Book: And We Remained
Author: Asad Ali Junaid
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: A ‘drama’ of ‘sexual innuendos’
In One Line: ‘Boys to Men’
Characterisation: I like the way the characters have been sketched by making them speak in the first person in two different time lines. However, while in the ‘past’ bits, maybe because they were distinctly divided into different chapters, the protagonists retained their uniqueness; the ‘present’ bit that is in the form of emails, they all tend to get a little muddled into each other at times. Especially because of their universal need to discuss about sex rampantly. Only Anand, one of the protagonists, to some extent, retains a flavour of his own.
That brings me to the next point. The five protagonists in this story, all come from a different background. Why is it that even if the author’s voice of wanting to show the changes that India was going through in the 90s gets diluted as he starts to focus on telling us how the boys run after a girl, gets further diluted because the difference in perspectives and opinions of these five become almost unrecognisable as one progresses in the story? Is uniqueness only related to the usage of certain words? Or which part of the world they are trying to find a babe whom they can screw around with? There is identity erosion that the author should have worked upon because, ultimately when one closes the books, the guys turn out to be those with very little layering to them – almost to the point of being over simplified and dull.
Language: I couldn’t spot any errors in the spellings or the grammar. That’s the good bit. The ‘un-good’ bit is that so many time, throughout the book, words have been written in caps lock. Yes, I understand that maybe the author wanted to emphasise on that word. But there are other ways to express the same instead of writing them in capital letters.
Also there was a lot of over usage of some words. The use of the word ‘loafers’, for example! was used to the point of irritation. Some words in the Indian dialects was also written way too many times. I’m sure, even if the author wanted to bring out the character trait of an individual though the use of these words, quite a handful of them could have been edited out.
Although not too many, but there were some one liners that made me smile. Brownie points to the author for these.
- “To such types, one would need to spend the whole night explaining why sex has only three letters while fuck has four letters though they both mean the same thing.”
- “I experienced Newton’s fourth law of motion today after eating some bad food at a dhaba. Loose motion cannot be done in slow motion.”
I also appreciate the little trivia here and there that the author has scattered in his book. For example the ‘Mysore Mallige’ sex scandal, the trek at Bheemeshwari, about the golfer Michael Campbell etc.
Plot Setting: The engineering college at Bangalore has been well described. One gets to know about where the five friends are currently as well through their email exchanges. However, be it Florida or Bangalore, each city, somehow, seems to be ‘known’ only for the women, sex, and the availability of porn. I do not have objections to it being written about if it helps in the story’s development. But this time, it got quite repetitive and did nothing to show how the boys had grown into men. Except, perhaps, harping on their libido increase. Unfortunately the tale is not an erotica. So, these portions didn’t gel into the story at all. What could have been a very interesting plot, fell flat because of the excessive effort to introduce sex into the writing.
Book Cover Art: I liked the book cover. There are just so many with pictures that this one, with words written on a black background, looked attractive. But when my eyes spotted the word ‘BULSH’, immediately my brows creased. I thought what the word was to be – ‘blush’ or ‘bullshit’. I smiled a big smile minutes later though when I had read the initial few pages of the book because I realised that it wasn’t a spelling mistake after all! It did have a meaning – Bangalore University Ladies Student’s Hostel. Well done to the author for this cover.
How’s the Title: In a way the title makes sense because:
- The friendship of the five friends does remain till the very end.
- In their heart of hearts, as they continue to thrive on their interest in girls, they remain pretty much the boys that they were in the beginning of the story as well.
- There were innumerable girls who came and went, giving them different forms of heart breaks, but they did carry on with their lives to become ‘something’. So, they did fight the ‘odds’ and they did remain.
However, I did not like the tag line “an absorbing story told differently”. Each author feels that his story is absorbing and that he has told it / written it differently! This tag line seems like the author’s trying to sell the tale too hard. I would have preferred something like “because nothing ever goes away” or “because we had the courage to”.
Is The Blurb Catchy: I turned the book to read the blurb and what I find, instead, is book promotion in the form of quotes. That too, from people with no names. Not good, I say. The blurb is hidden inside the book in the name of ‘synopsis’. This was another brow-crease for me. We are the readers, not the publishers. Don’t give us a synopsis! And, that too after I have again turned a page that’s full of quotes, most from those who probably matter to the author but would make no difference to the reader (since their names are unknown).
Learning From The Story: One cannot write about things just because it is in fashion and because that genre of books is selling. If your book needs it, then definitely write about it. Else do not do it. It can spoil even the best plot.
Areas Of Improvement: The author told me that he felt he had over-done the ‘sex’ bit because he thought that it would sell. I have two things to say here.
- Believe in your work and stand by it. You wrote it because you thought it would make your creation better. So defend it positively.
- Don’t fill the book reviewers mind with negative thoughts even before he / she has begun to read the book.
- Sex does sell! But how you portray it is important. In a romance, love making scenes are liked. In an erotica, explicit are hunted for. In other genres too, sex or even sexual innuendoes might work depending on how it gels into the story.
It is this third point that brings me to the first AOI of this book. The reference to sex, most of the times, has been made for the heck of it. While the men exchange emails most of their discussions revolve around nude pictures, a girl’s assets, lack of opportunities to use a condom and masturbation. I understand, that men do speak like this. But when one is writing a book, he has to remember that he is writing a book after all. Say all these things (and more if need be) but only if it takes the story forward in any little way.
I thought it was fine that the author wrote the lyrics of the various Bollywood songs. But then the complete interpretation of it right after together with the name of the movie and the character who has sung it was uncalled for. He hasn’t really explained the terms of all the local lingo, then why this? He should have, rather, kept the number of lines lesser and weaved the meaning of it etc into conversations. This really isn’t a thesis where he needs to write the reference of the quotes in parenthesis.
What Is ‘Said By Not Saying’: Men will be men and they will always think with what lies between their legs. But that’s a myth for I know of men who actually do (and do it well too) think with their brains!
My Reaction When I Finally Closed The Book:
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