Monday, 17 December 2018

Blogmas Day- 14: Mini Book Reviews: Karmachari and The Ballad of Ayesha.

Book: Karmachari: Short Stories About Ordinary People

Author: V.P. Kale

Translator: Vikrant Pande

Pages: 216

Publisher: Harper Collins

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2 days

Plot Summary: You who stand in a queue, who try to board a running local, who tolerate your boss's snide remarks and the trials and tribulations of marital life - you still manage to discuss politics with enthusiasm, to finish a game of cards, to laugh and to make others laugh ... You are a true karmachari. A collection of unforgettable short stories about ordinary people, Karmachari is a mirror held up to society. Set in suburban Mumbai of the 1970s, yet universal, it is peopled by characters we might meet in real life. They come alive under V.P. Kale's sharp but compassionate gaze, and prod us gently towards a world of greater kindness and understanding.

Review: Bombay apart from being a bustling metropolis is a melting pot of people from all corners of our country, this adds a special tinge to it's very fibre and makes for it's unique culture. But that apart it is the city of my birth and where I've spent most of my life. It is a part of who I am. And even though I love all things Bombay, I haven't read enough books set in Bombay or about it. I mean not in the way that it matters. Let me explain. I have read several books set in Bombay, both present day and in the past. But for most of these books, not all, Bombay remain firmly in the background. But in this book, Bombay is quite simply a character. A living and breathing presence that moulds the people in these stories. A backdrop but also a catalyst.

The stories in this collection are set in the Bombay of the 70s, way before my time. But to me they seemed like stories told by someone I know. My father or uncles or the people in the building. Of little things and little lives in the big city. They were real and genuine and rich with slice of life happenings. The characters were all like people you and I know in real life, people not characters.

I am a creature of nostalgia. It's perhaps naive but I feel like the good old days were truly golden and simpler and slower. So to read stories set in these years is always a special reading experience. I really enjoyed this book. It made me smile at various points and savour these stories.

Rating: 3.5/5


Book: The Ballad of Ayesha

Author: Anisul Hoque

Translator: Inam Ahmed

Pages: 192

Publisher: Harper Collins 

How Long it Took Me To Read: 2 days

Plot Summary: Dhaka. 2 October 1977. A military coup is thwarted, but the exact sequence of events is shrouded in mystery. Soon after, Ayesha Begum, recovering from the birth of her second child, receives a letter from the air force stating that her husband Joynal Abedin has been sentenced to death, convicted of insurgency. But has the verdict been carried out? If it was, when and where was he executed? If he was indeed hanged, what has happened to his body? Trying to find answers to these questions, Ayesha embarks on a long and arduous quest to search for her husband, reminiscent of Behula's epic journey in her effort to resurrect her dead husband Lakhinder in the Bengali folktale Manashamangal. Set against the backdrop of a raging famine, political assassinations and coups that took Bangladesh by storm right after its independence in 1971, Anisul Hoque's The Ballad of Ayesha is as much a story of the newly created nation as it is the story of its people.

Review: I know very little about Behula and the story surrounding her. A couple of years ago there was a popular Bengali show based on the legend of Behula, that some members of my extended family watched. As a result, I heard a little about the story and had to endure a couple of very dramatic episodes of the same. So when I came across this book, my interest was piqued. To see a re-telling of a mythical legendary story based around a true story. Yes please!

I really enjoyed this book. A wonderful mix of fact and fiction and imagination. A perfect blend of mythical wifely devotion set against political upheaval and tumultuous times. To see a woman's life changed overnight due to reasons completely out of her control is both terrifying and riveting.

I love reading books set in Bangladesh. Not only as a Bengali but as a person who thinks it's important to know the history and stories from our neighbouring countries. The stories set in our subcontinent are rich and my absolute favourites to read.

As much as I love history, it always surprises me how little I know of our modern history. The events in this book were completely unknown to me and it was great finding out about this chapter in Bangladesh's modern history and seeing how it affected so many people like the characters in this book.

This was a very well-written, moving tale of life's upheavals and the story of a woman thrown in the deep end and her way to deal with her new life and stay afloat.

I really loved it.

Rating: 4/5

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