Book Review- The Grapes of Wrath 

The Grapes of Wrath

By John Steinbeck

pp 464

There are books that make you laugh, cry, romantic, some makes you end up being an erudite, but then there are books that propel you- make you angry, sympathetic and compassionate and predominantly make you contemplate what the world is all about, how it works and how it has been working since ages.
This, John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize winner, The Grapes of Wrath, belongs to the second category.

Focused on the family of Joads, tenant farmers in Oklahoma and having a backdrop of “the great depression”, it’s the story of the family driven from their homeland and set out for California. The expedition makes them come across many “Okies” of their genus, withstanding same situation, sometimes worse.
Their hope to get work in California keeps them traveling regardless of ups and downs such as demise of Grampa and Granma, separation from Noah Joad-eldest son of family, Tom-the protagonist,  Connie-son in law of Joad family &c.
At last they reach California- where their hope lied- to work, to earn livelihood, to have their home, food and an easy life away from agricultural crisis, economic hardships, bank foreclosures and of course “Dust Bowl”. But what they realise at the end is the devastated hope and shattered dream they had seen before setting out.

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The Grapes of Wrath is a realist novel which carves out the helplessness, fears and apprehensions of the tenants at the time of the great depression in the 1930’s. It talks about human emotions in the most realistic and lively way without losing the creativity and beauty of the writing.
The on going changes in the behaviour of the people with changing circumstances of life, vulnerability of humans with the determination to live without succumbing to the situation has been depicted in this timeless classic in such a way that it never becomes obsolete in context to human nature.
The struggle to live, to earn bread and to see the family together and happy is the soul of this book.
But the economy of a country and its affects on the working class is something that can’t be neglected while talking about this book. Load of economic disturbances on the farmers and their unpredictable future is not only the part of this book but is a problem rampant worldwide since ages.

Book like The Grapes of Wrath offers not just a thought provoking writing piece but also brings to the notice the economic hardships of different classes and in particular the farmers especially when a situation like economic disturbance breaks out.

John Steinbeck definitely touches the nerves of the readers and tells exactly what might happen to the working class and how upheavals come in their lives suddenly.
This book is definitely one of those books you must read before you die. If you wish to read about a perfect portrayal of human apprehensions and will to survive, you must read this classic and have one of the best and most unforgettable reading experiences.

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Book Review-To Kill a Mockingbird 

To kill a mockingbird

By Harper Lee


There are very few novels that at least I know or most of us know for that matter which are powerfully evoking, thought provoking and at the same time funny and light in their overtone and this masterpiece by Harper Lee is one of those very few ones that we have. It raises fiery issues such as racism and rape but in a manner that doesn’t spoil the fact that it is a book narrated by a kid with light connotation. It is serious yet humorous, deep yet fathomable.

Jean Louise Finch(Scout)-who also happens to be the narrator in the book-and his older brother Jem live with their father Atticus Finch who is a lawyer, in the town of Maycomb.Their fascination and feeding of each others fancy make them do bizarre acts to make Arthur “Boo” Radley come out of his house who never comes out of his house and people of town have rarely seen him in years. They imagine his eccentric and odd appearance or what he does or what he probably could.
The narration takes a sudden turn when Atticus gets appointed to defend Tom Robinson, a black man who’s accused of raping a white woman Mayella. It becomes clear that he’s innocent and it was Mayella who made sexual advances towards him. It’s also unambiguous that her father-Bob Ewell, a drunkard- had caught her and beat her. After much struggle, Atticus loses the case and Tom gets killed by police while trying to escape the prison.
At last, furious Bob Ewell attacks Scout and Jem when a stranger comes to their rescue and after a struggle, take them to their home. Scout realises that the man who saved them was none other than “Boo” Radley.
Sheriff Tate later tells that Bob was killed in the struggle and while Atticus is disturbed that it was Jem who was responsible for the death,  sheriff Tate(who believes that Arthur Radley is responsible) tells him that he fell on his own knife and died. Atticus at last accepts that version. Finally, Scout walks  Boo home and after she says goodbye to him, he goes inside and disappears again. Standing there on Radley porch, she realises how different the same world looked from Boo’ s perspective!

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This book- To kill a mockingbird basically tells and demarcates right from wrong in an extremely fine way. Atticus Finch, who has been a paragon of morality known for standing with right and fighting for rights is a hero! Yes, that’s what I call him. He struggles with the town for fighting a case of a black man, he struggles in the court but doesn’t take a step back. He sets an example for his kids.
This book basically has a theme of morality. It constantly deals with it. The struggle of Atticus for an innocent and more than that, against racism among his other acts of morality such as supporting Mrs Dubose who’s a morphine addict and who lived alone as she wanted to die beholden to nothing and nobody shows how different nobility can look from others point of view. He never allows and gets stringent when sees that Jem and Scout are disturbing the seclusion of Arthur “Boo” Radley. Also, with Mrs Dubose part, its clear that what is right is right no matter how bad it looks to others or to religion.
It’s a novel which can’t get old with time. If it dealt with racism, orthodoxy and religious bigotry back then, then it can be more than relevant today when racial inequality or caste discrimination or religious hostility or women/LGBT/animal rights activity is rampant in the society.
To kill a mockingbird basically is a rare book which teaches something to everyone- children to adults, people of every generation and country. One can read it at any age and would definitely get to realize something. In fact, everytime one reads it, one gets something to take or imbibe from it.
I would recommend it to everyone, simply everyone. Read it with most serious or most frivolous frame of mind, but you won’t ever regret reading it because this is one of those rare books that can’t be forgotten once read!

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Book Review-White Mughals-love and betrayal in eighteenth century India


White Mughals-love and betrayal in eighteenth century India

by William Dalrymple

580pp, Penguin India

If you ever had the (mis)conception that British east India company officers always looked down upon us-both Hindus and Muslims-it’s high time you started thinking otherwise. British, contrary to the widely held belief that they hated one and all in India, actually fancied the culture and traditions of the Mughals and then the 18th century India. Not only this but  they also got betrothed to Muslim girls after undergoing the conversion. And that’s what William Dalrymple has opened layer by layer in his book The White Mughals.
James Achilles Kirkpatrick was a British resident in the palace of the Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Nizam Ali Khan and Khair-un-Nissa was the cousin of Mir Ali, disciple of Aristu Jah who was the prime minister of the Nizam and also a close associate of the Nizam.
It was late 18th century when Kirkpatrick met Khair and after much commotion in the in the company as well as in the palace of the Nizam, they married at last but that was not the happy ending that they had expected. With Kirkpatrick’s sudden demise, Khair became a stranger in her own regal home. She left for Kolkata where lay the tomb of her beloved husband.  Khair had no one for emotional support except for her mother, as her children were already sent to England to their grandfather. At this phase of her life when she was most helpless and vulnerable,  Henry Russell came close to her and they became lovers in a very short span of time. But it was not love from his side and the worst came to her when Russell left her and married another girl.
Khair was a strong lady and lived with this betrayal inflicted by Russell. She never met her children once they left for England. She was not allowed to enter Hyderabad because Mir Ali whose career was ruined by Khair and James’s marriage was instated as the prime minister to the new Nizam of Hyderabad-Nizam Sikander Jah and it was extremely menacing for her to re enter the city. She however breathed her last in the  residency at Hyderabad where she had once lived with her husband and children in full glory.

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White Mughals is not just the story of Kirkpatrick and Khair; it is the show of orientalism combined with the cultural as well as religious pluralism that was pervasive in the Hyderabad and whole India pre 1857 mutiny. The way so many men from west married Muslim girls of India after conversion and Muslim women converted to marry Christian men in the 18th century has been so perfectly shown  by The Last Mughal writer in this book that it makes it one of its own kind. No other book in my knowledge has given such a vivid description of history of the people called The White Mughals. Dalrymple has used the letters from the British library as well as national archives,  New Delhi as he did in his book The Last Mughal which came much later.
White Mughals is a story or history of people who were much tolerant in acceptance of the cultures poles apart from their own. It is about people who encouraged the confluence of cultures and lived happily with people those of other cultures. But it all ended once some despotic  British officials took over the government. And till 1857 it was all finished for ever.
So if you fancy the exploration of the unexplored pages of the history,  then White Mughals is one book that you need to have. Apart from that it is a wonderful gem from the treasure chest of the man named William Dalrymple which offers all the book readers a perfect book to get indulged in.