Ishqiyapa-To-Hell-with-Love-TheSeer-Book-Review

Pankaj Dubey’s ‘Ishqiyapa – To Hell with Love’ Succeeds from Cover to Cover as a Commercial Fiction

The story pulls you in with a make-out-gone-wrong scene between two lovers. Then, it cuts to flashback to set the context of the opening scene. This context with all its characters of different shades, political rivalry, an underdog boy, a privileged but unhappy girl, and a faithful henchman creates a story of love and deceit interchanging places throughout the book Ishqiyapa -To Hell with Love. The book has been published by Penguin Metro Reads.

The premise is familiar and to a certain extent cliched. The kingpin of Bihar converts to a politician and has a few secrets under his belly. His daughter, Sweety is a free soul who wants to go out and explore the world. The protective father is not ready to let go of his daughter. Enters Lallan, an ambitious young man in love with Philip Kotler who aspires to become a successful entrepreneur in the mould of Ambani after completing his MBA course. Lallan is the variable who changes the trajectory of every character in the story and soon we find ourselves in the world of uncertainties. The thrill of this uncertainty reaches a crescendo towards the end of the book.

The author through his characters also displays his passion for the Hindi film industry. This becomes a double-edged sword for the book as you will be able to recall many moments from various movies while reading this book. Whether it works for the book or not, is for the readers to decide. If you are a reader who enjoys such references, you are going to enjoy this breezy read filled with typical Bollywood twists and turns.

Whether it is the caste rigidity in marriages or the notoriety of criminal politicians, Pankaj gets clear and clever references in the book. There are interesting episodes which tell you more about the time when kidnapping had become an industry in the state with the involvement of top politicians and mafia. Irrespective of these plot-crutches, the author has been successful in not turning it into a depressing tale of criminals and their crimes. Love stands as the backbone of the story and everything else happens to be accentuating the spirit of love. The author surprises you occasionally with his attention to details. What he chooses to tell and what he leaves to imagination give you hints aplenty that this book was written with the motion-picture adaptation in mind.

In retrospect, I believe this book lost an opportunity to dig deeper into Bihar and bring out the sides that are otherwise left unexplored in the hunt for a pop-fiction. Readers and movie-goers are already jaded with all the stereotyping and negativity around Bihar. So, when an author belonging to the state comes out to tell us a story from there, it is only fair to expect a little more than what the lazy Bollywood has done enough of, thanks to its prejudices and ignorance about the region and its people.

The genre this books falls in is known as Commercial Fiction. Books in this genre are high on mass appeal and are targeted at the average reader who is looking for a light read to spend a few hours in books that are easy on language and high on entertainment. On that front, Ishqiyapa – To Hell with Love succeeds, from cover to cover. Pankaj Dubey weaves a fast paced tale with no room for the ‘boring’ literary stuff the average reader runs away from.

Buy the book here.

Love Curry Cover Image

Love Curry is the Perfect Antidote to Pain in this Perky Love Story by Pankaj Dubey

There are not many books that talk about the stories of Indians who leave motherland for various reasons and settle down in foreign countries. The stories of these individuals and their families are each potential best-sellers. There are so many suppressed emotions and buried plots waiting to be unearthed and unleashed to the world. That way, Pankaj Dubey’s ‘Love Curry‘ published by Penguin Random House India is a very interesting addition to this not so long list. It isn’t merely the story of an Indian, we also have a Pakistani and a Bangladeshi who bring in additional flavours to this book.

Away from homelands and out of their protective nets, you will always find the subcontinental borders melting away and a natural brotherhood flourishing amidst citizens of these sister nations. That is precisely the premise of this book, but then there is more. Loaded with their versions of pain, misery, aspiration, and compulsion, Rishi from India, Shehzad from Bangladesh and Ali from Pakistan land in London and end up being flatmates. But a new storm awaits them there in the form of Zeenat, who is very much the human version of Bollywood.

The book opens with a very passionate chapter that can slap you awake and drag you into the story. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself smiling or grinning or laughing out loud in the middle of a seemingly romantic chapter. That is thanks to Pankaj’s wit and humour that is strewn all over. And I assure you, that you will experience the same phenomenon throughout the book, even as the plot thickens and that makes the read quite enjoyable. Then comes the personal cross that each of our characters carries with them.

Not just the trio, but also the story of Zeenat and her father Mullah, are a short yet intriguing peek into the disturbing lives of the men and women who are constantly at war while trying to make a fresh start in a faraway land. It is very interesting to see the author use a thread from their pasts to establish their present-day existence. I especially loved the part where he explains how it was a natural evolution for Shehzad to become a tattoo artist and Mullah naming his daughter Zeenat. I couldn’t help but smile when I realized why the book was titled ‘Love Curry’ and how that is a thread that moves the second part of this tale.

An unfortunate catastrophe brings about a series of events some of which eventually take our characters to the home they dearly want and deserve. Before they get there, they must endure a few more seismic attacks including racial discrimination and wrongful detention. However, as always the sense of brotherhood prevails and help arrives just in time.

While the book is essentially a story of love and friendship, it is knit into an engaging tale by putting together the many elements that define the connections between the three countries that our Romeos hail from. I am no longer surprised how cricket is an indispensable character in all stories that involve these countries. So, I did manage to keep a straight face when Ali and Rishi fought over an Indo-Pakistan cricket match, however, the discussions that happened around the could-bes and would-bes if only our countries decide to tear down the differences and redraw the borderlines once and for all were quite exciting. As wishful as they might sound, the ray of hope that was glistening through those discussions is too hard to miss.

Finally comes the most important of our connections and the one that warms our heart to the greatest extent- our Curries. The mutual love that we share for the biryanis, kebabs, and the endless list of flavourful curries is that one weapon which can probably destroy the elements of hate and bring about harmony. Need I mention how it is only right that it be honoured with the place in the title of the book?

The perky narration and the lively dialogues, makes the book sound like a half-done Bollywood screenplay. Don’t tell us that we didn’t warn you, when Love Curry hits the big screen, especially because Pankaj is also a filmmaker. I have only one suggestion for whoever makes a movie out of this – please skip the political conversations that happen among the trio in the second part. It is a little too stretched and unbelievable that these misfits would discuss subcontinental politics with their head in the guillotine. Otherwise, I would say go for it. It is an easy and engaging read and just the right kind of book you need to calm those nerves during these times of uncertainty.

Pankaj Dubey’s Trending in Love Picks Unconventional Protagonists


Of all forms of magic that exist on earth, I believe love is one magic that stands out. The power of love is so immense that it can bring together beings from worlds apart and bind them together in an unbelievable way. Almost every day you find stories that bear witness to this miraculous power of love. One such unsaid story of love that brings two people from seemingly different human worlds is Pankaj Dubey’s, Trending in Love (published by Penguin Metro Reads). With a plethora of love stories available in the world of books, Pankaj’s choice of IAS aspirants as his protagonists is quite unconventional yet clever.

 

Sanam hails from a privileged and protective household whereas Aamir grows up in an environment where life is challenging almost every day. The happenstances in their lives lead them towards a dream pursuit called IAS. Neither of them realize that this pursuit is going to open many pleasant and unpleasant pathways in their lives.

 

The first part of the book tells you about the individual struggle they encountered before emerging as rank holders. Their struggles are not the same. Despite the privileges that she enjoys, Sanam comes to face her share of battles against patriarchy and then she decides to conquer the dream single-handedly. Aamir, on the other hand, has an endless list of battles to fight, most important of them the battles that he fights within himself before his mentor-boss Major Kalra nudges him to the right path. Their struggles are indeed tales of inspiration as much the story of an IAS topper is. The second part of the book is about these two kindred souls finding their way towards each other amidst the hilly terrains of Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie.

 

While the book is primarily a story of love, the author does touch upon a variety of socio-political issues. The first chapter itself sets off a discussion on if a financially well endowed, privileged Dalit candidate must opt for her reservation or should she let it go for the sake of more deserving candidates. Then there is this long list of sensitive subjects of concerns when your other protagonist is a Kashmiri. So yes, we sit through discussions on excessive militancy, police abuses, internet outages and whatnot. Pankaj isn’t finished yet. He also talks through his characters about the good and bad of social media, homophobia and more.

 

On the other hand, he also drowns you in sweet pools of poetry, now and then. The beauty of Mussoorie and Kashmir come alive in his words and haunts you for not being there right now. The maggi outings, blueberry cheesecakes and the lovers’ sweet nothings keep you smiling.

 

My only disappointment was that the book had so much potential to be more than just the love of Sanam and Aamir. The stories of Aamir’s cousins Moeen and Sabah, Aamir’s Abbu, Ramya and the characters of Major Kalra and even Aamir’s roommate Badal had a very intense narrative in themselves. If knitted together, they could have given way to a more powerful tale while Sanam and Aamir could still have ended up in each other’s arms. But then, I am merely a reader and readers always want more. A little more drama and gentle heartbreak are all I ask for before the happy ending. Sigh! Pankaj seemed to have thought otherwise and just saved the readers from more tears. So, there it ends with a lot of love and hope.

I recommend this book for two reasons, one it is an absolute page-turner that makes your heart flutter. Second, it gives you a peek into the lives of UPSC aspirants, their unique life (that involves barely any living) and also what it takes to graduate from an Officer Trainee to a successful bureaucrat.