Sunday, April 25, 2010

REVIEW: Indian Essentials

Indian Essentials
Rs 450
Pp 526
ISBN: 9780143065265

In this quirky collection, twenty writers and social commentators ponder the mysteries of the Indian psyche and try to make sense of one trait, phenomenon or cultural value that is quintessentially Indian. From the Indian male’s predilection for public urination to the Indian female’s obsession with gold, from the jhatkas of Bollywood to the melas of Allahabad, from our embarrassingly frank matrimonials to our obsession with sex (or rather not talking about it!), nothing is spared scrutiny. And because we Indians like a little something extra over and above what we are promised, in The Short Dictionary of [Other] Things Indian, a concise guide to Indianisms, there are the peculiar Indian qualities. Dip into this collection to find out what it means to be Made in India.

The way we are Tribune India
The reviewer has decided that she’s going to follow Jerry Pinto on Twitter or whichever social network he is on, since the time he had her chuckling over his little compilation of terms most Indian, which comes in the form of an extra booklet along with Indian Essentials.

That’s a cunning trick, by the way, because the size of Indian Essentials can daunt the reader who is now used reading only about 30,000 words, give or take a few. But the slim little book grabs you and when you put it away singing Vicco Vajranti Ayurvedic cream, twacha ki raksha kare antiseptic cream, (Because Jerry Pinto, henceforth, the reviewer’s Twitter hero, asks the reader to, you see), you reach for Indian Essentials, hoping that its going to do the glossary justice. The view is a bit lop-sided, I admit, but the glossary is so vastly amusing that the expectations rise.

And the reader is not disappointed. Dare she go non-intellectual and say that the book is "lovely?" There! She’s said it! It’s a lovely book, amusing, touching the core and revealing the reality of the pure Indian spirit, but sweetly, gently, with humour and compassion. The Indian love for tradition, the hypocrisy, the family feeling, the smoke curtains around sex, the NRI phenomena, Bollywood, cricket, marriage `85 everything is dissected, put under the microscope, thoroughly examined and then sewn up neatly by the authors of this anthology.

The list of authors packs quite a punch. All heavyweights in their respective fields, they have varied views, experiences, and spheres of influence. That’s why each piece, though the surmise(s) is not new, is treated with a fresh perspective. For example, in Hum Log, the Sex Log, the writer, Samrat, writes about the obfuscation of sex issues in India, but with what different angles! He covers everything from the immensely popular porn website Savita Bhabhi to ‘Ask the Sexpert’ sections of magazines answering questions in their half-baked manner; divine procreation in mythologies, and the ‘V.D, Sex specialists’ who promise that the suffering man will regain his "virility and masculine vigour". The article is no-holds-barred irreverent and rip roaring hilarious!

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