This Unquiet Land: Stories From India’s Fault Lines by Barkha Dutt – A Book Review

NOTE: This piece was written by me for the 10th issue of Audi Alteram Partem, NLU Delhi’s college magazine.

This Unquiet Land: Stories From India’s Fault Lines by Barkha Dutt
Release Date/Month: December 2015
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
This Unquiet Land: Stories From India’s Fault Lines by Barkha Dutt
Journalism has a penchant for narratives, which are mainstream, and rarely steps into the realm that addresses the other side of the debate. However, Barkha Dutt is one of the handful few journalists who has often transcended the border between the two sides, and has given mainstream reportage a depth it unfortunately lacked. This Unquiet Land, is essentially a reflection in retrospect by Barkha Dutt, on the ground reality she experienced in her nearly 25 year long career, while at the same time, providing critical commentary on the fractures that have put India in a cast.
Primarily an on-air journalist (of course, with the occasional columns in prominent newspapers), this is Barkha’s first book, and this fact is bluntly obvious. Despite having a flair for words, the narration, or rather the flow of the book is scattered, and open-ended. Several important issues are raised, discussed, dissected and analysed by her, but cumulatively, the book fails to make a point except for a reiteration of the status quo i.e. the dark yet colourful paradox that is India.
That being said, the content of the book is riveting. Narration of horrifying events that actually occurred, without resorting to dramatization, while simultaneously breaking the walls of privilege built around the reader to expose her to the horrors faced by people, is extremely difficult and Barkha does an excellent job of the same. Covering a wide spectrum of issues that the country was confronted with, she does a stellar job hitting the right nerves at every required instance. One of the major stimulating factors, is of course the fact that she is one of the first on-ground female reporter India saw in the post-liberalization era, and that in itself provides for an unique read. At multiple instances, the book talks about unique anecdotes and incidents from Barkha’s life as a reporter, and how the same influenced her, changed her or forced her to think beyond the theoretical jargon one graduates with.
To be fair, the book also acts as Barkha’s venting zone, as she tried to subtly include replies to certain allegations against her as a part of India’s narrative on major issues, but the subtlety was lost in the harsh barrage of words against her detractors. At this point, I must express my personal displeasure at the same. Not due to the content, but due to the simple fact, that those rants lacked context. A book claiming to explore India’s fractured lines has no context for replying to accusations and allegations which are personal to the author.

Overall, I must say that I was disappointed. Not because the book was disappointing. In sum, the book is average at best, but perhaps I had come to expect more from one of the better journalists in the country, who has often also written scathing columns along the same subject matter the book revolved around. This is not a book that you have to read, but it definitely is one that you should read for a rude shock about what India really is, along its shaky faulty lines.

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The 2015 Reading Challenge

I know I haven’t posted here in a while, but here’s to a New Year and a new start. First up, I have decided to take up the 2015 Reading Challenge. To make sure I live up to it, I shall post reviews of the books I read under it. For reference, here’s the challenge

The Hunt For Kohinoor By Manreet Sodhi Someshwar – A Book Review

Suspense thrillers based on historical theories and conspiracies seem to have become the norm these days. Buoyed by what I call the “Dan Brown” effect, a whole new lot of authors have emerged who practically follow the same plot- There’s a time linked crisis to be solved, the protagonists face either a rogue agency or a legitimate agency running after them, and all this time, the protagonists ( mostly an art expert or historian) are required to solve some ancient mystery or a puzzle based on the same, to save the planet from its inevitable doom. This book is somehow both, a run-of-the-mill abstract of the same concept, but interesting at the same time.
This 425 paged novel is Manreet’s fourth book and second in the Mehrunisa Khosa series. The first part, The Taj Conspiracy, was critically acclaimed. Unfortunately I didn’t review it or read it but yes, they were pretty good (from what I could gather from the opinion of the people whom I know who have read it). The basic story is that Manreet creates an interesting character who is an art and history expert who ends up helping Indian intelligence agencies crack codes which are based on historic puzzles or facts.
The Hunt For Kohinoor revolves around an impending terrorist attack in India within a timeline of 96 hours. Mehrunisa is reconciled with her long lost, assumed dead father Harry Khosa aka The Snow Leopard, a legendary spy in the Indo-Af-Pak region. The plans are hidden away and are addressed as the Kohinoor as Mehr struggles to search for it and find it.
I won’t give away the plot though I’ll tell you the small little things whose presence or lack thereof disappointed me slightly. The narration, although vivid, sounds bland and forced. To put it in other words, for a thriller-suspense based on a deadline of 96 hours, I could not experience the urgency or the building tempo in the book. Another factor that ticked me off was that the book had an idealistic tone for a major part of the narration, which just doesn’t add up to plot which is near reality.
To sum it up, yes there are some narration issues with the book, but overall, it’s a decent read. From what I have heard, narration is Manreet’s forte so I would definitely try and check out her other books. I would recommend this book for first time readers or people looking to foray into the world of reading or for someone who wishes for a fusion of Dan Brown, Steve Berry, Mathew Reily and the mysterious, affable subcontinent of India.
Like: Good basic plot, Brilliant mixing of fiction, myth, history and logic
Dislike:  Idealistic, Style of narration
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Inferno by Dan Brown- A Book Review

Overpopulation always was and still is an uneasy topic. To put it simply, the world is simply too fragile and frankly, small to accommodate so many people. 7 Billion People are way too much.  Now throw in a rebel with a brilliant mind and a narcissist personality. Add art, mysterious hidden messages and of course, the element X, conspiracy theories and we have Dan Brown’s latest thriller.
This 480 paged novel is Dan Brown’s 6th novel and 4th in his infamous Robert Langdon series (the others being “Angels & Demons”, “The Da Vinci Code” and “The Lost Symbol”). With Inferno, Dan brings back our favourite Harvard Symbolism professor to Europe; Florence, Italy to be precise.


This location is ideal for the book. Drawing from Brown’s usual style of writing, Florence is the best location for a thriller based on hidden messages in art, as it was the birthplace of the Renaissance. Housing many of the world renowned masterpieces, choosing Florence was not a mistake.

Moving on to the fine points of the book, Inferno is a well written classic Dan Brown thriller though not as controversial or conspiracy oriented in nature as his previous writings. Futuristic yes, but not quite. I won’t reveal much about the plot yet except for the fact that it is themed on a Dante obsessed eugenic expert who has bold revolutionary ideas. Apart from that, the plot is one which all Dan Brown fans are familiar with, and due to the nature of deep familiarity, comfortable with.

The downfalls of the book are in certain subtle quirks, which differ from reader to reader. Although the plot is a Dan Brown usual, it doesn’t hold up in this case. It’s really tough to buy into the fact that a single person, no matter how intelligent he is, can outrun government agencies, privately hired mercenaries and in this case, even the personnel of the United Nations.
Secondly, Brown’s style of writing has always been something that people have been critics of. The unnecessary exuberance and constant skipping of pronouns in favour of names seems irritating now and appears to be farce to make the book thicker. I agree that a conspiracy centred book should be surplus with details, but in this case, we have copious amounts of writing but yet very little detail is to be found, leaving a huge unanswered question- “Is this(over descriptive writing or as I call it, “A song of Adjectives and Adverbs”) really necessary?”

To sum it up, if you loved Dan Brown’s previous work, you’ll definitely love this one but it won’t be your favourite. Imagine a art chase like Angels and Demons, a conspiracy like The Da Vinci Code, a real time problem like The Digital Fortress and a dull end like The Lost Symbol. There you go ladies and gentlemen, I lay bare the formula of his latest thriller, Inferno.


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Smart Phones,Dumb People by Parthajeet Sharma -A Book Review

The odd chances are that you are reading this on your smart phone, scowling at a screen which advertisement passes off as huge but in reality is a miniscule piece of glass which can hardly compete with a computer screen. Throw in that tiny notification that pops up every 5 minutes to tell you that you HAVE TO read an email or the phone will give you the “red blink”. This book is a sum up of exactly this scenario

This 164 paged book is Parthajeet Sharma’s first foray into writing. Mind you this isn’t a fairytale with a plot. Rather it is what you can call, a personal experience and observations themed narrative. Divided into four parts (namely Innovation, Technology, Entrepreneurship, Priorities and Corruption), the book addresses something that has been addressed multiple times but somehow the perfect message has never been echoed.

The book’s high points are in its directness and relevant examples which can easily be related to. Parthajeet Sharma cites different ironies of today’s idiosyncratic world wherein we are slowly marching to a world where humans are replaced by machines wherever possible. We can clearly associate ourselves with the book and there definitely shall be at least one moment(if not more) where you’ll exclaim with joy after reading a statement and shrieking “THIS HAPPENED TO ME TOO”

The pitfall of the book is uni-fold. With a ubiquitous use of the language, Parthajeet has written a brilliant book but has failed to take the idea across.”Smart Phones, Dumb People” can easily be dismissed as the rant of yet another good hearted person who dishes out the problem, debunks it and offers no solutions.

All in all, the book is a light read and can be polished off in a day.Infact I myself read the book in approximately 2 hours on a return trip aboard a Mumbai Local (Kandivali-Churchgate-Kandivali). So,if you would like to read a frank discourse on the current, so called “tech revolution”, buy this book as soon as possible.

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Those Pricey Thakur Girls by Anuja Chauhan- A Book Review

This post was originally written by me for a group blog I co-own named The Jalebi Chronicles.Check it out, it has some really good stuff.

Title:-  Those Pricey Thakur Girls
Author:- Anuja Chauhan
Length:- 390 pages
Price:-  Rs.350 MRP( Rs.184 on Flipkart)
Genre:- Rom-com

There are some books which are excellent reads, and there are some books which are simply brilliant in their plot. Then, there are some, which you just love. Those Pricey Thakur Girls is somehow an amalgam of all three. Anuja Chauhan is back, and she is back in her unique desi style which has enchanted bookworms all across the country.

This 390 paged novel is Anuja Chauhan’s third book (after two sizzling rom-coms namely The Zoya Factor and The Battle for Bittora).

In a departure from her usual style of writing, the book is narrated from a third person POV rather than her usual first person narrative. But, she nails it. In this book, we step into the world of the Thakur family, residing at New Delhi’s posh area, Hailey road.  You’ll slowly fall in love with the characters as well as the book with little nuances such as Justice L.N Thakur’s penchant for alliteration and organisation or Chachiji’s tantrums and whacky jadootona nuskas. As usual Anuja Chauhan draws you into her own world which is extremely familiar and homely. You definitely shall find the characters similar to some people from your real life. I sure did!
Pointing out the book’s low points (which are almost non-existent), we arrive at something really dicey. As I mentioned earlier, she uses a new style of narration which is a departure from the one her fans are accustomed to. Being one of them, I can safely say that it did not affect my reading experience much but it may be a deal breaker for others. Secondly, although Anuja wraps up the main plot brilliantly, she surprisingly left a sub-plot hanging this time. It would have been a huge shocker but to my great pleasure, the next page announced her next book, a sequel to this book itself. Yet, I would have preferred a finished story.
In Few Lines
On a whole, the book is something that I really enjoyed reading. Anuja Chauhan has clearly emerged as one of the leading authors from India in recent times and has done the impossible by creating an unique content style which resembles a mix of Salman Rushdie, Arvind Adiga and Chetan Bhagat. It’s simply the best of all worlds. As a parting note, to every person (read male) who thinks Anuja Chauhan’s work is something that people classify as “chick-flick”, man up, buy the book and give it a read. You’ll realise it on your own that stories like this aren’t just femme-friendly but are excellent novels which reach out and touch your heart.
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Toke by Jugal Mody -A Book Review

Imagine the weirdest conversation you’ve had with your friends. Now imagine the funniest conversation you’ve had with them. Mix them up. Multiply it by 100.Divide it by zero. That’s how weirdly funny this book is!

Toke is Jugal Mody’s first book and I have no clue what to make of it. The book is unlike any other book you’ll have read and I would like to take this opportunity to give a small ovation to Harper Collins India for having the balls to publish this work. I do not say that it is bad. On the contrary, the outlined plot is pretty simple and has nothing absurd about it. It’s the details that derail it from reality. But the writing is fresh and brash; a refreshing change from the monotonous attempts by newbie’s to be Salman Rushdie or Shakespeare by diving into literary metaphors which make no sense.

To give you a sample, just read Toke’s blurb:


So Lord Vishnu showed up one morning when I was really stoned and asked me to save the world from turning undead. How did I save the world? I didn’t. We did. And while saving the world, I got to forcefully kiss the girl of my dreams. Many times. My best friends got to smoke a lot of good stuff. A lot more than they would have otherwise smoked in that much time. They also got to crash an airplane into a slum outside Santacruz airport. But don’t worry, there were only zombies around when that happened. We were joined in our quest by two Japanese girls who can kill people with their pinkies, one of whom forcefully kissed Danny. Yes, there was a lot of non-consensual kissing in this adventure. With tongue. Hi. I’m Nikhil. This is my story. And I swear I have a T-shirt to prove it.

The plot is pretty simple and is actually what I liked about the book, because it’s unique. X along with two of his college friends is empowered by Vishnu to fight the evil taking over of the world. Along the way they get help from magical buttons, giant eagles, crows, crashing planes and Billy Joe. Also, they smoke pot throughout, so well… All I need to say is that “Toke” is aptly named.(To those who didn’t get the joke, two words: URBAN DICTIONARY)

The “thumbs-down” for the book goes to the absurdities. I felt that Jugal stretched the weird stuff a bit too far which simply wrecked the whole thing. I can’t mention much because of spoilers but after a while, the ploys of marijuana high characters get boring.

In all, the book is a fine weekend read. Nothing enriching or invigorating. But definitely funny. Read and laugh fellas!

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