Category Archives: Wanderings

‘The Lowland’

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The Lowland – Jhumpa Lahiri

Often, halfway through a book, I wondered if that sway of a story gets lost over the years; much like relationship chemistry.  Books are supposed to pull you into its sway, making you undulate to its rhythm.  But books like The Lowland (Jhumpa Lahiri) convince me that, much like people, books too evoke different reactions. With some people you perpetually have chemistry; with some, you have it sometimes and with some others, you never have it . Also with books. Some are easy to read and make you feel bereft once you are done with the book. Others

While I was never a big fan of Interpreter of Maladies, I found The Namesake very lyrical. The language conveys a sense of the time that passes in her stories, gently, while creating a vivid trail in its wake. This book is also expansive, lyrical and spans several decades.

I found many parallels in The Namesake and The Lowland. Of course besides the setting in Calcutta. It’s set in a similar time frame. Lots of lines devoted to how bonds are formed after marriages. So many roles that come from just expectation alone, especially in the case of the women here. Mothers and daughters; mothers in law and daughters in law. I am beginning to see how my experiences shape what I read too. Resentment of traditional roles. Decision to not follow those roles. The constant social justification that needs to be given. All of these are just points in an otherwise sprawling story. But it affects the way I process and remember the story.

For me, a good book of an author makes me want to read all the other books I haven’t read yet. So Unaccustomed Earth, here I come.

 

I say…

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Every time you have a turn around in the way you think, you look back at most unexplained experiences and try to rationalised them (again). You hope this new insight will help explain the inexplicable. Of course that is not true. Not always at any rate.

A few days ago my mind wandered to one man who had come into my life for a brief six months. It was those six months where he was my neighbour in my new house. It was also those very six months when I was recovering from what seemed like a bad breakup (it was just a break up, no less bad or good).

He lived in a house by himself, with a terrace to boot. The terrace had a neat swing. He liked movies and books and made for a good conversationalist. The house I lived in was bigger but with fewer windows (and a pink tub!). With electricity being what it is in Delhi, I remember spending a lot of time chatting with him, discussing existential questions and even socialising some with his friends.

Once I left Delhi, we kept in touch for a while and it sort of petered off. But before it completely stopped, he indicated that when we indeed spending time together, he would have liked the relationship to have deepened beyond friendship. I was a little puzzled. Not entirely unexpected but slightly baffling because both of us ( in true breakup style – he too was smarting) would spend hours examining what we could have done differently. I had assumed what I was seeing was what I was getting, because that was true in my case.

But then when I mentioned to a couple of girlfriends, I was told, “What did you expect? You were spending so much time with him!”  So what I want means nothing? What I do only conveys intentions?  I knew why I was spending time with him, I thought he did too. I was not angry or anything at him but it left me wondering how many such friends I had lost to what they thought I wanted as opposed to what  I was actually saying.

I am usually upfront and can say things as they as are, especially when it comes to men and what I expect from a particular situation. But these times make me fumble. I have had more than my share of suggested questions about close friends ranging from “Are you seeing XYZ?” to “Why aren’t you seeing XYZ? You spend so much time with him and get along so well.” I am stumped for a reply so hopefully and gracefully, let that question pass me by.

But someone, somewhere else, recently mentioned how the whole pressure of being single, finding someone, striking a chord and letting that relationship develop has become a virtual impossibility. Should you meet some who excites you but you are still cagey to explore it fully, it is rare that your near and dear ones will allow you to do things at your own pace. Inadvertently, excited that you could be meeting some new and exciting, they titter and nudge and wink (not necessarily literally)  either pushing you closer quicker than you are ready for or just making it strange for all concerned. Of course these are friends and almost always, well-meaning ones. But what it effectively does is not allow things to develop organically. I can be secretive but I would hate to do it. When you are happy, the one thing you want to is shout it out and share with all your close friends.

But sometimes what you do is more effective than what you say, eh?

The snake eats his tail.

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There are times you know you want to say something but the words tenaciously remain out of your grasp. They hover like a taunt, just beyond your reach and you grapple as you type and erase and type and erase, wondering all along what were these oh-so-important thoughts that you wanted to deliberate but were not able to.

I guess the same analogy applies to situations. Sometimes they inflame you and inflame you so much that you want to immediately remedy or rectify them. Then, a few days later, you wonder what angered you so much. Slowly you begin to look at peaceful ways of resolving the same situation. Or in most cases, ignore that feeling till it recurs and hits you even harder this time around.

I want to agree

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What happens when there are two sides to an argument…you agree with one side.. but prefer the person making the other side of argument? How do you make up your mind? Especially if it is a subject you don’t read much about…

This essay has me in a quandary but I am the first to admit I don’t know enough about “regional writing” to comment on it. But, to me, English is an intrinsic choice, one that I make without a thought to the power it supposedly awards me or success it ensures. So do not relate to the point that nuanced writing in English is a deliberate attempt at enhancing Indianness. On the other hand, I intensely dislike writers who wrap India on a platter and serve to the West. Jhumpa Lahiri and many similar writers come to mind.

On the other hand, I am huge fan of Chandra and of his writing too. But now am feeling a wee bit forced like I have to like his opinions too (not neccesary I know). So I can’t make up my mind about which side of the issue I feel strongly for.

That apart, the essay is very well written.

Survival of the fittest?

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Sitting in my pantry, I noticed many crows on the ledge outside. Which seemed a little out of character. As there is never any food outside the pantry.

On further investigation I noticed a kite sitting further down on the ledge, eating a pigeon he had killed (I assume it was a pigeon for the crows seemed too smart)

The kite kept pecking and alternately calling his ilk. Wanting to share the loot I suppose. Very frantic calls, it sounded like.

The crows started crowding him and tried to peck at the dead bird. He kep swatting them with his tail but they wouldn’t give up. The crows even slid off the ledge, which actually made me laugh out loud.

Soon the kite had his fill but didn’t want to fly away ( or couldn’t) and kept sitting, hunched over the dead bird. The crows started to get nastier and the kite, edgier. I felt bad for the kite.. he couldn’t protect his food  even till the next meal.

I am sure that’s how nature intended it but made me feel small. When was the last time you had to fight for your own food?