literary basis, just the story (Which I can’t as there is no story, ..lives, ..two miserable lives, but no story) but I can’t. Her views are what stayed with me, and they are so nihilistic that despite my love for cynics, I was just plainly irritated through out the book. Yes, there is a lot wrong with us, there really is! but this!..this was just over the top plain old nonsense.

To all the people who think that their knowing about India a little better, would perhaps improve their reading experience of this book, It Won’t. It would just make you sigh with exasperation and wish to God that this book was shorter or written with some sense. So, yeah, despite some profound text in the book, I did not like it. And coming from a ‘Booker prize’ awarded author this was a great disappointment (and this was nominated this Year for Booker’s! what were they thinking?) .

In my opinion, you could do without this book, it’s just a lady being bitter about everything she disapproves of in her world, whether right or wrong she doesn’t care, I could have definitely done without it. All that glitters is not gold my friends, spare yourselves.

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Book Review: 1984 by George Orwell:- “Holy sh@%snacks Mr. Orwell!”

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5/5 Stars, Hands Down

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face—for ever.” ~George Orwell, 1984

“Big Brother is watching you”, this statement is everywhere. The scholars & political pundits use it, the anarchists use it, the revolutionaries use it, the eccentric paranoid conspiracy theorists use it. You, me every second person on the TV uses it. And here I was having no idea where the reference came from. Every ruling regime which imposes some unpopular restriction on its people by default gets the title of THE BIG BROTHER. Even the bloody realty shows that have sprouted all across the globe have used this all seeing all hearing omnipresent idea that Mr.Orwell introduced in this book. This amount of impact on the world is a testament to what a marvelous piece of literature this book was, gory, depressing and utterly crushing, Yes, but marvelous.

Big Brother

The year is 1984, the great ideological struggle of the early 20th century is over, Socialism won, Capitalism is completely eradicated from the face of the earth. And now the world is divided into 3 great superstates, each with their own brand of socialist or communist ruling regimes, ‘Oceania’ ruled by IngSoc(English Socialism), Eurasia by Neo-Bolshevism & Eastasia by the political ideology of Death-worship,or more correctly ‘Obliteration of the Self’. And all these states are in a state of perpetual war with each other, trying to claim the disputed territories of the world.

The world Mr.Orwell creates is a truly horrifying and haunting place. Not because of Socialist regimes, Mr.Orwell as I understand was a leftist himself, but the corruption and complete mutation of the ideology by the ones in power just to attain absolute subjugation of the masses. I mean wow. When your party slogan is

“WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.”

You can very well imagine what such a regime would do. Think (Stalin’s USSR + Hitler’s Third Reich + Mao’s PRC) * 100, and you get IngSoc. This book was a profound comment on the sociopolitical nature of the world. Written in 1948, this is as much relevant now as it was back then, maybe more so now, our generation has never really paid anything for the freedoms we enjoy, we have taken all that we have for granted and have always grumbled about wanting more. Then, imagining a world where there is no concept of freedom of any kind, where every which way you turn the passive face of BIG BROTHER greets you with a promise of pain, if you so much as twitch the wrong way, is nothing short of an eye opener.

This book has inspired so much of today’s world. The extremes that the book tried to educate us about, the brain washing that it showed and warned us about, “2+2=5” is something that each of us should appreciate. The whole concept of “Doublethink“, “Thoughtcrime“,’Psychological Conditioning’ through The Two Minutes Hate are truly mind boggling. And whats more, is that, these very concepts ARE being used today, not in the extreme way of the book, but subtly, the masses, it seems, were not the only one to take lessons from this book, the higher ups learned as well.

A true masterpiece indeed, this book forces you to think, there’s no page in the book which doesn’t make you reflect on your current condition, what was and what could have been. And I think that was the true purpose of the book, to make people realize that as long as they hold on to their individuality as long as they don’t let go of their inner consciousness they would somehow make it through. “Sanity isn’t Statistical” after all.

This book needs no recommendation, it is a classic, already embedded in the curriculum of a great many education institutes, and with good reason. One great book, and a welcome addition to my favorites list.

Book Review: Sacred Games : -“With Unholy Stakes”

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4.5/5 Stars

“There is a certain pleasure we take in thinking about how bad it gets, and then in imagining how it will inevitably get worse. And still we survive, the city stumbles on. Maybe one day it’ll all just fall apart, and there was a certain gratification in that thought too. Let the maderchod blow. ” ~Vikram chandra, Sacred Games

‘Cynicism’, I have always had a soft spot for it, not out of compassion mind you, but a certain kind of camaraderie. I am one of those crazy guys who smiles when he hears ‘The Joker’ say “Everything Burns!!” This in no way suggests that I am a true cynic, that! I believe is a difficult thing to achieve, to be truly distrustful and disdainful of this world is not quite possible, Hope, in one way or the other, whether you like it or not worms its way into you, and perhaps, perhaps that’s a good thing.

Goodreads Blurb :- Sacred Games is an epic novel of friendships and betrayals, of violence and love set against the backdrop of a teaming 21st century Mumbai. Sartaj, the only Sikh inspector in the whole of Mumbai, is used to being identified by his turban, beard and the sharp cut of his trousers. But ‘the silky Sikh’ is now past forty, his marriage is over and his career prospects are on the slide. When Sartaj gets an anonymous tip off as to the secret hideout of the legendary boss of the G-company, he’s determined that he’ll be the one to collect the prize…

I am surprised at how long it takes for some books to find me, or wait, for me to find some of them. When it’s so clear at how perfectly they conform to what I need or what I like. ‘Sacred Games’ is one of those truly all-rounder books that has everything a bibliophile would appreciate. Notably

1.) Length, 1057 Pages (Kindle Edition) in any other book such heftiness would be discouraging, even in SG it was borderline but ultimately on the right side of the border. With all its pages and all its story-lines SG is one such book where even after 450 pages, you sigh with relief, content with the knowledge that there is still more than 50% of it left. For any 1000+ page book, this is a great achievement. The writing was not extraordinary, rather easy and simple, for your everyday Joe really, but that is exactly what the book needed, that simplicity worked wonders for it in my opinion.

2.)Characters, the one thing I truly admire about Sacred Games, hats off to Vikram Chandra and his penchant for character building, every character in this book would make you fall for it, not because they are all charming or something, but because they are all so well sketched, even the minor ones, with all his little digressions and side line small stories, Mr. Chandra holds you with their struggles, you are right there with ‘Inspector Sartaj’ sitting on his dining table having his 3 pegs after dinner, you are right there with ‘Don’ Ganesh Gaitonde, sitting on his house’s water tank contemplating his next move in the deadly game. With Sartaj’s mother in ‘Lahore’ during partition, with ‘Constable Katekar’ in his ‘kholi’ with his family or with ‘K.D Yadav’ in his hospital bed reminiscing old losses and glories. This delving into the lives of these characters gives them a soul, however conflicted or pure or dark it may be, you Care, and that I think is one of the strongest thing working for the book.

3.) The Story line, A mystery, A thriller, A crime flick and A slow burn all at the same time, all the while giving you that delicious taste of a complicated Mumbai setting. Mafia, Movies. Corruption, the Law, Politics, A national security threat and the day to day troubles of the common man, now how many books can do justice to all these dimensions and not tilt you in favor of one more than the other. Though there was a bit of a drag at the end where the gullibility of someone as shrewd as the character of Ganesh Gaitonde surprised me to no end but well we are all pardoned a few idiosyncrasies, aren’t we?

4.)The real world parallels, the inspiration for some of the story lines was rooted in the Mumbai Mafia history, ‘Ganesh Gaitonde’ is inspired from ‘Arun Gawli’, ‘Sulieman Isa’ from ‘Dawood Ibrahim’, and the genuine Mumbai setting with its dance bars and slums and bitter sweet but all too real police system, its all well founded and researched, despite being kind of an epic fiction its real in its telling. This makes it all too close and personal with is another thumbs up.

5.)Profanity, well, ahmm….this might be subjective and appealing to me (don’t roll your eyes), the constant use of Indian abusive slangs just makes the story that much more personal. There’s no over the top cleaning act, say what you will, rawness has an appeal of its own. The Glossary would take some of your confusion away if you care to consult it.

All in all, its one hell of a ride, with all its twists and turns, slow and fast paces, dips and highs, one must read for all the Indophiles, Mumbai lovers or mystery, crime & thrill seekers, look no further my friends pick this up, you would be set for at-least a month (including its reading and the hangover that will most definitely follow, this is no light weight drink after all!).