33

Parliamental – Book Review

Book: Parliamental

Author: Meghnad S.

Reviewed By: Manas Mukul

Publisher: HarperCollins India (2nd July 2019)

Price: 299 INR

Pages: 220 (Paperback)

ISBN-10: 935357059X

ISBN-13: 978-9353570590

Language: English

Genre: Political Satire

My rating: 4/5

 

At 11 am every day, during a parliament session, we witness the proceedings of both the houses through their respective channels. A speaker or chairman heads the overall functioning and MPs from both the sides, in power and opposition, go at each other. For the majority of sessions, you will observe uproar or that the house is adjourned, while on some occasion regular business does take place. In all the confusing chaos that unravels the onlooker feels that given a chance they will simply behead each other.

Well a lot goes on behind the scenes too – while a bill is being introduced, while sharing meals in the canteen, while the members interact with each other outside the parliament, etc. ‘Parliamental’ by Meghnad S. is a political satire, which tries to showcase what goes behind walls and in those power galleries.

I keenly follow politics and have opinions about them; sometimes they take the form of words and end up as tweets or on my blog or like most of the times they simply remain between my ears that gets replaced by a new topic almost every morning. I would like to express my gratitude towards Blogchatter’s Book Review Program for considering me this book review, which gave me an option to explore and review a favorite genre like humor and satire.

About the Author

Meghnad is a columnist, public policy professional and podcaster. He has his own show, Consti-tution, on the Newslaundry and is an influencer on Twitter with the handle @memeghnad. He also travels all over the country to conduct civics classes under the banner Democracy IRL. His articles have appeared and gone viral on BuzzFeed and other content websites.

My Review

The cover of the book is ‘cartoonish-ly’ done and you might recognize some of the faces from a current lot of politicians. ‘Parliamental’ is a great title for the book as it is in complete sync with what goes on in the parliament as well as the satirical tone. The back cover contains the blurb along with a unique thing – some one-line reviews; they are from the characters of the book, for better understanding you will have to grab a copy.

The story mainly revolves around two characters – Raghav Marathe, a young policy analyst bustling with restless energy to bring about a change in the system and Prabhu Srikar, a first time MP whose analyst Raghav is. The story throws up some important supporting characters too – Nikita, a journalist, Helen, a YouTuber, Dushyant, a lawyer, etc.

The story begins with Srikar receiving the news of his surprise victory and how he becomes a first time MP from being a sharp businessman. Raghav, his neighbor, who helped him during his election campaign and speeches, is entrusted with a similar responsibility along with helping Srikar with policy analysis. Srikar tries to stick his neck out whenever he isn’t comfortable about a certain political situation even if it meant going against the wishes of his political party.

Back Cover with Blurb

When a new bill is introduced that threatens freedom of expression on social media, they all unite together to take on the might of the system. During all of this Raghav through his twitter alter ego, @Arnavinator tries to expose the hidden secrets and things that were not meant to see the light of the day. There is a back-story as to why he decides to choose this particular name.

Meghnad craft fully uses satire using simple words and not heavy political jargons. He shows his funny side through the footnotes that are meanings of the regional words but with a comic twist to them. You will constantly have a smile on your face throughout the book. It was smart of him to use a story as the backdrop to highlight the issues rather than putting it out as non-fiction with real names and characters. He even takes potshots at himself with lines like – ‘Raghav felt like the protagonist in a political satire novel.’

The book is crisp and unputdownable and the vocabulary helps. The editing is sharp and polished and it definitely reflects. With less than 200 story pages it is a fast read and even though the book is a fictional political satire, it goes at a thriller pace and keeps you invested till the very end.

Using his sardonic style, Meghnad touches many contemporary serious issues like social media regulation, anti-defection, corruption, etc. He has about seven years of experience of working with members of parliament and none of it goes to waste. No real-life names have been used but that can’t be said for the reference. If you read closely and look widely you will figure out who is who.

The plot is predictable and a bit clichéd and the story end up abruptly. The build-up is nice but once you reach the end you might get a feeling that it ended in a rush. I have mentioned this previously; an extra chapter would do no harm to such a fast-paced book till the time the story is perfectly spaced out.

Overall, it’s a story about how a common man gets entangled and travels through the corridors of power and tries to change or at best question and expose the system. Does he become successful in his motive, for that you need to pick a copy of the book?

Verdict

India is a country where after cricket, which is a religion, and Bollywood, which is everyone’s fascination, political discussion is like a meal. You will find people banging their heads with each other about current political events or ideologies at every tea stall, or during any train journey or while simply waiting in a queue.

The book is a welcome fodder for all those political analysts. I am going with four stars for ‘Parliamental’ by Meghnad S. – three and a half for the satire and the extra half for the amazingly humorous and creative footnotes. This page-turner is a must-read.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

This review was done as part of the Blogchatter Book Review Program. Please sign up if you are a bibliophile.

My side of the bargain – an honest review – Find the Book here on Goodreads and Amazon.

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5

Alumni of the Year – Book Review

Book: Alumni of the Year

Author: Tomson Robert

Reviewed By: Manas Mukul

Publisher: Notion Press (24 June 2019)

Price: 180 INR

Pages: 156 (Paperback)

ISBN: 978-1-68466-825-0

Language: English

My rating: 3.5/5

Almost everyone these days, especially the ones working in corporates and living in urban inhabitations are struggling to manage ‘time’, maintain a work-life balance and cope with the stress associated with it. We are losing a lot on life while chasing materialistic things, paying EMIs, not being there for our family and by the time we realize it; its always too late.

Alumni of the year by Tomson Robert is a book about what truly matters in life and what are the things that hold us back. This is his second book and I would like to express gratitude towards Writersmelon for considering me this book review. I loved reviewing this book as it gave me an opportunity to explore other genres other than thrillers/mystery books.

About the Author

Tomson is a storyteller. He lives in Dubai and works as a Director at a top-tier Management Consulting firm. He has completed his MBA from Loyola College, Chennai and is a professional Management Accountant. Tomson is married to Cini, and they have an adorable daughter, Lea. His first book was a collection of short stories titled Stories of Work, Life and the Balance in Between.

My Review

The book is a little bigger in size compared to the regular ones and the cover is nicely done. In the beginning, the cover doesn’t make much sense but when you finish the story, it all comes to you. It abstractly showcases a certain event in the protagonist’s life, which is of utmost importance to the theme of the book.

The book begins with a prologue ‘In another universe’ and is important considering how the events at the climax shape up. It also tells that the protagonist witness a recurring dream with increasing frequency, that has started giving him sleepless nights.

Back Cover with the Blurb

The story revolves around mainly five characters – Dave, Ann, George, Nitin and Divya with Dave being the protagonist. The story is spread across a time frame of around two weeks where Dave travels from Dubai to Goa to Kochi. Some other yet important characters ably support the story and every character has a role to play in the plot. There were no unnecessary characters.

The book alternates between flashback and present time, but it never hampers the pace or the flow of the book. In fact, the writer craft fully leaves a hook at the end of every chapter that he uses in taking us forward or I should say backward in the flashback. The book has a light breezy feel to it mainly because it gets the nostalgic notes right. Each and every one of us has had that tea stall during our school days where we would end up spending more time than in actual classes. Things like the school days childhood romance getting materialized in the two actually getting married makes you think of all such people you know in real life. It touches such finer things pretty well.

Dave buys his way in the ‘Alumni of the year’ contest held by his school in Kochi and during these two weeks, from the start to the events leading up to the contest, he has certain realizations that makes the reader look around and ponder what are the true things of meaning in one’s life. Questions like – Are we chasing things uselessly – start popping up inside the head.

The simple vocabulary gives legs to the pace of the book and it is a fast read with only 156 pages. I must highlight how Tomson has incorporated humor in the storyline. He has used situational humor and you will hardly find it out of place. There are some nicely understated things like the phrase ‘we were pregnant’. It’s a small statement but tell me where have you read it earlier, saying such a deep thing with fewer words.

Some chapters could have been more elaborate; a couple of them were shortened and felt as if ended abruptly. I would not have minded some extra pages. He has used the recent flooding in Kerala and incorporated in the narrative. Many a time writers try to mix real events in fiction and end up messing both, he has avoided that. There is a trend emerging with fiction books now going below 200 pages; I am not sure whether it is a positive or negative thing till the time the story is beautifully spaced out.

The strength of the book lies in its relatability, whether they are the school days or the present family days both have been touched with an everyday simplicity, which we encounter in day-to-day life. Anybody working in a corporate would know how the bosses are when it comes to deadlines and getting work done. No matter how much we promise our family members and more importantly ourselves that we won’t let the work affect them, it invariably does.

Verdict

If you are looking for a simple light breezy read then this is the book for you. It is a good read on a perfectly relaxing day and you will become a part of the story in no time. Sometimes the life lesson books become too heavy to digest, ‘Alumni of the year’ by Tomson Robert is the exact opposite of that. I am going with ‘three and a half’ stars for this nostalgic simple book. An extra ‘half’ for keeping it light.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

My side of the bargain – an honest review – Find the Book here on Goodreads and Amazon.

Tomson Robert can be reached at authortomson@gmail.com, tweet to @tomsonrobert or visit his blog https://medium.com/@Nosmot

0

When the Wheels came off Mahagathbandhan

This article was first published in the July edition of ‘The EDGE’ as a cover story. You can read the story and other articles here.

It’s been more than a month, since the declaration of results of the General Elections for the 17th Lok Sabha. NDA came back to power with a thumping majority bettering its previous tally from 2014 and in the process BJP too capturing more seats and crossing the majority mark on its own.

The opposition is still sulking from the rout and yet to come out of the shock and analyze what hit them. Many experts and psephologists didn’t even predict this kind of a win for the NDA. A bigger ‘Modi-wave’ hit them, which is popularly being termed as ‘Tsunamo’.

There were many alliances formed, at the national and regional level to take on the might of the juggernaut known as Modi-Shah. The wave has had a far-reaching impact. It is one thing to win an election with a majority and it is another where you end up decimating an entire opposition to the extent where they begin to self-doubt and self-criticize that might eventually lead them to implode.

The cracks in the alliances are beginning to surface. The blame game and mudslinging is at its peak. Nobody wants to own up to their failures and just wants to take the easy way out by pointing faults in others. The wheels have come off the much-hyped ‘Bua-Bhatija’ Samajwadi Party & Bahujan Samaj Party alliance in UP. Mayawati has already made it official that moving forward they would be contesting all elections on their own without any alliance, especially not the current one with SP.

Uttar Pradesh was BJP’s biggest bastion during the general elections of 2014 where they bagged 71 out of 80 seats. The Mahagathbandhan of SP-BSP was touted as a potent force to provide resistance to the wave, though the results tell a different story.

The Mahagathbandhan failed miserably, but the same cannot be said about Mayawati. BSP went from 0 seats to 10 seats from the 38 contested while keeping its vote share intact compared to the 2014 elections. Many experts are of the opinion that SP’s voter base helped Mayawati achieve this, while the same didn’t reciprocate for SP. Mayawati openly lashing out on Akhilesh for not being able to safeguard Dimple Yadav’s seat and criticizing him for the loss paved way for the split-up of SP-BSP alliance.

Irrespective of the result, this alliance would not have lasted long. It is the way BSP has been, it is the way politics of Mayawati is. She rode to power first on the support of BJP, then she shook hands with UPA when they came in power and when she realized that her politics is about to fade and BSP might go extinct, she jumped on the boat of their archrivals SP. Everybody from the political spectrum is aware of what are the events that led to the enmity between both the political fronts.

The formula of ‘Mahagathbandhan’ worked tremendously well in Bihar where the once archrivals, Nitish Kumar and Laloo Prasad Yadav, came together to form an unthinkable alliance along with Congress. Mathematics for the coalition was worked around and it defeated the first Modi wave and Nitish Kumar came back to power, hence laying down foundations for many of such alliances.

Some of them were based on chemistry some simply based on arithmetic but all had one common agenda of defeating BJP and more importantly Modi. Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party tried to use the same formula and formed an alliance along with Ajit Singh’s RLD, which was termed as UP’s Mahagathbandhan.

The common masses believed that Akhilesh Yadav as CM of UP (2012-17) did decent work and his performance was better than previous regimes but his fallout with his own uncle on the eve of UP Assembly elections didn’t go down well with their core voter base. The same base would turn up on the name of Mulayam Singh Yadav and vote blindly for them for the past two and half decades. Now the people would see him as someone who went against his own father’s wishes. The largely conservative rural voters would not approve of this any day.

During the same period, Mayawati was fighting an existential battle. BSP failed to secure a single seat in the General Elections of 2014. Don’t forget that the same Mayawati was eyeing the PM’s chair via a third front. The results of UP assembly elections 2017 came as a reality check for both SP and BSP where SP went from 224 seats in 2012 to a mere 47 seats and BSP went from 80 seats to a paltry 19 seats.

What mislead them were their vote percentages. BSP and SP both got about 22% while BJP single-handedly touched 40%. As per their simple calculations, 22 plus 22 would convert into 44, which was anyway more than what BJP secured; what they didn’t take into consideration that alliances and votes don’t work on mathematics. They work on ideologies.

The followers, party workers, and cadres go by how and what their leaders say or is it? For more than two decades Mayawati and Mulayam Singh spat venom on each other and so did their party members and workers at all levels. Now to expect that all of a sudden the same antagonism would evaporate in a day was an idea little far fetched.

The topmost people of two political parties might get up one day and decide to shake hands and appear to become friends doesn’t necessarily mean that same would transpire among grassroots level party worker leave alone voters. It is literally difficult for them to become friends and work shoulder-to-shoulder with someone, whom they abused and badmouthed for the past twenty years.

When the Lok Sabha by-elections happened in UP after the assembly elections of 2017, the verdict was more or less against Yogi than against Modi. But when it came down to the general elections, the Modi-Shah duo was successful in converting it into a presidential format of election where it was all about a single personality of Narendra Modi. A personality that they have successfully marketed into a towering figure against which no other figure from the opposition stands tall.

As the dates for voting approached, Mayawati started openly batting herself for the prime position of PM that didn’t go down well with the voters. I met people who claimed that they voted for BJP because they didn’t want somebody like a Mayawati to be the PM. She might command respect and support from her community in UP but the same is not the case when it comes to other states of India, whereas Narendra Modi since 2013 has successfully catapulted himself as a national leader.

I am sure how Mayawati worked her way around Akhilesh in gaining their support and in the process bagging more seats, he would not have objected when she would have put her name forward for the PM’s chair.

Both, SP and BSP’s ideologies are caste centric, which made it even harder for their bases to align together. The last time when Mayawati came to power was when the upper caste voted in her favor. That is not the case now. She has even started losing the support of non-jatav dalits and hence the slow decline in BSP’s vote share.

The same worked this time in BJP’s favor where a majority of Hindu votes consolidated in their favor. Of the alliance’s 15 winning candidates, 11 were Muslims, Yadavs and Jatavs. Many reports suggested that this verdict is against caste politics. Well, it is not. BJP was smarter in fielding their candidates. NDA fielded about 34 upper caste candidates and 28 non-yadav OBCs.

In 2014, Mulayam Singh Yadav won by a margin of 3.64 lakh votes from their bastion of Mainpuri, which got reduced to 95,000 votes signifies that the vote transfer didn’t take place on the ground despite Mayawati campaigning for him.

Rajan Pandey, a journalist who co-authored a book on elections in UP highlighted, “BSP claims it is a party of Dalits but it has been reduced to be a party of Jatavs and even not all Jatavs are with it.” The alliance only considered their core voting communities and completely disregarded the non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits.

Surprisingly, they even fielded 20 odd candidates from upper castes when contrarily they were propagating a 2% tax on elite upper castes. In the reserved seats, BJP fielded as many as 15 non-Jatavs and only 2 Jatavs.

BJP played smart in constituencies where their incumbent MPs performed poorly and the general vibe was against them. Like in the case of Menaka Gandhi and Varun Gandhi – they simply swapped their constituencies. The Nishad Party candidate who won the by-poll from Gorakhpur constituency was also easily poached and he joined hands with BJP right before the elections leaving the alliance looking foolish.

The rebellion from Shivpal Yadav and BJP forming strategic alliances with smaller parties like Apna Dal and Nishad party too helped them. Presence of Shivpal in Firozabad ensured that his nephew Akshay Yadav lost.

The fielding of wrong or weak candidates too catalyzed this drubbing at the hands of NDA. Ajit Singh’s RLD fielded 3 candidates out of which 2 were from their family clan and still lost in their traditional Jat belt. Similarly, in Phulpur where the alliance won a stunning by-election by fielding a Kurmi candidate changed its candidate this time around with a Yadav candidate. Phulpur having a Kurmi majority helped BJP’s Kurmi candidate to win by 1.71 lakh votes.

Now, when the alliance has been called off, it is easy to claim that the caste-based politics didn’t work for the Mahagathbandhan but it was the consolidation of other Hindu votes in sync with the ideology of Hindutva against these three core community votes that led to the debacle of the promising alliance.

Manas ‘Sameer’ Mukul

68

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

तो आपके कन्धों पर बैठ के एक और बार दुनिया देख पाता,

आपकी साइकिल पर बैठ सैर कर पाता

 

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

तो आपके सीने पर एक और बार सो पाता,

आपकी सोंधी सी खुशबू महसूस कर पाता

 

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

तो फिर किसी मैदान में कोई खेल खेल पाता,

आपसे जीतने की वो बचपन की ख़ुशी को दुबारा जी पाता…

 

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

तो स्कूल न जाने का बहाना ढूंढ पाता,

और घंटो आपके साथ मस्ती कर पाता…

 

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

तो फिर आपसे अनगिनतक्योंक्योंकर सवाल कर पाता,

मेरे हर बचकाने सवाल पर आपका सहज सा जवाब सुन पाता

 

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

तो एक आखिरी बार आपके पास बैठ कर आपकी हर बात सुन पाता,

आपके सारे अनकहे अनसुने दुःख बाँट पाता

 

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

तो आपकी हथेलियों पर फिर से खड़ा हो पाता,

और उन्ही हथेलियों की रेखाओं को बदल देता

 

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

तो हर उस गवाएं पल के लिए आपके गले लग पाता,

और शायद एक बार ही सही पर रो पाता

 

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

तो भगवान् से लड़ जाता,

और हमेशा के लिए अपने पास रोक लेता

 

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

तो आपके आखिरी पलों में आपके साथ होता,

आपमें समां कर आपके साथ ही इस दुनिया से चला जाता

 

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

तो स्याही बन कर आपके लिखे हुए शब्द बन जाता,

और दुनिया से जाने के बाद भी आपका नाम अमर कर जाता

 

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता,

काश मैं वो बारिश की बूँद होता

मानससमीरमुकुल

I have previously written a poem with the same name with a romantic angle – Read here – “Kaash main wo baarish ki boond hota”

This blog is a part of the #BirthdayBlogTrain hosted by Gunjan Upadhyay http://tuggunmommy.com/ and Neha Sharma http://growingwithnemit.com/.

I would like to thank Nisha from https://www.thefantasticmommy.com/ for introducing me to this blog train and would further like to introduce Silja Nair from https://vijvihaar.in/ to share her take on the prompts.