Shantaram and A Street Cat @ BYOB Party in September 2016 (Part 2)


openIn Part 1, the discussion involved Intellectual Property and plagiarism.  The discussion also  meandered to ghost writers. Usually autobiographies of celebrities have a ghost writer author. This may or may not be the case with the book Open by the tennis player Andre Agassi. Supriya loved the book and felt it read like a breezy love story.

“Whatever one’s public persona is, the personal insecurities are the same, irrespective of perception,” she said. Agassi was a tennis player whom everyone admired in his day. “Even if the book is ghost written, what does it matter?” Rajeev said. “Some stories have to be told.”

The book describes Agassi’s training as a child, his adolescence in a Florida tennis camp, his rebellious nature and raw talent. He talks about important matches, relationships, physical pain and true love.

Other sports persons’ biographies discussed were Sachin’s biography and an upcoming movie called M.S.Dhoni: The Untold Story.

shantaramThere were quite a few biographies at this BYOB Party. Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts is no different. Chaitanya found this book riveting and of course, it really needs no introduction. The novel spans the real events in the life of the author. Roberts is convicted to a nineteen year imprisonment in Australia but he escapes to Mumbai. There he begins a new life, makes new friends, works with the socially downtrodden, and eventually finds his way back into the criminal circuit. There is a saving grace at the end of the novel.

“Even if we remove the protagonist from the book, Mumbai would stand out as the strongest protagonist,” Chaitanya said. Undoubtedly. Shantaram is said to have done a lot for Mumbai tourism as well. Consider the Shantaram Walking tour.

Speaking of books about Mumbai, there are many others like Suketu Mehta’s Maximum City and City Adrift by Naresh Fernandes.

a-street-cat-named-bob_Piya got a light book in the true sense.  “You can read it any difficult street junction; it takes just two hours.” The book called A Street cat named Bob by James Bowen tells his own tale. He is a recovering drug addict, homeless and penniless. He’s pretty much at the end of it all, when he meets Bob who turns things around for him. From that moment of nursing the sick cat to health, Bowen’s experiences as a busker change for the better.

Just as Shantaram depicts Mumbai, A Street Cat named Bob shows the London of the streets. No manicured gardens for you. The book has sold one million copies in the UK and is now being adapted into a motion picture.


the-ditchdiggers-daughtersNeha got a book called The Ditch Digger’s Daughters . A write-up in The Reader’s Digest caught her eye when she was young and Neha was pleased to finally get to read the book she so coveted. It did not disappoint. The story is set in East Harlem in the US and tells the story of a father with six daughters during the Great Depression. He is an ambitious man and wants all his daughters to become doctors. He goes to great length to achieve this, even cordoning them off from other kids who could be potential bad influences. Even when his daughters created a successful band, he frowned upon the frivolities of a short-term success. “What stood out for me was the Maslow’s hierarchy imprinted in the Father’s head. He chose the security of his daughters above all else,” Neha said.

“Do we have an Indian equivalent to this?” Ralph said.

The discussion then went around to the dearth of such stories in a country where there are only such stories. Everyone could identify with the Father’s struggle in the book. Some books like Kalam’s Wings of Fire and Karmayogi about E. Sreedharan came to mind, but there doesn’t seem to be a book that chronicles the true life of an utterly downtrodden person in popular memory. Websites like Upworthy and Humans of Mumbai/New York are alternatives.

And on a lighter note for individual stories, Goats of Bangladesh.

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