Junta like Jabberwock and Hurree Babu have cornered the market on reviewing good books. It’s futile to compete on their terms. No, I shall instead target an untapped niche – one I have already established some expertise in, what with abusing Ravi Subramanian and Chetan Bhagat – and review bad books. And the particular bad book we shall focus on today is that thing called LOVE (yes, that is how the capital letters are used in the title) by Tuhin Sinha.
There isn’t any one thing wrong with ttlC. It’s more of a museum of all the different forms of bad writing. Almost every rule of good writing is violated, but rarely to excess. The one rule which is violated to excess is: Thou Shalt Not Use Big Words, Unless Thou Art PG Wodehouse and Canst Pull It Off.
One Night @ The Call Center was like a steaming pile of manure. If God Was a Banker was like an 80s movie, but with lecherous and evil bankers instead of lecherous and evil generic industrialists. Tarbela Damned, Pakistan Tamed was like a collection of Indian National Interest blogposts converted to fiction by throwing in sex, paan and Irish whiskey. that thing called LOVE, however, is like the Barron’s GRE Word List with stupid people. The back-cover blurb itself says it all:
Mayank thus lives in disillusionment, aspiring, with diminishing hope, to fall in love with Utopian earnestness and with his ‘perfect woman’. … That Mayank’s relationship with Revathi unfolds during the course of one Mumbai monsoon, the first that an anticipating Mayank, experiences of the city, only makes this Utopia an even more surreal experience. Will Mayank’s romance ever strike a balance between Chimera and Actuality?
but there are equally unmitigated bits in the book itself:
There was universal talk that marriages were not holding. India was passing through a phase of massive changes in all spheres and there was no way it could have possibly remained immune to western societal influences. The urban Indian populace had begun to show the same symptoms of dysfunction that was once the domain of the prurient west.
Mayank … almost instantly thought that there could be either love or longing in a married woman’s life. If there were both, it reeked of a fluid situation in one’s marriage.
The Ganapati festivities, being innately imbued in the culture of the city; the residents, irrespective of the different regions of their origin, celebrated the festival with rare, infectious bonhomie.
And this just scratches the surface. The only other thing that manages to come close to the obsession with vocabulary is the obsession with brand placement. So characters never have coffee, they have Costa Rica Tarrazu at Mocha. They go out for dinner at Pop Tates1 and Tendulkars, and make sure that the ‘funkier of their apparels belong to accepted, up market brands like Provogue and Tuscan Verve’. On average, there’s one brand name dropped every chapter.
Also, all the characters are idiots. They do things like buy Pomeranians because they feel lonely2. There are onlookers who do nothing but watch people pray for an hour. And all the characters have a touching faith in some form of astrology or the other.
But even after this, it’s impossible to hate the book. Even when Tuhin Sinha abuses Punjews and Goregaon types for not speaking correct Hindi3. Or when he keeps quoting ghazals4. Hate is aroused only by the condescending attitude Chetan Bhagat takes towards his readers in One Night @ The Call Center. Tuhin Sinha takes the whole thing so seriously, that at worst you’ll end up mocking the book, doubled over in helpless laughter (which is what the girlfriend and me did when we read it, much to the consternation of the Barista staff).
If you don’t want to make the effort of actually buying the book, Tuhin Sinha’s website provides equally excellent opportunities for unintended humour, especially the About the Author and Author Speak sections. Still, I recommend buying the book, because, let’s face it, no other book will give you as many big words for only a hundred rupees.
1: To be fair, the Chicken Africano at Pop Tate’s are hajaar strong.
2: And this isn’t even a Gujew character.
3: Because we all know that only UP-Hindi is authentic. Pah!
4: The ghazal is the most despicable form of literature known to man. Along with the destruction of North Indian temples and the introduction of the purdah system, the introduction of the ghazal is one of the major wounds inflicted upon Indian culture by Moslem invasions.