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Do we all have a book within us?

March 9, 2009

Unfortunately not. And that is why we blog. Its free and only your close circle of friends have to bear the brunt.Even then so many of the blogs seem to be written in the same style ( your true self included), you wonder who is copying whom?Maybe we should go back to handwritten diaries, safely tucked away in the privacy of our bedroom.Far away from prying younger siblings.

So,what do you do when with great anticipation you pick up a book about your campus  .It’s a book about a place where you have  spent,perhaps the two most debauched,unproductive,hectic and memorable years of your life.And you finish the book in 3 hours straight.Not because its is in NYT terms, Unputdownable.Simply because the writer, Soma Das, must not have taken more than 4 hours to write the book.In all earnestness, I plodded through the entire206 pages of it, in the hope of finding a story. I did.Around 20 pages towards the end.And for that I had to bear long rambling sentences,incorrect grammar, boring characterisations and pedantic dialogues.Oh and as I write this book I read the declarations made by Miss Soma .“I declare I know no grammar” . Trust me,she is not being modest about it.And in the ‘Letter to my reader’ section she writes ” You are required to take off your thinking caps and reasoning hats”. So no grammar, no logic. Sounds like a good porn.Unfortunately no sex either.Honestly again,she declares, ” Please pray for the author’s life after you finish reading”. She definitely had no misgivings about her book.

Lets face it.Unlike the books set in IITians and IIMs you won’t find street vendors selling books set inJNU.This is the only one I have personally come across, and might very well be the only one.( I vaguely remember somebody mentioning one such book while I was still in campus, but cannot recollect the name,so it could very well be this one).

Unfortunately, it is written by a day-scholar,aka day-skee ,in a somewhat insulting manner, I must add.I say unfortunately, because at the core of the entire drama called campus life, lies the hostel. The writer does move in and out of the various  hostels sharing rooms with her hostelite friends, but then that’s not the same, is it?Till the watchman knows you and calls you by your room number,when you have a visitor ,a  call or mail,it is just not the same.She could have turned this in her favour by being the astute observer.Alas such was not to be the case. Instead she decides to come up with rather uninspiring names and abbreviations. Maa-Go club for the all bong sisterhood.Come on, even when we were at our “I-hate-all-bongs” in the campus phase, we had some rather innovative names for them. And to be frank, none of them went Maa Go. They did go Boka-Chuda.Which brings me to my biggest grievance against this books. The characters donot ,I repeat ,donot talk/behave like a typical JNUite (bengali/ex-Presidency or Xaviers/smoker).So many bong characters and not one uttered the in-famous “Boka-Chudda”.Tsk Tsk,these day skees ,what would they know.

The first nine chapters(which was almost one third  the book) was just about setting the scene for the readers and had absolutely no relevance to the miserable excuse of a story in the end, which was more of an incident,which if edited properly would be no longer than this post.Let me give you the gist and that is all there is to it.The batch go to the Himalayas on a research trip where the chief protagonist ,Kaaya Pattnaik,falls in love with the local chai-walla who is four years younger to her, they have half  a movie date,he dies in a forest fire the same evening,two days later she slips on a rock having a near-death accident and gets up in a Delhi hospital.Fast forward to a year or two and a few characters including Kaaya clears the Civils.The end.

When the writer writes out the full form of DDLJ in asterix,and translates very obvious hindi words (Maunvrat- vow of silence,Gobar- cow dung, Dard- pain), you suspect she had a wider global audience in mind.

And now lets come to the writing style.

First the title- Sumthing of a mocktale(sic)..at JNU where Kurta fell in love with Jeans (end of title).I donot know why the cover emphasised on the ‘sum’ bit. My sister and I,in one of our not too bright moment,  thought of naming our library Cock-tale and of course had a hearty laugh about it later.Do not ask me what we named it eventually.But then we wrote no book then, so we are excused everything,including bad grammar.

Then comes the names of some of the characters.Roly,who dates a guy called Jolly.A fair boy nicknamed Talcum,a pain-in-ass soulful poet nicknamed Dard.And then two long paragraphs pointing out the pun  in case we missed it. Dard for the pain in his poems and then also for  his being an unbearable bore.

And then priceless sentences like this had me cringing .

“Talcum,the dumb that he was…”.(that’s it, I have not missed out any words).

“I tried stroking the three tent partners,but only S reciprocated.(Stop thinking dirty,like I did.Here Kaaya  is just trying to wake up her 3 female friends,with whom she was sharing a tent,on the trip.While you and I would have just shove someone awake,she strokes them)

“To that my non-stop chitter chatter Prof added…’

Seriously I would have taken more diligent notes of the book had I known that I would have written this post.Now I just have to trust my not so trustworthy memory.

And her imitation of a Bengali speaking in English is irritating at its best. Fabhourite shongs for favourite songs? This after you have spent 2 whole years with them? They do say ‘shit down’ though.

As a geography student she explains intraplate as ” between two plates”.Now who could have guessed that.

I did try hard to find a few gems here and there.Like

“Once you are in JNU you go either the Massachusetts way or the Munirka way…” Very contextual,meaning either you go abroad for your PhD,or you go to the nearby  shanty called Munirka to join the hoards of other IAS aspirants.

Seriously ,much as I try, I fail to dig out anything else worth quoting here.

At the end, when the three friends meet and  discuss what clearing the Mphil exam meant for each one, Kaaya the protagonist wrote ‘back to square one’.Very innovative indeed,and then writes ‘ We laugh in disbelief as we realise how  JNU had sharpened our ‘critical facilities…”

I am shaking my head in disbelief now.

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16 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2009 1:18 pm

    Seriously, why did you even go through the torture? All my sympathies..

  2. March 9, 2009 3:04 pm

    What exactly is “contectual” ?

  3. March 9, 2009 3:05 pm

    Ho you corrected it! Got it first on my feed reader, where it was “c”.

  4. lostonthestreet permalink
    March 9, 2009 3:32 pm

    HA..beat you to it. Now I know how to get people to delurk and comment-just make some mistakes.Family and close friends await to pounce on you.

  5. March 9, 2009 4:37 pm

    The initial idea the writer was trying to work on: entering college as carefree students and coming out as mature adults ( apparently that happens to some people) was good, but you need a lot of style and insiders know-how to make a success of such a novel I think. Hmmmm… wait a minute, BITS pilani has been done yet?? 🙂

  6. March 9, 2009 10:03 pm

    someone printed this?!
    WOW!

  7. March 9, 2009 11:54 pm

    that’s sumthing! the dumb that she is..

    he he he.. now, i *have* to read this mocktale of a book. maybe my kurta will fall in love with my jeans! ROTFL

  8. March 9, 2009 11:55 pm

    Oh and the stroking! I have tears in my eyes. This is hillarious, really!

  9. March 10, 2009 10:42 am

    Hey great review!

    I’ve not read the book though! 😀 (read just a few pages). I have planned a book on the goddamn UPSC exam which will have a lot of JNU vis-a-vis UPSC! (http://upsc.wordpress.com) So I bought it to have a look at the relevant portions.

    Hindu had also criticised the book (including on the grammar aspect). The book has probably done good business, just the same.

    http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/thscrip/print.pl?file=2007120250320400.htm&date=2007/12/02/&prd=lr&

    Here’s another book on college trivia. This time its based in JNU, that huge sprawling university in Delhi well known for its leftist leanings. Much water has flown under the bridge since then and JNU today seems to have lost some of its shine as a political hub.

    Kaya,a new student, finds that time is divided into zones. Sleeping and stumbling into class and then trying to hook some answers to make a decent grade in the exams. Life is one big riot where each group is out to murder the other.

    The descriptions of the different categories that attend this university are apt. There are the Biharis, the Southies , the Bongs and the Oriyas.

    There is Ganga Dhaba that everybody who has had anything to do with JNU knows about and, of course, there are the Rocks. The rocks of JNU are silent spectators to all that happens. Late night declarations of love, piss-outs and doped-out hanger ons. The rocks witness break ups and more.

    Kaya is more of a ringside viewer with her two friends. The trio live life just like any college going kids — pretty apolitical and immersed in their own lives. Till the exams.

    Then there is a mad scramble for chapters that have never been looked at, answer sheets even if it means stealing from the others.

    Unfortunately what could have been a laugh-a-minute book on the many foibles of college life, this one falls short of that final touch of humour and, to make matters worse, is riddled with grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.

    Editors need to look beyond story content and sharpen those little blue pencils a little more often.

    Soma also has a self-adulatory website: http://somadas.com !

    P.S.: Thanks for visiting my JNU caves blog. You may associate your blog name with your name in the profile page and will show as a hyperlink on with your name. I had to google your name to find you.

  10. March 10, 2009 9:07 pm

    looking at above – there are media articles who actually laud her as the ‘future’ of indian writers! By GOD! We have very low expectations, havent we?? Phew….

    Good blog though!! You have taken taken this to the cleaners !!!

  11. March 11, 2009 4:42 am

    Liked this bit…
    “Once you are in JNU you go either the Massachusetts way or the Munirka way…”
    Interesting!!!

  12. lostonthestreet permalink
    March 11, 2009 10:50 am

    @Preethi- I was one of the few ones who didn’t take either..:P

    @mm- If that’s the future then I guess even I can write a book
    @Vikas- Thanks.
    Kopili – Actually I haven’t read anything set in BITS..hmmm..
    @rayshma – Like I said we can get our blogs published
    @blink: I had to reread that line twice to make sure I got it right.

  13. me..dd permalink
    March 11, 2009 10:52 pm

    i have not read the book..but u are very true in saying that Jnu was never for deski…it is for all the hostelites ..be in study/fun/gaames/romance/all the internationasl scholars :-)…guess a deski cant even comprehend that…..do plan to raed the book…but seriosuly u should give ur version of JNu…what say..u we had so many interesting characters around us..he he..!!

  14. March 13, 2009 12:57 am

    hehe… yeah! i think that’s a great way to be employed while being unemployed 😉

  15. March 13, 2009 1:09 am

    off topic:

    Hey,I documented JNU Holi! Check it out! http://jnuholi.wordpress.com 😀 😀

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