28 May 2009

My Friend Sancho by Amit Varma

Journalists, policemen and religious bias in Bombay

The first chapter of this book was available on-line for months – the book was longlisted for the Booker, and I had read this chapter on the Booker site long before it was published. The chapter is well written, fun, and has a promise – perhaps only by virtue of being situated on the Booker site – of something deeper in store. Abir Ganguly is a young crime reporter and he is witness to a scene which gives us a glimpse into crime journalism, police functioning, and religious bias in Bombay. I waited for it eagerly, anticipating a complicated book with brooding and even ominous twists.
Instead, the book lives up to its promise of frothy wit, perfect idiom and lots of fun, but turns out in the end to be only cynical, not sinister. It shows us how young professionals live in urban
India these days – with quite different standards and values than they did ten or even just five years ago. It is also a good journalism primer, taking us into the head of a bright young writer and showing us how to prepare for an interview, construct a good report, always have a balanced view,choose good words, avoid clichés, and so on.
The chapter titles are like tabloid headlines (Commerce is Very Boring; Sunday Bloody Sunday, and so on). Abir’s mother is someone big in advertising but she made her mark on him as a youngster with priceless one-liners of the kind I imagined my children would remember me by (“Never eat with your mouth full. I mean speak. Never speak with your mouth full.”)
A pleasant read ...

1 comment:

  1. well said Saaz (only cynical not sinister/ frothy wit etc).... I sort of get what you are getting at. I'll read the book and re-confirm if I agree with you. I read the first chapter online and found it a bit smart aleck-y