Musically Yours: Anjum Hasan’s Lunatic in My Head

 

Lunatic in My Head is one of a kind story written by Anjum Hasan. It is set in Shillong of the 1990s. The novel is an interwoven story of three main characters: an English college lecturer, Firdaus Ansari; an IAS aspirant Aman Moondy, and eight year old, Sophie Das.

Firdaus is caught between her teaching and her wish to pursue an MPhil to safeguard her teaching post at the convent she teaches in. She is also caught between her colleagues’ personal affair dramas and her very unhelpful, lecherous potential supervisor, Thakur.

The novel begins with Firdaus on an April afternoon when “pine trees dripped slow tears,’ (a line that hooked me to the book immediately for its visuality) and as she walks down a street, the opening page itself gives a sweeping view of the multicultural composition of the city, from the Khasis, to Bengalis, to Goans, and to Firdaus herself, who is from Bihar but born and brought up in Shillong. Her sense of being rooted there in Shillong yet being seen as a dkhar, which is the Khasi word for non tribal or foreigner, is another of the conflicts she is entangled in.

Aman Moondy is studying for the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) exams for the second time, having failed on his first attempt. His first love, however, is Pink Floyd. He and his friends, Ibomcha and Ribor, even formed a band, ProtoDreamers and played Pink Floyd’s covers for several small occasions. Aman lives and breathes music. He compares everything around him to music, including his infatuation for Concordella. He is also on the other hand, someone who dislikes the smallness of Shillong and wants to leave. This is also why he decided to give the IAS exam a shot or two. For him, it meant a window to the outside world.

When we first read about Sophie, she is sitting in class and wondering how the baby in her mother’s belly will come out. Sophie herself is a product of an intercultural marriage, her father, Mr. Das, being a Bengali whereas her mother a northerner. Sophie loves to read and is fascinated by her neighbour, Elsa Lyngdoh, and her house, which was the only place she was allowed to go by herself. She has strange conversations with Elsa and even stranger ones (and perhaps a touch too creepy) with her son, Jason. Elsa, an old Khasi woman, and an eight year old, Sophie, made for an odd couple whenever they went together for an excursion outside the house.

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Musically Yours: Music in Solitude

Aranya is chaotic.

Ishan systematic.

Ishan is a family person.

Aranya questions the idea of family.

Ishan is spiritual.

Aranya a feminist.

Now I know what you are thinking: that this is just going to be some modern run-of-the-mill opposites attract love story.

Fortunately not!

Because Music in Solitude by Krishna Sobti, translated from Hindi by Vasudha Dalmia, is not a love story, but rather a loving tale of two elderly individuals, Ishan and Aranya, who are in the autumn of their lives and yes you guessed it, are complete opposites. Yet it is their age and the life that that brings along in it’s wake, which helps them come together. Not to mention that they stay in the same building in Delhi!

Originally titled as Samay Sargam, the novel stitches together episodes from the two protagonists’ lives. Especially the time spent together discussing myriad topics over tea, lunches or dinners!

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Musically Yours: After Dark

I am slowly starting to read some Murakami. The first book of his that I read was Strange Library which was indeed strange and had such a beautiful cover featuring a library card!

Next I read Desire, part of the Vintage Mini Series, which had five of his short stories. I absolutely adored that book! Read my review here!

Next up was After Dark, which one of my colleagues gave me. I did not mind reading it since she said it was only 200 pages long. I am going through a phase where I somehow cannot commit to books that are too long because I do not get time to read them!

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Musically Yours!

The Book Cafe is proud to present a new series that will highlight the books that have a musical element in them!

The books could be about music, or have protagonists that love music or have some great music references or some other elements that make the book/story connected to some form of music!

Welcome to Musically Yours!

How can you contribute?

  • Read:
    Take a look at all the entries in this category!
  • Spread the music: Share and spread the word!
  • Guest Posts:
    Oh we love guest posts! Perhaps you know about books that are related to music? We would love to hear from you!
    Share your thoughts with akisabookworm@gmail.com

 

Musically Yours: Chicken With Plums

Read Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi?

How about picking up another of her equally insightful and somberly black and white illustrated graphic novel, called, Chicken with Plums?

The musician Nasser Ali Khan’s favourite tar (an Iranian percussion instrument) is broken. He probably had the best one in the world. Now that it is broken, he goes on a search for an equally matched tar. But after failing to find such a one despite his repeated attempts, he consigns himself to a state where he simply only wishes to die.

The protagonist being a renowned musician having deep questions about his art and his life makes this novel part of The Book Cafe’s series called, Musically Yours!

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Musically Yours: Words Of Music

Music is the universal language of mankind.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Which is why when it is intertwined with the written word, music helps to express what words alone could not.
Music dripping with the heartache of a rash mistake in love, music bubbling with pure passion and reaching ethereal heights. All this and more defines Vikram Seth’s novel, An Equal Music. It is steeped with Seth’s intense love for music and his love for literature. Both these loves merged splendidly together make this musical novel a beautiful love story of love lost and found and ephemerally cherished.

Though, An Equal Music is a masterful book,the plot is quite conventional. A violinist in his 30s named Michael is part of a string quartet, Maggiore Quartet. He lives in London and one day he accidentally sees Julie, the girl he loved 10 years ago and who he left, back in the days when they were music students in Vienna. This coincidence raises Michael’s hopes for reigniting their love and a string of events-Julie coming to meet Michael after one of his concert performances,she dropping in his apartment, their walks in the park – do just that (much to Michael’s pleasure). However, ten years is too big a gap to fill out by merely walking in the park. There are several changes in their lives that constantly keep altering the love affair they both find themselves in. These anecdotes of love are suffused with fine touches of soft musical notes, fugues and pieces of great musicians like Mozart, Schubert, Bach etc. that define and even take their fragile love forward. Apart from this love story, the plot revolves around the music of Maggiore Quartet – their trials and tribulations as well as the lives and relations of its musicians.

Seth’s poignant writing is bound to take the reader on a lovely musical journey as grand as any classical concert itself. However such brilliant writing cannot hide away the predictability of the story at the start. This can be forgiven because of the utter sensitivity, hope, loss and fragmentation that shines through which is not exactly unique but can hardly be called cliched either.
The plot in general tends to peter out and become too self indulgent. and tends to revolve around Michael alone for a large part of the story. This snatches from the novel the accolade of being completely perfect. Another negative aspect is the overuse of music jargon. Seth definitely has a wholesome knowledge of music but throwing a barrage of musical terms on an ignorant reader (like me) can sometimes take away the pleasure of enjoying the music depicted in words rather than increasing it.
Other than that,the novel is pure magic and a divine concert of love.

Ending on an exalted note that states the importance of letting love go sometimes, An Equal Music does what most love stories fail to do:end on a bittersweet note with Bach’s glorious music lingering on even after the cover is closed. Perhaps this lingering memory can create an awareness of the potential and power of keeping love alive without having to constantly assert it and even create an everlasting love for beautiful classical music.

I’ve learned what ‘classical’ means. It means something that sings and dances through sheer joy of existence.
Gustav Holst
Perhaps like Holst, one may learn to appreciate its existence too.