An eclectic collection of short essays delivers cultural analysis.
Debut author Agarwal has always been an avid reader, and each evening looks forward to a good book as an “opiate for sound sleep.” Likewise, he intends this compilation of brief meditations to be diverting, but also “of relevance for all times.” The breadth of the topics he addresses is eccentrically broad, and the work as a whole is intellectually peripatetic. In some chapters, he fixes his eye on linguistic matters; for example, there are free-wheeling discussions of the words “if,” “but,” and “stealing” as well as the possibility that language is infested by chauvinism. He considers the color white as a cultural symbol of “purity, beauty, and chastity.” In an essay entitled “The Avocation of Carping,” Agarwal considers the apparently profound human inclination to complain. For the most part, the author avoids explicitly political issues, but in “The Bureaucratic Juggernaut,” he assesses the inefficiency and capriciousness of unwieldy organizational structures and proposes a series of cures. In punchy and charming prose, Agarwal permits his analytical gaze to roam freely in search of peculiar points of observation—he composes a kind of paean to the month of May. Not all of the author’s musings are equally original—in one, he opposes the “the vituperations of a scolding, carping and brawling wife” to a “hen-pecked husband.” In another, he regurgitates a shopworn caricature: “If the way to a man’s heart, according to an old axiom, lies in appeasing his taste buds, that to a woman’s is through the satiation of her shopping instinct.” In addition, some of the essays combine an all-too-quotidian subject matter with a lecturing tone—the author provides pages of bullet-pointed counsel regarding traffic safety. Agarwal’s intended aims are fairly modest: “The whole treatment is intended to entertain the reader, and not cause him the fatigue of close attention.” For the most part, he hits his own mark and produces an amiably easy series of largely disconnected reflections.
An effortless, genial assemblage of vignettes.