Book Review: You Never Know When You’ll Get Lucky!

Graduating from one of the top B-Schools of the country and then jumping onto the band-wagon of writing books and love stories at that seems not just to be a trend but a habit in India these days. Such is the story of yet another IIM graduate, Priya Narendra. You Never Know When You’ll Get Lucky! is Priya’s first book for an Indian audience after having published one in the UK earlier (the name of which I was unable to find out sadly). You Never Know When You’ll Get Lucky! is a hardcore romantic story written from the perspective of Kajal a Copywriter in an advertising agency in Delhi. Priya herself being a copywriter, many incidents, in the book, come from her own experiences.

The back cover of the book defines Kajal as a sassy, never-afraid-to-make-an-idiot-of-herself-in-public copywriter who decides to put her love life on hold to focus on her career and this is when after making umpteen mistakes to find the right guy for her, she accidentally meets the perfect man for her. It also states the choices in love she has as well as the collage of problems and difficult-to-deal clients at work. Well, for now, I’ll just say, this is one book you should not judge by it’s cover.

The Plot:
You Never Know….. is the story of Kajal, a copywriter living in Delhi and hails from Meerut. Kajal is a modern days’ girl, in her late 20’s who would prefer to get married to the guy who she falls in love with, but her mother is hell bent on getting her married off to one of her friend’s son Bunty. Kajal has a life that is too unbelievably fucked up. (It seems that either God or the author is one of her arch enemies.) She meets a guy Dhir at a wedding in Delhi, while running away from Bunty. She finds Dhir perfectly compatible for her, but can’t date him because he lives in Mumbai and it’s ‘impractical’ to be in a long distance relationship according to her. Even at work, she is the subject of all jokes in office and is not getting anywhere on the professional front. She gets into a hurried love affair with an acquaintance of hers but gradually ends up dumping him in front of his parents when she finds him to be too possessive and rather spineless. Meanwhile, she meets and makes friends with a neighbor who is famous as an accused ‘molester’ after he saves her life.

Now as luck would have it, she again meets Dhir while visiting Mumbai on an official tour and ends up stranded with him when a massive rainstorm hits Mumbai. It is then that the two fall in love and decide to give their relationship a chance. Once back in Delhi, the rest of the book revolves around how Kajal cracks a crucial ad campaign for a condom company, how Dhir and Kajal try to work out their relationship and what finally happens to Bunty when he goes down-on-one-knee for Kajal in the middle of a crowded New Delhi Railway station. I shall leave all of that for you to figure out.

The Verdict:
I was always curious about what went inside a woman’s head and Priya Narendra takes me there and makes me stay for all 231 pages of her book. You Never Know When You’ll Get Lucky! is a chick-book if that is a term. It is written by a quill borrowed from the stands of Cecelia Ahren and the Mills and Boon clan. The book is funny in parts and paragraphs but to you have to make an effort not to do a million things you would rather do than to read it through. Copywriters no doubt may be obsessed with brands but naming so many of them is unfair to the reader who has no idea about all the restaurants in Delhi and Mumbai and the clothing and fragrances that girls wear. Also, girls may like to talk in short-forms but when writing a book, one should take care that there might be guys reading it and googling is just not possible for everything. (But thanks to Priya, I now know who an MCP is or what being AWOL means.)

The characters of the book are pretty much predictable, except Bunty, and the one thing that I liked the most about the book that Priya gives closure to every sub-plot once she started it. Unfortunately, there too much of Kajal in the book to care about an other character and Kajal has been described well. The writing could have been far more formal, so that it didn’t look like I was reading a personal blog of a girl or eavesdropping on two girls gossiping about their love lives. The narration is smooth and picks pace after the initial few chapters.

Though it did not exactly work out for me, but frankly speaking, this a book that girls will surely find as a good time pass read. It’s the kind of book you pick up before a journey to kill time and qualifies for a stretch read (in case you are not carrying your iPod along.)

My Rating: 2.25/5

PS: One request to the author, please use smileys only while chatting or texting. Use words instead, to convey emotions.

Book Review: Marathon Baba

Marathon Baba by Girish Kohli

It may not sound the name of a novel but that of a spoof on a reigning religious guru or a boring philosophical novel but little did I know that what was in store for me was something this funny and interesting. Yes! Marathon Baba written by first time writer Girish Kohli sweeps you away from your boring lives and takes you to the fictional world of Karna, a simple man, who lives in the City of Slums, and runs away from his home and life only to achieve a demi-God status some day and be called Marathon Baba.

The back cover of the book does not really say anything about the story or the plot of the book but it gives you a map of the world that Karna lives in. I must admit the map looks a little like the Map of Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings, but nevertheless, this is a book that, after reading cover to cover, I am willing to forgive for anything wrong under the sun. Girish Kohli is not an IIT-IIM graduate, I don’t even know if he ever went to school or not, but someone who can write a debut novel that is this pleasing, I’d say, kudos to you!

The Plot:
Marathon Baba is the story of a guy named Karna who lives in a fictional land, which you can easily mistake for an India like country. Karna grows up in an environment where his parents keep quarreling, which he calls a battlefield. Heartbroken after being dumped by the love of his life and bored of a stereotypical IT job, Karna runs away at the age of 23 to face life. Leaving all his money and worldly pleasures behind, he embarks on a journey towards the mountains in order to find himself. He travels from fictional city to fictional city having free meals at temples and gurudwaras and having sex with tramps. He becomes a traveler by the day and a compulsive insomniac, who runs all through the night, as he is haunted by the drams of his ex girlfriend. Running becomes a part of his life and on one such running outing, his skin mysteriously turns red. He runs day and night and chances upon a pair of running shoes that are worn by a skeleton floating in a river.

The shoes not only become his running fleet, but also lead him to a treasure, the returns of which help him and his new accomplice Java, a junkie, gay drummer to build the Marathon Ashram at the banks of a holy river. The Marathon Ashram promises to give free refuge to anyone who has been running away from his life. Other than Karna and Java, the first person they accept as a member to the ashram is Karsihma, a sultry beauty who has mysterious healing powers and has run away from her life after her mother’s demise. Karna fondly calls her Ma and she changes the face of the Ashram. Soon, Karna gets a brigade of 33 deadly disciples, one of which is a movie Superstar Suryakant after whose inculcation the media garlands him with the name of the Marathon Baba and he soon achieves a cult following across the masses.

The story takes a bitter turn when a beggar and ex-businessman claims his ownership of the shoes that led him to the treasure that helped Karna build the Ashram. He threatens to kill Karna and to expose his deep dark secret to the whole world. What is the secret and what happens later, that I’ll leave for you to find out!

The Verdict:
Never have I read a novel by an Indian author that has succeeded in putting a smile on my face all through the 255 pages that it runs through. Girish Kohli has arguably written the most stylish novel and I must say that if you want to take a lesson in creative writing, it is this, it is this, it is this!! The style of writing is so fresh that you are hooked onto the book due to the immense pleasure of reading it and a different concept and a an amazing idea never hurts.

The language of the book is simple and laid-back and the whole story kind of flows effortlessly like the fictional river Gathaji in its story. Girish manages to make the reader visualize every word that he has written and his humor just percolates into the protagonist too. Though the Marathon Baba is not supposed to be a spiritual guru, yet his one liners are humorously philosophical. The whole story revolves around just one character and that has been written and handled really well. The style and humor more than make up for any shortcomings that maybe in the story. The content is supported by little footnotes by the author himself and the mention of his own name within the dialog makes sure you take it as a piece of fiction.

Frankly Speaking, Marathon Baba is one of the best works of fiction by an Indian writer. The climax is edgy and all in all I would say that an Indian novel minus a love a story is just what could have restored my faith in the writers here.

My Rating: 4/5 and a double thumbs up for first time writer Girish Kohli. You made me enjoy this one, I’m definitely gonna buy the next one too!

Book Review: Another Chance

Another Chance by Ahmed Faiyaz

There are few books that make you sit up till 4 a.m. and read when you have college to attend at 8 in the morning. There are few books that make an internet junkie shut his laptop down in order not to be disturbed while reading. There are few books reading which you feel you know the people you are reading about. Another Chance by Ahmed Faiyaz is one such book. Ahmed Faiyaz may have been just another corporate band-wagon drop-out writing a novel and making a career shift from from a posh B-school pass out to a ‘youth’ novelist but unlike his peers, Faiyaz has written a book that is much more gripping than any other Indian paperback writer so far.

As the back-cover of the book says, Another chance is the story of a depressingly gorgeous woman Ruheen Oberoi going through the roller coaster that her life is. Trouble it seems is her middle name as she gets involved with the wrong men at the wrong time in her life. As the story spans over more than 6 years in time, we meet Ruheen, who, having lost her parents at a tender age is raised by her Nana in Shimla, and spends her life as a spoilt brat in Mumbai. She gets involved with the violent son of a minister, Vishal Chaudhry who stalks her now and doesn’t let her get into a relationship with Aditya Sharma, a geeky Business Management student in Ruheen’s College. The story revolves around how, in the following 6 years, Ruheen and Aditya go back and forth in life and how life takes them to test, the hard way.

Disclaimer: The following review may contain some spoilers. But no spoilers are good enough for such an eventful story. If you want to avoid spoilers, skip to the last two paragraphs.

While Ruheen leaves Aditya, fearing Vishal’s threats, Ruheen and Aditya meet co-incidentally over two years later at a cafe in Amsterdam while she is living in oblivion trying to get away from an abusive husband in London. While Ruheen falls in love with Aditya and moves back to Mumbai with him, Ruheen for the first time it seems is heading towards bliss. Aditya gets too involved with his work at the professional front and after a few initial good months of their relationship, they again start to fall apart. When Ruheen’s Nana is on the death-bed and she relocates to Shimla to be with him in his final months, Aditya is haunted by the pressure of a high position at work. He crumbles under the pressure and his personal life succumbs to his work schedule. Aditya manages to stay faithful to Ruheen despite repeated attempts by Malika, his co-worker and friend, to seduce him. Ruheen, meanwhile, is reunited with Varun Shetty, her childhood friend and teenage crush in Shimla, who is a recovering alcoholic and he also falls in love with Ruheen.

Ruheen is heartbroken by Aditya’s absenteeism when Aditya realizes his mistake, he wants to make it up to her, but its too late as Ruheen decides to leave Aditya for good. Aditya’s life is shattered and he ends up coming face to face with a new aspect of life in the months that follow. Now what happens in the end, that I shall leave for you to find out. If Ruheen and Aditya ever reunite or what becomes of Ruheen and Varun’s relationship are questions I better not answer

Ahmed Faiyaz has done a great in job in bringing his characters to life and you not only can relate with them but also feel sorry for the sheer atrocities they face in their lives. The character of Ruheen, with her indescribable beauty is impulsive, impatient and goes through a lot of changes in life as she fights to survive in the most difficult of situations, From a carefree, high spirited spoiled girl to a responsible, under-loved sensible woman, Ruheen’s journey is a ride to learn a lot from. Aditya, on the other hand is the good guy weighed down by the world around him. His honesty is infectious and you feel right through his heart as the book progresses. Faiyaz deals with the subject of a live-in relationship with a married woman with such flair that you never feel wronged by the relationship of the two protagonists or the times they live in. It is a modern urban tale and Faiyaz deals with it with bravery, be it describing a steamy love making scene, or a hard core emotional outburst. Kudos to that!

Pleasantly written, here is a story that unfolds so quick that you almost feel sad when it ends in just above 200 pages. I would personally have loved to have Faiyas add another 50 pages or so. The story is captivating and the couple of logical flaws that you might find in the narrative may easily be overlooked as the story has too much to tell you in too little a time. Faiyaz keeps you at the edge of your seat all through the narrative and you’re almost gasping for breath by the time you are done with the story (if you read it in one go, like me). You do not even get to know when the story grows onto you and you involuntarily become a part of it.

Frankly Speaking, Another Chance is a must read, an enjoyable novel with a story with substance. In fact I will not call it a story, it is a journey of two people whose strings are pulled a little to tight by the fate above. Having not read Faiyaz’ previous book Love, Life and All that Jazz…, I can’t comment on if his writing has bettered over time or not, but rest assured, I am surely going to buy his next book. The cover says ‘Filming in June 2012‘, I think, it will make for a great film.

My Rating: 3.75/5
My Verdict: Highly recommended, must read!

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Book Review: I’m Not Twenty Four…

I'm Not Twenty Four... by Sachin Garg

What Chetan Bhagat perhaps started, was big enough for many engineering graduates, like myself, to take up writing seriously and follow a passion that few dare to pursue. Following CB’s suit, perhaps, is Sachin Garg. Though not an IIT-IIM pass-out like Bhagat, but an engineer from DCE and a management major from MDI Gurgaon (another prestigious MBA institute of the country.) BlogAdda’s Book Review program landed me with Garg’s second book, I’m Not Twenty Four… I’ve been nineteen for five years…

The prologue of the book tells Sachin’s story how he met a girl named Saumya, working in a steel plant in a remote village in Karnataka and the book has thence-forth been written in the first-person view of the girl. Saumya, a pass-out from MDI Gugaon lands up in a man’s job in Toranagallu in a steel plant, all because of her unisexual name. I’m Not Twenty Four is the story of an ultra-modern Delhi bred young girl Saumya, working in a steel-plant in Toranagallu. Saumya, an HR major is designated as an Assistant Manager in the HR department and is assigned the profile of handling the reaction team in the Safety Department. Having come from a pampered Delhi lifestyle, Saumya not only finds it difficult to adjust to her new surroundings without any real friends but also proves to be faint-hearted in times of some gore accidents that she is asked to handle. Accepting the fact that she is not fit for the job that she has been assigned, she decides to quit, just when she meets a dusky Bengali hippie/wandered, Shubhrodeep Shyamchaudhary, who loves weed and beer more than anything else in the world. It is then that she sees a new side of life when she learns about his experiences in life and his ‘Move-On’ theory which makes him stay in no place for more than 90 days.

Right from the onset of the book, I felt too many words being wasted to describe a small event and too many repetitions of adjectives and descriptions. A few pages into the book, you accept typos and grammatical or time-line errors an integral part of the book, though on the part of the writer, I consider it as a cardinal sin. (Forgive me, if I too make them, but they are OK only as long as its a personal blog.) The first 50 pages of the book, though establish a setting for where the rest of the events take place, but they are highly likely make you put the book down due to a lack of Wow-factor as I like to call it. The story begins to get a bit interesting on the entry of Shubhrodeep (Shubhro), but soon falls back to a sluggish pace. The chain of events that provoke Saumya to arrive at the decision of quitting her job and going back home make perfect sense following the psychology of her character but the re-entry of Shubhro in the story is predictable and desirable in order to bail out the reader from succumbing to the sluggish pace of he book.

The second half of the story takes Saumya through the life of Shubhro and his experiences in the 12-odd cities around the world that he has lived in for three months (90 days) each. Saumya falls in love with Shubhro at first sight, and his character never fails to shock you throughout his stay. What disappointed me the most was the porous description of the 90-day stay of Shubhro with Saumya and the untimely death of a potentially interesting character, Mallapa just before Shubhro’s re-entry.

The character of Shubhro is very well written and there there is not too much to be credited to any other characters, other than Saumya herself. What struck me a little into the book was the fact that the biggest folly, perhaps, that Garg made was to write a story as a girl’s first person account when he himself is a man. Let’s accept it that you do not expect a man to fathom the feelings of a woman, leave alone writing something from her perspective. The second half could have been more interesting had Garg experimented with Shubhro and provided a more vivid account of his stay.

The story picks pace around the 180 page mark when on the last day of his stay with her, Shubhro confesses his love for Saumya and they entwine into passionate love-making, only for Saumya to wake up and realise that Shubhro had left, without a trail, without even bidding adieu, in resonance with his ‘Move-On theory.’ It is only in the last two chapters of the book that you are actually glued to the story and I, personally, silently cursed Garg for leaving the good (mind you, I’m using good and not the best) for the last. The book in its last 20 odd pages becomes a mystery you want to unfold. It was Shubhro’s story, how a Bengali kid with a noxious childhood made it to IIM, graduated with an MBA in finance and ended up a hippie for the world to curse, when he was silently doing social service for the under-privileged in each city he visited. Shubhro’s story is inspiring and the way it was narrated, made me wonder whether Sachin Garg was facing a writer’s block when he wrote the rest of the book.

I’m going with 1.5/5 for Sachin Garg’s I’m Not Twenty Four…, instead of reading the whole book, I would suggest you read the back cover followed by the last 40 pages of the book. Sachin Garg has written something different from other Indian authors but the book lacks novelty in form and idea and is something that you can easily miss. Read it if you have nothing better to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon but do not have any high hopes from the book as it is one that you can easily put down and forget till you dust your book closet sometime in the future.

My Rating: 1.5/5

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Book Review: Revolution 2020

Chetan Bhagat and his new novel Revolution 2020

Chetan Bhagat’s latest release, Revolution 2020 has hit the stands and it’s doing quite well. Why wouldn’t it? After all he’s India’s largest selling novelist of all time perhaps. Famous for being a ‘youth writer,’ Bhagat’s earlier books have either all been adapted into movies or are on their way to be. In the midst of all this, Bhagat manages to come up, once again with a very interesting four hour read.

As seen in all his previous books, a 20 something, middle class background, struggling engineering student, like me, relates very well. So much so that the first half of the book felt like I was reading my own biography. Jokes apart, Bhagat beautifully depicts the agony of a mediocre AIEEE ranker who is too good a guy to be the boyfriend of a girl who he has clearly been dating for seven years. Revolution 2020 is a story of two guys and a girl, a clichéd masala bollywood love triangle with a very unusual end, for a change.

Set in Varanasi, Gopal, a sincere small town boy from a very humble background, narrates his story. A story about love, deceit, corruption, success and sacrifice. Aarti, the girl who Gopal is best friends with since primary school and the girl he loves, is portrayed as a confused, beautiful girl who turns Gopal down because she has never thought of Gopal in ‘that way’ and wants to be just friends, yet she somehow manages to become Raghav’s girlfriend out of the blue. Bhagat, trough Aarti, unfortunately fails to portray women any differently than he has done before. For someone like me, who has read all his books before, reading Revolution 2020 wasn’t like reading anything new. Raghav, Gopal’s friend Aarti’s boyfriend is a JEE ranker (unlike Gopal), studying in the prestigious BHU and wanting to be a journalist some day. The story revolves around the two guys differentiating between the two at different stages of life.

While Bhagat strums the right chords with the protagonist Gopal (or I would rather just call him the narrator as no one is really good or bad here), at the same time, he fails to develop the character of Raghav, who only remains the other guy in Aarti’s life. The relationship between Gopal and Aarti is depicted beautifully over a span of 7 years from cover to cover. I could feel myself mumbling under my breath at several occasions. Gopal’s journey, from a pauper to a prince or from a guy who couldn’t secure an engineering seat to a businessman who opens his own engineering college is magnetic as he accepts the political and bureaucratic system, while that of Raghav, as a struggling journalist, fighting the same system, comes across as an under-written mystery. Aarti is as confused as all female characters have been in his previous books have been and after a certain point into the book, you stop hating Aarti and start hating Bhagat for being a chauvinist. [Yes my friends it comes from me who himself is blamed of being a misogynist many a times.]

Though the name Revolution 2020 comes from Raghav’s newspaper in the book with the same name, Bhagat fails to justify the title of his book. The unexpected ending to the story is less of an open ended reality of life and more of an unfinished tale. Read it because it’s cheap and costs less than three figures but do not expect to be pleasantly surprised.

My Rating: 3/5

Frankly Speaking, I was generous with that and I would also like to give a word of advice to Chetan Bhagat: MOVE OVER IIT AND AIEEE! That might be the biggest event in your life, but life is more to that and with your fifth book at least, we expect you to give us a novel (and not a screenplay.)