Monday, April 6, 2015

Book Review: Dear Mrs. Naidu

My rating: ●●●●●

Mathangi Subramanian
Dear Mrs. Naidu
Delhi: Young Zubaan, Zubaan Books, 2015
131pp. 235

One of the few books which make you smile when you finish them reading, letting you drive home a ‘literary orgasm’, a sense of completion, a sense of achievement, a sense of "your mind and your heart growing”. 

For an author who is writing a book for the first time, I must say this is a job well done. A work of fiction, the book still discusses the issues which are real and quite prominent in India. These are a series of connected letters written by a twelve-year old to her idol, a famous freedom fighter, Mrs. Sarojini Naidu. The series of writing to one’s idol starts as a part of her class assignment, but eventually becomes a habit of the protagonist, (also) Sarojini.

The book begins with a powerful prose from one of Naidu’s poems, which, all through the book, gives immense inspiration to the protagonist to fight for her Right to Education (RTE). All through her this fight to make her school a ‘good’ school, compliant with RTE, Sarojini relates her struggle with Mrs. Naidu’s fight for independence.

Do not think yourselves as small girls.
You are the powerful Durgas in disguise.
You shall sing the Nationalist songs wherever you go.
You shall cut the chain of bondage. And free your country.
Forget about the earth. You shall move the skies.

Halfway through her struggle, Sarojini, having deeply bogged down by the challenges, writes an equally powerful reply to Mrs. Naidu’s above-mentioned lines.

When there’s so many people and possibilities dragging you down, Mrs. Naidu, it’s hard to feel like Durga in disguise.
How do you forget the earth when it’s always beneath your feet? And when no one wants to help you, how do you move the skies.
However, the book concludes with a happy ending, spreading a lot of positivity around. The book not only enlightens the reader with a lot of information about something as basic as RTE but also proves to be an important source of information, inspiration, motivation and, most of all, gradual progression. There is a contact list of various NGOs, which religiously work for child rights, included at the end of the book, which should come handy to all of us. The language of the book while being simple, is extremely pulling and engaging and compels you to read till the end in one stretch. I would surely want to overlook a lot of grammatical mistakes I found in the content, for they did not turn out to be a major turn off for me. My take-home lesson from the book would be the protagonist mentioning Mrs. Naidu’s reply A chacun son infini (to each her own infinity) to a famous French saying, A chacun son destin (to each her own destiny)!

Book Review: Something Happened on the Way to Heaven

My rating: ●●○○○
I am happy to have received a fresh read from the author I always appreciate reading. Not only as an author, but also as a human being, Sudha Murty gives her reader several reasons to never stop loving her.

Talking about the book, the title really intrigues the reader, instigating a sense of suspense. I believe it should pose as one big driving force towards the purchase of the book, for it is also a famous song by Phil Collins. At first, the title appears to cover a mythological fiction, but actually turns out to be a self-help, covering a string of memoirs.

Moving on to the Preface, as soon as I turned to it, I was rather disappointed to learn that Sudha Murty has not written any of the stories contained in the book but has hand-picked and edited them. For her fans who read and appreciate her writings, it should come across as a tough bet to bank on some complete strangers’ writings.

Extremely basic, the TOC fails to make an instant impact on someone who’s randomly flipping through the pages. The headings of the stories are nowhere close to lucrative and say nothing in support of the title of the book.

This work of non-fiction contains a string of twenty memoirs of people we do not know and who think they have got something worthy to share with everyone. The editor wants to bring forth some classic cases of inspiration to the readers, to set their pulse right in a direction unexplored. Sudha Murty has famously indulged in sharing her inspiring anecdotes with her readers and this time, for a change, has given the command to her readers and has herself become a listener instead.

All the stories follow a very simple and formal way of writing, which I think well-suited the intended audience. Speaking about the language, you would not find superlative degree of literature put to use nor would you find the content engaging after having sailed through half of the book.

The selection of the stories are nice, and seem to be doing their job right in sending out motivational messages to the readers. While one of them, like Acceptance, opens up new doors of possibilities in the way we lead our lives and how we could change our outlook for good, the rest are extremely clichéd and send out no new, breakthrough lessons to the readers.

I am sure you would appreciate this book if you love Sudha Murty, if you love extremely simple and quick reads and if it doesn’t matter to you who writes as long as it is worthy. But having completed the book once, I am sure you would not want to re-read the same content, for it will all appear stale.

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