Reviews

GONE GIRL – Book Review

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GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn – REVIEW

What started as some in-flight entertainment, ended up being a book that scared me about the mind of people – men and women alike. For people who have already read reviews about the New York Best seller “Gone Girl” on Amazon / Good reads – would have seen words like dark genre, thrilling read, and etc .Here are my thoughts on the book.

THE PLOT : Perfect wife Amy goes missing on her 5th wedding anniversary, but only after having organized her traditional treasure hunt for husband Nick Dunne. Nick, the bored male in the relationship, out of a job as a writer, and barely supporting his family by owning a Bar (bought with his wife’s money) – is definitely not in a “ Happy Anniversary” place right now.

With Amy going missing, a nonchalant Nick is forced to turn his attention to her absence, rack his brains for information that would make look less a suspect in the eyes of law. A confused Nick who remembers the “Amazing Amy” he met and fell in love with – is forced to deal with her parents, news that she was recently pregnant, the media, flirty moms who want their share of media, his sister, and the police – all the time wondering – whether he should have put more effort into the relationship. The introduction to Andie – the 23 year old Nick has an affair with, makes us like him even less.

And then a U-turn, Amy is alive. Milking her disappearance to her benefit. Playing a game to send Nick a message that he cannot take her for granted. Or mess with her emotions. A game she has played before. She watches in perverse happiness as her carefully executed plot to frame her husband, unfolds. It is not justice she seeks, but control.

And as Nick senses he is being framed – he counters her every action through his. Some subtle power play and ego we read about here. Amy who is now in the clutches of her one-time stalker, carefully executes another sterile plan – that of murder. She returns home into the arms of Nick, with an effective fool proof story for the media. Cameras flash, the police are satisfied, and the case is closed. But Nick is not satisfied . Neither are his sister and a detective on the force. After all no one can plan a perfect murder. But Amy did. And got away with it.

And while we wait for Nick to be a normal man, who divorces his psycho wife and moves on with life – he stays in the marriage. Because Amazing Amy is pregnant. With Nick’s child. Yes, more devious planning to keep him in the marriage. Before you start sympathizing with Nick – wait to read his justifications and hers for keeping the marriage going. That is something I am not giving away here.

MY THOUGHTS : The book starts of in quite an average manner. Moderately paced, Nick and Amy narrate their versions – each person characterizing the other through their own experiences and emotions. You understand Nick through Amy’s eyes and vice versa. You empathize with both of them in your mind. The narrative keeps trudging along – you are almost bored with the detailed descriptions of their life events.

And then the author does a 180 and steps up speed. Suddenly you are thrown into the vortex of Amy’s brilliance, her cunning, premeditations and patience. Just when you want to support her for not taking the situation lying down – you are stunned by how affected a person can be when they place too much importance on their own emotions and ego. For Amy – till now an above average person suddenly progresses into an unemotional, manipulative person – efficient in planning to kill, be killed if necessary and to ruin people’s lives devoid of guilt.

I quote Amy’s thoughts from the book “I was told love should be unconditional… Love should require both partners to be their very best at all times. Unconditional Love is Undisciplined love …”
And in the words of Nick Dunne “ … I write down everything about her day, her likes and dislikes… I am a great husband because I am very afraid she may kill me. The fact is , my wife is a murderess who is sometimes really fun.

This whole scenario scares me and would continue to if the roles / gender were reversed. Is this a trend in today’s world? Nick and Amy seem like a normal couple who go through the regular hills and valleys of life. Is this how people think now? Are they manipulated to stay in their marriages / relationships? Would they want to kill / frame someone they loved before? Is it all about power play and being in control? Having the last word at all cost?

In a life where we don’t get to choose our families and our own genes – we do sometimes get a choice of our partner. Someone we think might grow to be our soul mate. Granted we are on our best behavior during the courting phase – that is but a normal reaction. We preen, we coo, we coddle, we exhibit the best side of us. But when you end up sharing mind space for a long time, physical space, or even room space – you are bound to let your guard down. You are just who you are.

You know that their best behavior did not last. Maybe it shocks you. Surprises you. Hurts you too a bit. But News Flash : Neither did yours. He picks his nose. You snore. He is sloppy Joe. You whine and nag. No one is perfect. You need not be. For that would be unnatural almost.
Its good not to take things for granted. But to pretend? Lifelong? Is that a solution? I quote the author’s words here :

“ We pretend to be in love… and it feels almost like love sometimes… Reviving the muscle of early romance”

Early romance. The key words here. That beautiful period of discovery. Euphoria and Peace. Fear and Courage. Talk and Laughter. What poets write about. What films are made on. And then it changes? Does it fade? Or change? Or grow? I have no answer.
In true style of the book – here is my Quiz.

If the period of early romance is so special, how do we make it last?
A) Experience the “early romance” with as many people and move on when it fades out?
B) “Pretend” to be in the “phase” with your partner for as long as possible?
C) Accept some changes as growth but keep some silliness going?

What would you do? Have you felt all the things that Amy and Nick felt? Its time to think. Before committing to a person, folks – wait to think. Am I in love with the person? Or am I in love, with the idea of love. Its not the same. At all.

For a person like me – where a book transports me to a different world, where I visualize the characters as someone I interact with or observe – it terrorizes me. Are people like Nick and Amy people on my Facebook List. My whatsapp groups. Do I know them already? I hope to God, I never have to interact with such people on more than a superficial level. Peace out!

Kommandant’s Girl – Book review

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Kommandant’s girl

A chance purchase of Pam Jenoff’s book – Kommandant’s Girl, was definitely an intriguing read. Tracing the emotional upheavals of newly-wed (Jew) Emma – as she is forced to be separated from her husband who is into the Resistance, as she voluntarily joins the ghettos to be with her parents, is pulled out from there by influential Jews outside, a false identity and a chance to work with a highly respected Nazi who seems to be truly interested in her. If these were not enough emotions – Emma a.k.a Anna Lipowski has to go through feigning a change of faith to prove her new identity, suddenly finds herself with child (a jewish child or a Nazi one? ), and is torn between her love for her absent husband, and an attraction towards the Kommandant present.

While some parts of the book are cliched, with the element of romance thrown in – the subtle references to life during the war are just marvelously interwoven in the book. Contempt for the Nazis, Helplessness about the German power, the actual realization of the loss of near and dear ones,murder in front of your eyes, the first execution you see or gun shot you hear, the utter lack of power to do anything as you understand your people are being forced into death camps, rationed food, alert secret meetings between Jews – these are things you almost take for granted as background information whilst reading.

But almost- difficult- to -perceive references about life during the war are definitely etched in your memory as you put the book down. Each character has their own distinct role to play – savvy Krysia, innocent Lukaz, dynamic Alek, persuasive Jacob, scheming Malgorzata and the charismatic Kommandant himself – Herr Richwalder.  You are drawn to them in their presence and miss them in their absence.

Written in simple language and adequately researched, Kommandant’s Girl – is definitely worth a read !

 

Trip to Auraville… ahem Auroville !

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A friend and I decided to venture to Pondicherry recently, or Puducherry as they now call it – and before getting into the city, we were advised to start with a trip to Auroville. Not there was much to see, but still my trip to Auroville was one of mixed reactions. As much as I enjoyed many a sight and the beautifully maintained gardens – somehow at the end of the day, there were other memories that stood out in my mind as against the time spent at Auroville. Nevertheless – I am here to share the pros and cons of this experience.

The day was quite a warm one with the sun shining brightly – unusual for January, but sunblock would have definitely been a good idea.

Bright blue skies!

We started off really early and reached Auroville at about 9.30 Am, right on time for breakfast. The cafetaria at the center despite limited options on the Menu, seemed to draw a steady crowd. Everyone seemed relaxed and comfortable – maybe it was the aura around everyone that made me want  to believe the same.

Crowded Cafetaria

Well, when my food came – I did look around in amazement as I wondered what all these people were

1. ordering 2. consuming and 3. Why were they not complaining? . The food was bad, so was the service and please do not even get me started on the pricing.

Not as good as it looks!

We had some rock – solid bread, stale croissants, something that looked like an omelet but definitely dint taste like it and yes some lukewarm water that apparently qualified as tea. Sorry to say, breakfast itself  put me into a sour mood and then I made the second mistake of the day – Shopping!

One of the Boutiques at Auroville

Do not get me wrong – the boutiques at Auroville have a wide variety of wares that might well be a shopper’s paradise. Handicrafts, Books, hand-made paper, bags, clothes, stuffed toys, children’s clothes, musical instruments, incense sticks, lamp shades, and aromatic candles – you might just find it interesting if you have a loaded wallet. For someone like me, travelling on a budget, the shops kept  triggering my shopping instincts and my wallet kept curtailing my pursuit of purchases and as a result – my “happyness” too!

It was post shopping that we decided to take the 1km walk to the Matri- Mandir. Surprisingly despite the hot sun, I did see some interesting sights and glimpses of nature’s beauty en route.

Road ahead of us!
This father and son seemed to be having a man-to-man chat!
Through the symmetrical trees..
Sheltered by a green roof
Past the grand banyan tree
And the rock garden
Past beautiful colours
And Thane-wrecked scenes...
First a glimpse ...
And then the whole thing!

You need special passes to go into the Matri Mandir, which we did not have. After looking at the Mandir from afar, and clicking enough pictures we were soon on our walk back to the Center. This was a rather uneventful walk save for one refreshing memory. Solar – cooled lime juice! What the concept was behind this I do not know, but the absolutely chilled lime juice to our parched lips after the walk in the sun, was nothing short of manna from heaven. They also had solar- powered tea , which obviously we did not even try, considering we also just had direct access to the solar heating from above.

We gave our shopping bags and umbrellas some well-deserved rest and were soon on our way to the

A break - for everyone!

city of Pondicherry. More about that later…. A bientot!

Chez Don Giovanni…

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A rooftop restaurant at Puducherry, great view of the sea and the city, excellent wind in your face and great comfort food. This hotel is located on the rooftop of Hotel Corbellis on Mission Street.

Don’t let the simple furniture and decor, cane chairs and chequered sheets, fool you into downplaying your expectations. This place has some genuine Italian food –  we decided to go for the Garlic bread, Lasagne and Roast chicken, with a very tasty dip that came along. The bread and the Lasagne was fresh – nothing tasted pre-cooked or pre-heated.The lime water soda though, was nothing to write home about. Rates were also quite reasonable – An average meal for two set us back by Rs.750. My friend and I decided to skip the dessert a cause de reasonably sufficient portions.

The view from the restaurant..
Your garnishing 😉
Appetizing - this Foccacia!
Authentic Lasagne
Another vibrant and colourful dish..
The Chef's (in yellow) recommendations..

On the whole a nice place- the ambience, the view, and definitely the breeze and the food. Things you could do there as we take an idea from some of the others there – read a book, sip some wine and just forget the world around you – (except when you come back to reality to take a bite). Or you could simply go there in large groups with a large appetite. Definitely worth your while!

The Great Bombay Circus

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There were many things that went through my mind when I went to The Great Bombay Circus a week ago. Not something that could be classified under nostalgia but nevertheless a kind of almost childish expectation. Would it be the same things that I saw as a child? All that stayed in my memory as a child was the distinct smell of the animals and the colourful tents. As the series of activities unfolded here, it was a feeling of deja vu – the clowns, the elephants and camels, the dog show, pretty girls doing dangerous stunts, the cycle show and the motorcycle riders.

What lies behind those painted smiles?
The super batsman
The world spins in his hands
Gingerly balancing on a moving base
Basket ball - but of a different kind!
A really fast pyramid formation!
Russian fire dance
Russian fire eater
More stunts with fire
Crossing a fiery hurdle
Stunts on a cycle - This man is of cine fame. Movie - 7am Arivu
Jumping through hoops
Fashion Diva
Juggling act
Our version of Quick gun Murugan!
Smart birds !
Enter the camels!
There were 2 bikers inside this globe !

But unlike the last time – my current visit to the circus left me thinking. For this time I did not see the happily painted faces of the clowns. I was wondering about what lies behind those smiles. I saw not just the sporty elephant or the graceful camel – but saw instead their lack of strength and their worn out visages.

I was not excited about the acrobatics of the young boy who jumped through the hoop, but felt bad that he was on display. Same goes for the dog strutting around with the umbrella.

The bikers in the globe caught not my fancy, but their earnest prayers did. They start each show not knowing if this would be their last.

The stunt master on the cycle and the quick gun Murugan were people who obviously possessed great calibre, but all I saw were middle-aged men trying to earn their daily bread. Call me a cynic if you will, but what struck me was the apathy of the audience through every act. There were no gasps of excitement, no immediate applause and no faces bathed in admiration that one would expect. People continued to mollycoddle their children, focus on taking pictures of themselves, and buying more and more snacks to keep them going through the show.

At the end of the day – these are artistes who possess some kind of great physical and mental skills that we ” normal” people do not. Why not give them the attention and recognition they deserve? What stops us from clapping our hands wholeheartedly and calling for an encore? Why are there cat-calls but no appreciative whistles?

Variete artistes around the world are an appreciated lot. Our artistes are nothing short of that. But we the audience behave like the crowd watching gladiators battle it out for their life in the roman arena. Serious business for them. But Entertainment for us.

I ask of nothing more but that this indifference would cease to exist. And that brings me to the end of my thoughts on “The Great Bombay Circus”

The End !