Sunday, December 13, 2015

Book Review - The Brown Sahebs by Anupam Srivastava

The brown Sahebs, much as it is a work on fiction, follows a close account of not –so fictitious characters that we know from the Indian independence era. Gandhi is possibly the only one who appears as Gandhi while the rest have their names and characters ever so slightly changed.

It is an account of the how the British colonial legacy was deliberately preserved when the reins of power changed from the British – the white Sahebs to the Indians – the Brown Sahebs on 15th August 1947.

The origin of the ostentatious show of power exhibited by the British was copied by the elite Oxbridge educated Indian politicians in stark contrast the the very ideals of simplicity and austerity that formed the fundamentals of the freedom struggle under Gandhi. 

The story revolves around the power brokers in Lutyen's Delhi. When the British left, India's elite helped themselves to the ministerial berths and the perquisites that accompany them. Right from the British built bungalows of Lutyen’s Delhi to the now infamous lal batti culture even after almost 60 plus ears of Indian Independence has been featured in minute detail.

As much as Anupam Srivastava attempts  to portray a near realistic account of the dealings among the political power brokers  of Delhi  that assembled soon after the Indian  independence and the distancing of a dejected and frail Gandhi, from active politics after the Indian Independence. The very Gandhi whose mass appeal and power had been instrumental in gathering the momentum for the freedom struggle. 

All this has been portrayed from the perspective of a fiery young  journalist  whose newspaper later ends up being the mouthpiece of the government  when its editor Shyam Dubey sells the soul of his newspaper in exchange of  a ministerial berth in the newly formed cabinet.   

No prizes for guessing who Shyam Dubey , Vidya Babu and his daughter Komal in real life could have been.         

The emergence and re-emergence of Aam Admi Party over the past few years espousing similar struggles and ideologies espoused by the protagonist of the novel Pratap influenced by Gandhi makes one draw similarities between Arvind Kejrwal ‘s ( earlier) incarnation of the fiery rebel influenced by Anna Hazare. 

Mercifully though Kejriwal has not done spiderman like stunts walking the walls of red fort . His stunts seem far more realistic when he boarded the metro from Kaushambi. Afterall he was the one known for his dharnas at the Ram lila maidan at the slightest pretext.  The novel traces the roots of why Indian  politics is what it is today, as it shaped from the characters who influenced it from the pre Indian  independence era.

If there is one thing one could fault Anupam Srivastava, the Author is for his storytelling style.  

Power corrupts. That is the simple moral of the story. The universality of the story could have easily appealed to the world audience.  Had the novel been slightly more ambitious and written keeping a broader section of audience, there would have been more detailing on various nuances that are so unique to India particularly to north India’s culture.  The author assumes that the reader would be well aware of the context. The story is written with the na├»ve assumption that the reader is an Indian, is familiar with the past and present power politics of Delhi, understands the nuances that form an essential fabric of the caste/ class politics of the north Indian hinterland and has followed through the independence movements of India.

Sometimes one wonders if the book has been hastily written keeping a very narrow section of audience in mind.

The story has all the ingredients needed for a novel.   Historical fiction, power struggle, young hero, love triangle, philandering power brokers and a flash forward to present day climax.

It almost feels like the author is terribly shy detailing emotions and relationships. The narration of the relationship building on between  Malati – Pratap – Kavita could have been dealt with in better detail and sensitivity. The same holds good for the father –son relationship between the Raja and the Prince – Pratap. The build-up of these relationships has been hastily rushed through or has been dealt with in a very matter-of-factly way.       

The transition from journalistic and academic reporting to being a story teller is possibly what the author could have worked on before taking the manuscript to the publishers.  

Overall it is a very good attempt in storytelling. Its success lies in the fact that  it connects the dots of today's crass display of political power and its origins relating them to the incidents in history that have shaped the current power and political structure in India.  

The review for the Brown Sahebs has been written and published as a customer review for 

You can buy the book online here at

Saturday, December 12, 2015

All that is white is not pure and pristine...

All that is white is not pure and pristine...

White is the colour of  the pristine snow… 

But in Bangalore you never really know ..
Here white is the colour of the Toxic waste
Untreated sewage discharged into the lake.

This pristine white foam  that greets  the residents of lake view apartments during their morning walk hides a darker truth--it is the toxic waste . The  foam frothing from the  outlets of the streams that join the Vartur lake in Whitefield, Bangalore  is a result of the water in the lake having high content of ammonia and phosphate and very low dissolved oxygen. Sewage from many parts of the city is released into the lake, leaving it extremely polluted.  

The man from Bangalore Municipal Corporation is seen spraying something possibly to quell the foam so that it does not froth and pour over into the bridge. There is only so much he could do .  

With Builders encroaching land near the lake to build' lake-view' apartments for their 'up market' customers in lands with dubious records of title ownership ( lands adjoining 300 metres from the lake are not supposed to be fit for construction). Clearly some cash or kind must have moved hands sometime somewhere before these upmarket apartments came up on this lake shore.  there. 
The Municipality has no obligation to provide for sewage pipes or reat the sewage as these are encroachers . Upmarket encroachers.    It is thus that the sewage from about 100,000 and more households of high rise buildings is let into the  small stream that flows into the now diminishing Vartur lake. When it is monsoon time the lake overflows with not only rain water but with untreated sewage.  High levels of E-coli bacteria found in untreated sewage percolates the groundwater table and causes waterborne diseases.  

Hence we treat our tap water with massive amounts of chlorine and purify them via purifiers.  
We cannot take chances with what we drink, so we buy our drinking water from branded water manufacturers.
Around our vicinity are leading hospitals with 24/7 emergency care who provide excellent medical care to their  patients.  
Our employers provide us with generous  health insurance benefits to mitigate  the risk of high costs incurred due to hospitalization.

The hospitals, The water tankers, those who brand our drinking water, the real estate developers and the presumably happy residents of the up-market lake view high rise apartments...
Economically speaking everyone wins... it is a win win situation. 
It is always Economy over ecology.  

It is besides the point that the residents never open their windows because there is no fresh air.
The unbearable stench of the frothing lake forces them to keep their french windows shut.  

Was it Winston Churchill who said behind 'every great development lies a dark crime committed way down in history' or some such thing …       

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Life's lessons from the jumbo ..

Here is a video that is probably gone viral on Facebook and youtube.

There is very little you feel like writing  after you see this and reflect ...

Sounds rather familiar is'nt it ...

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Powerful is the fury of nature

The incessant rains lashing the city of Chennai and its suburbs has left the city paralyzed. And the rains do not seem to abate. With fresh rains predicted in the next 48 hours on the bay of Bengal owing to the formation of another depression one wonders if there is a bigger message hidden within natures fury.

Yesterdays  earthquake that measured 7.1 on the Richter scale off the Indian ocean only served to deepen the anxiety.

Some say it is the global warming and others say it is the el nino effect.
There are others who now claim they predicted this days months even centuries ago.

Who knows. The blueprint of how the universe will function has already been laid out and there is nothing human beings can do to change this.

It is in times like these that we realize how fragile a foundation our lives are built upon.

How much we are dependent on the certainty of a calm predictable ecosystem to cooperate with us to help us achieve our petty achievements and go about making a living.

This post is a submission for Thursday photo challenge where the Theme this week is

 "POWERFUL" (Storm, Ocean Waves, Animals, Muscular, Ideas, Car, Truck,...)

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Learnings from unexpected sources...

A dear friend lost her mother today.  She had been care worn for a couple of months now tending to her ailing mother.  Her mother suffered from brain tumour which had relapsed and had affected her neuro motor abilities in many ways.  For the last few weeks my friend had been oscillating with feelings of pity, anxiety, irritability, guilt  and helplessness at her mother’s condition.
Death, especially of a loved one, someone you have known all your life can be a cathartic experience.
  A mother is someone  you grow up seeing as a young person , strong and powerful and then over time as you move on to embrace adulthood and middle age, time catches up and then you watch them slowly grow hunched,  senile,  helpless and old.

My friend and I talked.  We were talking after a long time. She told me it had been an emotionally and physically draining phase for her.  But as she spoke, she said she had realized the bright side of what she was going through. 

This is an experience that brings one to look at one’s own life, thinking of one’s own vulnerabilities and suffering that is in store for us in our old age. 

That reflection is an experience young and middle aged people in western countries largely miss out on.  Retirement communities where the elderly get relegated to once they are unable to care for themselves, would largely shield from the outside world the suffering especially the emotional suffering that the elderly go through as they approach the final stages of their life.     

As much as caring for an ailing elderly person can be a financial and emotional strain for other family members, caring for the elderly and watching them approach death prepares us for our own. And that is an invaluable experience. It reminds us of our own immortality and its inevitability.  A reality about which we scarcely think of in the busy cacophony of our everyday lives.

I actually felt a relief for my friend.  Relief for the agony that she had been going through.  She would take some time to heal. But eventually even this shall pass.  

When speaking to her she talked as though we had been talking to each other for years.  She commiserated with me  for the death of my grandmother and told me her experience was very similar to what I had written about and that she found solace in reading my account of it.  

I was really touched and I think this was the moment my own self doubts were cleared about my potential to be a writer in my own right.  

What better acknowledgement  could a writer get than this.  A long lost friend who seemed to know all about my life solely based on the blogs that I had been writing.

Thank you my dear friend …may you find peace and relief... and may my writer’s block clear up with this unintended compliment at the most unlikeliest of times.   

Lessons in Humility at the Golden temple

To call it a structure symbolizing classic minimalism would be an oxymoron. The Harmandir Sahib or the Golden temple of Amritsar...