Tuesday, May 09, 2006
How shilpa Krishnan Bought it, Read it and Blogged about it
Finally, I got to read the much hyped book by Kaavya Viswanathan. Appa managed to buy a pirated edition from one of the pavement sellers at Moore Market. So that way, if people accused me of supporting plagiarism, I could always say that I was just providing a poor pavement seller his next meal. Now of course, we could get into a full-on argument about piracy et al. But what the heck! When the authors are making billions over their book deals, I don’t find it very wrong that a poor but enterprising Indian tries to take advantage of the situation. And moreover, I don’t like having to fork out four hundred bucks for a book when I can get it for fifty. Well, the title on the cover was misspelled (How Opal Meht Got Kiss Got Wild and Got a Life). But the insides were indeed well pirated (if that is the right word!).
Firstly, lets talk about the plot (At the risk of reiterating what most of you already know). Opal Mehta is an Indian living in New Jersey. From the moment she breathed her first in this world, her parents carefully drafted out a super plan called HOWGIH (How Opal Will Get Into Harvard). So here’s this poor little girl trying to fit cello classes, Spanish, Chinese, French and some other foreign language classes, volunteering at the local old-age home, keeping up with all the school work, editing the school paper, managing her duties as the vice president of the student council, and a whole lot of other things in just 24 hours. So in other words, she doesn’t have a life. Just an existence.
And so when her interviewer in Harvard asks her what she likes to do for fun, she (who hath memorized all the word lists in Barrons) is left speechless. And how do her parents solve this problem of hers. Well, ofcourse with another super foolproof plan – HOWGAL (How Opal Will Get A Life). The three main goals of this plan being to get into the coolest gang in school, to get kissed and to get wild. How this plan is put into action, and the hilarious consequences form the rest of the story.
It’s nothing too deep or profound a book. Just a breezy read which can be finished in a sitting or two. So now let us address the main issue in hand. The whole plagiarism fiasco. Though I couldn’t lay my hands on the other two books she is supposed to have “internalized” from, I did read the passages in a leading weekly magazines. Well, there definitely are quite a few similarities between the passages in question. But what I don’t understand is why such a huge fuss is being made about the whole thing. It’s not like she copied an entire plot or sub plot! Just a few inane sentences here and there. And I do believe her when she says it’s unintentional. Sometimes what you read remains in your sub-conscious and when you happen to write it down, you are very likely to believe that it is original.
And why is only Kaavya being targeted. Mustn’t we even target all this pseudo-music directors we have out here. Shouldn’t we be asking Anu Mallik to pull out all his cassettes and cd’s from the shops considering that none of his successful compositions are originals. And A.R.Rehamn. Now, I am a huge fan of his work, but he is as guilty of plagiarism as is Kaavya Viswanthan. Agreed, these directors must have changed the music a bit by adding an extra guitarist or removing a banjo player. But neither did Miss. Viswanathan copy verbatim from the books in question.
So why is only this poor teenage girl being targeted? Why is the media so intent on subjecting her to such mental torture? Why are they not satisfied when she has apologized publicly and agreed to edit the contentious parts? Why does this whole inconsequential controversy have to occupy centre page in all leading dailies? Why can’t Opal Mehta just kiss a boy without having to worry whether the way she kisses him might be similar to the way someone else kissed in some other novel? Why, oh why???????