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Posts from the ‘Men’ Category

A Universal New Zealander…..

I just finished reading Katherine Mansfield’s The Collected Stories and I am sitting in awe….there is no other word except awe! Actually I take that back, I am in awe and at the same time kicking myself for being stupid – why the hell did it take me soooooooooo long to get around reading her work????? I remember trying to read her works, way back as a teenager, and then I do not know what happened!! Where the hell did I pick up the idea that she was of the Kate Chopin (The Awakening makes me want to never ever awake!!) Or my bigger reading albatross Virginia Wool (Shudder! Shudder!! One day I will bravely tread those choppy waters, but not now!) While it is true that Katherine Mansfield did interact with Virginia Woolf and was for a time a believer of Fauvism, her writings are her own – original, poignant and completely realistic.

The Complete Short Stories of Katherine Mansfield is an all-embracing assemblage of her short stories, including – Bliss and Other Stories, The Garden Party and Other Stories, The Dove’s Nest, Something Childish and Other stories and In a German Pension. This collection also contains her unfinished stories. How do I describe out nearly 100 short stories, which are my favorite? I just love them all – I love Bliss for its heart wrenching end, the broken pieces of illusion; I love The Garden Party for it generosity and sensitivity and I felt such sadness for the The Daughters of the Late Colonel, for their servitude, for their devotion and lack of independence. I love all the stories of the German Pension and though Katherine Mansfield called those stories “immature’, I loved the irony and the subtle mockery of mankind and its pretensions. Stories like Je ne parle pas français and The Dolls House made me cry, especially the latter for its brutal portrayal of weakness of men and women and the pain they inflict on innocents because of their own failures! I absolutely admire the way she speaks of children and their loneliness or attachments or fears, whether it’s the Prelude, or How Pearl Button was Kidnapped or The Little Girl! I cannot decide, I like all her works!

How do I define her work? I can only use adjectives …ok maybe some verbs! Her language is sheer poetry, whether describing a new house or the sea. It evokes such wonderful imagery in the reader’s mind and some of my favorite passages are of her nature descriptions, especially of New Zealand. Her stories are however anything but colloquial or restricted in New Zealand; though they are based in as far flung locales as New Zealand, France, England and Germany, her stories are universal. Her portrayal of marriage, both good and bad kind is real and hard-hitting. Despite being a “bluestocking” , she gives a very rational portrait of men and women, though being a woman, she does bring out the various nuances of a woman’s character far more adeptly than her presentation of her men. Her women are all kinds – brilliant, loving, sparkling, lonely, independent, deprived, unkind, courageous and humorous. They are extremely humane. Long back I had read Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex where she said that only three female authors have explored ‘the given’ – the disproportionate struggle for women to seek what is given for men – education, economic power, political platform; the three woman who have managed to question this were Emily Bronte, Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield. I now understand what Simone Beauvoir meant; Mansfield through her stories constantly challenged and questioned the unequal struggle that women had to go through for those basic things in life, which men so easily took for granted – independence, economy and security. But to call all Mansfield writing as feminist is a narrow and unidimesional categorization that is absolutely inaccurate; while she wrote a lot about women, she also wrote about things like love, relationships and some marvelously succinct and astute insight into the lives of children. It’s a tragedy that she died so young, for even her unfinished short stories had such promise of richness.

In the end, all I can say is that one cannot truly describe Mansfield and do justice to it. One has to read her work, sit back and savor it and only then does her brilliance completely sink in!

A humongous Thank You to Dr. Joan Bouza Koster, for reintroducing me to Ms Mansfield in the best way possible!!

Ladies Choice…

I just finished reading a New Yorker article by Laura Hemphill, Why Women Should Skip Business School.  On my very first reading of the article, it left me bristling and the feminist inside me, that rarely comes out, (Feminism and Post Feminism is all very passé! ) kind of exploded.  Ms. Hemphill, herself a survivor of mad-bad world of Wall Street and now an author (She has written a book on a young woman’s survival in the financial world called Buying In – “In” seems to be in; remember Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg!) makes some sweeping assumptions. Though she backs it up with enough data sources, one cannot help but get irritated with the constant chorus of the article – business school is extremely expensive and women don’t make much of it since they by mid 30s, they have a home life to address. Therefore cost benefit analysis shows that women should in fact use the two years to advance in their career instead of opting for Business School.

My first reaction is that she is being extremely narrow in her views; though Finance is a man’s world and there are enough horror stories of women in struggling to gain a footing in this field (that is a whole new post!) there are plenty of women who make it and stay on the top. ( Irene Dorner of HSBC, Edit Cooper of Goldman Sachs, Lara Warner from Credit Suisse etc). While I agree with her that unlike Law and Medicine, a degree from business school is not a pre-requisite to succeed in finance or related industries, one cannot deny that advance knowledge of matter will only help and not hinder. Finally in the era of communication and social responsibility, there are many women who are going full steam in their careers while successfully managing their home lives.

Now after writing all of this, I have to step back and think – I have been working in the financial industry for over 9 years now and have moved from the entry-level to now mid management and have seen how gender opportunities evolve. Though I work for one of the most gender sensitive and sincere organizations, I have loads of friends who belong from this industry of both genders and I have seen the highs and lows of their careers and I have seen how the gender role not consciously but sub consciously seems to affect career choices. Your employer has to do nothing, you will do it yourself!

I have a friend who works in hard-core retail finance – she is one the smartest women I know and her understanding of Analytics and Six Sigma leaves industry gurus gasping for breath. Yet recently, she gave up on a very lucrative career advancement opportunity and instead settled on a relative low-key role because she had a 1-year-old daughter to bring up. She was candid enough to tell me that for the next 7 odd years, i.e. until her daughter is 8 years old or so and her dependency on her mother reduces, my friend will sit tight on the wilderness of career advancement and bide her time out.  She has a husband who is at a lucrative position but travels constantly and therefore she is completely fine with her low-key role where she get a decent remuneration and but most importantly gives her flexible timings and working hours. Career Advancement will come later, much later.  Yet another friend, again very successful and very driven recently declined moving to a new organization that was offering her a better position, a much better pay and benefits because she discovered that she was pregnant. She told me that while her though her current employer did not value her work as much as others, and she had been time and again ignored for promotions, one cannot deny that after working for so long with them she has built up a comfort level and they will be more accommodating of her leaves and other personal needs during the next 9 months than a new organization where she still has to build up her credibility. True, she has to put her advancement on hold for good two years, but at 31, she said her personal life takes priority. These are all examples of women in the fast paced financial industry – even in the more “softer” industries like Art, such choices are being made daily. My sister, a double MFA from University of Boston in Literature and Fine Arts, worked for 8 years in one of the leading Museums where she used to head the Art Restoration department. After my niece was born, she took a complete hiatus from career for good 9 years – true she made that choice willingly and she wanted my niece to have a good home life and not go through some of the downward effects of having a full-time working mother, which my sister and I had ( I never felt there was any downside of having a working mother, but she contends that some of our life choices would have been more thought through if we had more face time with our very kind but always short on time parents). However today when my niece is 12 and quite capable of managing herself, my sister did not go back to the Art field which she loved but instead settled for a teaching job at a Private School since it gave her more time at home and with her daughter.

All of this makes me think that maybe, just may be Ms. Hemphill has a point. She may be right when she states “isn’t the most important thing for a woman to work as hard as she can and advance as far as possible while she’s still in her twenties and her life is as uncomplicated as it’s going to get? That way, by the time she’s a decade or so along, she’ll have more savings, more job experience, and more bargaining power—all of which translate into more options.”  Again I do not want to make sweeping assumptions and there are different stokes for different folks, but there seems to be a significant population of women who attest to the fact that sooner the women get started in their business careers, the better it is.

Does this mean that this is a reinforcement of traditional gender roles?  The man of the house earns the bread and the lady manages the home and hearth? I do not think so; I think this is an over-simplification of the matter. Today most men are equal partners in household chores and managing home front than ever before – these men cook, clean and babysit without qualms and don’t have any inhibition on how these exercises my dint their machismo.  In a nut shell, they are cool with it! The women on the other hand make conscious choices to put their home life ahead of careers.  At the end of the day, they choose to have a baby and bring him/her up, but it was and is their choice. This in itself shows a lot of empowerment and the self-belief to design their destiny. True, it might entail a career step back for a couple of years, but then these women are happy with their decisions.

Last Word – The woman should make her choice that enables her to lead complete and fulfilling lives instead of going  – Shit! I wish…Business School or no Business School!

The End….

I know I was away yet again and I did contemplate a lot before writing this post – but since I have shared all almost all the highs and lows of my life – this one seems proper, though as God be my witness, the idea is not to wash dirty laundry in public or seek sympathy, but to explain that while I will try to be my bouncy, bright, chirpy self – but there might be some days when I falter and I ask you all to bear with me!
I have so often read about such things, heard it happen to other and knew that stuff like this was part of life, but the reality and the fact that it has happened to you or can happen to you, does not really occur until it actually does happen! Then you go from disbelief, to rage to complete numbness! (And yes! Insomnia and writing random blogs in the middle of the night!)
So what has happened, so cataclysmic in nature to make me spew all this bizarre thoughts – oh! the oft repeated, tried and tested sordid ending of a relationship – I have been left at the altar, not practically but metaphorically for another woman. Mr Soulmate has decided that he found another soul better suited to him and was apparently with her for the last couple of months. He told me last week Monday, at work – calling me and saying lets meet for coffee and then “Well I want you to know – yada yada yada!”
I think I spent the next 48 hrs thinking it’s a bad joke that he will come and laugh it off or a bad dream that my flatmate will wake me up from. Apparently it’s not – it’s a reality and he is marrying her in December!
We worked together and that’s how the whole thing started – but I cannot seem to understand the hows/whats/when! He was promoted about 10 days ago and within 3 days after that, it was goodbye to me and hello to someone else! I am still grappling with what hit me/us?
I can’t seem to rant or rage and I do not wish for any scenes or any drama – I just feel very tired and numb and the only thing that keeps playing on my mind is –

How do I live without you
I want to know
How do I breathe without you
If you ever go
How do I ever, ever survive
How do I, how do I, Oh how do I live

If you ever leave
Baby you would take away everything
Need you with me
Baby ’cause you know
That you’re everything good in my life
And tell me now
Ms.Twain really hit the nail there! But I will be back, sooner than you think, but bear with me until then!

Once upon a time and everytime…..

So the Classic Club’s September Meme is contributed by Brona from Brona’s Books –

Rereading a favorite classic at different stages of your life gives you different insights with each reading. Is there one classic you’ve read several times that also tells a story about you?

Please be forewarned, this is going to be a loooooonnnngggg post!

Like a lot of people I began my formative years reading a lot of classics and like many I always thought of myself, especially in my teens as (Yup! You guessed it!) Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice by the greatest of all, Jane Austin  – I wanted to believe I was clear-headed, was quick  and witty and above all could give it back with all due decorum and politeness! Of course, there was always the sneaky feeling that if I became a Lizzy Bennett, I will find a Fitzwilliam Darcy – I already had a bit crazy and extremely hyper mother and a very laconic and sarcastic, albeit thoroughly sensible father. But life has different plans in place and as I grew older and read all of Jane Austin’s work more closely, I began to realize that I am actually a Marianne Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility, again by Jane Austin – I was an intellectual and cultural snob, who would turn her nose at anything low brow. I was extremely passionate about everything, still am, the only difference is at that point and this is the University years, I was passionate to the point of fanaticism. I also believed that there is only and only one true love and no secondary attachment could be that passionate. I had even found a semi – Willoughby! (Yikes!!! Super Yikes! Let’s not even get into that!) But now in my more respectable and mature 30 years of age, I know despite every plans and intentions, I have settled down to being a Jane Bennett (from Pride and Prejudice, the elder sister to the much aspired, Ms Elizabeth Bennett)  – how colorless can one get????? But facts are facts – though I do not have the legendary beauty of the eldest Ms Bennett, there can be no denying that I am a fool and do not see faults in anyone unless I am run over by avarice and selfishness of the other.  I am so busy, ensuring everybody else is happy, that no matter how unhappy I am, I keep up the demeanor, without realizing that those that are close to me can never be truly happy unless I am happy! The only thing lacking is Mr Bingley ( Mr Soulmate is nothing like Bingley – he is nothing like any of Jane Austin’s heroes!) and a sanguine temper – I am short fused and this is a carry-over from my Marianne Dashwood days!

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte is another book, whose re-reading has made me identify more and more with her. As a teenager, when I read the book, I was not particularly impressed by the namby pamby Jane Eyre and her stiff upper lip stance. I wanted fire and courage in my heroines and Jane was a calm stream of water. But re-reading the book during an interesting phase of my life (The Willoughby phase!), I realized how much of strength it takes for an ordinary governess to stand up to a Mr Rochester – to demand to be treated as an equal and what’s more to seek respectability and honesty in a relationship, even when your heart is breaking and you are completely in love with the person. Jane Eyre clearly was one of few books to take such a strong equality stance between men and women, with the subtle underlining of a simple message that took me years to learn, vis-à-vis, matters of the heart, that something simply cannot be compromised on – no matter how high the cost!

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand was another novel which I read during my teens and could not really relate too. It took me good 9 years in a corporate environment to understand what it is to be not only very good, but absolutely excel at your job and how the larger crowd with mediocre talents will try to pull you down. Though I am blessed to be working for a great company that actually has very limited if any Corporate politics, but there can be no getting away from the truth – the mediocre crowd would always find flaws with you if you are really good. They would rather you confirm to their average standards, that stand up alone and raise the bar! Individuality is good and having a mind of your own is even better – it’s difficult to stand alone holding the reins of success, but I rather hold the reins than become a blind horse treading the known path!

East of Eden by John Steinbeck is yet another book that made me realize a lot of home truths very early. In my Marianne Daswood phase, I could not fathom anyone making big mistakes in life and living on – the concept of forgiving and moving on was alien to me and therefore for a very long time I could not relate to Caleb’s actions in igniting Aron’s mind against their father Adam Trask. It was only much later as I became closer to my sister who was 14 years my senior and always the golden child of the family; therefore for a long time in my eyes taking the place of Aron (though she is undoubtedly more kind to the parents!) that I learnt about making mistakes, accepting them and moving on to make a better life. The day I accepted that I transitioned from a Marianne to a Jane!

Finally and I know I have already written a blog on this but no book at any point of time made me what I am and whose re-reading over the years has just made me appreciate a little more about such non tangential things like courage, honor and integrity – about standing up for one‘s beliefs no matter what and about strength that comes in all forms – To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. My basic principle of life came from this book and has only become stronger over the years – unless I can look myself in the eye, nothing is worth it!

Sigh! Sneeze! Woes betide…grief is me!!!

I cannot seem to pull off a chirpy note today! I cannot seem to pull out an intellectual note….I cannot seem to pull out any note! The reason…sobs!! I have fever, again!!!!So far, out of 12 weeks of 2013, I have had fever on 10 of them…statistically not very good! Doctor says exertion! Well cannot stop working in the crazy industry I am in; since there are bills to pay and some publisher has to decide what a gold mine I am …the next Nobel and all that!! So I continue to work 15 hrs a day in the crazy financial industry for …well yes Peanuts and now clear ill-health as a bonus!

My best friend thinks this is psychosomatic. I do not like staying away from my guy (I must stop calling him my guy and come up with a name…sounds very “babe’…I do not like being called that one bit…I am sure he would not therefore like being called “My Guy“, especially as we work through his official commitment issues…more on that later!). So back to the original plot,  let call him Mr Freesoul for now, so Mr Freesoul spends Friday and some part of Saturday diligently with me and our common friends; the remaining Saturday with his friends and Sunday, tinkering with his car and visiting his parents! (He is not such a good boy as this makes him out …he just visits his family on Sunday for fresh laundry and to make sure they cannot complain about not seeing him or him not calling them through the week!), so anyway, my best friend thinks this is just my angst of parting with him, which is not true! We both value our space and I agree I have to be more tolerant with his space than he has to be with mine; but I made that choice and I was aware of it….so really I am cool and read the first half – he spends Friday with me and part of Saturday and oh! By the way, did I tell you we work for the same organization? I am not exaggerating when I say that we see ENOUGH of each other!

So really, what is matter with me….I think I am bored out of my senses with the mundane and everyday…oh! I know I have my high and lows, but really between a stressful job, a non-existent literary career and a freesoul….I need a vacation…maybe a two month-long vacation in Tuscany! In the meanwhile, while I plan my travels, become size zero, resolve Mr Freesoul’s issues and publish an award-winning novel that will allow me to quit my power job, I will settle for this!

Feminisim

I know I have really rambled on today! I promise to make my next post more erudite and humorous….until then bear with me and accept my apologies for inflicting you with my overfried fever burnt brains!

The1/2+ Milestone……

So 8 months down the line, I thought it’s a good time to retrospect about what I had planned for 2012 and take stock of things. I know 8 months are neither here or there…I mean its way beyond the mid mark and a little too early to review the P&L of the year. But then if I want to start, I want to start whenever I am inspired….I mean who says that resolutions have to be made in the year or I cannot start all over half down the year????

Anyhow, below is the checklist that I had made for myself somewhere around 30th December 2011 –

  1. Earn more
  2. Lose weight
  3. Write rigorously and get  published
  4. Compatible partnerships
  5. Save and cut debts

Now let’s do the report card bit –

  1. Earn more – I did, but then I kind of spent all of it, so no gain and no loss
  2. Lose weight – Nope, but then I do have a target to lose 90 pounds in next 3 months (have reasons!!) so this one I might make it!
  3. Write rigorously and get published – Well I am writing a lot more this year and while there have been conversations, I am yet to get published
  4. Compatible partnerships – The dicey one….I mean I am in that no man’s land of being single and in a relationship and not committed (ships passing through the night kind of deal, except this is the longest passage ever!)…er…don’t ask!
  5. Save and cut debts –Miserably failed…no reduction in debts and definitely no savings either!

Overall I think I am hovering around 50% mark, (yes I know I am taking a highly optimistic view of my efforts, but then I do have to stay motivated, so 50% makes me feel good!) but there is still a long way to go. Therefore I start afresh again today, so that at the end of the year, I would have touched at least the 75% mark….I mean there will be uncontrollable factors like when do I get a good publisher (but until then I can keep writing and improving my craft) and of course the relationship bit is more dependent on him than me (I know there are people who take control of their drifting relationships and a friend of mine tells me it’s very easy to manage him, but I ain’t like that!)  But the others items can and should be achieved….so here’s to renewed vigor and effort in achieving my goals!

As part of the off with the old and on with the new campaign, I have decided to give up on my old theme for the blog…I was kind of sick of the pink/mauve whirls and go in for a more minimalistic approach. The panel photo for the uninitiated is Van Gogh’s Parisian Novels Yellow Books (1887). I love Van Gogh and his dedication to his art (though unlike him, I would want fame while I am alive and kicking) and of course, this particular work encompasses books (my most precious possession) and is set in bright hues…making this work one of my all-time favorites and I have decided to share the joy via the blog! My contents however will not change (Yes! I will continue to bore you with historical fiction), but I hope my writing improves….so do feel free to let me know if I am gone up in scale from February to August or do you think I have taken a downturn (Shudder! Shudder! Horror!) …Either way, I do plan to plod on….so once again…join me in the journey!

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!

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