Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Reading Travels: full speed to Bollywood

Reading Travels: South Asia - book VI

Do you recall my first choice for the South Asian reading contest? The result of an accident - I did not have the patience to wait for the book I ordered and picked the first South Asian author I could get my hand on in the small public library branch near my workplace. It was a fortunate choice because The Sea of Poppies is an excellent book.

Slumdog Millionaire: A NovelThe second time when I let my choice to chance, I was not so fortunate. The book I chose Q&A (now Slumdog Millionaire like the movie) was a disappointment. It fails to reveal more about life in the Indian slums, its class system and corruption in modern-day India – as the quote from the Boston globe review has it on the cover page. I do not know much about India, yet I am not convinced that this is a book about the life in the contemporary Indian society and its people. Perhaps because I cannot recall reading so many cliché stories about cliché characters in a long time.

But, as poor as my reading experience was, I have to admit that Vikras Swarup masters successfully the art of a non-linear narration. And, with diplomatic skill he succeeds to lure the reader to the next chapter with the promise of a better story – or else I would never have finished the book.

There is also a sense of humor that saves it – though I have to confess I liked the involuntary humor best. For example, on pp. 66-67 we are told how Ram Mohammad * forces his hand through a hole in the wall in order to offer consolation to Gudyia and his roommate admonishes him pointing out that “this hole through which you have pushed your hand is the same hole through which rats and cockroaches enter to your room”. I suppose this was meant to stress out our hero’s courage, but after a chapter of unlikely actions from his part as well as his neighbor’s part, the earthly image of the rat hole with its brusque realism caused this reader to sigh with relief and laugh heartedly.

In short, the fast-pace and cliché of the book made it a winning candidate for a Bollywood movie and a disappointment for anyone who would really like to get a better understanding of Indian culture.

* yes, you read it right , that was his name...obviously a symbol of multicultural India.


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