Monthly Archives: February 2013

When the Signal Turns Red

“When the Signal Turns Red” by Jayanand Ukey is a modern-day love story. The main characters, Girish & Prajakta have been together for 4 years and are about to be engaged. With their engineering degrees and job offers from prestigious Indian companies, they seem to be set for a bright and happy future. Unfortunately, before their engagement, both Girish & Prajakta’s job offers are rescinded due to the slowing economy. This puts a dent in their happily ever after, mainly in the form of Prajakta’s father who refuses to marry his daughter to someone without a steady income.
The book would have been an enjoyable read despite the generic plot, if not for the following reasons. The topmost being the mediocre writing and the dialogues which were labored, unoriginal; and lacked wit or humor. There was no natural flow to the story. In fact the same scenes are repeated so often, I felt I was reading a very badly written version of the Groundhog Day. There wasn’t a single sentence in the book that made me feel like the book was worth my time.
Sometimes the saving grace for a book with bad writing and a generic plot can be well etched characters. People in the book who incite emotion in the reader, it could be love, hate, curiosity anything but indifference. The characters in this book though were completely flat. There wasn’t an adequate physical description of any of the characters, the back stories for all of them were thin and uninteresting, and all the characters lacked depth or dimension. It was impossible to make any emotional connection to Girish or Prajakta or anyone else in the book. It became a chore just to finish the book despite the short length.
By the time the climax came around, I thought it was impossible for me to be any more disappointed with this story but I was wrong. The way the problem of the loss of Girish’s job was resolved, the way the new man favored by Prajakta’s father is taken out of the picture, all of it just brought home the staleness and lack of imagination evident in every aspect of this story.
I would not recommend this book unless you are stranded on a deserted island and this is the only available entertainment, maybe not even then.

(Note- A free copy of this book was received from the author for this review)

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The Collaborator by Mirza Waheed

Mirza Waheed’s “The Collaborator” is the story of Nowgam, a border village in Kashmir, set in the early ’90s at the height of the insurgency. The narrator is the son of the village headman, stuck in his village becasue of his father’s decision to stay, even after everyone else flees either across the border or further into India.
The narrative moves from the present, where the son of the headman is forced to work for the Indian Army, to the past, when the village was a happy place, full of life. This structure works well in creating a stark sense of horror, tragedy and loneliness. Especially when the narrator recalls the many hours he spent in the valley near his village playing cricket, singing songs, talking about mundane things with his four best friends while working in the same valley, now a dumping site for the dead bodies of alleged insurgents killed by the Indian Army. Or when he walks down the main street of his village which some time back was alive with men and women he knew and greeted every day.
The character of the narrator, a 19-year-old boy, who lives in a ghost village, has lost his best friends to the insurgency and is forced to spend his days working for someone he despises, doing work he hates, that of collecting weapons and Id cards from the dead bodies in the valley, engages your attention and immediately pulls you into his story. You see the world from the eyes of this Kashmiri boy, his confusion with regards to what is true and where he belongs, summarized in this line, “For a Kashmiri there is always an Indian and a Pakistani version of everything”, his desire to be a part of the movement at the same time his reluctance to do anything as drastic as kill his boss, the Indian Army Captain, his need to understand the reason his friends did not ask him to join them across the border, his memories of his beautiful village and most of all his hopes for his and his family’s future. All of it is brought to a not unexpected but elegant conclusion, the only way this story could have ended was with a lot of questions left unanswered.
The book is a serious read. It has vivid images of death and torture and the destruction of a way of life. Though the language gets slightly over descriptive and wordy, I would still recommend this book because it tackles the subject of militancy, a sense of country & belonging, loyalty, friendship and kinship with a rare insight.

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