There are Lit Fests taking place all over the country, but the community of readers is dwindling. Still, passionate book lovers would like to know what others like themselves are reading. This Book Nook suggests some books, but would also like to connect with serious readers, or even casual airport book browsers. Do write in about books you have loved or hated and why. The best entries will be shared on this page. Please send your recommendations to [email protected]
Grime Below The Surface Glitter
At the height of the Gulf boom, Kerala witnessed unprecedented prosperity, to which stories of broken homes and loneliness of the Gulf widows were attached. But hardly anyone saw the problems of the Malayalee (they led the migration to the Gulf countries for work) in a strange land. People envied the money they earned, so brushed the rampant exploitation and racism under the carpet.
Deepak Unnikrishnan’s book Temporary People looks at grime beneath the fabled gold-lined streets of the UAE. He says of writing the book that won him the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing, “Temporary People is a work of fiction set in the UAE, where I was raised and where foreign nationals constitute over 80 percent of the population. It is a nation built by people who are eventually required to leave.”
The book comprises short stories, poems and one bitter rant-like listing of all the work the Malayalees do in the Gulf, that ends with, “Cog. Cog? Cog.”
The stories use a lot of magic realism with a playful use of language, but the tone is angry, disappointed, often helpless. Like the allegorical story, Birds, in which a Malayalee nurse goes around fixing the men who have fallen off buildings they have been working on—clearly, they are looked upon as subhuman and no safety or medical facilities provided for them.
In the darkly humorous Mussafah Grew People, workers grown from pods and given a 12-year shelf life. Two stories are about cockroaches that develop human characteristics and learn to survive insecticide attacks. The Indians working there are quite aware of their second-class citizen status and learn to avoid rubbing the ‘Arabees’ the wrong way—when an Indian boy is brutally beaten and left in a coma, the perpetrators, who are locals, are let off.
The most disturbing is Mushtibushi about child molestations happening regularly and with impunity in a building inhabited by Indians. A 12-year-old girl, too worldly wise for her age, is convinced that the lift in which the incidents take place is the culprit, perhaps because the truth is too awful to contemplate.
Joseph O’Neill’s 2014 novel The Dog revealed that Dubai was not the gold-tinted paradise that it was made out to be, but it was a white man’s perspective—a man who did not emotionally invest in the land and always saw himself as a somewhat superior outsider. But the ‘temporary’ people in Deepak Unnikrishnan’s book look up at the rapidly growing cities they build from the very bottom rung, and know that after many years of living in the UAE but not quite belonging, they might not even belong to their own towns and villages when they return. Not an easy read, but totally worthwhile.
By Deepak Unnikrishnan
Publisher: Restless Books/Simon & Schuster
Excerpt of Temporary People
Not many people know that 67.5 kilometers to Dubai's west sits an island, a little sultanate ruled by an envious little grump, Sultan Mo-Mo. May 3, 2006
The sultan had enormous eyebrows, fibrous like angora wool. In moments of strife, his eyebrows twitched violently. Like now! His Excellency's royal blood boiled. Once again another mesmerized American news anchor gushed about Dubai's vision, hailing the imagination of the al-Maktoum family.
“Where is this vision coming from?" probed Katie Couric.
"Ignorant Yankee!" Sultan Mo-Mo's British twang bore traces of Basil Fawlty.
The sultan wanted to retch. Dubai's showboating gave him indigestion but he continued to help himself to more chips and fiery salsa, downing cold Guinness, smoking excellent hash, humming "I get high with a little help from my friends..."
There was so much envy in his royal blood he had been peeing green for several days. Dr. Ranasinghe, his physician, had warned him about that and advocated reincorporating the stress ball exercises into his routine. Otherwise the sultan would stink of petrol. And he did. The palace reeked.
But Mo-Mo couldn't harness his rage. No matter where he turned, there was no escaping Dubai, the oil bloc's Mr. Fabulous, flexing its international credentials, cocksure, so very %#$%& cocksure.
It was infuriating! Mo-Mo couldn't watch the news anymore. Every day Dubai's smug Finance Minister, Sheikh 'The Mind Boggler' Salman, as the networks dubbed him, claimed another first for Dubai.
Camera crews treated the man like Moses. They shot him like Brando, his oblong forehead descending from the heavens. Slowly. Like E.T.'s mother ship. Announcing another world's-first, just when regular folk thought Dubai's Ideas Men had finally succumbed, having extinguished every possible permutation the word crazy embodied.
"Marhaba, everyone," Mind Boggler would say. Dapper in Tom Ford. Customary grin. Then begin.
Broadcast by TV stations and radio, the man's baritone hypnotized homes on at least three continents. When the sound bytes ended, cyberspace pundits dissected the presentation. B-school faculty pored over stock options, made a few calls. The Economist filed a report. Dubai's audacity made Mo-Mo stink of petrol. When, on February 3rd, 2006, Dubai authorities apprehended a Senegalese man for hiding and raising a pregnant hyena in his home, the animal was taken in an air-conditioned trailer to a secret location where the exhausted mother gave birth to a healthy litter. Immediately, the government announced plans "long overdue" for the largest game reserve Asia had ever known. That, for Sultan Mo-Mo, was the proverbial straw that broke his corpulent back. He reached for the red phone.
June 22, 2006
After security checks, endless tea, a plateful of dates, and more waiting, three Malayalees, Pinto, Tinto, and Vimto, were ushered into Sultan Mo-Mo's chambers. Here, Tinto gingerly produced a bagful of seeds he passed on to the sultan, who inspected the goods by sniffing them. The stuff looked like Nescafe coffee beans. Smelled like parboiled rice.
The sultan's trusted advisor, Ali al-Thani, 'Able Ali,' in British diplomacy circles, had set up the rendezvous. "You are not going to believe this," he told Mo-Mo excitedly on Skype, "I have three men who tell me Dubai grows its labor. Sprouts workers like sheafs of corn." Sultan Mo-Mo asked his most trusted minister to call him back when the Moroccan hash had worn off. "They will be theretomorrow, Your Excellency," Ali responded, suggesting the sultan check his e-mail before going to bed.
A book on golf by Tiger Woods himself would be a must read for fans of the game. The synopsis says, "In 1997, Tiger Woods was already among the most watched and closely examined athletes in history. But it wasn't until the Masters Tournament that Tiger Woods's career would definitively change forever. Tiger Woods, then only 21, won the Masters by a historic 12 shots, which remains the widest margin of victory in the tournament's history, making it arguably among the most seminal events in golf. He was the first African-American/Asian player to win the Masters, and this at the Augusta National Golf Club, perhaps the most exclusive club in the world, and one that had in 1990 admitted its first black member. Now, twenty years later, Woods will explore his history with the game, the Masters tournament itself, how golf has changed over the last 20 years, and what it was like winning such an event. Woods will also open up about his relationship with father Earl Woods, dispelling previous misconceptions, and will candidly reveal many never-before-heard stories. Written by one of the game's all-time greats, this book will provide keen insight on the Masters then and now, as well as on the sport itself.”
Unprecedented: The Masters And Me
by Tiger Woods with Lorne Rubenstein
Publisher: Hachette Pages: 244
This book tells the stories of some of the top e-commerce leaders and with the modes of buying and selling changing so rapidly, it’s interesting to take a peek into the future. The synopsis says, “A sharp study of the evolution of the e-commerce sector in India and how it is reshaping the way we do business. Whether we’re hailing a cab or ordering food, buying groceries or shopping for clothes, booking a hotel or finding the right doctor – our lives today are lived online. For a population with severe trust issues with online payments, Indian consumers have embraced ecommerce with phenomenal enthusiasm in the past few years. In turn, an incredible number of e-commerce companies operate here today, the more successful among them disrupting business paradigms and changing the way products and services are bought, sold and consumed in the country.Just how has this transformation come about? Through the stories of eight players that have experienced the incredible highs and lows that the industry has witnessed – Flipkart, Snapdeal, MakeMyTrip, Pepperfry, Just Dial, redBus, InMobi, Paytm – that have experienced the incredible highs and lows that the industry has witnessed, this book unravels the incredible story of the evolution of e-commerce in India. Taking into account the recent rumblings that have shaken the industry – from competitive pricing and discount wars to devaluation of former star companies to new and stringent government regulations – Click! presents a long view of where the industry is headed and presents an incisive vision of it that is both inspirational and cautionary.”
Click: The Amazing Story of India’s E-Commerce Boom And Where It’s Headed
By Jagmohan Bhanver and Komal Bhanver
Publisher: Hachette Pages: 310
Every woman who likes bags, must have bought a Baggit purse or wallet at least once. Bag It All is the story of and by Nina Lekhi, the entrepreneur who built this successful company. According to the synopsis, “As told to Suman Chhabria Addepalli with a foreword by Rashmi Bansal - A Bestselling author. The inspirational story of an entrepreneur who built a 100-crore company with the power of intent and love . Indra Nooyi said, “Women can’t have it all!” It’s either career or family. I disagree. As I see it, we can have it all – a successful company, a loving family and the opportunity to follow our passion. When I was a teenager, I started a small ghar-ka-business selling trendy handbags. Today, Baggit is a 100-crore company. Along the way, I became a wife and a mom, and navigated the various twists and turns in my personal life. I could do it all because of my loving, supportive family and my guru, who have made me a better person and a better entrepreneur. This is the story of how a C-minus student – a failure in college – became an A-plus entrepreneur. If I can do it, so can you. My secrets are in these pages.
Bag It All
by Nina Lekhi, Suman Chhabria Addepalli
Publisher: Jaico Pages: 204