Book Review:- Why I Am a Hindu by Shashi Tharoor : “Ahh Politics! God Damn Politics.”

Why I am a Hindu

2.5/5 Stars,

“India is not secular in the commonly understood sense of the word. What it is, is pluralist: an overwhelmingly Hindu-majority country running political and governmental institutions that promote the survival, success and perpetuation of religious minorities.” ~Shashi Tharoor, Why I Am A Hindu

The man is absolutely right in his observation, indeed the separation of church and state as it were (religion and administration), was something never implemented or coveted in our country, not for us the atheist solution of China and communist countries, or the tolerant solution of US and the west, or the theocratic exclusionist solution of our neighbor and some in the middle east, Ours is ‘Vivekananda’s acceptance‘, a unique pluralist organic Indian solution. Which Shashi Tharoor has rightly extolled many times in this book.

Indeed for almost half of the book, Mr.Tharoor is marvelous in his explanation (for a layman believing Hindu) of ‘Sanatan dharma’ and much of it’s virtues while giving appropriate places for some of the things which were corrupted and wrong within it and were changed or need to. His arguments for why ‘Sanatan dharma’ is the most compatible and versatile religion for the world at large in the 21st century are brilliant as well. For all that I would have happily given the book 4 stars BUT then came the Congress Man Politician gearing up for the 2019 polls, and all my hopes went down the drain. For the rest of the book he takes in upon himself to discredit the current ruling party at every aspect of their beliefs and actions, thoroughly portraying them as a mutated monster ready to annihilate India and destroy its culture forever. Which would have been fine… really… he is in the opposition, that’s his job…..IF the book was titled “Why the BJP is Shit”. But its not, and so instead of focusing on why he’s a Hindu, he has focused on Why They(BJP) are not. Which, really, is funny in a dark way. So, just for peddling the election rhetoric that its either the Congress or Doomsday for India, I just couldn’t help but deduct stars. So, 2.5 dear sir with all due respect and acceptance.

This is not to say, that the issues which he has raised so ferociously in the book demand no attention, they do, very very much so. All acts of vigilantism, misguided or justified, should be condemned and punished in the severest of ways, in a democracy such acts have no place. As Mr.Tharoor says and I concur “Put simply, no non-violent activity, however provocative, can ever legitimize violence. We must reject and denounce assaults and killings, whatever they may claim to be reacting to”. I am with that, BUT to single out acts and attach them to a rival political party and say this is not my Hinduism, its their’s, is well, quite sleazily opportunistic. I expected more from this book then that.

The Part 1, of the book I enjoyed immensely, celebrating the pluralist and all encompassing aspect of Sanatan dharma is indeed a worthy act. The wisdom of “Sarva dharma sama bhav” (all religions (truths) are equal to or harmonious with each other) and “ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti” (The Truth is one though the sages call it by different names) is worth sharing with all humankind. But in fairness this should apply to all the Indian citizens, not just the religious Hindus, indeed these should be the credo of every Indian. And any other teaching, propagating superiority or discrimination or outright contempt, whoever by, whatever may be the source or reason, a holy book, an Imam, a priest, a church should be stopped and lawfully regulated if need be. I do not buy into the argument that if the other faiths are not ready to embrace us and are hostile or doing something which should be questionable in any respectable civilization, we should just let them be. Specially when it comes to laws governing the populace, we the largest democracy in the world could surely come up with a uniform civil code based on the principles of human dignity, freedom and respect, acceptable to all. And if there are some who think differently and if there are laws which are not in sync with the times and the Indian ethos, these should be overruled in the interest of the people. Where does discrimination come into it, it is but logical, here Mr. Tharoor’s appeasement doesn’t sit well with me.

But then again, this is a review and not a critique. Content wise part 1 was enlightening and enjoyable. So, was part 3 as to what we should do as hindus(the religion) and as hindus(the geographical annotation) to protect our ancient openness and wisdom and prosper as a nation. But part 2 made it sour for me, it was quite in your face propaganda, and was more appropriate as a political critique or election debate then as a book trying to explain Hinduism, and differentiating it with Hindutva (portrayed as something sinister, whose’s definition and use as explained by Mr.Tharoor, I disagree with). But well I picked it up and read it. If you can read up-to page 141 and discard the rest, go for it, the whole package as it is, is not worth all that much.

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Book review: – The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace

Spy Chronicles

3/5 Stars, Kaash ke hum dost hote.

Pointing to the horizon where the sea and sky are joined, he says, ‘It is only an illusion because they can’t really meet, but isn’t it beautiful, this union which isn’t really there.’ —Saadat Hasan Manto

Asad Durrani  back in 2015 during his interview at Oxford with his frankness, even though I watched that interview in 2017, left me awestruck. Here was a man, owning up to things, however bad they might seem to me, which he deemed necessary irrespective of their morality (“Morality takes a backseat in statecraft” was what he said I believe, and I do grudgingly agree with that statement)  like supporting and actively helping the Taliban, supporting and funding militancy in Kashmir, double crossing US etc on camera and on record. That doesn’t happen often, that never happens I think.

Therefore, I expected a lot from this book, “ISI and RAW chiefs for God’s sake!”, which was wrong of me, as although not disappointing the opposite actually, it did leave something more to be desired. So no sensational revelations or jaw drooping confessions are present in this book, although the two head spooks don’t admit to any wrong doing they do not deny some of the things which come up in their conversations either, and in those evasions you have to take what you can, read between the lines and make up your mind, their’s the shadow world after all. But it sure in annoying, when you can’t see the dirt, these fellows actively worked against each other, locked horns in their nation’s ‘Cold War’ and here they are having a drink like old pals, chilled out and discussing peace.

But then again, it makes sense, as Mr. Durrani says, “We know the price.” The best people who can talk peace are the ones who have been in war, seen destruction, orchestrated it, they do indeed know the price. So, their insights were priceless, their frankness appreciated and their opinions and suggestions worth analyzing.

I enjoyed this book immensely, every issue was treated with a frank perspective steeped in facts and possible action and reactions. The terror question though posed here and there, was never actually pinned down and was evaded, which was annoying, both former chiefs seem to take such a thing as granted, which was surprising. Kashmir, Baluchistan, Wars, The deep state and the new great game, Terror and Talks, Dictatorship and Politics, the outrageous right wings in both nations, the past reconciliation attempts, the possible future en-devours, the current freeze, the futility of war, the necessity of its threat all are discussed in a very non lethal way.

I was in agreement with both the former chiefs on their road-maps for a way forward in the last section of the book. Reading that it might seem that peace is not all that elusive after all, that there is hope. But to let go of old grudges and still open wounds, to overlook the current cuts regularly exchanged, which they seem to do easily or with effort I cannot say, would that be possible for the rest, for the establishment most of all. Talk, keep talking, even with the cloak and daggers, as silence is no solution is what Mr. Dulat seem to suggest.

This was a very interesting collaboration, however much ‘non-serious way of writing’ about such inflammable topics it may seem. It is a start and worth commending. I appreciate the effort and enjoyed the read. Read it for that if for nothing else, see the bogeyman’s side and try to see what the bogeyman sees. Kaash ke hum dost hote, shayad ho jayen. Stranger things have happened in the world after all.

Book review:- When Crime Pays: Money and Muscle in Indian Politics by Milan Vaishnav

When Crime Pays

4/5 stars,

“Money is the mother’s milk of politics.” ~Jesse Unruh, American Democratic politician

Mr Unruh being a capitalist country’s politician, makes sense. But we were supposed to be better than that, were we not? After all it is after throwing off this yolk of corrupt capitalist foreign rule that we came into existence once again. But alas, that statement is more true for us than any other country in the world. Because even in America, the money that flows in politics, however much filthy, is still traceable.

This was a very interesting book to go through, on the one hand it didn’t tell me anything new. All the points, counterpoints that it provided, have been made by most citizens across this country in parlors, social gatherings, bus stops and in drunken stupors. We can all see the what and why. On the other hand, the setting and arrangement it provided, the order and statistical proofs, the live examples, give those points a good hard credible base to sit on. Which is not encouraging, we all kind of hope that our assessment “This country is going to shit” is somehow wrong. But closing one’s eyes to the truth has never been a good idea.

“India experienced the traditional state-building process in reverse order: unlike Europe, for instance, India instituted full democracy and then set about building a state. Much of the West did precisely the opposite. As a result, underdeveloped institutions have been the Achilles’ heel of Indian democracy from the outset.”
― Milan VaishnavWhen Crime Pays: Money And Muscle In Indian Politics

The stem of all the trouble,in our fledgling democracy, comes from this argument I believe. That statement alone gives a lot of what’s wrong, and how. Crime in politics, is undoubtedly prevalent because the institutions set up by our democracy for the care of its people are inefficient, haphazardly constructed, and too bureaucratically log-jammed. So, in such a scenario the advent of ‘God-Fathers’ who fill in the vacuum and act as an independent state is no surprise. And if there activities are acceptable to the public and the state is unable to rein them in, then the next logical step is to take power officially too. Of-course, an unending supply of illicit liquid funds for the politicians to run their never ending campaigns in this ‘always election mode’ country is another major factor.  But you get the point, the caste break up and its effects, reservation in politics and its impact, the book argues many such points with hard empirical data. And then dissect the arguments to get to their social causes and effects. An interesting read indeed, for an Indian at least.

Fully deserving of the 4 stars I awarded it. The book is detailed, filled with examples and on road research with a lot of statistical analysis. Though, it is true that the arguments forwarded by all of these are not entirely new, but reading them in such a well structured form is quite informative. For every Indian politics and crime enthusiast, this is quite a worthwhile book to go through and reflect. Great work by Mr. Vaishnav. Go for it and see how money makes the world turn indeed.

 

Book Review:- Confessions of a Thug :- “Thug Life!…was not what you think”

Confessions of a thug

3/5 Stars, Ahmadullah Jai Bhowanee!

“Thugs are unlike any others. No remorse seems to possess their souls. In the weariness of perpetual imprisonment one would think their imaginations and recollections of the past would be insupportable to them; but no, – they eat, drink, and sleep like others, are solicitous about their dress, ever ready to talk over the past, and would if released tomorrow, again follow their dreadful profession with a fresh zest after their temporary preclusion from it” ~ Philip Meadows Taylor, Confessions of a Thug

Was this definition, the inspiration to dub a no remorse attitude as ‘Thug Life’? I wonder. I can almost imagine a Victorian lady clutching her handkerchief in dread and excitement as she read those lines, feverishly thinking ahh! what terribly fascinating people, so full of savagery, truly devils in the flesh. And perhaps that was what Mr. Taylor intended, if history is any indication, he succeeded marvelously.

This book was first published in 1839, under the genre Non-fiction, & Crime I suppose. Is it non-fiction, many say yes many say no. Thugee as explained and displayed in the book is an issue of contention, propaganda or fact, we have many conflicting opinions. But for the sake of a review lets give Mr. Taylor our indulgence for the moment.

Goodreads Blurb :- Philip Meadows Taylor’s Confessions of a Thug (1839) is the most influential novel about India prior to Kipling’s Kim and was one of the bestselling sensation novels of the nineteenth century. In the course of a confession to a white ‘sahib’ the imprisoned Ameer Ali recounts his life as a member of the Thuggee, a secret religious cult practicing ritual mass murder and robbery. Taylor uncovered evidence of the crimes committed by bands of Thugs as a Superintendent of Police in India during the 1820s. Introducing a new standard of ethnographic realism to western fiction about India, Confessions of a Thug is a strikingly vivid, chilling and immensely readable thriller. This unique critical edition makes available a fascinating and significant work of Empire writing.  

This piece of literature is in itself a part of history, the word ‘Thug’ was made famous and adopted to general use in the west because of this novel and many of the biased stereotypes about the east were also established by this very work no doubt. The writing, is as one would expect irritatingly old school and dragging. Filled with over attention, cheap thrills and brakes one would generally see in an soap opera, but were no doubt all the rage in the early 19th century. The one thing that does lingers though, is the sheer repetitive scale of the tale, its just too long, 600 pages or so, in that annoying gentlemanly script. This, interestingly adds to the genuineness of the story, Mr.Taylor could have come up with a more sensational and less dragging tale for entertainment, the fact that he didn’t might mean some of it is true.

Group_of_Thugs
Thugs, 1894

Ameer ali and his thugs, were a force to be reckon with. These vile men were a scourge for the travelers, a four way mutation between a Dacoit(armed robber), a Con man, a Serial killer, and Religious zealot( I am curious as to see what the Indian cinema is going to do with this with their “Thugs of Hindustan“). The story is narrated as the name suggests through a confession by Ameer ali the thug, to the writer himself. A first hand account! of an eastern savage! the readers in London would have gone crazy. In Ameer Ali’s too inadequate defense, the thug life did choose him, literally. The story recounts his initiation in thugee (A profession ordained by the Great Kali herself) and his many expeditions to the various parts of the country in his ‘noble’ pursuit, daring many dangers and enticing his ‘bunij’ prey into oblivion. The story drags but is nonetheless interesting. Specially, when he recounts his ‘Pindaree’ days (That I did not expect). ‘Pindaree’, mounted hordes of Muslim robbers, ex soldiers, harassing kingdoms, burning and looting villages on behalf of rival lords, pillaging, raping countless persons. And then the thugee as well, duping unsuspecting travelers and then garroting(With their silk handkerchiefs no less, it’s an art! Ameer Ali would have us know) them in their sleep or distraction. The bodies vanish, no proof no crime, right, the earth swallows their sin, literally. Truly, Mr . Taylor had put forth the whole horror galore 1829 India had to offer, to turn the delicate stomachs of the powdered west. Bravo, sir, Bravo Indeed.

thugweb

The truly appealing thing to me was the social structure of the thugs. Thugee cults were filled with Muslims, even though they believed themselves to be the servants of goddess Kali. Both Hindus and Muslims, working under a Jamadar (A rank given to the leader of the group) for stalking, coning and killing their prey. Shoulder to shoulder, with their rituals and superstition, their networks, their code of honor, the tension nowhere to be seen. Although, these men are shown to be vile beyond belief, psychopaths made through superstition but this union among them surprised me to no end. The realization that the story happens in 1820s, (With the Mutiny of 1857 yet to come and along with it the famous ‘divide et impera’ to poison the subcontinent forever)  came later.

The book undoubtedly stoke the Anglo pride, the inspectors shown as the champion of justice, purging the country of Thugs and Pindaris, the current rulers corrupt and complicit and hence giving legitimate reason for their occupation and rule of the unruly and backward peasants. We do have to take all this with a pinch of salt. But the historical accounts and the glimpses of the 1830’s India still felt worth it. I wanted to see more of it, much more then what it had, but a man lost in the desert must take such water as he is offered, no matter who it comes from (a quote from ‘Before They Are Hanged’ by Joe Abercrombie). 

This was exhausting, you have to stifle yawns and disdainful snorts in many places but I never went in for the excitement, I read this for the history and yes for the legend of the thugs. And to be completely honest, although tired I was not disappointed. To a curious and patient mind, this is a rewarding read. Thank you for leaving this biased inaccurate sensational but timeless piece of work Mr. Taylor.

Book Review: Midnight’s Furies :- “A Deadly Legacy, Still Alive”

Midnight's Furies

3.5/5 Stars, Death Destruction Disaster

“If India wants her bloodbath, she shall have it!” Mahatma Gandhi to Archibald Wavell, 27th Aug, 1946

It is ironical that the one time, the messiah of peace & non-violence uttered words of carnage, they turned out to be prophetic beyond belief. ‘Partition’… the word has become a synonym for ‘meaningless disaster’ to Indians, and probably for the Pakistani people as well. I have read and seen books, documentaries, featurettes about the ‘Why’, ‘How’, ‘When’ & ‘Who’ of that time, trying to make sense, to find justification for the enormous loss, that both nations suffered, and found none. No apt ideology, no holy war, no past, no explanation to it all, save one, ‘Ambition & Arrogance’. That’s what doomed us.

Goodreads Blurb :- Nobody expected the liberation of India and birth of Pakistan to be so bloody — it was supposed to be an answer to the dreams of Muslims and Hindus who had been ruled by the British for centuries. Jawaharlal Nehru, Gandhi’s protégé and the political leader of India, believed Indians were an inherently nonviolent, peaceful people. Pakistan’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, was a secular lawyer, not a firebrand. But in August 1946, exactly a year before Independence, Calcutta erupted in riots. A cycle of street-fighting — targeting Hindus, then Muslims, then Sikhs — spun out of control. As the summer of 1947 approached, all three groups were heavily armed and on edge, and the British rushed to leave. Hell let loose. Trains carried Muslims west and Hindus east to their slaughter. Some of the most brutal and widespread ethnic cleansing in modern history erupted on both sides of the new border, searing a divide between India and Pakistan that remains a root cause of many evils. From jihadi terrorism to nuclear proliferation, the searing tale told in Midnight’s Furies explains all too many of the headlines we read today.

“History is written by the Victors” and so finding an impartial account of it is nigh impossible. The pages, if written with intent, can be colored any which way, So reading this book was a sobering experience like bathing in cold water. Mr.Nisid Hajari, has tried his utmost to remain neutral, to present the events ‘as is’ and be critical of them as impartially as he could. I am almost thankful that he didn’t use a lot of imaginative writing while describing the massacres. Reading about them in pure statistics was chilling enough, ten’s of thousand of women raped, many thousand children slaughtered, men cut down with indifference, like swatting flies. The Sikhs with their Jathas, The Muslims with their war cries, the Hindu RSSS with their fanaticism, trains dripping with blood and filled with body parts, utter bloodbath. Furies let loose indeed.

The book gets full marks on researching the ‘Indian follies’ for the partition, many a time, the only story told is the one critical of the British (Don’t get me wrong, the lion’s share of the blame does go to them, they were the prime mechanics of the hate that festers across the Indian subcontinent still, though Mr.Nisid Hajari has not delved into that, he has portrayed the Brits as someone who just wanted the job done.), in popular retelling the Indian leaders come across as helpless victims. Not so, though heavily influenced and burdened by the long standing policies and the departing chaos of the Raj, the Indian leaders and their vanity deserves a lot of the blame too. Nehru with his idealism, trying to be the white knight all the time. Patel with his stiffness, Gandhi with his meekness  and of-course none more than the ‘Lucifer’ of the Indian ‘Eden’….Jinnah , the vainest of them all. Each of them with their necks stiff and noses in the air. A cause that they have fought for, for so long together, forgotten in an instant, replaced with the pursuit of deluded fame and personal glory.

A considerable portion of the book is focused on the partition of ‘Punjab’ , and the ensuing riots which happened. The key players behind it all, their attitude, how the insecurities of all the communities were stoked into a fearful frenzy, to the point that they forgot that they have been living with each other for centuries, in relative peace. And it became ‘them’ or ‘us’ that quickly. It also does a good job in explaining the other’s side attitude, the friction between the two regimes has its roots in the tussle of partition. Every little spat between the founding fathers has now bloomed into a full on policy of suspicion and distrust for the two nations. The insurgency in Kashmir and the tussle for territories in the early days of independence, has been covered in quite detail, something lacking in the standard histories.

An interesting read, for any history buff or politics enthusiast, though it does read for the most part as plain History, but I found that a welcome aspect. Something, this volatile should be treated with an analytical attitude, rather than an emotional one. The later, would happen on its own, despite our best tries.

 

Book Review: Byculla to Bangkok: – “The Saga of the Maharashtrian Mafiosi”

byculla to bangkok

3/5 Stars

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”
Frédéric Bastiat

“Ganda hai par Dhanda hai yeh !” (“Its Bad(..filthy..) but it’s Business!”), this song from the movie Company, seemed to be playing all the while in the background while I was reading this book.

The Mumbai Underworld, Mumbai Mafia….. Organized crime in any part of the world, makes up for a fascinating study, (insensitive, is it? well, its true anyhow) be it the glorified Mob in America, The Cosa Nostra in Sicily, Italy ,The Yakuza in Japan, Bratva in Russia or our very own ‘aamchi muley'(‘our boys’, as Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray once put it) from the Mumbai Underworld. So, the subject matter of this book was obviously intriguing in the extreme, add to it my own personal curiosity about anything related to real crime and the writer’s own credible background (S.Hussain Zaidi was a former investigative journalist, who spent much of his career covering the mafia and crimes in Mumbai) all solid reasons to read his books, specially this one. And so I had, this was my third book my Mr. Zaidi, Dongri to Dubai and Mafia queens of Mumbai being the first two.

Byculla to Bangkok, focuses on those individuals in the Mumbai Mafia,(Arun Gawli, Chota Rajan & Ashwin Naik, mainly these three, but many more big & small) which were perceived (in general? Really?) as Hindu Dons or Gangsters, more ‘Maharashtrian’ than the others (Dawood and his ilk). But let’s overlook that distinction for the time being. The stories of these dreaded gangsters and mob bosses are no doubt most interesting. Add to that the sensational way of writing that only a seasoned journalist could have and you hope to get a treat of a read. But, well, I was left a bit underwhelmed by the whole account. Primarily because his first one(D2D) kind of stole the show. Now, Dongri to Dubai was better in my opinion, Why? because firstly it had a more comprehensive coverage of the subject and it gave you the Origins of crime in Mumbai from the very start .i.e after independence, with Don after Dons and gangs and all that. Secondly, though it was also tainted with bias and sensationalism, Mr.Zaidi had not tried to divide the world of Indian Crime along communal lines (I mean its CRIME, for God’s sake….umm…. that is, NOT for God’s SAKE obviously). In Byculla to Bangkok, he has kind of botched up both these points. If one book was not enough for the whole story (which of-course, was not) he could have split the whole thing on a more general lines than portraying them in such a fashion. But oh well, I will take it.

Now, despite the interesting and often chilling stories this book contains, it struggled with being a ‘Non fiction’ Vs ‘Sensational Fiction’, often it read like a chronological account of events leading to the formation of a gang, rise of a Don or a vicious gangster, and then their subsequent downfall (All the while trying to be neutral) and some other times it was a sensational almost fictitious tale straight out of the silver screen. Perhaps, when you are this much involved in your subject matter as Mr.Zaidi no doubt is, some musings are pardonable, but what to make of it as a reader I was hard pressed  to think.

Despite these few problems that I had with the book, It was a good read nonetheless, well researched and quite informative (just….take some cringe worthy..roamctic vibes with a pinch of salt…its the Mafia after all). The stories about Arun Gawli(alias ‘Daddy’) were specially interesting, about the mills, the allure of crime, about the struggles for dominance with other gangs, the role of politics (Yeah I admit it….I saw the trailer of the movie ‘Daddy’…so I was curious, guilty as charged)

Daddy movie
‘Arun Gawli’ The gangster turned politician( on the left); ‘Arjun Rampal’ as Him in the movie ‘Daddy'( on the right)

Ahhhh.. Bollywood and its glorification of Crime and Criminals, what would the youth of this country do without you.

Getting back to the book, It is fast paced and not that big (266 pages, Kindle edition) so, you could comfortably finish it in a few sittings. If you are interested in reading about crime , the mafia, their origin stories then this is a must read for you, along with the other two by Mr.Zaidi, because if someone could write credibly about the darkness of that world it would be him. So, pick up this one and travel the congested alleys of Mumbai in the 1970’s, with a whistle on your lips and a ‘Rampuri’ (Knife) tucked in your back.

Book Review: Half a Rupee Stories : – “By the Great Wordsmith ‘Gulzar'”

Half A Rupee Stories

3/5 Stars Goodreads Rating System

“When you face your fear, you become familiar with it and familiarity makes it lose its meaning, loosen its grip—fear ceases to be fear.” ~ Gulzar

I so wanted to love this, so very very much, because i LOVE ‘Gulzar’ Sahab‘s words, oh just read his poems, his songs, his ‘Shers‘, ‘Ghazals‘, ‘Nazms‘ and you will know what i am talking about. You will know love, happiness, heartache, sadness, melancholy. You will know the sheer scale of power two written lines could posses. He is one of the greatest wordsmith I have ever read and we are fortunate to be able to experience his work be it song lyrics, be it poems, be it his directed films or be it his stories.

This little collection was a mixed basket, I picked it up because of, you guessed it, ‘Gulzar‘. But if i say that i was totally satisfied with it, then that would be a lie. Out of the 25 short stories in this book some were amazing, invoking deep pangs of emotion that we have come to expect from a Gulzar’s poem or song, but some just lacked that kind of punch and all of the 25 had an undertone of loss, death and that classic tinge of sensitivity that He possess, which made it all an albeit melancholy experience. Every story had a message, this is just what He does, Gulzar Sahab will always make you think about life, in every and any way possible using any and every ruse possible. The book is divided into 8 parts with 3 stories each (Part II has 4), with each part focusing on a different theme. The themes as best as i could decipher them were Partition and Reminiscing; The downtrodden and their ways; War and Peace; Survival and Insurgency; Loss and coping. This book could be included both as fiction and non fiction because many of the stories are true life events or experiences morphed in the form of a story, Reading about legends of Indian literature like Sahir Ludhianvi and Javed Akhtar was specially interesting. Out of all of the 25 some notable stories that i liked were : –

  1. Kuldip Nayyar and Pir Sahib (P1)
  2. Sahir and Jaadu (P1)
  3. The Charioteer (P2)
  4. Hilsa (P4)
  5. The Search (P4)
  6. Swayamvar (P5)
  7. Ghugu and Jamuni (P6)

These 7 stories particularly spoke to me, The reminiscing of Kuldip nayyar, The lovely bond between Sahir and Jaadu, The sweet musings of the ‘Mehant’ in the Charioteer, the horrible revelation in Hilsa, Kashmir in the Search, The instinctive resolve in Swayamvar, And of course the beautiful take on love in Ghugu and Jamuni( i mean a crow and a kite, that was just too good, one emotional expressive lover and the other cold, unfeeling & unresponsive)  were all impact full stories indeed.

The book leaves an overall mixed vibe, Gulzar sir are a master of prose, his writings will leave you poignant and thoughtful, so if melancholy and deep reflection is your thing pick this one up, bear with a few stories if need be, because all in all it would not disappoint.