“Ghachar Ghochar” (120 pages; $15) by Vivek Shanbhag; translated from Kannada by Srinath Perur; published by Penguin Books (www.penguin.com)
Vivek Shanbhag is no newcomer to writing novels, short stories or plays. He has written quite a few in Kannada. But “Ghachar Ghochar” is his first book to appear in English. And it is short at just 120 pages and brilliant, we must say. The narrator relates the story of his rags-to-riches family in a simple but elegant way. When his uncle founds a successful spice company, the narrator along with his mother, father, sister and uncle move from a little hut to a large house in Bangalore. Before you know it, problems rise in and for the family. Shanbhag intersperses the novel with some catchy one-liners: “… it is the words of women that wound other women most deeply.” “When you have no choice, you have no discontent, either.” “… it’s not we who control money, it’s the money that controls us. When there’s only a little, it behaves meekly; when it grows, it becomes brash and has its way with us.” And by the way, the term “Ghachar Ghochar” is just drivel that translates into something that cannot be fixed, beyond repair.
“Mr Iyer Goes to War” (220 pages; $27) by Ryan Lobo; published by Bloomsbury (www.bloomsbury.com)
After reading “Ghachar Ghochar,” this one proved to be a disappointment. Basically, the story is an interpretation of the 1605 “Don Quixote” but set in modern-day Uttar Pradesh. Lalgudi Iyer stays at a home for the aged in Varanasi. An accident leaves the 60-year-old Tamil Brahmin with a concussion. As a result, he has a vision of his past incarnation – he was the mythological warrior Bhima, strongest of the Pandavas, who has been sent from the heavens to destroy evil. Accompanying Iyer on his travels and trails along the Ganges river is the trustworthy home undertaker Bencho. “Mr Iyer Goes to War” is the first book for the author, a photographer and filmmaker, and surely showed a lot of promise in the beginning but along the way it lost our interest. Pick it up if you are ardent fans of Miguel de Cervantes’ famous “Don Quixote.”