Book Review

Title: Me and I

(ISBN 978-93-5195-188-9)

Author: Nabendu Ghosh (written in Bengali in 2003)

Translator: Devottam Sengupta ( translated in 2017)

 

Me and I is a science fiction set in Calcutta, exploring the concept of Earth’s twin in the universe. It was written by Nabendu Ghosh for his two grandsons in Bengali, and then translated by one of them as part of his centenary celebrations. The translator, Devottam Ghosh, is a lawyer by profession.

I enjoyed the book. It is an ideal read from eight to eighty, a story well told. The protagonist Mukul has a twin in the planet that is Earth’s mirror image. His parallel is known as Lukum and Earth is spelt as Threa.

The explanation is given by an eccentric gentleman, Professor Noni Gopal Sinha,who is Mukul’s friend and mentor on Earth.

“They’re both, opposite yet identical. Mirror images, really. Just as there are a couple of hundred twins among a million people, similarly I’m sure you can find a twin — identical yet opposite — planets among the billions that exist out there.”

So, it is an inverse parallel universe which is dwelt on briefly as the story unfolds.

The story has multiple layers. On the surface, it is a story for children… a nineteen-year-old boy’s adventure with an alien in outer space. It has been woven very well into the fabric of Indian life. Perspectives on religion, science, society, countries and cultures are layered into the folds of the story. It explores the environment that leads to creativity and the environment that does not. An ideal needs to be somewhere in the middle… perhaps… a point for the reader to ponder…

The book has well-researched scientific facts… on different theories of the universe. Though the author, Nabendu Ghosh, says that he would like “to classify this flight of imagination as a ‘modern(or contemporary) fairy tale’”, it touches upon Einstien’s ideas on gravitational waves and theory of relativity. It dwells upon travel at the speed of light and it’s impact on humans.

A surprising novel from a writer of stories linked to social reforms…but then, one wonders at the end that has the author not made you think again of larger issues that are relevant even in the twenty first century…

Perhaps, because Nabendu Ghosh was into writing for films, this book is very visual and would make for an excellent movie. I can visualise the whole scenario as I read the book…

May we then expect a Tollywood(Bengali movie) version of Me and I in the near future?

Advertisements

Book of the Week

image

 

Title: Ping-Pong Diplomacy
Author: Nicholas Griffin

Ping-Pong Diplomacy is an eye-opener. The action of the book is like a thriller. The narrative highlights the feeling of terror generated in the course of history. That a sport could be used to bring a country to the fore and to manipulate a whole generation of people is amazing. That a number of countries and politicians, like Nixon and Kissinger, were party  to helping a communist China reintegrate and move forward in history is absolutely astounding. In the author’s own words:

“The real history of table tennis is a bizarre tale of espionage, aggravation, and reconciliation, of murder, of revenge, and exquisite diplomacy.”

The story starts in England with Ivor Montagu, an aristocrat with communist leanings. Griffins writes:

“This is the story of how Ivor Montagu molded the game, and how the Chinese came to embrace it and then shaped it into a subtle instrument of foreign policy. Chairman Mao was fond of quoting ‘Let foreign things serve China.’ Little has served China as effectively as Montagu’s very British game of table tennis.”

Most of the book is located in Mao’s China. One gets a close-up glimpse of what the regime did for the population and the country. Now, after fifty years, the only traces one gets to see of the regime in China are the ‘restored’ monuments and artefacts that had been destroyed by the Red Army. Also, there is an interesting museum in Shanghai that has Red Army books, artefacts and posters.

Table tennis was a part of the ‘cultural history’ of Mao’s China. That sports, like culture, are treated with extreme importance by the country is very well projected in the book. Griffin brings out that winning for the country and not for personal glory is important.

The violence and horror of mob violence is highlighted in the actions of the Red Army. It is truly frightening. The bleakness and violence reminded me of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four. The suffering of the people for propagating an ideology and an ‘image’ is portrayed in amazing details. It is like a surreal depiction of what goes into making an ideological nation materialise. One also gets to see how China became a major player in world politics over a period of time, how communism and capitalism combined to the benefit of the power brokers of the world and to push nationalism to the fore.

What does come across to me after reading the book is that the politicians worldwide craved for power for the ‘benefit’ of their respective countries. You have China, USA , UK, Pakistan and USSR involved in the politics that pushed world economics and politics into it’s current state. The book is a behind the scenes glimpse into China’s meteoric rise in today’s world.

I love the concluding sentences of the Epilogue.

“Other sports have evolved in China over the decades. A richer country has a boundless horizon to explore, but table tennis remains the nation’s one perfect specimen.”

It seems to sum up the spirit of the whole book. That sports is used for reasons other than fun, sportsmanship and character building is clearly spelt out by Griffin.

At the end of the book, I am left wondering what is more important, a human being or patriotism?