To forgive or forget that is the question

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”

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Thoughts on The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman

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I loved Alice Hoffman’s Here on Earth and I have come to expect lyrical prose and magical realism in her work. I am not a fan of magical realism as such but hers I gobble up like a plate of hot Top Ramen noodles (read the fragrance of childhood). Poetry, magic, fate everything I have never understood and can’t put into words, Alice Hoffman does it with ease like she has done it all her life, which she has, but it always takes me by surprise.

I usually steer clear of misery or negativity in pop culture unless I think I can handle it. And Alice Hoffman should be read when you can handle her prose. Her words pierce your soul. She wrings out emotions and feelings you never thought you had. The storyline is easy to follow but the themes are weighty. The Ice Queen deals with matters of life and death and everything in between that constitutes the business of living. She writes fairy tales for adults but don’t be fooled into thinking that it would be simple or straightforward.

I took the book with me when I was travelling but somehow I could sense it wasn’t the place for it and I read very little. And I didn’t want to read the book at breakneck speed because I wanted to inhabit the words of this book until I absorbed its essence.

Like many reviewers I agree there isn’t an extra word in The Ice Queen. She covers so much in 211 pages. It is a sentimental tale but the ending is unpredictable. At the centre of the story is an unlikeable protagonist – the unnamed narrator, who is a librarian and a lightning survivor. Something happened when she was a child and and she has allowed it to colour her entire life. Lightning has always fascinated me but this scared me, the damage it can do to your system if you have the misfortune to be struck by it. Her character changes in a fundamental way and she sees herself differently by the time the book ends and so did I. Alice Hoffman makes you feel for her and in spite of everything you root for her. Deep down we are all dreamers.

The Ice Queen is a book about life and death, and about love and hate. It is a book about secrets and their power to define us if we let them.

Secrets are only knowledge that hasn’t yet been uncovered… Therefore, they are not in fact secrets but only unrealized truth.

The Ice Queen is about all kinds of love – love between siblings (blood ties can’t be so easily dismissed), love between people who have survived the same thing, love between people who are married and their lives tied together in ways unimaginable and love that remains even when the object of affection has vanished into thin air. (Not literally true but I wanted to use it because I am feeling theatrical today!)

Feel lucky for what you have when you have it. Isn’t that the point? Happily ever after doesn’t mean happy forever. The ever after, what precisely was that? Your dreams, your life, your death, your everything. Was it the blank space that went on without us? The forever after we were gone?

The Ice Queen tells me things find their own way to fruition if it’s meant to be. And to have an open heart and appreciate the present. Nothing I didn’t know but how many of us actually live fully in the present?

Continue reading “Thoughts on The Ice Queen by Alice Hoffman”

A Christmas Miracle

Christmas holds a warm place in my heart because of the tradition from the school days. I went to a Christian school (people’s words not mine) and every year students take part in the Christmas play which is basically staging the nativity scene. It was followed a long Christmas vacation. One time I essayed the role of a sheep and boy wasn’t I happy to be an animal on stage. Happiness didn’t cost much then. Those were good times.

One never has to go too far to look for a miracle. A stranger helped me meet Ruskin Bond which was my very own Christmas miracle. I could never have imagined meeting him in my wildest dreams that too here in my hometown.  It was  a few days before Christmas and just like any other cold winter day. Somehow even old crusty me can’t call what happened a coincidence.

When I found out Mr Bond would be gracing a literary festival in the city I asked my sister to ask her friend who studied in the institution which was organizing it to inquire about the system of entry of non-school students. Her friend told her to tell me to gatecrash the event because it isn’t that big a deal. Let me tell you it was a big deal. Clearly her friend doesn’t read many books. The guard at the door wasn’t budging if you weren’t in a uniform or didn’t have a pass. I asked on the festival’s online page and wrote an email asking if there’s a way for people like us to meet and greet (their phrase) Ruskin Bond but there was no response. So I just decided to land up at the venue which was quite unlike me. It was at the other end of the city but I was by my parents told to give it a try in spite of my illness, and I did just that.

Why would a stranger, who has never seen you before in her life, cared if you meet (or didn’t meet) Mr Ruskin Bond. And what are the odds that the stranger was dressed like you and lived in the same locality as you. And someone who wore the adjective bookish like a badge of honour. It was like at first sight. She was wearing a kurti in the same shade of green I was, it was the same length as mine and we had the same hair style even. Had I been plump like I’m now and not leaner like I was then, we really would have looked like two peas in a pod. (I just wanted to use the phrase.) Not believable? But then truth is stranger than fiction. The similarities end here. Unlike garrulous me she prefers silence.

She helped me realize my lifelong dream of seeing Ruskin Bond in flesh and blood with my very own eyes. Had I reached a minute before or a minute later, our paths wouldn’t have crossed. Should I call it destiny, fate, coincidence, serendipity or just my luck? I could have been a serial bomber for all she knew, wanting to go inside the venue to blow it up into smithereens but didn’t have a pass (obviously). Perhaps she could see in me the same thing which had brought her there, a love for the written word and the worlds created by Mr Bond and a fervent desire to hear the man whose words were synonymous with our childhood. Any interaction was the cherry on top of a richly iced cake. At the last minute when he was leaving I was egged on my another young friend to go and get my book signed. And that’s how I spoke two sentences to him. I wasn’t going because everywhere he was surrounnded by hordes of school students or posing for group photographs.  Mr Ruskin Bond exudes warmth and generosity. He actually had twinkling eyes that we read about in books. Larger than life yet down to earth. Yes I’m gushing. I was over the moon.

This holiday season spread good cheer, it is infectious. And when you feel too lonely, remember solitude and loneliness are two sides of the same coin.

The myth of happily ever after

If you haven’t yet seen the excellent Before Trilogy by Richard Linklater for whatever reason I urge you not to read ahead. Also, mild spoilers for The Littoral Zone by Andrea Barrett. Spoilers ahead!

But both of them remember those days and nights as being almost purely happy. They swam in that odd, indefinite zone where they were more than friends, not yet lovers, still able to deny to themselves that they were headed where they were headed.

In the short story, The Littoral Zone, two married people with families fall for each other and leave their families behind so they could unite. They realize later that so many things mean something (read everything) only in the moment. Their relationship was complete as it was in the moment but when it was stretched beyond it, the essence was lost. The attraction on the island couldn’t translate into an enduring relationship on the mainland for whatever reason.  Initially I found their behaviour odd. But Jesse and Celine from the Before Trilogy also reunited at a huge personal cost but this was acceptable. Why? Because we are conditioned to believe and root for them because we are shown that they belong together. Does the audience ever think if they are even meant to be together? Imagine something other than what the narrative tells you to and one will see a different story.

Ruby had talked about the littoral zone, that space between high and low watermarks were organisms struggled to adapt to the daily rhythm of immersion and exposure.

In their case, that perfect day they spent together in Vienna can never be replicated and it took so much from them. Celine and Jesse never really recover from that. Their whole life is in the shadow of that perfect day, the way they responded to each other and the way they connected pales to the reality they are living now.

What if they had let it be and let each other remain only a fond memory and not continued to pursue each other over their lifetimes? Continue reading “The myth of happily ever after”

The characters in Alice Hoffman’s Here on Earth

I found Here on Earth in a book fair I shouldn’t have gone to but went and, if gone,  I shouldn’t have bought anything which was not on my to-read list, but I did (or so I thought). I saw the cover and it instantly jumped out at me. I looked inside to convince myself to buy it, and off went my resolution. Finding it was accident, serendipity or chance, I don’t know. Neither did I know that I would read it over that weekend abandoning another great nonfiction book I was reading. The name seemed familiar but I couldn’t put my finger on it till I came home. It was on my Goodreads to-read list. To think I had added it three years back and it has landed on my shelf only now, without me ever searching for it makes me want to attribute it to fate but I doubt Fate bothers itself with such puny things. Happenstance more like.

I never thought I would like magical realism, and lyrical prose usually annoys me but this was different. In a way it reminded me of The Last Song of Dusk, a book I had liked  but I wasn’t too keen on reading something like that in the near future. But a fair warning, this is not a romance. It is a cautionary tale of doomed love and obsession.

When we are young we believe in so many unrealistic things, like living in a fairytalish world, where everyone gets what they deserve, and every thing works out in the end. Alas, reality isn’t so simple or straightforward. It doesn’t matter if something is fated or not. It’s how we deal with what has happened and what we ultimately do.Here on Earth makes it amply clear.

There was a line in the book, which I cannot find now (I didn’t stop to copy lines until I was near the finish line), about lions and lambs being warm blooded, which chilled me to the bone. They are not as different as the world makes them out to be. Predator and prey are their ecological roles but they belong to the same class (Mammalia). How could I, a student of biology, not have considered this fact before.

Alice Hoffman’s descriptions are otherworldly but felt so real that you want to believe every single word, and hope it doesn’t break your heart but it does. A thing which isn’t real can feel realer than the everyday reality (that we mostly choose not to dwell on). That is the power of fiction written from a honest place; I am surprised every time it shakes me up and makes me see things anew. Continue reading “The characters in Alice Hoffman’s Here on Earth”

A song which walks you home

It is eerie the way songs come back to us when we need them the most. Listening to some songs is like coming home, to a part of you that existed long before in a freer time, a part of you which you thought was lost but the song awakens it, long forgotten and belonging to another era, buried deep under the artificial layers unconsciously created to deal with the world. It’s a wonder such a thing exists, untouched by the brutality of the world. It is reassuring to think that deep within, you are the same you that you have always  been – the core of who you are, what defines  your soul and what you hold dear. It is beyond the reach of the everyday world and remains unaltered. Ain’t that a cheerful thought?

I was walking home and a song just popped into my head. I have thought about this song from time to time, in the way that I will put on it my playlist and listen but never do. There are times when I really need to listen to a song and be completely present, as opposed to tunelessly humming it. And when I finally hear it, it is as if I am  hearing it for the first time. A sense of urgency leads to the discovery of a thing which has always existed but has acquired a new meaning now.

 If you associate a song with someone and for some reason it all goes sour, then you berate yourself for losing both the song and the person. Though feelings are not facts, when our mind connects certain things or traits with someone, it is difficult to let the association go so easily. Even more annoying is the fact that it was not done by choice. You must have experienced how difficult it is to hear that song without thinking about all that you have lost.  And then one fine day, you can listen to the song and not think about the past. You have healed and perhaps moved on.

Funny how a song led me back, holding my hand, beckoning me to a movie that I liked once upon a time but I now wonder if I am the same person that liked it because it has such a cliched story-line (I don’t know if it’s growing up or cynicism making inroads into my soul). The movie is sort of a fairy tale, where in the end love triumphs, people find a way back to each other and walk off into the sunset feeling complete. And I realize now that the fond memories I associated with the movie were due to the song(s).

The movie was playing on the TV and I sat through the entire movie looking for the song thinking it will come now but some other song came on. The movie ended and I still hadn’t found the song. And I wondered if I had been an idiot to think it was a part of the movie because I couldn’t even visualize the song. Thinking I had been mistaken for so many years, I was about to switch off the TV when the credits rolled on, and that’s when I heard it. The best song of the movie isn’t a part of the movie, which is about music connecting people together. Talk about irony!

It’s good to know that you can always find your way back home, if you truly want to. That it is possible to return to a place that remains untouched by time, where you remain the same old you, the self that is truest to you.

I am Alive

People forget and forget so easily. Faces. Names. Feelings. Memories. Everything. Where did it all go? You wonder if it ever really happened in the first place. Where are the keepsakes and the letters? Why don’t people think in what might have beens? Why don’t they hold on till their last breath? Why wasn’t there a last phone call? Why let it go all so easily as if it didn’t matter in the first place at all?  Is getting over things so damn easy?

The face in the picture fades. The once loved name ceases to matter. The name which you once worshipped becomes just another word that you know but will never use. The song brings back memories of the days gone by and nostalgia is now tinged with sadness.

Feelings are the worse part,they say. But if you can’t remember that heady feeling, the crest like highs and the bottomless lows, then yours is a heart or a machine, I ask?

Fond memories, warped memories, twisted memories and downright bad memories are all better than having no recollection whatsoever.

What’s the use if everything is so ephemeral, the rational mind harps? You think you have a second chance at everything but you never do. Life is harsh dear girl, get used to it. Shut up, I say.  I will listen to you when the time is right (read after I’m dead).

I know everyone is waiting with  bated breath for your dreams to shatter, they can enjoy the noise and think, yes we are better off with the practical approach to life. All the pain will be worth it. Now she, the naive whimsical idealistic dreamer will know real pain. Oh victory at last !

O capricious fate you will never win. Not over me. The last laugh may not be mine but it certainly won’t be yours, get it? I live, love , get hurt and go through a gamut of emotions but that doesn’t stop me from delving back in with full force, with all my optimism and enthusiasm. With all I have.  Jaded? Me? Never for long. Nothing lasts forever. My yo-yo like nature allows me to spring back from both walk-on-the-cloud-nine happiness and drown-yourself-in-the-drug-of-your-choice sadness. It can happen in an instant and can even take years but happen it will. I am the same old soul, nothing tarnishes me forever.

Who will know the value of dreams if they aren’t shattered? Like the rose tinted glasses I keep handy, it’s okay if they are lost. I will find myself a new one or may be go off without it and see what the fuss is all about.

Bon voyage.