Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Revolution 2020

Revolution 2020 - Chetan Bhagat
   ... and on Chetan Bhagat in general.

Quite a lot has been said about the publicity strategy of Amish Tripathi's Shiva Trilogy - a youtube video that went viral. I think that though the form is new, the strategy - Internet publicity by a first-time author, targeted for the "intelligentsia" - has actually been put to use much earlier. How many of you heard of Chetan Bhagat, before his first book, "Five Point Someone" was published? Well, I was amongst the ones who did - by virtue of being an IITD alumni - I received a mail on the IIT e-group, announcing the forthcoming launch of his first book - from an IITian, about the IITians. The very fact, and an excerpt from the book, was sufficient to arouse curiosity and interest, and I waited in eager anticipation for the book.

I must say that 'Five Point Someone' lived up to the expectations. I loved it, and so did almost everyone whom I recommended it to. Anyone who has stayed in a hostel, specially in an engineering college, could identify with it; being an alumni of the same college as the novel is set in, I could identify much more with the places and the lingo. By his own admission, Chetan Bhagat didn't have any literary pretensions, but it was definitely a good story. And it naturally created a lot of expectations from his future works.

Then came the second book, One Night @ Call Centre. The bad reviews not withstanding, my hopes/expectations led me to go for it. And what a waste! To say that I didn't like it at all, would be an understatement. And after "Three Mistakes of My Life", I finally gave up on Chetan Bhagat. It appeared that he had stopped writing for the sake of telling a story, and instead started writing in order to make a movie. 

So, when "Revolution 2020" came out, I didn't have any intention of reading it. But some of my friends recommended it quite enthusiastically, so I picked it up for a journey I was making alone (and therefore had time to pass). 

The book is set in the town of Varansi, and traces the journey of its three main characters - two guys and a girl - from childhood to adulthood, as they struggle to decide and achieve what they want from life. There are little successes, and a lot of failures, which is what life usually is. The one who aspires and craves for what he considers "success" is far from it, while  the other who does not want it, wins it easily - the irony of life! The concept/story was good, but the treatment could have been much much better. The tracks that it narrates are quintessentially bollywod. There is the love triangle - both guys love the girl, the fight between mind and heart (money vs principles) - one guy on either side, and the girl is in an unimaginative dilemma. Apart from the melodrama, I found the character of the girl quite badly developed - little more than a prop, and as unpredictable as the cliched college-lore wisdom portrays them.

If the book tried to give us a flavor of Varanasi, well I did not get it. Could it be because I have never even been there? Because, a friend who hails from Varanasi, really loved it and said that it gave her a nostalgia. I think it was much better than the previous two works of his that I read, though not as good as the first one. Is it because his are essentially college stories, and we have outgrown them? I'm not sure I would ever be able to get an answer to these Qs.

All said and done, I still have hope that Chetan Bhagat can be a good writer some day. I loved his first book, and also liked his non-fiction articles that I came across in newspapers or Internet. I feel that the reason his first book was such a success because it was honest, a story he wanted to tell. So if he just tells a story, and stop worrying about the commercializing part (read, making a movie), the commerce part will take care of itself.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Can you count?

The learning abilities of kids are really amazing - you dont even know what they learn from where. This is a phase that all children go through, but its quite a revelation for first time parents.

We were quite amazed when, at around 3 years of age, Sid could recognize all the numbers from 0 to 9, even though all that we and his playschool teachers had been trying to get him to recognize, was the alphabet. Soon we realized that he has learnt to recognize numbers from using/being in lifts.

Many of you might have heard the joke where a gambler's son recites the counting as : A, 2, ... 9, 10, J, Q, K. I no longer think that it is a joke. Because, I recently got to hear from Sid this version of the nursery rhyme "Five little monkeys":

5 little monkeys jumping on the bed ...
1 little monkey ...
0 little monkeys ...
'Basement' little monkeys ... ?!!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Plan B

Preparations for Christmas celebrations are on full swing at Sid's school, and he has been seeing Christmas decorations coming up in markets. So he is quite excited these days, and believes that Santa will be bringing him whatever he wants (and oh, is the list long! and comprises entirely of toys, almost all of them cars!!).

It has become almost a daily ritual, usually a bed-time one, asking/telling what gift he wants for Christmas. Yesterday night, he said that he wanted Lightning McQueen's friend (He's big time into "Cars" movie these days). Then he added that he wanted another McQueen. And another car, and so on.
Us: You cannot get so many gifts. Santa cannot bring so many toys for you.
Sid: Santa has so big bag.
Us: Par usme sab bachhon ke liye gift hote hain. Santa cannot get so many gifts for one kid.
Sid: But I want so many. [again, repeats the endless list].
Us: Agar aap itne sare gifts mangoge to kuch bhi gift nahin milega.
Sid: Kyun Papa? I want all of these.
Us: Santa can only get you one or two toys. If you ask for so many, Santa will get confused and not get anything for you.
Sid: To ham shop se le aayenge!!!

And then followed an uncontrollable fit of laughter and giggling, which didn't let us keep our faces straight either.

First Things First

This sunday, coming back from weekly grocery shopping we got late, and decided to stop at McDonald's as Sid was hungry. He got all excited at the prospect, and asked for French Fries (I wish he would prefer burger, as it is more filling, and relatively less unhealthy, but he does not like burgers). 
At McD's while N stood in the queue to place an order, we waited. But within a few seconds, Sid saw the display window for the current toys they give with the "Happy Meal", and went to admire the toys (though he doesn't yet know the concept of "Happy Meal", he sure knows all about toys. And how to manipulate parents. And I'm sure other parents hate their marketing strategy as much as I do!). Then he started pulling me to the display, "Main aapko ek cheez dikhata hoon" - there, on display were toys with the "Puss In Boots" theme. Sid started asking for a toy, "mujhe bhi toy lena hai", in that smiling-pleading-naughty-insisting tone of his. I told him that he couldn't get it, and as he started throwing a tantrum, I asked him - "What do you want, Fries or Toy?". He calmly replied, "Fries", came down to the table with me, sat down, patiently waited, and then cheerily had his fries. When he finished, I took him to wash his hands and face, and he easily complied. 
And only while coming back from the washroom he asked "Now can I get the toy?"