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Balram – The Criminal Entrepreneur

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Book Review

Title: The White Tiger

Author: Aravind Adiga

Reviewer: Joy Isi Bewaji

 

It is a mystery how these things happen. A heedless messenger gets certain documents misplaced from the office of the Premier of China- and it makes its way to some obscure country called Nigeria. Before you know it the press gets a whiff of it and the story of an Indian murderer-cum-entrepreneur gets everyone talking.

The scarce-to-fortune tale is one that has been told in many colours. Here, we have Ogas killed by their maiguards for paltry sums – monies that can not buy them a house!

But your venture is quite impressive – 26 Toyota Qualises? You have done well. Your grand-mother would have been proud if she were alive; but of course you know her head must have been severed by now with a rusted blunt knife to pacify the bereaved family of your ex-boss. Kishan would have loved the chandelier right? But he must have been burnt with a douse of petrol since your “impressive” act. You know the stories better than I do. Here in my country, we do not end a generation for the sins of one villain. We show mercy to the guiltless.

Poverty has a way of turning an unpretentious mind into a brewing pit for monstrosity. I have seen it many times. Here, a couple of hooligans exhume dead bodies and gouge their eyes out; a few bundles of naira notes are exchanged for it. Some others go right ahead and blow the brains out of a victim in his apartment in a bid to obtain a portmanteau full of US dollars. They are armed robbers really; but you – you are an entrepreneur, aren’t you? There’s a deep meaning to your crime – the need to survive the Rooster Coop that ties you down to unbelievable penury. I understand. It’s funny how your act of bravery isn’t carried out regularly by dispirited servants all over India. Maybe they are strained with a conscience. But you, Balram, are a brave one. It takes a great amount of bravery after all, to stab a master severally with the serrated remainder of a Johnny Walker. And to think you remain unflinching; bravery indeed, laced with vindictiveness.

Your years in Laxmarghan must have been hell, or close to it like you described. We’ve got our hell holes here too. If you come to Nigeria, I could take you round the slums. We’ve got places where people live right on top shit water; the stink infects their children,. and one by one they die like flies. The children who manage to survive the contagion live “half-baked” lives, just like your life once was. They do a number of things – sell rat poison on the streets; cower at bus stops, like beaten dogs begging for money; become evil-eyed thugs demanding loose change from commercial vehicles; or get into the eye-gouging, tongue­ slashing, private part-slicing trade.

It is a shame you didn’t get to go on that scholarship offered casually by the school inspector. You were a smart child after all. He called you a “white tiger”, the rarest of animals that come along once in every generation. You would have ended up well as a lawyer or an engineer, or some fancy Indian professor in a UK university teaching “economics”. But you turned out an entrepreneur – a Johnny Walker-smashing, boss-killing entrepreneur.

You were dragged out of school and put to work at a tea shop to pay for the “groom price” for one of your sisters. The whole groom-price thingy always leaves me perplex; how does a woman pay to marry a man? It’s the other way round here. We suck the men dry and shove their wives to them. They start their first fight the night after when the excitement and the alcohol is gone. He pounces on her and vents his first shock of anger.

I agree Mr. Ashok was a weak ass for a man. He was a big baby with that mobile phone he punched every second (and by the way, who fed you that trash about mobile phones destroying the libido of a man-drying up his sperm? Ha!). But really, what was his offence? You were upset he called you “family” while you drove him around filling his glass of whiskey with one hand and driving through busy roads with another (I must say your roads are really good; you wouldn’t try that here, ghastly postholes line up like pit toilets waiting to consume you); massage his father’s feet’ and get to serve tea to his brother and wife? Is that his crime?

Is that not the life of a servant? To clean after the greasy, cheesy mess of his boss? His brother, the Mongoose was right  after all, you were not to be trusted. Oh, Ashok was indeed cowardly, because seconds before his death he sensed ­somewhere in his guts­ that you were about to do some despicable; kill him and steal his money. He was your prey, a convenient one. And now the past is gone with its stench of poverty. You, Balram, are the new face of entrepreneurship in your town. Family ties in India is persuasive; it’s the same here you know; parents play a big role in what a grown man’s career and family should look like; children are indebted to their parents for life! It is a good thing when the man has some money to build his parents and siblings a big house in the village, with borehole and a standby generator; but for a poor man who is maddened . by the requests of his family to the extent that he thinks of selling one of his children off, it is a bad thing.

Nigerians, too, are quite familiar with fraudulent politics. I am talking about dizzying amounts, millions of naira, exchanging hands everyday from one politician to the other; one camp to another. We are siblings on that account

Now that you have found your wealth. and the need to hobnob with Wen Jiabao, Premier of China, has your beak (you know what I mean) grown an inch longer? What has changed except that you sit below your much-loved chandelier and reward policemen for their treachery to the larger society.

Indeed, like you say, “1’m tomorrow”. You are the “tomorrow” of gluttonous adolescence seeking ungainly riches that swells the conscience to the depths of despair.

I wonder why you pick the Premier of China for this confession. He will be baffled, I’m sure, and may learn a thing or two from you looking over his shoulder to see what his butler is up to!

I sense you are looking for answers, even amidst your less than unrepentant utterances. The answers you will see tomorrow.

I do hope you are aware that your killer resides with you; not your conscience, that has been smeared  beyond redemption. Your killer is Dharam, your brother. You know he’ll grow bigger, get out of school and scheme your death. Be ready. I hope he uses something less hurting, like a gun, straight in the head – for your own good.

I’m sure Mr. Ashok is waiting for you, (heaven? Come on, he was on a mission to corrupt some politicians, remember?).

He’ll welcome you at the gates of hell and ask, “What was that ever for?”

 

Bewaji, the author of Eko Dialogues, lives in Lagos

 

Joy Isi Bewaji

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Arts/Literary

Last Laugh

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Title:                 Beyond Expectations

Author:             Reward Akwu

Publisher:          Ollybell Printing Resources, Port Harcourt

Pages:             136

Reviewer:         Boye Salau

 

Whatever instigated Reward Akwu to engage in literary prose writing cannot, with the extreme form of clarity, be dismissed as inconsequential. Like every other journalists, Akwu is one man whose profession and the hurricane of economic survival in Nigeria would hardly permit to venture into a literary expedition.

What then is the driving force? Could it be his personal childhood experience, or the chequered experience of someone dear to him? Certainly, it could not have been his own memorabilia. The author of Beyond Expectation is still one of millions of Nigerians yearning for better life. Otherwise, he would not have remained in the hollow of the Rivers State Newspaper Corporation as a Chief Correspondent till now.

Whatever the reasons are, one is not in doubt that the various chequered experiences of life’s discomfiting paradoxes are the afflatus that make the zephr of history a reality.

In a country where many people are not sure of the next meal, Beyond Expectations clearly captures the reality of hailing from poor background.

The book is somewhat nostalgic about the fate of an average Nigerian man in the village and relieves the heart of the common man with the age long cliché: when there is life, there is hope.

The theme of the book can be located in the fortune of many people who rose from the creek and bottomless pit of life to stardom. The Abiolas, Jonathans, Amaechis fall in this category.

Written in simple narrative form with sublime simplicity, devoid of nebulous words and oratorical fancy, the 136 page novel thematises the pains and hopelessness of a brilliant secondary school boy whose intoxicating puissance and gluttonous appetite for sexual love with his classmate and child of an unforgiving gladiator with huge lubris, became his albatross. It is equivalent of the story of Adam who was sent out of the Garden of Eden for his inability to resist the apple in Eve.

How Chinedu came out of his quandary is what readers of Beyond Expectations should find out themselves.

As expected of a book that has its anthropology in local setting, communal love, family and filial affection are persuasive in this literary enterprise. The author proves that in a society where family bond is in short supply and where the only thing the rich harbours for the poor is hatred, the milk of kindness still flows in some peoples’ vein.

At the same time, the book inveighs the age – long conundrum of ersatz social class and unintentionally illustrates the yawning hiatus that exists between the Teflon rulers and the hoipolloi.

Akwu’s good understanding of the village life and his ability to capture the life and time of the ordinary people in graphic details further enriches the delivery of the book. Though sometimes too elaborate in details, the author succeeds in sending his message to the readers by employing simple diction and local parlance where necessary.

Unlike many books that are often built on hyperbole and far-fetched imagery, Beyond Expectations is convincingly obsessed with imageries that are deeply affecting and the realities of life that are both alluring and perplexing. By my assessment, the book is a fascinating nugget that addresses itself to all classes, age and gender.

Very well as the author tries to make the book flow from page to page, the book could not resist the temptation of unnecessary details, repetition and avoidable typographical errors.

Again, the book is most deficient, or better still not sufficient in suspense. A better application of literary suspense with regards to what befall Chinedu at last would have made the book more intriguing and interesting.

These few ‘slips of the pen’ can, however, be excused being Reward’s first literary expedition in the world of literature.

Without obsessive sense of sheer criticism, Beyond Expectations lives up to its name. It is sufficient for what it is meant to achieve, namely to fortify the forlorn hope, to encourage the poor not to be deterred by their poor background, while at the same time reminding the rich that no condition is permanent in life.

And until one reads the book from page to page, and from chapter to chapter, one may not be able to appreciate well the intrigue and metaphor of this heart-throbbing reality woven as fiction.

 

Boye Salau

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Arts/Literary

The Uncommon Truth

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Contrary to what you think or what you have been told, you are wiser, better and smarter than what you think you are. You are more powerful than you may ever imagine. Inside you dwells the very power, wisdom or intelligence that controls this very world. Thus, the answer to all your problems and challenges is, and always will be within you. It’s in you! In reality, you can never be helpless in this world, and the reason is very simple: “The help is in you,  the only true and lasting help.”

We live in a world where people offer us advice, even before we ask for it. There is nothing wrong with that, but the only problem is that most people are failures, and without direction.  They are still trying to figure out how to get their own lives together.  How can they tell you how to fish when  they don’t even know the path to the river? What does that tell you? Be careful whose advice you act upon. The good news, though, is that all the wisdom and direction you need in life is within you. Success, greatness, wealth and happiness are not found outside you, they are resident in you. The day you become conscious of that truth will mark the beginning of your freedom, for then you will be free from the manipulation of others. Therefore, I wish that you may come to that point in your life where you know beyond doubt that your wealth and riches are not in the hands of any person, company or organisation, but in you. When that consciousness is established in you, then shall you come to terms with this powerful truth: “There is no future in any job, the future is in you; there is no future in any country,  the future lies in you”  That which you seek “without,” can only be found “within.”

The only secret capable of freeing you from the manipulation of others, and the frustration caused by adverse circumstances lies within you.

You were created to be self-reliant, and to decide your own destiny. Embrace that truth. Never let anyone control or manipulate your destiny. You must believe in yourself, trust yourself, think for yourself and act for yourself. Remember, no one can ever let you down or frustrate you if you are not leaning on them. No one can control your life selfishly if you are not seeking for their approval, and you are not intimidated by their disapproval. And no one can hurt your feeling, make you feel angry or disappointed if you are not depending on them for your help, success and satisfaction.

Self-reliance is a necessity should you desire to live a happy and successful life. But self-reliance is only possible when you become conscious of the fact that everything you need for your success and happiness is within you.

Nwibeke, an inspirational writer lives in Port Harcourt.

 

ThankGod Nwibeke

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Arts/Literary

BOOK REVIEW

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Title:                TRAILING NEW TRACKS,

Author:                        JULIET MINIMAH, PORT HARCOURT:

Publisher:        HELPMATE CONSULT LIMITED, 2011.

No of Pages    48pp

Reviewer:        TELLE DANDESON AYASUK

AFRICAN CENTRE FOR EDUCATION                                       AND DEVELOPMENT, PORT HARCOURT

Writing in The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown stated that “men. go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they deserve”. Probably driven by similar opinion, Juliet Minimah has confronted the age-long limitations that generations of potentially great men and women have placed on themselves dying unsung with loads of untapped mental, physical and even spiritual resources. Lots of work has been done in books, journals, documentaries, public lectures, seminars, media events, movies, music, etc to motivate people to achieve by giving expression to their God-given talents and abilities. Yet far too little success has been recorded as many still pine away with inconceivable endowments.

Trailing New Tracks is a motivational piece of work aimed at reawakening millions of people world-wide, who have lost the confidence in brining their natural endowments to fruition. It is a call to action in which the author challenges everyone in this situation to “break new grounds, chart new frontiers and see yourself as a trail blazer”. Juliet Minimah sees this as one certain way to address “the various social, economic and political ills that confront the world today”.

Theme

In Trailing New Tracks, the author explores the theme of Regeneration and Attainment Through Conscious Effort. She sees hope in a world hampered by crises of all kinds, shapes and magnitudes. She attempts to re-engineer attitude through uprightness, conscious effort and the exercise of self-will. In her views, “the adversities of life teach us more lessons than the prosperities of life”.

Philosophy

Minimah attempts, in this work, to communicate with her audience through an elevated art form. The sub genre of philosophy is by no means the easiest way to communicate any message. Credit must be given to this author for her boldness, audacity and fearlessness.

Language

The author employs simple, persuasive and concise language to motivate with ease. She uses the first-person point of view to break down barriers between her and her audience. Mention  must be made of the rich use of biblical allusion.

Audience

Minimah obviously writes to a youthful audience but recommends (in chapter 7) the same sense of activity and attainment to every age. Also, she writes to a universal audience.

Summary

Trailing New Tracks is a motivational piece of art written in a forty-eight page volume in which the author attempts to inspire action towards achievement in a world where confidence and determination are almost completely eroded. The work may be divided into three main parts.

Chapters 1 to 5 persuade the reader to develop a good mind-set devoid of greed and selfishness. The fifth chapter attempts to inspire confidence.

The next two chapters inspire the reader to dream big and be visionary. They emphasize the importance of good company in the realization of good dreams and visions.

In the last twelve chapters, the author canvasses action through uprightness and focus. She warns against the evil of procrastination and fear. She urges the reader to set a pattern for himself and society, take advantage of opportunities as they present themselves and get some extra knowledge and information. She charges the reader to rise above limitations, find hope and the will to achieve and be a problem-solver, a Trail Blazer.

Like every other work of art, there are a few weaknesses which this reviewer must not fail to point out in this work. For space and time, we shall take just three of them.

For a philosophical work, Trailing New Tracks is rather too small in volume and lacks the depth to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other philosophical works in world -class libraries in Nigeria and universally.

It is the view of this reviewer that the author should have localized her audience and injected aspects of our cultural, social and philosophical ethos which would have made this work more relevant to the African, or indeed, Nigerian reader.

This reviewer also identifies a few grammatical and semantic inconsistencies which could be attributed to the now-popular (printer’s devil.” Particularly, the expression: “Trail New Blaze” (in the introduction) should actually read “Blaze New Trail(s)” (brackets mine) as obtained in the first paragraph of chapter 18.

Conclusion

Juliet Minimah’s Trailing New Tracks is without doubt a great attempt by a young African woman at reaching out to young people and even the older ones to dig deep into their mind and realize the potential hidden there. She challenges them using achievers like Barrack Obama of the United States of America, the first black president of the world’s most powerful nation, and even our own Pat Utomi, who became Presidential Adviser at twenty -seven years of age, to inspire this and other generations to rise to their talents and make new and amazing contributions to their society.

To the extent that Minimah has effectively communicated to her audience, inspiring every reader, irrespective of age and class, I consider Trailing New Tracks as a monumental success and recommend it as a must-read for everyone who aspires for unparalleled greatness.

 

Title:    ORDEALS OF A BABY MOTHER

Author:            JULIET MINIMAH, PORT HARCOURT:

Publisher:        SUNNY ALADE PRINTING PRODUCTION

No of Pages    46pp

Reviewer:        THANKGOD EMEKA EGBUCHU (JP)

PRINCIPAL ASSISTANT REGISTRAR,

RIVERS STATE UNIVERSITY OF SCIENCE

& TECHNOLOGY

INTRODUCTION

May I inform the esteem audience here today, that I am here to appraise the monumental work done by Miss Minimah Ishmeal Juliet, titled “Ordeals of A baby Mother”.

As we all are aware and I know that Minimah Ishmeal Juliet hails from the Ancient City of Opobo in Opobo/Nkoro Local Government Area of Rivers State. Born in the family of Mr. & Mrs. Ishmeal Minimah. Being the first and only female daughter of six children of the parents, graduated from the University of Port Harcourt with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Political and Administrative Studies.

As a template to all her growing contemporaries of  the  female folk in Nigeria, Minimah Juliet, had additional colour on her academic pursuit by possessing a Diploma in law from the Rivers State College of Arts and Science and a proficiency certificate in management from the Nigerian Institute of Management.

Miss Minimah Juliet seem little but mighty and mature intellectually in the field of academic spectrum.

In her book, “Ordeals of a Baby Mother” chapters I to 5 deals with convincing themes, which delved into “Who is a baby mother, Is motherhood a curse, why rejection and ageing forcefully rather than gracefully”, serves as an eye opener which creates awareness needed by mothers and baby mothers across the country over motherhood.

Similarly, chapter six to the last, deals with implications of early motherhood, More advantages for unequal opportunities, Refuse to be a school dropout, Being a baby mother turns you into one true life stories and a word of note, serves to show positive measures a baby mother should take to avoid being victim of the circumstance.

DICTION

Minimah Ishmeal Juliet was very careful in choosing her words to convey the intended action in the book which all levels of individuals can understand easily to read.

The sequence of the chapters flows naturally to the sense of would-be readers of the book. This has demonstrated maturity of articulation of words by the author.

However, we must expect as a matter of fact that the production of this book may experience minor errors, which she accept entirely all the faults to herself but form the basis for her further encouragement to produce the best in her life.

Lastly, in my opinion, the book, “ORDEALS OF A BABY MOTHER” has served the purpose for what it was addressed.

I strongly recommend the book to all ages of womanhood to read,  especially students in secondary schools and higher institutions across the country.

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