Monday, March 18, 2013

Chilli, Chicks and Heart Attacks - the Book Review


It had been really long since I devoted time for a piece of fiction, the last one being Betty Mahmoody’s “Not Without My Daughter” and that too almost six months back. So my reading appetite was high, actually in its climax when I got hold of the Sri Lankan author Sanjaya Senanayake’s new book “Chilli, Chicks & Heart Attacks”. The international edition of the book has slightly different cover graphics than the Westland Ltd’s Indian edition and honestly I would prefer watching those three red chillies brushing the calf muscles of the cover chick than shamelessly checking her gluteal tone which I found in the later. Now something will surely confuse most of you initially- the description on the cover “The misadventures of an intern by Dr Manjula Mendis” and as you open the book you’ll find Editor’s thanking note to the grandchildren of Prof Sir Manjula Mendis for releasing the contents of their grandpa’s diary! But after reading the book I’m clarifying you that as I mentioned earlier Sanjaya is the author of the book and Dr Manjula is nothing but the fictional protagonist. A few words about the author are always justified in a book review. Sanjaya Senanayake is an infective diseases specialist and associate professor of medicine working in Canberra who has a Sri Lankan origin but born and brought up in the West, the reflection of which willingly or unwillingly touches Dr Manjula throughout his hilariously colourful ride.

Sanjaya has crafted his tale in the form of Dr Manjula’s daily journal. It starts with the commencement of his one year rotatory medical internship after he graduated with flying colours and qualified among seven lucky interns for the St Ivanhoe Hospital, a posh hospital with rich history. Although it is nowhere mentioned, from the backdrop we can imagine that it’s all happening in some Western land where Dr Manjula’s immigrant family resides. The way the story starts is genuinely funny, saucy and eerie. Are you wondering how? Then simply imagine yourself sensuously making love to a Hollywood celebrity while your mom videographing the event! Yea buddy, that’s how the fine-looking Dr Mendis’ chronicles begin and slowly unwind itself to make you more curious of which is the next chocolate in the box. Humour is the icing and sex is in surplus but till then you can’t tag this book as a sex comedy. As the title suggests, apart from the omnipresence of chilli chicks there is a lot about heart attacks too, sometimes with deep human emotions and other times with medical situations starting from apparently funny ‘Priapism’ to desperate ‘Cardio pulmonary resuscitation’ . Decades of living abroad couldn’t change even a damn thing in the South-Asian outlook of Manju’s mother as apart from being desperate to search a Sri Lankan bride for his ‘Kohinoor’ son she leaves no stone unturned to take the bliss of discussing ugliness of their relative’s son and highlighting her son’s superiority! An intern-doctor’s status in the hospital is quite comparable to an adolescent in the society, i.e. even though he doesn’t have authority he has an ass which belongs to the men with authority and there lies the script to all disharmonious situations an intern has to face ranging from interactions with high profile patients in his hospital to the domination of colossal consultants- there’re plenty of situations he feels like a ball crashed mouse. The orthodox Sri Lankan family environment of Dr Manjula in a racist geography makes a perfect contrast with his modern, rapid-fire and exerting hospital life. As a reader you get to feel a number of times that this piece is autobiographical simply by the balance exhibited by the central character between his sense of duty and liberal mind.

Sanjaya has surely exploited all his fine skills and memories of early medical life in portraying each and every character in this story. Some of them you’ll find real, like surgeon Monty Bonkzalot and some you’ll find unreal, like Dr Manju’s married sister Saesha who is obsessed with the ‘F’ word… anyway, you’ll love them or hate them but surely you can’t ignore them! Another good thing about this read is its multiple tummy-aching funny incidents rounding all sharp edges of realities which make you run for the fruit without getting hurt by the thorns. Even if you’re not from medical fraternity you’ll pretty well identify and connect yourself with the specialists like Dr Spider Croquet to the crazy fellow-interns like Peter from Moscow. For a change celebrities will entertain you at times with their own peculiarities.  Medical terminologies and trivia populate the entire book profusely and mostly amuse the reader rather than appearing as a burden to us. The white-coat is a potent antidote to momentary impulses but fails in some occasions to make the journey of Dr Manju a bit more rough, melodramatic and cheesy. I would certainly hate to make my review a spoiler by divulging the entire journey in a couple of pages… so, I leave it on you to find out how the young intern doctor sea-saws his first year of professional life amidst workplace domination, skill crisis, unacceptable love interest, parents’ mammoth expectations , ambitious competitors and a ‘never quiet’ heart.

I must admit that there was never a boring moment in the entire book, other than uninvited editor’s notes in between lines in several occasions. The language is simple but impactful and punning are real ornaments to this uproarious read! If you still miss summer of 69 or idolise the egomaniac TV-series character Dr House then might be Robin Cook will be a better bet but for rest of you “Chilli, Chicks & Heart Attacks” would be genuinely entertaining and absolutely worth a read especially if you’re on a vacation or ‘on the go’ and looking for less mind-engaging work of fiction to pamper the bookworm in you. Happy reading friends!

I'll Rate this read :- 6.5/10

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