December 01, 2007

Book Review: Life of Pi

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Far apart from romance, thrills and those chills, this book by Yann Martel is a simple and humorous tale of a young boy who travels like no one has ever travelled before. Pi Partel (spelled Pye) is a sixteen year old boy whose father owns a zoo in Pondicherry, India, and decides to migrate to Canada. On their way to Canada, the ship sinks leaving only five survivors in a solitary lifeboat: Pi Patel, a hyena, an injured zebra, an orang-utan and a 450 pound Royal Bengal Tiger. What ensues is a remarkable tale of survival, endurance and perseverance. Necessity is the mother of invention and that is certainly one of the writer’s messages. The earlier part of the book deals with Pi’s life in Pondicherry; his acceptance and tolerance of Hinduism, Islam and Christianity which drives his parents mad and his adventures in the zoo. The major portion of the novel describes his amazing journey: how a pampered boy survives hunger, thirst, cold and manages to overcome his fear of a ferocious tiger. The best part is that although the boy and the tiger reach an unspoken agreement about their positions on the boat, they donot become best buddies; the writer makes it clear that tigers are wild animals and will remain so till the end of time. The book is not interspersed with difficult words or lengthy monologues. It has just the right proportions of humour, suspense, tragedy and action. Animal lovers will treasure the description of zoo life while Joseph Conrad’s fans will find the description of the sea enchanting. The book is the winner of the Man Booker Prize 2002 and in my opinion a must read.


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Never judge a book by its cover- literally. I read this apparently hideous looking book on the recommendation of my cousin and found it useful and exciting in many ways. I came across some astonishing facts for instance, Einstein couldn’t get a job soon after his PhD; Beethoven wrote his greatest music after he became totally deaf and Tsai Lun (an extremely unknown historical entity) presented the first samples of paper in the year 105. St Paul, a much revered Christian figure remarked: ‘let the woman learn in silence with all subjection… for Adam was first formed than Eve.’ Interestingly a person named Elisha Gray filed for a patent on the telephone a few hours later than A. G. Bell.

The most appealing feature of this book is the precise and coherent style of the author. There are no lengthy paragraphs or chronology of dates. Some interesting figures like Gandhi, Benjamin Franklin and Henry Ford are missing from the list which makes the selection of the people worthy of debate. The author has explicitly stated that the personalities mentioned are ranked according to influence, not their characteristics and in that context Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has been ranked the first. A must read for all history buffs and highly recommended to students of General Paper (English) in A levels.

Book Review: The last Mughal

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Come summer and most of us rush to book stores buying pirated copies of various novels; revelling in fiction, drama, romance and detection. However, this summer, I had a better idea and took up the mission of reading some non fiction. The book I am going to recommend to readers is ‘The Last Mughal’ by William Dalrymple. Most of us have suffered the torture of rote learning the history of our subcontinent in O levels. We read about the War of Independence or Indian Mutiny, saw Mangal Pandey and forgot the whole affair. ‘The Last Mughal’ brings back the Uprising in a surprisingly interesting manner. Fore first time, the 1857 war has been written from the point of view of the long suffering King Bahadur Shah Zaffar. It narrates the story from within the walls of Delhi, the capital of the Mughal Empire and the centre of art, architecture, culture, poetry and cuisine. The book has simple language and no lengthy descriptions. It has excerpts from the diaries of Mirza Ghalib, Emperor Zaffar, Zahir Dehalvi etc .The writer narrates the true story from the point of view of both sides. The reader therefore, sympathizes with the harrowing tales of murdered British women and also feels wrathful when British soldiers mercilessly hang the Delhiwalas regardless of their innocence and levy the entire blame on only Muslims. In my opinion the writer has done a superb job, ignoring bigotry or partisanship. The book also reveals some interesting facts, such as the Akbar-like attempts of Bahadur Shah Zaffar to maintain interfaith harmony; the doubt over his most famous poem ‘naa kissi ki ankh ka nuur hun’ as being his own work; the highly Indianized British families or the ‘White Mughals’ and the relationship of Ghalib and Zauq with the Emperor. The climax of the book is indeed sad. The scene of Zaffar’s death is heart rending- his helplessness is terrible to read. In short, this book will take you back to the Delhi of 1857 while you witness the tragic destruction and ruin of a great city, its people and its once powerful rulers. As Zaffar put it in his own words:

“Delhi was once a paradise,

Where love held sway and reigned;

But its charm lies ravished now

And only ruins remain.”

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  • He actually did mention Henry Ford by You don't on this entry

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