Category Archives: ruminating

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.
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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.