Monday, September 17, 2012

Guest Review: Revolution 2.0

Author: Wael Ghonim
Reviewed by: Pinak Kapadia

Wael Ghonim became a famous name during the Arab spring last year, when his online activism helped change the role of Social Media in the real society, and the way his own country is governed, forever. His book Revolution 2.0 is a chronicle of those heady days in Egypt when the seemingly impossible suddenly became possible, and a dictator ruling for decades was deposed. The book reads like a fast paced thriller, or a news report, and is fun to read. This is precisely because it is a first person account, and Ghonim was very active during those days, in helping to depose Mubarak. 

The book starts off in the days before there was any indication that there was going to be any revolution. The Egyptian Secret Service, their dossiers on prominent people, and their methods of harassment are very interesting to know, and the author describes them well, since he was unfortunate to experience them himself. His description of an absolutely normal life with wife and kids, his anonymous online activism, and his days at work give us an insight of the man. But more than that, it makes you identify with him. Here is this person, who leads a normal life just like you and me, but hates tyranny. He is as far away from politics and activism as you and me. He is the typical computer geek ubiquitous these days across the world, and especially in India. The way his life changes, he changes as a person, finds a cause bigger than his own, and makes a difference to his country, is enough to inspire couch activists like me. Step by step, we can actually see the snowball that was the initial activism, turn into an actual avalanche of a revolution. Ghonim is right at the centre of the avalanche, and one of the persons who threw the first snowball.

The book is also a must read for those who want to understand the power of social media - facebook and twitter, in the current age. In India, we have a recent example of the Govt attempting to regulate social media and mass communications. The belief that it is as easy for rumours to spread through the social media as actual news, makes governments across the world wary of social media. But the same power is harnessed by Ghonim and other activists to unite people across the country. The fact remains, that it is much easier to be courageous in the virtual world than in the real world.The struggles of the author, to actually come out of the closet from being an anonymous poster, to someone whom people believed in, are something you and me can get inspired from. Ultimately, it requires a lot of bravery, and belief to stand up for what you believe, to give up our cloistered daily life, and become part of a revolution. Ghonim also describes his days in custody of the secret police really well. How would it suddenly feel to you, if the thing you want most, is just a bath and to feel clean? If a gift of undergarments by a police officer makes you grateful? Read this book for a real insight into the days of a normal person whose life turns upside down.

The revolution 2.0 starts from the social media, and ends up in Tahrir square. A million people gather on the streets, based on an idea conceived in an individual's mind. A dictator who believed himself invincible, is made to flee by the people. And all this starts with a single facebook group? That is the beauty of this story. You should read it to believe it.

Ghonim also conveys the power of a picture. How a single picture of torture is more effective than bland facts such as a 100 people injured. How the pictures can become viral and arouse emotions that no words could. How he was able to utilise this power of pictures. It also gives us an insight into the thinking of those in power. 

The negatives in this book? Well, Ghonim was under custody, and 'missing' during the action that took place in Tahrir square for the main fortnight. Credit to the author for not relying on hearsay, but we do not come to know in detail how the mass of people refusing to leave actually brought down a government. Maybe someone who was there in Tahrir square in those days will come out soon with another book to make up for this void.

Egypt in the arab spring, with its corruption, and its police losing respect, and the unemployment, and the government losing credibility, resembles India of today. Thankfully, we are a democracy, and there is no dictator to depose. But if anyone ever wants to believe that a group of people can bring about actual change, and that online media is just a medium of passing time, please recommend Revolution 2.0 to him. Even if you are in the mood of reading a thriller, you can read this book. It is a great read.

Guest Review: Opening Night

Author: Diksha Basu
Book reviewed by: Madhulika Mitra

Madhu Stars: 2.5/5

All human beings Rich or poor, black or white, have one thing in common, DREAMS. And it takes tremendous amount of passion to follow them, fulfill them and this journey to hug our desires defines our lifetime.

Opening Night might not say everything from its name, but it’s a journey of many lows and very few highs of our Lead character, Naiya Kapur.  She is an Indian, born and brought up in America. She has a comfortable, sheltered life with her father. Though not very studious, she bagged herself a job in a corporate, wore stylish clothes, but gradually her high heels and pencil skirt life got monotonous like all ours. And just like all of us, at a moment she ponders, “Was this is all I dreamed of? Am I supposed to this work all my life” And then she was bitten, in fact smitten by the Acting Bug. After performing for a small play in theatre, she felt this is what she was made for, and then as you all could have guessed, she packs her bags and ran away to mahanagari Mumbai, leaving her dreary, humdrum life behind. 

In Mumbai She met people, roamed aimlessly on streets of Bandra, fell in love, had a series of disappointments, but her roomies, jess and Dino, add a glow to her life.
 But will Naiya survive? Will her “Happily ever after “dreams come true? Will she ever have an opening Night? Or will she be bored again here in Mumbai and pack her bags back to her life in America? Grab a copy to know.

 I enjoyed the book given the Bollywood touch to it. It’s predictable at times, but still holds you.  One thing which stood out for me personally was the traditional culture which Naiya held to, she never fell into bed with every stranger she met, she took her dad’s advice, she knew what she had to do and never compromised on that, may be her dollars helped her as well. :)

Yes the book drags, and after a point you can guess that she would not make it at all, there is only disappointments and isolation.
But all in all, it’s a good pass time book, with very few moments which makes you stare at the page and think for a while.