Oct 4, 2012
Marseille, if it were larger in size, would’ve been the perfect sister-city to Bombay – it’s full of bylanes, traffic and people crossing the streets without obeying the signals. And, it’s a port city, there’s construction everywhere and they are new metro stations coming up. There are traders on the street – especially African immigrants – selling sunglasses, scarfs and other knick-knacks.
Marseille is a working person’s city – Most people seem to be in a hurry, and no one’s out taking that leisurely walk. I also do not find the locals here fashionable as the French are known to be. No buskers on the streets here. In fact, the pavements hold no space for them. There are either scooters or cars parked on the pavers, or tables from a restaurant spilling out, or people, or construction work. Several buildings, I notice, are old and marked down for rehabilitation. No French romance here!
There are shops everywhere. The harbour-front at the old Port Vieux down La Canbierre faces some of the most expensive hotels and the long curving street is packed with restaurants. I saw a lot of obnoxious American tourists around and a bunch of Indian uncles ambling about with their potbellies and vacation caps. But the majority of the tourists are senior, retired folks, enjoying their walk along the harbour-front.
I am, right now, waiting awhile at Gare de Marseille Saint Charles. This train station – large and in the centre of the city – is like a mini airport from the inside and international trains to Italy leave from here. Suits walk around with black bags and eat sandwiches on the go. In Marseille, I see signs on an active life in France. Finally. There are antennae and water tanks on home terraces, and junk stored in balconies. From the good vantage point here at the station, I see that the skyline is made of red roofs and spot a prominent castle.
I don’t know whether or not I like Marseille, yet, but it does feel like home and reminds me of Bombay. Only, nobody honks here!
I thoroughly enjoyed this bestseller of a novel and more or less, finished it in a day; it was that unputdownable for me. The voice of the book is strong, it serves a concrete plot, and chief characters are charming. Categorised under fantasy, The Hunger Games is narrated by the protagonist, the plucky 16-year old Katniss Everdeen. (Let us overlook the fact here that I also took to adore her because I absolutely love her name.)
The story, roughly, is how the said Katniss and 23 other young participants are picked out by a lottery and forced to compete in the annual Hunger Games, thanks to their whip-cracking government. Probably Darwin’s delight, this is a pure game of survival of the fittest, and true to the rule of nature, participants actually begin to lose lives, until there’s just one winner left. A large, enclosed terrain of mountains, snow, forest and alike is created, where the participants are let lose to confront or hide from one another. They are compelled to murder each other until one emerges victorious. Oh, and did I mention, the entire drama is televised live, for the entire nation to see.
Much like our reality shows.
The best aspect about the book, according to me, is Collins’ writing. Nowhere does it bore, be redundant or lapse. Narration is from Katniss’ point of view and that’s crucial, because this way, you don’t know what the other participants are doing, unless Katniss get to know. You only see what Katniss sees, and along with her, you’re also dragged into the forest of suspense and anxiety.
When I figured the premise of the story, I thought it was quite appalling, and unbelievable. How could the entire nation simply watch the gruesome killings of their own children? And then it stuck me. Of course they can! If we can, in today’s date and time, watch and pray for contestants on kids’ reality talent shows – then by the post-apocalyptic world where the novel is set – can definitely enjoy the killer games. We too, after all, crush hopes and damage the very psyches of god-only-knows how many little singers, comedians and dancers who appear on our reality shows. Only one child receives the trophy, and rest all are shunned into oblivion, until perhaps when they bag a role on another channel. It’s probably not long until some Raghu Ram-inspired producer decides to televise Hunger Games – with real murders – for Indian audiences.
Oh, and of course, The Hunger Games uses the formula that everyone loves: Against all odds, poor girl emerges victorious. I think I enjoyed it doubly because I’m a girl. A girl who loves stories of first kisses, and this book does offer me a good one. For all the boys, I suggest that you borrow a friend’s copy of the book and read a couple of chapters. If Collins manages to have you hooked, read on!
Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Fantasy/ Young Adult | Pages: 374 | Price: Rs 299