Normal People is one of the most uncomfortable books I have read in a while. I simultaneously wanted to stop reading yet wanted to know what would happen next. Sally Rooney’s book is an emotional roller coaster and anxiety inducing. Warning – this is not a romance romance. Trigger warning for abuse, anxiety and depression. Had I known what an intense and disquieting read it would be I wouldn’t have read it now. Who am I kidding! Once I read the excerpt after hearing about the BBC series there was no looking back. I read a few pages of Conversations with Friends (Rooney’s first book) and it’s no beach read either. The last book that caused me to squirm, curl up into a ball and cry was Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal. I didn’t cry while reading Normal People but the sense of unease was palpable.
The spotlight is on Connell and Marianne, and the people they are involved with during different times. You could say they are the leads and the rest are supporting characters which come, and go out of focus as per the requirement. We follow them from high school to four years of college but it seems much longer because of the minute way the book observes them.
They without knowing it save each other from their most destructive selves. A lot of tears (most of it hidden from each other), and of words unsaid due to which misunderstandings abound, but in the end they always find a way to be in each other’s lives. I didn’t look at them as a will they won’t they couple because even when they were apart something kept them connected, and that for me is the beauty of the book, and human relationships.
Their wanting everything to be easy but not being entirely comfortable with the arrangement but acting like they are, is the facade that protects them, and devastates them in equal measure. In short, acting insouciant but caring deeply. It takes too much out of them to appear casual when they would just be happy being who they are.
Someone appears calm or put together doesn’t mean they are. Someone appears independent doesn’t mean they are. What we portray to the world is an image that we want the world to see, the idea we want to present of ourselves, and that acts as a carapace to protect our real fragile selves.
I thought I would nod off to sleep as is my wont with audiobooks but the abrupt ending had me sitting upright. It’s a short book but it will linger on your mind.
Possible spoilers ahead.
Continue reading “Book talk – Normal People by Sally Rooney”
I saw I, Daniel Blake (the comma is important) sometime ago but it left an indelible impression on me. It is a film with its heart in the right place, and it is inspired from reality. I will be talking about what I felt after watching the film. Though I have tried not to be specific you will get an idea about the general premise of the film so spoilers ahead.
What is a man with a heart condition to do? Forced to eke out a living when declared fit by the state but not actually in a condition to work – a conundrum I hope no one ever has to face. We live in a world where government apathy is so systematized that it doesn’t seem like apathy at all. I thought we in India had bad governments but the rest of the world isn’t so different when it comes to denying upstanding taxpayers their rights and making them run from pillar to post.
You are entitled to benefits but the State has frozen it. Along with Daniel, we see the plight of another young woman with children. She feeds her kids but goes without meals herself until she nearly faints with hunger. She’s desperate for any kind of work because she has to look after her kids. She steals essentials from the supermarket because she doesn’t have the money to buy them. What doesn’t kill you doesn’t always make you stronger. It breaks you, tests you and sometimes you keel over. If you survive, you somehow find the strength to keep walking, hoping against hope that your life will limp back to normalcy. What is normal anyhow.
India doesn’t even have these kinds of laws or these benefits so we are not even in the running to be an ideal or a model country (cue in derisive laughter). A country is known by how it treats its poor and helpless citizens, both young and the old, and in that regard India is a terrible country. And I found out our colonizer Britain is no better in spite of having amassed wealth (by leeching off from countries like ours) and in a much better position to help its people.
Continue reading “I, Daniel Blake and not giving up”
What are the odds of me peeling an orange at the exact time as Simon Baker is peeling one in The Mentalist? It’s a pity I have never broken off an orange or for that matter an apple from a branch and eaten it (another one for my bucket list). You can call it a coincidence but looking at it as a matter of chance takes the magic out of life and makes the words serendipity or happenstance (if you prefer) redundant. I understand that sometimes you have to let go of fanciful notions and think practically. What. I didn’t get to be three decades old without knowing something about how the world functions.
It wouldn’t do to complicate life by overthinking I have realized. (Turtles All The Way Down was a great help in this regard, thank you John Green). As a bookish reflective sort I have a tendency to brood and try to figure things out (read stew in it) when it should be left to life to sort out the mess.
And here I see Patrick enjoying an orange plucked straight from the tree after knowing something terrible. Don’t dismiss it by saying it’s fiction. There are people who feel deeply but don’t shed tears. I knew such a person. They internalize their grief and hide their disappointments from the world. They deal with it on their own.
There’s always a reason to smile and many reasons to live for, that is if you look at life the glass half full way (sometimes it pays to be an optimist) and not in the pessimistic glass half empty manner. I need to keep reminding myself of that.
Continue reading “The Mentalist to the rescue”
First off how good is the minimalist cover of Olive Kitteridge? I really thought I got lucky with this edition not just because I love lighthouses.
I have been delaying talking about Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridge because I read it within a month of my grandfather’s death. Saying we were very close would be an understatement. At first the book hurt terribly. I thought I knew heartbreak and then life decides to say ha let me show you how you wrong you are! Initially, you want to escape the pain not experience it more deeply. But then the latter is more cathartic in the long run, and you start to heal when you realize this is the way of the world. We are all connected by loss, love and longing.
I was astounded by Elizabeth Strout’s writing. There’s a kind of gentleness about the everyday life she writes about. It is never banal. I never thought everyday life could be written about so poignantly and have such an immediacy to it. Ordinary people, everyday entanglements and normal lives in the hands of a gifted writer makes for a compelling narrative.
Henry Kitteridge, the husband of Olive Kitteridge, reminded me of my grandfather – kind and affable, never wanting to make a fuss and trying his best to be in harmony with what is.
Possible spoilers ahead.
Olive Kitteridge is the portrait of a long marriage and of an only child’s failed relationship with his parents. It is learning that marriage cannot alleviate your loneliness completely even though you are bound together for life. It is about the deterioration and fatigue that sets in old age. It is about finding companionship when you least expect it. It is about tender unexpected love that has no name but which gushes forth without caring if it’s appropriate. It is a deep yearning to be connected yet unable to bridge the gap.
It is about the truth and being straightforward being the kinder way in some cases. It is about the meek and submissive becoming vile when it is they who wield the power.
It is about small things, things of no apparent consequence and almost invisible to others, having the capacity to cause such tremendous heartbreak that it takes you by surprise.
It is about compassion lurking under battle hardened hearts and letting go of judgement, living with everything as is. It is being true to yourself above all because in the end when Death is coming for you, that’s all that matters.
Olive Kitteridge showed me all that and more. I could identify with many things. Things I didn’t know I felt, things I suppressed because they weren’t important in the scheme of day to day living. And there were things I could foresee myself identifying with in the future. When a book does that you know it’s a keeper.
Continue reading “Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout”
Forgiveness like betrayal comes in all shapes and sizes. And you have many options at your disposal but you have to figure out how to go about it. They are peddling instant gratification, and we are drawn to it like honey to bee, which in the long run turns out to be fatal like white sugar. And, no it won’t stop me from biting into a macaroon or eating a gulab jamun (or two) once in a while but it’s a good comparison, isn’t it? Technology for all its advantages is making our lives more complicated and giving birth to mindless drama pregnant with chaos.
One can forgive and forget, the best thing to do really. Grudges are a colossal waste of time and energy. Also, they tamper with future connections without you being aware of it because that’s the vibe you are sending out into the world. I know because I used to be a champion grudge holder and the queen of sulking. (Yes, I used to be that stupid.) The other person doesn’t have a clue or has forgotten or moved on and there you are waiting for an apology to make things right. People aren’t mind readers true but there are always signs and silence screams louder than words, or so I thought. Some people are plain stupid or they are too busy to notice or they actually don’t care. Take your pick of the reason least harmful to your ego!
One cannot forgive but still forget (a rare breed but they do exist). And as I grow older this is becoming easy for me on account of being more forgetful. You heal yourself, put a stop to the nonsense and get an apology from the person in your head by playing out different scenarios and you are done. Simple, eh? What if the person shows up again and again interfering in the healing process? Not to worry, use their
stupidity obstinacy to your advantage. The more they show up, the less it bothers you. No jolts, just the reassurance that one fine day it won’t matter. In a fit of rage you might feel the need to delete or block. I won’t tell you it’s a childish thing to do because it has its benefits but it’s a waste of limited energy reserves. Along with numerous social media accounts, people now have multiple numbers and change phones like they change shoes so you can’t actually keep up (if you are like me).
One can neither forgive nor forget. Time will do your work for you so no point in losing sleep over it. (Didn’t anyone tell you that patience is a virtue? Me neither!) So many ways to deal with forgiveness. What if you are the one seeking forgiveness? Do the same rules still apply? Or do you become a hypocrite? Continue reading “To forgive or forget that is the question”
One fine Sunday against my better judgement I decided to step out of the house and take the bus as usual. I thought it’s Sunday and the bus would be relatively empty but it was jam packed like weekdays. (I’m talking butt to butt cramming. You don’t want to experience the horror.) The entire city decided to grow a conscience and use the public transport on the same day. Please increase the number of buses, BMC (= Bhubaneswar Municipal Corporation).
The light shrug I was wearing went into my bag as soon I got out of the house and started walking. I should have done the same with the woollen stole when I still had my hands free. Because it was hot and sweaty inside the crowded bus and being unable to peel off layers is the stuff of nightmares. You are dressed for the winter outside but it’s summer on the inside.
The swiveling over road humps, bumping into the mass of humanity was almost painful. I like fun rides but they belong in an amusement park. This is icky not thrilling. It was filled beyond capacity and the conductor was still taking on more passengers. Am I the only one who thinks he’s bonkers? The conductor was hanging outside the bus. Literally. I’m not kidding. These were dire circumstances.
The ladies seats were occupied by lovely gents and today I wasn’t able to get the conductor to give the ladies their seats. I asked once and he ignored me. Sometimes I am too tired to argue. These men should be seat shamed for taking ladies seats and they sit there almost flaunting it, daring people to call them out on it. What can we do? it’s a pity there’s no provision to make citizen’s arrest in India. Continue reading “To catch a bus”