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Book Review – Billions Under Lockdown by Abantika Ghosh

It is a sweet irony that I am writing this review on a day when my State of West Bengal has started strict lockdown measures to break the chain of COVID transmission. Lockdown – this is definitely one of the words that have become part of everyday lexicon post March, 2020. And it is also a divisive idea that has the society split wide open.

The New Normal

While scientists and the medical fraternity are vocal about complete shutdown, economists, and governments across the world have often been found not to keen to enforce a lockdown, as livelihoods of millions would be threatened because of it. However, we live in times, when one has to choose between life and livelihood.

Last year, the Government of India announced a countrywide lockdown at four hour’s notice, leaving millions of Indians – mostly migrant workers stranded. The government’s handling of COVID had been lackadaisical, whimsical and downright unplanned. The lack of foresight and forward planning among the policy-makers plagued the nation, for which we are suffering till date.

Abantika Ghosh’s book ‘Billions Under Lockdown’ throws light on India’s tryst with the pandemic. I have been zealously following her updates on Twitter, and this book gave a better insight into how the ‘backroom offices’ in the corridors of power functioned to deal with this unforeseen enemy. From the sudden lockdown to economic slowdown, the sloth reaction to the first few cases to the stage of community transmission — she has chronicled it all.

From controversies – for example, the various ‘remedies’ offered to rid India of Corona – to the confusion in scientific community regarding the use of hydroxychloroquine, struggle with flailing health infrastructure to the politics surrounding COVID, and the vaccine diplomacy – she has given a detailed perspective of the year gone by.

The book is a must-read for public policy enthusiasts, as well as policy makers, for a know-how on what not to do – and some best practices – while dealing with a pandemic.

Book Review – Club You To Death by Anuja Chauhan

Club You To DeathClub You To Death by Anuja Chauhan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The year was 2009. It was Republic Day. I was window shopping at a quaint bookstore opposite Navina, waiting for the matinee show of a Hindi horror movie to begin. Casually strolling across aisles, one book cover caught my attention. I flipped through the pages, was hooked to the plot, and immediately bought the book. It was ‘The Zoya Factor’. I became a fan of Anuja Chauhan.

Then came the tale of Thakur girls of Hailey Road (I still pay a visit to 16, Hailey Road, everytime I visit Delhi) and my love for Anuja’s works grew even stronger. Not to forget Baaz and Battle for Bittora in between. So, when ‘Club You To Death’ was available for pre-booking on Amazon, I did not waste a second. And boy, was it a good decision to buy the book.

True to her style, Anuja Chauhan transports us to a world of the high-end Delhi elites, who live in their sweet cocoons, unruffled by the upheavals in the society around them. All that keeps them busy are the occasional wine-sipping, bitching sessions at their favourite club, or their Zumba class where the ladies swoon over the instructor, or shaping up the business, which makes them feel important and worthwhile.

The ‘happy’ mundane lives of these club-hopping rich people is thrown into a spin when the gym instructor is found dead in mysterious circumstances and the investigation reveals deep, dark secrets everyone has been trying to brush under the carpet (or should we say, bury deep into the ground?).

That a murder-mystery can be so fun and comical was surely beyond my imagination. Whether it is the typical snobbish aunties (Roshni and Cookie) or the retired Army General (Behra Mehra) or the ‘cool’ Dadi of the Dogra family, every character has been sketched with such perfection, that one must tip their hats off to Anuja. The dialogues are witty (written in true Anuja Chauhan style, with spellings altered the way many Indians pronounce words), the story moves at a brisk pace, and the climax will keep your jaws wide open.

One cannot help but also read between the lines, and applaud Anuja for speaking truth to the power, with small sub-plots strewn across the book. It takes courage to pen down satire, in this age of hashtag activism and cancel-culture.

And of course. Just like Dylan, Samar or Nikhil in her earlier works, Anuja gifts are charming and effusive Kashi (Akash) Dogra in this book. A lawyer who gets embroiled in the murder investigation, his broodiness, inner conflict and boyish charm, are enough to swoon over him.
Overall, Club You To Death is definitely a good binge-read on a weekend, the book will not disappoint.

My Rating: 4/5 stars

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