By Vikas Swarup

Friday - - Leisure -

Swarup’s 2006 de­but novel has all the in­gre­di­ents for a per­fect Bol­ly­wood (or in this case Hol­ly­wood) pot­boiler – drama, ac­tion, ro­mance, vengeance, sus­pense and a win­ning amount of Rs1 mil­lion. It’s no sur­prise then that Danny Boyle de­cided to make Q&A into a film; the Os­car-win­ning Slum­dogMil­lion­aire. Hu­mor­ous, in­sight­ful and emo­tional in equal quan­ti­ties, Swarup’s pro­tag­o­nist Ram Mo­ham­mad Thomas’s strug­gle with life will have read­ers root­ing for him through­out.

While the quiz show and the slum-dwelling pro­tag­o­nists are some of the few sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the movie and the book, what works for both of them is the mes­sage that some­times life throws lemons at you and some­times it throws a mil­lion ru­pees! Worth a read whether you’ve seen the film or not.

by Aravind Adiga

Our nar­ra­tor and (anti)hero, Bal­ram Hal­wai, is “a man who sees tomorrow when oth­ers see to­day” and will do what­ever it takes to rise above the so­cial class he was born into – in his Machi­avel­lian world view, de­cep­tion, bur­glary and even mur­der can be jus­ti­fied. Through him, Adiga’s 2008 Booker-prize win is a con­cise por­trayal of mod­ern In­dia, where new­found cap­i­tal­ism meets age-old casteism, where glitzy new cities are built on the ru­ins of ru­ral In­dia, and where money talks and morals are fu­tile – all against the chaotic city back­drops of Delhi and Ben­galuru. Witty, non­cha­lant and morally am­bigu­ous, Bal­ram’s sar­donic nar­ra­tive il­lus­trates the price con­tem­po­rary In­dia pays to ac­quire eco­nomic pros­per­ity. A raw, pacey and frank por­trayal of sur­vival in In­dia and an en­gag­ing read.

by Jeet Thayil

Thayil’s 2012 Booker-short­listed de­but novel is a se­ries of in­ter­con­nected vignettes re­count­ing what life in the sor­did un­der­belly of Bom­bay was like, be­fore its rein­car­na­tion as Mum­bai. Dom Ul­lis is the dys­func­tional nar­ra­tor, but the real pro­tag­o­nist is the me­trop­o­lis it­self – at once both tempt­ing and grotesque in its ar­ray of ad­dic­tions and de­viances and the un­der­world that com­poses its lethal side. Part ro­man-à-clef, part cathar­tic con­fes­sion, the dis­ori­ent­ing, hyp­notic prose is in­ter­posed with ob­ser­va­tions about the hypocrisies and com­plex­i­ties of In­dian so­ci­ety, as well as vis­ceral im­ages of marginalised in­di­vid­u­als liv­ing through poverty, or­gan­ised crime and unimag­in­able squalor. At times as acridly in­tox­i­cat­ing as the world that it de­picts, Thayil’s novel, in his own words, cap­tures a city that (per­haps thank­fully) no longer ex­ists, ex­cept within the pages of his book.

by Ruskin Bond

Sum­ming up Ruskin Bond’s con­tri­bu­tion to In­dian writ­ing is no easy task. From short sto­ries to novel­las, non-fic­tion and chil­dren’s fic­tion – you name it, this An­gloIn­dian au­thor has left his in­deli­ble mark on ev­ery as­pect of In­dian writ­ing. Delhi Is Not Far, his crit­i­cally ac­claimed 1994 novella, deals with the small-towner’s ul­ti­mate dream – mak­ing it to the big city.

Arun, an am­a­teur writer of Urdu de­tec­tive nov­els, is bid­ing his time in the sleepy, fic­ti­tious town of Pi­pal­na­gar un­til he pens his break­through novel, which he be­lieves will be his gate­way to Delhi, a dream ev­ery Pi­pal­na­gar res­i­dent har­bours. Im­bued with the charm and sub­tle hu­mour unique to Bond, this is a story about op­ti­mism, dreams and hu­man foibles.

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