Friday, April 25, 2014

Manu Joseph's "The Illicit Happiness of Other People"

I'd heard so much about Manu Joseph's comic prowess that the unexpectedly dark "The Illicit Happiness of Other People" (2012) came as a surprise.

No, I haven't read his debut novel yet but his second work of fiction is best described as a philosophical potboiler.

Why does 17-year-old Unni, the charismatic son of a UNI journalist in Chennai, jump to his death?

It's a riddle his alcoholic father would have to solve by questioning Unni's classmates, a nun who has taken a vow of silence, and a corpse among others. Add to the mix a woman who talks to walls and a young boy who knows what Pele's real name is.

Manu Joseph uses his characters well to present a pacy whodunit -- or rather, whydunit -- that is worth your time.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Should have read this ages ago

Finished reading a book I should have devoured several months ago. In "India Unbound", Gurcharan Das traces the impact of economic policies on the country's growth since independence.

Das argues that Jawaharlal Nehru's adoption of the "mixed economy" model crippled India and in many ways Indira Gandhi made it worse. Das says that Narasimha Rao (and not then finance minister Manmohan Singh) deserves credit for his handling of the reform process of 1991, a year he says is a milestone in India's history.

First published in 2000, the book may seem out-dated but is interesting nevertheless in an election year with Narendra Modi of the BJP poised to become India’s next prime minister. Das is a good storyteller and his pro-capitalism stance is an alternate reading of India’s history that runs contrary to the ideals of the Congress party, which has held the reins of power for much of India’s independence.

Where the writer's sympathies lie today is no secret. In a blog post dated April 6, 2014, Das writes:

"There is a clear risk in voting for Modi - he is polarizing, sectarian and authoritarian. There is a greater risk, however, in not voting for him … There will always be a trade-off in values at the ballot box and those who place secularism above demographic dividend are wrong and elitist."

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