Sunday, 23 October 2016

On Chetan Baba, Feminism, Elitist Bullies and Serial Mansplaining

Some of you may ask why I'm writing an article on Baba when I haven't read his latest book and don't read him in general. Well, this is less about his books and more about the man himself. Come on, the man is sort of a personality cult- his tweets, articles  in the Times of India and statements in interviews attract as much attention as his bestselling books. Not to mention his appearance on a dance show as a judge ( I don't know how that worked out though.) So even though I don't read Baba anymore ( I was done with him after Two States) I follow his interviews and other public appearances with interest. He amuses me- the guy's a comedian, a walking trigger for controversy, and he doesn't seem to mind. The controversy helps him sell more copies and he rides the beast called negative publicity with elan ( until, one day, it comes to bite him in the ass, just like it bites everyone in the ass).
Some of you may ask why I call him Baba. Well, it's kind of obvious isn't it? He's a youth icon, someone who is supposed to have captured the Being Indian Youth Experience in his books. And then, through his books, he attempts to tell the youth how to live their lives and deal with life's curveballs- IIT prep, college, ragging, girlfriends, sex, enterpreneurship, inter-community marriage etc. Then there's his TOI articles. I think Baba has taken the title of his first novel way too seriously- almost every Underage Optimist article I've bothered to read ( I don't read TOI anymore) ends with, or is all about, five points Baba thinks can solve any given problem. Every problem India as- political, social, economical, gender-based- can be solved in five points. Since he is a pundit who can hold forth on ANY topic, he's Baba.

So given my fascination with the personality cult of Chetan Baba, I've been following all interviews, articles and reviews around One Indian Girl. And this time I'm not amused.

Baba claims he's trying to explain feminism in a simple, light manner. I'm sorry, feminism in a simple, light manner? Is feminism like a Grade 10 English textbook, the answer key to which Baba wants to provide to his readers? So One Indian Girl is like Julius Caesar Made Easy for the average Chetan reader?
Then there's the thing about a 'likeable' feminist. Who is a likeable feminist? NO ONE. Asking for your cultural, social, political, economic and personal rights does not make us likeable. And I say this as a feminist myself. It makes you a demonized entity accused of being anti-men and anti-family and anti-marriage and anti-lots of things. We're only anti-patriarchy, actually, but hey who cares? Women have been oppressed for so long that now the power center is shifting and dividing equally amongst the three genders, those who enjoyed their privileged entitlement status under patriarchy are becoming scared of losing their hegemony.

So no there's no such thing as a likeable feminist. I you're trying to make a feminist likeable it doesn't bode well. By the time you're done watering down feminism to make a character likeable you'll be left with a plaint doll who's not a feminist but someone who's a pathetic excuse for one.
On that note I'll mention that in all reviews I've read, wheter by friends and fellow writers or in newspapers and magazines- all differ otherwise but agree in one aspect- Radhika has failed as a feminist character. Her decisions, her mini-me thoughts, her actions and her self-perception- all are the opposite of a feminist character as Baba claimed at his book launch.

There's other stuff he's said that I find strange and very unlike a man writing a feminist character.

First of all there's Baba claiming loudly that he got waxed to understand what it's like being a woman. Really? Waxing? What's so uniquely feminine about waxing that Baba thought this will give him the Being Woman Experience? Nowadays men are getting waxed too- chests especially. They're even getting mani-peddies to look good.
There are things which are uniquely feminine. Like, you know, menstruating. Too bad Baba can't implant a pair of ovaries in his abdomen to see what it's like to bleed. Or get pregnant, for that matter. Or he'll never get stared at and mentally undressed by lechers as he walks down a road, whether it's morning or evening. He'll never get stereotyped for wearing too much or too little make-up or being outspoken. He'll never get judged for having short hair, wearing jeans and tees or being a single, independent career woman. He'll never get scoled by parents or morally policed by neighboring aunties for not 'dressing modestly'. He'll never face workplace sexism. Now THAT's being a woman.

Moving on, Baba claims proudly he spoke to 100 professional women, including his wife, as part of his 'research'. And he says he knows these women and none of them are feminists.

100 women is too less a sample size, first of all. Although there are statistical formulae to calculate a proper sample size for serious scientific studies, especially in social sciences, I can still say that 100 is not a proper sample size. Especially when you're researching a complex, important topic like feminism. My friend and critically acclaimed author Sreemoyee Piu Kundu's bringing out a non-fiction on single women and she's spoken to many women across the country. A lot more than 100, I'm sure. Many of these are women she's not familiar with. Even for her feminist erotica novel Sita's Curse she interviewed many strange women and combined their experiences. But then Kundu's a feminist, Baba's not.

Baba also didn't speak to any feminists- the real deal. No, he doesn't have to agree with them or anything but they're experts, they know feminism better than a lot of us. India has so many well known feminists- Nivedita Menon, Flavia Agnes, Urvashi Butalia etc. Why didn't he speak to them to get an idea of what it's like to be a feminist in India? He's very quick to claim that feminists are bullies, 'ultra-feminists', and that having a uterus doesn't make them owners of the movement. He claims feminists bully both men and women and want 100% agreement to call others a feminist.

I'm sorry but how does he know that if he didn't actually speak to feminists? That's mansplaining. Having a prick doesn't make him an expert on who owns the feminist movement or what feminism should be.

That Baba didn't bother to even flip through a book on feminism is amply clear by his poor understanding of it. He's asking questions like- is feminism about not wanting a man, is feminism about telling little girls they don't need a man, is feminism about telling girls not to do girlie things, feminists deride women who apply make-up, are feminists okay with flirting? And he's asking these questions AFTER having written a book with a supposedly feminist character.

Again, mansplaining.

Nobody perhaps told him that feminism is about gender equality. Feminists flirt, have boyfriends, get married and have families. Gender equality means exactly what the words mean- men, women and transgender are equal. Some people wrongly call feminism as 'female equality'. Who will females be equal against? Themselves?

Feminism does NOT say that a woman can't have a boyfriend, pine after a man or feel loss after a break-up or apply make-up. Feminism just asks that a woman doesn't have to be subjugated to a man, or lose herself trying to please him or attain him. Feminism asks a woman to not build her identity or self-esteem around the approval of men but to have an identity of her own; to not feel that she's inadequate if she doesn't have a man in her life. Feminism is about women not wanting men for social or financial security or needing them for validation- it's about women wanting men to love, cherish and find a life with, grow old with. Feminism is about a woman applying make-up to please herself and choosing whether to apply make-up or not; it means she doesn't have to apply make-up to please others or to be desirable to men as such. If she wants to please a man then again, it's her choice to dress and make herself up the way she wants.

So again, mansplaining.

 Baba tried to mansplain, to a female reporter at The Wire, that women want to be taken care of by men. That is, apparently, being a woman. If I'm not in chronic need of a man to 'take care' of me because I believe I can take care of myself, or if I'm lesbian, I'm not a woman apparently. She called him out on the fact that the book is more of a man-trying-to-speak-for-a-woman rather than an autentic woman's POV- and he negated her concern by quoting sales numbers. Mansplaining again. Phew.

Lastly it's Baba's paranoia.

His books are doing exceedingly well. He's top dog on most bestseller charts in the country, people have warmed to his novels and even critics like me have learned to leave him alone. He has amassed a massive fan following which is loyal to him, faithfully buys his books and RT's him on Twitter. Not to mention the money he's made from the novels, film rights for three of his books and scriptwriting assignments.

What does he have to worry about then? An ( imagined) conspiracy against him. Feminists are elitist bullies trying to appropriate feminism ( God knows why he's saying that. What'd feminists do to you Baba? Make you feel emasculated?)
Then there's the old refrain, around the launch of every book, against the 'literary elite'- which are, I think, award-winning authors writing quality books, who either ignore him or publicly dismiss him as a pulp writer. The Old Boys (and Girls) Club which denies him admission. They apparently hate him because he's brought literature out of the 'ivory tower' and made it into a pedestrian thingy. Whose books don't sell as much as his and so who're not connecting to the public ( it's all in the umbers apparently). If you write a quality book for niche readers like me you're not doing it right and don't deserve to write- you should only write populist BS that sells millions of copies.

Or maybe it's the critics who deride him for poor language, languid prose and hackneyed storytelling who are the elitists who deny him any recognition.

But I thought Baba didn't care. I thought he made houses with bricks thrown at him and used the spit thrown at him to shine. And made omlets of the eggs and tomatoes. I don't know what he did with the shoes and slippers thrown at him. He said he's not trying to be good at writing. Then why care when people say he's not good?

Then why claim there's a conspiracy, either by feminist bullies or elitist gatekeepers of literature? Baba's more paranoid than his ideal, PM Modi. Now PM Modi has a genuine reason to worry  because he's a powerful politician with umpteen enemies and the threat of violence looming over him is real.
What threat is Baba facing? What will feminists do to him, even if they're bullies? Why the extreme hostility against feminists? What will the Old Club elitists do to him? Wallop him over the head with a broomstick? Take away his toys? Turn his readers against him?

Seriously, Baba, the whining's getting a bit old. Grow up. Stop bothering yourself and stop bothering us. And stop mansplaining to women about womanhood and feminism. Women can decide how to be women and how to feel about feminism and how to adopt it in their lives should they believe in it.

Baba mansplains feminism to a woman reporter

More examples of mansplaining by CB

Friday, 21 October 2016

Review- Rain- Sriram Subramanian

Blurb: Architect Jai Dubey trusts in reason - not for him the faith and prayer so firmly ingrained in his fellow countrymen. When fortune deserts Jai and his carefully ordered life spins inexorably out of control, Jai stands on the brink of ruin. Only a delayed monsoon can save Jai’s biggest project from disaster, but there are millions across the land praying for the exact opposite. 
Reason seems to have its limits - the weather defies all prediction, let alone control. 
Will Jai relinquish the beliefs of a lifetime? Will he reconcile with the awful ambiguity about his past? Will he be able to save his crumbling marriage? 

Before I proceed to critique the book, let me provide some context. The day I started reading the book on my smartphone, we were moving from Goregaon to Kandivali. The entire day went buy in getting stuff packed and moved- you can imagine the chaos. And yet in the middle of this chaos, I finished to read the entire book in a day! All 200 pages of it were done by the time I went to sleep. I was helping my mother with the movers, and then reading in breaks. The book was so interesting I couldn't put it down. 

This is the story of Jai Dubey and his 'different' ideals- how he has his own construction company, a small entity working for small time businesses and staying afloat. Jai is very particular about sticking to his guns- he won't work for many clients at a time so he can give each project his best instead of taking on numerous projects and doing most half-baked. He knows he could make more money with more clients but quality matters more to him. He loves his wife who has a job of her own, and supports her career. He puts up with his shrill, nasty mother-in-law and brother-in-law Ashok who's a wily politician, jams with his scientist father-in-law and takes care of his employees and friend-cum-business partner. He's an atheist who doesn't fall for the religious mumbo jumbo of his Marathi in-laws. 
I found Jai quite relatable because I found a little of myself in him- independent, rational and solid personal principles.

All this falls flat when his mother in law challenges him to build a proper home for her daughter and not make her live in a rented apartment. Jai goes on to make some major choices...unusual ones that cost him  a lot- his friend and business partner Ravi, his business, and most of all threatens to tear apart his marriage. At the same time he's dealing with demons from his horrible past, most of which he has blocked out and is trying to recover. Then he makes some really drastic decisions and they change the way he looks at life itself. 

The characters are all well fleshed out, but the best is Jai's. His ideals and how they come in conflict with his situation, how he changes his way of thinking overtime, how he fails to make the right choices at the right time...Jai is endearing in his fallibility, his self-doubt, his making poor choices. 

There was also a constant thread of suspense in the book, all created by Jai's actions. What will he do next, and where will his choices take the plot? 

Sriram writes extremely well- the prose is of high quality and he doesn't let up once in language and grammar. The editing is excellent and his skill as a wordsmith shows in the fact that he has managed to write evocatively without using one big word throughout. That's true craftsmanship. That stuff takes practice- reading a lot, writing a lot and then getting your writing critiqued by neutral parties who will give an unbiased review. 

I was a little eager to get through the philosophical parts, and some of Jai's actions are really weird. Enumerating those would mean providing spoilers so I won't talk about them. But needless to say the bumps are few and don't affect on the overall appeal of the story.

Sriram has obviously been through the proper whetting process and come out shining. In a scenario where people who have never picked up a novel in their life before are venturing to write books and become bestselling authors, and where authors deliberately dumb down language, grammar and content to appeal to the mass market, Sriram is a noteworthy exception. In refusing to compromise on quality, he has shown his mettle, his integrity as an author who respects his craft and whose work will endure the ravages of time. 

RAIN is a touching story of a man confused in his ideals, fighting his personal demons, and coming out victorious. This book checks all the criteria for quality literature. Go buy your book and encourage authors like Sriram: RAIN

Monday, 12 September 2016

Society and sensational women: A Passing Glance

So last week I read about two sensational women, namely, Rekha and  the late Madhavi Kutty. Rekha is a Bollywood actress whom, despite her experience in the film industry you can't dismiss as yester-year because she's still acting or dancing to item numbers. Madhavi Kutty, also known as Kamala Das, is a poet and novelist- I say 'is' because even though her physical form has passed away, her spirit lives on through the mark she left on literature in India.
There was an article in Outlook ( Through the Author's Veil) that talks about a new book coming out on her personal life, which was rife with controversies. I read some of Kutty's poetry while in school, but came to know of her life only now.
Rekha is a Bollywood celebrity, and that sort of predisposes her to a colorful life ( although there are people who keep a low profile and don't court controversies). Whether it's her doomed love life, the bordering-on-sexual-harassment incident with actor Biswajeet when she was barely fifteen on a movie set, her origins as the love child of famous South Indian artistes, her makeover, the sexist comments made on her looks by actors and directors, her rumored affair with Big B, the suicide of her husband Mukesh Agarwal for which she was demonized...Rekha has lived a life filled with ups and downs. All this is chronicled in a book on her recently released by Juggernaut (Rekha- The Untold Story).
What is similar about the two women mentioned above? They are, by profession, as disparate as possible. And yet I perceive similarities in their personalities and lives. Namely:
1. Both are successful women in their fields
2. Both, whether willingly or not, courted controversies throughout their lives.
3. Both lived life on their own terms
4. Both never needed or used men to validate their existence. Their identities and reputations are based on their own individuality.
5. Both were reviled and criticized and demonized by a society still deeply entrenched in patriarchy because they refused to adhere to archaic diktats that control and oppress women.
6. Both used the public's sexist mentality and perverse hunger for sensationalism to their advantage. Both deliberately fanned rumors about their personal lives, especially love affairs, that created controversies and put them in the limelight. And both benefited from it as well!

It's the last point that makes these two most remarkable. It's an ugly truth that a patriarchal society like India will never let maverick women like Madhavi and Rekha just be. They will vilify, adore and probe and intrude and generalize as it suits their regressive, hypocritical mentality. An extension of this mentality is exhibited by a sleazy, unethical media which will go to any lengths to pull famous people, when they can, to sell copies to a perverse reader base that craves controversy and titillation. Famous women especially are soft targets- because they're women and the media is no less sexist than the general public.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Review- Two 'Unfinishable' Books

As much as I tried, I could not ring myself to finish the both of these books. Maybe my reading preferences, preconceived notions about both literature and society, and my penchant for well written books with stories that make sense is responsible.

My different educational and social background from the author maybe the reason I couldn't read Democracy 2.0. There's no real story, no characterization, no plot, no agency, no goals, no direction to the tale. The novel's blurb suggests it is about a revolution but it peddles and perpetuates all cliches in the Indian educational system. It repeats the same old rhetoric about MBBS/Engineering and then IAS- the path most students take when they don't go down the B.Tech-MBA way. The book blatantly ignores other unexplored fields like pharmacy, journalism, literature etc. as a revolution for young people for career choices- that's how India's actually going to rehaul it's socio-educational structure and the nation can think of developing. There are also cliches regarding women and how they should live and behave. The book perpetuates a patriarchal domination of public spaces and discourses in the Indian milieu. Some revolution.
Like I said, my different educational and social background from the author maybe why the book didn't click with me. The author should seriously read some actual books and learn how to write a story. This sounds like a fancy version of a boring government report.

The Dominion sounds like an interesting novel on the outside. But once you start reading you find out how flawed this book is. There is no cohesion to the narrative. I cannot make head or tail of the story no matter how hard I try. The flawed language and grammar, and numerous typo errors, make the novel more difficult to comprehend because it's obfuscating the story. This made it all the more difficult to proceed with the book. The author said they took three years to write the book- but this is a very poor output. No cohesion of narration, no discernible plot structure, no pacing, no semblance of sanity in the story...made the book difficult to click with me. I can only proceed with a novel when it 'clicks' with me, interests and intrigues and invites me, in the first few pages. This book, alas, fails to do that. The author needs to go back to the drawing board and rehash their skills and their understanding of the basics of the craft.

Thank you.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Review-Among the Stars- Dhasa Sathyan

Usually my reviews are long and detailed; but for this book I'll keep it relatively short and sweet. The author sent me a free copy in exchange for an honest review, so I owe him an honest review. This book is one of those you can delineate easily into the strong points and flaws, so I'll directly talk about that and try to be as lucid as possible.

First, the good points of the book:
1. The themes: In a scenario where the reader base in India is dangerously, and depressingly, tilted towards soppy, cold turkey romance novels, the author has made the right choice by opting to write a book of short stories about various human themes brought together under the umbrella of twisted, dark storylines ( another reason it clicked with me). From zombie horror to psychotic army men to psychedelic plants on mysterious deserted islands, the author has got the variety right and interesting.
2. Ideas have potential: The ideas are original and have potential, if explored properly, of making for mind-blowing stories.
3. Emotional intelligence: The stories speak of everyday human beings, our varying moods, shades and fantasies. Emotional intelligence in a book is important, at least for me, as a reader, to connect with it.

Flaws: As good is the idea of the book and its potential to shine, Among The Stars fails miserably in execution. And that's the sad part- to see books with great potential never realize their own capacity for greatness. Where it fails:
1. Language: Honestly, from the quality of writing, it's glaringly obvious that the author has had lack of practice- both in reading and writing. Too many big words and too much purple prose. A mistake many first-time writers make, seeking to impress by usage of complex words and phraseology. Wrong. The reader seeks the story, the context, something they can relate to first; and vocab second. You don't need complicated language to tell a great story and leave an impact- your writing becomes powerful when you string simple, lucid language together in an effective manner.
This needs practice. You need to read and read and read books till your mind resonates with words that coalesce into ideas. You need to write and get your work critiqued, then write more and more critique till you can pack those ideas cogently into power-packed prose. This is inevitable.
2. Grammar and quality of prose: Grammatical errors-basic ones- dot the landscape of the book, and take away from the stories. Add in the poor use of language and the prose becomes stilted and difficult to sift through. As a reader I'm being blocked because the author hasn't packed any flow into the prose. There's no finesse, and the prose is languid, lacklustre.
3. Poor editing: The editor can still take away some of the inadequacy by at least window dressing the work- especially in this case where the author lacks basic language skills and grammar skills. But where the editor disappear into on this one?
Will make a comment here, even though it's perhaps not my place to make it. Has the editing been ignored because the publisher is a vanity publishing house? Then I would advise the author to go with a traditional publisher next time, or hire a good editor if the publisher is a small or middle-level press. Editing IS important, no matter how much we are awestruck with Chetan Bhagat's bestselling status despite the horrible language and grammar and lack of editing.
It may take time, and numerous attempts, to find a good trad pub house- but in the mean time the author can hone his writing skills by reading a lot, writing a lot and getting his work critiqued by other writers in critique groups.

But do check the book out because it has some really original ideas in store: Among The Stars

Review-Honor For A Ransom- Rajnish Gambhir

Blurb: "April 13th, 1978. Kartar Singh, an upper caste agriculturist, guns down his newly married daughter Simran and her lower caste husband, for the sake of 'upholding family honour'.His ex-lover, Sarah Jefferson (a British psychologist) visits him in jail to discover that Kartar has been a victim of ruthless manipulation at the hands of his politician father, Dilawar Singh, who is known to unconditionally despise the lower caste. Vowing justice for Kartar, Sarah embarks on an intriguing mission, venturing to turn the tables against the unscrupulous Dilawar, who by now is a powerful minister in the Punjab cabinet. Curiously delving into his boyhood days, she is astonished to learn that young Dilawar was in fact an 'affable-boy-next-door' who too had a love life, having lost his heart to a beautiful girl in Lahore... What then caused this drastic transformation in his attitude and personality? With the time fast running out, can Sarah succeed in nailing Dilawar as the chief culprit for the honour killings? Will she be able to reunite with Kartar - the only man she ever loved? A heartrending love story - Honour for a Ransom unfolds through the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, horrifying hazards of partition, romantic strolls by the Thames, and the unbending complexities of the rigid caste system." 

Honor For A Ransom is one of the most touching books I've ever read. No, it's not a faux-emotional tear jerker like the tripe dished out by crap-tastic writers like Ravinder Singh. 
This is, in the actual sense, an emotion-filled, high on context and brutally honest book about both the caste system in India, and honor killings- a construct of patriarchy wherein society tries to control women's bodies and sexuality by interfering in their choice of life partners, and deciding when they should marry and how they should have kids. This book also struck a cord with me because it exposes the hypocrisy, tyranny and misogyny of the arranged marriage system. 
In the first scene itself, Kartar Singh, a man who is an agriculturist and a gentle being whose nimble hands have lifted nothing more dangerous than a pen- that too to write profound poetry- murders his only daughter Simran and her 'lower caste' husband in cold blood. 
Post that, it's a gut-wrenching tale of the havoc that Dilawar Singh, Kartar's sociopath father, wrecks upon the entire family. 
Gambhir effortlessly straddles timelines to tell the story of three different generations- 1947 and Partition, when young Dilawar's life is torn apart by events that transform him into a sociopath and narcissist who will go to any lengths to get what he wants; Kartar's own love life with the British lady Sarah Jefferson and how it's destroyed by his father; and Simran's own love story with her husband and how it is brought to a brutal end. 
Dilawar is very well sketched as the sociopath; so is his elder daughter-in-law, Parminder. 
Kartar's life journey is portrayed evocatively...of a good man who lacks a backbone and ends up hurting the woman he loves; and how he's shattered after gunning down his Simmo and her husband, and the tragedy that follows, and how his father treats him like his puppet. 
Both Sarah and Simran have been sketched extremely well as strong, intelligent and independent women with a mind of their own and a will of iron. They're my kind of women.
Especially the relation between Sarah and Kartar has been written very well. 
The most poignant story is that of Kartar's invalid mother and alcoholic brother Nihal- the devastating effect Dilawar has on their lives is both outrageous and sad. 

Read this book, for it will make you think about both the individual and societal evil that is patriarchy; and the bane that is the caste system. And when both combine, they make for a decadent populace that cannot rise above its mediocrity. 
The language is very good and the grammar is perfect. The editing shines through. 

Anyone who enjoyed the movie NH10 will enjoy this book too. I'd say go for it; we need more books like this, well-written and high on emotional intelligence and context.

Grab your copy here: Honour For a Ransom 

Friday, 24 June 2016

Review- The Madras Mangler by Usha Narayanan

First of all, it's rare to find a crime thriller written in India.
Second of all, it's even rarer to find a well written, well researched crime thriller.
Usha Narayanan's The Madras Mangler is one of those books.

The story revolves around five young women studying in Chennai's SS Padmaja college. Kat, Minx, Moti, Deepika and Lolita, five young, ambitious ladies who want to make something of their lives- something other than getting married, raring babies and serving their husbands like slaves as expected by the patriarchal society around them.

Usha's novel is loaded with subtext. She shows how patriarchy affects the girls' personal lives and their relations with their own families and boyfriends, it also depicts the misogyny and the violence against women rampant on the college campus and in Chennai as a city. It's like everywhere they go they're surrounded by miscreants who have the most perverted fantasies about women and violence against women is almost a ritual. This is how a lot of women in India feel, especially those trying to break the stranglehold of patriarchy and the glass ceiling as well. From the nerds who go around campus, openly making sexist comments and harassing girl students, to the misogynist Dean who espouses archaic attitudes towards women, to the cop who is as regressive and unconcerned with gender equity and other issues- we've seen and faced them all.
What I like is how the author has etched the women protagonists as not damsels in distress, but women who fight on their own level first and overcome difficulties, and even help each other out in time of need. Only and only when matters get a little out of hand do they take the adorable male lead Vir Pradyumna's help.
Vir himself is a lovable character, relying more on brains than brawn to get his work done; and he doesn't hit on the woman he likes, or make her feel low or other such tactics, to get her to go out with him. I like how he genuinely respects and helps the girls, like teaching them self-defence and asking them to be careful when they find the bodies in the Adyar river.

The serial killings, in themselves, bring out the patriarchy in sharp contrast: How such incidences are a way for regressive fringe groups to make sexist statements, and how women are advised to stay indoors and blamed if harmed, rather than being taught to be careful and stick up for themselves.

The background of murder and mayhem fits in well with the story and makes the plot delicious and the twists refreshing. The research in criminology has been done well, and Vir espouses the sharp criminologist with a human side very well. The suspense is nail-biting, the tension sustained till the end.
The climax is satisfying and great, an 'Aha' moment for a thriller buff like me.

Usha writes very well, her prose alive and taut, her language brilliant and her grammar perfect- this I suppose owing to her advanced degrees and proficiency in Literature and creative writing, and her solid background in advertising and teaching literature as well.
Usha writes like a pro, and if I may make a personal statement here: Her writing is of a very high level and this reflects in the fact that she has gone on to get published subsequently with Harlequin and Penguin Random House.
TMM is Usha's debut but she has outshined a lot of other English writers in India with this novel. She's a very intelligent and evocative writer as well, cutting through the crap to make an outstanding, articulate statement about gender inequity and societal apathy towards both women and people who're different.

I wish to read another nail-biting thriller from Usha, and wish her all the best for her future works across all genres she treads.

Go read The Madras Mangler if you want a good read with tea and fritters on a rainy evening. And a succor from the crass pop fiction being churned out as 'literature' today.

You can get a copy of this amazing novel here: The Madras Mangler