Saturday, January 30, 2016

Pensiamento Fantastico : Serendipity


I have always thought very highly of the Zen proverb: “When the student is ready, the master appears”. This I see is quite true be it a book, a friend, a call, or even an item of food. Though the reader might find it difficult to forgive the egotism of this Pensiamento Fantastico, I guess what I write has to be taken with a pinch of salt. 


I have been an avid fan of the concept of serendipity considering the fact that I have been amazed by my good fortune in getting some of my desires granted. The word means a pleasant surprise or a very fortunate occurrence. It is said that Horace Walpole coined in this word in a letter to his friend in 1754, where he makes a reference to a Persian fairy tale The Three Princes of Serendip, in which three princes main were always learning by accidental discoveries of things. 


Another favourite quote on serendipity has been from Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist: “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. In the novel, Coelho expands on the concept of the Soul of the World, which is supposed to bind all beings together. I guess that’s how Santiago creates the wind and saves himself and the Alchemist from death. 


However, the best description of this process comes from the nineteenth century American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson in his essay “The Oversoul”:

The things that are really for thee gravitate to thee. You are running to seek your friend. Let your feet run, but your mind need not. If you do not find him, will you not acquiesce that it is best you should not find him? for there is a power, which, as it is in you, is in him also, and could therefore very well bring you together, if it were for the best… Every proverb, every book, every byword that belongs to thee for aid or comfort, shall surely come home through open or winding passages. Every friend whom not thy fantastic will but the great and tender heart in thee craveth, shall lock thee in his embrace. And this because the heart in thee is the heart of all; not a valve, not a wall, not an intersection is there anywhere in nature, but one blood rolls uninterruptedly an endless circulation through all men, as the water of the globe is all one sea, and, truly seen, its tide is one.”
 
However, if you ask me whether I live only by this philosophy or whether it is possible to get anything specific with this philosophy, I can only answer in small print like advertisers do : Conditions Apply!

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can  apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.

The Ibis Trilogy

The Ibis Trilogy written by Amitav Ghosh consists of the novels Sea of Poppies (2008), River of Smoke (2011) and Flood of Fire (2015). Constructed on an epic scale, this trilogy shows the interconnected lives of people across India, China and Mauritius, all united by the factor that they were colonies of the British empire. The fates of these people are connected to the trade of opium, which was produced in India as a commercial crop much to the ruin of the Indian economy and extensively sold in China causing addiction among the Chinese population.


The first book of the trilogy,  Sea of Poppies begins with the life of Deeti or Kabutri-ki-ma, whose husband works in an opium factory and is addicted to opium. When her husband dies and she is tormented by her husband’s brother (who happens to be Kabutri’s father), she runs away with Kalua, a man from a lower caste. To escape from persecution, they join a group of people who are transported to Mauritius as girmitiyas on the ship Ibis. The other people whose lives become interlinked during the journey are  Zachary Reid, Miss Paulette Lambert, Jodu, Ah Fatt and Neel. The first book criticises the British introduction of opium as a compulsory crop in the place of food crops ruining the Indian farmers. 


The second book River of Smoke describes the girmitayas’ life on the island of Mauritius and their adventures. The British and the Indian traders earn fortunes by bringing opium to China until the Chinese government takes steps to prevent the large-scale influx of opium. The government takes preventive steps against opium addiction and they seize and burn the imported opium. The traders become discontented at this and have to flee for their lives. Neel and Ah Fatt escapes from the ship Ibis along with a few lascars. Mr. Bahram, the Parsi trader who happens to be Ah Fatt’s father appoints him as his munshi. This book is set mostly in Canton against the background of the First Opium War and shows how the Chinese cannot live without opium. 


The third book Flood of Fire spans across British India, China and Mauritius, where Deeti and her descendants have established themselves as settlers in the plantation. In the midst of the First Opium War,a  ship Hind sails from India to China with Zachary Reid in search of Paulette and with Shireen Modi who wants to get back her dead husband’s wealth. However, Zachary Reid forgets Pauline and has an affair with Mrs. Burnham, who becomes a likeable character as opposed to the first book where she creates all kinds of problems for Pauline. This book depicts Zachary’s initiation into the ways of the world. 

The Ibis Trilogy

The Ibis Trilogy written by Amitav Ghosh consists of the novels Sea of Poppies (2008), River of Smoke (2011) and Flood of Fire (2015). Constructed on an epic scale, this trilogy shows the interconnected lives of people across India, China and Mauritius, all united by the factor that they were colonies of the British empire. The fates of these people are connected to the trade of opium, which was produced in India as a commercial crop much to the ruin of the Indian economy and extensively sold in China causing addiction among the Chinese population.


The first book of the trilogy,  Sea of Poppies begins with the life of Deeti or Kabutri-ki-ma, whose husband works in an opium factory and is addicted to opium. When her husband dies and she is tormented by her husband’s brother (who happens to be Kabutri’s father), she runs away with Kalua, a man from a lower caste. To escape from persecution, they join a group of people who are transported to Mauritius as girmitiyas on the ship Ibis. The other people whose lives become interlinked during the journey are  Zachary Reid, Miss Paulette Lambert, Jodu, Ah Fatt and Neel. The first book criticises the British introduction of opium as a compulsory crop in the place of food crops ruining the Indian farmers. 


The second book River of Smoke describes the girmitayas’ life on the island of Mauritius and their adventures. The British and the Indian traders earn fortunes by bringing opium to China until the Chinese government takes steps to prevent the large-scale influx of opium. The government takes preventive steps against opium addiction and they seize and burn the imported opium. The traders become discontented at this and have to flee for their lives. Neel and Ah Fatt escapes from the ship Ibis along with a few lascars. Mr. Bahram, the Parsi trader who happens to be Ah Fatt’s father appoints him as his munshi. This book is set mostly in Canton against the background of the First Opium War and shows how the Chinese cannot live without opium. 


The third book Flood of Fire spans across British India, China and Mauritius, where Deeti and her descendants have established themselves as settlers in the plantation. In the midst of the First Opium War,a  ship Hind sails from India to China with Zachary Reid in search of Paulette and with Shireen Modi who wants to get back her dead husband’s wealth. However, Zachary Reid forgets Pauline and has an affair with Mrs. Burnham, who becomes a likeable character as opposed to the first book where she creates all kinds of problems for Pauline. This book depicts Zachary’s initiation into the ways of the world. 

Pensiamento Fantastico: The Ibis Trilogy


The Ibis Trilogy written by Amitav Ghosh consists of the novels Sea of Poppies (2008), River of Smoke (2011) and Flood of Fire (2015). Constructed on an epic scale, this trilogy shows the interconnected lives of people across India, China and Mauritius, all united by the factor that they were colonies of the British empire. The fates of these people are connected to the trade of opium, which was produced in India as a commercial crop much to the ruin of the Indian economy and extensively sold in China causing addiction among the Chinese population.


The first book of the trilogy,  Sea of Poppies begins with the life of Deeti or Kabutri-ki-ma, whose husband works in an opium factory and is addicted to opium. When her husband dies and she is tormented by her husband’s brother (who happens to be Kabutri’s father), she runs away with Kalua, a man from a lower caste. To escape from persecution, they join a group of people who are transported to Mauritius as girmitiyas on the ship Ibis. The other people whose lives become interlinked during the journey are  Zachary Reid, Miss Paulette Lambert, Jodu, Ah Fatt and Neel. The first book criticises the British introduction of opium as a compulsory crop in the place of food crops ruining the Indian farmers. 


The second book River of Smoke describes the girmitayas’ life on the island of Mauritius and their adventures. The British and the Indian traders earn fortunes by bringing opium to China until the Chinese government takes steps to prevent the large-scale influx of opium. The government takes preventive steps against opium addiction and they seize and burn the imported opium. The traders become discontented at this and have to flee for their lives. Neel and Ah Fatt escapes from the ship Ibis along with a few lascars. Mr. Bahram, the Parsi trader who happens to be Ah Fatt’s father appoints him as his munshi. This book is set mostly in Canton against the background of the First Opium War and shows how the Chinese cannot live without opium. 


The third book Flood of Fire spans across British India, China and Mauritius, where Deeti and her descendants have established themselves as settlers in the plantation. In the midst of the First Opium War,a  ship Hind sails from India to China with Zachary Reid in search of Paulette and with Shireen Modi who wants to get back her dead husband’s wealth. However, Zachary Reid forgets Pauline and has an affair with Mrs. Burnham, who becomes a likeable character as opposed to the first book where she creates all kinds of problems for Pauline. This book depicts Zachary’s initiation into the ways of the world. 

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can  apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.




The Invention of Wings


There were several books that I read last year but the most memorable among them is Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings published in 2014. The book, which was was selected for Oprah’s Book Club 2.0,  is set against the background of nineteenth century Charleston in North Carolina and deals with the story of the Grimke sisters who fought against slavery not just in writing but in practice as well. 


The two sisters Sarah Grimké and Angelina Grimké were famous for their abolitionist thinking to slavery as well as for their fight for women’s rights. In the history of the United States, Sarah Grimké was famous as the first woman to have written a comprehensive feminist manifesto Letters on the Equality of the Sexes published in 1837 and Angelina was the first woman to have spoken before a legislative body. Moreover, they wrote together the pamphlet American Slavery As It Is , which was an anti-slavery bestseller until Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published. 


The Grimké sisters spoke extensively in public against slavery and Sarah even taught her slave to read. However, these women had to struggle hard because they were much ahead of their times in their ideas of racial equality and gender equality. They faced plenty of opposition in the society that they lived in. Sarah even taught her slave Hetty to read and for this both of them were severely punished. 


The novel The Invention of Wings opens with Hetty Handful’s mother telling that “there was a time in Africa the people could fly”. She tells Hetty that this was how they had lived in Africa but lost their magic once they moved away from their homeland. She explains to Hetty pointing out her shoulder blades that these are what is left of the wings that she once had and that some day she will get back her wings.  Through her stories and her cleverness, Hetty’s mother Charlotte , who is a seamstress for the Grimkés instills in young Hetty’s mind, the desire to find her wings. 


The novel alternates between the narrative voices of Sarah Grimké and Hetty Handful. Sarah gets Hetty as a slave when she is twelve years and they bond quickly. Sarah is educated and wants to become the first female jurist but her dreams are dismissed as nonsense as she is a girl. In her childhood, she had a witnessed a slave being maimed and this leads to a speech problem in her. She is banished from Charleston and when she comes on a visit to her mother, she helps both Hetty and her sister Sky escape from slavery. Though it takes her many years, Sarah helps Hetty to find her wings. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Pensiamento Fantastico: Reading


Sometimes, it might be a chance meeting or a coincidence that connects you with someone who really appreciates the books that you love or the words that you like or even the crazy feeling of Nodens Tollens , (a word that a friend shared with me today) which means “the realization that the plot of your life doesn’t make sense to you anymore and that it requires you to go back and reread the chapters you had originally skimmed to get to the good parts, only to learn that all along you were supposed to choose your own adventure”. 


When this strange chemistry happens between a booklover and me, I am so ecstatic that I lose my concentration on day-to-day life.  At times, when I discuss books, some friends show surprise, sighing and implying that I am a lucky bitch to sit and read whatever I like whenever I want. But then, I think I do it at the cost of television, films and even life, which I don’t think might sound convincing to others. 


Many women complain that they lack time to read or that they don’t have a place to sit quietly and read. What they probably meant was that they could not possibly carry all the books that they wanted to read to a place where they can sit and read. That kind of a bliss of being far away from the maddening crowd of family and friends happens only to a few people, according to them. But on the other hand, what I thought of was that my best reading experiences were at the unlikeliest places and times possible. 


During most summer vacations, our family visited my mother’s friends, who had a huge collection of books at home that satiated our reading appetites. Once, they took my brother and me to a library, where I think I sat and read for around half an hour completely losing my sense of time. Another favourite space was obviously the dentist’s reception, where I had my weekly appointments for the braces. Sometimes, I hated it when my turn came to go inside. 


It was only last week that while waiting for someone to arrive in the reception of the office that I managed to read an Outlook Special Edition on Shakespeare and his contribution to the English language because of the ambience that the place had. But then, there were times when I could skip my beauty sleep to sit and read till the wee hours in the morning and still manage to look presentable in the morning. But now, if beauty and sleep are directly proportional, then I will be the most beautiful woman in the whole world. 

This blog post is inspired by the blogging marathon hosted on IndiBlogger for the launch of the #Fantastico Zica from Tata Motors. You can  apply for a test drive of the hatchback Zica today.