Category Archives: friendship

Wild Child and Other Stories by Paro Anand

Wild Child and Other Stories contains stories about teens dealing with issues that they grapple with. Paro Anand’s earlier book School Days which I thoroughly enjoyed was about tween’s issues but this one is so much darker because of the themes it deals with. Teens are unruly, difficult and moody but always in the need of love, both tough and tender.

This is an award winning book but why does it have such a bad cover? I mean come on, YA audience is used to being treated better all around the world.

The title story Wild Child deals with a girl who is always bunking school (I had read an excerpt and decided to buy the book), vanishing somewhere where no one can find her. Intent only on punishing her, the elders make no enquiry or try to find out what is the matter with her. The answer when it comes, sheds light on her behaviour. People who deal with children need to be more aware and open, not to mention perceptive, to catch what is really the matter.

This is Shabir Karam is about children whose parents have been killed in Hindu- Muslim conflicts. Kids from different religions live together in a home but they have no love lost for each other. How children, who have no clue what religion is, are caught in the crossfire of hatred and bigotry will make you very uncomfortable.

Children are vulnerable, yet to form their opinions and adults, who are in a position to influence it, do grave disservice to them when they do it to meet their agenda. It makes children easy targets. Early childhood trauma is not something that can be reversed and their childhood is lost somewhere.

They Called Her ‘Fats’ is about an unruly, unfriendly and angry girl. Fatima has no friends and the children in the school spread vicious rumours about her. It is not only adults but children also fear what they don’t understand, and Fatima doesn’t make it easy for anyone. The sports teacher sees the potential in her when she throws the javelin.

Very few people are lucky to find  something that channelizes what they have inside them. It just takes one person to believe in you. What makes the story riveting is that it has roots in reality.

Santa’s Not So Little Helper is in a lighter vein. A boy who writes a creative writing piece in class about being part of Santa’s family. It is funny and did take me back to my school days but it didn’t quite fit in this collection.

In Jason Jamison and Ia star tennis player with swoon worthy good looks is troubled inside. The perfect exterior is a facade. He is the new boy who defeats the old reigning champion. Looks can be deceiving (quite literally) and friendship can spring up in the oddest of places between unlikeliest of people.

Mixed marriages are taboo in India and it is the worst when it is a foreigner. When the marriage doesn’t work out the family is left in the deep end, shunned by the society. What is the child’s fault? But he is the one who has to bear the brunt of it.

Hearing My Own Story talks about abuse that goes on inside the house. Physical and mental abuse is a reality for many married women. They have no clue that they can walk out of their abusive marriages and claim compensation. But the ground reality is murky and in India where marital rape isn’t a crime, women are helpless. The social fabric is at fault. Both people, outside and inside the home tell you to keep mum. 

Like Smoke was gut wrenching but felt short and abrupt. Maybe that is what the author wanted to show, how living in terrorist climes is, with bombing and shooting being everyday affairs; how uncertain and fragile their lives are with the threat of death looming on the horizon.

It makes you think about what is really being done about the situation in Kashmir. The militancy is destroying the lives of so many people, who are easy targets because they refuse to leave their motherland; it is the civilians who are paying the price for the unrest. Continue reading Wild Child and Other Stories by Paro Anand

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I Kissed a Frog – tales of friendship and love

Rupa Gulab’s I Kissed a Frog is a cool book and I don’t know why I hadn’t heard about it before. Living under a rock the size of Antarctica isn’t the answer, isolation from fellow bookworms is. Not many book nerds around ergo even less bookish discussions because apparently everyone has a life. Sniff. As if I don’t. My idea of living it up is just different from most of y’all.

Never judge a book by its cover or the colour of its cover. Or its title for that matter as it is completely misleading sometimes. I am a woman but I despise Rani Pink and no, you cannot change my mind. It took awhile for me to pick it up because of my reservations. I eyed it warily in the book fair many times before picking it up and reading the blurb, then surreptitiously googling. What! I have loads of unread books and no space to keep them. I have been shallow before and bought books because I loved their covers. What will you do? Disown me and banish me from sisterhood? No can do. Once a woman always a woman (or so I have been told).

Google told me that the reverse fairy tales are supposed to funny, so picked it up, and read them first. They subvert stereotypes sure and these modern fairytales, from Rapunzel to Cinderella, were interesting but they didn’t hold my interest. They were too short to make a real impact but I loved the accompanying cartoons. I would like to read them again, preferably out loud to my sister (that is if she can stand my grating voice and is willing to waste precious time) so that we can both have a good laugh.

The stories in the book are divided into three parts – love, friendship and fairytales. As you know I read them in reverse order.

Continue reading I Kissed a Frog – tales of friendship and love

Anuvab Pal’s Chaos Theory

A love story by any another name is still a love story, especially one masquerading as friendship. Don’t believe me? Read Anuvab Pal’s Chaos Theory, and if you come away thinking they didn’t love each other, I promise I will refund your money for the book (if that isn’t possible you can throw the book at me). Mukesh and Sunita meet each other in college and they stick together through decades but not in the way you’d imagine.

They hover around each other all their lives and mind you, this was an era before the internet, and cellphones became commonplace, when keeping in touch was much harder and people actually wrote letters and made phone calls. What bound them together all their life, through different continents and their respective families? To find out read the book or watch the play. Didn’t I mention? It was originally a play which was later adapted into a novel by Pal himself. I am dying to see the play and hope they revive it so I can see it in this lifetime.

Head here to read what I thought about the book. Continue reading Anuvab Pal’s Chaos Theory

Laurie Halse Anderon’s Speak

 I saw Speak a while ago, the movie adaptation of the very acclaimed book of the same name by Laurie Halse Anderson, starring Kristen Stewart in the lead role. Despair not, it’s nothing like Twilight (to be fair to her, Twilight fans say that’s how Bella is, in which case excellent acting ) where she has only two expressions (longing and longing) but it doesn’t translate into emotion. She is so much more than a pretty prop. Incidentally I knew that she can act having seen her in the bit role I had seen her in Into the Wild (one book I must get back to again). She emotes with their silence which speaks volumes. The movie does justice to the absolutely brilliant YA novel that deals with teenage rape and depression, alienation as a result of it, very serious issues which parents, teachers and the society at large will rather not admit exist, forget dealing with it. I kept remembering stuff from the book, the lines from the book in the screenplay and the things they missed.

I always follow this rule of reading the book first if I can help it. Like most book lovers or bibliophiles (I don’t mind what you call us, we are what we are) if I know the movie is adapted from a book I prefer to read the book first (I had to wait for long periods for reading Speak) and it has always been rewarding because I get to build the world created in the book, and that joy every book lover knows. Of course on the minus side the movie usually (I thought of using the phrase ‘more often than not’ but now that I have read On Writing I feel King’s watching me) falls short of expectations, except the adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird.

I don’t know why so many people look down on YA. Trust me there are many. What you read popular fiction?! The term pop fiction is even more hideous. What’s wrong with the term contemporary fiction? Other than classics and books written by dead writers everything else they look down upon. Book snobs! They deal with real things in a real and sometimes not so grim manner, and do not put people to sleep so that their target audience actually does read and understand it. I was absolutely bowled over by Speak. Anderson is brilliant in the way she captures the voice of a teenager on the precipice of completely losing her sanity and spiralling into a quiet depression, and sinking into it but for her art teacher who gives her something to do that she enjoys, hence something to live for and she looks forward to stay in the land of living day after day.

It was first published in 1999 and five years later the movie followed in 2004. At first look the movie appears to tread a familiar territory because we have seen so many high school movies but it couldn’t have been farther from the truth.

The book cover had intrigued me for a long time and I took some time to be convinced about the story- I did not want to read about another victim who had thrown her life away. I liked Laurie Halse Anderson’s website, read her blog, bought the book and absolutely fell in love with the cover again, one of the most beautiful covers ever and waited. I believe every book finds you at just the right time. Another way of saying it unless I feel compelled to read something I don’t read it. I read it and it was literally life altering. The author interview at the back gave me some background to the book and the furore it created after its release.

She deliberately goes mute chooses not to say a word because when she tries to speak out the truth about what happened that summer nobody listens. It gnaws at her inside and she changes from a girl who lived life to just existing. She finally speaks out and she is the one who helps herself climb out from the horrific past and begins the process of acceptance as she tells herself that there is no point denying what happened. She is never going to forget it and the best way to deal with it is to confront it head on, which would someday eventually lead to healing.

The book is a must read. How come it doesn’t top favourite lists here isn’t exactly a surprise to me, it is because of the themes it deals with. I highly recommend it. Speak the book is more powerful than the movie. I will be talking about the book again soon. It’s been calling out to me again. Time for a reread.

You have to know what you stand for, not just what you stand against.

You can’t speak up about your rights and be silent.

You need to  visit the mind of a great one- Picasso who saw the truth and ripped it from the earth with two angry hands. If something is eating at you, you have gotta find a way to use it.

A revolutionary is only as good as his analysis. Why? We should be able to shout out how things can be better.

Thoughts on The Heat and Dust Project- How (not) to tell a book what you feel about it

 

 The Heat and Dust Project is a travel memoir and not just a travelogue as the title says. It is about the two people who are married to each other and how their relationship changes when they are travelling through India, to discover it and themselves in the process. It is about the feel of the place and the people they meet there, more than the place itself. They themselves along with the places they visit are the main characters in their own book.

They have dared to show things as they are, and shown themselves in less than flattering light many a time. Their relationship is there for everyone to see and that can’t have been easy. Two writers in the house and both fiercely opinionated and stubborn. It must be have one hell of a writing and editing process. I, for one, would have loved to be a fly on the wall to see how it came to be the book it is.

Reading the book  shortly before an impending trip, it fell into my lap at just the right time. I bought the book a few months back and hadn’t gotten around to reading it. Then one fine day it struck me that it would make a great gift for a friend of mine who has the wanderlust and frequently travels with her better half. I read the authors’ interviews to know more about them and their project and I thought I will read  just  the author’s note to get a feel of the book. Then to get a better idea I read the introduction and before I knew it I was reading the book.

The strange thing is, whenever I read nonfiction (which is not very often) I only want to read more nonfiction. Initially it was a slow read, I was savouring every moment and nonfiction is more powerful in the way one experiences it, probably because one feels that it is something which has actually happened, real and tangible. The writing is conversational but still literary. A good balance I thought.

Anxiety is a strange but not uncommon response to beauty. It is mostly exhibited by people with a talent for stress.

 Devapriya or D as she calls herself says this when they were going gaga over the beauty in Jaisalmer and thought they might not be able to do justice to its breathtaking gorgeousity (yes that is a word). At times like these I wished the book had some photographs.

I finally found someone, to whom dusk matters and affects, in equal measure. Finally a person who has a relationship with the setting sun, a person who has revelations at dusk. And just like me, dusk is a harbinger of hope for her. How a moment captured during twilight becomes perfectly stored in one’s memory has always been a mystery to me. A marker which nature gives us every single day, to take stock of the day, to pause and reflect.

When I had started the book I was feeling lonely and unsure, everlasting solitude doesn’t seem like a good idea now that I am wallowing in it. It’s true. Everything in excess is bad and solitude in large doses can turn into melancholy, as I have often experienced. I actually shed tears seeing them begin a life changing journey. I did not know that by the time I finish I would have tears in my eyes too.

Few pages into the book, I am enjoying the journey along with them and back in my, if not happy then, content place, where I can once again live with myself. The golden days of solitude and unhurried activity. Of short naps and long silences, punctuated only by the cries of birds and the sound of wind swaying branches and rustling the dry leaves (which have a characteristic sound) and occasionally people. Now I am more accustomed to the book, attuned to its needs and it to mine. And I am excited to be travelling with them.

Continue reading Thoughts on The Heat and Dust Project- How (not) to tell a book what you feel about it

Of (fr)enemies and friends

 Does anyone need friends? I never thought I would be standing here on our beautiful blue Planet (soon to be rendered uninhabitable) asking this question. If someone asked me this some years back, I would have looked at them as if they had sprouted two horns. Once upon a time I would have done anything for my friends. What changed? What if I say I don’t need any friends? Not because friendship as a relationship is dead. Maybe my standards are too high (I was  afraid that I have set them too low for the fear of disappointing myself) or I’m too idealistic (no surprise there). But really, is it just a plain give and take a la barter system?
Recently while talking to a friend, she said friendship is an emotional investment we make and why should we continue to make that investment when there is no return? That stopped me in my tracks (not literally because I was sitting on the bed). I was stunned into silence (that is no mean feat). Does everything have to have a tangible return? How did everything get equated in terms of returns? Barter system. Give and take. Take and give. I heard myself replying that it’s okay if there’s no return as long as there’s nothing negative, and that’s where I draw the line. Yeah, right. Being burnt to cinders, I mean. Another friend while answering a poll question, when asked what do you need friends for, ticked the option using them. She was honest enough to admit that it came automatically to her. I had no comeback for that. Being friends with people for the sake of using them is despicable. But then what do I know about the world.

Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light- Helen Keller

What if it’s a frenemy? You will probably end up in a hospital with a memory loss in that case!

There are categories – acquaintances, friends, enemies and frenemies. I have never understood the need for the last category. I’d love to have enemies (not in a sadistic way but in a way that says we are equal in our hate and dislike) but it’s frenemies I can’t stand. Yes I know who you are, you are fooling no one. You want to act like you are my friend then start taking acting classes! You criticize and hate a person but keep a person close only so you know what they are up to, so you can sabotage or disparage them behind their backs, yet acting like you have their best interests at heart. That is pretty low, like viruses who use their hosts for replicating and in return, destroy them. Win-Win. Give me an honest rascal any day, who has the guts to say what he/she feels to my face, rather than a “friend” who wouldn’t think twice before doing an “Et tu, Brute”, and is just waiting for the perfect time to strike.

I don’t need friends. I want friends, always have, to share my uninteresting life with (happy now). I have no place for frenemies in my life and neither the time or inclination to indulge in acting. Enemies, of course, are always welcome. A worthy adversary is worth one’s weight in gold. Or so I am told.

Two Pronouns and a Verb

Kiran Khalap’s Two Pronouns and a Verb is essentially the story of three friends and how they shape each other’s lives.

Who am I? Two pronouns and a verb, make up the most important question in our lives and this book doesn’t attempt to answer that for you. It’s a novel not a soul consciousness app that will help you achieve the zero state or whatever state is the most exalted! But yes, it attempts to do so for the two male protagonists : Arjun, a quiet and sensitive child with a finger on the pulse of the universe and Dhruv, a physically assertive child ready to fight at the slightest provocation. They grow up, both together and apart, and realize that true reality only shows its face when you question your illusions and see beyond them. The female protagonist, Eva is a happy-go-lucky German who came to India as a teenager with her mother (who was looking for salvation). She quickly adapts to the culture and becomes a part of the group.
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Some thing  fundamentally changes when Eva chooses one over the other while giving both the idea that she loves them. And maybe she did love both of them but two loves are never equal. Maybe I am too bourgeois in my thinking but you cannot claim to romantically love two people and be faithful to them at the same time. It causes a rift between Arjun and Dhruv, and this event changes the course of the story.

It went off to a promising start and I really wanted to love this book, which I did, but in places. It wasn’t a constant love, the prose was the opposite of flowing and loaded with adjectives and adverbs. And also the question the book opens with, and the answer we are supplied at the end-it was predictable, which was a letdown.

In some lines the dream like (magical realism?) narration worked but in entire paragraphs, it was jarring. Some lines made me take a look at my life or question  previously held beliefs and hence it was a slow read. Also, the prose hung heavy on me. While Arjun was introspecting so was I. When Dhruv burst into angry flames, I questioned why some things anger me so. Eva was without any expectations from life, unsullied by even violence, which astonished me. I was really disappointed that she didn’t grow much as a character. She doesn’t realize any greater truth. Maybe some people are that constant and unwavering and, hence are more stable.

I liked how the chapters were named, revealing a little of what is to follow, beckoning the reader into the story.

My favourite character was Arjun. I loved the way he viewed the world, as a vast interconnecting web and the bond he shared with all living beings.

In the book, Marathi words were not italicized. Some things cannot be translated, I agree, but for people who don’t know Marathi, a glossary at the back or their meaning in English beside the Marathi words would have been helpful.

As a person who loves the art of photography, I loved the bits about Arjun learning photography. He excelled in it due to his ability to connect seemingly unconnected things and his childlike way of looking at the world. Seen through his eyes, inanimate things reveal a pattern and animate beings speak to him because he understands the frequency at which they function.

Two Pronouns and a Verb, along with a few other books,  will always be special for me because I bought them while I was in the midst of the book publishing course – with all the ideas zooming in my head about how a good blurb and cover can make or break a book. I picked up this book because the title was intriguing (for a novel), the blurb was interesting (even if it didn’t do justice to the story inside) and the simple cover added to the charm.

If you want something easy and light don’t pick this up. The story has bits of Ayurvedic philosophy, the Naxalite movement, atonement through renunciation, downtrodden tribals and their way of life, and people (should we call them equalizers?) fighting for their rights and a friendship that endures.

Some quotes from the book that I managed to copy and lost many others that stood out.

I mistook toughness for resilience. 
 
Photography can slow down, speed up, reduce, enlarge any moment…
 
Life evolves as a spiral.
 
I am using this retelling to relive the rage built up inside me. The pain gets more bearable as the words suck the poison out of my memory, leaving empty pods scattered in my mind.
 
Every reaction creates karma and every suppression of reaction, creates disease.
 
We are always as close to the truth as we want.