Autobiography of a mad nation: A review

I recently had a chance to read this book, and I must admit, like a true journalist, Sriram Karri had me hooked from the first line – I was born in a mentally retarded country.

In today’s world, where consumerism is holding sway, Karri’s narrative holds up a mirror to us and asks, no, beseeches us “How much are you willing to take before you fight back?” Topics such as political leanings, religion, regionalism, sensationalism that are normally touched upon very lightly, if at all, are tackled head on.

Coming to the story, the diary of a convict on death row is discovered by the highest office in India. The sentiments strike a chord, and a covert mission is sanctioned – to find out the reason for a normal person to suddenly kill his mentally retarded neighbour.

The premise of the story is very interesting, and it grabs you right from the start. This story goes beyond the regular fiction piece, as it drives you to think of where we are and where we are headed in terms of a society and a country.

Moving at a breakneck speed from partition to emergency, to nuclear tests to liberalization, to the Mandal commission to Babri masjid, to Godhra riots to Indira’s assassination to banning Satanic Verses to the Kargil war; the story makes all important milestones part of the narrative. A group, hidden in the shadows, controlling the strings of the story only serves the purpose of making you question “Who is pulling our strings? Do we have control?”

It is a brave book, and one that requires you to keep an open mind. Your beliefs will be tested, your opinions will be questioned, and you will feel enriched by the end of the story. This is a book that you must read. I would rate it 4.5 out of 5.

Book Review: The Curse of Surya by Dev Prasad

I recently got a chance to read The Curse of Surya by Dev Prasad while on my birthday trip. This book is what one might call a mythological mystery set in modern times, a-la The Da Vinci Code or Chanakya’s Chant.

This book is set in locations inhabited by Krishna during his era (Mathura, Dwarka etc.) and focuses around a jewel called the Shyamantaka that was lost during Krishna’s times. What powers does the jewel hold, who all are the interested stakeholders in this jewel, what transpires between them is what makes up the story.

It is refreshing to see a female protagonist in a mystery novel. Sangeeta Rao, the carefree reporter from India working in Singapore, fits the bill very well. She is strong, inquisitive, knowledgeable and ready for adventure. She runs into Alan Davies, a Welsh professor, and is instantly charmed off her feet by the Welshman. Together, the two attend a religious conference where an untoward incident happens. In the ensuing confusion, the duo finds themselves on the run and being helped by a Frenchman who works in a museum in the USA (talk about globalization!). Meanwhile, the police is after them for prosecution. How this intrepid group of individuals peels the layers of the plot behind the crime and realize the bigger game underway, is what forms the crux of the story.

In terms of structure, the story flows well from one part to the next. I did not feel as if it was disjointed at any level. It takes a couple of chapters for you to get invested in the story, but once you’re in, you want to know what happens next and are wondering about the next steps of the characters.

In terms of the background, the story has its origins in Indian mythology and this makes it easier for the average Indian reader to relate with and understand. The easy-going way the story is written also makes you wonder about the authenticity of the claims. I, for one, have felt interested in reading more about Krishna’s times and the history behind them. As it turns out, the author Dev Prasad has written another book, Krishna A Journey Through The Lands & Legends Of Krishna which caters to the actual historical information about Krishna’s era.

In terms of readability, I would say it is a good read. As mentioned, the book starts out a little slow, but picks up speed as you go along. In the second half, the motivations of a few characters seemed a bit circumspect to me. However, all in all, this seemed like only a minor hiccup in what was an easily readable story.

In terms of final views, I would rate this book as a good easy read. As mentioned earlier, I read this in transit, and this was done by the time I had reached my destination. It’s a book that will keep you entertained, interested and invested while it’s in your hands. Once done, you have an easy option to explore further as well. Overall, I would give it 3.5 out of 5.