Thursday, March 06, 2014

Book Review: Sorting Out Sid By Yashodhara Lal

When you finally put this book down, what strikes you the most is how apt the title is - Sorting out Sid. Yes, right from the start till you have read the last word on the final page, all that is happening is Sid getting sorted out. Not by him or his friends or his colleagues or his parents or his wife. But by you and me as we leaf through the book, at times chuckling at his wit, sometimes rolling our eyes at his seemingly desperate attempt at pleasing his bosses or simply shaking our heads in exasperation at the superficial “always-the life-of-the-party” act. There are so many Sids within this Sid, that you as a reader are left with no choice but to keep sorting him out, wondering whether by the time you reach the end you would have peeled off enough layers to know the real Sid. That’s the journey Yashodhara Lal takes you through with her latest book; His life and the people that contribute knowingly or unknowingly to the various layers that define him.

Sid could be any of us. He exists in everyday life with his marital problems, dull yet ambitious career, childhood friends who have stayed for life and his grudging love for his over protective parents. These are facets of life that we all experience at some stage or the other in our lives, how we respond to these is what defines us as individuals.  How Sid responds to it, defines the “Party Sid”, “Work Sid”, “Uncle Sid” “Friendly Sid” “Avoiding Sid”…  that we get to see all through the book.

At parties held by his best friend Aditi, he puts on the “Friendly Sid” or “Party Sid” cap with much ease, cracking jokes and amusing all with his wit and humour. At one such party he meets Neha, a single mom who forms an integral part of the ups and downs he goes through.

At work, he puts on the “Work Sid” cap despite his dislike for the job he does. From portraying that all is always well in his life and cracking forced jokes filled with smelly office humour to plastering a superficial smile on his face and enacting fake laughter, Sid rises up the ladder not for once wondering whether he really cares for what he does.

When his parents visit him, “Avoiding Sid” comes to life. Finding ways to stay away from his over-expecting father and over-protective mother, yet finding it hard to break their hearts with the news of his impending divorce, “Avoiding Sid” knows to do just one thing. Avoid.

As his friendship with Neha deepens, “Uncle Sid” surfaces, befriending Kippy, Neha’s two year old daughter and making you wonder if he really is as averse to kids as he makes it to be otherwise. 

What surfaces with the different faces of Sid is his love to please others. Even when he brings his guard down when he is all alone lounging on his bean bag “Brownie” with a couple of beers at hand, he can’t help but file away wise cracks he thinks off for future use. He can’t stop loving the different layers more than appreciating what he truly is. In all these faces however, there is one that stays strikingly absent – The “Husband Sid”. Right from the beginning, the cracks in his marriage are evident but does he do anything to figure out what went wrong? No. At one point, it made me wonder whether the different personalities that are Sid, sparked the discomfort for Mandira… There is an obvious communication gap and lack of effort from Sid’s end despite various jibes from Mandira which could have triggered a need to resolve matters. But no, Sid is too busy donning on his other masks to bother about this relationship. As far as he is concerned it was a failure even before he tried. Mandira is one person he does not care to please.

With his life the stage and his near and dear ones the actors, he sails in and out in each act with a different role and a different dialogue each time, letting his presence of mind effectively cordon off his true feelings and close the door to his inner self.  Eventually the wall he has built around himself begins to show signs of weakening, when Neha comes into his life and he connects with her, especially her paintings. 

Quotes by two characters in the book sum up what the book is all about for me. At one point Neha tells him “All you do is use people to feel better about yourself”. At another, Krish, Aditi’s husband says on the topic of his divorce “If you don’t find yourself difficult to live with, you are unlikely to find anyone else difficult”. For me, these two statements define the premise of Sorting out Sid. Throughout his life, Sid had aimed to feel better about him. His parents, friends, colleagues and his wife, in some way or the other have contributed to reinforce this self made goal that he has always had. They might have had his best interests in mind, but none really bothered to truly understand this nature of his. None, other than Neha. Does Sid finally get sorted out? Not overnight, no. 

Overall the book was a quick read but it did have some highs and lows which stood out for me.
Pros - Yashodhara sprinkles a delightful dose of wit and humour through the book. The “So! When is the baby due?” statement on seeing a women’s belly is a question every woman fears in her lifetime. She makes it as hilarious as it can get with that and many more. Another instance that stands out is her reference to India TV. “Ek sahasi murg ki kahani”… it can’t get funnier than that. With humour under her belt, next she targets the superficiality in the corporate world, esp. the references to “broad framework” and false deadlines. Extremely detailed descriptions, Yashodhara does a good job of playing back the current gen lifestyle. Across the book, she also spreads out a few gems that make you smile, be it the reference to how Ravi a marketing intern reminds Sid painfully of himself in his younger days or the beautiful manner in which she describes Neha’s attempt at discovering a subject for her to paint – only an artist (of the written word) could have described it so well.

Cons- Sorting out Sid takes a tad too long. There are moments where you get the feeling the story is dragging on its feet and could do with a bit of a push to make it move along. Overall a rather simple plot, there is not much to keep the reader engaged and glued till the last page. The story line demands a casual and simplified language but given that this is a piece of English fiction the “colloquial” ness in the conversations seems to go out of proportion at times, esp. when Hindi makes way into the writing.  If the Author wishes to cater to an audience beyond those who speak the two languages, the idiomatic tone might not connect instantly with the reader.

Despite the length, in general “Sorting Out Sid” is a breezy read, made so by the humour Yashodhara provides in generous doses all across. If you want to relax with a chilled beer on your bean bag, this is a book worth picking up.

Rating: 3/5


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35 comments:

  1. I was waiting for your review! :D
    Thank you.. I'm not going to be picking it up..

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    1. Oh wow now that was rather overwhelming :) It's a good book for stress free reading, so for that you might want to give it a go :)

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  2. A detailed review, Seeta. Somehow the book did not entice me when I laid my eyes on it. Your review sort of reiterates it for me. Though I don't mind Hinglish in books so long as they are really crucial to the story, an overkill of Hindi in English books is putting off. I guess, there is a separate genre now of "train reads." I just hope my son does not see the title :-D/

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    1. Totally agree with you on the Hinglish bit.. thought it wasn't used as much in this book.. I felt the colloquial language could have been toned down a bit.. but you are right, this is one those books which is a very good travel read and also if you want to have some stress free reading.
      Hehehehe, if he sees the title, he might wonder if you are writing something about him! :)

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  3. Am like 20% of the way through the book right now, and kind of like it in a whimsical way upto now. Let's see how it ends.

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    1. Hope you enjoy it Jairam. I understand what you mean, I think so too but I wanted to give an unbiased view as a reader of a piece of English fiction.

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  4. Finally a review of a book, I actually have in my hands.
    Now must read!

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    1. Do read it... you are one person whose views I would really be interested in :)

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  5. I have read Yashodhara's earlier book and enjoyed reading it. This book is lying on my side table and I will be picking this up to read soon! Will come back and exchange notes soon :)

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    1. I haven't read the first one but I heard its good. Now that I have read this one, I think I should get my hands on the first one as well, just to see how her writing style has progressed over the two books..

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  6. Can I borrow it from you? Certainly not buying it :D

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    1. Hehehe sure :) Its a decent one time read though!

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  7. I am not a huge fan of books which keep on readers guessing till the end...but nice detailed review.

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    1. This one actually doesn't keep you in a suspense, you more or less know how it will end, its the journey which the author takes you through which is the crux of the book. :)

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  8. Good review..That reminds me how everyday I plan to read it and how my schedule says-ok do it tomorrow :)

    I shall, soon :)

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  9. 'If you want to relax with a chilled beer on your bean bag, this is a book worth picking up.'!! Yessss!! I shall go for it!! :D

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    1. hehehe yup for that reason you should :D

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  10. Good review. I too found the book entertaining but dragged out.

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    1. Completely agree with you Tomichan!

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  11. good review. Book is ok for onetime read. As you said there are certain instances where the things are made to linger on...

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    1. Looks like we think on the same lines Jaideep. :)

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  12. I read her first book, her style is good for one time read I feel. Not that I can write better, full credits to her to bring out the second book.

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    1. I agree with you. We probably would end up with a worse piece, so true.

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  13. Nice review Seeta. As you had informed , I was waiting for your review to be posted :-D..

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    1. Thanks Maniparna! Knew you would stop by :)

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  14. Interesting, sounds like rest your reader book.

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  15. This book reminds me of the Hindi flick, 'Wake up Sid.' Did you think so too, Seeta?

    //The story line demands a casual and simplified language but given that this is a piece of English fiction the “colloquial” ness in the conversations seems to go out of proportion at times, esp. when Hindi makes way into the writing.//

    These days it is writing like this that many non-serious readers prefer for it seems like a story of their lives, I reckon. These works come under the category of realist writings which is closer to the average youth who mixes Hindi while speaking English and sometimes even our mother-tongue spills freely into our everyday English conversations. I guess these are genre-wise a different read that is not meant for serious readers but as you mentioned for those who like a 'breezy' read.

    Anyway, a neat review Seeta.

    Joy always,
    Susan

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    1. Oh yes! So true..on both counts... i guess its a new genre being formed.. a popular one nevertheless. Thanks for stopping by Susan, love having you here.

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  16. I do believe that major issue with many indian authors is editing. Something I find mentioned as a con in a lot of reviews across the internet...

    Richa

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    1. You know what, that has been on my mind as well... I think it is a common issue across writing in the Indian context..

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  17. Was planning to read but haven't as yet. Damn, I have a long list of books to be read.
    Exhaustive detailed analysis Seeta.

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  18. I have almost finished the book and I agree to all your points. After reading Lal's previous book, I did feel that she has improved tremendously as a writer and this time I didn't even cringe when reading those sections with Hindi words ;)

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  19. It is a nice book and you have written a brilliant review. Keep it up. I am also thinking of writing a review of the same book for www.keveinbooksnreviews.in

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