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Posts from the ‘Philosophy’ Category

The End of the Year Wrappings….

Another year goeth by and yet another year to make new beginnings with! What did we accomplish in these 12 months and what do we hope to accomplish in this new year?? I am not a resolution person and from experience I know that whatever I propose, God/Fate disposes completely differently, therefore it makes total sense to make no plans and go with the flow! Instead I look back on 2016 and think of all that was done and if I may say, I deserve a pat on my back; while I did not do a lot, I did do some stuff that atleast showed some traction on my self improvement trajectory –

  1. I ran a marathon – ok! only 5km, but hey I am 115 Kgs and managing 5km is a task!
  2. I took 3 major vacations and 3 minor getaways, including a 14 days road trip into deep Himalayas. A year in travels CANNOT get better than this!
  3. I got a short story published!! Yes, finally I got something printed! So its not a big journal and the work is not one of my best, but hey! I am now an officially published person!
  4. I made some wonderful new friend, friends who are akin to my soul sisters, who have encouraged me run to marathons, keep writing till I get published and in general become more rational in life!
  5. Most importantly, I read and read and read!

On that happy note, as is my norm, I share below, the 12 best reads of the year as is my norm, with wishes for an even better 2017 for all of us –

  1. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf – I have been in perpetual terror of Woolf ever since I read Orlando when 15. However, Ali was hosting a Woolfalong and I was also participating in the Women’s Classical Literature Reading Event hosted by the Classic Club and this seemed as good a time to plunge in. And I am ever so glad I did; with it’s subtle narrative of following the thoughts of the protagonists and the sense of time passing and some of the most brilliant prose. I fell in love with the book, to say the very least!
  2. Miss Marjorie Banks by Margaret Oliphant – I had this book in my collection forever and now I sit back and wonder what the hell was I doing waiting for ages to finally get around to reading this one! Another one of Women’s Classic Literature Reading Event read, this wonderful narrative of the Victorian town of Carlingsford and Miss Bank’s effort to be a comfort to her father and the residing social priestess of her town is a hilarious and at the same time a gentle telling of things that were not quite right in the Victorian society! One of the best books I have ever read!
  3. Metamorphoses by Ovid – I would have NEVER EVER read this one if it was not for Cleo! Cleo with her enthusiasm and pep talk kept me going and I discovered a book that I had dreaded and ended up loving. This is an epic poem which is a compendium of all Greek and Roman legend has violence, greed, sacrifice, courage and every other element of human drama that come together to form a grand tour-de-force that simply sweeps you away!
  4. The Fortunes of the Rougons by Emile Zola – Another one of those books I did not want to read and ended by up loving it. This first book in a series comprising of 20 novels, traces the rise of the Rougan family from Plassans during the coup of 1851. Not a happy book, with hardly any redeemable characters, this book yet manages to share a story of humanity and deep insights into the human  heart! The only word I could use to describe it is profound!
  5. The Gypsy in the Parlour by Margery Sharp – This one was another one of those great finds thanks to Jane! The trials of the Sylvesters in their Victorian farm with new wives and wayward sons, seen through the eyes of a distant 12 year old cousin, is a retelling of an old tale of good versus bad with wonderful plot, characters that you wish were actually in existence and an end that kept you on the hook. Margery Sharp showed that with the right crafting of the plot, the old stories of human relationships will endure and even become page turners!
  6. The Rose and The Ring by William Makepeace Thackeray – A children’s tale that I picked up on a whim, while looking around for something different to read! Did I stumble on a gold mine or what!! Biting satire with hilarious dialogues with absolutely marvelous cast of Princes, Princess and amulets, this one was written originally as a fireside pantomime, and continues to be a complete enteratainer some 150 years on!
  7. The Dairy of Nobody by by George Grossmith and illustrations by Weedon Grossmith – If I have a find of the year, it is this book! Why in the world is this book not more popular is quite beyond me. This is hilarious, in fact uproarious narrative of Charles Pooter, who has just bought a new house and is adjusting to his life in suburban 1892 England, with some aid from his friends, his difficult son and his exasperated wife! if there was ever a laugh out loud book, this is the ONE!
  8. Up The Country by Emily Eden – My favorite non fiction read of the year! This wonderful travel journal, of Emily Eden kept while her brother was the Governor General of India, is a lovely description of an era of British Raj and of a time gone by. Free of prejudices, and with more insights, than her brother ever displayed, this book is a wondrous read into what the past really looked and felt like!
  9. Shadow of The Moon by MM Kaye – I know and I know! This is my all time favorite and I should not have included this and all that! But every time I read, this breathtaking saga of Winter de Balletros and Captain Alex Randall, in the backdrop of the Indian Mutiny of 1857, I am left breathless and mesmerized! Kaye who was born and for many years lived in India, poured her love for the land and her people in this masterful novels about tolerance, sacrifice and human courage! They really do write books like any more!
  10. The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore – My first ever hosted read-along, with the kind support of many of my friends in the Blogging world! The story of Nikhil, Bimala and Sandeep in the backdrop of Indian Indpendence Movement, tells a complex narrative about freedom, responsibility, choices and a woman’s true emancipation, at a time when India woman had in fact no place of their own!
  11. The Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson – I am NOT a science person, but this book, another one purchased on a whim,.is a wonderful, engaging and at times downright funny telling of , well everything! How this universe, earth and we, the living all came into existence. It makes you appreciate the wonder of the earth, read more about the Big Bang and sit back and wonder at the genius called Bill Bryson!
  12. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas – This is one of those re-readings that classify under “I know”. I know this is a classic, I know there is nothing better than this yarn of revenge and forgiveness and I personally find no better philosophy to live by than those enshrined in this book – “All human wisdom is contained in these two words, Wait and Hope.”

I know I restrict myself to 12 books alone, but this has been a very very interesting year, and I wanted to make an honorable and critical mention about Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Here was a book and an author I was not ready touch with a barge pole, until Stefanie came along with her wonderful review. Now we all know, I trust Stefanie, so I picked it up and ended up receiving some very practical advise, about being a creative person, about persisting in your craft and about capturing the moment, without wondering about when/what/where will the rewards coming in! This is perhaps the first self-helpish book that really helped, saw me pick up the pen and write more and genrally recommend it to all other creative folks!

That just about sums of my 2016 adventure!

Thank You for being part of this bloggish journey, thank you for your diligent and thoughtful comments/likes and advise. I am better reader/writer, because you all decided to help me out! Here’s wishing you all a fabulous and brilliant 2017!

In Memoriam, [Ring out, wild bells]

by Lord Alfred Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be

How To Think About Great Idea Project

I have always been fascinated by Philosophy. Its not like I always understood the subject completely and I often struggled with many of its theories, but I could not let go of this wondering fascination I had on this subject. I absolutely loved my Political Philosophy classes during my Graduate School days; a great credit also goes to the brilliant professor who taught us this jaw breaking subject and I remember the multiple re-reads I did of Plato’s Republic to get a hang of it, which fortunately I did before I graduated! Very recently,I have trying to find the time and make the effort to re-connect again with this subject and I have started and made extremely slow progress with Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophers and Albert Schopenhauer lies by my bed side book table urging me to pick it up and get going. Some critics even contend that Brother Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky is in fact fundamentally a philosophical treatise and as I read more, I have to agree.

In this kind of background, Cleo, my reading buddy and my fellow adventurer in all reading madness, came up with the idea of reading How To Think About Great Ideas by Mortimer J. Adler’s. Adler in his book, discusses 52 ideas ranging from a broad variety of subjects from Truth to Morality to Politics. The plan is to spend one week reading about one idea and then posting it a blog on the same. The chapters are not particularly long but they are tough!Now knowing how easy my life is, I did wrangle a promise from Cleo, that we pace it out and while we attempt to complete one subject a week, we may take longer. Good thing, I did, because I am already falling behind. However I have started on the first chapter and needless to say, I am finding my mind doing extraordinary gymnastics until it hurts. So even if I inch at a snail’s pace, I will see this through and hopefully at the end of the whole exercise have a more pandered and more educated mind!

Hence I start! Do wish me luck!

October and Reading

October is HERE! Yes…October is REALLY HERE!! So what if it feels like I am inside a boiler and there are no winds with a hint of chill and no delicious smell of wood fire smoke signaling the onset of Winter, but October the calendar assures me is here! As most of you know I live only between October to March, the rest of the months are just a bid to survive somehow. Fall and Winter bring out the best in the geography I live in and being a Winter borne, I take it much more in my stride than the pelting merciless heat of the summer! Everything about this season is joyous….more festivals, more holidays, more travels and naturally the hope of new year and new beginning! But I am as always getting ahead of myself and I must stop and add, that this is an especially good season to get a big book, a comfortable blanket and a big cup of coffee/tea/Irish coffee and indulge in my most favorite work time  – Reading (Reading cannot be a past time; I was born to read but am forced to work!)

My October Reading plans do not look very good, especially since I have HUGE left overs from September! But like I said, this is the season of more holidays, so heaven have mercy and I should be able to get through more, this month for sure! ( One’s gotta be Optimistic!) I was immensely proud of myself about not giving into the temptation and not going for Classic Club Spin #14. Just as I finished patting my back, I stumbled on Lauren’s blog and discovered the Victober and I was in before I knew the whats and hows. So while Classic Club would have been only 1 book added on to my tottering pile, I have now added 4. I have a IQ score that is tagged under the category of Superior, but when I do things like this, I feel somebody messed up the scoring for sure!! Anyhow I am in with 4 books written during the Victorian age for sure. I just need to quickly figure out what those books are and get going. Besides this additional load, I have the 12 Months Classical Challenge Reading Event and the theme is  A Classic by a Female Author and I go with O Pioneer by Willa Cather. Because I know that reading a female author for the Victober is also a criterion, I will combine it with the Women’s Classical Reading Event and read a novel; just need to figure out what that novel is! Under my woefully neglected Reading England project I am planning to read Under The Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy covering Dorset. I read Hardy years back and I did not get him at all. Hopefully as a more mature individual I will find something to appreciate, but I am not holding out on that hope very strongly!!I also have to finish Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K Jerome as part of my September Reading England Project. (Yes! I am hanging my head in shame!)

Finally come my read alongs and they remain completely unchanged and thank fully I have added only one book, which is a matter of some rejoice! I will continue reading   The Pickwick Paper Read Along and chase to catch up with Cleo  in reading The Brother Karmazov’s by Foydor Dostoyevsky and Jane Eyer by Charlotte Bronte Read Along, the latter, hosted by Hamlette. I  also  am reading The Silk Road – A New History of the World by Peter Frankopan and Jerusalem, A Biography by Simon Sebag Montefiore from last month, but these two I am taking slowly and I think these two books will stretch to December! The only addition to this never ending pile is How to Think About the Great Ideas: From the Great Books of Western Civilization by Mortimer J Adler and again I have been tempted by Cleo to join this as well! To be very fair, I did not need much temptation!!!Thankfully, this too is a book that will stretch for week on ends and each chapter is small and adds to my never ending efforts to read and better understand the nuances of philosophy and concepts like Truth, morality etc!

Thats that then! So here’s to happy reading and some wonderful autumnal moments in October!!

 

 

 

Revolution in 19th Century Bengal

As many of you are aware that for this month, I hosted the The Home and The World by Rabindranath Tagore Read Along to celebrate the 100 years of publication of this great novel as well celebrate India’s 69th “new” independence from British Raj. I had the greatest pleasure and honor in reading the novel with Stefanie, Jane, Cleo and Brona and as we close this month, it seemed the time was appropriate to share some of my thoughts and ideas about this timeless classic.

Tagore wrote this novel in the back drop of partition of Bengal (for more information, you can refer to the details here) which led to the rise of “Swadeshi Movement”  –  a nationalist movement that demanded freedom from British rule and was a precursor to Gandhi’s non-violent movement, which would yield much more significant results. The novel opens with Bimala the lady of the house giving us a background of the house and family she has married into and more importantly the character of her husband. The family is a rich aristocratic family settled for generations in Eastern India. Nikhil, Bimala’s husband is the scion of the house, running his business and family to the best of his abilities in modern and enlightened lines. He is kind to his poor tenants and genuinely tries to improve their condition and the state of the country by trying out new agricultural techniques, indigenous factories to produce such daily needs like soaps and pens and deploy modern economics like banks. His schemes are not always successful but his kindness and moral standards have earned him the respect of one and all. He has tried to educate his wife Bimala and has had a British lady come and teach her and he hopes to bring her out as an individual, independent of her identity as his wife. The household also consists of his two widowed sister-in-laws, wives of his older brothers who had died young after a life of debauchery and profligacy, leaving these women without any resources and dependent on Nikhil. Bimla is often involved in petty arguments with her two sister-in-laws in domestic matters, while Nikhil teaches her patience and tolerance for creatures like them who have been deprived of practically all basic human joys through choices that were never theirs. Such are the conditions, when the “Swadeshi Movement” sweeps the country. Nikhil is wary of such frantic nationalism, though he continues to fund finances for Sandeep, his friend who is a leader of the movement. Bimala thinks of him as a selfish creature and does not approve of her husband’s financial support to Sandeep. Soon nationalism comes to their county and Sandeep comes to their house as a guest and his oratory inspires Bimala to step outside the inner sanctums and purdah and meet him. This unleashes a series of events which neither Bimla or Nikhil who always encouraged Bimala to come out of the purdah, foresaw with significant results!

Tagore’s literary masterpiece spoke of 3 important elements at once, through the interweaving of the first person narratives of Bimala, Nikhil and Sandeep. First, it acts as an allegory for the nationalist struggle that had spread across India and Bengal, that presents two opposing forces, that is fighting for the future of Bengal and India. Nikhil is the enlightened humanist who asserts that truth cannot be imposed; freedom is necessary for choice, and is critical to individual growth and fulfillment. Sandeep represents himself as a realist, one who brutally confronts the world.He presents all that is passionate and violent, believing that the end justifies the means and that if something is not given to him amicably, he will snatch it if need be. Secondly, it deals with the question of gender when it proposes the figure of the woman as the representative of the nation. Tagore brings out his woman – the central character of the novel and makes her cross the literal and metaphorical threshold between the world of the anter- mahal or the inner chambers, the private inhabited by women in traditional Indian families, and the world of politics, the public. Finally, the novel raises philosophical questions and brings in Tagore’s ever curious questioning of metaphysical conception of truth and see the world as a constantly attempting to ignore truth and believe illusions to be the truths, which cannot be self sustaining. There are some shortcomings in the novel for sure – too much of rhetoric and some very uni-dimensional characters, especially Sandeep, whose brilliance is overshadowed in portraying him as a complete villain. Amulaya’s character is another example of unilateral creation where his goodness belies everything! However despite these shortcomings, I am still in awe of the brilliance that Tagore displayed not only in the narrative but also in the way he could fortell the future and his understanding as visionary which he translated into words for the common man to understand. Well before the rise of Nazi Germany, well before the Serbian or Rawandan civil wars, Tagore could see the utter and complete destructive powers of the “nationalist sentiment” . He wrote extensively against blind patriotism and spoke strenuously from desisting from violence as means to an end. A humanitarian to the very core, the idea of hurting anyone, Hindu, Muslim or British was appalling to him and he was convinced any results achieved on such principles would not stand the test of time – a key of Tagore’s belief system. Sustainable things and not things of the a moment, were the ingredients for success in any endevour. His foresight was telling when he brought forth the unrest among the Muslim populace of Nikhil and other feudal lord’s territories. This unrest and discontentment would fester leading finally to the partition of Indian in 1947 on religious lines, leading to the creation of Pakistan. His humanism demanded that we treat Muslims no different from Hindus, and religion should be the last condition for understanding the value of an individual – a lesson valid now more than ever.His celebration of humanism and individuality is powerfully brought out in the character of Nikhil – the man who believes that true freedom does not restrict but liberate and who honors those principals even when his wife decides to make choices, contrary to him and his belief system. Finally in Bimala he beautifully depicts the confusion of the Indian woman, who is slowly stepping out in the world to try and take her place again after centuries of oppression and purdah. She is confused and dazzeled by the heading feeling of doing some important work in the arena of men. She is awe of the power, all the men around her seem to attribute to her and she thinks she is finally making a difference to her country. Her assertion of character first surprises Nikhil who, despite being hurt, allows her to follow her own path and later Sandeep who tries to dominate her, finally showing her, his true colors. Bimala is representative of many woman, including many woman of today, who come from a strongly male dominated arena and for the first time discover a world of their own. They lose a bit of ground initially, but are soon able to assert their strength. Bimala in fact constantly reminded me of many of my sorority sisters in college. Thanks to the struggles of my great grand mother and grand mother, the former a contemporary of Bimala , in the same age and same socio-economic background, by the time I was born, my family was liberated, educated and got confused when someone said a girl child was a burden. However many families to this day and age believe in restricting the freedoms of their daughters in this country for the sake of honor or some such imagined masculine pride. These girls, for the first time sent to college away from the domination of parents would lose all control, until their innate sense asserted themselves and some of them went on to become lawyers, lecturers and even politicians. Tagore in writing Bimala seemed to fortell the story of all these girls.

I have read The Home and The World several times before and each time, I find something new to delve into and think about. If this does not define a classic, I am not sure what will.

To end, I would like to thank you all who participated in this read along and stuck around through my tedious history posts and found time to read this wonderful book. Thank you for your time and constant encouragement. No way could I have pulled off this event, if you all were not standing around cheering me on!

A Homage….

As many of you already know Harper Lee passed away on Friday, 19th Feb at the age of 89. I cannot even begin to describe the debt I owe to Ms. Lee and her fabled book for making me what I am and forcing me to confront truths even when I did not want to. I do not care about her second and more controversial publication, Go Set a Watchman and I do not care about how she has originally intended to portray Atticus. What I do not know is that she alone or in collaboration with someone gave us one of the most humane characters possible and for those of us who took her book to the heart, forced us to look beyond the obvious. I cannot even begin to eulogize about how magnificent or how life changing her writing was. I have in past several times referred to this book and its impact on me and I have often posted about it several time (for instance here and here and here…I think you get my point). Needless to say that To Kill a Mockingbird had a profound impact on me when I first read it at the age of 15 and it still moves me every time I re-visit the book and for me is a novel that defined who I am. I quote from one my old posts to just give you a hint of what this book did to my mind – “This book may not have defined my social or political mores when I was 14. But it did go a long way in making me an egalitarian, an advocating liberalist who believes in equality for all and standing up for what you believe in no matter what the cost. In my small way, I find at times speaking up for what right may cost you something – relationship, money, promotion. But this book made me understand one very important kernel of truth when very young – unless I can look myself in the eye, nothing is worth it!”  I even named part of my blog from this book.

What can I  possibly write to do justice to  the kind of wisdom the book brought forth? I cannot  and decide to let Ms. Lee do the taking instead.  I want to share those epoch moments from the book, which remain life changing to me. These quotes seem even more fitting now as intolerance and divisions across religion and race are bursting forth practically in all nations, dividing us on false fault lines and taking our attention away from real issues, like poverty, climate and other human security issues.

  1. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience
  2. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.
  3. I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what
  4. People generally see what they look for, and hear what they listen for
  5. I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks

RIP Ms. Lee! You helped many of us become better humans.

 

The Summer Home On Isle of Skye

I have been wary of Virginia Woolf for some time. I read Orlando at a very young age and did not like it one bit and since then have been very anxious about any Woolf related works. Though how I could possibly be attempting to read classics, especially Classics written by Women (Women’s Classics Literature Reading Event) without reading Woolf was something I often wondered about and finally Ali came to my rescue with her #WoolfAlong. Now seemed like a good time as any to start reading a Woolf; after all, the stars were propitiously aligned so to speak. I chose what is considered Ms. Woolf best work To The Lighthouse and plunged in.

The novel is divided into 3 sections -The Window, Time Passes and To the Lighthouse. The Window opens with Mr and Mrs Ramsay and some their friends visiting them in the summer house of Isle of Skye. They have eight children between them and there are tensions between them as well between them and the children. James the youngest of the Ramsay children wants to go to the Lighthouse, but his father crashes his dreams by saying that the weather will not be clear enough for the expedition,  a statement that causes James to resent his father and creates tensions between Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay. Lily Briscoe, a young under confident  artist is a friend visiting the Ramsays ,as is William Banks, a scholar and Paul Rayley, a young man about town and Minta Manning, along with Charles Tanney, a young upcoming scholar, whose views that women cannot write, cannot paint, greatly undermines Lily’s confidence. Each guest has their own assessment of the Ramsays and vice-versa. The section ends with a dinner party and an engagement of Paul Rayley and Minta. Section 2 is a series of images of time passing, there are deaths and Mrs. McNab who keeps the house for the Ramsays informs us of the decay in the house over a period of 10 years, that includes the World War I years, during which the Ramsay’s have cease to visit the house. Section 3 opens with the return of some of the members of the Ramsay family and some of their old friends, including Lily Briscoe. The Ramsays, especially Mr. Ramsay and James finally set out for the Lighthouse and Lily Briscoe finally finishes the painting she had started 10 years ago.

I had heard much about Woolf’s stream-of-consciousness approach and the fact that especially in this book there is not too much of an action and I was not sure if this was something I was going to really enjoy! Goes to show that unless you try something, you will never know. I loved the book. I am in complete awe of how the whole process of thinking and thoughts connected and held the entire novel together. I completely mesmerized by the fact that the these thoughts reveal the characters as well move the novel forward. I loved Section 2 where there are no distinct characters and just a sense of time moving and as it moved, my heart broke for the change and the loss; but the ending fortified me and the triumph of reaching the Lighthouse was significant at so many levels.  There are enough philosophical debates for the reader to ponder over, long after the novel is read – for instance the transience of work. Mr. Ramsay is constantly worried that his work will be forgotten once he is dead and oblivion is the inevitable end, no matter how  great you are. The concept that art as portrayed in Lily Briscoe’s painting is only means of truly capturing the memories and happiness.The question of marriage as a means of true happiness – Mrs. Ramsay, herself in a happily married state, despite minor irritations is convinced that marriage is “the” thing for women to attain true happiness; however Lily is convinced that women may have other resources outside of marriage to find happiness and containment and not all marriages lead to happiness.The characterizations are wonderful and  even the inanimate objects like sea and the house and the lighthouse are integral and characters unto themselves moving the story along. Most of all I was completely bowled over by prose, the colors that described an image and at the same time spoke of emotions experience by the central characters – “she had known happiness, exquisite happiness, intense happiness, and it silvered the rough waves a little more brightly, as daylight faded, and the blue went out of the sea and it rolled in waves of pure lemon which curved and swelled and broke upon the beach and the ecstasy burst in her eyes and waves of pure delight raced over the floor of her mind and she felt, It is enough! It is enough!”Another instance of so,e vivid prose where the natural phenomena describes the agony of the protagonists “The nights now are full of wind and destruction; the trees plunge and bend and their leaves fly helter skelter until the lawn is plastered with them and they lie packed in gutters and choke rain pipes and scatter damp paths. Also the sea tosses itself and breaks itself, and should any sleeper fancying that he might find on the beach an answer to his doubts, a sharer of his solitude, throw off his bedclothes and go down by himself to walk on the sand, no image with semblance of serving and divine promptitude comes readily to hand bringing the night to order and making the world reflect the compass of the soul. The hand dwindles in his hand; the voice bellows in his ear. Almost it would appear that it is useless in such confusion to ask the night those questions as to what, and why, and wherefore, which tempt the sleeper from his bed to seek an answer.” The only thing I felt that kind of stumped me is that we in the end do not know what happened to Mr. Banks or even some of the other children of the Ramsays. It was like being left in the middle of road, without even knowing which direction to head in. But that is only a minor deterrent, not taking anything at all from this brilliant book

What more can I say, except that unless your read it, you can never really experience it. I know I will keep coming back to book again and again!

The Ripping Reads….

I finally finished two of my RIP IX reads and considering both are masterpieces and everything that could be said has been said about them. Therefore I thought of doing a short combined post on both the books and instead of doing the usual reviews, I thought I will just share some observations that have now stuck me, after my re-readings!

The precedence as always goes to Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Sign of Four, featuring the greatest of all fictional detectives, Mr. Sherlock Holmes and his trusty aide, Dr. Watson. The book begins with Dr. Watson trying to convince Holmes to give up his use of cocaine and other such substances with Holmes replying that these are the only stimulants that keep his brain active, in the absence of work. This conversation is interrupted by the entrance of Miss Mary Morstan , a young genteel woman, who has been employed in the capacity of a governess and whose regular life has been disturbed by a note which asks her to meet a certain person that evening at six, along with two of her trusted friends, so that a great wrong that has been done to her can be righted. Miss Morstan also reveals that her father had been a Captain in the British India army and posted at Andaman Islands, from where he returned about ten years ago. He then wrote a letter to his daughter, who at time was in a boarding school, asking her to join him in London; that was the last she ever heard of him and he had since disappeared. Finally she states that for the last 6 years, she has received an expensive pearl anonymously. She then requests Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to accompany her in the evening to meet the man who wrote to her. Thus begins, the adventure of the Sign of Four, taking the reader from the fogs of London, to Cumberland, to Agra and the Andamans, in search of treasure, truth and in a very non Conan Doyle style, love. It’s a great mystery and the art of scientific deduction is wonderful to read – it makes one wistful and wish that if only one could think logically and deductively as a habit and at all the times. The narrative style is as always in a memoir of Dr. Watson and for once, some of the ending is given away, with allusions to what happened in future. However this does no harm to story in itself and it is a thrilling and nail biting narrative to read (especially the steam boat chase chapter) which has not lost even a tenth of its shine, since being published in 1890. Like I said, I can say nothing more about the novel than what has not already been said and shared; but this time two items stuck me as, well, a bit non-palatable. One was the portrayal of Mary Morstan, sweet, gentle, supportive, fragile, disdaining treasure for the sake of love – I mean Ye!! Gods!! Help me from such virtuous role models; for that’s exactly what she is – a model of ideal womanhood from Conan’s point of view. I know allowances need to be made for that particular time and the social-political rules that governed the society; but Victorian era produced a number of strong women who would disdain any namby pamby portrayal of their characters – these were women of blood, sweat, substance and strength, and while possessing a lot of compassion, they also were practical and sensible. I mean, England was ruled by such a woman at that time, not to mention, other wonderful women like Elizabeth Gaskell, Christina Rossetti, Millicent Fawcett and Elizabeth Fry. This concept of the ‘household angel’ was enough to throw me off the book, and I cannot believe that I had been so oblivious to this angle during my earlier reads! Sir Conan Doyle wrote of a much better woman, at least vis-à-vis character in Irene Adler in “A Scandal in Bohemia“– who is intelligent, loyal and practical to a T! Hard to believe the same man wrote about Mary Morstan. The other item that hit me was the portrayal of non-whites – whether it is Mohmet Khan planning a cold-blooded murder or Tonga the indigenous tribal from Andaman, the natives can kill with no conscience, the only redeeming characteristic being their loyalty! Thank Heavens for that!! I mean as it is the brown man/woman are “savages” but imagine the greatness and generosity of Englishmen, in inspiring loyalty among this unworthy people!! Kipling was a unaplogetic and unashamed imperialist, but to think Sir Conan Doyle also sang a similar tune, is kind of unsettling; as I mentioned before allowance have to be made for the age and I do, but with Kiplings, and Doyles and Haggards, at times, it becomes difficult not to be prejudiced! Everything apart though, it is a great book and Sir Doyle does what does the best, proving time and again he is the master of “detective fiction”.

The second book that I read for RIP IX is “Rebecca” by Daphne Du Maurier. I had originally read this novel when I was 15, through the night, when I was racked with fever and could not sleep. I had deep impressions from that read – all very gothic and creepy. The story is too well-known from me to write in detail – Maxim De Winters, the owner of the Manderley, an estate on the Cornish Cost, brings home a young wife after the accidental death of his first wife Rebecca, in a boating accident, a year ago. The second Mrs De Winter, is a young, shy woman who has great hopes of her future, that come to standstill, as she grapples with the presence of Rebecca in Manderley, whose presence is overwhelming and who continues to run the house from her grave! It could be that fever had induced my brain to be more sensitive, because, when I had read this book the first time I had felt the terrifying presence of Rebecca, I was afraid of Mrs. Danvers and I felt all the apprehensions and illogical fears of the second Mrs. De Winters. I should have waited for another bout of fever, before re-reading this book! I know people rant and rave about this book and I may be offending half a million readers if not more, but only a teenager, with really low self-esteem can like this book! My whole problem with the book is the second Mrs. De Winters – I can understand being shy and I can empathize with the feeling of being left out and not belonging, but Mrs. De Winters made me want to throw up and throw the book at her. She does not even try; for heavens’s sake, she is not even willing to try. She goes around the house like a mouse, when she has no reason to, and is perpetually afraid of Mrs. Danver who is just a big ol’ bully who should be set in her place. She does not even try to manage the house or stake her claim as the mistress – had she tried and then failed, that would have added a complex layer to the narrative, besides adding on to her oh-i-am-so-scared characterization. She is embarrassed in the presence of Mrs. Van Hopper, she is embarrassed with Maxim and she is embarrassed when Mrs. Danver finds her in East Wing! Mrs. Van Hopper is embarrassing and it could be that the second Mrs. De Winters’s initial life may have been a trial, but as Jane Austen had showed us, that one can still act sensible in presence of distressing environs; case to point, Elizabeth Bingley with Mrs. Bingley as a painful dimwitted loud mother or Jane Fairfax with her poor, silly aunt. But of course, no understanding of self-worth, enters the poor little Mrs. De Winters’s head until her lord and master, declares his undying love her and confesses that he never loved Rebecca – I mean what value do we women have unless, it is to be made worthy by the acceptance of the man. Also let’s not forget, that the Lord and the Master is a great man of courage and forbearance, who can murder to save his family name from infamy but cannot divorce for the fear of scandal. Such wonderful choice makes this declaration of love, even more touching; after all who can resist the love of a cowardly soul, who cannot face the truth; no matter how far he would have to go hide it. Only by such love, can one make herself a complete woman!!! By such standards, I should really consider myself an absolute failure and consider becoming a nun!!!! The redeeming feature of the novel, really are the last 100 pages as the body of Rebecca is discovered, and the mystery unfolds to an unexpected and unbelievable climax. This is where Ms. Du Maurier revealed her exceptional brilliance and expertise of her craft and as a reader; you are left breathless and shocked by the sudden twist of the tale!! It is this end, which makes the book in my view a classic and preserves it from the morbid and irritating presence of Mrs De Winter, the second! I never realized how disgusted I was with this novel, until I wrote this piece! Writing I guess is therapeutic!

I know this is one of my longest posts, but I cannot end, without once again urging all of your help in the Indiegogo Crowdfunding project which I am managing. We are not doing that well and your help would really make a difference. Again, there are a couple of ways to support this cause –

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