Memoirs of a Lucknow boy

Fans of flipkart raise your hands. Isn't it just wonderful? As they get more and more popular their services only seem to get better. Last week I ordered a book and it arrived the very next day. Wow, thought I.
Then this morning I ordered four books and one of them was delivered just now. How's that for promptness? I love this concept of piecemeal delivery of the order. It's like they're saying, "You start reading this one.. we'll get the others ASAP". And the Cash on Delivery Option is a dream.
Apparently, so well have they been doing, that they've launched their own courier service.

The book that arrived last week turned out to be a wonderful read -- 'Lucknow Boy A Memoir' by Vinod Mehta. I am not a great fan of biographies, auto or otherwise. I got a surfeit of them when in school and found a lot of them boring. Then a friend recommended Andre Agassi's "Open" and I loved it. That was what made me look at 'Lucknow Boy'. I have to confess though, the Lucknow connection was the clincher, rather than a love for Vinod Mehta's writings. I've seen him a lot of him in various debates on various television channels and have loved him for his irreverence more than anything else. This will sound silly but the picture I have of him is sitting at one such panel flanked by some nattily dressed panel members while carelessly sporting a bright bright red shirt.

As anticipated I did enjoy the Lucknow bit. In fact the first part of the book makes it a must read for every Lucknowite. Somethings he says of Lucknow resonate strongly with me.. sample this..

"Lucknow bestowed on me one priceless gift. It taught me to look at the individual rather than his religion or caste or the tongue he spoke...." Later he adds.. "...for me Muslims meant korma, Christians meant cake and pastries, Sikhs meant hot halwa, Anglo-Indians meant mutton cutlets, Parsees meant dhansak. The solitary Jewish family in town did not come withon my grasp, so I aplogize for excluding them."... That's my kind of man, I thought.

"Some of my better-educated, more doctrinaire friends usually discuss secularism, composite culture and the syncretic tradition...I breathed the secularism they talk of, the composite culture flows in my veins, the syncretic tradition is something I observed daily as I rode my bicycle from Firangi Mahal to Sanyal Club. I didn't pick up my secularism from books or at university or from protest demos. For me it was a lived reality."

That's not all. Armed with a third class BA degree from the Lucknow University he travels to Britain. That's where he transforms himself from that small frog in the well to a well read, well informed individual. The rest of the book talks about his editorial journey, which is even more more interesting. Someone who starts his journalistic career as the editor of Debonair can't really be boring. Other than that he launched three newspapers only to be sacked from each of them. I liked his sense of fairness of giving media space to points of view that may/may not coincide with his own. And I loved his candour..from admitting his temper tantrums ("I was under the misapprehension that all great editors had to be 'difficult'") to the gravest of errors to a child he abandoned.

Towards the end he gives some 'Sweeper's wisdom' to aspiring journos. I also loved the section 'Some people' where he gives his impressions on people ranging from Shobha De to VS Naipaul and Rushdie. Quite enjoyable.

'Lucknow Boy' put me on the path of some more books, which are the ones I ordered today. Mehta heavily recommends George Orwell's writings. While I've read a lot about his books, specially Animal Farm and 1984, I never got down to reading them. Also, I thought it would be fun to read more of Lucknow's history and so included a book on that too.

'1984' was delivered today and I'm looking forward to a quiet evening with the kids down for the day.

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