Monday, June 23, 2014

When I See Your Face by Devika Fernando

Graphic by Alisha Guenzel

Review: Deepti Menon

There are some books which evoke a sense of nostalgia, passion and love, of raindrops and balmy breezes, of light predicaments and romantic trysts! ‘When I See Your Face’ is one of those. It is the story of Cathy, who resolves to start life over, “without a husband who didn’t love her and whom she had grown to fear and avoid, if not hate.” Mark is the scheming charmer who treats her like a possession, and thinks it is his right to abuse her, whenever he is drunk.
She falls in love with the picturesque little village that gives her sanctuary, as also with the intrepid Mrs. Grindle, who is like a ray of sunshine, wanting to mother and feed the young girl who has suffered so much.
When she meets a stranger, Michael, who is the spitting image of her husband, Mark, her heart skips a beat in panic. The story twists and turns in most interesting ways, keeping the reader wondering as Cathy tries to come to terms with new relationships, which make her feel happy and secure. She concentrates on her own talents, so that she can make a living, all the while overwhelmed by feelings she has never felt before. One evocative line talks of how “hope was starting to grow inside her, a timid, light green shoot reaching a slim arm out of the soil and into the sunlight”.
What happens when Mark and Michael come face to face?  What are the conflicts that have marred Michael’s past, and threaten to undermine his present as well? Has Cathy made an error in judgment all over again? Numerous questions tickle the mind of the readers, as events meander by.
Devika has a real flair for choosing the right words and phrases to embellish the romance in her story. Never ever is there a moment when the reader feels disappointed in her style, for it remains consistently beautiful and easy to read. There is an innocence in the narrative that tugs at one’s heartstrings, and an old world charm that is missing in most modern books. It is also a story of progression, as Cathy grows stronger as a person, losing her vulnerability and low self esteem, as she finds herself able to live an independent and fulfilling life.
The cover of the book exemplifies the serenity and the deep love within the hearts of the characters. If you love romance, do read ‘When I see your Face’! If you enjoy a twist in your tale, stretch your hand out and pick this book up! And finally, if you want to read something that makes you feel warm and happy inside, this is definitely the book for you!


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Deviant Flames - Elancharan Gunasekaran

Tibet has always inspired writers and poets with its beauty and inaccessibility, the land among the peaks, the land of spirituality and peace.  ‘Deviant Flames’ by Elancharan Gunasekaran, published by Author’s Ink India Publication, is a paean to this mystic land, whose people have died many deaths over the centuries under a despotic rule. ‘Deviant Flames’ takes inspiration from the hidden and elusive world of a land that yearns to be free, and sings of the daily wars in life faced by the Tibetans in powerfully moving verses that encapsulate the wonder that is Tibet.
This offering of verses lauds the fight of the natives who immolate themselves, rather than resort to violence to spill the blood of the innocent. They believe that their lives of privation will forge a path to everlasting peace, and a better world after they die. They offer a supreme invitation to the Saviour to come and punish the wrong doers – “so casually they defile our lands” evoking “anguish on faces” of those who are “chased from serenity of home”.
The writer speaks of a choice to the people of the land, a choice between selfish personal gains and that of the path towards independence, even as he invokes them to “worship the land/ you step on” for Nature is not theirs to claim or corrupt. The elements, Fire, Earth, Water and Wind all prophesy the birth and the deeds of the Saviour who will die a thousand times to serve humanity, to alleviate the wrath and the agony of the Tibetans who are ready to rekindle the fire of freedom within their hearts.
“No religion is strange/Nor does it teach one, /To do wrong”. Much of the destruction in the world arises when “in the name of gods, zealots fight”.  The author talks about the lord of the sky who soars in the blue sky, “urging brave souls to fly/ against all odds”. Redemption awaits all, and the good are rewarded while the evil are awarded venom on “the wheels of karmic balance”. However, the moot point remains that when the last sages pass away, who will then keep Nature in check?
The writer also describes the curse of capitalism, the elevation of human standards and the repetition of the glory of civilization, combined with “the meaningless chatter of words”, questioning the need for advancement. “Primitive as we were once/we had peace”. He abjures the alien ruler, “the mad man who sits upon the mountain throne, serving his own greed” to stop his cruelty to his subjects.
There is another man, a ruler in his own right, who strives to end the suffering of his people, through selfless service to them. He hopes to lead them to freedom, to turn the tide of cursed industrialization that has filled “the air with poisonous fumes”. If only they could go back to where their ancestors once crawled in search of peace, away from the hunting wolves!
The man creates tattooed scripture on his skin, mixing blood with ink, even as he screams to his followers, pleading with them not to let the invaders take the fire from their souls. Even when he is captured, he holds his head high, refusing to be overcome, refusing to yield, refusing to die.
It is finally Love, “the brightest flame of all” that conquers, Love that burns away the darkness and creates a whole new world of freedom and hope.
 The lyrical quality of the work is its strength, and the headings on every page give the readers a hint of what lies within. The poetry and the turmoil within the land act as a foil to each other, and take the story forward, to narrate the saga of a beautiful non-violent land to the world.


Reviewer: Deepti Menon

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Rape of the System!



Image from Pixabay

What is the biggest issue in front of the new government today? If the modern Pandora’s Box is opened, there would be myriad ills flying out in all directions, but the biggest and the most troublesome one of all would be that of outrages against women in our country. The latest shockers from Badaun and Etawah have, once again, proved that, in certain states, women are not even seen as second class citizens. If a woman goes missing, it is not considered significant, for she does not even constitute a ripple in the cesspool of male supremacy.

Two young sisters, aged 14 and 15, disappeared in Badaun, and when their family approached the police station to lodge a complaint, they were not taken seriously. Later the bodies of the girls were found hanging on a tree. They had been gang-raped by four men, and as if that were not bad enough, hanged with impunity. The rapists have been arrested, along with a police constable who refused the family aid. It is to be seen what action will be taken against them, for there are more acquitted rapists, than not, who go out and commit 
the crime over and over again, because they have been lucky the first time around!

As usual, it is a case of the stable door being locked after the horse has escaped! The whole country came alive after the heinous Delhi gang rape case, and did not rest till the death sentence had been awarded to the culprits. However, what comes out of this incident is that when severe punishment, even a death sentence, is awarded to one solitary case, and thousands of offenders get away, scot free, it is hardly a deterrent worth worrying about.

So rapes continue, unabated, as men prowl about in groups, pounce on women from the weaker sections of society, and molest them, confident that they will not be punished. Most have huge caches of wealth, family members who look upon their crimes as mere escapades, (judging by what an ex CM said, when he pronounced that boys will be boys!), and enough influence to get out of sticky situations.

On many occasions the cops are also on the pay roll of these power mongers, and do everything in their power to hush up affairs. There have also been cases when cops have turned into rapists, as in the recent case where two policemen have been booked after two years for having raped a minor.

In another case in Etawah, the family members of a rape accused mercilessly beat up the mother of the rape victim to prevent her from opening her mouth. The result was that the woman has lost her power of speech and lies in the ICU, another victim of savage brutality. No arrests have been made, and the policemen and the big wigs in the state government mouth the usual platitudes about the case being looked into. Unfortunately, the case is looked into from the angle of the perpetrators, who are more powerful, and the poor victims are further victimized and brow beaten into silence.

It was the Mahatma himself who said, “OF ALL the evils for which man has made himself responsible, none is so degrading, so shocking or so brutal as his abuse of the better half of humanity to me, the female sex, not the weaker sex.” Sad it is that in a country that gave birth to peaceful religions like Hinduism and Buddhism, and in the past, held women in great reverence, such atrocities are happening.

And that brings me back to where I started! What is the biggest issue before the new government?  It is definitely the safety, well being and the security of women, and, hopefully, an advent into an era when women can live out their lives without being subject to harassment, eve teasing, molestation, acid attacks, rape and murder. As the chilling quote by C.J. Roberts in a piece aptly named ‘Captive in the Dark’ goes, “People often believed they were safer in the light, thinking that monsters only came out at night.” A belief that has been well and truly turned on its head!

The Red Elephant Foundation