Monday, August 31, 2015

Book Review: Just Six Evenings

Debut novelist Tanmay Dubey makes a valiant effort at casual reading with his Just Six Evenings, which has a lost & found love story at its core with the backdrop of ruthless corporate world

Book Title: Just Six Evenings
Author: Tanmay Dubey
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Rupa Publications India
Price: Rs 195
Pages: 224 pages

I consider the reader in me to be somewhat in conundrum. The reason is simple. The last few years has seen a large amount of writers churning out what one can call typical Indian stories with the IT industry background, small town & big dreams, young love and the yuppie culture. Amidst all the drama, you get to decide whether Just Six Evenings, the latest in young India drama by debut author & IT professional Tanmay Dubey, is worth reading.

The plot looks promisingly Indian and to be frank, quite Bollywoodish. The book reads like an engaging Bollywood potboiler with all its trappings. The storyline is simple – love meets ambitions, small town, big cities and people caught in between. Young small-towner Atul Shukla has big dreams in his eyes, knows his areas expertise and will learn & work on it for better future. In Bhopal as a minor marketing executive, an accidental meet with Priya on the train changes Atul’s life. Within six days of romantic meetings, a moment of passion & wrong decision rips them apart. Professional life takes Atul to Delhi and he rises above with success. However, regret of losing Priya & friends still fills his mind. Life gives Atul another chance when he meets Priya. Again, the unkind corporate world threatens their second chance. Will they come together or be thrown apart again? Just Six Evenings narrates a tale of love, ambition & everything in between and the India that is developing in the megacities and small towns.

While reading the book, three things strike you quite distinctly – the film like narration, the representation of the rising corporate world and the ambitions of young India especially from the hinterlands. There are chances of one finding similar books. The country is full of Atul Shuklas. What sets this book apart is the fast-paced narration, which allows you to read it like a film and not get bored with a prolonged love story.   

An attractive non-linear narrative keeps up with the pace of the narration. You meet Atul Shukla all dressed up in success but languishing in jail. You then see his life unfolding along interspersed with the prison situation thrown in between. While the jump from past & present happen, you never lose the connect. The manner in which the young small town India and its ambitions has been portrayed is good. You connect with each of the characters whether the hero Atul – his ambitions & stumbling with love, Priya – her ambitions for her family and heartbreak, their friends going through the same emotions, the worldly Guruji, the corporate world & its viciousness. The humour, drama & romance which follow come with the choices made by the characters.

If you ask an avid fan of Indian English literature coming from writers with corporate or non-literary background, Tanmay Dubey’s Just Six Evenings might be an interesting book to read. It has all the elements of masala story, but won’t drag you with romantic soppiness or corporate jargon. Do not expect it to be literary masterpiece. Enjoy the casualness the book offers and be treated to a book full of romantic thrills merged with corporate excitement. Anything more is a matter of opinion.

Concept:  7 out of 10
Plot: 7 out of 10
Character Development: 6 out of 10
Writing: 7 out of 10
Pacing: 8 out of 10
Overall: 7.5 out of 10

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

An Indian Eye-opener

British writer & Historian Yasmin Khan reveal the untold chronicles of Indians fighting in WWII for the British Empire in her second book – The Raj at War: A People’s History of India’s Second World War

History is meant to be learned from. And one of the most intriguing yet rarely discussed topics is the role of India in World War II. Still under British rule, fighting the war meant fighting for the empire. Yet, not many know of the immense contributions of these brave hearts. Now, we have British writer & historian Yasmin Khan come up with a book The Raj at War: A People’s History of India’s Second World War. The book speaks for the lost heroes that are the Indian civilians, non-combatants (prostitutes, nurses, cooks, and peasants), sailors & soldiers who fought during WWII. Published by Penguin, this book lets you know the stories, by sieving through interviews, newspaper reports, unseen archival materials.

The whole concept came from the photographs Yasmin found of the war in India in the archives, which depicted workers at docks, aerodrome builders and so on. “And they seemed so different in content to the way historians wrote about that time. When I was writing my first book about the partition, I felt that in a way, there had been too much emphasis on religious difference and partition in many of the existing historical  narratives – all the most extreme social & cultural changes of the 1940s – the growth of cities, the arrival of soldiers, the food shortages – which were a direct consequence of the War seemed to have slipped into the margins. That’s why I wanted to write a book about the Second World War in India too. It’s a shift of focus, looking at the same events but from a new angle.”

Such an important aspect of modern Indian history but not many Indians or British are aware of it.
Yasmin Khan 
Yasmin feels that the interest is increasing regarding the role of Indian veterans in UK. “But so often it’s just a case of adding a multi-cultural twist to war commemoration. I think we need to go beyond this and consider how the whole of the British Empire was exploited as a wartime resource. Many got very rich in the UK & India. Also just how difficult it is to live through a war, how war affects daily lives, beyond just the soldiers involved – women, children, the elderly suffered too. It’s beyond a question of simplistic nationalism –it’s a story that Pakistanis, Nepalis, Sri Lankans and Bangladeshis also share.”

This London born writer has grandparents from all over, with her maternal grandfather born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. “He was actually in India as a soldier during the war - and my grandmother was Irish. On the other side, my paternal grandparents were from pre-Partition United Provinces (Uttar Pradesh) and were refugees to Pakistan. So, it just seemed essential to understand the history of the British Empire to understand how I had come about.” Having studied History at Oxford, she taught at the University of London (Royal Holloway) for 7 years. Presently, Yasmin is an Associate Professor of History at Oxford and a Fellow of Kellogg College. She also works in the Department for Continuing Education, particularly with mature & part-time students. Her first book The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan won the Gladstone Prize & got long listed for the Orwell Prize. Her family consists of her husband & young family.

Yasmin found it to be a difficult book to structure due to different people covered. “My main criterion was to try & write from the bottom-up, to find voices that we don’t normally hear in the histories of South Asia in the 1940s. It has a chronological sweep and flows from 1939 but moves around the world from London to South East Asia and across India and Nepal. I wanted it to convey something of what it felt like to be alive at that time, living in an Indian small town or cantonment.”

The Raj at War is full of stories, both big & small. And a few have touched the author. “Undoubtedly the Bengal famine of 1943… It is still difficult to read some of the reports or to look at the photographs. It was such a tragedy and I don’t think historians have fully got to grips with it yet. I am looking forward to Janam Mukherjee’s book Hungry Bengal. Compared to partition, the Bengal famine hasn’t had enough historical attention,” Yasmin revealed. Regarding the impact of the war and the Indian involvement on the Anglo-India relations, she feels it brought in new decline to the relations, which has been developed in the book. “There was a lot of mutual incomprehension, and a parting of old friendships. Nehru found it heartbreaking. Ultimately, the Raj came to an end – it couldn’t be sustained after the war’s impact.”

She is quick to answer regarding the points that might interest the readers. “There are some amazing events described – like the building of the Ledo Road, a crazy 500 mile road between India and China which cost the lives of thousands of labourers. Nobody even thought that building it was possible at the time… the Bombay Dock explosion of 1944 which made some 80,000 people homeless, when the whole harbour went up in flames. There are also individual stories, like the role of Aruna Asaf Ali who went underground in 1942 and spent the war on the run from the police as a Quit India activist. So many lives were transformed in unexpected ways because of the war.”

History never leaves you, they say. In some way, the book & its offerings are quite vital to present day India and readers, according the Yasmin. In her view, the war is very much a vast subject of interest all over the globe, in terms of films, TV & books. “And yet there are still so many completely unknown stories from South Asia. I think it’s vital that we understand the past in Britain and India – not just to score points against each other or to have arguments about the Raj – but so that we understand the world that we live in is a recent construction, that things were very different even in living memory.”

Now, she definitely wants to take a break from writing on similar subjects due to its association with intense misery & violence. “It’s really exhausting! I’d like to work on a different canvass for a while. I’ve had a longstanding interest in the British radical Annie Besant who became the president of the Indian National Congress in 1917 and was a major influence on Gandhi and other Indian leaders. So, I’m having a look at her papers.” Read this history, which alluded you in many ways…

The Raj at War: A People’s History of India’s Second World War by Yasmin Khan

PUBLISHER: Vintage Publishing              
PUBLISHED: 16th July 2015
GENRE: Non-Fiction                                    
PRICE: Rs. 699                                                
PAGES: 432

Yasmin Khan’s Photo Credit:

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Events in Pune

Singer-Songwriter Prateek Bhaduri’s is the front man of What Plough & Moonstruck Project and sings in Bollywood movies. Catch him live at Bottlerock at Friday Night Live for pre Independence Day Celebrations along with Around the World Menu specially crafted for the month of August.  
WHERE: Bottlerock - Restro & Lounge, Sus-Pashan Road 
WHEN: August 14 2015, Friday
TIMING 7 PM Onwards  
CONTACT: 7875604064 

Have a great your Independence Day weekend with an elaborate brunch including Haleem, Murgh
Changezi, Dakshini Kalam, Subz Guldasta, Meen Polichattu & Paneer Rampuri Korma, plus a live Dosa & Chaat counter. Get international options and a live pasta & pizza counter. End on a sweet note with fusion Indian desserts like Baked Gulab Jamun, Boondi Cheesecake and Gulkand Phirni. 
WHERE: MoMo Cafe, Courtyard by Marriott Pune City Centre, Bund Garden Road
WHEN:  15th August 2015
TIMING: 12 pm onwards
CONTACT: 9923753744 / 020-67248250

Known as the ‘People’s President’ & ‘Missile Man’, Late Hon’ble Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam will be remembered for his contributions. To pay homage to him, Phoenix Marketcity Pune has invited Narayan Sahu, a Sand Artist from Odisha to create a masterpiece of him using nature’s gift, ‘Sand and Water’.
WHERE: Atrium 1, Phoenix Marketcity Pune, Nagar Road, Vimannagar
WHEN: From August 13 2015 Onwards
TIMING:  11 AM – 9:30 PM

We always remember Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore as the one to give us the beautiful national anthem and other literary works. In a unique tribute to him this Independence Day, Hyatt Pune supported by the Stellar International Art Foundation is pleased to showcase renowned artist Paresh Maity’s series ‘Shesh Lekha’. This exclusive collection showcases 9 paintings including 3 calligraphy writings of the poems translated into English by Pritish Nandy.
WHERE: Hyatt Pune Kalyani Nagar
WHEN: August 15 – November 30 2015
TIMING:   9 AM – 6 PM

Experience the magic of southern spices with ‘Spice Routes of India’ with authentic Malabari,
Chettinad, Manglorean & Coastal Andhra cuisines at Hotel JW Marriott, SB Road. Specialities from all these region will be in front of you. What are you waiting for?
WHERE: Spice Kitchen & Shakahari, Hotel JW Marriott, SB Road
WHEN: August 13 –30

Atmosphere 6 now offers a brand new Oriental Buffet Menu which offers a wide spread of  2 Soups, 3 Salads, 4 Starters (2 Veg & 2 Non-veg) with 4 main courses (2 Veg & 1 Non-veg) with a choice of noodles & herbed rice. End your buffet 2 desserts of your choice. Don’t miss this delightful Oriental offering.       
WHERE: Atmosphere 6, Skymax, Viman Nagar 
WHEN: Ongoing (Monday - Thursday)
TIMING: Sunset Onwards 

CONTACT: 9960700734