May I Hebb your Attention Pliss! By Arnab Ray, HarperCollins India, 237 pages, Rs199.
Unless you are leading a secret life as a prostitute, you have no business turning your blog into a book. Arnab Ray, the author of May I Hebb your Attention Pliss!, is famous in cyber circles as the Great Bong. His blog, www.greatbong.net (Random Thoughts of a Demented Mind), has won so many indibloggies awards that it even has a separate awards tab. But, translated to a book form, the Great Bong’s acerbic observations of India through the prism of pop culture have the fizz of iced tea.
It’s not all bad. The chapter on how to start your own management institute is a piece of hilarious satire. How Bollywood Made Me Who I Am brings back agonizing yet amusing memories of Aatish: Feel the Fire, Mohra and Gupt—movies that will send you right back to therapy.
However, you have to plod through pages and pages of really boring stuff to find these rare gems. Ray’s description of his wedding feels as endless as a tedious marriage.
A blog has much going for it. The hyperlinks help you jump from page to page, idea to news report to droll observation and back in a few subtle movements of the wrist. A book does not allow this dexterity. So when Ray says, “Allow me to vent,” you know that he is taking advantage of the fact that you can’t alt+tab into another window.
Delhi Durbar: By Krishan Partap Singh, Hachette India, 291 pages, Rs195.
An ex-army chief president, a midget prime minister whose main constituency is his son and a second-generation political wheeler-dealer tell the story of an India that is on the brink of military dictatorship. The first half of Krishan Partap Singh’s Delhi Durbar is a thrilling, edge-of-the-seat narrative. The protagonist Jasjit Singh Sidhu is the son of the prime minister’s main fixer, who returns to India after his father is killed in a helicopter crash. His first assignment on partly filling his father’s shoe is to fix the elections for the cricket board—the boss’ son is a cricket gambler and wants to be the chairman of the board so he can instruct the team on which matches to throw away.
The power-hungry president is gathering his ex-colleagues from the armed forces and planning a move that will lead the “world’s largest democracy” to a military dictatorship.
Delhi Durbar is the second in the Raisina Trilogy, a series that traces the political ascent of Karan Nehru and Azim Khan, two potential prime ministers of India. In Delhi Durbar, Singh takes a detour to tell the story of Sandhu’s move from the investment banking circles of Dubai to become the go-to man of the prime minister.
The book comes with a publisher’s promise. Hachette India is so sure you’ll love the book that it is willing to give you your money back if you don’t (terms on www.hachetteindia.com : To cut through the legalese, if you have the bill for the book, you can take that and the book back to the store by 31 May and get your Rs195 back).
Blatant: Mayawati’s garlands make Singh’s politicians believable. Nand Kumar / PTI.
Delhi Durbar works because it verbalizes the scandalous rumours you have heard about Indian polity. The “gasp” value of the book is high. Towards the latter half, when the build-up to the military dictatorship take centre stage, the pace flags. But Sidhu’s voice is unique and gripping. I did think about returning the book to the publisher a couple of times when the politicians seemed too blatant to be real. But then Mayawati got her second garland of currency notes and my faith in the book was quickly restored.