A Landmark Evening

Yesterday evening I went along with my brother to Landmark at The Forum Mall, to utilize a gift voucher won by him for being part of the 2nd Best School Team in last year's Landmark Quiz held in Bangalore on November 1.

Forum was crowded as usual. In Landmark, the hordes seemed all eager to grab their copy of the "contemporary classic" ON@TCC by Chetan Bhagat (the website claims that he is the author of two contemporary classics; needless to say, a barrel of salt would be handy here. Aadisht has written a nice review of the book). I happened to eavesdrop upon (unintentionally, of course) an exchange between two "software types" :-

A : (lifting up a copy of Malgudi Days) "Hey, I have heard about this book somewhere before."
B : "That's by R K Narayan. Brother of cartoonist R K Laxman ...".

I didn't catch the rest of the conversation as I hurried away in the opposite direction. However, A's words left me awash with a feeling of incredulity which soon gave way to pity for the poor soul - after all, he didn't know what he was missing. The Chetan Bhagats of the world seem to have driven out the Narayans from the minds of the masses. A lamentable reflection of our commercialized times.

Before I sign off, here's what we bought :-

Tags : A Bookworm's Diet, Blogger Days, Quizzing

Posted by Rajat @ 10:54 PM   |  Comments

Redemption, at last!

On December 4th 2005, we (SI, TD & myself) conducted the Ganesh Nayak Memorial Open Quiz under the aegis of the KQA. For our efforts, we received book coupons from the Premier Book Shop. After more than a month of procrastinating, I finally set out today to redeem the coupon for what it was worth. I left for the place at around 12 P.M and managed to catch a bus at around 12.30 P.M. Route No. 201 being the circuitous route that it is, took more than an hour to reach Residency Road. A ten minute walk from there & I found myself facing the book shop. Alas! The doors were locked & a sign dangling from the door plainly reminded me that the shop closes for lunch at 1.30 P.M and wouldn't open till 3 P.M. Resignedly I loafed around M G Road, went to Higginbothams, saw John Batelle's The Search there (currently toying with the idea of buying it), ..., well, never mind.

Anyway, I came back to the shop at 2.45, & thankfully Mr.Shanbhag had opened the shop early. So dashed in & after much searching, many enquiries and some quick mental arithmetic, I settled for Volume 1 of The Complete Adventures of Feluda by Satyajit Ray and Sir Thomas More's Utopia.

Tags : A Bookworm's Diet, Blogger Days, Quizzing

Posted by Rajat @ 9:00 PM   |  Comments

A Bookworm's Diet

Here's a chronological listing of the books I have read since The Last Burden.

On the shelf, waiting to be consumed, are the following:-

  • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  • Godel, Escher, Bach : An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter
  • Dubliners by James Joyce
  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  • Peter Pan by J M Barrie
  • The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald
  • The Lord Of The Rings by J R R Tolkien
  • Hindu Mythology by W J Wilkins

Tags : A Bookworm's Diet, Blogger Days

Posted by Rajat @ 10:25 PM   |  Comments

Déjà Vu

The Karnataka Quiz Association celebrated its 22nd Anniversary last Sunday (June 19) with its annual quiz festival called ASKQANCE at Guru Nanak Bhavan, Bangalore. As part of the fest, a general, open quiz - Sesame! The Open Quiz was conducted by Arul Mani. Out of the 44 questions in the written prelims, we (Mukund, Ganesh, Prithwi & myself) got 33 right which turned out to be the second highest score (the first being 36). In the finals however, we ended up in the 4th place, missing out on the 3rd by a mere 10 points. The Quiz Foundation of India team with Samanth, Swami & two others won the quiz by a huge margin, scoring 226 points, with the nearest team having scored 101. For having reached the finals, we got book coupons from Premier Bookshop worth Rs.250 each. In addition to that, we also bagged the Best College Team prize - coupons entitling us to books worth Rs.150 each. Good ROI considering that we managed to avoid paying the entry fee altogether by registering as an outstation team, which we technically were since we were representing our college.

For last year's edition of the quiz, Ganesh had not been there. So we went with some other fellow called Rohit. We came second in the prelims & were 4th in the finals with Anustup Datta's team being seated next to us (as usual). Talk about déjà  vu!

Yesterday I went to Premier which is situated on Museum Road to redeem the prize coupons. After an hour of browsing through their collection, I settled on Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald and Peter Pan by J M Barrie.

The problem with Premier is that most of the books there are arranged in stacks with almost no space between adjacent stacks. This makes the task of browsing through the books quite difficult & irritating at times (for me, at least). This seemingly precarious arrangement also means that you have to be very careful while pulling out a book - a hasty withdrawal might cause considerable embarrassment (pun unintended), not to mention the inconvenience. Decidedly, the place is great if you are hunting for a particular title - delegate the job to the efficient attendants & they will lay their hands on the exact stack which hides your quarry, provided it is available. The outermost stacks generally contain the newer books & bestsellers while the interior stacks contain older books, classics & the rarely bought ones. But sadly, searching the same isn't exactly easy & this, I feel, translates to lost business for the proprietor (Mr.T S Shanbhag). Nevertheless, the bookshop seems quite popular, especially among the old-timers.

Tags : A Bookworm's Diet, Blogger Days, Quizzing

Posted by Rajat @ 11:39 PM   |  Comments

The Last Burden

The Cover of The Last Burden
The Cover of The Last Burden

I finished reading The Last Burden by Upamanyu Chatterjee. With this, I have read all of Chatterjee's novels :-).

Upamanyu Chatterjee
Upamanyu Chatterjee

Upamanyu Chatterjee was born in 1959 at Patna, Bihar. After studying English literature at Delhi University, he joined the Indian Administrative Services(IAS) in 1983. His first novel was English, August - a wickedly delightful account of the experiences of Agastya Sen, August to his friends - a city slicker, an IAS officer posted to the very rural Madna. The book was nothing short of a masterpiece. Ummm. He followed this up with 2 novels - The Last Burden (1993) and The Mammaries of the Welfare State (2000), a sequel to his first one and a very good one at that.

...it might well be used for an hors d'oeuvre, a phrase which its customers will not fathom unless pronounced as 'whores dee overs', like Punjabi streetwalkers at cricket.

The book is a brilliant depiction of life in an Indian middle-class family at the end of the 20th century. The central character here is Jamun, a bachelor, the son of Urmila & Shyamanand. His elder brother is Burfi who is married to a Christian, Joyce. Burfi has two children Pista & Doom aged 10 & 4 respectively. Kasturi, Jamun's girlfriend who is now married to a certain Agastya (who is nowhere as colourful as the "English, August" one) and pregnant too, Satyavan Hegiste, a Marathi fellow and Kuki - Jamun's friends, Kasibai - Jamun's maid and her son Vaman, Shyamanand's niece Chhana, Urmila's cardiologist Haldia are a few of the other characters in the book. The story begins with Jamun being intimated of his mother's illness. He returns home and sees that both his parents are fading away. So he decides to stay on till one of them expires. What transpires during the rest of his stay and the manner in which he bears his 'last burden' is for you to find out.

But we're all feeble, he assents to himself, and heedless, glutted with vanity, and languish only after trumpery; and in a flash there remains no time to articulate one's love to those whom one owes love.

The usual hallmarks of Chatterjee's writing are all there - large doses of humour, heavy usage of obscure words especially those used in literary & formal situations, creative sentence construction, characters with various hues of grey, the kinky situations, even the minutiae associated with India and its people. Moreover a strong undercurrent of depression can be observed in the book's flow, though this is offset to a large extent by the wryness of Chatterjee's humour.

...all the commonplaces that describe death are so befitting, aren't they? That a light, or a spark, or a glow within, that was most naked at the eyes, is now stubbed out. That what survives is a shell, an untenanted house, the desiccated flesh of the fruit from which the sap's been siphoned off...

The first chapter is titled "August", but here the allusion is to the month, not to the protagonist of "English, August". Compared to "English, August", this book is quite sombre and commercially too, was not as successful, the reason for the same being attributed to the seriousness of the book. The numerous squabbles in the family, the abjectness of some of the characters, their decadence, Jamun's recollections and various other situations all serve to heighten the book's poignancy.

All in all, a recommended read, at least for Chatterjee's fans.

Tags : A Bookworm's Diet, Blogger Days

Posted by Rajat @ 6:52 PM   |  Comments