Friday, December 12, 2014

Shortlisted for Toto Awards

Feels good to be short listed for the Toto Awards. Nay, feels delightful!

Announcement here:

My best wishes to the three other contestants.

An Interactive Session at Bangalore Writer's Workshop

Two months ago I was invited to have an interaction with BWW's current batch of enrolled fellow writers. I was a bit tipsy and so I think I spoke a lot (and I don't remember what). But the lovely folks had this to say of the evening, "Why do we write? What do we do when we read? Why do we write what we write? How to read better? What can we do to write more? And various such thought provoking questions. Unanimously BWW agrees that Mohit Parikh is a wonderful human being first so it's only naturally he will shine as a writer."
Thank you BWW, and Bhumika Anand for that wonderful evening.

I will soon be going to Bangalore again. Would love to catch up with you guys.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Review of ‘Manan’ in TBLM, by Mihir Vatsa

To Start With,

He closes his eyes and finds today’s date floating towards him. Shimmering in the darkness, swiveling— like the text on the Windows 95 screensaver. It seeps in through his forehead and gets absorbed. 23-04-98 is now a part of him. Today’s date, a Saturday, when the first sign of what he so eagerly awaited has appeared. The day, while bathing, he has noticed a hair on his balls, and all his life’s problems are in the past.
Thus begins Mohit Parikh’s debut novel, Manan, which tells the story of its teenaged eponymous protagonist who has just noticed the first sign of puberty on his body. It starts with Manan’s fixation with the idea of growing up, to develop physically like his friends, anticipating, in the meantime, that final moment when his voice will no longer sound like a girl. A bildungsroman in genre and narrated by an intensely personal voice, the novel gradually moves beyond the physiognomic to verbalize those crucial concerns which affect Manan with universal significance; particularly, the colourful experience of growing up in the 90s.

Manan Mehta is a grade-A student, an excellent debater, and a self-aware conscientious boy who perceives his reality through reason. He lives in an unnamed small town with his parents, his tauji, taiji, and their daughter, Pinky Didi. Manan’s parents argue over things he considers redundant, and Pinky Didi, who is a young woman in love, doesn’t have much time for him. As for himself, Manan is a passionate dreamer waiting to become a hero one day and court Hriya, the love of his life. What binds these all together is Parikh’s dreamy, visual, and borderline surreal narration. We move from one instance to the next through Manan’s stream of consciousness which is aided perfectly by a smart use of language.

Parikh’s narration is sudden, detailed, and candid. With sentences shy of auxiliary verbs, what we get are short but vivid fragments from Manan’s thoughts. Parikh entertains with sympathetic humour— an appreciation for the routine and the comedy within it; then proceeds to undercut it with observations on a society deeply implicated in frustrating ironies. Pinky Didi being in love with Bhavesh Bhaiyya is a familiar subversion to the “traditional” notion of marriage where love can be grown later. Manan’s parents arguing with each other not to heal the prick but for the sake of habit— so much so that not fighting seems abnormal. But, like the many ironies of the country, the family is nonetheless a loving one, and the novel never fails to highlight these scattered but crucial sites of affection.

‘He knows they are breaking some rule’
One of the most detailed incidents in the novel is that of Manan discovering porn. The effect, therefore, which Parikh generates, takes the character of a déjà vu. This has happened before; this has happened with us —

Stunned! A wave of chill runs up the spine, to the stem of brain, and arouses goose bumps all over his skin. His heart skips a beat. He has to remind himself to breathe. He breathes. A single thought runs amok his head, making him overcome his daze: so this is what it is, so this is what is.
A story of adolescence is a story of rebellion. The mind learns new things; it is fascinated by the abundance of information; it tries to contain the chaos into chapters of sense. Therefore, the need to identify. The body, on the other hand, slowly recognises the reasons for its own complexity. It begins to understand the urges. Blame the internet, but only to be “much too thankful” later.

In context, then— the social advancement of the 90s differs dramatically from what went before. Discarding the absoluteness of the state-owned means of production, cultural and otherwise, the Indian society was presented with choices. Computers and other gadgets stopped becoming things of luxury, and what was earlier fantastic turned ordinary by the time the new millennium began. “Esteemed professions” changed their addresses from government secretariats to glittering MNC buildings. Internet happened.

But the conscience must adjust to the sudden newness of things. More so the social conscience which permits transition but with much resistance. Manan operates here: in conflicts between generations, between tradition and innovation, between astrology and romance. India has started to come of age, and Manan is a part of the grand process.

The tales of love
Hriya, Hriya, Hriya. You choose to show up when I least expect. Do you know that can be fatal? Not that I mind it, death is but a merging back into love, still, please warn me the next time? Throw around some omens first?
There are two tales of love in the novel. First is Manan’s poetic love for Hriya which always expresses itself in the superlative. It is where Manan becomes the Bollywood hero, pining in secret, holding his heart out and offering an entire ocean inside for a girl who probably doesn’t know he exists. But Manan, for all his dreamy heroism, falters adorably when Hriya walks up to him one day in school and asks for a pen:

His ears become hot, feverish. Are they emitting steam? Oh, the pen — his hands shake as he hands the pen to her. What should he do with his hands now? What does he do with them when he is not holding a pen?
The second tale is that of the love between Pinky Didi and Bhavesh Bhaiyya. And while the first was poetic, the second is problematic. Why? Because nothing flips out an Indian middle-class family more than the knowledge of their children’s ability to love. It’s in this story, and not his own, where Manan emerges triumphant. So as it happens that after much drama, the family agrees to give love a chance and takes the next logical step of consulting an astrologer. The astrologer successfully pulls off a this-marriage-cannot-happen, much to the misery of Pinky didi, and much to the I-told-you-so of evidently idiotic elders. And Manan has had enough:

Explain to me, Mummy, answer me, why is it important? They don’t have horoscopes is Greenland or New Zealand or Russia, but people get married there all the time. And weren’t your horoscopes matched? Look at how your marriage has turned out. And these horoscopes, these two here, they do match. Twenty-nine out of thirty-six. I know it and Pinky didi knows it too. So if someone says that they do not match, either they are very, very, very stupid and don’t know how to read them, or they are liars and do not deserve my respect.
Here, Manan does not falter. He speaks for the supremacy of love, and he speaks against the mindless tyranny of tradition. He speaks for reason, and he speaks against the hypocrisy so easily naturalized by the elders—

He completes the dinner in silence, uttering only occasionally, no, no, Taiji, stomach is full, Taiji. He waits for all the diners to finish and queues behind them at the washbasin. He realises none of the adults washed their hands before eating —
and, converting the performance of being a debater in the school into a lived experience, Manan speaks for the strange generation that is ours which can no longer take the bulk of ungrounded hogwash in the name of tradition.

“When will people grow up?” Manan wonders. It’s a question we have often asked in silence, and sometimes in outburst. Manan, a novel about growing up, separates growing up from ageing to arrive at both humourous and painful understanding of the process. With animated and well-drawn characters, Parikh’s narrative is short but confident. The school scenes are precise and told in its own idiom of roll numbers, sections of a class, and math formulas, among many delightful others. Capable of sending the current twenty-somethings on a nostalgia trip with easily recognizable details, and also capable of knocking adult hypocrisy down with guilt, Manan offers much more than the innocence of its cover. Urmila Shastry’s illustrations are a bonus. Quirky and exact, they compliment Parikh’s narration with remarkable ease.

PUBLISHED: December 8, 2014

Mihir Vatsa is the author of Painting That Red Circle White (Authors Press 2014). Winner of the 2013 Srinivas Rayaprol Poetry Prize and an award in Writing from Toto Funds the Arts, Bangalore, his poems appear in SOFTBLOW, The Island Review, Word Riot, Eclectica Magazine, UCity Review, and elsewhere. He is Poetry Editor of Vayavya. After studying English at University of Delhi, he now lives in Hazaribagh, his hometown in Jharkhand.

The review was originally published in The Bombay Literary Magazine

Saturday, December 6, 2014

An excellent analysis of Manan

An analysis by a reader who goes by the pen-name Puzhudhi

Link to the original article here:
Manan, Mohit Parikh
Filling the void
This book had to come. The favourable aspect is that it comes from a professional author (read: not his first rodeo). It comes at an opportune time also. The millennials are waking up and looking back, at the good times, of the internet-less 90s, and reminiscing all over the internet about it in gif and jpeg enumerated pages that recollect how better those times were.
While one would be tempted to say this book “caters” to this set of people, one must note that it is precisely the fallacy of this that Manan brings out. “Internet is the puberty of society,” as he says. The internet is here to stay, and yes, sex is open and free in the internet. Face it, is Manan’s plea.
The Joyceian angle
The writing screams Joyceian influence. It doesn’t help that Portrait was a book about a young man too. The SoC that Manan boasts of, tries to be Joyceian, but fails in some parts and succeeds brilliantly in others. Other stylistic similarities exist such as the reservation of the pronoun He to refer only Manan (similar to Dedalus’s treatment by Joyce) and Manan’s excited immersion in his own senses through his visual imagination and frequent, tangential synesthesia.
Stream of consciousness
Again, Mohit uses a Joyceian SoC rather than a Faulknerian one (thank god for that!). On a scale of fidelity to thought, Faulkner being 10, Joyce coming at 8, Mohit loses on one crucial aspect. The consistent error in his SoC is that Manan is aware of the Gaze, while Dedalus is not (and none of Faulkner’s characters were). A reader’s Other coincides with Dedalus’s Other while there is a blatant rift between these two in Manan. One reason for this is that Mohit leaks into Manan at times: “does he have a loose screw?”(p.23), “Who asks such questions?”(p.46) Here Manan is already aware of the Gaze of the adulthood that looks back at him through the years. This trivializes the impending doom that reaches its crescendo at puberty and falls, tapering off into the banality of adulthood. In this respect, Manan is not so much about Manan, but is about Mohit looking back at Manan, having safely reached the other side, a nostalgic memoir about the past rather than a fear of the future, which is what puberty is all about.
Manan’s struggle with the ethics of well-being and the reality of the world is structured for the Indian setting. His worries about deforestation, his flurry of textbook thoughts about the world, his judgemental attitude based on his familial indoctrination is one that only a pre-Internet kid will empathise with. “… he is from commerce stream, he cannot know much…”: such instances of indoctrinated judgement is innocent in the truest sense, i.e. Manan is truly ignorant that he is passing judgement at all. This is the innocence that shines in numerous parts of the book, where Manan is unaware of the writer that is writing him, and the effect is splendid.
The 90s or Manan
The trailer of the Manan where various people recount their 90s is apt in it that Manan contains a plethora of references to the 90s. Some of them are explained, some left as they are, and they should have all been left unexplained, just as Joyce did. While this might complicate the reading experience, the compromise of explaining things hinders the SoC. Either way, this seems like a decision to avoid alienation of readers; here, one can only lament the state of publishing industries and the sale of only easy books. The readers are to blame.
The other side of these frequent 90s references is that it becomes a prosaic game of how many more can I cram making the book less about Manan and more about the 90s. At the cost of recreating the 90s, Manan’s character becomes a vessel that subsumes the various quintessential traits of a millennial, thereby loses a chance to create a Holden Caulfield or Bill Denbrough.
Puberty is not about sex
This is Mohit’s take on puberty and it is riddled with an over sensitiveness towards sex. While Manan’s age seems rather late for such thoughts, rendering his image as immature, this does not matter, since the age is after all a number and to me, Manan seemed more twelve than fifteen. Either way, numbers be damned. It doesn’t matter. Manan is at the onset of puberty. A crucial absence is the gradual awareness of the incestual barriers and the Love Laws (as Roy would say) and Mohit only touches upon the latter vaguely in the denouement of the novel. The former is completely absent. Or maybe I’m just a twisted fuck.
Puberty is about sex, yes, but the sexual angle is in the form of these thoughts. As Freud would say, all dreams have sexual meanings, except the sexy ones. Here, Mohit takes a head-on approach in his character development of Manan. If I count the number of times Manan is worried about sex and about his genitals, I’d need five pairs of hands. Let me bring in Holden here: Holden, for all his blabbering and tangential thought processes about sex, was really evading the issues of his sexual molestation and darker thoughts. The overt sexual talks in the book are simply a diversion to the actual sexual innuendos of the book.
In this sense, Manan does not have much behind his thoughts. In fact, his puberty has not even arrived, because he is simply thinking about sex in a casual manner: questionnaire about sex (p.92), “.. don’t mean rape here”(p.102), “…they make it complicated…”(p.76), “…extra perfume during menstruation…”(p.50)… these rather casual and direct observations about sex, reducing it to materialistic notions (ironically, considering he says “Material things are supposed to be forgotten.” (p.108) Call me a post-structuralist, but I think this book is about the misrecognition of puberty on the part of Manan, or Mohit has once again leaked into Manan, creating grown up thoughts in a pre-pubescent Manan.
A formidable task
The review places Manan at high expectations and might have therefore created falsely, in its various nitpickings, the impression of a shoddy novel. There are few authors who have completely succeeded in portraying adolescence - James Joyce, Willian Golding, J.D. Salinger, Stephen King. The daunting task of recreating adolescence should be evident from the disparate approaches they have taken towards it: Joyce - reverent, romantic and an elevated importance, Golding - cynical, Salinger - sarcastic and immature, King - awe and uncertainty.
While all the above have tackled the phase from before it, Mohit takes on a hopeful, memoir-like approach, looking back at it. The novel is definitely one of the more literary creations in the recent past of Indian publishing and is a must read for the millennials.

A blogger's thought on Manan

Came across this blog review:

The blogger says,
"Who will enjoy it: Everyone!
Buy or don't buy: A must buy!"

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A truly humbling review in Indian Express

"On April 23, 1998, Manan Mehta, 15 years and three-quarters old , finds proof that evolution has not passed him by and that puberty, as the rest of world experiences it, has begun for him as well. It is a momentous occasion even though he is still quite short for his age, his voice hasn’t even begun to crack and everybody treats him like a child. With his body changing slowly but surely, Manan’s mind is racing with ideas about the world around him, school, biology, his family and Hriya, the girl he hopes to be worthy of.
Manan is not perfect but it is a very impressive debut. Parikh demonstrates a deft hand at painting a picture of life in middle-class India in the late ’90s and lends his protagonist a voice that rings true, page after page. Thanks to television, magazines and popular YA fiction, the teenage girl’s experiences are well documented — Manan is an original look at a young boy’s world, much like the first Adrian Mole books. A keen observer, a compulsive problem-solver and a dreamer with his feet firmly on the ground, Manan Mehta is the boy we all know, the person we all can be. If only we could dare to be as hopeful about life with as little as a single hair." 

See more at:

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Love you, Eckhart!

Thank you for giving me a second life!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

An excerpt of Manan appears in The Bombay Review

‘Is that you, Manan?’ Taiji’s voice from behind the window of her bedroom.

Has she been waiting there to pounce on him? ‘Yes, Taiji.’

‘Tauji is calling you.’

‘In a minute, Taiji.’

Quickly he hides behind the veranda pillar and then crawls on all fours into the side alley. Here, under the shadow of the porch and out of Taiji’s sight, and away from those idiots inside. Tauji is calling him – so what? Why should he answer their calls? He is a full, complete human being, not a toy, not a massage machine: why is he given orders when he never gives orders to them? He closes his eyes and, seething with anger, to vindicate his disregard for Taiji’s request, he summons up an image of a dhoti-clad Tauji lying half asleep on his round belly. The room smelling of iodex and farts. He is asked to climb over Tauji, rather Tauji’s hairy back, and, deeming any show of unwillingness as out of keeping, he does so. Cautiously he treads: from the naked upper back to the naked, sweaty lower back, over the hips to the unstable, wobbly thighs, and quickly onto the calves; the same way up with an about-turn. Tauji farts from time to time and he has to smell the hydrogen sulphide: his hands are stretched for balance, and for how long can one hold one’s breath? This … is wrong. Illegal. Child labour. He could be playing videogames or catch-a-catch, he could be preparing for the debate or dreaming of chance meetings with Hriya – doing things much more useful than this. Why should he go then? When will this sequence stop?

35kg – this is what Tauji is exploiting. 140cm, 35kg, his comfortable smallness. Not for too long then. Puberty will put an end to all these matters soon.

To read the full excerpt, click here.

Click here to purchase the book.

Monday, October 27, 2014

I like Sakaal Times' review of Manan

'Manan by Mohit Parikh is a charming story based in the late ’90s. The protagonist Manan is a teenager who is just getting acquainted with puberty. He cannot wait to grow up.

The story takes you through the everyday life of the 10th grader. The lectures in school, the street food outside school, friendship and all other nuances of a teenager’s life – Manan has it all to take you on a nostalgic ride. For a debutant, Mohit displays some noteworthy detailing skills and that makes it very easy for you to put yourself in Manan’s shoes and get lost in his train of thought.

However, it is also a slow-paced and over-detailed tale that does not specifically stress on the ‘story’ aspect. It focuses more on the literary brilliance of the author. For readers who are used to fast-paced thrillers or popular genres, Manan will prove to be a monotonous read. But for those who do not mind a light read and enjoy the small things in a story, it may bring a smile on their lips, once in a while.

Where the author scores is in his portrayal of characters. All of them have been etched with absolute clarity. The book doesn’t challenge the readers’ imagination much but makes them empathise with the characters. Since everything is viewed from a teenager’s perspective, it provides a fresh and simple approach. There are times when Manan’s thoughts almost coincide with the 15-year-old in you.

Overall, Manan is a light read for those who prefer a small afternoon or bedtime read sans drama and unnecessary anticipation.'

Review in HT Brunch

'Read it for a trip back to the 90s' - HT Brunch

Review of Manan in The Sunday Tribune

"GROWING pains of an adolescent boy is the subject of Mohit Parikh's Manan. For a boy who harbours an inferiority complex for being short, the onset of puberty is like the trump card that will set his game right. Jubilant as the first signs greet him, he awaits with unabated breath the signs of growing up, changing voice and all other things that come with puberty. Mohit Parikh has been published in Identity Theory, Out of Print Magazine, Burrow Press Review and The Bombay Literary Magazine, among others and Manan is his first book. The book paints a vivid picture of the average Indian home, with the dynamics of husband-wife relationship, sibling chemistry and the toll that the very suggestion of a love marriage can take, pitched against a backdrop of a boy's wait at the precipice of manhood. From the inane jokes that Manan, the protagonist, shares with his friends, to his imagination that runs riot, there is a lot to keep you very engrossed."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

At Pune International Literary Festival

With Anjum Rajaballi and Pubali Chaudhuri, on 'Difficulties of Adapting Screenplays from Novels'

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Asian Review of Books reviews Manan

(from the website)

7 October 2014 — Mohit Parikh’s debut young adult novel, Manan, is full of introspection and awakenings of both a physical and psychological nature. Protagonist Manan, fourteen years old, is at the top of his class but remains one of the smallest students among his male peers. But at the beginning of the book, Manan has just made a thrilling discovery:

…today, oblivious to everyone, there is a hair standing tall inside his shorts: a single hair, long, black and shiny. Sprouting out of nowhere, it stands rebelliously erect on his tiny barren orb, not thwarted by the force of the cloth of his underwear, announcing its eventual arrival with élan.

Manan’s first pubic hair prompts him to speculate on human nature, and in particular, the adult preoccupation with sex. Coinciding with these thoughts is the advent of regular Internet use—it’s 1998—and Manan’s introduction to the world of online porn. Struggling to suppress his urge to explore seemingly endless realms of cyber-eroticism, Manan finds himself embroiled in burgeoning adulthood, along with a host of new doubts and fears.

Manan is hardly a typical bildungsroman. Parikh’s stream-of-consciousness prose style departs from the fast-paced, action-packed voices found in many contemporary YA titles. A truly pensive soul, Manan constantly analyzes, reevaluates, and fixates—almost obsessively—on every detail. He may not be as angst-ridden as other teenage protagonists, but he is absorbed with the quandaries of everyday life, and his scrutiny often yields an unexpected level of profundity. Once privy to the shortcomings of adults and their inane priorities, Manan comes to a harsh realization:

Among the many things that are happening inside him, one that he identifies lucidly is a loss of respect for all elders. They will never again be venerable. Not even his teachers. They are liars, wrongdoers, and they don’t deserve to be looked up to.

Readers unused to such constant philosophical reckonings may find Manan plodding and lacking plot, and its title character exasperating in his endless quest to hypothesize, probe, and assess. Fortunately, the playfulness written into Manan’s mental exertions—punctuated by Urmila Shastry’s charming illustrations, as well as a number of handy charts—keeps the novel’s tone light yet relevant. Ultimately, Manan is a charming rendezvous through the mindscape of a boy who never stops thinking—and might trigger you to think a little deeper as well.

Mia Warren currently produces radio for KRTS 93.5 FM in Marfa, Texas. From 2013-14, she was a Fulbright Fellow researching the Japanese Peruvian population.

Click here to land on the ARB page