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Most Indians today associate Hindi literature with Premchand and with more of the urban youth reading the crass commodified young urban romance novellas, it is perhaps only Premchand who holds the beacon of Hindi literature high.

But if you dig deeper, find out more,get your curiosity running, you will find out so much many more Hindi authors of tremendous fame.

I am not a fan of Hindi literature per se. And whatever little I have read in Hindi is limited to children’s comics or stray stories here and there. Or I have read translations.

Recently, happened to read one. And eventually found out the popularity of the author and that work.

No work in Indian English can perhaps compare with that novel in terms of the sheer accuracy of depicting the post-Independence Indian scenario with a brutal honesty.

Still can’t guess the novel right?

Its titled, Raag Darbari and the novel got me hooked from the first page itself.

The first lines go:
And there, on the edge of the town, stood a truck. As soon as you saw it you could tell that the sole purpose of its creation has been to rape the roads of India.

Such direct, forceful, unique and compelling descriptions pepper the whole novel.

Raag Darbari written by Srilal Shukla is a wonderful satiric account that essentially shows what went wrong with the post-Independent India. Set in the fictional town of Shivpalganj somewhere in Uttar Pradesh, politics and government with all its negative sides are intrinsically described in the book.

The town of Shivpalganj is just any village/town in North India run by not a system of bureaucrats but one single person Vaidyaji who controls everything in the town from education to politics to the police. Helping him out in his politics of power and supremacy is his son Ruppan babu who holds his own in the school from where he never passes. Stuck between the morass is Vaidyaji’s nephew, Rangnath, a research student come to stay in Shivpalganj for improving his health. The novel is narrated from his point of view.

The forte of Srilal Shukla has always been satire and Raag Darbari has humour on every page: whether satire, biting sarcasm or caricature, slapstick or dark humour.He spares no one in his sweeping satire from the most powerful to the most commonest of men (Langad). Srilal Shukla has satirised every character, every point of view to bring to light the utter breakdown of bureaucracy and the rampant corruption that festers within. No point of view is privileged even the narrator’s-Rangnath for all his education and research is satirised for his condescension of the village politics while also tacitly being a part of it. The novel as a whole is episodic and though it has a skim plot running through, it is a bunch of humourous tales satirising the corrupt politics.

Raag Darbari is a gem to be read for its satire and the detailed descriptions of several commonplace, taken for granted things that are a part and parcel of an Indian village and it is this attention to detail that makes Shivpalganj come alive. What makes the novel enduring is its relevance even in today’s India. Certain episodes of red tape, of indifference of the bureaucracy, of the traps that a common man is endlessly placed in to get benefits from the government will all find resonance with any Indian reader today as well. It is this very relevance today  that is a grim reminder of sorry state of Indian politics and bureaucracy today.

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A lot of kids have grown up on crime thrillers or mystery novels written for kids and teens like Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Enid Blyton’s popular series Famous Five and Secret Seven and scores of other books. Tons of Indian kids have also been hooked by these writers and their young detectives. There are many Indian writers also who write detective stories for children as well yet they don’t seem to be very popular as compared to the ones written by the foreign writers.  Not many know that one of India’s best film maker, Satyajit Ray, also penned a number of detective stories and created one of his own sleuths, the famous Feluda who would go around solving mysteries with his nephew Tapesh and later on Lalmohan Ganguli.

Satyajit Ray began writing these stories for the Bengali children’s magazine, Sandesh. The first story was titled Danger In Darjeeling and was published in 1965. Thereafter, there was no looking back. Feluda became very popular with its young Bengali readers and Ray wrote at least one story every year. In all, 35 Feluda stories were published from 1965-1996.

Enough about facts, now down to the review. The Penguin Publications came out in 2004 with a definitive two volume edition, The Complete Adventures of Feluda which contains all the stories. So whether you were hooked on to these stories as a kid and want to relive them now or simply love detective stories, these volumes are a must have. Translated from Bengali by Gopa Majumdar, they are chronologically arranged and show the progress of Feluda as a detective along with the marked progress in Ray’s writing too. The initial stories are simple and childish but later on the plots become more dangerous, complex and twisted. The characters become more fully etched and we come to learn more about this beloved detective’s personality-that he is a knowledgeable person, a voracious reader and a very talented man.

The detective’s real name is Pradosh C. Mitter and his nickname is Felu. His nephew’s name is Tapesh who Felu lovingly called Topshe. The suffix ‘da’ is used as a mark of respect when addressing an elder brother. The first volume has 16 stories which are very entertaining and exciting. It is a treat for any fan of crime fiction. Ray’s language is simple and lucid and keeping in mind the primary audience for his stories, he kept them clean and with minimal violence. Reading the Feluda stories doesn’t just proffer its readers dollops of thrill and fun but also a tour of India and an insight into the life the Indian people in those decades. In Volume 1 itself, the trio travelled from Jaisalmer to Lucknow, from big cities like Bombay to small places like Gosiapur, from Shimla to Gangtok and many more places. These stories do not just tell a tale of adventure and crime but take the reader on a journey across India.

Narrated by Feluda’s own Watson-Topshe, these stories connected easily with its teenage audience. Ray was a self professed lover of crime fiction and had read all the Sherlock Holmes story. It is therefore no wonder that those stories provided an inspiration to him and became a reference point for the format and style of his own detective stories. We see a little bit of Ray reflected in Feluda’s personality as well. Often his views are similar to those of the great film maker.

These stories are a great read and quite informative as well. They are a wholesome read for everyone.

‘Love Story’ by Eric Segal is a famous romance bestseller. Its an unusual love story with bouts of unusual romance coupled with a touch of sadness. It is a short book, almost a novella and can be read in no time.

Taken from hachette.com.au

Oliver Barrett IV is a descendant of a rich, old family and he is a Harvard student who wants to pursue a career in law. Oliver falls in love with an ordinary(read no heritage and poor) girl studying in Radcliffe, Jeniffer Cavilleri. They plan to eventually get married which causes Oliver’s father to disinherit him. After marriage, its difficult to earn money but they pull through. However, a tragedy cuts this pretty love story short.

The good thing about ‘Love Story’ is that Eric Segal does not make the two protagonists fall in love in a cliched manner-like love at first sight or the guy doing the most chivalrous things or making disgusting promises to woo the girl. Its a quick romance with a few swear words thrown in(Its amazing how profanity can be romantic in ‘Love Story’). I have never seen a romantic novel where swear words and insulting each other contributes to building up the love between a girl and a guy!

Its written from a male perspective which I think is rare as most love stories have a woman’s point of view or have a woman as the narrator.

The book’s length is an advantage and a disadvantage simultaneously. On one hand ‘Love Story’ makes for a short read. But it is this short length that doubles up as a disadvantage too because it does not allow depth in the story and in the characters. It almost becomes a breezy, unmoving read because there is not much descriptions about either Oliver’s or Jeniffer’s feelings or their relationship.

Too much use of American slang also creates a casual effect, not a deep one . It feels like it is not a profound love story but rather just an ordinary one. The short length and slang usage contribute in diluting the sadness at the end of the novel.

The last word-‘Love Story’ is no doubt a good romantic read but it is definitely not the best. Its only a one time read!

Heya, My name is Aakanksha Singh. I live in Mumbai in India. I love doing  loads of fun stuff and one of them is reading. I love reading books of any genre, mostly fiction. My favorite genre is detective novels or crime and suspense. I do like different genres but somehow I really do not like reading romantic novels particularly mills and boons. My favorite books include the Harry Potter series, Heidi, Oliver Twist, Tell Me Your Dreams, Da Vinci Code, Agatha Christie novels and so many more!!!!!! I am a complete bookworm!

In this blog, I will post my reviews on some books that I have read. Hopefully these reviews will help you all in knowing the books better. So enjoy your stay here and post comments on anything you want. Any constructive criticism is also welcome!!!!

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