Abir, Sancho and Lizzie

Book cover for My Friend Sancho

Book cover of My Friend Sancho

“I should introduce myself now. My name is Abir Ganguly. I work for a tabloid in Bombay called The Afternoon Mail. I am 23. I masturbate 11 times a day. I exaggerate frequently, as in the last sentence”

Thus begins Amit Varma’s (of India Uncut fame) newest yellowback My Friend Sancho (follow this link for the Author’s homepage on the book, or the Facebook fan page). Abir, or Abeeeer as he is called by friends in a state of bacchanalia, relishes a full meal of online games everyday, and then passes obnoxious PJs, enjoys being at Bookends a bookshop in Bombay’s Eterniti mall (good nomenclature!) and covers the crime beat in Bombay when he feels like doing any work. Abir is imaginative, wildly, his hormones getting the better of him at the drop of every pen anywhere in the world, his testosterone-tinted glasses seeing through every fabric. He is a witness to a murder and then finds himself in love with the daughter of the victim, Muneeza aka Sancho, when he is pushed into an assignment to sketch her father’s life. The story is about how Abir’s life gets entangled with Sancho’s, doesn’t have the balls to tell her the truth, and when he does, as is usually the case he is spurned, and finds himself in the state of abject despair (of course, since its despair in love!). The fact that his room-mate lizard is in no mood to empathize doesn’t help either. What happens in the end … umm .. read the book!

The best thing about the book is that its a very light read, very quick — I finished it off in two sittings. To the credit of the book, it managed to hold my interest even as I kept watching the results of the nations greatest jamboree, the Lok Sabha elections 2009. As you navigate from one wisecrack to another, you wonder if Varma was under the influence of err .. something more influential that lends to more fluent thoughts (a la Coleridge in Kubla Khan?) — you wonder if the wry sense of humour can be achieved in sobriety. The plot is tight, quick — though the book is more in the prose than the plot.

I remember the last book I had read with an equal gleeful page-turning urgency was The Inscrutable Americans, and I hope this book reaches the same heights of success!

Of course, the best fleshed out character in the book is the Lizard. I don’t think you can find another book where a Lizard emotes quite as much.

The Common Man Bowls every Political Party

 

The Common Man Bowls all Political Parties in India

The Common Man Bowls all Political Parties in India

Found this brilliant piece of work by Neelabh on the the Times of India masthead today, and deservedly so. It shows the way elections in India are a completely unpredictable affair — no amount of opinion polls and exit interviews can help. Every constituency is unique, every booth different, every election machine throws up surprises. Every seat is hotly contested, my booth had around 8 candidates. There is a mad scramble for votes, hook and crook both have their own role to play.

And the election results are always a suprise especially in national politics. Voters in India are confused about what is good at the national level, whats good at the state level — and many times your choice vary quite a bit based on the scale of the elections, and the candidate in your constituency. Besides, I am not sure if many people actually know the difference between the parties apart from the symbols. It’s a game of partnerships, with powerful sects, groups, communities with mass appeal, and if you pull the right leader, you pull all the followers with them. 

At the end, it really is like the big fat bowling ball that is quite unpredictable, try as you might to place it. The pins, kings and men, can roll with equal probability, and the pins that stay behind become the kingmakers the next time. Horses are traded, donkeys get promoted to ministers, blatant foxes smile behind the curtains of power, a new set of people make money in the next 5 years, policies be damned!

Yes, elections in India are quite an entertainment, quite like the game of bowling!

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