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So, basically this blog was started by envy. Kulam Ikan Tetangga (the neighbor's fish pond) is a variation to the saying that goes "the neighbor's Grass is always greener". The Neighbor's Fish Pond will always have fatter and more fish (than your own fishpond). And so it is.

Long Reading for Train Trips Accompaniment (preferably across India)

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A Suitable Boy: v. 1 A Suitable Boy: v. 1 by Vikram Seth

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Yes, six hundred seventy pages, and there are still volume 2 and 3 that I have not read.

But reading a third of the saga made me understand why Seth won prizes for this literary achievement. The book is basically a twisted-very much complicated version of a Bollywood saga. If you never heard of or know what a Bollywood Saga is like, go ask God Google to see if you can download some online, or just hunt for the DVD or videos. Look specifically for the drama genre films.

Suitable Boy is, as admitted at the back cover of this first volume, a love story. It basically tells about Lata Mehra, a girl from the khatri caste in India, and since this is a Bolywood-esque saga it inevitably also tells the events unfolding in her universe, which consisted of four big families related into the other by either sophisticated political fashion, or by marriages.

The stories of these families, intertwined like mad anacondas in mating season, are set in the following years shortly after the independence of India. I have to admit I skipped most of chapters describing the political dramas, most of which happened in court rooms of the parliaments, etc. The romance and drama portions, meanwhile, are too delicious to be left behind. Tee hee.

All the way from its first sentence, I found myself hearing the dialogues written in the book are spoken in English with heavy Indian accent. Madness, I thought. While the narration throughout the book, despite of it sometimes mentioning words in Hindi-Urdu-Bengali, has no specific accent, the dialogues are unmistakably, very heavily accented. For reference of spoken English with heavy Indian accent, seek the show “Coffee with Karan” in cable TV, or find any of The Simpsons series featuring Apu Nahasapeemapetalon, the Kwikmart owner. MTV India is overruled because the VJs are either talking in straight Hindis (or Bengals or Urdu or whatever since I still cannot tell the difference), or their spoken English are impeccable British.

"Hi", says Apu

The book also gives some historical and socio-anthropological knowledges on India. I.e. it was literally a big bloody mess when Pakistan was separated from India, and the event still left a relatively fresh scar to the heart of most Indians today. The Muslim-Hindu feud was already a problem back then, which apparently is still going unchecked up to today, and to add to the list: also the caste system. On the lighter side, Rabindranath Tagore is a Bengali, adored like a saint, and is affectionately referred to as Robi Babu by most Bengals (at least the ones in this book). Also that if you found a family name of Chatterji or Chattopadyay, the person with the last name is of the high Brahma caste, and that both the Chatterjis and Chattopadyays are originated from Bengal.

Seth weaved the dramas and the political backgrounds interchangeably (although the feint hearted such as moi can still opt to skip some parts heheh) and spectacularly flourish it with poetic imageries of beautiful motherland India and its rich multi-cultures. He also adorned the story with poems and couplets; even in English it can still be readily recognized as ‘exotic’. At least, definitely not Shakespearean. I guess this is what qualifies the novel as having a sense of “locality”, something that Indonesian most fierce literature guardians are still trying so maliciously to represent (and had yet succeed … but shhh! Don’t tell them this).

Suggestion for future readers: Find a list of traditional Indian songs of your taste and liking before getting on a long-ish train trip with these songs stored in your mp3 player, reading the book all the while. At the time-span of reading the book you might also want to try Indian food or watch any kind of films featuring India. I watched the Darjeeling Limited. It will definitely add up certain realistic imageries in the imagination.

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