Tag Archives: books

Anuja Chauhan’s Baaz: Definitely not a Turd

The first time I heard about Anuja Chauhan was in my favourite bookstore, sipping on coffee, when my friends and I were talking about books we’d read and loved. It was 2013, and she’d just read The Zoya Factor, and I was a literary snob (aka a dumbshit who needed a whacking from the present me). Since then, I’ve spent a year studying Indian Writing in English, and now I read anything that’s not Chetan Bhagat (I still have some taste).  This year, blessed with a New Kindle, and the glory that comes with it, I read, for the very first time that book that intrigued me all those years ago with my favourite people at my favourite place. To be honest, I was quite disappointed. It was quite shitty, according to me.

Cut to five months later, I heard she’s coming out with a new book. I really didn’t want to read it, but I thought if people don’t shit on her as much as they do on Chetan Bhagat, she must have done something right (sorry, it’s been a long time since I’ve read Chetan Bhagat, maybe I forgot how bad he is- I probably shouldn’t compare). So I read BaazAnd it was the opposite of what I thought it would be.

Baaz is the story of an Air Force Pilot- the very best one in his batch. Ishaan is Baaz, for his eagle-like flying abilities, but also because he’s a bastard. His step father is a zamindar who hates his guts. His maternal grandfather sowed the dream of being an IAF pilot in young Ishaan, who as young impressionable boys wont to do, internalised this dream without questioning it. The fact that he was a naughty (stupid​) little boy who did reckless things for adrenaline rush probably helped. Point is, he enrolled himself in the Flying College, got through it effortlessly, and inculcated the values and ideologies of Defense personell. This is not just a plot point, but also the major conflict in what is, primarily a romance.

In stark contrast, Tinka, born and raised in the US (the reason why this is important gets clearer later in the narrative), influenced by John Lennon’s Imagine, is completely anti-war and anti-violence. She’s a Parsi, a photographer, and she unapologetically stands up for what she believes in. Her father is an ex-Army personell, and much of her family is in the Defence Forces, including her brother who dies, and is taught about in the Defence Academies. (Spoiler Alert: The truth of his death made me close the book and shed a quite tear). Her father cuts her off because she runs away to Bombay, instead of getting married. She becomes the model in the very first Indian advertisement featuring a bikini. She does it for the money to continue photography. But, of course, she gets slut-shamed for it.

This is as much the story of the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 as much as it is of Ishaan (Shanu) and Tinka. A direct nod to the Military, and a simultaneousfuck youto the very concept of war. Multiple times in the text, Chauhan (mock?) praises the bravery of the Military, while juxtaposing the individual in battle who ultimately suffers. Ishaan and his friends gets lost. One of them loses a limb. Jimmy, Yinka’s brother, kills six Pakistanis after his tank becomes useless. He kills them with his bare hands. He becomes the hero of the nation. Then he shoots himself in the head. Many we know througout the novel die. Chauhan, through Tinka asks what’s the point? She talks about the kind of people who enter this workforce – the poor, looking for a Middle class alleviation. The army brats who are forced. The army brats who probably don’t know better. She questions the rationale of war.

“Tinka- I shot him down, I cut down his body and yanked the clothes off his charred corpse. I do not want to look at pictures of his daughters.”

“Why the hell should I feel guilty, anyway? Sure, I chewed up Bilawal Hussain – the others ejected, I saw their chutes, so I know it was just the one guy. But what about Raka? They shot him up so badly, he’d be better off dead, the poor chap.”

She raises her chin, her face mutinous.

“Raka will get better,” she says firmly. “Also, that’s bullshit logic, and you know it.”

 

Throughout my reading of the entire book, a single quote ran through my mind.

The world is run by one million evil men, ten million stupid men, and a hundred million cowards… The evil men are the power–the rich men, and the politicians, and the fanatics of religion–whose decisions rule the world, and set it on its course of greed and destruction.
There are only one million of them, the truly evil men, in the whole world. The very rich and the very powerful, whose decisions really count–they only number one million. The stupid men, who number ten million, are the soldiers and policemen who enforce the rule of the evil men. They are the standing armies of twelve key countries, and the police forces of those and twenty more. In total, there are only ten million of them with any real power or consequence. They are often brave, I’m sure, but they are stupid, too, because they give their lives for governments and causes that use their flesh and blood as mere chess pieces. Those governments always betray them or let them down or abandon them, in the long run. Nations neglect no men more shamefully than the heroes of their wars.

 

What I personally enjoyed about the book was some of those terrible puns (Kuch Bhi Carvahlo, for example). She literally made me laugh out loud at a couple of points in the book. (I’m surprised nobody ever called Ishaan Baaz Turd, though. But then again, my terrible puns are the worst kinds of terrible puns). I also loved how much time she spent describing Ishaan (delish, that boy). Physically and his cockyness. (Right up my alley, if he weren’t in the military). I’ve never gotten to read physical descriptions of guys in this much detail, while the girl’s physique was thoroughly deemphasized. (Of course she wears a bikini and guys go crazy, but we don’t know what colour her eyes are, or what she’s wearing at the moment, which almost never happens). I like how Ishaan gets confused about basic (to me) English words.

I’m not calling this the best book I’ve read this year. I’m not calling it flawless, or a literary masterpiece either. But it was a definite cheap thrill. Anuja Chauhan has definitely grown as an author, in my opinion (should I be saying shit like this? Idk. But we’ve established I’m a snob). This is much, much better than The Zoya Factor. It’s got me piqued enough to consider reading more of her. It does have a certain je ne sais quoi.

 

TLDR Definitely better than ‘turd’. If you want to read something worthwhile for fun, read it. If you want a literary masterpiece, don’t. If you like The Zoya Factor, you’ll like this too. 

  • Release Date: May 1, 2017
  • Page Count: 432
  • My Rating: 6.5/10  (I cried and laughed).
  • Average Goodreads Rating: 3.77/5

 

 

 

 

 

 


I’m sorry but I am not into Golden Age Thinking.

Three years ago, I was convinced that the perfect time for me to be born was the late 1950s, in America, where my parents were probably friends with Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and William S Boroughs. I wanted to be a daughter of the Beats, and grow up and go to college in the 70s, so I could be a part of the First Wave Feminist Movement, and against the Vietnam War, and a bunch of other liberal political movements.

A couple of years before that, I wanted to be born in Edwardian England- Victorian Mannerisms were oh so charming, and a Darcy was definitely waiting to be introduced to my wit and intellect. Ah, such sweet, naive dreams.

Today, I realize, that I’m okay, the way I am- not as a person, but as a product of my time. The future is cooler than the past.

We are talking about Social Justice, but now in an inclusive manner. We are talking about Feminism, but Intersectionality is understood and valued. We are talking about so many different issues, about what the Government needs to be and do- about what is right, and whose right it is, and what is wrong, and is it really wrong?

We have made some excellent Scientific Breakthroughs, and I don’t just mean gadgets, I also mean Psychology, and History, and all the other Social Sciences. I also mean how some of us understand that if a particular group of people do terribly in a test, it is the test’s fault for not being inclusive (Culture Fair Tests), and not that the group is inherently inferior

We, as a species are better off today than we were before, especially in terms of violence– one of the most taken for granted myths is about how violence is increasing (but also, as I have argued before, are good enough?) And as far as I can see, we will only get better. We will talk about our collective conscience, and try to be as woke as posible, and come off better, on an average. For example, do you think the Pepsi Debacle would have infuriated so many people even a decade ago?

I was also a hardbound-second hand, classica kind of person a couple of years ago. But today, I am a Kindle person. You may say I’m a shitty person and technology is shit, etc., but it’s also so much cheaper, in the long run. If, like me, you read mainly during your daily commute, Kindle is really the answer. It’s so light weight, compared to a book, for one. Second, to co-passengers (and to yourslef), it is not annoying (Context: I live in Bombay, and the local trains here are so crowded, you’ll have someone’s armpits on your face all the damn time, and when you try to turn your page, you poke someone else, yes, but also your arms can’t move much. A Kindle only requires me to lightly touch it.) The Kindle has also helped me increase my speed of reading- so much so that what I read in a year a couple of years back, today, I read in a couple of months. I could go on, but this post is not about Kindle. You can say whatever you what about the touch and feel of a physical book, but technology is much much more practical. I mean, would you write all your assignments by hand than through a computer, because it feels nice? No, right? Letters feel amazing, but texting is just more efficient.

Everything is simply better now than before. The “old fashioned way” is simply not charming, or perfect. For example, monogamy is new. If you want to say romance is dead, by all means go ahead. But people have cheated on their partners since time immemorial. So what monogamy? What “romantic”? The idea of “staying in a relationship no matter what” is ridiculous, for example. Do you know what this no matter what implied? Abuse. Cheating. Toxicity. Thank God, I have the option of not staying in the relationship if it’s harming me in anyway. People are getting divorced now because now we have choice in moving away from abuse, now we have that option of opting out. We don’t need to be in a long marriage if we don’t want to.

Sometimes, like right now, I do wish I were in the Roaring Twenties so I could figure out Zelda Fitzgerald, and go to Jazz Clubs, and be a Flapper. But then I think, fuck, Hitler is gaining power somewhere and Europe is invading a thousand countries somewhere,and next decade is going to be The Great Depression. All this only if I were White and relatively privileged. If not, I’m fucked anyway. Also, my husband (I’d have a husband by now, or I’m an old maid) would have returned from war and is most definitely lost.

Thank God I have a phone and a blog to vent into. Thank God things get better in the future. I can’t wait for it!

P.S. If you are reading this, what do you think? I really want to know. Do you agree with me, or do you not? Why?

P. P. S- Y’all should read Better Angels of our Nature, and watch Midnight in Paris (I know I hate Woody Allen too, but that movie is my absolute favourite).

P.P.P.S- I know most of these examples are from WEIRD populations, but I couldn’t find examples that I was very familiar with from others. I have tried, though, but just not my best. I apologize.

P.P.P.P.S- It feels really great to be blogging long form + opinions on this site again. I’ve been blogging (setting up and trying hard to create content) on my Poetry Blog, where I’m doing NaPoWriMo currently. If you have been following me for long, you’ll know my earlier struggle with writing poetry. But now I’m trying extra hard you guys. Please check it out too. 


2015 in Books.

37 books in a year. Probably a personal best. Thanks, Brunch

  1. Elanor and Park, Rainbow Rowell
  2. It’s a YA novel about two misfits, who like any YA protagonists, find love. It’s a brilliant book that deals with many issues. I’d rate it 8/10.
    What worked- The plot, the characters, the way conflict has been handled.
    What didn’t work- The narrative (I’m not a fan of changing POVs)
    Crying: 😭

  3. The Psychology of Terrorism, John Horgan
  4. I read it around the time of the attacks in Peshawar and the Je Suis Charlie movement, and the happenings made a lot more sense to me. I’d rate it 8/10.
    What worked- The compelling theories, the scope.
    What didn’t work- The structure of the book
    Crying: 😐

  5. The Long Silence, Shashi Deshpande
  6. It’s a beautiful book about what it means to be a woman in a man’s city- about resilience and humanity. I’d rate it 7/10
    What worked- The raw honesty, and the characters.
    What didn’t work- The negativity.
    Crying: 😐

  7. The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism, Rex Hudson
  8. Again, this was read around the aforementioned attacks. I’d rate it 8.5/10
    What worked- The case studies, the non-discriminantly explained theories.
    What didn’t work- The narrative, the technique.
    Crying: 😐

  9. A Study in Scarlett, Arthur Conan Doyle
  10. The first story introducing Sherlock Holmes. Rating: 9/10
    What worked: The suspense, the mystery, and the unveiling of the crime.
    What didn’t work- The narrative, the fact that I’ve already read it- the original as well as versions of it.
    Crying: 😐

  11. The Lucifer Effect, Philip Zimbardo
  12. This book details The Stanford Prison Experiment and uses the findings to explain what was seen at the Abu Gharib Prison, where the author was an expert witness. Rating: 9/10
    What worked: The details, the writing style, the techniques.
    What didn’t work: the negativity.
    Crying: 🙁 (It was awesome and overwhelming)

  13. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri
  14. A set of short stories surrounding diasporic themes. Rating: 8/10.
    What worked: The narratives, how I could identify with most of the conflicts, the variety.
    What didn’t work: The pace of some of the stories.
    Crying: 😐

  15. The Parrot who Wouldn’t talk and other stories, Ruskin Bond
  16. Another set of short stories, which I found lying about my store cupboard.
    Rating: 6/10
    What worked: The writing style
    What didn’t work: It was a children’s book, so although I shouldn’t say it, it was too childish.
    Crying: 😐

  17. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling
  18. Well. 😛
    Crying: 😥

  19. The Palace of Illusions, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni.
  20. It’s a retelling of The Mahabharata (an Indian mythological epic ) through the eyes of Panchali. Rating: 9/10
    What worked: The POV, the writing style, the characters.
    What didn’t work- At some parts, it got too preachy.
    Crying: 😟

  21. The Duff, Kody Keplinger
  22. Another YA tale about two seemingly misfit teens. This book is so much better than the movie, though!
    Rating: 7/10
    What worked- I could identify, the plot
    What didn’t work- The conflicts, the characters.
    Crying: 😖

  23. Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen
  24. A 17 year old ‘heroine in training’ who loves Gothic novels and loves the idea of drama.
    Rating: 7/10
    What worked: Typically Austen.
    What didn’t work: Typically Austen.
    Crying: 😐

  25. Gone with the Wind, Margaret Mitchell
  26. Scarlett O’Hara and her struggle to survive and the will to live is what stood out for me.
    Rating: 8/10
    What I loved: The storyline, the way I could feel what the author wanted me to feel
    What I didn’t like: Scarlett is so annoying. Rhett is so frustrating. “I will think about it tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day”
    Crying: 😐

  27. A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
  28. So much more than a World War I love story.
    Rating: 7/10
    What worked: It had the effect it was intended to have.
    What didn’t work: I’m not a fan of the cold way Hemingway writes.
    Crying: 😐

  29. All the Bright Places, Jennifer Niven
  30. It’s a story about a popular girl questioning her life and a not-so-popular boy struggling for it.
    Rating: 9/10
    What worked: I loved the character development, and how the protagonists interacted with each other
    What didn’t work: Sometimes, it felt like the characters were caricatures of themselves/what they’re supposed to represent.
    Crying: 😭

  31. Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh
  32. It’s a brilliant! I read it mainly because it is one of my favourite blogs on the Internet.
    Rating: 10/10
    What worked: Everything!
    What didn’t work: It got over.
    Crying: 😕

  33. Is Everyone Hanging out without me?, Mindy Kaling
  34. It’s a hilarious collection of essays by the amazing Mindy Kaling.
    Rating: 9/10
    What worked: Her sense of humor, the stories she shared
    What didn’t work: Had to follow Hyperbole and a half.
    Crying:😐

  35. The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet, Bernie Su.
  36. Adapted by the creators of The Lizzie Bennett Diaries, this is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice set in San Francisco.
    Rating: 8/10
    What worked: The form, the plot, the adaptation, the minor changes new to the book.
    What didn’t work: The chemistry wasn’t as sparkling as the web series.
    Crying:😐

  37. Mr Darcy’s Diary, Amanda Grange.
  38. A fanfiction-esque diary of Darcy.
    Rating: 9/10
    What worked: Enough Darcy to last for a while.
    What didn’t work: It felt like an adaptation- a bit too forced.
    Crying:😐

  39. A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
  40. In my defence, I’m updated on the TV series (because it’s less time consuming, okay?)
    Rating: 7/10
    What worked: The writing style stood out for me
    What didn’t work: Because I already knew what was going to happen, it was frustrating to see the characters make those mistakes that lead up to their death.
    Crying:😐

  41. Royal Wedding (Princess Diaries #11), Meg Cabot
  42. The 11th book in the Princess Diaries series follows Mia aged 28.
    Rating: 8/10
    What worked: Pop culture references, and the usual thing that works for Princess Diaries. “Leia and Luke.”
    What didn’t work: Not enough Michael Moscovitz. It wasn’t as good as the previous books, maybe because Mia has more adult issues
    Crying: 😐

  43. I am Malala, Malala Yousufzai
  44. This book changed my perspective on what’s important in life, and how blinded I was to the world outside.
    Rating: 10/10
    What worked: Everything
    What didn’t work: It was a pretty difficult read, emotionally. But so worth it
    Crying:😟

  45. A Clash of Kings, George R R Martin
  46. Book #2, A Song of Ice and Fire.
    Rating: 7/10
    What worked and didn’t work: The same as that for GoT.
    Crying:😐

  47. Girl Online, Zoe Sugg
  48. An anonymous blogger (goes by the name Girl Online) who meets a mystery boy when her family takes a workation to NYC.
    Rating: 7/10
    What works: Full of Pop Culture references, “Wiki”, Penny’s brother is a cutie, Brooklyn Boy.
    What doesn’t: The plot is kind of predictable.
    Crying:😟

  49. A Night to Remember, Walter Lord (Audio)
  50. I heard this is the audio book format
    Rating: 8/10.
    What worked: The speed, the technique, the picturesque writing
    What didn’t work: I’m not the biggest fan of audio books, as I learnt.
    Crying: 😐

  51. Seriously… I’m Kidding, Ellen Degeneres
  52. It’s by Ellen, okay?
    Rating: 10/10
    What worked: It’s beyond hilarious!
    What didn’t work: My parents woke up because I was laughing too hard.
    Crying: 😂😂😂

  53. Howl and Other Poems, Allen Ginsberg
  54. I’d been wanting to read it for a couple of years now. And I don’t think there was a better time to read it than at night, when everyone around me was asleep
    Rating: 8/10
    What worked: The rawness of Ginsberg’s voice, the hard hitting roughness
    What didn’t work: Didn’t understand some of the references.
    Crying: 😐

  55. Princess in Love, Meg Cabot
  56. The third installment of Princess Diaries, read because I needed more Michael Moscovitz.
    Rating: 8/10
    What worked: What usually works for Princess Diaries. Also, Michael!
    What didn’t work: He loves you, Mia! Good lord, young lady.
    Crying:😐

  57. Bridget Jones’ Diary, Helen Fielding
  58. Another reinterpretation of Pride and Prejudice.
    Rating: 6/10
    What worked; The familiarity of the story, the format
    What didn’t work: The style of writing.
    Crying:😐

  59. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  60. Again, well. 😛
    Rating: 9/10
    What worked: The POV, the plotline, the character growth.
    What didn’t work: A little less hedonistic pleasure while reading
    Crying:😕

  61. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, J.K.Rowling
  62. WHY DID RON AND HARRY COMPLAIN ABOUT HOMEWORK???
    Rating: 10/10
    What I liked: The hilarious notes
    What I didn’t: The wait for the movie!
    Crying:😟 (cuz I’m not a witch)

  63. Ravan and Eddie, Kiran Nagarkar
  64. This is about two young boys living in a chawl in Bombay, whose fates are intertwined in ways we cannot even imagine.
    Rating: 7/10
    What I liked: The novelty. The raw truth. The writing style.
    What I didn’t like: The plot kept stretching for a bit.
    Crying: 😐

  65. The Color of Our Sky, Amita Trasi
  66. Two girls who are as different as you can be, are each other’s strength and reason to live years after tragedy hits them.
    Rating: 9/10
    What I like: The narration, the plot line, the character development
    What I didn’t like: Some of the characters annoyed me at some point. But they were supposed to. Like you’re supposed to hate Umbrige.
    Crying: 😢

  67. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
  68. Been meaning to read this for years! It’s about being on the road, d’uh. But it’s SO MUCH MORE.
    Rating: 8/10
    What I liked: Kerouac spoke to my caged bird soul
    What I didn’t like: I want breaks in books, okay? Also, I thought it would be my new favourite book. But it wasn’t.
    Crying:😐

  69. Girl On Tour, Zoe Sugg
  70. It’s a sequel. Had to read, obs.
    Rating: 6/10
    What I liked: YA! *spoiler* Wiki being happy, finally. *end of spoiler*
    What I didn’t like: Less Brooklyn Boy. Too predictable.
    Crying:😐

  71. A Work in Progress, Connor Franta
  72. It’s fantastic, it’s a memoir, and I got all the feels. Connor, I really wish I were a guy, and then Troye, you, and I could be gay together.
    Rating: 10/10
    What I liked: He was so honest, and open, and just awesome! The book was aesthetically pleasing, and looked like his Instagram account. Is there anything this boy can’t do?
    What I didn’t like: It got over. Also, within 2 weeks of me finishing the book, he announced the hardcover version. I’m broke, OK?
    Crying:😢 (Because I’m SO PROUD)

  73. Love and Misadventures, Lang Laev
  74. Lang Laev is BRILLIANT. I have to thank my friends for this one. They gifted this for my birthday!
    Rating: 10/10
    What I liked: Everything. Every poem. Aaaa.
    What I didn’t like: Nothing. Seriously. She deserves much more recognition than she already does.
    Crying:😥 (Because so beautiful)

  75. Oedipus the King, Sophocles.
  76. Oedipus. As a Psych and a Literature student, I HAD to read it.
    Rating: 6/10
    What I liked: Well, the plot was quite nice. And a little creepy, but nice.
    What I didn’t like: Not my cup of tea.
    Crying: 😐

Obviously, my PERSONAL ideas. Nothing more. Not even reviews. Just what I thought about the books.
Crying scale (from least to most): 😐🙁😟😖😢😥😭
I’ve obviously been writing this since end of December.😂
Also, now I have a poetry blog on Tumblr. You may want to check it out? Here. Please do. 🙂

Twitter: @WallflowerBlack