Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Night Fears

A dark curtain of a night fell from across the river green
With huge trees that looked like demons to a five year old.
Then almost twenty years later they came back as crossroads
And having to face the worst possible mistake in life.

The nights that followed were all full of fears of future,
Till you came with your music and took them all away;
But now that you are also gone, the fears are back
The intense loneliness and the few words once again.

You with your music could sweep all those fears away,
You with your love could erase the fears from the years
Yet you have made the night bleaker and darker,
Wringing away the life that throbbed in these bone cavities.

The nights of unknown fears of future were much better
Than these nights of fearful knowledge of separation. 

Yann Martel: The Apostle of the Other

If you are an Israeli, you should imagine yourself a Palestinian. Then you will understand why the Palestinians are angry. If you’re a Palestinian, you should make the effort of imagining yourself an Israeli, and then you will understand why the Israelis are afraid. If you’re a man and you become a woman, you understand. If you’re white and you imagine yourself black, etc. 

Yann Martel can rightly be called the Apostle of the Other because through his writing he has tried to explore the Other. He says that “in meeting the other that you start to understand, first, that you are different, and then how you are different”. His fiction has always been an attempt to travel through the strange consciousness of the Other with the aims to understand and to empathise.

Born in Salamanca in Spain in 1963 as the son of Canadian diplomats, Martel spent his childhood in Costa Rica, Spain, Mexico and Canada. After graduating in philosophy, he worked as a tree planter, dishwasher and security guard till he took up writing as a full time career. Now he has settled in Montreal with his partner Alice Kuipers and son Theo.

For Martel, storytelling is a way in which the human experience of living in this world is communicated to one’s fellow beings through the unique human tool of language. Without sharing of experiences, a human has no identity; without love, there can never be stories. As Martel says in the Big Think Interview, “the saddest thing in human terms, is to have a human being who has no stories” as “the human who has no stories is someone who has not been loved and has not been able to love”.

His fiction focuses a great deal upon the people who are robbed of their basic dignity. However, he extends his concern to animals as well because he denies the anthropocentric view of Western religion and culture. He points that the Other is important in defining what is normal and also for locating one’s own identity in the world.

His first book was collection of short stories Seven Stories in 1993 but though it was not a grand success, one of the stories was awarded the Journey Prize. Later this book was edited and republished as The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios and Other Stories (1993). There are four stories in this collection namely “Manners of Dying”, “The Mirror Machine”, “The Time I Heard the Private Donald J. Rankin String Concerto with One Discordant Violin, by the American composer John Morton” and “The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios”. They are strange stories that deal with the modern experience of life in the midst of illness, death and grief.

Self (1996) was Martel’s first novel and it had for its protagonist a nameless boy who wakes up one morning to find that he has become a woman. However, the protagonist is still attracted to women and is confused by the shift in gender. However, after remaining a woman for seven years, the protagonist turns back into a woman when raped by a neighbor. Martel sympathises with women who undergo a very personal holocausts called rape, which robs them of their basic human dignity. However, Martel explores the gendered Other and also the question of whether the mind has any gender.

Life of Pi (2001) that fetched him the coveted Booker Prize in 2002 is a fantastical tale of Piscine Molitor Patel, a sixteen year old Indian boy who travels with his family to Canada by sea and is shipwrecked in the Pacific along with a spotted hyena, a zebra with a broken leg, a female orangutan and a 450lb Royal Bengal Tiger. There are also two versions of the same story of cannibalism, one with animals and one without them. The animal version is a fantastic one; but the real version is grim and terrible. However, Martel used animals as characters solely for artistic purposes but then began to get interested in animals for their own sake and also for the wonder that they provide.

We Ate the Children Last (2004) is a collection of short stories that deal with medical breakthroughs and their consequences. The environmental Other is considered in this work as human experiments such as an animal to human transplant operation can wreck the environment in unforeseen ways. The stories are dark glimpses into the advances in science and technology juxtaposed against the need for protecting the environment. He advocates prudence in animal-human experiments as the products of these could be more devastating to the world at large.

Beatrice and Virgil published (2010) is a postmodernist novel in which the writer Henry L’Hote meets a taxidermist named Henry, who gives him a manuscript of a play featuring Beatrice, a donkey and Virgil, a howler monkey living on a large shirt in the shape of country. The shirt on which they live is affected by what they call the Horrors. As they travel around the shirt, Beatrice and Virgil tell each other little stories and folk tales, share experiences of food and try to find the right words, expressions and signs to represent the Horrors. The novel is an allegory that works at a primary level to mean the Holocaust and at a deeper level to mean cruelty to animals. Martel condemns both genocide and the killing of animals as both violate the right to live.

Martel’s attempts at being an Apostle of the Other was not limited to his fiction. He was also involved in a book project What is Stephen Harper Reading? from 2007 to 2011, in which he sent the Prime Minister of Canada one book every two weeks with his letters, book selections and responses received to a website devoted to the project. He made his intentions clear when he said in the Big Think Interview that “to lead you must read, because that nourishes your vision”. Though the Canadian Prime Minister did not respond in any way to Martel’s project, consolation and encouragement came in an unexpected manner when the American President Barack Obama sent Martel a handwritten note describing how Life of Pi has greatly influenced his life.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Maddadam Trilogy

Margaret Atwood’s The Maddaddam trilogy that consists of the simultanuels Oryx and Crake (2003), The Year of the Flood and Maddaddam (2013) explore an extremely common device in popular science fiction- an apocalypse triggered by biotechnological and chemical experiments that destroys the rhythm of nature and produces unforeseen disasters and epidemics such as the Waterless Flood. These novels are called simultanuels (as opposed to sequels) as they co-exist and enhance our understanding of the state of life before and after the apocalypse through the eyes of the narrators Snowman, Ren and Toby.

The strides made in biotechnology such as genesplicing help scientists create new species such as wolvogs, liobams and pigeons with human brain tissue added for intelligence. But the product that starts the epidemic known as the Waterless Flood is an over-the-counter medicine known as BlyssPlus Pills, supposed to provide increased sexual satisfaction, protection from sexually transmitted diseases and to prolong youth. Hidden in the BlyssPlus Pills, is a killer virus that will spread like the plague and wipe out entire continents altogether.

When the attacks begin, radio and television stations from across the world report news of the spreading pandemic. But gradually the stations go dead and cities cease to exist. Gradually, a handful of people survive along with the bioengineered Crakers, who are a gentle humanoid species whose skins have natural insect repellants and whose need for animal protein is minimum. Among the survivors are Toby, Ren, Amands, Zeb, Jimmy and other Maddaddamites who are a group of bioterrorists who were bought by Crake in exchange for the protection of their identities.

The narrator of -awaited conclusion to the Maddaddam trilogy is Toby, who belonged to a green cult called God’s Gardeners. She wonders if there is any future for the human generation:
She’s slipping: she ought to write such things down. Keep a daily journal, as she did when she was alone…for generations yet unborn as politicians used to say when they were fishing for extra votes. If there is anyone in the future that is; and if they’ll be able to read; which, come to think of it are two big ifs (Atwood, 136).

The Crakers and the human survivors together create a new set of babies- Kannon, Rhizomes, Jimadam, Pilaren, Medulla and Oblongata, whose characteristics are yet to develop. But the wonder of all wonders is that Blackbeard, a Craker youth learns how to write and records the history of life after the Waterless Flood and the formation of the new hybrid species from humans and Crakers in the form of history.

Atwood uses the trilogy to express her concerns about the environment, the use of artificially created animal protein, the dangers of biotechnological experimentation, the hidden dangers of medical corporations and the relations between the sexes. She concludes on a note of hope through the creation of hybrid babies who will definitely lead life on earth forward in spite of the Waterless Flood. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Dying Young

It was always there in me, this thought of dying young.
The tales of talented youth dying much before
They found no use for  their eager dreams,
Kindled a desire of blazing out like a forest fire.

The ones who had done so were many to count:
Long before they reached the age of thirty-three,
Jesus, Shelley, Keats and my own writerly father
Who left so many manuscripts and diaries.

Now, in my thirties, I wonder what made them tick,
What went in their bodies or minds to make them sick
And no longer afraid of lightning or busy roads,
Fresh cylinders or changing a light bulb all myself.

Sometimes I think I might die of laughter or heart-attack
From reading twisted truths on my students’ answer sheets.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Dreams in Prussian Blue

Dreams in Prussian Blue (2010) by Paritosh Uttam captures the life of some Fine Arts students in Mumbai. It was recently in the news because Shyam Prasad’s new movie Artist is based on it.

Naina Trivedi, a fresher at Fine Arts College meets Michael Agnelo and his friends Abhinav and Ruchi. Michael’s passion for painting and his charisma sweep her off her feet and she realizes that she has fallen in love with him. To the dismay of her conservative Brahmin family, she leaves home to have a live-in relationship with Michael. The initial plan is that she will write and he will paint. But when they start living together, the responsibility of running the household falls on Naina as Michael does only what he is promised to do- to paint and nothing else.

Caught up in a situation from which there is no turning back, she creates a website for his paintings and calls prospective buyers and art galleries. Michael refuses to turn up for one such meeting with the owner of an art gallery and Naina calls and threatens him with a break-up. Unfortunately, Nicheal meets with an accident on the way and loses his eyesight. It is Abhinav who helps her with the bills and with Michael.

Abhinav and Ruchi live the middle class dream of a secure job, a posh apartment, plans for starting a family and having a car. Naina is distraught that Michael who used to be the best of all has come to nothing while the others are thriving. Inspite of his blindness, Michael continues to paint and she has to work hard to pay the rent and buy new canvases and paints. Abhinav advises her to give Michael used canvases and gives her a box of Prussian Blue that was there at his house.

Michael finishes 24 pictures that depict the history of painting and his exhibition draws people because of the publicity that is given to his blindness. However, Abhinav’s deceit does not stop with the Prussian Blue and Naina is caught up in a fix because of her love for Michael and gratitude for Abhinav. Will she be able to fix her strained relationship with Michael?

Thursday, September 05, 2013


Once upon a time, for a short while,
Teaching meant trying to scream above
The aeroplanes taking off nearby
 And the trains that screeched past,

While in this noise girls chatted
On the much prohibited mobile phones;
It also meant counting own mistakes
And losing your voice by Wednesday.

Now it means being silent when it rains
More because it is impossible to talk,
And may be it disturbs the lovelorn dreams
That flit across so many dreamy eyes.

The rain takes them away somewhere
An my voice drags them here back again. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


The life of hopes and ambitions is not the life you live,
From the cradle the baby is taught to dream and hope
But when the dark and light of youth decide to fight,
It is often darkness which wins and leaves one lost.

For the ones who have won and moved ahead of others,
Who do not share the burden of your past sorrows,
Who measure you by their own measures of success,
Your dreams are a reason to poke fun and laugh at you.

While you plod against life gathering the missing pieces,
Often having to start again after losing so many times,
The victory that would have tasted sweet in dreams,
Being like a mirage that eludes only you every time.

Yet some day the dark would give way to the dawn,
And if God wills, it will be an everlasting sunshine.


May be we learnt this silence from nature,
From dormant volcanoes that do not show
Any signs of life; but explode into rages
And passions, creating new terrains,
Blending with the waters of the ocean.
This love hides itself behind a wave of silence,
That sweeps away everything in its path,
But is natural like the merge of streams,
Like the blossoming of flowers in arid deserts,
And the sight of birds in the morning.
It springs natural, magical, dream-like
On the food of silence and nothing else.
For words have no meaning in this love,
And take away the magic of its silence. 

Songs of Sunshine

When the heart chose its path
And burnt all the other roads,
Reason was silent and sore,
But the heart hoped and loved
More than everything else.

In the days of radiant sunshine
Free and uncensored thoughts,
Effortless talk with smiles,
Laughter, kisses and love,
No bitterness was foreseen.

Now the sunshine is gone,
Replaced by the rainy days
Just like the pre-sunshine age
Each day after the other
Again an uneventful life.

The clock has been turned
Back to the mixed times,
Bittersweet and mundane,
Where no dark clouds were,
It is raining incessantly.

The days of sunshine are over,
With no hopes of coming back,
Angry words and accusations,
No daily downloads of news
Only spite and seething anger.

Yet this heart that forgot itself,
Became rougher and tougher
Day after day remembers,
The melodious tunes it knew
In the days of bright sunshine. 

Saturday, August 03, 2013



You remember dear,
I have reached where you were,
When Humpty-Dumpty broke the wall.

All could be seen for a while was pieces
Of your broken shell that hurt my eyes
And bled my heart for you were gone.

It was a lesson, these long years
To know what you lose in a moment-
A king, his horses and his men. 

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

The Kitchen God’s Wife

Amy Tan’s books are based on the lives and experiences of her parents and relatives, who had migrated to the US from China. She was born in Oakland in California and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has written several books The Joy Luck Club, The Kitchen Gods Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses and The Bonesetters Daughter. Her novels serve as cultural documents that describe the immigrant experience in terms of communality and identity. They contain the customs and rituals of China that might get lost in the new country in the process of cultural assimilation.

The Kitchen God’s Wife (1991) is her second novel and presents a mother-daughter relationship complicated by secrets- the mother withholds information about the daughter’s real parentage while the daughter hides her progressive multiple sclerosis from her mother. The novel begins in the present time when the daughter Pearl is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. Then the story moves to the past as Winnie, the mother talks about her first marriage in China to a pilot named Wen Fu. All these secrets come out only because Auntie Helen, Winnie’s friend, who thinks that she is dying of a brain tumour, threatens to expose the secrets of both mother and daughter.

Winnie had lost her mother when she was a child and was brought up by her uncle’s family. She discloses her sorrowful past, her unhappy marriage, the deaths of her three children, her meeting Jimmy Louie, her escape from her first marriage and her marriage to Jimmy, whom Pearl calls father. Her bitter experiences at home after her mother’s escape (or death, she does not know the truth) make her angry towards her father. Later, when her marriage is fixed, her father asks her to spend a week with him. He asks her opinion about a painting in his study that she used to dislike. Then he adds: I liked this in you; so unafraid to say what you thought. Then he asks her present opinion on the painting and as she explains why she likes it now, he says:
From now on, he said at last with a stern look, you must consider what your husbands opinions are. Yours do not matter so much anymore (178).

During her times of trouble, she is helped by Auntie Du, Jimmy Louie and Helen. She was like the Kitchen God’s wife, who got no credit for her faithfulness and loyalty to her husband. Winnie, however decides to move and discards the image of the Kitchen God’s wife from her home because she feels that now that she has divorced her husband Wen Fu, this God has no value for her.

Once the secrets are out, both women try to come to terms with what they are entrusted with. Winnie wants to take Pearl to China to find a cure for her incurable disease. She brings the altar that Auntie Du had left for Pearl and finds a new goddess for it, a goddess with no name, obviously a factory error. She names the goddess Sorrowfree and tells Pearl:
But sometimes, when you are afraid, you can talk to her. She will listen. She will wash away everything sad with her tears. She will use her stick to chase away everything bad. See her name: Lady Sorrowfree, happiness winning over bitterness, no regrets in this world. Of course, it’s only superstition, just for fun. But see how fast the smoke rises- oh, even faster when we laugh, lifting our hopes higher and higher (532).

Tan portrays the miserable life of Winnie, who leaves China in search of a new life. She shows the patriarchal Chinese society that values boys over girls and does nothing when a man hits his wife in public. There is no one to stand up for the woman as it is considered to be her fate. Tan also critiques the generation gap that comes out of the prejudices that the old and the young feel toward each other. In the novel, the mother-daughter relationship becomes warm only when all secrets are let out and the prejudices overcome.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A House for Mr. Biswas

He thought of the house as his own, though for years it had been irretrievably mortgaged. And during these months of illness and despair he was struck again and again by the wonder of being in his own house, the audacity of it: to walk in through his own front gate, to bar entry to whoever he wished, to close his doors and windows every night, to hear no noises except those of his family, to wander freely from room to room and about his yard, instead of being condemned, as before, to retire the moment he got home to the crowded room in one or the other of Mrs. Tulsi’s houses, crowded with Shama’s sisters, their husbands, their children. As a boy he had moved from one house of strangers to another; and since his marriage he felt he had lived nowhere but in the houses of the Tulsis, at Hanuman House in Arwacas, in the decaying wooden house at Shorthills, in the clumsy concrete house in Port of Spain. And now at the end he found himself in his own house, on his own half-lot of land, his own portion of the earth. That he should have been responsible for this seemed to him, in these last months, stupendous.
A House for Mr. Biswas (1961) is V.S. Naipaul’s third novel and deals with the life of Mohun Biswas, an Indian settler in Trinidad and his struggles to have a house of his own. Born the wrong way and considered to be unlucky by his parents, his prank leads to the death of his father. His mother and the four children are separated, Mohun taken into the care of his aunt Tara and her husband Ajodha. To earn a living, he works as a painter of signs and falls in love with Shama of the Tulsi family.
The Tulsi family is a joint family with the mother Mrs. Tulsi, her two sons, her sister and family, her fourteen daughters, their husbands and children, all living under the same roof. He longs for a house of his own and builds two, one of which blows off in the storm and the other catches fire. His struggles to have a house of his own that be “unaccomodated and unhoused” is the theme of the novel.
After years of poverty and humiliation, Biswas gets a job as a news reporter and his fortunes change. He saves money and when his son Anand is humiliated by Owad, the present Tulsi patriarch, he buys a house and takes Shama and his four children there. The house has so many faults that he did not notice but then it is his own and he dies there.
The novel portrays the lives of Hindus in the West Indies and the joint family system is humorously portrayed especially the nicknames that Mohun Biswas devises for his mother-in-law and his brother-in-laws. At the same time, there is pathos in the rootlessness and humiliation that a poor migrant has to suffer in an alien land. A House for Mr. Biswas combines both laughter and tears to depict a man’s attempt to find his self and his own "privacy and space" as Naipaul himself says in his BBC Interview.

Friday, May 10, 2013


For every word of harshness that you hear,
There is equally a word of love somewhere.
For the darkest hours of the wakeful night,
At the end of which is a beautiful dawn.

For the loss of innocence of childhood,
There is the growing maturity of years.
For the loss of a life near river green,
There is lot more sunshine to equal.

For the trenches that this life fell into
There are the new scales that it climbs.
For the years lost in search of dreams,
There are these words pn a virtual page.

Which brings in daily, strange comfort,
For every friend lost, that of strangers.

Thursday, May 02, 2013


A warrior of light values a child’s eyes because they are able to look at the world without bitterness. When he wants to find out if the person beside him is worthy of his trust, he tries to see him as a child would.  (The Manual of the Warrior of Light).

Paulo Coelho, the literary alchemist, was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August 1947. He was a highly successful songwriter for the rock star Raul Seixas until he met with his mentor who advised him to go on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. This walk changed his life and he converted to Christianity. This life-defining journey forms the theme of his first novel The Pilgrimage, published in 1987. He advocates through this book that “the extraordinary is always found in the way of the common people."

Coelho’s second book The Alchemist has become a universally admired modern classic because of its allegorical nature. It describes the journey of a young Andalusian shepherd boy named Santiago to the pyramids of Egypt in search of a treasure and the philosophy of the book is lies in these lines: “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it."

Brida is Coelho's third novel and narrates the story of young woman who experiments with sorcery and other magical traditions. In this novel, he dealt with the theme of the feminine face of God, which was a strange idea to most people.

The Valkyries is about the exorcism of personal demons and discovering one's strength. This autobiographical novel narrates how Paulo and his wife Chris go on a spiritual quest to the arid Mojave Desert to meet the Valkyries, a group of warrior women who travel the desert on motorcycles.

By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept, Veronika Decides to Die and  The Devil and Miss Prym are part of a trilogy called "On the Seventh Day". This trilogy is a week in the life of someone ordinary to whom something extraordinary happens.

The Fifth Mountain is based on the story of Elijah from the Bible and explores the prophetic questioning of authority, rebellion and liberation. At the same time the novel is a powerful metaphor of human self-confidence and strong desire for self-fulfillment by helping other humans.

The Manual of the Warrior of Light is a collection of Paulo Coelho's teachings summed up into one volume. It includes proverbs, extracts from the Tao Te Ching, the Bible, the book of Chuang Tzu, the Talmud and various other sources, and is written in the form of short philosophical passages.

Eleven Minutes narrates the story of Maria, a young girl from a remote village of Brazil, who goes to seek her fortune in Switzerland, only to find that reality is lot harder than she expected. But when she least expects it, she experiences love.

The Zahir is about a bestselling novelist who enjoys his luxurious and peaceful life, until the inexplicable disappearance of his wife from their Paris home. Coelho compares a marriage with a set of railway tracks which always stay together but cease to come any closer. This novel is journey from a stagnant marriage and love to the realization of unseen but ever increasing gravity between the two souls.

In Like the Flowing River, Coelho offers his personal reflections on a wide range of subjects from archery and music to elegance, travelling and the nature of good and evil. He shows us how life has lessons for us in the greatest, smallest and most unusual of experiences.

The Witch of Portobello starts with the death of the main character Athena and is narrated from the perspectives of many people who knew her. They each provide a different view of her, describing not only what they saw and experienced but adding their own impressions, interpreting her through their own beliefs and fears.

The Winner Stands Alone is set at Cannes during the Film Festival and narrates the epic drama and tension between the three main characters- Igor, Hamid and Gabriela in a 24 hour period. He offers a novel full of suspense, a mirror image of the world we live in, where our commitment to luxury and the success of any cost often prevents us from hearing what the heart actually whispers. He points out that money, power and fame are what drives most people.

Aleph is an autobiographical novel that depicts his search for spiritual renewal and growth. Coelho decides to travel, to experiment, to reconnect with people and the world. This journey helps him to open up to friendship, love, faith and forgiveness and be stronger in the challenges of life.

Coelho has written more than twenty novels and his recent work Manuscript found in Accra deals with the story of an Englishman who discovers a manuscript that figures an ancient alchemist named Copt, who answers questions of a crowd who are gathered inside the city gates of Jerusalem in 1099. What is success?” poses the Copt: “It's being able to go to bed each night with your soul at peace.” His works focus on the discovery of the self as means of spiritual fulfillment.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A tear

The light of your laughter,
The wonder in your eyes,
The pride of your work,

What all have you lost,
What all did the brutes
Wrest away from you!

 We will give you the tears,
We will remember your life,
We will keep you from slander,

But then what else can we give
Who have no power to return
What you lost- a promising life.


Friday, April 05, 2013

Female Quixote

You are in your twenties. You do not know what to do- whether to get married or pursue a promising career that exists in your dreams. You are brilliant; at college known for punctuality and studious hardworking nature. You have clear cut opinions on almost everything under the sun, including your future husband.

Secretly inside you live a person who believes in finding love somewhere quite unexpectedly but you don’t want that person to take control. For some strange reason love eludes you when it hits everyone everywhere: in buses, trains, offices, colleges, libraries, churches, hospitals, everywhere. No, its not that you do not go out but you are very serious about whatever you do. You go for work and keep cordial relationships with your male colleagues, who have a hard time understanding you. You go to church and either pray or sleep. You travel in buses full of guys but keep reading the boards everywhere. You visit the library crowded with handsome guys thrice a week but nothing interests you more than what’s new inside the well-vacuumed and orderly kept library.

Finally, when some guy is interested you are not and you don’t want to be either. You become conscious of all this stuff only when you decide to be good-looking on your cousin’s wedding day. You are no beauty but suddenly people take note of you clad in this strange costume and say: “Oh my God! You look beautiful. We’ll be attending your marriage next. May be I will talk to your mother. There are a few guys that I know.” There is laughter and you cannot help blushing. From uneducated relatives there are questions and sneers meant to make you understand that their hardly educated daughters had two kids and a handsome husband during the same period of time that you were working hard to earn a university degree.

Here you go. Suddenly you feel confused. You have dreams about your life though you do not know which route to pursue. These wise old women prescribe marriage for you as if you have become an old maid, as if marriage is the end of all these problems while you try to think about the whole lot of people who have trouble keeping their marriages intact.

Worse than the old women are your friends: school, college and workplace. They wonder when they can attend your marriage as if that was something they have looking forward to their whole life. Unbelievable. The haughty ones turn docile after marriage and speak in a sweet voice to their hubbies in a voice that makes you want to puke. In front of you they act that their life is so perfect and to have a perfect life what they advise you is to get married to someone they know: Do you know that my hubby has a friend named A, who is very good? He’s not that educated as you but he’ll keep you happy!” “Et tu Brute was not written without a reason.

If you are not a female Quixote, may be you are unbelievably blessed, lucky or born out of time in this strange age!

A Spring without voices

On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens and scores of other bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh.

Rachel Carson's Silent Spring published in 1962 was about the impact of industrialisation and urbanisation on the environment . It is a fable on the environmental apocalypse of the modern age. The title denotes the silence that comes over nature as the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of other bird species have become extinct.It was a spring without voices.

Carson, a marine biologist pointed out that the reason for this destruction of the environment in the United States was the uncontrolled use of organic pesticides such as DDT, aldrin and dieldrin used to control pest insects in agriculture. Though these compounds led to agricultural benefits, they posed serious threats to animal and human life as Carson proves by giving scientific evidence.

This book was a clarion call for greater awareness about the great destruction that human beings were causing to the Earth.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

The Name of the Rose

The good of a book lies in its being read. A book made up of signs that speak of other signs, which in their turn speak of things. Without an eye to read them, a book contains signs that produce no concepts; therefore it is dumb. This library was perhaps born to save the books it houses, but now it lives to bury them (Eco, 396).
Umberto Eco’s novel The Name of the Rose is a historical murder mystery set in a medieval monastery in fourteenth century Italy. What moves the story forward is the attempt of a medieval Benedictine monastery to preserve the aura of knowledge within its boundaries. Such an attempt to keep a work of art hidden, in this case, the second book of Aristotle’s Poetics, is not just for preserving the aura of arcane knowledge but not to destroy the order of the Benedictines. The book, which is believed never to have written or lost is in the library of the monastery but its existence is a secret as the library is not open to outsiders and functions by strange customs of secrecy. There are many secrets related to the library, which nobody know mainly because only the librarian knows about the contents of the library. The monks can only ask for titles but are not allowed in the place where books are kept. The library makes copies of the rare books with the help of illuminators and scribes but then the books are given only for that purpose. Murders happen because of this secret book of the ancients on laughter is lusted after by the scholarly monks. To investigate the murders, a Franciscan monk William of Baskerville arrives at the monastery along with his novice Adso of Melk. This monk, in a very Sherlock Holmes- like fashion deduces the truth of the matter from accidental incidents.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Nissim Ezekiel's "Goodbye Party for Miss Pushpa T.S"


our dear sister

is departing for foreign

in two three days,


we are meeting today

to wish her bon voyage.

You are all knowing, friends,

What sweetness is in Miss Pushpa.

I don't mean only external sweetness

but internal sweetness.

Miss Pushpa is smiling and smiling

even for no reason but simply because

she is feeling.

Miss Pushpa is coming

from very high family.

Her father was renowned advocate

in Bulsar or Surat,

I am not remembering now which place.

Surat? Ah, yes,

once only I stayed in Surat

with family members

of my uncle's very old friend-

his wife was cooking nicely…

that was long time ago.

Coming back to Miss Pushpa

she is most popular lady

with men also and ladies also.

Whenever I asked her to do anything,

she was saying, 'Just now only

I will do it.' That is showing

good spirit. I am always

appreciating the good spirit.

Pushpa Miss is never saying no.

Whatever I or anybody is asking

she is always saying yes,

and today she is going

to improve her prospect

and we are wishing her bon voyage.

Now I ask other speakers to speak

and afterwards Miss Pushpa

will do summing up.

By Nissim Ezekiel

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

A True Gift in Green

To know the mind of woman, he has to know first, the mind of the land.
Sarah Joseph is one of the celebrated women novelists of Malayalam literature and she has he has received numerous awards and honours such as Kendra Sahitya Academy Award, Kerala Sahitya Academy Award, Vayalar Award, Cherukad Award and O.V. Vijayan Sahitya Puraskaram. Her Malayalam novel Aathi was published simultaneously with its English translation Gift in Green by Valson Thampu in 2011. In her interview with Valson Thampu, Joseph speaks about how she modelled the land of Aathi on a island Valanthakkadu in Ernakulam district of Kerala. She was amazed by the lives of the people who subsisted in fishing, picking mussels and farming Pokkali rice. They earned as much as Rs. 300 a day picking mussels but never fished for more than that as they count on the fish and mussels as their fixed deposits. The author praises the subsistence perspective of the people of Valanthakkadu by basing a novel on their simple life.

The land of Aathi is pristine covered with water on all sides. The people lived the water-life, drawing sustenance from the water and the fields. Their water-life meant that their daily immediate needs were met from earth and water as they could collect enough food to feed the whole family just by working till noon everyday. The mangroves that surrounded the land of Aathi contained plenty of fish, which the people used to catch with their bare hands. During high tide, these fish and prawns were carried across to the rice fields, from where the people caught them. They also knew the secret of growing rice in salty waters. In Aathi, people from the ancient times lived the water-life, harvesting only what they need from nature.

The destruction of the pristine, land, water and its people starts with the advent of Kumaran, a business tycoon who sees in Aathi, the means of making money. With his coming, the modes of living such as the water-life and farming are replaced by construction of buildings resulting in pollution, creation of toxic waste and destruction of natural habitat. The novel also shows the environmentalist concerns of the writer as she describes the present-day issues of Kerala such as water contamination, lack of proper waste disposal systems, dumping of biomedical waste in rivers and waterbodies, the use of endosulfan to ensure profit in farming, the problems of landfilling, destruction of marshes disposal of plastic and biomedical waste and so on. However, nature cannot be exploited and contaminated forever and the waters of Aathi rise in a flood and purify the whole land.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

A decoration

Cat on a cold tin roof

Every picture speaks a story. This photo was snapped through the window on a cold day! I was coming down the stairs and saw that our neighbour's cat was napping on the tin roof, next to a madal (dried cocunut branch). This is the same villain who used to steal into our home and cause a lot of havoc.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Art of the Perfect Roti

Styles in cooking differ; as many styles are available as there are people. This is one lesson that I learnt once I got married. For many of the food items that I knew how to cook at home were made differently here and held with amusement as well.

It was strange how a simple task like making a chapattis or a roti can be so different. My mother makes it big and wide as big as the tawa at home. It's soft and my comments were always along the lines that all her anger at people she sublimated in the act of making the dough for chapattis.

Here, at the new place, the rotis were small enough to fit the vessel my new mother-in-law (I mean one and the only mother-in-law) had and she could make it round and soft and full, like the ones shown in the advertisement for atta.

First, my trials at making rotis were met with laughter and my husband would remark:" Do these rotis go to the gym everyday?"My father-in-law said: "Kid, I'm past 65 and my teeth are shaky. If I eat these everyday, most probably I wont even have to visit a dentist". True to what he said, three months after I landed, his tooth fell.

Somehow I kept on making rotis and didn’t give up. Finally in a historical moment that witnessed great applause from all, the roti came out perfectly made and soft. More than my years at the college, these few months in the kitchen were the toughest in history.

Friday, March 15, 2013

New Woman

This soul was once like a huge flame leaping to the skies,
Then it withered, dried and drooped to the very earth;
Sometimes, like Icarus, it leapt out of its many mazes,
But burnt out in the heady dash for total freedom.
Then she brought forth a new-born, a swaddled baby
She sang her magnificat of newly found motherhood;
The soul forgot its troubles for a joyous interval
And learnt how to escape the many mazes again.
Yet mostly this soul was a single-celled organism,
Cowardly and crawling in this huge universe,
Too silent, too shut out and too withdrawn,
Incapable of learning or making its way around,
Sometimes, it longs for the crazy days of yesterday,
When the sun of total freedom had burnt its wings.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

A writing woman gathers no fat

Every writer needs a space to write, be it a lap-top or a quiet corner in the room, where you can sit and mull over things, real and unreal, present and past, serious and trivial. That idea of a sacred space can be found in the writings of many women writers, especially Virginia Woolf who spoke of the need for having a room of one's own.

For a woman to write, she needs to be free from the guilt of not doing household chores, unless she is well-off and has one or many house-helps. Otherwise, writing is like walking on tight rope- you might fail to balance the work world, the home world and the world of words. But creating balance comes out of setting priorities in day-to-day life.

Writing is a great relief from the world of stress; it can release lots of tension and keep you occupied with the jigsaw of creating good content. The satisfaction that you derive from writing a page can never be compared to that a well-cooked meal or a sparkling floor as each has its own value in life; but a piece of writing has a lasting value in that a meal disappears in a day or two, depending on the artistic talents of the cook and the floors have to be swept again and again.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Barn-owl in the backyard