So this year I had set an ambitious goal of reading 50 books on Goodreads for the 2019 Reading Challenge.
Today on 31st December, I finished reading 51 books! YAY! Check out my year in books here at Goodreads.
In 2020, I think I will limit my reading to half of the 2019 ambitious goal: to read 25 books in 2020 because I think 2020 will not be as relaxed as 2019!
By the time December came, I was sure to complete my challenge and so I decided to read a few Hindi novels I have at home. I am not a fast reader of Hindi writing having lost touch with reading in Hindi after college. So I thought December would be a great time to read in Hindi as I can take it slow and steady.
Consequently, I read only 3 books this month but they were all amazing! I had wanted to read one more book, a poetry collection by Dushyant Kumar titled, Saaye Mein Dhoop, but I did not make time for that though I have read it before.
I had also planned to read Anukriti Upadhay’s short story, Cherry Blossom but was not able to do that either. It is available online as part of one of the issues of The Bombay Literary Magazine and hoping to read it soon!
These are the three novels I read:
Welcome to the second Poem of the Month!
This month, December 2019, we will look at Carol Ann Duffy!
Carol Ann Duffy’s birthday is on 23rd December! She was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1955.
To celebrate her birthday, the second poem of the month will feature one of her poems.
Before that let us get to know her a little bit more, shall we?
Carol Ann Duffy is an acclaimed poet and playwright. She also writes picture books for children. She was the first female Poet Laureate of Great Britain. She held the position from 2009 to 2019! She has written several unique poetry collections such as Standing Female Nudes (1985), The World’s Wife (1999) and The Bees (2011). Check out my review of The Bees.
So now coming to the poem itself! My favourite collection by Duffy is The World’s Wife. It is a collection of poems that give voice to the female characters from historical, literary or mythical fields that have been overshadowed by their male counterparts. So the poems narrate the point of views of varying Western female figures from Mrs. Freud to Mrs. Faust, from Mrs Sisyphus to Demeter, from Mrs. Aesop to Little Red Hiding Hood and many many more. The poems, therefore, form part of a feminist revisionist mythology that is used here to reclaim female voices and experiences.
While it is extremely difficult to choose one from this collection because all of the them are so witty and so satirical! So here is one short, succinct one that will make you laugh!
7 April 1852
Went to the Zoo.
I said to Him—
Something about that Chimpanzee over there reminds me of you.
This poem is such a sing song one with simple rhymes of two, zoo and you.
The opening date is not significant but it is important to know that Darwin’s evolution theories were published in 1859. Perhaps, then, the poem is then trying to hint that it was Mrs. Darwin’s comparison that actually was behind Mr. Darwin’s ground breaking theories. In just four lines, Duffy has remarked upon the females behind scientific discoveries that are often ignored simply because of their gender!
The Hussain Alam House is about the changing life of Ayman’s (the narrator) house in the Hussaini Alam area of Hyderabad in Telangana.
Ayman speaks of each of the female relatives in her house who were dear to her and played a significant role in her life and her upbringing. These included her great grandmother, Qamar un Nissan or her Nanima; her grandmother, Meher un Nissan; her own mother, Naghma Soz; her sister, Mariam and her foster bua (which means a father’s sister, though in this case it was her grandfather’s adopted foster sister), Khudsia or Khalajaan.
A chapter is devoted to each of these members. By outlining their importance or her bond with them, Ayman also throws light on the house and the Nawabi culture they followed and on the festivals they celebrated. This also gives a small peek into Hyderabad’s old city and its lanes, buildings and bazaars.
The chapters speak of declining culture and fortune (and the decline in one is related to the decline in the other), of cheerful evenings of storytelling in the courtyard, of a mournful series of deaths, of arguments, secrets and the family drama within. The novel recreates a bygone era.
Mere words are not enough to capture the sheer brilliance of Agha Shahid Ali’s poems and their plaintive cry for his beloved homeland.
The poems of The Country Without a Post Office (published in 1997) are complex and allusive, recalling the culturally rich past of Kashmir, and linking that to the carnage in the 1990s. This creates a haunting continuum to the idea of Kashmir- of how it used to be a land where religion, culture, folktales merged effortlessly and how now it has turned into a land where, “death flies in.”
Needless to say, the poems in this collection are nostalgic, bemoaning the state of Kashmir of the 90s’. Nostalgia comes naturally in Ali’s poetry which the blurb describes as “Agha Shahid Ali’s finest mode, that of longing.”
This longing though is immersed not only in the melancholic but also the political, historic and the literal. Each poem mingles intense pain of various kinds, be it the pain of losing a son or a relative; of the distance between families; of the silence in the wake of the aftermath, with the history, culture and politics of the decade that pillaged an entire state. All of this pierce the reader’s heart and soul and engulf them in a profound sadness the poet holds for his home. Continue reading
Welcome to the first Short Story of the Month!
This month we will look at the short story, Girl by Jamaica Kincaid!
What is the short story about?
Girl by Jamaica Kincaid is so many things rolled in one, actually two pages. In essence, it is a bunch of instructions unloaded by a mother onto her daughter. The story begins with instructions on how to wash white clothes. They then talk about how the mother is teaching her skills such as sewing a button or growing okra. The instructions also cover a set of behaviours that a girl would be expected to follow such as how to eat and walk like a lady or even how to smile. We hear the daughter’s voice only twice. Once she is meekly contradicting her mothers assumption that she sings benna on Sunday and the second time, at the end, when she is posing a question to her mother.
Girl takes a good hard look at a mother and daughter relationship. There are a several specific references to Antiguan culture and as with Kincaid’s other work, critics have pointed out the autobiographical elements in this story too, yet the story does resonate with the idea of how mothers impose on their daughters the patriarchal expectations of society. Daughters thus grow up to be passive and unquestioning just as patriarchy would like them too!
It is also an indictment of mothers who perpetuate this cycle (in the story we do see how the mother carries assumptions that her daughter will surely become a slut). Yet at the same time, it also goes to show how the society traps mothers in this role of brainwashing their own daughters and by extension playing a major part in their dis-empowerment. Mothers know what society holds for their daughters when they grow up and they believe that the easiest way to fit in and be accepted into society is to follow their discriminatory norms. Thus, though the mother comes across as an overbearing figure in this story, one can also interpret the mother herself as a victim trapped in the vicious cycle of gender expectations. She does not know any other world and so passes on her own knowledge of how to be a woman to her own daughter.
Where to read it?
Find the short story here or here. Read and enjoy! I promise it will not take more than 15 minutes to read and process this short story.
Let us know in the comments below what you thought about the short story!
This is part of the series called, Short Story of the Month. Click here to find out more!