In this beautiful world, I have no desire to die,

I wish to live in the midst of men.

In this sunlight, in the flowering forests

In the heart of all living things may I find a place

Incessant is the play of life across the earth

With its perennial waves of union and separation, laughter and tears.

Weaving songs from the sorrow and happiness of man

I wish I might build an immortal realm.

Or failing this, I hope I can claim a seat

Amongst you for as long as I live

Composing songs like flowers that blossom ever afresh

For you to gather in the morning and noon.

Accept these flowers with a smile, and then alas!

Cast them aside as they fade and die.

Rabindranath Tagore

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Alohari Anandam

“Remember the Frenchman who asked his grandmother at what age we get free from the temptations of love. The old woman said she didn't know” The Doctor’s Dilemma, GB Shaw.
Sarah Joseph’s Alohari Anandam ( Per Capita Happiness) explores the winds of change that perplexes and confuses a Syrian Christian family in Kerala. Published in 2013, the novel deals with controversial themes such as loveless marriages, marriage of senior citizens and lesbianism. Joseph’s characters liberate themselves once the yoke that they carry become too much for them. 

Emma and John Mathai are the senior citizens who decide to get married with the support of the young generation and Paul. The typical reaction to a couple who decides to get married so late- a widower and a spinster- are jokes laden with obscene humour. However, Joseph treats the theme with much sensitivity and her Emma is a lovely bride who rejects all makeup and finery on her wedding day that her niece Ishana has designed for her. 

Ishana is the designer in the family who runs a funeral parlour and a beauty parlour. Joseph satirises the way in which all church rituals have become focused on clothes, jewellery and the aesthetics involved. On the occasion of a baptism, Ishana’s thoughts are entirely on the stone-vessel that she chose for pouring the water. She represents the new generation who sees marriage as a trap set to limit individual freedom. 

The lovers in the novel Paul and Anu carry the burdens of their marriages. Paul is married to Teresa, a lesbian who is forced to marry him. Anu struggles to bear the weight of her loveless marriage with Cherian. When the idealistic Paul meets the dreamer Anu, they feel a strange comfort and are drawn towards the lovelight that they see in each other’s eyes. As Paul says:

“There are people who become happy with the little that they have...both among men and women. Not just that, the majority is like that. They try to unravel the knots of this world. Small achievements make them happy. Small losses hurt them a lot. Their longings for love are of a shallow nature. But there are people who seek themselves in their mates. They need a life of deep love. For them, marriage is a failure, if the lover doesn’t complement their mind, body, intellect and emotions. It is not necessary to have such a relationship within marriage and that’s when you seek another relationship” (Free Translation). 

Joseph's novel Alohari Anandam, celebrates the joy of living and individualism. Through her beautiful and lyrical evocation of the Song of Songs, she recreates love as a Garden of Eden shared by those who want to experience the happiness of being fully alive, emotionally, spiritually and physically. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011


The Novel Othappu by the celebrated Malayalam feminist writer Sara Joseph has a strong woman character Margalita. Set against the life of Christian Thrissur, the novel depicts how Margalita, a nun hailing from one of the ancient Syrian Christian families flouts all traditions to fall in love with a Christian priest Roy Francis Kareekan. Their love is made intense by the vows of chastity that both of them have to keep and they throw away everything just to be together. But is breaking all rules to be with the beloved worth the trouble? Which is more important listening to your heart's voice or listening to the world? These are some of the questions posed by the novel.

Instead of creating a melodrama out of a delicate subject of love between a nun and a priest, Sara Joseph has delicately handled it but at the same time creating a very strong woman character before whom every other character pales in comparison. She is like a rock in times of trouble and creates her own identity in a society that has divested of all her previous roles- daughter, sister, believer and nun. For her, "love is joy; the joy of love is God; and when you can keep the joy of love in your heart, the whole world will be at peace and the earth will blossom" as she lives a life of sacrifice with Nanu, an orphan child and her unboby baby in her womb.
The English translation of the novel by Rev. Dr. Valson Thampu and published by OUP is also available as Othappu: The Scent of the Other Side 

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Classics of the Macabre by Daphne du Maurier

Though not at all psychic- I have never seen a ghost or dabbled in spiritualism or the occult- I have always been fascinated by the unexplained, the darker side of life. I have a strong sense of the things that lie beyond our day-by-day perception and experience. It is, perhaps, an extension of this feeling that makes me live through the characters that I create.

The Classics of the Macabre(1987) is a collection of scary stories written by the queen of macabre writing, Daphne du Maurier. This book published at her 80th birthday showcases six stories noted for their drama as well as emotional intensity.

In "Don't Look Now" (1970), a couple on holiday meets a pair of twin sisters, who claim that they are psychic. They claim that they can see the couple's recently dead daughter and advises them to go back home. The couple is shocked by the sudden turn of events in which they pay a heavy price for their cynicism.

"The Apple Tree"(1952) is about a man recollecting his dead wife at the sight of an apple tree in his yard. This tree sprang up in the garden after her death and he doesn't like remembering his barren and rather cheerless wife. So he decides to cut down the tree only to put his own life in danger.

"The Blue Lenses" (1952) narrates the story of Marda West who undergoes an eye surgery and has blue lenses temporarily fitted in her eye. To her horror, she can see only animals in the place of her near and dear ones. Her husband and her nurse have changed shape.

"The Birds" (1952) is like a nightmare. Birds come in large numbers and start attacking people. This is the reverse situation of nature attacking human beings.

"The Alibi"(1959) is about a man who is about to kill a family. The woman of the family believes him to be a painter and so he tries his hand at painting. But the evil inside him needs release more than ever.

"Not After Midnight" (1971) is equally scary in that a schoolmaster meets a couple who tell him what happened to the last inhabitant of the place where he lives.

Though most of the stories are scary and unputdownable, the best in this collection are defintely "The Apple Tree" and "The Blue Lenses".

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sacred Literature of the World: Chosen for Daily Meditation

Last week on my library hunt, I came across an amazing book, a treasure in fact. Sacred Literature of the World: Chosen for Daily Meditation by Eknath Easwaran. The book complies spiritual writing from different traditions, countries, religions and scriptures such as Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Native American. The book is a guide to meditation as well as a collection of wonderful food for the soul.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Letters to a Young Poet

Go within and scale the depths of your being from which your very life springs forth. At its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must write. Accept it, however it sounds to you, without analyzing. Perhaps it will become apparent to you that you are indeed called to be a writer. then accept that fate; bear its burden, and its grandeur, without asking for the reward, which might possibly come from without.

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote these words to the young poet Franz Kappus who had sent the manuscripts of his poems to Rilke. Much to Kappus' surprise, Rilke read all the poems with genuine interest and he wrote ten letters to Kappus for the next five years. These letters were published under the title Letters to a Young Poet. These letters reveal Rilke as a gentle and large-hearted person who went out of the way to offer his encouragement to Kappus. A must  read for all aspiring writers, as a great writer like Rilke advises Kappus not to listen to negative criticism and to understand that a creative spirit has to suffer from aloneness in life. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Manual of the Warrior of Light by Paulo Coelho

Do you look at life and the universe with the wonder of a child? Do you accept failure with equanimity? Do you believe in fighting for your dreams? These are some of the questions raised by Paulo Coelho’s Manual of the Warrior of Light. This gem from one of the greatest storytellers of our time is a collection of philosophical meditations spun around the image of a warrior of light .

 The Manual was published in the newspapers as ‘Maktub’without the Prologue and the Epilogue, which connects the random meditations by providing a structure. They deal with the story of a village-boy who meets a mysterious woman at the beach who talks to him about the bells ringing from a temple beneath the sea. Years later, the same mysterious woman asks him to write about the Warrior of Light.

What is a Warrior of Light? The boy asks the woman. The woman replies that a Warrior of Light is one who understands the miracle of life, one who fights for his dreams and one who follows his dreams to reach his destiny. The boy is asked to write down the life lessons of the Warrior of Light.

The mediations deal with the life and nature of a Warrior of Light. All his mental, spiritual, social and emotional battles, his victories and defeats, his relationships with God, his companions, followers and enemies, his strategies in war are all described. At times the life lessons seem contradictory. This is because a Warrior of Light understands that everything around him is subject to change and he is competent enough to adapt strategy to situation. He is open-minded and receptive to the paradoxes of life. 

Paulo Coelho’s Manual of the Warrior of Light is a quest for discovering the Warrior of Light within us. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Witches by Roald Dahl

One page of The Witches and am bewitched. Oh, why didnt I come across this writer before and now, why so late! The way he writes, the simplicity of his language, the flights of fancy when he writes about the qualities of the witches. What happens when the witches of the world unite to eliminate all children from the face of earth? One child a week equals fifty-two a year, squash them and squiggle them and make them disappear." With this motto in mind, the witches hold a convention. A seven-year old boy turns rescuer of all children with the help of his grandmother. 

A tale with its own mixture of humour,fantasy and the incredible, The Witches sound so real that it made me wonder whether there is really an organisation like that! You read the chapter describing how witches hide their real nature, how they put wigs over their bald heads, how they hide their expression of hatred behind kind, benevolent eyes...it's so amazingly real! A good read for children and for those who love children's books or those who keep the child's heart.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Heart Thoughts: A Treasury of Inner Wisdom by Louise L Hay

Are you uncomfortable with change? Do you feel frightened with sudden changes in life? Written by the famous inspirational writer Louise L Hay, this book celebrates the power of our own hearts to heal ourselves and adapt to the changes in life. Louise L Hay is a famous metaphysical lecturer and teacher known for her bestseller ‘You Can Heal Your Life’. She has inspired millions of people to discover the vast treasure that lies within our hearts. She advocates our need to connect to what she calls ‘Inner Self”. The key idea in the book is the need for responsibility as the ability to respond to life in order to get the best out of it. The first steps in connecting with our inner selves are to get out of the victim mindsets and abandoning the illusion of someone rescuing us from the mess we are in. The knowledge of our power to respond creatively to life is liberation and it frees us from our old way of thinking and feeling. This enables us to shed our old beliefs and welcome the new in life. With the release of the past and acceptance of our own selves come the innumerable blessings of life. My favourite thought comes under the title of good health. Good health, according to Hay is “ having no fatigue, having a good appetite, going to sleep and awakening easily, having a good memory, having good humour, having precision in thought and action, and being honest, humble, grateful and loving”. Heart Thoughts celebrates change as the rule of life. Dedicated to our own hearts, this collection of meditations about day-to-day issues by Louise L Hay can change our lives or make us aware of the powers that lie within us and thus create richness in our lives.