Category Archives: love

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

Reflections on reading The Wife’s Letter

Coming home to Tagore is always a revelation. I have probably owned this fine collection of short stories for over a decade now. My aunt had funded it when she saw me lurking in the aisle of the book corridor in Big Bazaar back when it still sold books, along with stationery. How little I must have understood of women’s plight and their predicaments, when I was a teenager if not a child, is dawning on me now. A great story is that which reveals itself anew whenever you pick it up to read. In short something which has repeat value. Tagore is a genius; every sentence has its place and importance in the narrative.

I never pick up Tagore lightly because I can never shrug off his words casually and carry on with my life pretending to be unaltered when the soul has registered change. Reading Tagore needs complete involvement of the brain and the heart, and I need to be on stable ground otherwise it would be tough to balance the emotions when I’m on uneven terrain. The emotions generated on reading the text will overwhelm me and teetering on the edge of a precipice isn’t good for my health.

Reading The Wife’s Letter I had to stop at a few sentences to completely understand them (I am not sure if it is brain fog or ageing in action) and compare it to the real world experience I have had in the last decade. My first hand experience might be very limited but observed or heard second hand experience is so much more. Women talk. Women share. Stories of friends, acquaintances, neighbours, stories from the media. A woman has empathy for all the women of the world (barring duplicitous mother-in-laws and conniving frenemies).

There is no doubt about that Tagore understood the female psyche and portrayed it in his writings better than any man could. I am really looking forward to reading another translation of Chokher Bali soon. Continue reading Reflections on reading The Wife’s Letter

Thoughts on 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 Thoughts on the characters in Alice Hoffman’s Here on Earth

Thoughts on Sachin Kundalkar’s Cobalt Blue

 I started Cobalt Blue written by Sachin Kundalkar(of Aiyyaa fame)  in Marathi and translated by Jerry Pinto into English , before going to bed and couldn’t stop till I fell asleep(obviously). In the morning I finished the few pages that were left, wishing with all my heart I had more to go on as the day stretched on. It is a thing of beauty with simple uncluttered prose but heartbreaking since it is, after all, about heartbreak. Not the why, how and when of it, but something more organic.  If you ever had your heart broken or stomped on or ripped out by somebody you will get it.

A paying guest enters into the middle class Joshi household and siblings Tanay and Anuja fall for him, each unaware of the other’s affair with the same person. He vanishes without a trace leaving these young adults heartbroken. How they deal with the memories and come to terms with it forms the story.

The paying guest is a painter, who is very comfortable with his own solitude and bohemian in his approach to life. Tanay was in the need of a friend. And, in walks the painter who Tanay instantly connects with and is drawn to, unlike anyone until now in his short life. Anuja was intrigued by the paying guest who was so different than anybody she ever knew and falls  for him. Being unnamed added to his elusive nature.

The first part of the narrative is by Tanay, who speaks directly as if addressing the paying guest in words written or spoken. He remembers things from their interactions and tries to understand how he was in the dark. And at the same, he is processing his grief at being left so abruptly. The second part of the narrative is by Anuja , who in her diary entries, goes back and forth and tries to make sense of events that happened.

The book raises a lot of questions about what is acceptable in the society and how society impinges on individual freedom curtailing their desires to be sacrificed at the altar of societal normalcy. In the book, Anuja wasn’t permitted to go upstairs where the paying guest lived but nobody minded Tanay practically living with him.There is talk of a homosexual movement and there are meet-ups to discuss and do something about it which was a step ahead at the time the book was published, in 2006.

There were some Marathi words I didn’t know the meanings of and I didn’t Google them while I was reading and I took them to mean whatever it meant in the context and imagined it when I couldn’t get the meaning. I didn’t pause even when things resonated with me. Like, when Anuja is talking about why she puts a date on her diary entries.

In the translator’s note Pinto says reading about the events from Anuja’s  view point of the same events after reading Tanay’s narrative is heartache inducing. Siblings. Do they really know us? They know our daily persona, our habits but do they know about our inner world, our deep seated longings, burning hopes and dashed dreams.  Rarely.  Anyone who has grown up with brothers and sisters(identical twins are exempted of course) this would leave them with deep questions.

As Jerry Pinto points out in  the translator’s note at the end of the book, there are no timelines and no asterisks that demarcate the past from the present. There are no chapter endings; it all flows without chapters to guide you though Anuja has a few diary entries which are in a chronological order.  I realized how accustomed I’m to the breaks that chapters offer.

The book ends abruptly (or so I felt). I found myself wishing I had more details about the mysterious painter.

The quotes that follow spoke to me. There were many passages that need to be discussed but that is for another post.

“I have no tears now. Why should I? No one around me would understand.”
 
“Now I know longer feel like weeping for him. I just wanted to meet him once, to ask why. What explanation? From whom? What will I gain by holding him responsible?”
Anuja has a nervous breakdown for all to see but Tanay breaks down inwardly unable to give an outlet to his grief.In a sense we don’t weep for the other person but ourselves. For what we think we have lost.  After crying comes acceptance in its own sweet time. In the time when we are looking for answers, we want closure and we make the mistake of depending on the other person to give us that when it is up to us. We think answering the whys will clear everything. No, although some admissions do help. One can take a conscious decision to step back but closure occurs of its own accord but yes, it does help if the wounds aren’t being pricked anew when healing.
 
 “Why do we judge relationships only by their age? Why is it that a long-lasting relationship maybe called successful?”
I was devastated when an old friendship broke and I realized then that they had never known the real me and now I no longer fit into their world. Not being on the same page is still okay if we can grow together but that wasn’t the case and it was tough to accept that.  I shunned all friends and refused to have anything to do with the word friend. In spite of my ‘how to lose friends and alienate people routine’ some friends stuck by me and made me see the truth. 
 
“Today when I sat down to write and put the date on the page, I began to wonder: why do I insist on this date business? Why must I put time stamps on everything?”
Why indeed I asked myself, who is a stickler for the date and time so that when I go back and read or edit I know exactly when it was written. What is the purpose one may ask other than the obvious? To place the words in the moment, in relation to what was going on at that point in time and how the words came into existence. But it doesn’t always work, sometimes things have to be explicitly mentioned, time is cruel and mere hints don’t always suffice.
 
“Why aren’t things easy? Or do we make them difficult?”
This is what was zooming in my head and I found myself thinking of the times when I had made a simple situation complex.

Cobalt Blue is a short book and can be finished within a few hours, but one that would linger on your mind for quite a while. Utterly compelling. I cannot recommend it enough.

Update – I had the chance to interact with Jerry Pinto and after getting my copy of Cobalt Blue autographed, I asked him what were his thoughts on the book and he said it’s not my book(I was dismayed that I had offended him due to omitting one word!). Before I could tell him that I knew he was the translator and reframe my question he was swarmed by school kids for autographs.

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.

Chokher Bali is much more than a grain of sand !

A Grain Of Sand by Rabindranath Tagore
 What can I say about the book? I’m speechless, spell bound and God knows what else. Also my mouth was wide open in surprise many times during the book, which is pretty much equivalent to my jaw dropping to the floor. How do I feel? Oh that is difficult to answer because what I feel can’t be expressed in words (cliched yes but the truth nonetheless). I was mesmerized by the prose, reeling from the doings of the characters in it and overall just stuck in the gap between old and new worlds. Did I just write that? I suppose I did. This is why I don’t write book, movie or music reviews because I don’t really review it in the true sense of the word rather put up my jumbled thoughts on the matter (which is never even clear to me then how can it be clear to anyone else). Also, I end up gushing or hating (depends) and not saying anything important about it. Anyways there are people far more qualified than me to review so let’s leave it to them.

The book has given me loads of food for thought. I think I will be ruminating on it for ages. It made me  think- are we really modern ? After seeing the treatment and the dissection of  the psyche of women by Tagore during that time I’m not too certain of anything now. I already knew that he had a fine understanding about how a woman thinks and feels, I had gathered that from reading his lovely short stories. As everyone knows he was far far ahead of his time (my goodness, I really can’t get over it). He can give every modern author a run for his money.

This novel has lies, deception and so called illicit relationships that borders on scandalous but somehow it all feels natural. It was a page turner and totally unpredictable. Riveting. The emotional turmoil and the ministrations of all characters was so deftly expressed.It was nothing like I have read before. I had read many short stories and a poem( Upagupta)which I loved but this was the first novel I read by Tagore and I want more. I wonder how will it  feel to read it in Bengali, lovely I suppose more lyrical and more meaningful and the context more understandable. Sheer genius! I am looking forward to the movie version. I hope they don’t ruin it.

Two words-read it.

Where’s the moon

 
Whenever I see the moon, especially the full moon I’m reminded of the poem Silver by Sir Walter de la Mare.  It was one of the early poems I remember reciting and loving. Mrs. Irene Kapoor( I. Kapoor miss to us), our English teacher had interpreted it so nicely.

I felt the poet in me stirring and  came up with this. I have decided I will post my poems however idiotic they might be. After all I have got only  this life to live, so I might as well live without any inhibitions. Better to be embarrassed and laughed at  than to live out my days as a coward. I might as well get on with it. Cheers !
 
The moon is full and bright,
I look at it wistfully
with dreams in my eyes.
 
I wish I could stare into the eyes of a loved one,
and see the moon light reflected in its shadowy depths.
 
The yellow moon with grey scars on its face,
vibrating and pulsating like a living thing,
reminding me of my heart pumping along for dear life.
 
Overflowing with feelings,
with joys and sorrows,
radiating and shining forth,
showing others silvery light,
itself burning bright.
 
Ah the moon’s bright tonight,
so bright it hurts my eyes.
Tears spring forth free and fast,
it’s so heartbreakingly beautiful,
 that I cry.

Define Love


Love is a soulful melody.
An earful keeps you going for life.

Love is a delight.
Of delicious aromas and pungent smells.

Love is where silence speaks volumes.
Eyes the true window to soul.

Love is doomed from the beginning.
Expectations paving the way for destruction.

Love is optimism personified.
The glass always appearing half full (of warm soothing amber coloured honey ).

Love is a pessimist’s heaven.
The glass always half empty( of poison).

Love is a boon.
It saved the human race, fierce competition aside leaving space for humanity and humility.

Love is a bane.
An opiate which can leave you feeling high for days, months and years.

Love is a safe cocoon.
Shielding you from harsh reality engulfing you in its kind embrace.

Love is cold-blooded.
Mercilessly breaking hearts which can never be whole again.

Love is a fresh flower.
Wafting its fragrances far and wide.

Love is effervescent.
Perking up sad, sorry days where it’s the only bright spark.

Love is doldrums, sad and static.
Where it’s not love at all but a heady infatuation.

Love is eternal.
Forever and unending, binding until death comes knocking.

Love is in the moment.
The moment is all you have, instantaneous and fleeting.

Love is selfish.
Throbbing with desires and wants.

Love is selfless,
where the I has dissolved.

Love is the light of a thousand shining suns,
gleaming and illuminating the vast empty canvas of life.

Love is the pitch black of the night,
no one in sight,inky blackness all around.

Love is a feeling, a state of mind.
A tender touch, a shared moment, a life together.

Waving off all definitions
Love just IS.

This was my second poem posted in the Goodreads writing section.