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Out with Corruption -A review of The Redeemers by Suresh Taneja

The book is about how 4 teenagers; Vikram, Yuvi, Manisha & Akshay who have a brush with the deep-rooted corruption in India, in the form of a cop who tries to frame their uncle in a car accident in order to get a bribe. This incident forces them to think about corruption in general and they realize how damaging corrupt practices like bribing, currying favour, fudging financials etc can be. So they decide to come up with a strategy and start a movement to fight corruption. Their movement is a roaring success and it ultimately leads to India being a superpower about 20 years down the line.

There are certain stories which become more effective when fictionalized because the impact of the real story is not as dramatic. Sometimes a fictionalized version promotes a better understanding of complicated issues and makes for more interesting reading. But this is possible only if the real issues and the fiction are intricately woven together to form a beautiful pattern. In this case the fiction doesn’t work because the story, the characters, their lives take a back seat to the corruption and the author’s idea to fight it, which are the main focus of this book.

The author has tried hard to bring an authenticity to his protagonists by giving them individual personalities but the only one who stands out is Yuvi. She is the ideas person, the youngest of the four and quite mischievous.Though every instance of trying to make her seem naughty just comes across as fake. All the other characters are mere fluff and could easily blend into one another. There are too many characters and yet not enough time is spent on any of them and often the author refers to the four protagonists as G4 (gang of four), a single unit. This I felt is a flaw since the four of them are the ones who start this movement and realistically there would be differences galore when taking up a cause this important. But with these guys there seem to be no differences, they agree with each other about everything and enhance each other’s ideas all the time, they never have arguments or any difference of opinions.

The entire book is this way. There are no pitfalls despite talk and hints of problems cropping up, the author does not follow through with genuine issues. Every problem that comes up is very quickly nipped in the bud within two pages. For example, the protagonists talk about the issue of increasing complacency and loss of interest in the movement over time as something this big would take long to yield any concrete results and they talk about guarding against it. But there are no instances of people losing interest or even the protagonists themselves becoming bored and how they actually deal with it. We have to remember that the author is talking about school and college kids here who usually have short attention spans especially when it comes to serious issues. If a movement like Anna Hazare’s fizzled out, what chance does a movement aimed at college & school kids have of sustaining interest. If the author had shown some idea that one of the four came up with to keep the momentum going despite meager results, the continued success of the movement for almost 10 years would have seemed more real.

While the ideas in this book are fresh and innovative, I don’t think that they have been thought all the way through to make a truly engaging, interesting story of a fight against corruption and the rise of a country to super-power-dom. This lack of thought; a lack of true immersion in the story is painfully obvious throughout the book. As a side note I must mention that the grammar in the book is atrocious and I only mention this because it was impossible to ignore and it took a lot away from the story. Read this book for the author’s out of the box plan to rid India of corruption, other than that the story hasn’t much to offer.

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Em & The Big Hoom

Em and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto is the book I have been telling everyone I meet to read. I am not sure how to describe what the book is about because to condense this story into 2-3 lines feels impossible. And saying that it is a story of the narrator and his family, mainly his mom who is a manic-depressive is just not enough even though I have done it now.

From the first page, I knew I made the right decision in buying it because I knew I will read it many times. If for nothing else, then for the writing. Every sentence has been chiseled and carved to perfection. And if I were the kind of person to underline memorable quotes, this book would have pencil marks all over it.

Jerry Pinto brings the characters alive. Every time I opened the book I entered the 1 BHK in Mahim where this family lives. I watched as Em slashed her wrists, I recognized the helplessness the narrator felt when there is nothing he could do while his mother suffered; the determination of the kids to maintain a veneer of normalcy in front of anyone who is not part of the family; the isolation they felt despite a steady stream of well-wishers. This book communicated all of these emotions without self-pity. The matter of fact tone and the emotional restraint in the book are what made this story so real and moving. By the end of the book I was in tears.

Despite all of the charged emotional content, not once does the story devolve into melodrama. In fact there were plenty of laugh out loud moments.The author does a marvelous job of maintaining that balance between pain & humor that comes instinctively to us in times of crisis. And he does it without it becoming morbid or cynical.

Anyone who has ever dealt with the sickness and death of a loved one will relate to some aspect of this story. I think everyone should read this book.

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