Saturday, July 20, 2013

Word is a Four-Letter Word, Selected Writings - Jug Suraiya

This book, of 1994 vintage, published by USPD, is a collection of articles written by Jug Suraiya for the ToI during the 80s and early 90s. It took me over a month to finish for two reasons - one being that the writing is rich and does not lend to easy glossing over as I do these days, and the second being that the articles belong to a time that I was growing up with and I could see many with a new perspective. Split into three sections - people, places and postscripts, it gives a good insight into the kind of a person Jug was - and also the kind of writing he was capable of. Why he did not pursue more ambitious projects is what beats me. Jug did write a novel and two collections of short stories apart from an anthology of satire.

Jug Suraiya is an inveterate traveller and has been to the most interesting of places which he describes with great interest - Acapulco caught my interest in those with its Quebrada cliff divers - and many more. Meeting David Ogilvy in his palace in Europe, Mother Teresa, German Greer and the many postscripts that range from corruption to Mandal protests, Jug Suraiya made me relive a time during my college days. He is a fine writer and a funny one too, has clear views on everything and belongs to an era of journalists from 'The Statesman' who brought some high quality stuff that we could read with the same relish that we saved for a favorite dish. Reading the articles itself is an education and one can clearly see the decline in journalistic writing when one reads the inane and flat writing of these days. His research, his language, his viewpoint all impressed me, once again. I remember reading some of his funniest pieces in another collection that had me rolling on the floor (one on hijackers getting confused with the names of cities being changed and another on the Hindutva stance and secularist forces).

Jug Suraiya is one of my favorite writers from India, one with a funny voice and great dexterity and flair with his language. I also envy his back packing ways and the way he has travelled so widely and met so many interesting people. This book once again confirms why he remains up there in my list.

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