The Justice by Nikhil Khasnabish – A book review

The Justice by Nikhil Khasnabish – A book review

As soon as I had the chance, I jumped at the chance of reading The Justice when I heard it was a book based on a true survivor of rape and sexual abuse. Did it work for me? You have to read my book review of The Justice by Nikhil Khasnabish to know more.

About The Justice

The Justice by Nikhil Khasnabish book review

Book Name: The Justice

Author: Nikhil Khasnabish

Genre: Fiction – Romance

Characters: Ime Borah, Zumur, Pranati and Pinto, Uddipan

Setting: Assam, India

Disclaimer: The review was commissioned by the author and it has not changed my opinion on the book any manner.

Plot Summary of The Justice

Ime Borah has had a sheltered and happy life. A parents who loved her, supportive friends and a fiancé who can’t wait to marry her.

But her whole life changes when she is raped by two men. Her parents do not let her out of their sight or their house and her best friend broke up with her. Most importantly, Ime decides to call off her wedding because she knows “she is stained”.

Her area’s local vigilante group, Save Women Society, take it upon themselves to find her rapists. Does justice prevail? Do the culprits get captured? Does she get her life back forms the rest of The Justice by Nikhil Khasnabish.

Book review of The Justice

The Justice by Nikhil Khasnabish is a fast paced, short book that can be read in an hour or so. It is written in an Indianized English and is filled with phrases like “cut the call”.

To be honest, I spent a lot of time thinking if it was just me or it was normal to feel grated by that but I have been called a snob. So take my warning with a pinch of salt.

But one thing that actually annoyed me was Ime’s constant beratement of herself and considering herself stained because she is raped. While I understand that the rape victims may do that, I could feel that it was overdone.

I know I maybe overreacting (or underreacting, I have not decided which yet), but this has theme has been on the Indian mass media and literature for far too long. It is high time we put an end to it.

I liked some of the background stories of the side characters like Sirco-ji. But after a point, these became a white noise as there were too many to recount.

I wished I saw more of Uddipan, instead of just hearing from Ime to understand about their relationship better. Like most parts of the book, I had go by the author’s narrative telling, instead of him showing it.

What worked for me

  • I loved hearing about the stories of other side characters from Assam, a state that I have a soft corner for.
  • Many people I know, may love reading the localized/Indianized version of English.

What may have been better

  • There were many instances of telling instead of showing. And that bothered with the narrative.
  • I hated the victim shaming and treating being raped as a stain and considering the victim worthless after that.

Content warning

Brutal rape, mentions of stalking and raping the victims, Victim shaming and considering being raped an indelible stain, cases of “men writing women”.

Bottom line

The Justice by Nikhil Khasnabish is a short book that you can finish in a sitting. Read it if you are looking for an “Indian writing in English” book.

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The Justice by Nikhil Khasnabish – A book review

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi: A Book review

I was excited to grab a copy of The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi , as I heard it is an own voice book and that has received so much attention recently. To be honest, it was about how often does an Indian tale so well received by the “whites”, right? So let us get on to the review shall we?

About the Henna Artist

Henna artist by Alka Joshi Cover

Book Name: The Henna Artist

Author: Alka Joshi

Genre: Fiction – Drama, History

Characters: Lakshmi, Radha, Malik, Kanta and Manu, Parvati and Samir, Dr Jay Kumar, Maharani Latika

Setting: Jaipur, Rajasthan, India

Plot summary of the Henna Artist

Radha, or the Bad Luck Girl, is an orphan, now that her mother is also dead and fearing for her life she sets out to find her estranged sister Lakshmi with the help of Lakshmi’s abusive husband Hari.

Lakshmi is a henna artist in the post independence Jaipur, serving the upper class women by painting on their body. She has already had her share of knock downs in her life, having escaped an abusive husband a decade ago, leaving her parents to face the shame and started her life from nothing.

All she is working so hard is to build a house for her parents and seek forgiveness from them. But when her husband Hari and her newfound sister Radha walk into her life instead of them, her whole plan goes for a toss.

Could there ever be a happy ending for the bad luck girl? Will the poor ones ever settle in happy life? The answers to these questions form the rest of the story in The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi.

Book review of the Henna Artist

The Henna Artist talks of the women of Jaipur, of different classes and their lifestyles. While the plot had much promise, it was quite predictable and very much like a fairytale.

The characters are pretty charming and interesting but were too superficial for me to have some emotional connection with them. Malik was adorable and a perfect sidekick, but Radha was too annoying.

What I would love to see was some character development for them, I didn’t understand how the naive, frightened Radha turned into a snobby, angry pest even if I count her “rebellious teenage” as a factor.

Ms Joshi’s writing style is engrossing and it almost took me to the 1950s Jaipur and its grandeur. It also gives a quick primer on the caste system and post colonial India, without talking about its ugliness.

Well, that was one of the main let downs for me. This book was entirely written for the white people who want to read about the “exotic India” and “spirituality”. I am astounded that someone could gloss over about a system that ostracizes someone for dyeing the hair of a person from the low caste, like it was nothing.

Moreover, the characters dotting over Jane Austen and Dickens sounded too unbelievable. My aunts who were young in 1950s and broadly educated but I am pretty sure they didn’t read English classics. Another attempt at appealing to the whites??

What worked for me

  • A strong female lead who is career focused and fights for her hard won independence and freedom. I liked other women characters like Kanta, Parvati and Lakshmi’s mother in law who had taught her about healing herbs who were also strong and distinct from the others.
  • The writing was engrossing and vivid, especially in the first part, with the colorful description of the city and their lifestyles.

What may have been better

  • The book seemed it was directed at people who are new to India and its culture, rather than Indians. I totally wish The Henna Artist was written for Indians, rather than making it a propaganda.
  • The plot is predictable and too much of fairy-tale vibe, which didn’t work for me given the mature themes it covered.
  • I wish the characters had individual arcs and they had been fleshed out better.

Bottom line

The Henna Artist by Alka Joshi can be a good start for people who do not know anything about the Indian history and heritage with a predictable, fairy tale like ending. For people who know better, there are much better choices.

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The Justice by Nikhil Khasnabish – A book review

Book review: Clockmaker, The

How far would you go for some peace and stability in your life if you have a family heirloom that has a life changing magical power to it? Would you choose to take the risk for the betterment or will gamble with the known problems of your life? The protagonist of The Clockmaker faces the same questions. Find out how it turned out for him!

clockmaker

About the book

Book Name: The Clockmaker

Author: Paromita Goswami

Genre: Fiction – Paranormal

Characters: Ashish, Latha and Vikram Gupta, Bauji.

Setting: Delhi, India

Disclaimer: I received the copy for free from the author in exchange for an honest review. And it has not changed my opinion on the book any manner. 

The plot

Ashish is a passionate clockmaker who runs his family legacy business. His not so happy family consists his financially demanding wife and a son who has no interest in his business. He finds a family heirloom that has magical capabilities and a history of its own. 

With his wife trying to impress her arch rival Rashmi and his son falling in love with a girl who is not interested in him, he is now having trouble sleeping due to recurrent nightmares and hallucinations. He is not sure if he should use the clock’s powers for his selfishness or continue suffering.

How his decision affects his family and its legacy forms the rest of the story in The Clockmaker. 

My initial thoughts

Though it has some supernatural themes, for me The Clockmaker was essentially a family drama. I was thoroughly intrigued by the premise and the prologue was bang on. I enjoyed reading the familial issues and the differences in the attitude of each character towards those issues. 

My problem was with the execution of the plot and the lack of uniformity in the pacing. For a horror novel, it felt kinda dragging and not suspenseful. 

Things that worked for me

  • I liked the family drama part more than the horror element.
  • The intriguing premise and the prologue deserves a mention.
  • The simple narrative style might work for most of the readers.

Things that didn’t work for me

  • The pace was not uniform and it disturbed the flow of the plot.
  • If you picked the book for want of supernatural stuff, you might be left wanting. 

Bottom-line

If you wanna read a Bollywood style family drama, with a bit of supernatural elements, The Clockmaker might be a good fit for you. 

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The Justice by Nikhil Khasnabish – A book review

One Part Woman by Perumal Murugan: A Book review

It has been a while since I reviewed a translated work I think. And if you are doing the Year of Asian challenge, read this review of One Part Woman and then the book right away. 

About One Part Woman

One Part woman

Book Name: One Part Woman

Author: Perumal Murugan

Genre: Fiction – Drama, Literary, Translated work

Characters: Kali, Ponna, Muthu, 

Setting: Tamilnadu, India

Plot summary of One Part Woman

Set in the southern part of India, the story revolves around Kali and Ponna who have been married for twelve years. They are ridiculed and ostracized for not conceiving a child by their family, friends and the entire village. They have been called names and shamed about their fertility at every instance. Despite having doubts about having a baby, they try to save their face in front of the society. 

They have met with many astrologers, made offerings to the Gods and done every ritual sacrifices to their deities but to no avail. As a last resort, their families ask Ponna to take part in a specific festival celebrating the half-man-half-woman deity, when any man and woman can consensual sexual relationship with one another. 

Will the couple take up the offer? What effect would this offer have on their relationship. You should read One Part Woman to know more. 

Book review of One Part Woman

Though initially written in my mother tongue Tamil, I read One Part Woman in English and I am glad I did that. While I have heard high praises about the original, I am not sure if I could have digested the rawness in the story. 

One Part Woman portrays emphatically the society’s stand towards a couple who are childless, or God forbid choose not to have one, especially in the rural areas. 

There are a lot of racial and sexual slurs (not more than other novels of the genre though), but nothing that called for the riots and calls for banning the book. I think the political and casteists should leave the literary world alone.   

Things that worked for me:

  • I loved the layered and flowery writing style of the author. 
  • All the characters are well thought and fully developed. I loved Ponna’s strong and fierce character.
  • The book ends in a kinda cliffhanger and continues in the next part, the end worked for me.
  • The rural life in the south India is perfectly etched.

Things that didn’t work for me:

  • The rawness in writing goes in hand with a lot obscene sexual and racial slurs. That is one reason I am glad I didn’t read it in my mother tongue. 
  • I didn’t get many of the slurs and slang, despite it being my mother tongue. 
  • There are times the flowery writing might seem overdone and drags the pace.

Bottom-line:

If you want to read a translated work that portrays rural south India then One Part Woman should be your choice. I am definitely reading the part two soon. 

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The Justice by Nikhil Khasnabish – A book review

Book review: Cobalt Blue

Once during an intense conversation, a friend of mine told me that the Indian regional literature is much more forward thinking than what it appears to be. Far far more than what we are still fighting for in English. And then he recommended me Cobalt Blue by Sachin Kundalkar.

I didn’t think much of it and put it in the back burner, like I usually do. Out of a whim I picked this without much expectations, thanks to the weird experiences I had with other Indian books written in English. So let us see how the Cobalt Blue turned out, shall we?

About the book

Book Name: Cobalt Blue

Author: Sachin Kundalkar, Translated by Jerry Pinto

Genre: Fiction – Drama, romance, LGBTQA

Characters: Tanay, Anuja and Aseem Joshi, the tenant aka the painter

Setting: Pune, Maharashtra, India

Plot

Set in Pune, a tier one Indian city, Cobalt Blue revolves around siblings Tanay and Anuja and their typical middle class Maharashtrian family. Their elder brother Aseem conforms to the norms of the society in every sense.

And to make their ends meet they taken in a youthful painter whose independent, carefree attitude is almost infectious as a paying tenant. He occupies the single bed room that their grandparents had used when they were alive and still has the lingering scent of Amurtanjan, (a pain relief balm) used by them. 

The book consists of two parts. The first is a second person narrative of Tanay addressing the tenant and talks about their loving relationship and how hurtful it is to live without him. And slowly the reason why the tenant is not living with them anymore is revealed.

The second part forms Anuja’s narration, set about six months after she returns home after her elopement with the tenant. Her diary entries tell us more about the events that led her to fall for the tenant, their elopement and him subsequently abandoning her. 

Both Tanay and Anuja hadn’t realized that they had fallen for the same person. How their conservative family handle to the fact their young children falling for the same person and how the siblings handle their broken hearts form the rest of Cobalt Blue. 

My initial thoughts

I loved the unusual story and it was not very apparent initially that the siblings loved the same person which made it more interesting. I felt connected to their family setting almost immediately. I was fascinated how seamlessly the author interwove not only the themes of homosexual and heterosexual love, but also the family’s love to their off springs despite how difficult and new it was for them. 

It was quite ironical to observe who easy for the tenant and Tanay to spend hours with each other alone in their separate room and nobody questions their actions. On the other hand, Anuja has a very difficult time finding ways to talk to him, without the prying minds and questionable comments. 

But when the table turned, Tanay is forced to hold his feelings for the tenant as well as his emotions to himself, while Anuja’s emotions are relatively unbridled. She suffers with depression and suicidal thoughts and her family remains supportive (comparatively) despite her rebellious actions. Yes it is a sad truth that the Indians at large are still outright homophobic (though it is mostly the elder ones), let us not even go there and the author captures the Indian mentality perfectly. 

The best thing about Cobalt Blue was how the author handled the theme of homosexuality in such a matured way. Cobalt Blue is not a lot about discovering, exploring or even defending sexuality but just accepting it as is. I can’t believe this book was first published in 2006 and the author was a mere 20 year old at that time of him writing this book. I am swept away!

Things that worked for me

  • All the characters and the relationships were handled matured. You can’t just paint a person in the bad light, (yes even or especially the tenant).
  • Remember the last time I was let down by translation? Jerry Pinto, of Em and the Hoom fame, did a great job. 
  • I loved how things were left unsaid and undone. Sometimes less is enough. 
  • The book stayed true to the Indian culture and still if you change the city to any other developing nation the story would still work. 

Things that didn’t work for me

I had a hard time thinking of something to talk about under this heading and I was at loss, which you know is rare. Anyway here it goes.

  • It might feel a little, very little, slow initially but the simple and lyrical prose would get you through. Just read this!
  • Once you get to the point of all or most knots unraveled the story becomes predictable and ordinary. But the simple and lyrical prose would get you through. Just read this, already. 
  • Sometimes, Anuja does come out as annoying, during her acting out phase, but it kinda understandable when you are ditched by someone you loved.

Sigh, I can’t think of anything else to say in the negative light.

Bottom – line

I totally loved this one and Cobalt Blue has definitely made more receptive
to translated works, especially from the Indian writers. I would recommend Cobalt Blue to anyone who loves a contemporary romance set in a family background and LGBTQA themes.

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