Journal: Serious and Trivial

A thousand blank pages wait to record a few lines,
Some serious, some trivial, some mixed like life,
All gathered from the same rambling mind,
Which has loved to dream, to love and to lose.

The serious thoughts were all about your loss
A vacuum that I have never been able to fill,
A turning point from the fact that I was loved,

Into a world full of options and crossroads.

The trivial thoughts were all written in joy,
A bundle of words on a beautiful morning,
When the fresh air and bright blue sky
Was more than enough to make me high.

But the best was always the mixed ones,
Not too sad or happy; just real like today's.

Friday, October 28, 2016


A thriller by the Bengali director Sujoy Ghosh starring Soumitra Chatterjee, Radhika Apte and Tota Roy Chowdhury,  Ahalya is the story of a young policeman Indra Sen whose life and existence is changed, when on a missing person case, he meets a well-known artist Goutam Sadhu. 

The door is opened by a beautiful young girl whom he assumes is the daughter of the artist but turns out to be his wife. He sees a stone statue of the missing person Arjun on the table.Goutam Sadhu turns out to be a believer in magic and shows him a magic stone saying that he can turn into whomever he wishes to.

He is asked to meet Ahalya upstairs and she seduces him pretending that he is her husband. He no longer can make sense of the world he is in. This short film of around 14 minutes duration can stay with you for a day or two or even longer. 

Chain of Custody (2016)

It was only in February that I read Anita Nair’s Alphabet Soup for Lovers, which was quite a memorable one. In her recently released Chain of Custody , the second of her Inspector Gowda novels after Cut Like Wound, she portrays the city of Bengaluru ridden with corruption, violence and child trafficking.

Inspector Gowda is shown to be a maverick in his investigation methods,  passion for his Royal Enfield and for the women in his life. Along with his assistants Santhosh and Ratna, he sets out to solve the case of a missing girl Nandita, his maid’s daughter.

A young girl Rekha is coerced into being an escort to a rich man by her boyfriend Sid. She lies to her family and discovers herself to be in danger when this rich doctor is found murdered the next day. She breaks down completely without having a soul to breath her troubles to.

Nandita goes to school and on her way back visits a church. She is kidnapped by child traffickers and brought to a brothel. There are others, both boys and girls, molested and killed by their abusers. She cries for help and there comes an angel in the form of a stranger.

An MLA is found to be a paragon of virtue as he had married his handicapped girlfriend. The two are an ideal couple but she finds out his secret phone conversations and interest in young girls. She decides to take action and searches all his files to find out who he really is.

Connecting these three parallel stories is the city of Bengaluru, where anything is possible according to Inspector Gowda. His case is solved in a gestalt moment when his son brings in a friend Suraj who happens to be Rekha’s brother.

The novel portrays a disgusting world of child trafficking , where children around the age of twelve are nabbed in clear daylight and later finished off after being sexually exploited. Written in a very racy style, the book keeps the reader on edge and is a good read a la the stories of Feluda, our good old Indian Sherlock Holmes. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Pensiamento Fantastico: The Strange Library

 The novel The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami narrates the story of a boy on a visit to the library. He is a dutiful reader and library-user who returns his books on time. He wants to find out how taxes were collected in the Ottomon empire and because such a thought strikes his mind, he wants to find out more about it. On enquiring about it, he is directed to a special section of the library. 
He meets a strange old man who assists him by bringing him three thick tomes on the subject-The Ottoman Tax System, The Diary of an Ottoman Tax Collector, and Tax Revolts and Their Suppression in the Ottoman Turkish Empire- and lets him read them on the condition that he should sit in the library and read them. 

He tells the old man that his mother will get upset if he doesn’t return home on time just like the time when he was bitten by a big black dog. The old man is furious that the boy wants to go home in spite of the assistance that he has provided and reminiscences about the time when he was a boy. The buy promises to sit and read for thirty minutes and he is taken to a “Reading Room”, an enormous labyrinth in the basement of the library. 

He meets  a sheep man who makes good doughnuts and obeys all the orders of the Old man. He discovers that the Old man wants to eat his brains and when he asks the reason for that the sheep man replies because brains packed with knowledge are yummy and grainy at the same time. 

A girl comes in bringing him a sumptuous meal and he is struck by her beauty. She can only speak with her hands and she tells him that her vocal cords were destroyed when she was a child. He finds that the library has turned out be a prison and he is not able to get out. He finds that the sheep man and the beautiful girl belong to two different worlds and that at times their worlds collide and overlap with each other. 

He worries about his mother and his pet magpie. As if to make his fears true he is held a prisoner and his pet magpie is eaten by a dog before his very eyes.  What happens to the boy? 

A little Kafkaesque and absurd, the novel captures an atmosphere similar to The Trial and brings in a sense of terror to the act of  visiting a library. In spite of the  way in which it portrays absurdity, this illustrated novella can make you feel hungry with its pictures of delicacies! 


Pensiamento Fantastico: In Other Words

Jhumpa Lahiri, Pulitzer prize winning writer of novels such as The Interpreter of Maladies, The Namesake and The Lowland, writes about her experience of learning Italian in her non-fictional book In Altre Parole (In Other Words). This book was translated into English by the notable translator Ann Goldstein as Lahiri did not want to add gloss to the  rough reality of her learning experience.

Her first experience with Italian was during her college years when she went to Florence along with her sister. She recalls her experiences there with and without her precious dictionary with a green cover. Her consciousness of being a learner in the new language is so overpowering that she feels unhappy when people in Italy speak to her in English.

In the US, she was the one who was so conscious about her parents' poor English and often helped them out whenever there was a miscommunication. However, when she spoke Italian, she often felt the same awkwardness that her parents felt with English but she persisted with in efforts.

Lahiri is so fascinated with Italian that she does not want to come back to English or even her first language Bengali. She feels as if she has gone to visit a place she has always wanted and does not want to come back though the reason for her stay there is over. It is because of her stay in the Italian tongue that she had decided not to translate In Altre Parole into English.

She compares her journey in the language to a person who goes for a gathering and removes her sweater before going in. Later, when they bring her the sweater she was wearing, she is unable to fit into it. As per her request, the house owner calls several owners just to ascertain if somebody else has taken hers by mistake. But finally she accepts the one that is given back to her. This she compares to her first experience with learning Italian. Her persistence pays off and she manages to write her first story in Italian.

She narrates an anecdote when in a shop, the shopkeeper comments on her husband's 'Italian looks' and flawless Italian accent. The first compliment is because he is American but she cannot forgive the lady for the second because it is she who has slaved hard for years to learn the nuances and sounds of the Italian language.

Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words embodies a longing to belong to a culture that is not one's own but which has become 'home' for the writer. She calls this work her "linguistic autobiography" that deals with kind of immense passion that she feels for a language she has mastered.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Pensiamento Fantastico: Inferno

Dan Brown’s Inferno (2013) though in the same mould of a thriller as his other novels such as Digital Fortress (1998), Angels and Demons (2000), Deception Point (2001), The Da Vinci Code (2003) and The Lost Symbol (2009),  is concerned with the global ecological crisis and its consequences.

 Usually, his novels revolve around symbols, codes and conspiracy theories. They follow the similar pattern of a hero who finds himself in a strange and unfamiliar setting, with codes, symbols and mysteries to crack and a beautiful woman to rescue. 

Though he writes thematic novels, Inferno stands out from the rest because of its slightly misanthropic stand on human population. In the earlier novels, it was possible to suspend disbelief at the kind of code-cracking that Robert Langdon practiced, this time it becomes a little bit tedious as the mad scientist Zobrist has written down all codes in poetry in the manner of Dante. 

The character of Bertrand Zobrist is a proponent of what is known as the Population Apocalypse Equation which is a mathematical recognition that the earth’s population is rising, people are living longer, and our natural resources are waning. 

He believes that with the increase in numbers, there will be a corresponding increase in human vices as well as predicted by Dante. This equation predicts that the current trend of exponential growth in population will ultimately result in an apocalyptic collapse of society. 

Zobrist held unconventional views on the reduction of population through the spread of epidemics and Black Death. Zobrist praises the role that diseases such as malaria, tuberculosis, HIV-AIDS plays in keeping the population in check. 

He is of the view that the best thing that happened to Europe during the Middle Ages was Black Death. This event was seen as having so many socio-economic advantages as it thinned the human herd and led the way for Renaissance. Though the Black Death destroyed one third of the European population, Zobrist views it as a positive event in history because of its curbing of the human population. 

Bertrand Zobrist in Inferno is no theorist but a genetic engineer who sees a way to put his ideas into practice. He creates a solution to the population problem, a virus named Inferno that is initially suspected to be a plague virus but terms out to be a germ for creating sterility in every third person in the world. He follows the same mathematical equation of one third when trying to create the human sterility virus Inferno. He contrasts himself with the actions of the World Health Organization (WHO) that tries to create awareness about population control and family planning.

Inferno is about the need for environmental conservation and population control.

Alphabet Soup for Lovers

I guess it is quite natural for a foodie to indulge in a novel that features food in it though I cannot quite decide whether to call Anita Nair’s Alphabet Soup for Lovers (2015), a lovestory couched within a book on comfort foods or a book on comfort foods with a love story. She intertwines love, zest for life and memories in a novel set in a tea plantation in Anamalai Hills. 

The novel is narrated by Komathi, a maid who has been Lena’s family from the time she was a girl. Though she was a fiery brat in childhood, Lena  settles down into a quiet life with KK, her civil lawyer husband. However, Komathi is unhappy with the placid kind of relationship that Lena shares with KK. 

Lena chooses to marry KK precisely for the reason that she is not in love with him. They are childless as Lena lost a baby in an ectopic pregnancy. To while away her time, she teaches the children in the tea plantation creche. The entry on inji shows her attitude to the young couple, which she says is too placid for a couple in their late thirties.

The turning point in their lives is the arrival of Shoola Pani, a celebrated South Indian filmstar into their lives. He comes to stay in one of the vacation homes owned by the couple. Shoola Pani is a superstar and wants a break from his busy schedule. He shaves off his well groomed hair so that he will not be recognised during his holiday. 

During their first meeting, both Lena and Shoola Pani are completely repulsed by each other. Shoola Pani is shocked to realise that Lena is not bothered by his celebrity status and Shoola Pani dislikes the fact that she has recognised him. However, within a week he starts walking with her to the church cemetery in the hills.  The place becomes Arcadia and they become Lee and Ship to each other, whom she names after the proverbial phrase for strangers in love- “ships that pass in the night”. 

Komathi looks at Lena and recognises what she is up to and she remembers her own youth when she was in love with Rayar, a Marathi worker in the tea plantation. It was Lena who had caused him to go away much to Komathi’s heartbreak. 

She remembers the comfort food of thayir with rice she used to have when he went away or the wendiyum rice that Lena’s mother fed her when she lost her baby. Lena can stand the indifference that is part of her marriage but not her vulnerability when in love. 

In this well written and ingeniously woven novel, Anita Nair celebrates food and life and  the many interconnections between them. The book definitely made me crave for it to last a little longer. 

Pics: From the novel