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.