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Posts from the ‘Crazy’ Category

200 years of Pride with a sprinkling of Prejudice….

So I have been really ill for the last couple of weeks – I mean really: high fever, fatigue and no rest. Whoever heard of getting a break from gulag???? Anyway, therefore I did the disappearing act on the blog – one can only do so much – manage the never-ending expectations of a Boss, take on extra work load especially since most of your team is out with …yup you guessed it: Flu and balance needs of a sister in a mid-life crisis, a best friend who has professional issues with her workplace and a non-existent love life, who only needs your attention, when you really do not have any to give; all the while one is running a 103*C temperature almost every alternate day for last two weeks. But do I complain???? Hell no – I just neglect blogging, one of the most relaxing and joyful things in my life!

Now after digressing for some 13 mins, (Yes! I am aware I am exaggerating, but after what I have described above, everyone should humor my indulgences, which in the greater scheme of things is really minor!) let me get to the point – what I was trying to say through all this muddle is – I could not let this day go by …..after all it is the bi-centennial celebration of the greatest feminist-turned mills and boons  – turned literature-turned comedy of manners-turned brilliant critique of society-turned a dam good story!

On 28th January 1813, T. Egerton, Whitehall, published a novel, that was “written by a lady” and English Literature would never be the same: The name of the book was Pride and Prejudice.

For over 200 years, this book has shaped the understanding of the power of women and the little control that a gentle woman brought up with education and morals has over her marriage in absence of fortune, as well as shaped and honed idealistic beliefs that marriage should not be made for economic reasons. My grandmother read it and swore she was Lizzy Bennett. Might have been true in her case – she left her relatively richer perspective groom on the eve of her wedding to marry my well to do but hardly rolling in wealth grandfather. My mother too swore by the book and she herself could have made much wealthier and glittering match, for she was the belle of the town, but she settled for my brilliant and kind, albeit low-key father. As for me, well, I am not sure of the brilliant match I could potentially make – all I can say is that he is very different from what I am – chalk and cheese, library and sports bar, subtle and flash and dash…..but would not change it for the world. So my family is a living proof of the incredible debt that we all owe to this publication, two centuries ago!

What can I say that has not been said before, how can I describe the immense joy I feel, even now reading that book for like 456,452 times. I know each phase, I know each character and I know exactly what will happen next – but never for a moment, does this lessen the joy of my reading. Never for a moment do I waver in declaring this book to be one of my all-time favorites, though I know it’s very fashionable anymore. And I am always surprised (rolling eyes smiley) when I get asked such innately dumb question – you reading this book again? How can you read the same book twice? Duh!! That’s why it’s called a classic!

I know there are celebrations world over, to mark this occasion – the New Yorker ran a special column, CBC is also running some special series and all Jane Austen societies are going into overtime to honor this day. But I tumbled across this cartoon version of Pride and Prejudice, by Jen Sorensen which made me think that Ms Austen herself, had she been alive would have approved.

Do check it out!

http://www.npr.org/2013/01/27/170253360/pride-and-prejudice-turns-200

In the end – Viva Jane Austen! Viva Pride and Prejudice!

Romancing the Regents….

I am not particularly fond of romance novels. Leaving historical romances apart….I mean that’s history at the very least. But romances as a genre make me want to barf. Even in my teens, I had serious problems with all the clichéd Mills and Boon and Silhouette romances and could not ever finish a Danielle Steel….all the sugar made me sick! (See my previous post)The only novels I was able to read through with equanimity were Judith McNaught’s Perfect and A Kingdom of Dreams. The former had a murder mystery woven into the love story and the second one was a historical romance set in the conflict years between England and Scotland of Henry VI rule.  So there…..

However during my late teen and I mean LATE teens, a friend of mine introduced me to Georgette Heyer and I fell for it…..I become a sucker for Regency Romance!

I think the process started long back when I read, yes, my bible of all sensible advice – Pride and Prejudice. The country side, the curricles, the balls and the Sprig muslin wearing Elizabeth Bennett and the dashing Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy all created such splendorous world of quiet and peace without being tedious and away from the everyday humdrum, that it was natural that  I fall in love with The Grand Sophy!

Having declared my undying love for Regency Romaces, I must point out that I am kind of choosy in this passion. Give me the traditional romance of Georgette Heyer any day. The plots are concrete, the characters believable and the repartee downright funny! The emphasis is on the plot and there is extensive research that goes into the details of the social mores and customs of 19th century England. That’s why I think Ms Heyer was absolutely marvelous – she managed all of these while making you laugh out loud and go back to her books again and again!

Then there is a whole different world of what I call “wannabe” romance writers! I mean they set their plots in the Regency times, but that’s where it ends. The characters all act/talk/conduct themselves more in 21st century fashion than those of the bygone days of Regency.  The plots are ridiculous and the conversations are anything but funny and sugary syrupy nature of affairs between the principal protagonists makes you want to lay off chocolate for the rest of your life! Case to the point – Julia Quinn’s Brighter than the Sun. I am sure Ms Quinn is very talented and erudite but I did expect more from a Harvard/Radcliffe protégé! The tale begins promisingly enough with a marriage of convenience between the Earl of Billington and Eleanor Lyndon and the sabotages that follow the marriage in the domestic affairs of the Countess and the Earl. But that is all there is to it. I read nearly 300 pages of sheer idiotism where the Earl did nothing but lust after his wife and while the Countess went in a tizzy every time the Earl kissed her, interspersed with how much the Countess was loved by her tenants and how the Earl though not expressing his feelings was gentle, kindhearted Squire, despite carrying a reputation of a rake! Yuck and a thousand times yuck!!! How very clichéd and I am an unqualified dolt for not only buying this book, but also actually reading it through! Where is my barf bag????!!!!

I know there are authors besides Ms Heyer who actually do put a more realistic spin on their regency pieces – Mary Balogh’s heroines are mostly fallen women or Carla Kelly, who explores the ravishes of the Napoleonic war on the lives of ordinary men and women. I do understand and appreciate that many readers do not prefer to read of about the more harsher and maybe real aspects of life in their fiction, after all many of us do resort to books to get away from our everyday realities! What I do have a problem is while I am all for a fairy tale romance, can we please , please include some sense and true fun into them!!! Ms Heyer, we so miss you!

The rewards of Sisterhood…..

So here I was about to write a thought-provoking piece on Thornton Wilder’s The Bridge of San Luis Rey (Don’t give away a Sigh of relief as yet! I still plan to write about it in my next blog!) and then I open my WordPress account and see that Roshni (an extremely talented young lady who writes some marvelous posts!) has nominated me for Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award! Yay! And of course I am super touched! Thank you for the nomination Roshni! Coming from someone as talented and gifted as you, it’s truly an honor!

Now comes the rules! Of course you link it back and Thanking the person who originally nominated you, ( easy – it’s a pleasure to direct people at Roshni’s site, cause she does write some amazing stuff!) bringing out to the world in general 7 random facts about yourself, hereto unknown (how I struggle with this part, though I am completely self-obsessed, I mean who isi’nt; only the degree of obsession varies, but I digress, despite my self obsession, it is kinda difficult to come up with these things! )and finally nominating 7 other bloggers! (easy again! There are some incredibly talented bloggers and to follow them is a privilege. )

7 facts about myself –

  1. I am hydrophobic! Water scares me out; not like shower or drinking water, but you know pools, oceans, rivers, bathtub filled to the brim! My nightmare is that I will be travelling in a plane over a vast water body when the craft will have to make a landing on the water (yes! There is a fatalistic streak in me! )
  2. I have a sweeeeeeeeeeeeeettttttttttt toooooooooooootttttttthhhhhhhhhh! I am not exaggerating! Give me high on sugar content item at any time of the day/month/year! I love chocolates, pies, pastries and dunk about 3 sashes of sugar in my tea!
  3. Like Roshni, I did spend a lot of time thinking about becoming a war correspondent (Yes! Girl! We have a lot in common!) Even managed to complete a Ph.D in International Politics and then threw it all up in the air and joined a financial conglomerate as a Project Manager, while still aspiring to be a writer! (Yes! Even at this age, I have some confusion about what direction my career should take!)
  4. While growing up, I was incorrigibly shy and would shrink like 50 ft underground before talking to a new person. No one, who knew me in my childhood or early adolescence, would believe that I will turn into this outgoing, talkative, absolutely obsessed social creature. It’s like I did a 360 degree turn around!
  5. Despite going on and on about being a social creature, it’s kind of difficult talking about oneself and I really am exhausted by these exercise and at #5 have run out of facts to share with the world!
  6. I love Vivaldi, Beethoven and Bach and I am still in my 20s; so for the older folks, it possible for the younger generation to appreciate good music and for the younger folks, I do not care if this is “uncool”; I think these boys rocked!
  7. I do not like poetry….that is one form of reading I could never develop an affinity too!!!

Phew! Done!

Now to the sound of drum roll and thundering applause, the 7 incredible bloggers that I am nominating for this award are –

Eggton

Lill and Jill

So Many Books

Tamarind and Thyme

12 Novels

Ravingmadscientists

A year of reading the world

Do check out their page….trust me………these women are out of the world! Enjoy!

Urgent Help Required for the Inspirationaly Challenged

Inspiration has left me and for once mu hyper active brain is completely devoid of subjects to write about. This usually does not happen to me, but this lack of creativity could be stemming from the fact that I slept I think 18 hrs of the last 24 hrs which is highly unusual in someone who is an insomniac and then spent the rest of time in complete mundane tasks like laundry, grocery etc. I am not saying that these tasks are not essential but sometimes I feel that these necessary but absolutely mindlessly boring tasks actually blunt one’s minds!

Jane Austen observed as much in Emma, when Mrs Elton complained of her giving up music because a married woman has much to do, despite Emma pointing out ample opportunities for her to pursue her interest. In today’s world I feel the same holds true – we get so wrapped up in what’s petty and banal, that we lose sight of bigger and more important things. The problem is when you try to look at the bigger picture and let go of the smaller things, the other will think that he/she has an advantage over you and can exploit you for his/her own needs . And because you are looking at the bigger picture, you let the other win because in the wheel of life everything will balance out. Bollocks!!

I am rambling…..I need help!!!!!(Yes I am aware that for you have thought so for some time!)

Seriously, I am completely without an idea on what to write…. I thought I will write about the Conn Iggulden’s The Conqueror, but I have not finished the book and want to hold off until I reach the end! (So many books start with a promise and end up being a disaster, so I will not shoot off until I reach the end!) I thought I could share my thoughts on 50 Shades of Grey…but 1. I have not read the book…am not sure am liberal enough to read it either….(Yeah me a prude) 2. What can I possibly say that not already been said…I mean the book is selling because of the publicity and not because it’s a great work of literature and to write about I believe will inadvertently give it more attention than necessary. I thought inspired by Eggton, who I consider one of the bestest of best of HA HA bloggers, I would do a take on my journal….Unfortunately, my youth was anything but interesting….I just filled pages and pages of whining about how I never got any attention and wrote in a pedagogic fashion because all my friends were having fun while I took a high moral ground on how fate left me down …re-reading it made me want to throw up my dinner…me thinks me will burn the journal…I am surprised my parents did not murder me for being such a crybaby…They should have and no one would have blamed them, least of all the adult me!!! I Maybe my prudiness is a result of my whinny adulthood…I also  thought about writing on friendships which can be picked up from any point, but it’s such an exhaustive and poignant topic, that I was drained of my energy before I began… (Maybe I am so tired because I slept so much!!!!)

So, finally, I decided to ask all my wonderful patrons – What would you like me to ramble on? What is the first thing that I can talk about, which will in turn make you raise your eyebrows – tell me and the words will floweth…..name the book (if I have not read I will read it via kindle or in the good ol’ fashioned way!) you want more quirkiness from my flatmate and my life – name a subject and we will both dive in to give diverse versions of the same… maybe there is an old blog you want me to a blogquel on (Yes I invented that…it’s a sequel for blogs!!!! I am bored, but still a geniusJ) just name it!

Think of this as a charity project to prevent someone from growing absolutely prosaic…sob sob…HELP!!!!!!

A laughing tiny brook from 1830s

It was nearly closing time at the Library and as usual I was bewildered on what to pick and what not to. The Librarians were politely, but firmly telling the patrons that they need to make their choice in the next 10 odd minutes and I was still unsure about the last book I wanted to borrow in my allowed membership quota of 5 books for 3 weeks. With very little time to spare, I randomly picked up a book lying on top of a pile of the latest returns. It was only while I was getting the issuing formalities completed, I realised that I had picked up Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford.  I was not very happy, but by then it was too late to change the selection. So I was stuck! I had read Gaskell’s North and South and I was really not in the mood for another Bleak House meets Industrial Revolution.

There is an old old adage – Never judge a book by its cover. In case of Cranford, I realised this was applicable literally.

Before I discuss the book, let me give you a short overview of its author. Elizabeth Gaskell was born in 1810 to a Unitarian Minister turned Keeper of Treasury Records and was brought up by her aunt, at Knutsford, after her mother’s death, barely 13 months after her birth.  She had an elder brother who joined the East India Company fleet but went missing during an expedition in 1827. In 1832, she married William Gaskell and settled in Manchester, where her husband was a Minister at the Cross Street Unitarian Chapel. She had four surviving children – Marianne, Margaret Emily, Elizabeth Florence and Julia.  She began her literary career initially by co-authoring a book of poems with her husband which was published in 1837. In 1848, she published her first novel Mary Barton. Following the publication of this novel, Mrs Gaskell and her family moved to Plymouth, where she would write her remaining works, while her husband managed many welfare committees. Their house soon became a centre for gathering of intellectuals, religious dissenters, and political reformers and their friends included, William and Mary Howitt, Charles Dickens and John Ruskin. She became a contributor to Charles Dickens’ Household Words. Her most famous works includes, North and South, Wives and Daughters and Cranford. She dies of a sudden heart attack in 1865.

Mrs Gaskell wrote from her real life experiences and was influenced by what she saw and observed around her. North and South is a testimony of her life and observations in the industrialized Manchester. Written from a perspective of a young woman Margaret Hale, who settles in a fictionalized industrial town of Milton, where she witnesses the harsh and unhealthy conditions of the factory workers and is forced into confrontation with John Thornton, a cotton mill owner. The story is a vivid and sometimes depressing, but true portrayal of poverty and oppression of the mill workers. It does not make for a light reading and in the light of such memories, it was but natural that I was not looking forward to Cranford.

Cover of "Cranford (Nonsuch Classics)"

Cover of Cranford (Nonsuch Classics)

But this is where I really underestimated the flexibility and the capacity of creative ingenuity that Elizabeth Gaskell possessed. Based on her years in Knutsford, Cranford is slow, leisurely walk down the Victorian society and her social mores, bringing out the generosity of people who has very little to give and documenting the irony and humor of everyday lives.  The book is really a series of events and happenings centered on Cranford and Ms Matty Jenkyns and other characters of Cranford including Miss Pole, the first lady of Cranford Mrs Jaimeson, Thomas Holbrook, Captain Brown and Lady Glenmire. The small town of Cranford is ruled by the ladies and everyday revolves on appearances of gentility (which is really a covert attempt to mask Poverty, because to discuss poverty is so vulgar!), card games, tea and friendship. It revolves around incidents like the collapse of a bank, a titled lady who stoops to marry a common surgeon,  and cows in flannel pajamas (I told you this book is funny!) and finally the return of someone from the past.

The book is dipped in humor and filled with laugh out loud scenes. It has a gentle narrative structure (do not read it if you want something that is fast paced and packed with action!) that puts you as reader at peace with the world, making you wish that the book never comes to an end. Written in clear, crisp style, without superfluous language or plot, the book is an easy read that gives you a warm fuzzy feeling. Read it on Saturday, when you are lazy and contended and the day stretches in front of you – it’s a worthy treat. To end, I am shamelessly borrowing my flatmate’s review of the book, which she updated on her FB status after reading the book (after I had gone on and on about it for like 114th time!) – Just finished reading ‘Cranford’ by dear Gaskell. It was such a pleasure reading her soft, restive prose overflowing with that typical, delightful all-pervading humour…like a laughing, tiny brook…

Oops I or (did he) do it again!!!

I know I have been away and I would like to believe that in the infinite logic of time and space, the “away’ becomes an insignificant, atom of nothingness. No I was not away at some abstract Physics or Metaphysical conference and no I have not been hit on my head….I am merely trying to look at the macro level picture as I am being advised by all and sundry and really …..IT DOES NOT HELP. Me is micro and “me” is what is important, at least at this point of time, rather than whole wide world.

I am rambling….so let me get down to the specifics –

I hope there are some young parents who will read this and take some valuable lessons, namely, never ever read out fairy tales to your daughter so that she grows up thinking that there is truly a “Prince Charming’ out there and then spend her whole life un-thinking this thought! My parents were not that considerate- they had a beautiful and romantic 8 years courtship at the end of which they tied a knot. Naturally, from their point of view Cinderella, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty was a good place to start for their daughter, both in terms of literature and belief system! Things did not improve as I grew older and graduated to young adult literature – There was always a Tom to Anna  of Green Gables, a Ned Nickerson to Nancy Drew and unlike any other girl of my age….I thought Frank Hardy was so much desirable over Joe Hardy.  And then came Ms Austen to completely morph and change the way I thought about men –

  • Mr Fritzwilliam Darcy will I believe always remain the best and the most popular among women as the most desirable partner of all times – whether it’s his “handsome mien”  or his honourable conduct (remember the Lydia Affair) or when we get down to the bass tactics his “Pemberley” or his unchanging love for a spirited and and intelligent Lizzy.
  • Captain Fredrick Wentworth was the man who made it big on his own in the conservative Regency society and loved and eventually persuaded and was perused to marry the intelligent and accomplished Anne Eilliot, daughter of the impoverished Sir Walter Elliot, Bt., despite the more pleasant though vacuous attention of the Musgrove sisters.
  • George Knightly is of course all that is noble, kind hearted and generous with all the trappings of noblesse oblige, whether he is considerate to the Bates or in his dealings with his tenants, even going to the extent of advising them on matrimony (the Robert Martin piece) and his quiet and deep love for a feckless Emma that sears into ones heart’s.

My ideas were therefore set at a very young age and they would be further refined and developed, thanks to the following –

  • M M Kaye’s The Far Pavilion – Anyone who has read this book will know what I am talking about – Ashton Pelham Akbar Martyn is the stuff dreams are made off (Yes! Ms Kaye did not consider that she was setting all of us for a fall…) his love for India, his adopted country, his sense of justice and fairness, his courage, his loyalty and his unwavering love for the ill-fated Anjuli Bai
  • M M Kaye‘s The Shadow of the Moon – How can one not absolutely love Alex Randall? In the lines of Ashton Martyn, he too possesses unbridled courage, passion, a sense of righteousness, a sense of justice and honour and his searing love for Winter De Ballesteros and thus representing everything a hero ought to be!
  • Leon Uris’s Exodus – Ari Ben Cannon’s character was not written by women, so he does not overtly possess what a Darcy or a Randall seems to carry off with an ease. But scratch the surface and you will find honour, courage, passion and righteousness of all that should matter to any individual and is deeply rooted in his vision of an independent state of Israel.

Now back to the main plot……after years of being fed on such literary diet, I am not sure if any of you have run in such emotional maelstrom that I have, vis-à-vis relationships. While I epitomise all the honourable, honest and courageous traits of my fictional heroes, I seem to be doomed in finding only those characters who have no sense of responsibility, will never take accountability of their actions and will lie through their teeth, even when there is absolutely no reason to do so, because they presume, you will not like the truth!!!! You ask why would one go for such a man? Well …that’s the whole point…one does not!! He just keeps forcing his attention on one and the fact that he is extremely bright and absolutely ha ha funny, kind of complicates the issue…..But finally when you do sit up and take notice, well he has other things to do, places to visit, people to meet and can you please manage while I gallivant across the world and finally you are wondering…”Duh!! What was I imagining?” And the inevitable, “Oh! Not again!”

Then recently thinking hard about the whole thing, I realise that my expectations are incorrect and it’s all Ms Austen/Ms Kaye/Mr Uris’s fault. Had they not set up larger than life characters, I would have had no expectations, if I had no expectations, I would not expect him to be any better, if I did not expect him to be any better, I would be at peace with all his irresponsibility, if I was at peace with all his irresponsibility, I would not give him hell, If I did not give him hell and became a Musgrove sister, then I would be in a long, albeit potentially silly relationship. But now thanks to my immense literary baggage, I have to be sane and rational and more importantly expect him to be all that as well and that….that is never good!!!

Ergo….do not let your daughters/nieces read the kind of books I read!

Saturday Nights and the Ds…..

I spent last night, i.e. the Saturday night in the most clichéd form possible! Went drinking then dancing and then again drinking and then again dancing followed by more drinking and finally an early morning breakfast! I am told this way of spending the Saturday night shows that one has a life – a social life! I just have a small question – as an after effect when I spend the whole of Sunday at home warding of the debaucheries of the previous night …trust meat that point I know that no life is better than that life!!!!! Of course, one doesn’t really complain when one is actually committing the debaucheries, because all said and done it’s a lot of fun, at least for that moment of time. One thinks of the Latin proverb -“It is well to remember that there are five reasons for drinking: the arrival of a friend, one’s present or future thirst, the excellence of the wine, or any other reason.” and raises a toast to it and one more and may be one more! The consequences are all hazy in the alcohol incensed fumes of future……so tomorrow shall never come!

Anyhow, I am not writing to debate out the pro and cons of wild night outs, but rather to share my varied and bemused reactions to clubs/discotheques. Even while the world was dancing the night out around me, I know I had to come back and write about this!!

So after drinking for like 3 straight hours, we went to this “in” club at the very heart of the city. This is like my umpteenth visit to this place and I still have to figure out why it so high in the “places to be in” list. The alcohol is alright but way overpriced. The food is …well palatable, but then who goes to a night club to eat. The music is….well for somebody who really digs dancing……well want to stop dancing and go sit in a corner and nurse my LIT. Then comes the people part of the whole deal…let’s get to that part.

Since this is the place “to see and to be seen with”, the entire world descends there. So I begin with the hep and cool, who were the most amazing clothes, have reserved tables and get waited on hand and foot. In a weird autocratic system, no body dances with their women, but they can go and grope anyone they care to in whatever form/shape/size as long as they are of the female disposition. Then there are the “want to be seen so that can show off to friends”. I find this variety mostly among women than among men. They wear the shortest of dresses and tallest of heels and are distinctly uncomfortable in the attire and do not have any fun, since they are so physically uncomfortable; but you will never find them confessing the same. Oh! No! They just had a “fab” time…..what the hell is fab anyway? Then of course there are the usual frustrated lot – both men and women. The men will go around pushing themselves on to you no matter how much you try to protect yourself. But at least the club bouncers are always on the alert for such creatures and in my limited night clubbing experience have always taken care of these gropers. But what about this whole lot of frustrated…let me rephrase desperate women???? So I went in a gang of 8, four guys and us four girls. At one point, two of my guy friends were just standing in the corner, drinking and generally enjoying, when suddenly this scantily clad persona came crashing into both of them and started gyrating…well gyrating…you know what I mean!! My poor boys……they did not know how to handle this loose cannon. Until one of her friends came and took her away, those two were literally cornered! Then there is this group, who seem to find a challenge in finding private spaces to display their affection and insist that the entire world should witness their love – at least physical if not spiritual! Shudder! Shudder! Ugh! Finally there would be this shy group of men/women who come looking for a good time and a possible dance partner….they will come quietly and shyly and ask if you wanted to dance….when you are already dancing with somebody!

After all of this and the bad music, is it any surprise that I spent a significant part of the clubbing portion of the night, hardly dancing and nursing one LIT after the other. The result of those LITs I keenly feel today…..the sins of the past shall visit us tomorrow…..sigh sigh! Groan! Groan! In the words of one the greatest philosophers of the modern times ….”Alcohol is the cause and the solution to many of life’s problems.” Homer Simpson

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