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The monsoon has made a comeback with a bang and rain can be so inspiring for writers and to pen down immortal verses of love. To get you into the romantic mode for the season, the post has a selection of 8 love poems to get you to open up your heart to that special someone. Don’t expect to find in the list the oft repeated ‘Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?’ (which though beautiful is too often listed in almost all collections and one should give other poems a chance as well, don’t you think so?) or  ‘How do I love thee? Let me count the ways,” (Again, the same argument).

The list will obviously be woefully incomplete. You can comment your favourite lines or favourite poems and add to the list. Feel free to share!

1) Love’s Philosophy

The fountains mingle with the river
   And the rivers with the ocean,
The winds of heaven mix for ever
   With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
   All things by a law divine
In one spirit meet and mingle.
   Why not I with thine?—
See the mountains kiss high heaven
   And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
   If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth
   And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
What is all this sweet work worth
   If thou kiss not me?

-P.B. Shelley

This is a short and succinct and clever poem arguing for the meeting of two loves.

2) Valentine

My heart has made its mind up

And I’m afraid it’s you.

Whatever you’ve got lined up,

My heart has made its mind up

And if you can’t be signed up

This year, next year will do.

heart has made its mind up

And I’m afraid it’s you.

-Wendy Cope

From her collection,Two Cures For Love:Selected Poems, it is one of the many poems is deals with love in her best comic way possible. Try and read her other comic, sarcastic takes on love as well.

3) The Ecstasy

Where, like a pillow on a bed
         A pregnant bank swell’d up to rest
The violet’s reclining head,
         Sat we two, one another’s best.
Our hands were firmly cemented
         With a fast balm, which thence did spring;
Our eye-beams twisted, and did thread
         Our eyes upon one double string;
So to’intergraft our hands, as yet
         Was all the means to make us one,
And pictures in our eyes to get
         Was all our propagation.
As ‘twixt two equal armies fate
         Suspends uncertain victory,
Our souls (which to advance their state
         Were gone out) hung ‘twixt her and me.
And whilst our souls negotiate there,
         We like sepulchral statues lay;
All day, the same our postures were,
         And we said nothing, all the day.
If any, so by love refin’d
         That he soul’s language understood,
And by good love were grown all mind,
         Within convenient distance stood,
He (though he knew not which soul spake,
         Because both meant, both spake the same)
Might thence a new concoction take
         And part far purer than he came.
This ecstasy doth unperplex,
         We said, and tell us what we love;
We see by this it was not sex,
         We see we saw not what did move;
But as all several souls contain
         Mixture of things, they know not what,
Love these mix’d souls doth mix again
         And makes both one, each this and that.
A single violet transplant,
         The strength, the colour, and the size,
(All which before was poor and scant)
         Redoubles still, and multiplies.
When love with one another so
         Interinanimates two souls,
That abler soul, which thence doth flow,
         Defects of loneliness controls.
We then, who are this new soul, know
         Of what we are compos’d and made,
For th’ atomies of which we grow
         Are souls, whom no change can invade.
But oh alas, so long, so far,
         Our bodies why do we forbear?
They’are ours, though they’are not we; we are
         The intelligences, they the spheres.
We owe them thanks, because they thus
         Did us, to us, at first convey,
Yielded their senses’ force to us,
         Nor are dross to us, but allay.
On man heaven’s influence works not so,
         But that it first imprints the air;
So soul into the soul may flow,
            Though it to body first repair.
As our blood labors to beget
         Spirits, as like souls as it can,
Because such fingers need to knit
         That subtle knot which makes us man,
So must pure lovers’ souls descend
         T’ affections, and to faculties,
Which sense may reach and apprehend,
         Else a great prince in prison lies.
To’our bodies turn we then, that so
         Weak men on love reveal’d may look;
Love’s mysteries in souls do grow,
         But yet the body is his book.
And if some lover, such as we,
         Have heard this dialogue of one,
Let him still mark us, he shall see
         Small change, when we’are to bodies gone.
-John Donne

No one can argue as well as Donne about the importance of spiritual and physical love between a pair of lovers. More of our contemporary Indian religious folks would do good if they thought like this as well. Suffused with sensual imagery, its one of my favourite poems

4)Love

Until I found you,

I wrote verse, drew pictures,

And, went out with friends

For walks…

Now that I love you,

Curled like an old mongrel

My life lies, content, In you….

-Kamala Das

Mostly known for writing about the hollowness of relationships between man and woman, this one is a gem: sweet, simple, and content.

5) As A Perfume

As a perfume doth remain

In the folds where it hath lain,

So the thought of you, remaining

Deeply folded in my brain,

Will not leave me: all things leave me:

You remain.

Other thoughts may come and go,

Other moments I may know

That shall waft me, in their going,

As a breath blown to and fro,

Fragrant memories: fragrant memories

Come and go.

Only thoughts of you remain

In my heart where they have lain,

Perfumed thoughts of you, remaining,

A hid sweetness, in my brain.

Others leave me: all things leave me:

You remain.

– Arthur Symons

Influences by the Symbolism movement in France and the Decadence Era of the 1890s, Symons in this poem has also vividly used the effect of senses-memories, smell etc to say how his love will always remain.

6)Marriages Are Made

My cousin Elena is to be married

The formalities have been completed:

her family history examined for T.B.

and madness her father declared solvent

her eyes examined for squints her teeth for cavities

her stools for the possible

non-Brahmin worm.

She’s not quite tall enough

and not quite full enough

(children will take care of that)

Her complexion it was decided would compensate,

being just about the right shade

of rightness to do justice

to Francisco X. Noronha Prabhu

good son of Mother Church.

Eunice de Souza

 And this is sadly how love is usually accepted in India: through the anachronistic mechanism of arranged marriage and as the poem rightly shows it is a system that treats the girl as nothing but a product having certain materialistic characteristics. Eunice de Souza is the one writer in India who like, Wendy Cope, uses sarcasm and dark humour to showcase the irony of things we often take for granted.

7) A Statue of Eros (Zenodotus)

Who carved Love
and placed him
by this fountain,
thinking he could control
such fire with water?
-(translated from Greek byPeter Jay) 
A concise, precise sharp poem.
8)Bedtime
We are a meadow where the bees hum,
mind and body are almost one
as the fire snaps in the stove
and our eyes close,
and mouth to mouth,
the covers pulled over our shoulders,
we drowse as horses drowse afield, in accord;
though the fall cold surrounds our warm bed,
and though by day we are singular and often lonely.

– Denise Levertov

Not many know about this writer but she has some of the empathetic, sensitive poems that deal with a range of topics from love, marriage, Vietnam war etc. I love this poem as it closely marks the intimacy of lovers at night, in bed.

Well if this is not enough, then here are some other poems you can take a look at:

1) Resignation by Nikki Giovanni (it is an unabashed declaration of love)

2) The Clod and the Pebble by William Blake (Again, a succinct and precise argument in favour of love)

3) Delight in Disorder by Robbert Herrick (depicts the physical passion of love) (The cavalier poets are a delight to read because of their open way of dealing with love with none of the shyness of the previous poets)

4)Lover’s Infiniteness by John Donne

5)You by Carol Ann Duffy

6) Pablo Neruda poems

7) Shakespeare sonnets

8)Unclaimed by Vikram Seth

This list can go on and on and on…so add some more poems you like/love/detest. Comment away and make the list even longer. Hope you enjoyed this post!

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“…our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but-mainly-to ourselves-” Julian Barnes, The Sense of an Ending. 

So says the protagonist, Tony Webster,of the Man Booker Prize winning novel, The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. In a nutshell, the novel is precisely just that-A man in his 60s looking back, retelling and re-examining his life’s story and certain events in them.  However, it isn’t a Charles Dickenish kind of a novel where Copperfield will look at each and every event of his life and bore us to death. The story of his life that Tony tells us and perhaps to himself too is quite a succinct, precise one with frequent ramblings on the importance and unreliability of memory and passing of time and life in general. And that is how Barnes’ prose also works: clean and full of precision-a kind of no nonsense, no frills, not too overtly nostalgic look at one’s life.

The novel is divided into two parts. The first part is a quick look at the Tony’s life in school with his group of friends and how they meet the intellectual and seemingly serious Adrian Finn. He talks of his college life, his girlfriend Veronica and how things get complicated in that relationship. With a witty and engaging narration, Tony gives in a good, tongue-in-cheek manner all that there is to school and teenage life-friends, love, college, partying, being together and promising a sincere lifelong contact and a kind of innocent idealism about everything. But this not in a cliched style that will make you retch and cringe with the nostalgia usually associated with those times but will make you say, “yes even I had those very same thoughts when I was a kid.” In the second part, Tony looks at back at some of those events and when unexpectedly a will bequeaths Adrian’s diary to him, he is forced to look at his break up with Veronica and his relationship with Adrian in a fresh light and come to turns with what had happened then despite his memory’s unwillingness to do so. This quest turns the story into a quasi-suspense novel without letting go of its quasi-philosophical ramblings about re looking at life.

The narration is very conversational and Tony tells his story as if he were orally narrating it to some listeners which is exactly what makes the text engaging. The reader is constantly acknowledged and addresses to and thus we feel drawn into the story and relate to it easily-who doesn’t nostalgically look back at their good times in life, who doesn’t invent memories, who doesn’t read into the past and reasons it out-aren’t we all guilty of that, of pruning the bad parts and remembering only the good aspects, of inventing our life’s story for ourselves? There is therefore a kind of universalism in his pondering about life but without making it stereotypical and without imposing it on the reader.

With many quotable quotes and witty phrases and one liners that may or may not hit you with a profound realisation, The Sense of an Ending is a brisk, powerful and moving tale of the uncertainties of life.  The end is completely surprising and revelation of a bitter truth does somehow communicate ‘the sense of an ending’ in a way. Cannot reveal more, would be quite a spoiler and would simply ruin the fun of finding out on your own. All I can say is highly recommended. But do not read it just because it won some fancy prize but because it can say a lot about the vagaries of life-more than those silly philosophical books anyhow and more importantly read it because well what could be more joyful than picking up a book and immersing yourself in it and falling in love with another author’s works?

Teenage years have been stereotyped and clichéd by the media so much so that being a teenager means to have a strict set of homogeneous experiences which completely undermines the capacity of teens to be so much more. Books have long fed into this fascinating stereotyped teenage experience-they have from time to time talked about teenage love, teenage angst, teenage rebellion etc.  ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’ by Stephen Chbosky cannot be classified as just another book about teens as it uniquely reinforces as well as breaks many teen related stereotypes.

The most striking part of ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is the epistolary style of the book. Who associates teens with letter writing any more?  Or even diary entries for that matter! But in a not so distant past of the 1990s’ when internet revolution had not yet occurred, letters and diaries weren’t seen as abnormal.

Jumping now to the story, ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’ is about Charlie-a shy introverted boy-who is entering high school with a lot of trepidation of being able to fit in and find the right friends along with other issues of his own. Charlie narrates his experiences through letters which he writes to an anonymous friend. He eventually is able to strike up a conversation with Patrick, a guy from his shop class, during a football game and Patrick introduces Charlie to the rest of his gang-Sam, Mary Elizabeth, Bob, Dave etc. Soon he is part of that gang and partying, doing drugs, dating-all the things the world thinks teens usually are up to all the time. Along with his good social circle, Charlie is also good in his English class and his teacher, Bill, gives him books to read outside of the syllabus. It becomes one mixed adventure for Charlie as he charts out his way through one year of high school with his friends and also comes to terms with the idiosyncrasies of his family and also his past. The story thoroughly relates the anguish of teens to meet the expectations of the experiences that they should necessarily have. The story talks of how those very experiences are good to have but there is so much more to a teenage life than that. It’s more about discovering who you are and the moments, no matter how fleeting they might be, that will be memorable and the friends and classmates that you would remember.

Charlie’s language in his letters is very simple and intimate. His statements are at times so facile yet so profound. They make you sit up and acknowledge the things you take for granted. There have been speculations that Charlie is an autistic in the novel which might explain his simplistic, emotional understanding of everything around him and his emotional responses as well. ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’ also has this ability to touch upon the mundane and every day, daily activities in such a way as to show that it is these little things that make life worthwhile and meaningful. The time in which it is set is the 1990s’. It is thus refreshing to see teenagers who aren’t obsessed with their Facebook profiles or addicted to their cell phones. The 1990s’ was a time of cassettes, letters, typewriters and good music which is showcased brilliantly in the novel.  The other characters particularly Patrick, Sam and Mary Elizabeth are well etched out and have their own quirks and unique personalities. The novel also highlights that it is perfectly normal to be different and to have different experiences in your teenage years.

A let down of the book is the one-dimensional aspect of Charlie and his limited responses to every situation of his life.  For every good thing, he simple feels ‘happy’ never ‘joyous’, or ‘ecstatic’ or anything other than ‘happy’ and for every bad thing, he feels like crying. It is hard to reconcile with such neutral responses from such an apparently intelligent mind. Another negative aspect of the book is that it tries to cram in a lot of issues and concerns without any concrete resolutions for them. It talks about familial fragmentation, sibling rivalry, child sexual abuse, homosexual love, depression etc. all together. These are all floating around with nothing to tie them together with.

The film version of the same name which came out in 2011 is equally engaging and stays true to the plot and story perhaps because it is directed by the author himself. The actors have done a commendable job to bring the characters to life along with the book’s focus on the lasting impression the teenage years have on the self- discovery. The setting of the 1990s’ has also been wonderfully captured by the film.

The final verdict would definitely be to buy the book and catch the movie and perhaps it will make you rethink your teenage life or make you relive it.

A fragile love flowered in the vast, desolate,empty Yorkshire moors between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. The latter was adopted by Mr. Earnshaw, the master of the manor, Wuthering Heights but was hated and ill treated by his son, Hindley. His daughter, Catherine, on the other hand, soon became friends with him after her father’s death and because of Hindley’s tyrannical transformation thereafter. Heathcliff soon fell in love with her because of the care and affection she bestowed upon him that no one else in the family or neighbourhood ever did. However, Catherine’s reluctance to marry Heathcliff shattered him and turned him into a diabolical man set out to ruin everyone and everything. However, he remained steadfast in his love and even more so in his revenge.

This story told as a flashback  by the housekeeper, Ellen Dean, to the Heights’ new tenant, Mr. Lockwood, is none other than ‘Wuthering Heights’ written by Emily Bronte which is a classic love story

that many, if not all, voracious readers will recognize. Bronte gives the reader a look into the twisted, cruel nature of love which for many readers will be a bitter pill to swallow. The novel does not exalt the emotion of love or the two lovers and does not portray love as a goody-goody thing that magically resolves everything. It provides grim picture of love and a plethora of disturbing characters who are warped in their narrow, small lives. The portrayal of the anti-hero Heathcliff is marvellous. There is also a lovely blend of the surroundings with the story. Its almost as if the nature of the novel’s setting-the moors-seeps into the storyline, making it as sad and desolate as itself.

Emily Bronte’s bold exploration of the dark side of love and the pressures of society on it is commendable. She does not idealize love but rather projects an almost real picture of the misfortunes of falling in love without heed to the norms of status and society. Therein perhaps lies the reason for the book’s popularity till today. Its depiction of the tragic love is surpassed by few authors.

‘Wuthering Heights’ is undoubtedly an unconventional love story with almost nothing positive about it except perhaps Bronte’s style of writing and Heathcliff’s undying love for Catherine.

Are you tired of watching the same,old,boring, cheesy, Bollywood or Hollywood romantic comedies or chick flicks? Do you absolutely scorn those ridiculous lovey-dovey songs that do nothing to take the plot forward? Or scoff at the, lets face it, stupidity of such films?

Then, Shakespeare comes to your rescue! Now the last thing most people would want is to read the Bard’s plays rather than watch those crappy chick flicks. You agree, don’t you? However, most of the plots of these contemporary rom coms have been inspired by his plays or have elements from many of them. The difference lies in the fact that the plays are far more intricately written than the soppy,mawkish rubbish that film industries churn out regularly.

Hence one simple Shakespeare play that is sure to lighten the scorn and fatigue created by scores of the more or less similar roms coms is the famous, hilarious, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.‘ You may have read a summary or watched the film but nothing can beat watching/perusing the actual play with its funny twists and turns, ample confusion and blunders, modicum of magic and loads of love to entertain you thoroughly.

Taken from ebookee.org

Now comes the plot which is rather complicated but I’ll try my best to explain. There are essentially three worlds described in the play-the world of Athenian lovers, the world of the fairies and the world of the Athenian workers. The play starts off in Athens where the Duke Theseus is waiting for his wedding day anxiously. He is to wed Hippolyta who is an Amazonian queen. To his court comes Egeus followed by her daughter, Hermia and two young men, Demetrius and Lysander. Egeus complains to Theseus about Hermia’s wish to marry Lysander which is contradictory to his own desire that Hermia must marry Demetrius instead. Theseus supports Egeus and believes that Hermia must do as her father wishes as that is the law of Athens,disobedience to which will result in death. Seeing that Hermia and Lysander don’t stand a chance against the duke’s or the former’s father, the young couple decide to run away in the forest. Hermia tells of this plan to Helena, her friend who likes Demetrius blindly but the feeling is not mutual. Helena tells Demetrius about Hermia’s plans and so he too goes in the forest in search of them and Helena follows Demetrius. The forest is the realm of the fairies and the King and Queen of the fairy worlds are Oberon and Titania respectively. This royal couple has been quarreling over an Indian boy who Titania has adopted. Oberon wants the boy for himself but Titania refuses to part with him. Meanwhile, when Helena follows Demetrius in the forest, Oberon sees them and hears their conversation. Demetrius is scorning Helena but she is adamant in her love.(One point to note is that the Athenians cannot see the fairies). Oberon summons Puck, an evil cum good spirit who is Oberon’s servant as well, and tells him to get the flower whose love juice when sprinkled on the eyes of a person on waking up falls in love with the first person who he/she sees. The Fairy King wants Puck to do that with Titania and tells him to sprinkle on an Athenian man(he does not specify whom as he has not seen Lysander yet) as well. Puck successfully does his first task. However the latter is messed up-instead of putting it on Demetrius,Puck puts it on Lysander and the first person he sees is Helena (One can imagine all must have broken loose in the forest because of this confusion). Oberon wants Titania to fall in love with some beast or an ugly being. Puck sees a bunch of workers rehearsing for a play which they want to perform at Theseus’ wedding. He transforms a worker’s, Nick Bottom’s, head into an ass and Titania sees this fellow first on waking up. This along with Puck’s mistake lead to comical consequences that have slight dark undertones and it is through these misunderstandings that the Athenian lovers find their love and Oberon is able to get back Titania’s affections and her Indian boy. The play happily ends with the marriage of the Duke to Hippolyta.

You seriously did not expect it to end any other way, did you?

Despite its predictable ending, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream‘ provides a wonderful take on the notions and idea of love, provides a glimpse into Shakespeare’s mastery of weaving the different strands of the three plots into one fitting conclusion, proffers a peek into certain Elizabethan conventions of life, theater, patriarchy etc.

Now this is only a very short synopsis of a marvellous romantic comedy play that is extremely fun and merry to read. It does not and cannot encompass the play’s beauty,comedy and complexity wholly. There are so many layers to ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream‘ that one is perplexed whether Shakespeare wrote it only for mere entertainment or for other instructional purposes as well. It may not be one of his best plays but still remains a popular one that is sure to make anyone laugh. And if the Shakespearean language daunts you, don’t fret, it isn’t that difficult. Just try reading it aloud, going with the flow of the verse, comprehension will come to you eventually (Plus the notes and the annotations help a lot). And if you can, go watch its performance which will further deepen your understanding of the play and perhaps kindle a love for Shakespeare forever freeing you from the tedious rom coms of today!

Love is complex, we all know but definitely not as complex as D.H. Lawrence makes it to be in his gigantic novel, ‘Women In love.’ Not only is it massive, but Lawrence just makes every idea extremely complex which makes it quite difficult to read the novel. Infact when it came out in the 1920s’ people then also said that they found the book too difficult to read. And it definitely is even till now because I forced myself to finish the book as I hate leaving books unfinished no matter how bad they are.

Taken from goodreads.com

Ok, first, lets clear one misconception that one gets because of the title: ‘Women In Love’ is not a book about lesbian love! It does have references to homosexuality but it is definitely not the main focus!

Now that that’s cleared up, let us go to the plot. ‘Women In Love‘ begins with two sisters, Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen who discuss about marriage. The former is a teacher while the latter is an artist. They live in Midlands in England and on one occasion, the sisters meet two men, Gerald Crich- an industrialist who owns coal mines- and Rupert Birkin who is a school inspector. There is also Hermione Granger um sorry I mean Hermione Roddice who was a love interest of Rupert. These five become sort of friends who practically do nothing except discuss difficult, intellectual things that helps them in no way to make a head or tail out of the issue they are discussing. These discussons seem to be the only thing they do beside attending parties and all that!!! They are profound at times, not the parties I mean, but the discussions, but get really boring because the plot doesn’t move forward quick enough. Ursula falls in love with Rupert while Gudrun falls in love with Gerald but the quartet is too thick headed to admit they are in love and go about having rambling, pointless discussions before even admitting it!!! I dont even know how Ursula and Birkin end up getting married but they do(Somehow!). Meanwhile Gudrun and Gerald are vacationing in the Alps. I think it is over there that Gudrun strikes a friendship with Loerke, a fellow artist from Dresden.

Loerke is my favorite character in the novel. He is quirky and so witty. Well, he is quirky in a good way! All the other characters are also quirky but in a stupendously intellectual,boring, complex,roundabout manner! Loerke is direct and straightforward and has no pretensions!

Well, now we are digressing! Well  I am not giving  away the end of the book because it is would be truly a spoiler to tell you all what happened to the quartet’s love story. Go read the end for yourselves!

Women In Love‘ was not an enjoyable book and I labored really hard to complete it. D.H Lawrence threw several complex notions and ideas about so many things with Rupert being his mouthpiece. His writing is very Victorian despite it being written in 1920s. But that is the best part of the book-his writing. The descriptive style makes so many things in the book come alive such as the quartet’s intimacy, their perplexity over life and love, their constant discussions,the industrial cum countryside setting, the parties and the best part-Gudrun’s friendship with Loerke.

Women In Love‘ does question a lot of things mainly at least the notions of love with a woman and a man. Then the process of industrialization seen through the eyes of Gerald. There is almost a Futurist fascination with machines and Gerald in general comes across as a misanthrope. Changes in the aaspects of British countryside brought about by industrialization are also pointed out through Gudrun and Ursula’s conversations and will be more pronounced if one reads, ‘Rainbow’ before reading this novel as the former is a prequel to the latter. Women’s empowerment is also sketched out but still the two women protagonists are more or less dependent on the men but they still are quite bold, strong characters.

I would not recommend ‘Women In Love’ namely because it is tedious, slow in pace and tooooo much strain on the brain!!!! Although any voracious reader is free to take it up!

The problem with reading an awesome novel by a particular author is the high expectations one has with the other novels and when that doesn’t happen,you feel heartbroken for both yourself and the author. And that’s exactly what happened with ‘Hullabaloo In The Guava Orchard‘ written by Kiran Desai. Having read her other, more famous, Booker prize winning novel, ‘The Inheritance Of Loss,’ which is quite splendid weaving strands of varying themes into a beautiful story, I built up many sky high praises for Kiran Desai. But, unfortunately, her debut novel doesn’t come close to her 2nd one. ‘Hullabaloo In The Guava Orchard,’ is a good read nonetheless, yet lacks the brilliance that lights up the storyline of ‘The Inheritnace of Loss.’

Taken from christophersrarebooks.com

The plot of ‘Hullabaloo In The Guava Orchard‘ begins with the birth of Sampath in an apparently middle class family living in a village named Shahkot. Then the novel does an Indian soap opera kind of leap and we see Sampath twenty years later, quite dull, and doomed as a failure by his father. Only his mother, Kulfi, has faith that her son will be able to be something in life. And ho! what do you know, he does manage to do just that. But not before getting fired from his clerk job in the post office and running away from Shahkot to be away from the misery of life. He then comes across a guava orchard and decides to climb on a guava tree and interestingly finds peace and solace over there. He feels uncluttered and unfettered on that tree. With a quirk of fate, he gets mistaken by a holy man atop a tree and his father gets a brilliant idea to juice out money from this venture. People flock to listen to his wise words and seek his advice and blessings! Sampath thus from being a good for nothing fellow becomes a famous Monkey Baba revered by one and all. Apart from Sampath, we get to see the rest of his peculiar family like his mother who relishes food and whipping up quite grand and glorious dishes. Then his sister, Pinky who falls in love with an ice cream seller, Hungry Hop.

The one word for this novel is eccentric. ‘Hullabaloo In The Guava Orchard‘ reminds one of the bumbling comedies staged during Elizabethan Age that had similar comic situations with myriad quirky characters. The book gives a satirical take on rural/town India and its obsession with godly figures. It highlights the dishonesty that prevails among the fake babas that spring up in all nooks and corners. Of course, Sampath never intended to become a Monkey Baba. He in fact wanted to run away from all things pretentious. So perhaps Desai is trying to bring out how holy men should be in their heart and soul? Well, one can interpret it in anyway one wants. The characters are also well fleshed out particularly Kulfi whose love for food has been highlighted since page 1.

While the comic ans satirical part of the book is perfect, its the Bollywoodish touch and the simple, immature writing and the weak climax that make the book rather disappointing. Its quite entertaining and funny in its ludicrous situations but not really a must read, though a fun read!

Well, you could either go for it and enjoy the fun or avoid it completely. Take your pick!

When the world hears about Pakistan, the first thoughts that comes to mind are terrorists, fundamentalists, terrorism etc thanks to the biased media.Nevertheless, a peek into Pakistan’s literary world shows that the country is much more than just that, much more complex with a labyrinth of different people and a varied society. Similarly, a glimpse into Mohsin Hamid’s debut novel, ‘Moth Smoke‘ will reveal something beyond that, will narrate a story of an ordinary man whose story could have be set in just about any country of the world. Its an engaging read depicting Pakistan’s society in an unmistakable Gatsby like manner.

Taken from indiaplaza.com

The prologue of ‘Moth Smoke‘ indicates that the story is loosely based on Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan’s sons’ rivalry. But with a twist. And that is that the protagonists are in an era of nuclear testing in the year 1998 in the modern city of Lahore. And the only resemblance they have to Shah Jahan’s sons are their names and rivalry-Aurangzeb and Daru. And in the end, it is Aurangzeb who turns out triumphant as was the case in the Mughal era when Aurangzeb defeated his brother.

Esssentially, the main protagonist is Darashikoh Shezad or Daru who is a banker living in Lahore. He gets fired from his job and from thereon begins his slow, drug filled downfall. He falls for his best friend Aurangzeb’s (Ozi in short) wife Mumtaz which have severe consequences for him. Daru is unable to find a job which results in loss of self respect, loss of electricity, loss of a faithful servant, loss of family, loss of almost everything that was once important to him. He begins to sell drugs to get his income ticking and even partners in a crime. With Ozi and Mumtaz as friends, he is able to get by and even get into classy, super rich parties where Hamid shows the rot that festers not only in Daru but also in Pakistan’s elite. Behind all the alcohol and drugs and sex lies a decline that is hard to miss.

But the story is more about Daru’s decline. ‘Moth Smoke‘ is about love, passion, idealism and jealousy. Hamid takes an old storyline-an unhappy wife, an uncaring husband, a caring friend and an steamy extra marital affair- and sprinkles his own charm over it to weave a novel story about love as an obsession and the lengths people go to achieve it and destroy those who take it away from them.

A prominent motif of the novel are moths who enter Daru’s house constantly after his electricity is cut off. They circle around the candle flames knowing that is is dangerous , that it will singe their wings. Yet they continue to romance with it, enjoying the risk that entails. Similarly, Daru loves Mumtaz knowing very well that she is a flame who can annihilate him because if Ozi came to know about their relationship it would bring on his ire on Daru.

The other themes could be corruption in society, nuclear war, the problem of unemployment among the educated youth, the elite’s superficial appearance and several more. Just like a variety of themes, ‘Moth Smoke‘ also has a number of characters apart from the love triangle like Daru’s servant-Manucci, the rickshaw driver/criminal-Murad Badshah, Daru’s family, Daru’s professor-Julius Superb and several more that add to the eclectic Pakistani contemporary society. We hear their stories through their own voices and also get to know about Daru’s personality a little more from these multiple narrators.

Moth Smoke‘ is a commendable novel, written in an unique style, blending in history with the present, presenting the story as a presentation in the court, mingling several voices to tell a single story yet at the same time bringing in tales of a great many myriad people! A promising read that touches upon an old theme in an excitable novel way. Go ahead and grab it!

We all have read stories of abusive families, violent relationships and we are bombarded with it even by the television media. We are exposed to it to such an extent that it gets morbid. Now suppose there was a book that looked at these aspects from a different view, a subtle view;wouldn’t that make the novel with a used storyline, well, quite, ‘novel’? But well, you’ll ask, is there such a book??  But of course there is…there are always all kinds of books to be read!

Taken from paperbackswap.com

And this one is called, ‘The Blue Bedspread‘, a debut novel of Raj Kamal Jha which chronicles a tale of a abusive family history and incestuous relationships. And it is quite a quick, interesting read that still manages to evoke a spectrum of touching, depressing, momentous, happy emotions!

The story starts with an unnamed narrator who hears of his sister’s death during childbirth. His sister gave birth to a baby girl who he takes home for the night. Fearing that some other people might want to adopt the girl, he begins writing his family’s story so that the baby knows of its background, knows more about her mother and the family she came from. As he begins to write, the stories initially revolve around innocuous, childlike tales but gradually they begin to reveal the rot that festered in his family. The narrator opens a can of worms and the reader finds out about certain dark secrets of the abusive father, of the bold, defiant sister, of his mother, of the narrator himself. He talks of a blue bedspread that symbolizes the intimate relationship between his sister and him. That blue bedspread comes to symbolize a different world, away from the trauma of a dysfunctional family. In the end, the reader sees the shocking, exact nature of that relationship.

Raj Kamal Jha in ‘The Blue Bedspread‘ has skillfully written vignettes about the narrator’s family. It comes across as a jigsaw puzzle that the reader has to solve to view the complete picture.  Each vignette has its own mood, emotion, feel and yet each is interconnected with a thin strand of the narrator’s memory and facts. The novel could have worked well as a collection of short stories as well because of this aspect. The writing style is sparse, straightforward, precise and to the point. It does not mimic other more famed Indian writers like perhaps Salman Rushdie or Siddharth Dhanwant Shanghvi who use either countless descriptions or a flowery prose.  Yet, the book seems, at least to me, very similar in terms of structure to Arundhati Roy’s ‘The God of Small Things.’ It might be written by an Indian author but the subject of the book is universal and though it is set in Kolkata, the narrator’s abusive family could be from any part of the world-be it Delhi, Mumbai, Shanghai, Nairobi, Milan, or any other corner. ‘The Blue Bedspread‘ has a non linear narration, no fixed time line as it moves from one time span to another.

Unfortunately, this jumbled up narration can get confusing, jarring and even nonsensical. Certain vignettes also seem very inappropriate as they do not help the story to move forward nor are they very cohesive. The lack of a cohesive narration and structure of vignettes mars the effect of the story.

Its a great book to read, with Jha giving soft touches to a melancholic scenario, giving it a fresh look, yet gently showcasing the immense, long lasting impact of such family violence. But be wary of its narration and structure.

‘The Last Song Of Dusk’ written by Siddharth Dhanvant Sanghvi is a beautifully conjured novel, a moving tale of singular people and their extraordinary lives.

Taken from scholarswithoutborders.in

The novel begins in the early 1900s’ with Anuradha’s story. She is going from her hometown Udaipur to Mumbai to meet Vardhaman Gandharva, a potential marriage partner. Just when it seems that things may not work out, Vardhaman openly admits his love for her and they predictably get married. Their love blossoms splendidly like a lovely flower. However, later, an unforeseen tragedy strikes them both tearing them asunder and changing Vardhaman irrevocably. Anuradha goes back to Udaipur where she dabbles and masters over the music and the wondrous songs that are an integral part of her soul. In the course of this stay, she meets other extraordinary people like Nandini who is an unusual artist and an even unusual woman having her own tragic tale. Will Anuradha and Vardhaman overcome the tragedy that ripped them apart? Will their love blossom fruitfully once again or will it be lost forever?

‘The Last Song of Dusk’ abounds with comparisons which increases the depth of the emotions, thoughts, situation etc., helps in understanding it better. The novel is replete with romanticized descriptions. Sanghvi has a very flowery style of writing. He infuses great grandeur and oodles of opulence not only in the story’s setting but also in the copious descriptions. Everything in the novel is exquisite. There is great abundance whether it is the character’s emotions, the royal settings of Udaipur or British city of Bombay or just the  physical beauty of a human. Everything is made out to be insanely beautiful and he uses exquisite words and expressions to convey that beauty to the reader. For eg, pashmina of exquisite remembrances. (pg. 80). There are instances of magic realism suffused in the story. Sanghvi has also made music an important part of the story. It is manifested literally in the many songs, symphonies and musical instruments that are described. There is also a certain kind of vibrant and even melancholic musicality in Sanghvi’s writing that is hard to miss or dislike.

There are certain sexist stereotypes that the books has-like Anuradha’a need for marriage, the tiffs between her and her mother-in-law etc.  Granted that the book is set in the 1900s’ where woman were treated inferior but if Anuradha can be bold enough to leave her husband’s house, Sanghvi should have been bold enough to write something more than the overemphasized importance of marriage in a woman’s life.

Leaving that one negative point aside, ‘The Last Song Of Dusk’ is undoubtedly a marvelous debut that spins together a lavish, grand love story that is bound to charm any reader. It is not the usual tale of love and sorrow, of man and a woman being in love, being happy, having troubles and reconciling them. It is much more as it infuses a portrayal of different sides and aspects of that one ubiquitous emotion called love. The novel reflects and gradually reveals layers and layers of that emotion between Anuradha and Vardhaman and other characters too like their son-Shloka or Nandini’s  idea of love and safety etc. The reader, if attentive enough, can easily pick on these ideas, learn that love can have two sides just like anything else and know that it can teach us all one lesson or two.

Its a poignant love story that depends on the stark emotions for its narration; its beauty, its invulnerability, its vulnerability, its magic, its pain and countless other things. It is  painfully beautiful, musical and aptly touches the right chord in the reader’s heart. ‘The Last Song Of Dusk’ is one story that will be in the reader’s heart long after its been perused.

 

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