Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Pensiamento Fantastico: The Kitchen God’s Wife

Amy Tan’s 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. Her mother Winnie reveals about her first marriage in China to a pilot named Wen Fu. 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 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. He asks her to take into consideration her husband’s opinion in the future. 

During 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. 

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 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. 

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.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Pensiamento Fantastico: Silent Spring

Rachel Carson is a marine biologist who wrote books and pamphlets on natural resources and conservation of the environment. She has already written a series of books on the sea such as Under the Sea-Wind, The Sea Around Us and The Edge of the Sea. However, her Silent Spring published in 1962 was a turning point in environmental studies because of its harsh criticism of the excessive use of pesticides in farming. 

She ushered in a significant change in environmental studies with the publication of her Silent Spring. This was published in serialised form in the New Yorker and later in the form of a book. It is about the impact of industrialisation and urbanisation on the environment . 

The title highlights the silence that come over nature as the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of other bird species have become extinct.The writer speaks of a springtime world that has become completely silent and no birdsongs are heard anywhere. 

Carson 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. 

She gives several examples of how the pesticides such as DDT, aldrin and dieldrin has managed to get into the human food chain largely through aerial spraying. She speaks of the large-scale contamination of the waterbodies in several places and the subsequent entry of these compounds into human and animal bodies. She gives the example of an egg that a child eats, which might contain traces of these compounds from the grain that the mother hen ate for its food. 

The harmful effects of these chemicals on humans and animals ranged from genetic mutation to cancer. However, what she predicted was the complete extinction of many bird species as a result of using pesticides. Moreover, she was of the view that the pests of the future might be resistant to these chemicals and might even result in species mutations. 

This book was a clarion call for greater awareness about the great destruction that human beings were causing to the Earth and its natural cycles. Though there was much protest from the chemical companies, Carson’s Silent Spring is a key text in environmental studies because it led to the banning of DDT in the US and to a greater awareness about the consequences of using deadly pesticides on the environment. It gradually led to the development of an ecocentric attitude in the latter half of the twentieth century.

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.

Pensiamento Fantastico: My River Green

The River Green always looks like a sheet of green glass, flowing majestically and serenely. It was in a small town beside this river Pamba that I grew up fighting with my brother and playing in its waters.

My memories associated with the river are innumerable.Every evening we, along with my aunt or grandmother and cousins would walk to the river and play in the water for an hour. Every day was fun, with us staying in the water for at least an hour, though both of us never learned how to swim, splashing and shouting, while the sun set and it grew dark.

In the still waters, near the banks, people washed clothes and for bathing or swimming they walked to where the flowing water was. It was an adventure to stand in the flowing currents without falling. It required considerable practice. 

Once we rescued a plaintain trunk from the currents and gave it to a neighbour who raised cows. It was a big adventure, something that brought a "we" feeling between my brother and me, who were like Tom and Jerry throughout childhood.

Then there are boat-rides across the river, holidays during floods (once we had 10 days of holidays) Onam and the Aranmula boatrace, when the decorated snakeboats travel across the river to the beat of the boatsongs. It can be heard from a distance and we would run to the riverbank on hearing the boatsong from the distance, abandoning our sadyas.

On the night of Thiruvonam, belief has that Lord Mahabali comes to see his subjects on his boat called Thiruvonathoni. After midnight, people wait on the banks of the river with lighted torches and lamps for the well-lighted Thiruvonathoni. This was one adventure for we, children to boast about. The ones who had slept that night had nothing to talk about and felt ashamed the next day.

Now the river has changed. It is no longer clean. Clean water exists in the middle of the river and it is a long walk. You need to wade through muddy waters to take bath in clean water and then after bath, through muddy waters again. 

Despite of many changes, this is one of the sacred spaces, I can reach in an instant, travelling in thoughts, to where I like to stand, on that mound of rocks taking in the entire view of the river looking like a large sheet of green glass.

I guess as a child, I viewed everything in relation to the river. Once during family dinner, when I was six or seven, I told my grandfather that the sky ended at the other side of the river. He roared with laughter and asked me:"Really?" 

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.