Friday, June 30, 2017

Onaatah – of the earth - Paulami DuttaGupta

A girl muses over her own reflection on a highly polished table, an image which stays with you while you read her story. After the book is read, you continue to see the image, even as its poignancy hits you. For Onaatah – of the earth, portrayed through the sensitive pen of Paulami DuttaGupta is a narrative dedicated to the daughters of the earth, many of whom go through the throes of suffering, and emerge, phoenix-like, stronger than ever. The process is difficult, the path thorny, but often, their own strength, and the strength of those around, aid them to regain their faith in humanity.

So it is with Onaatah, an overworked nurse, with a non-existent social life, who remarks that good old Shillong “is the most peaceful city I could think of”.  She has everything to look forward to... a satisfying career, Peter, her fiancĂ©, who appears to dote on her and a hazy idea of overturning the tradition of having her husband live in her house after marriage. They decide to live in a cosy little flat, much to the horror of Peter’s mother who laments that this young generation is hell-bent on changing customs.

One evening, Onaatah is returning home after administering an injection to her friend, Sarah’s, mother. Unable to find a taxi, she decides to walk home. “Onaatah had always found stories in these roads. The shadows of old pine trees, the old houses and new buildings, the lampposts... all of them had stories, experiences of years. Who knew Shillong more than them?”

Amidst these pleasant thoughts, in a split-second, her life turns around, as brutality and violence reign supreme. In that one moment, all her dreams come crashing to the ground, as she herself does.

Many vital questions are asked in the book, many by men themselves. Mr. Kharpuri, Onaatah’s grief-stricken father, asks the men who have saved his daughter’s life, “Every time I see a woman going through sexual violence, I wonder why are we men not revolting? Why do we let men get away?” How often have we heard the very same words repeated by men who have undergone similar tragedies?

Onaatah comes across as a strong-willed girl who relives the nightmare often, but shows the courage to fight for justice, not just for herself, but for the sisterhood as well. Her family stands by her, trying to keep up a brave front, but Peter and his mother react predictably enough. Peter tries to make her “see sense”.
“See, Onaatah, in our society a murderer or a terror suspect is accepted but... not a rape victim. People will tear you apart.” He is just a symbol of a patriarchal society that puts the blame, as well as the shame, on women.

Unable to accept the sympathy in people’s eyes, or douse the screams within her mind, she waits till the perpetrators are booked. However, everyday something breaks within her, and she tells herself, “I cannot live with a version of myself that I can’t relate to.”

Luckily she has a place to seek refuge in, as she takes a trip to her Uncle Khrawbor’s village, a home that she has always loved, where her Uncle and her Aunt have always treated her like their own, bubbling over with positivity.

It is in this tiny village, where her Uncle is the headman, that Onaatah’s process of healing begins, as she slips into a simpler lifestyle. Many interesting characters come into her life; the resourceful Duh with his passion for music, his practical grandmother who is always ready with sound advice, Charming, the bubble-headed young man who meanders his way towards responsibility, his lady-love, the charming Dariti, and the enigmatic yet optimistic Dondor, who teaches Onaatah the essence of life through his way of living it. Dondor comes across as one of the most interesting characters here.

It is also here that she realizes that problems are universal, and the dilemmas of family honour, marrying out of community and fixed mindsets are as acute, even in tiny villages.  However, as she lives amongst folks who accept her for what she is, she discovers a silent power within herself. She forges new relationships and finds a whole new family in the village.

Many harsh truths are enunciated in the book. “Rape is a part of our culture. Rape jokes, rape analogies and raped bodies – we have silently accepted all of it,” Onaatah says to Destina, a family friend and lawyer. An even sadder thought arises in her mind. “A rape victim is already dead for the society.”

However, Onaatah climbs gradually from despair and frustration, to a state of mind in which she accepts that she needs to move on. She regains her faith, aware that life is too short to bear grudges. When she finally crosses the dark tunnel, and emerges bathed in light, a survivor and not a victim, she becomes an inspiration for myriads. And that is the true triumph of the novel, and its creator.

Onaatah is the book adaptation of a National Award winning film in Khasi. The trailer of the movie is picturesque and heartwarming.


Paulami DuttaGupta 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Charismatic as Ever - Jayant Kripalani

CANTILEVERED TALES  (From the Readomania stable)

When Jayant Kripalani agreed to answer a few questions of mine, I was elated for two main reasons. In our salad days, my friends and I would watch him avidly in TV serials like Khandaan and Mr ya Mrs, and swoon over his clipped accent and charm. We even enjoyed his ‘gale mein kich kich’ Vicks advertisement! J

Secondly, I was quite sure that his responses to my questions would be far from run-of-the-mill, and I was not disappointed. He still retains the witty humour he was so well known for. If you feel that I have a smile on my face when I say this, do go ahead and enjoy his tongue-in-cheek answers. A certain TV host might not smile, though! J

And so, off we go...

1. Theatre, advertisements, films, books, corporate training... you have done it all! Which one of these did you enjoy the most?

Hard to tell! One got so completely involved in whatever one was doing;  some uncertainty creeps in at the thought of putting a percentage on enjoyment. They were all, as my son used to say as a child, ‘blaady fun’.

       2.  How did ‘Cantilevered Tales’ come about? Why did you finally choose this name and what significance does it have as far as your book is concerned?

I was on my way back from somewhere by train, and at Howrah Station, a group of taxi drivers tried to extort a higher fare from me.  This was before the time of pre-paid taxi booths. So rather than shell out five times the fare, I thought I’d take a bus. It was peak hour in the morning and though I did get a seat since the bus started from there, I hadn’t calculated the length of time I’d be sitting in the bus on the bridge.

Forty-five minutes of inching along later, I heard a voice behind me say, with a mixture of disgust and boredom, “Aita ki Haora Bridge na Laora Bridge?” I knew exactly what he meant. (I’ve told this story so many times I’ve got it memorized. I wish I could remember my lines as an actor with such ease.)

I knew then that I had the beginning for a story. I became friends with the man, got him to talk about himself and the tedium of his life. It might have been tedious for him. For me, the lives of ordinary, seemingly boring people are far more interesting than the lives of politicians and or film stars.

And that was how Cantilevered Tales began. In fact, the bus ride was the journey from which I took off on a tangent. And many tangents later, here we are!
The working title of the book was “Aita ki Haora Bridge na Laora Bridge” but better sense prevailed.

Why 'Cantilevered Tales? I guess because the book had its genesis on a bridge. A cantilevered one, as Howrah is partially a cantilevered bridge. But also, a cantilever is a projecting beam or girder supported only at one end. So are most of the characters  and their stories. They are all firmly rooted, but only at one end. There is something rather flaky and 'floaty', if I may use the word, about them. And in their own ways, their characters have been inspired by some very 'cantilevered characters' I've met in this city in the last three or four years.

        3.  In both, ‘New Market Tales’ and ‘Cantilevered Tales’, how did you pin-point your characters? Do you write about real people or do you pepper your descriptions with fiction to make them more interesting?

To quote from a song by Kris Kristofferson –
“He is a walking contradiction
Partly truth and partly fiction…”
I might see a character trait in someone that can trigger a whole history, and usually does, as in the case of Banshi Mama in CT. I met this man whose prime function in life was ‘sewaor service, and Banshi Mama was born. Giving him a believable story was partly research and largely imagination. To rephrase Kristofferson, ‘partly truth and mostly fiction’ would be better.

4.   Do you have the seeds of an idea for your next book?

Of course! And no, I’m not going to share the idea with you!

5.  Have we lost our sense of fun, considering that everyone around has corns to be trodden on? Are we too serious about everything in life? When was the last time you did something purely for fun? 

Oh, yes! We have become a grim species, but I don't believe we've become serious about life. I just think we take ourselves too seriously. And therefore, we sometimes forget to laugh at ourselves.
I do everything for fun, so I don't really feel competent to answer the second part of your question. Besides, having fun is a serious business, don't you think? :) 

6.  It has been said that he is no fool that plays the part. How tough is it to bring comedy into what you do, be it acting, directing or writing? Do great artistes have to have seeds of eccentricity within them to create great art?

Not being a great artiste, I wouldn’t know how to answer that question. But, comedy? It’s easy to bring comedy into any work. Why do you think there is a plethora of stand-up comics around? Because everything is so bloody hilarious!

 7. Today the most entertaining channels are the news channels... they have everything that TV series had in the past. Any comment?

Of course, The Repubic (I was going to correct the typo but decided to let it be) channel takes the cake!

8.   An original Jayant Kripalani quote?

“If you stub a cigarette out in a teacup, life will serve up your tea in an ashtray.”
(This is a filthy habit I had as a bachelor. My wife, bless her, didn’t say a thing, but the next morning I did get my tea served up in an ashtray, and voila, an original Jayant Kripalani quote was born.)

And as I sign off, it is with a sense of delight, for when the larger-than-life image and the real man overlap in a blend of harmony, the star emerges, unscathed by the slings and arrows of life!

To buy 'Cantilevered Tales' from Amazon:

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Things Fall Apart; the Centre Cannot Hold!

My daughter would dub me Captain Obvious!

ISRO has done it again! Their latest satellite has gone up with appropriate fanfare, well deserved, as it travels along its pre-determined path with precision. This satellite will boost the capability of the Indian Armed Forces to keep a hawk’s eye on hostile territory. It will also give a fillip to vital areas of urban management and planning, crop maintenance, and provide high-resolution images of a world that persists in growing smaller, if not friendlier! This is ISRO’s sixth eye, as our scientists grow more professional and precise with every launch, creating moments of immense pride and honour for every Indian.
So, my daughter would dub me ‘Captain Obvious’. Why do I wax eloquent on a topic that is so in the public eye, one that needs no introduction? Of course, we puff out our chests and laud ourselves for the diligence and the dedication of our scientists.
Unfortunately, we tend to puff up our chests and vent our emotions on many other occasions as well, when things go up, and how!
Like the crime rate, which has been skyrocketing over the years in a society that prides itself on its ancient culture. And that is what our culture is – ancient! There seems very little evidence of that culture today, as basic instincts seem to override the basic tenets of decency.
Why else would we see myriad cases of crimes against women, the weak, the aged, children, even babies? If Delhi is known as the rape capital, shouldn’t it make us hang our heads in shame? If gang rapes occur with impunity across the country, even after a few rapists are given capital punishment, if babies are thrown out of moving vehicles, young girls are kidnapped and murdered and acid is thrown openly on girls’ faces by suitors spurned in love, what does that say about us as a society?
Road rage and unpleasantness are rampant on the streets, as vehicle drivers careen around crazily, causing a ripple effect as autos zigzag their way, competing with two wheelers that assume they could fit themselves in the eye of a needle. Invectives are heard everywhere, as drivers shake their fists at all and sundry, blowing their horns stridently especially if they are themselves in the wrong, offence being the best defence, after all. If one could draw a cartoon of a traffic jam, waves of intense rage and frustration could be seen hovering over every vehicle, as stress levels go ballistic. Is it any wonder that incidences of high blood pressure and stress levels have also gone up, like the aforesaid satellite, creating a country of ailing individuals, living on pills?
One topic that always causes tempers to rise meteorically is a most hallowed one – religion! As the goddess of dawn makes her gentle presence felt, her ears, and the ears of startled sleepers, are rudely assailed by loud, raucous music, blaring through loudspeakers placed where they can do the most harm. These are the handiwork of the over-zealous Good Samaritans who feel that it is their religious duty to cleanse the world of all other faiths. So bhajans, hymns and the azaan vie with one another, each trying to create a monopoly, as the moderate believers wish they could either go deaf or go abroad to escape this noise, much akin to the ancient Tower of Babel.
Today’s parents pull their hair out in handfuls at the exorbitant rise of fees in educational institutions. After they have paid up the tuition fees, there is a whole vista of departments that hold out their hands to loosen their purse strings further – lab fees, sports fees, maintenance funds, field trip expenses and the ubiquitous ‘miscellaneous’ charge when they have no worldly reason up their sleeves. No finishing school could finish their students off better!
Sadly, our children grow up watching all these anomalies, and their little mindsets which are like clean slates, get scribbled over with ideas that erase their innocence. Hence, we find youngsters out on the streets, pelting stones as they raise slogans at the tops of their voices, driving under the influence of liquor at speeds that go beyond their control, raging young Romeos who take the law into their own hands to punish and to brutalize, and monstrous juveniles who escape the clutches of the law by a mere whisker.
The common man is most affected by the escalating price rise of items of daily use. When onions get expensive, he makes do without them, and when chicken and mutton grow unaffordable, he does not dare to turn to beef, because the very mention of it could cause him to be lynched. The poor man has much to beef about, even otherwise.  
The Indian cricket team has to be on its toes constantly. If they lose a match, especially against a hostile neighbour, they are in danger of their homes being vandalized by groups of intruders who have done nothing in their lives, but watch cricket and violent movies. No wonder then that the latter consider themselves the keepers of the dignity of the nation, and rush in where decent folks fear to tread.
However, the unkindest cut of all comes when a man in uniform in the prime of his life is stoned to death by a mindless mob, for doing his duty, for providing security to those very elements who raise their voices against the fabric of our nation. Edgar Allen Poe talked sense when he said, “The nose of a mob is its imagination. By this, at any time, it can be quietly led.”
The unfairly slain, of whom there is a long, poignant list, are hailed as martyrs and brave hearts, but these hollow words do nothing to dry the tears or appease the anguish in the hearts of those who love them. They end up as talking points on strident television news channels, with political parties milking their deaths for all they are worth. Babe Ruth it was who said, “Heroes get remembered but legends never die.”  
And finally, politicians are not good or bad; it is their thinking that makes them so. A section of them talk, long and loud, before elections, offering high-pitched promises and material sops to the blessed voter. But as a rather quirky proverb goes in Kerala, “As long as one is on the bridge, one is called Narayana; the moment one crosses it, he turns into Koorayana.” Likewise, once the elections are over and done with, the promises fly away in the wind in many a case, at least till the next elections come by.
I do wish and hope that the decibel levels will go down along with the intolerance, the bigotry, the racism, the injustice, the violence, the molestation, the mob fury and the corruption that exists today. Our forefathers warned us about Kali Yuga, when crime would rise and walk the streets, and I think we have reached its very abyss today. Now it is time that we started climbing back, surely and steadily, on to the high moral ground that beckons to us. It will be a steep ascent, but it is not impossible. This is possibly the most pessimistic article that I have ever written, and I do so with an ache in my heart, but I believe that we can reform, we can improve and we can regain the morality that we have allowed to slip away.
As the man with the beautiful soul, Dr. APJ Kalam eloquently said,
"If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, the mother and the teacher."
He went on to add, "Where there is righteousness in the heart, there is beauty in the character. Where there is beauty in the character, there is harmony in the home. Where there is harmony in the home, there is order in the nation. Where there is order in the nation, there is peace in the world."
May we have the strength of character to follow his wisdom and apply it in our lives and bring back harmony and order in our great country. This is the time to gird our loins so that we may have a safer tomorrow for generations to follow.

Let's all make the effort now!

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Inimitable Chaos of Life

“You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star”.

                                                                                Friedrich Nietzsche

Maliny Mohan has chosen to make chaos the hero of her maiden anthology titled ‘The Inimitable Chaos of Life’. Her fourteen stories bring to life most of the emotions known to mankind, each one exploring the depths of the very fountainhead of life. 

The love that a brother and sister share in the tender ‘Sara’ sets the tone for the tales that follow, as the reader settles down, all set to be shaken and stirred.

‘Metamorphosis’ talks about how even a hardened criminal can experience a change of heart in a world that is responsible for having made him what he is.

Anita and Abhay come alive in ‘Through the Kaleidoscope’, both caught in a web of misunderstanding. Anita felt that people influenced her in different ways. “Some made her smile, some made her cry” and some others reduced “her soul to grey powdered ash”. How does the past creep into her present through the “cluttered maze called love?”

A beautiful story that tugged at my heartstrings was ‘The Man at the Copy Shop’, the saga of Kavita, who aspires to be a writer, Kartik, the photostat man, and her manuscript that brings them together. They marry, have a baby, even as she remains engrossed in her writing, but the twist in the tale makes this one of the most meaningful stories in the collection.

‘Apartment No. 20’ has a similar feel, as the protagonist marries a man whom she does not love, but gradually gets to know him and love him. She is “an enclosed person, who liked her personal zone and who valued the moments of her life like little pieces of gems”. When life takes a chaotic turn, she takes comfort in the words of her husband. “There may be a degree of safety in predictability, but unpredictability sure leaves your senses enamoured of its magic.” Isn’t that exactly what happens in real life as well?

When one wrong step has dangerous repercussions in the future, all one can do is wait and watch in utter helplessness. This is the theme of ‘Second Chance’, where Kartik keeps “one awful secret” from his wife, one that veils an “ugly chapter in his life”. Sometimes, there is just no going back!

Two stories which have stayed in my mind are ‘Unsung Melody’ and ‘Wind Chimes in the Desert’. The former deals with the sorrow that comes when lovers do not “cut through the icing that cocoon(ed) their relationship” and instead “doubt(ed) the whispers” of their hearts.

‘Wind Chimes in the Desert’ (such a poetic title), is an intriguing tale couched in evocative language, which deals with the problem of dissociative amnesia. Rita strives to be there for her friend, Neena, who, having forgotten the nuances of her past, failed to “unveil the blanket of dilemma that cloaked her mind”. The narrative leaves you shaky, even as you wonder if a wrong and a right can cancel each other out.

Maliny Mohan is a talented writer with a feel for words. In the last story in the book, ‘For a Reason’, she could be talking about herself. “To fiddle with words, to blend them in the right amount, to sprinkle splendid surprises that would spew magic and ultimately win over the hearts of the readers had been her passion since she could remember.” For that is exactly what she does in each of her moving stories, almost seeming to echo the words of Tara Isis Gerris – “Within the Chaos Magic is found.”

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Just Me, The Sink & the Pot - Sudesna Ghosh

“Life sucks when you don’t look like everybody else.”

Pamela is half Bengali, half American, born of parents who clashed over a plate of spicy chicken tikka. The clash led to a storybook romance, and life could not have been rosier. However, the reality lies elsewhere.

Pamela is the quintessential fat girl, who goes through a large part of her life hating her appearance and just living with her repulsive fat self. Endowed with hazel eyes, long eyelashes and a slim but cute nose, she finds that all her attributes get swallowed up in the reality of her extra-large size. She has mastered the art of living the fat girl life, as she puts it. “Life was more about hiding the hugeness.”

Her mean sister, Mona, does little to boost her self-confidence, often siding with her detractors to poke fun at her. To add insult to injury, Mona is small and slim, having inherited “good genes from (our) parents and ancestors.”

To combat her loneliness, Pamela creates her own family and friends in the form of Ernie, with his orange head and googly eyes, who is as wise as he is lovable, Pumpkin, O Henry, Chimpu, Pookie, Pingu and Teddu, and bares her heart out to them in the privacy of her bedroom.

School life is no better as it is the slim girls like Reshmi and Aparna who are popular. Pamela is often derided or ignored, even as she longs to live the magical lives that her slimmer classmates enjoy. She dreams of scenarios from ‘Friends’ and ‘Sex and the City’, and despairs of ever finding a boy who would be interested in her. Sudesna Ghosh describes these episodes with wry, self-deprecating humour, as the dashing Ben, the shy, fat, girly-voiced Sumit and her very own miracle date Abhi, come into Pamela’s life for a while, and then leave her for various reasons.

In frustration, Pamela laments, “I never really understood why people make everything their business. From a pimple to your weight loss to your weight gain, people love to give their input even when you do not ask.”

The significance of the unusual title of the book becomes clear after Pamela goes as a teacher to Mona’s class on Teacher’s Day, and is laughed at and insulted.
“I hid in the bathroom to cry my heart out. I loved being alone. It was just me, the sink and the pot.” It was the one place of refuge that she found where she could vent out her emotions.

However, there is a big surprise waiting for Pamela at the end of the book, one which makes her feel vindicated. As she finally puts it, “I’m cool because I am different. It’s stupid to try to look like everybody else.”

Written in simple language, the book deals with the normal mood swings of an overweight young girl, highlighting various instances in which she is hurt every single day as she strives to be accepted in a society in which good looks are paramount. The chapter titles are as eye-catching as the title of the book. What is especially noteworthy is the way in which the author has brought out the insecurities of a young girl so consumed with hatred for her body that she suffers low self-esteem issues. This could be a story about you, me or just anybody.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Flights from my Terrace – Santosh Bakaya

Bliss was it in the dawn to be alive...

Santosh Bakaya’s latest offering, ‘Flights from my Terrace’, is replete with good humour, bonhomie and joie de vivre. Her book is divided into three sections, each of which can be seen as a treasure trove of memories that brighten our lives and irradiate our mundane existence.

Ms. Bakaya’s favourite spot in her home is her terrace, where she sits, completely at peace, as the birds warble around her. Then, in the twinkling of an eye, a winged chariot arrives to transport her into the depths of her memory. Even as she pens an elegy on the passing of a bygone era, she never fails to doff her hat to the invisible magician and the invisible painter waving their magic wand and wielding their paintbrushes to create breathtaking hues in the sky.

This talented writer obviously gets her wit and her passion for the written word from her father who “had a terrific sense of humour and a rapier wit.” She also talks with pride about her harmonious childhood, her parents being “the most compatible couple” who never belittled each other “by drowning their speaking with shrieking and squeaking.”

One does enjoy her volatile, sometimes angst-ridden dialogues with her spirited daughter, Iha, who berates her in good-humour at times, but rushes to take care of her when she is down in the dumps, or ill.  Ms. Bakaya ponders over when her little girl grew up.

“Just a few years back, she lay in her crib, lost in her own world, smiling to herself... now she gives me a withering look... in disgust, derision, impatience or whatever teenagers give their mothers when engrossed in texting, chatting, whatsapping, pinging and poking.”

Ms. Bakaya’s love for literature comes through in every nuance of her writing as she quotes liberally from her favourite poets and writers.  From Edward Lear’s endearing rhyme ‘The Owl and the Pussy Cat’ to hilarious quotes from G K Chesterton, to Lewis Carroll, Rudyard Kipling, Charles Baudelaire, Walt Whitman, Thomas Gray, Longfellow, Shelley, Charles Dickens, Maya Angelou and the Bard himself, she knows them all intimately, and hence, is able to pick and choose, as one would a nosegay of vibrant flowers, in perfect harmony. Tagore and Kalidasa also find a mention.

Her love for her beloved Kashmir seeps from the pages as she describes the immense joy she felt when she went back home.

“The sounds of carefree laughter, of walnuts falling on the rooftops at the dead of the night.
Of the falling of autumn Chinar leaves, of crackling fire, of the rumble of my grandfather’s hookah, of melting snow...”

One can almost view the twinkle in the author’s eyes as she speaks of being a toddler “with my two front teeth shining, trying to compete with granny’s three teeth”, the giraffe on the cake ‘pighling’ (melting), and “the breadvala yelling with all the force a breadvala can muster (it was, after all, the question of earning his daily bread)."

One particular saga had me in splits, when a perky parrot or a cunning crow on the tree, decided to relieve itself on a certain mendicant’s tangled head.

“This had a profoundly unsettling effect on one, who just a couple of minutes back appeared to have eternally settled there... now the detached man was absolutely attached.”

The Birder’s Inn in Bharatpur is another haven for Ms. Bakaya. That she loves the feathered species is apparent, as she waxes poetic about garrulous parrots, purple sunbirds, snowy egrets, arrogant-looking crows and tiny sparrows, all serenading her with their “boisterous bird banter”.

This brings me to the wonderful examples of alliteration strewn across the book, as when they were “perennially drunk on a delicious cocktail of camaraderie, conspiracy, bonhomie and body shaking laughter.”Another brilliant example goes thus: “This colourfully, chaotic, confusion captivates me.”

Across the book, Ms. Bakaya comes across as “the mischief monger, the rabble rouser, the boisterous brat”, as she chuckles over “follically challenged people”. She is playful as she frolics with words, punctuating them with “grins, giggles and guffaws”. She sings along with Frank Sinatra (a Million Kinds of Stardust), Harry Belafonte, Don Mclean and the like. And as her eyes seek "newer landscapes in the darkness, hunting for the fireflies flitting around," it is not hard to fathom why, in Jamestown fishing village, a small boy in yellow knickers, ran to her with a breathtaking smile, and said, "I love you." For as she writes on, she comes across as an incorrigible optimist, with stars in her eyes, yearning to inject some insanity in the sane world around.

                                                              the hands make the world every day,
                                                              fire conjoins with steel.
                                                              linen, canvas and cotton arrive
                                                              from the scuffles in the laundries,
                                                              and from light a dove is born;
                                                                                                      Pablo  Neruda

Monday, June 5, 2017

His Christmas Delight

A Tale Like Summer Rain

When a writer with such a beautiful name as Summer(ita) Rhayne sets out to write a romance, she cannot but put her whole heart into it. So this little saga drizzles down on the readers’ sensibilities like summer rain, as gently and as softly.
There is a hint of mischief right at the start, when the slender, pixie-featured Myra,  sets out to help her dear friend, Chef Tonya, to purloin the Revengers Miniature Hologram game for her son, Toby, from no less than Santa himself.
It is at that moment that a figure from her past materializes. Jay Tolliver, the once gangly lad, and the smartest boy in their set, has returned to help his brother, Dan, to revive his toy store and restore the spirit of Christmas. His experiences have obviously made him older and wiser.
What is the baggage that the beleaguered Jay carries deep within his soul? What is the connection between him, the late Pete and the beautiful Myra? When he meets her after four years, why does he shy away from her friendship, even though they are attracted to each other?   
Summerita creates flesh and blood characters who are, thankfully, not perfect, but men and women who have been scarred by life. They are wary of love and run away from it. They are real people with ambitions within their heart, locked away because they have been made to feel inadequate by their loved ones. It is easy to empathize with them, even as the heart feels for them, and for their grief.
Finally, when love blooms, it is indeed, a Christmas delight which leaves the reader feeling warm and joyful.
In a world that has its own troubles, a sweet little romance like this “shines like a good deed in a weary world”.

If you want to buy this delightful book, do follow the link below:

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Line of Inheritance by Tara Neelanjana

This saga could have been about any one of Kerala’s matrilineal families, so closely aligned are their histories, their daily lives, their customs, the festivals and the like. Author Tara Neelanjana traces the history of the big house, Puthanveedu, through the lives of its inhabitants, especially Sridevi, its last and ninth matriarch. The house, (a Nalukettu), built by Raman Unni Nair, a soldier of fortune, was situated along the banks of the overflowing river, Nila, which also played a vital role in the lives of its inhabitants. Ramunni was granted this vast property on its banks, a purse filled with gold coins, a silver sword and a silk crimson shawl. He would later bequeath it to his little sister, Unnimaya, who would be the matriarch.
The story is eloquently told, of Ramunni, the lenient and generous Karnavan (Patriarch), followed by his formidable and bad-tempered nephew, Raghavan, who commited a heinous crime. When the latter suffered a stroke, he was tended by his gentle brother, Bhaskaran, his own personal masseur.
Alongside is described the advent of the foreigners – the Dutch, French, Portuguese and British, and the Germans who establish their Mission  with a free primary school and dispensary.
Several generations live in Puthanveedu; Bhaskaran’s niece, Janaki, her perceptive and intelligent daughter, Meenakshi, and her independent minded son, Madhavan, who has words with his uncle and escapes to Malaysia, so that he can work in the rubber plantations and take care of his mother and siblings.
The book is interspersed with vivid descriptions of the various rites and rituals that go to make up the landscape of Kerala. It speaks of how the lower castes were treated, of sartorial changes as upper caste women, earlier bare-chested now wore loose blouses, or tied them in a knot below the bust, and of how large ear loops were prevalent at the time. Festivals like Onam, Thiruvathira and Vishu come alive before our eyes, as do descriptions of birth and death and the rituals of purification in both cases. There are also mentions of the Mappila (Muslim) revolution which had as its backdrop the Khilafat Movement, and was one of the darkest chapters in Malabar history.
The main women characters are strong, refusing to run away in times of adversity, be it Meenakshi, who stays on at Puthanveedu during times of turmoil, even when she and her mother, Daksha are left alone, with only a Muslim caretaker to tend to their needs. Her daughters, Meenu and Malu, go through their own travails, and it is Meenu’s daughter, Devi, who starts a school, with the help of her cousin Mohan, her brother in law who is ‘a man with a pure heart’, a true leader who dedicates his life to serve the people and fight against caste bigotry.
The book is populated with myriad characters, each playing his or her own part in the saga. Obviously some of them are not as well etched as the main protagonists. The book remains the story of Devi, her mother Daksha, her husband Rajan, and his brother, Mohan. She goes through agony when she loves and loses her beloved daughter, Giti, and almost loses Puthanveedu because of her detestable son in law, Pratap, who plays on her emotions through her love for her beloved grandson, Pritham.
Devi finally leaves Puthanveedu to her grandson, Pritham and his son, Manu, keeping aside a trust that would provide for the benevolent deity who had protected the family over centuries. “It was a paradox, she thought, that a stone Devi (Goddess) should have a continuity of tradition, whereas her own family traditions would cease to exist with the demise of the Devi of Puthanveedu.”
Tara Neelanjana has a flowing style reminiscent of the story tellers of yore, as she paints a vast canvas of characters, putting in deft touches to some, highlighting the others in bold colours. This is a book that should be read, if only to understand the growth and development of old Kerala tharavads (households), and the sweeping socio-economic changes that affected them.


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