Monday, August 27, 2012

Book Review:Origins of Love by Kishwar Desai

Title: Origins of Love 
Author: Kishwar Desai
Simon & Schuster
Pages: 470
Price: Rs 350
Format: Paperback
Genre: Fiction / Medical
Rating: 9/10

I loved Kishwar Desai’s first book Witness the Night. So, when I came to know about the release of her second book ‘Origins of Love’, I quickly checked it out and found the premise quite interesting. Both the novels are woven around women centric issues – first one on female infanticide and the girl child, while the second one is on IVF and surrogacy. The second book starts where the first one ends though there are no real linkages, and both can be read independently and in no particular order. In ‘Origins of Love’, the protagonist from her first book, Simran Singh, returns with the flourishing, murky world of IVF, surrogacy and stem cell research.

Dr. Anita and Dr. Subhash Pandey, with partner Dr. Ashok Ganguly, run a posh and successful IVF centre in Delhi offering IVF and surrogacy facilities to interested couples, which include gay and international clients. In one such attempt, a surrogate delivers an HIV positive baby, Amelia, and spells potential doom for the hospital.  Soon the commissioning parents of baby Amelia also die in a road accident during their trip to Rajasthan, causing double trouble for the hospital with no one to claim the child.

With the hospital’s reputation at stake, Dr. Anita involves her cousin, Simran Singh, the 40-something social worker, to unravel the mystery of how the child got the infection and also to find out her surviving family member, if any.

The IVF and surrogacy business is flourishing in India, resulting into the mushrooming of several such centres across the country. Couples who do not want to carry the child themselves or who are not able to do so or the gay couples., etc; are flocking the centres in large numbers that includes a huge demand from international clients who opt for India owing to availability of surrogates at a very low cost, and absence of any strict laws safeguarding the interests and health of the surrogates.

‘Origins of Love’ has a myriad of characters, parallel stories which converge later and sub plots which propel the story at a fast pace, keeping the reader hooked. Kate, who wants to have a baby through surrogacy; her husband, Ben, who wants to explore adoption and who nurses guilt from his colonial past; the middleman Sharma, who arranges for surrogates and lures poor women into the vicious circle of surrogacy; sub-inspector Diwan Nath Mehta in Customs and Excuse Department, who gets embroiled in the business of supplying confiscated embryos to a hospital through his boss Nazir Ali; Edward Walters, the health conscious sperm donor; surrogates in the form of underage girls, women without children, women separated from their children, women who need money for family, et al.; doctors like Ashok Ganguly and Wadhwani, who want to stay ahead in the stem cell research because the future is there, even if illegal at the moment; politician couple, Renu Madam and Vineet bhai, who want a heir for their party – with such an interesting gamut of characters, the story moves forward at a fast pace and makes the book pretty unputdownable.

I admit there are some loopholes in the story, a few very naïve treatments and a relatively lame ending when compared to the high the book creates throughout its 400 odd pages; but overall, the book is interesting and accomplishes the task of putting the spotlight on the pitfalls of this lucrative business!

I am definitely picking up Kishwar Desai’s third book, which she hints towards the end, is on its way!

Image credit: Amazon

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Book Review:The Man Who Tried To Remember by Makarand Sathe

Title: The Man Who Tried To Remember 
Author: Makarand Sathe (translated by Shanta Gokhale)
Publisher: Penguin Viking
Pages: 237
Price: Rs 399
Format: Hardbound
Genre: Fiction
Rating: 7/10
‘The Man Who Tried To Remember’ primarily deals with two things – human mind and the importance of collective against an individual.

Achyut Athavale is a renowned economist and a revered public figure. As an aware social citizen, he has an opinion about everything. He is often invited by institutions to give lectures. One such lecture leads to riot in the city. Pained by the turn of events, Athavale decided to spend the rest of his days in an old age home and to disassociate all ties with his previous life. During his days at the old age home, he murders a fellow inmate, around the time he has lost his memory for a short period. Achyut admits to his crime, but people and circumstances around him collectively work towards proving him innocent.

The beginning is interesting. The narrative indicating the gradual loss of Achyut’s memory is good. The restlessness of the mind has been depicted quite well, more so with respect to a man who loses his memory for some time and the way he tries to recollect in a logical manner using certain technique that he has devised. The narrative moves back and forth in time to guide readers through the story. In this book, the story is not as important as the thoughts and actions.

Honestly, I don’t fancy such subjects yet I fairly enjoyed the book. It is a different kind of story, multi-layered and complex, tipping towards philosophical. It is not a typical page-turner, it requires you to mull over. 

The cover page is interesting. This book has been originally written in Marathi and the narration clearly shows that English is not the language of conception of this story. When a book is translated, it rarely transforms. But I am thankful atleast we are able to read interesting books from different languages through translations.

If you prefer philosophical books and workings of human mind, you might enjoy it much more than I did. 

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Amul's India

Title: Amul’s India 
Author: NA
Publisher: Collins Business (HarperCollins India)
Pages: 212
Price: Rs 299

Format: Paperback
Genre: Non Fiction / Business
Rating: 10/10

If I had to say just one word to describe the book, it would be ‘delicious’.

Who isn’t in love with Amul’s topical ads? It never fails to garner a second look, whether on hoardings or in newspaper. It would not be preposterous if I go on to say that subconsciously I felt the need for this book. I would look at one of their hoardings or newspaper ads, and just wish if I could see all of them together.

The book goes beyond just being a chronological anthology. This fitting tribute to the long-running campaign, with a cute little moppet in a red polka dotted dress, packs in a lot of punch. From important world events to political crisis, from most talked about movies to achievements in sports, from scandals to controversies; the Amul moppet has a witty take on everything that captures our mindspace.

The campaign started by daCunha Communications nearly 50 years back, has mastered the art of connecting popular events or latest happenings with the brand through humour. Because of the need to be relevant at any given time, the ads are doled out every week. The best part is that the ads always accommodate the brand through clever interplay of words, and perhaps that is why Dr. Varghese Kurien showed tremendous faith in the agency by allowing them to churn out ads without the mandatory client approvals.

The book is a mixed bag of best Amul ads over the years, essays and personal favourites by illustrious people from diverse fields like Amitabh Bachchan, Santosh Desai, Sania Mirza, Rahul Dravid, Rajdeep Sardesai, to name a few.

Friday, August 3, 2012

The Liquid Refuses To Ignite by Dave Besseling

Title: The Liquid Refuses To Ignite
Author: Dave Besseling
Publisher: Hachette India
Pages: 336
Price: Rs 395
Genre: Non Fiction / Travel / Memoir
Rating: 7/10

Our expectations from a book are different just as our motivations to read a book are. For me, a travel book offers an opportunity to experience the unknown, meet new people and explore new places, while also relishing the stereotypes of familiar territories sometimes. Travel books are interesting on many levels.

I was reluctant to start this book for a while. The cover page, the illustrations, the back cover, were not giving away much. I have this fear of not liking a book after starting it, because I do not like to abandon a book midway.

Honestly speaking, I liked the book in parts. I liked the parts where the author provides insights on the places, makes witty analysis on certain socio-cultural aspects, pursues his spiritual curiosity, and shares interesting experiences. But the parts which were replete with drugs and booze had nothing much to offer or entertain or enlighten (and those run for quite a few pages)! May be those were the times of self discovery or indulgence for the author, but for readers like me, it does not offer much.

The author is well-travelled. He is not running away from anything but travelling has become a way of life for him. He gets an itch to move on after he spends some time in a place. Though in later pages he also shares his fear of ending up lonely and aimless at forty!
This book captures the author's experiences in Varanasi, Tokyo, Amsterdam, Prague, Kathmandu, Chiang Mai, Luang Prabang, Manali, Kashmir, Malavalli, Delhi, which are interesting and diverse; but not necessarily related to the place. From attaining enlightenment while sipping a glass of lassi to discussing the technique for garbage disposal with fellow American Renee in Varanasi; from exploring his potential as an artist in Amsterdam, Tokyo and Berlin to seeking spirituality in Meditation Retreat at Chiang Mai, Thailand; from missing the 'action' in Kashmir to discovering the hash business in Manali; from analysing the types of gawkers to questioning the life of a three year old lama who 'would have no childhood, no adolescence and no choice'- this book offers many such interesting experiences and thoughts.