Book Review: Family Planning by Karan Mahajan


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Book Review: Family Planning by Karan Mahajan

This time I went to India through this hilarious story by Karan Mahajan. He is like a funny, eloquent and perceptive guide into India.

Family planning is a novel revolving around a father and son and their life in India. The story begins with Mr.Ahuja who is deeply troubled that his son, Arjun, walked in on him having sex with his heavily pregnant wife. He wonders how to explain to his son that he is only attracted to his wife when her stomach is bulging with child. Arjun on the other hand is more disturbed that his parents still have sex. Mr. Ahuja has 13 children with one on the way and this causes Arjun to be constantly taunted by his friends in school.

Mr. Ahuja is the minister of Urban Development whose plans are to rid the city of the traffic lights and reinvigorate traffic flow by building a series of flyovers. These plans are however hindered by the dysfunctional government. The other ministers want flyovers built everywhere resulting in an ugly cityscape. At the moment the flyovers lie incomplete described perfectly by the author as having ‘their two rising slopes frozen in midair like tongues that failed to touch’.

Civilians have been cast in this book as ignorant bystanders as Karan says ‘they believed in flyovers with preindustrial innocence. They earnestly put up with months of noise and pollution if it meant fast transit in the future.’ The women go out and demonstrate when a popular male actor is killed off in a soap opera and all the ministers resign in support of the women. The super prime minister angry that the ministers are plotting behind her back, appoints the soap opera star as prime minister.

Karan incorporates many themes in his story such as the perceptions Americans have towards Indians in America. Mr. Ahuja remembers his time in America where he was asked ‘is it common in India for a person to own elephants the way people here own horses?’

Why you should read this:
1. Get a look into India through Karan Mahajan’s creative viewpoint.
2. The problems in developing nations are brought out; Corrupt systems, Poor governance, Disillusioned people.
3. For a good laugh
4. To discover simple truths in life which have been brought out subtly all through the book.

The book is very relatable to me as I live in a developing country which has just recently caught the wave of building flyovers. On the downside, I was looking forward to the ending but I found it rather anticlimactic.

Publisher: Vintage
Copies Available at: Prestige Bookshop


2014 Writivism Short Story Prize Submission Guidelines


Opening date – 8 February 2014

Closing date – 30th April 2014
Entries must be submitted online, on the Writivism website. No mark as to the identity of the writer should be made on the story itself. No entries will be considered if submitted after this date. The competition long-list (of fifteen to twenty five stories) shall be announced on the 15th of May 2014 and the short-list (of five stories) on the 1st of June 2014. Winners shall be announced on Short Story Day Africa, the 21st of June 2014 at an Awards Evening during the Writivism Mini-Festival 2014 in Kampala, Uganda.
1. The Writivism Short Story Prize is an annual award for emerging African writers administered by the Center for African Cultural Excellence (CACE).

2. Entrants must be unpublished writers, resident in an African country. One is deemed published if they have a book of their own.


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BOOK REVIEW: Den of Inequities by Kinyanjui Kombani


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It took me a couple of days to complete Den of Inequities as I had to pry it out of my mother’s hands. She was hooked after the first chapter which breathes life into the book, evoking strong emotion. It introduces the injustice in a slum in Nairobi, a mirror to the real Nairobi slums.
Den of Inequities is greatly a man’s perspective on the life in Kenyan slums where civilians and police do not coexist amicably. Outlawed groups take matters into their own hands to meet the shortcomings of their government, providing electricity to slum dwellers through illegal connections and employment to unemployed youth. Rogue cops and government officials look out for their own interest and obliterate anyone who stands in their way.
Majority of the well developed characters in Den of Inequities are male, with women doing little other than furthering the plot. Father and son relationship dynamics are explored. One father struggles for his son’s wellbeing, another uses his son as a means to an end to fulfill his greedy urges. The relationships formed by women are portrayed as fickle both between friends and in marriage.
The demographic divide is brought out in the behaviors of rich kids in University enabled by their parents; driving big cars, partying, drinking and making irrational decisions only to be bailed out by their able parents.
Overall Den of Inequities shows how taking away a man’s freedom leads him to do outrageous things to regain it. It contains intriguing sub-plots, and accurate descriptions that help create a vivid imagination as you read.

Publisher: Longhorn Publishers
Copies Available at: Text Book Centre
Other works: The Last Villains of Molo, Wangari Maathai: Mother of Trees, We can be Friends, Lost but Found.