I know I have been away from blogging for a while, but the fact remains that I have been barely reading stuff lately. For once it is not my work which is to be blamed or health, in fact it is rather a happy occasion, despite the fact that it is keeping me away from my well-loved books! It is a wedding in the family – one of my cousins, someone whom I am very close to is getting married on May 1st; we were born only 20 days apart and have fought, argued and became comrades –in-arms from childhood to adults. Now this cousin of mine who for 32 years of his life has been confirming and swearing by lifetime of bachelorhood, has suddenly discovered love. In a short span of 6months of meeting, woowing and getting woowed in return, he has finally decided to take the plunge and thus, May1st is the D –DAY! The only thing he forgot, was that this is India, and here it’s not about two people getting married, but two families. Add to that just dash of multicultural-multilingual rituals; stemming from the fact that my aunt, i.e. my cousin’s mom is from Eastern India, like rest of my family, but my uncle, my cousin’s Dad is from South India – the family has been settled in New Delhi (You with me still) and the bride is from North Western Himalayas. This is one melting pot with three different rituals, customs and expectations! Welcome to the big fat wedding of cosmopolitan modern India! For the last couple of weeks, I have been on numerous shopping trips with my aunt (Ugh!!!)have visited and tasted more catering options than I can recall and have sat through long discussions on what is considered most pure and most auspicious per Hindu laws of ceremony rituals. My cousin the poor soul is exhausted and exasperated and thinks he should have eloped (I quite agree with him). My aunt is having hysterical fits, a la Mrs. Bennett style (Yes! My aunt belongs to that crazy branch of the family, whose genes I want to surgically remove, if I could!) My uncle is trying to be stoic and failing miserably and the bride, a lovely girl with wonderful sense of fun, is losing her good humor by the minute and often calls me to ask me if this as in all the madness is normal…I have to be heartless and tell her yes..welcome to the family of loony bins! The boy is still very sane and very good…hope that gives her the much needed silver lining! Hence, my reading has completely come to a halt, I am trying to sneak in and finish The Awakening, but my aunt, at whose place and company I am spending significant weekend time, does not approve of the book. She read the synopsis and thinks it’s a most inauspicious read before a wedding ceremony (I told you that branch of the family is crazy!) She does not even approve of Road to Oxiana because per her only the frivolous ricj have the money to hike all over the world and then write books; while I cannot disagree with her on the frivolously well off piece, I have tried pointing out that they do write amazing stuff, but Robert Byron is beyond redemption as far as my aunt is concerned. That’s a slice of my life for the last 10 odd days. I will try and sneak in a bookish review one of these days soon, but don’t hold your breath. In the meanwhile, I go back to the family meeting of planning the reception menu for the 1846th time!! What Joy!!! I leave you with a Bollywood wedding song and dance – this ACTUALLY HAPPENS!!
It’s been a tiresome troublesome two weeks – I have besieged with challenges, both tangential and non-tangential – Just after my laptop was fixed and I could resume my normal blogging activities, WordPress for some reason decided to send all comments I made to the SPAM folder!! My phone after being fixed went caput again and just when my phone goes on a blinker the entire world has to call me!!!!But my phone could not go caput before I had a rather “distressing” conversation with one of my lesser liked aunts!!! I listened to a long and extremely offending lecture on my life style including what she deemed as important matters of life to which apparently I had an “immature” approach!!! AGRH!!!!! I am so glad I live 2300 kms from her and more of her kind!! Whoever said family is important never met my extended maternal family!! All of this followed by two instances of working for 24 hrs straight…I had heard of working for 24 hrs, and I have done 18 hrs but working for straight 24 hrs not once but twice in one week was just something else….needless to say, it’s not been very good lately!!
Anyway the only bright spot and this one is a considerably big bright spot, in fact it was so bright that I deem it as a bright sun, was to be nominated for a One Lovely Blog Award/Very Inspiring Blogger. While the honor is great and I am absolutely thrilled about it, what makes it even more special was that this came from Stephanie – a person I admire, whose tastes I have the firmest reliance one, whose opinions are always sensitive, a person who inspires me every day to read more, especially things I would have never explored and whose blogging discipline makes me write a post diligently and keep at it!! An awesome person, a wonderful friend and a great mentor all rolled into one!! What could be more joyous than to be recognized by somebody you look up to – there cannot be a greater accolade than this!!
Per the rules, I have to share with the greater world 7 facts about me and nominate 15 other bloggers –
About the 7 facts –
- I am extremely short-tempered and I have a TEMPER!! Over the years I have learnt and tried to control it, but there is no getting away that I have a short fuse and it takes very little to light the mental dynamite.
- I am FOODIE!!! I mean it…I love food!! The first thing I think off when I wake up is what will I have for breakfast??? Last thought before my close is where we can have dinner tomorrow. I love cooking and besides reading and writing, that is one activity, I spend a lot of time on!!
- I am a perfectionist – ask my team at work!!! Even the smallest mistake are highlighted and sent back with a not so nice email. For all my bouncy, optimistic, cheery personality, I am perfectionist and a hard, very hard task master…I drive myself over the edge and so does my team. I am very blessed to have a team which takes all my “perfection driven” idiosyncrasies with good humor and I am truly truly proud to lead them. But they do have to put up with comments like “the right hand margin of the slide 2 of the PPT is 1/4th inch less than the left hand margin”!!
- My first true love was when as 7 year olds, my best friend and I discovered a movie released nearly 5 years earlier, called “Top Gun”…No I did not fall in love with Tom Cruise, though my best friend did…instead I lost my heart and never quite gained it back to Val Kilmer . (I know he looks like a whale these days, but true love is beyond the obvious and such shallow things like good looks – though at the age of 7 I doubt I thought in such depths!! But I still hold a candle for that man!!!)
- I love and need my morning tea….nothing and no one comes in-between that…otherwise I am one grumpy creature. My other favorite drink is water and I consumer at least 6 liters a day – it’s never a task as I am always thirsty and I always have a bottle of water around me. I also LOVE white wines!!
- I am not particularly a movie person. I do watch an odd film now and then, but for me movie watching has to be an event – I do not go to the theater every week (more like once in 5 months) and I consider it a waste of time. However I do get bitten by a bug now and then and I watch back to backs non-stop for days on end, maybe because I like the time period the film was set in (I saw Band of Brothers 7 times, all 10 episodes) or the actor (like when I do my Val Kilmer fests) or country (recently went through Spanish film thingy!!)
- I love dancing – I went to a dancing school for more than 14 years and till date love to dance around my house. For some reason or the other, I have developed a strong disinclination for dancing in parties/clubs etc…cannot seem to quite enjoy that!!
Okay!! Glad that the 7 things are over…now for the 15 nominations –
Fleur in her World : Jane is my biggest bookish/bloggish inspiration along with Stephanie. Her reads are always wide ranged and her reviews succinct. I have never gone wrong with her recommendations and she is one of those very few people who have managed to introduce some great authors in my repertoire. If she has liked the book, rest assured, it will go in my TBD. Briar’s posts are absolutely marvelous and comes as an added plus when visiting her blog!!
Eggton : is another of my favorites. Katherine is not only an ex-New York mover shaker lawyer turned cook, but she is also someone with a wonderful sense of humor and with funniest laugh out loud takes on life. You read her blog, when you are down, and I guarantee 100% upliftment of spirits!! The fact that she always posts some awesome recipes that completely blows away the foodie in me, just adds to the brilliance of her posts!!
Flowers and Breezes – Sheen Mam’s take on life, her simple observations that bring home the truths which we forget in our daily lives and her generous nature makes her writing a refreshing read. If you had a bad day, read her posts, before you call it night, they act as a soothing, peaceful and comforting salve to your cumbersome challenging day.
Women, Words, and Wisdom -Dr. Joan Bouza Koster is a scholar, feminist, humanist, historian, author and a connoisseur par excellence of great literature. Her blog brings together all these items and more. Her posts deal with well researched nuggets from women writers from the past, on subjects as wide-ranging as daily working conditions, to memories of childhood to writing etc.
CogitoFilm – I don’t like films too much, but this blog has awesome reviews on both Hollywood and Bollywood film with some really clever observations and wonderful imagery of descriptions.
jaynesbooks : If you love books, you HAVE to love this blog. Her reviews are clever and absolutely in your face. I love her like it-do not like it approach and I tend to find myself almost always in alignment with her thoughts!! Her Top Tens are a treat!!
Brona’s Books : If anyone, anywhere loved books, then Brona is their ideal. Like me she reads practically everything, like me she has an opinion and unlike me her opinions are always well-informed, judicious and sensitive. If she likes an author, I will like it!! Her readings have opened me up to a whole range of authors and I love the bantering we share on every book we read via the Classics Club
The Odd Pantry – humor and good food and some wonderful insights; what more could one ask. Her recipes are as creative as it can get and her musings on life mostly hilarious, but at times extremely thought-provoking.
A Great Book Study : Ruth is again I met someone via the Classic Club. Though she claims that she is no expert and her posts are really her first cut take on classics, her writings and opinions always brings out nuances of books which I have read and though understood completely and her review is always considered and subtle
Breadcrumb Read – Risa has a post graduate degree in English literature and one quick review of her blog will convince you that her education is well utilized every day and though she does not accept awards for her blog, I am nominating her because I want more people to enjoy what I really really enjoy – her bookish talks, her love for classics and all her bookish adventures!!
Biblioglobal : I have only just started following her blog and I lament that I lost out on so much for so long. Reading one book about one country across our globe, she has in a very short span of time really broadened my understanding of literature. She also does some amazing and quirky research that gives you a lot of insight into reading and books related demographics around the world.
A Striped Armchair – Though she replaced her armchair with a lovely couch, her blogs keep up the standards of great review and a thorough and uniform understanding of the context of the book. She is one of the few fellow readers who reads loads of stuff about international relations, ethnicity, religion and identity that is outside of academic requirements.
12 Novels – 12 novels in 12 months, actually 13 novels in 12 months. What could be more inspirational than a struggling writer than to be motivated by this one diligent, fun and honest writer who takes on a new challenge every month, with no other expectation than becoming better in her craft!
A year of reading the world – Similar to Biblioglobal, Ann, a blogger based in London decided when 2012 Olympics came visiting her city, she would celebrate the occasion by reading literature from the 196 nations participating at the games. While Olympics has come and gone, she is still reading some great stuff and writing about them.
Mister G’s Kids – Hilarious, funny and a great take on teaching today filled with irony and rib-tickling laughter and all the highs and lows of being a teacher!!
It’s up to you if you choose to carry this award further, but thank you all for sharing your lives and interests with me and for picking me (virtually!!) especially when the chips are down!!
I have been so ill…for the last two weeks I have been confined to my bed with multiple disorders including a low blood cell count that has led to such weakness that standing on one’s own two feet for more than a minute is risky (On account my loosing balance and falling) I have not been this ill, ever in my adult life – never been this sick to be unable to stand, write or even read. Anything remotely difficult or challenging makes my head ache and eyes water…I mean Shakespearean Sonnets are not even difficult but there, cannot read it!
It is times like this one really misses one’s true blessings – never a very active child (I mean physically! I hated sports, though I was always active enough to run around the house doing all I want!)I was never weak and this past two weeks I am all namby pamby . Make me lift the serving spoon and my arms ache. Make me walk from my bedroom to the drawing-room and my head spins! I hate not having control over my body which in turn impacts how much I have control over my mind and me losing control over my mind – a very very bad thing! But now as I write this post, I miss the strength and the stamina to go on and on. In a brief spell of time, I seem to have become this wishy-washy person who is no longer in charge of her life and this makes feel worse because I never really appreciate good health and stamina as something that makes life better! Now of course, I know better and once I get back to my old self I am going to make sure I never go back down this road again!
What have I been doing these last two weeks – no prizes for guessing: reading? I read Conn Igulden’s War of Roses, I read Arnold Bennett’s The Grand Babylon Hotel, I read Claire Benson’s Murder at Sissingham Hall, I re-read all the Harry Potters (Trust me there is no better antidote to bad humor or ill health) as well as all the feel good classics – Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Jane Eyre and Little Women. I also started on New Grub Street by George Gissing and am loving it. Somebody should do a study in sick room and reading patters – me thinks it will show a lot about the psychology of the person and may even give correct prognosis about by when the sick person will be healed (I know the last part is a very 19th century, but one never knows! These days I am trying to live with a mind over matter principle, because I would otherwise be unable to get through simple tasks of the day like taking a bath!)
The only upside of this illness is again to make me aware how blessed I am. As you can figure out, I am pretty ill and incapable of simple acts like cooking cleaning etc. My parents are very old and 2500km away from where I stay so dragging them so far is out of question. My sister is in teacher’s conference and out of the country….so who is taking care of me at home (I refuse to be admitted at the hospital; I am sure I will become more sick!!!) My flatmate/my best friend/my mentor all rolled into one. Very rarely does one come across in life a friend who puts his or her life on hold for your sake – well I am truly blessed to have her. She has taken care of my meals, ensures I eat the right stuff at the right time, cooking, cleaning and managing my ill humors when they raise their head! She has been an angle though she hates the comparison and would rather be called a mysterious la elegante damsel. Well damsel or not she was my knight in shining armour and I am so blessed to have her in my life. The doctor said that my body was reacting to some unpleaseant shock which may have happened months ago but to which I did not react properly then and its coming out now. I can think of what happened and now that I think back, I did bounce on my feet very early, perhaps a bit too early! However if betrayal and dishonesty were the root of my illness, surely the love and care of my flatmate, my friends and all my well-wishers (and trust me I have many for I was besieged during this illness with cards, flowers, calls and a genuine wish on everybody’s part to actually help me!!) should serve as the protective shield against any such damage. May be it’s my illness that’s making me maudlin or too much of Dumbldore’s advice (When you read 7 Harry Potters in two days, Dumbledore is as real as it gets! Besides wisdom is wherever you want to see it) but love does make a person a whole lot better!!!
P.S. I will for sure go back to review of all the books I have read from next week – big time catch up needs to be done!!
Confession time and don’t raise your eyebrows – I am not about to disclose that I am giving up life to lead an ascetic life on the Himalayas nor am I going to give up my job to spend the remaining life as a poster painter of the streets of Paris. I have nothing against the ascetic living individuals or poster painters, especially the latter since it does kind of have a 1920s glamour associated with it, but I can’t imagine myself as creature deprived of home delivery, cab service and Kindle!
Anyway, as usual I digress; where was I? Oh! Yes! Confession time – I am a crier! As in a bawler! As in I cry over books and movies. I bawl and drown the world in my river of tears. For someone who takes life stoically and bounces through heartbreaks through cherry optimism which even I find nauseating in myself at times can spend hours crying when Elsa is left to fend for herself in the Jungle- yes Born Free! I cried buckets when Boo rescued Jem Finch and takes him home – yes To Kill a Mockingbird! I cried when Maria left without meeting the children – yes Sound of Music. Let’s not even get into the hours of uninterrupted tears shed on reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. My new year’s eve 2013 was ushered with me shedding buckets of tears for while reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I even cried when I understood how poor Snape repented through his life in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (I mean who cries while reading a Harry Potter? I do! I cried for one whole day when Sirius dies!) I am sure I forgetting a million others, but the point I am trying to drive home is that I CRY!!!!
One of my all-time favorites reads, which inevitably leads to a lot of crying, thereby increasing sales of Kleenex and I am so surprised I have never written about this book is called “Welcome to The Great Mysterious” by Lorna Landvik. I had never read Ms. Landvik before I picked up this book and I have never read anything since. But, boy! Am I glad that my flatmate picked up this book one summer afternoon three years ago when our community library was selling of some of its older collections due to space constrains.
“The Great Mysterious” is not a mystery/thriller – in fact it is one of the best happy books that I have read – true there are some heartbreaking moments, especially around chapter 10 and 11 (My Kleenex quotient jumps from 3 to the whole box Now!) but in the end when you close the book, you will have a smile on your face. The book is about dive Geneva Jordan, a broadway star who is in between projects and nursing a broken heart and menopause. It is at this serene moment of her life that her twin sister Ann, arm twists her into babysitting Ann’s 13 year old son Rich, while she and her professor husband take a much needed work/vacation for a month in Italy. Geneva Jordan is not particularly happy at the thought of spending time in the back woods away from the glamour and comfort of New York where she had decided on spending this time indulging herself and taking a much needed vacation while coming to terms with the crucial changes in her life. The other worry she had was that Rich suffers from Down Syndrome and she is not quite confident as to how she would manage such a child. After much pleading and emotional turmoil, she agrees to take on her nephews care and moves into her sister’s house for a month. It is there that her transformation begins – how she begins a warm relationship with its natural ups and downs with her nephew Rich, new enriching friendships with Barb, who is mother to Rich’s best friend Conrad and James the mail man and the discovery of small joys that are far more beautiful than the most expensive indulgences. Intertwined with this journey of self-discovery via a memory book that a 13 year old Geneva and Ann created seeking to find answers to the big questions in life called “The Great Mysterious” and the understanding that all relationships have several layers and a person may not be the way they seem and that the past gives strength for living for the future, when you know how to look!
It is not, and I repeat NOT a pedantic book. Written in an engaging first party narrative from the point of view of a very warm but very human Geneva Jordan, the book does not aim to be a high brow literature. Instead it tells you an unstoppable story which makes you turn page after page until you reach the end. It’s a funny book – there are many ha ha moments and critics can say that it’s a very linear story and far too simplistic etc. but the book is what it’s meant to be – an entertainer! There is nothing holier than thou or oh! look at the bright side of things and Down Syndrome is god’s gift etc etc. Instead it’s a joy ride of a book – where you laugh, scream and the cry your way through. It’s like talking to a great companion and realizing at the end of 2 hours, that the companion is actually a great friend to whom you can go back whenever you are happy or sad or just need company time after time!
This blog is in response to the March Meme of The Classics Club. The subject is Jane Austen…now how can I ever pass out on opportunity to wax eloquently on my all-time favorite author – the very witty, the very talented and an acute observer of all the fallacies of human nature.
While Jane Austen has always been at the very top of my ladder of veneration that I reserve for my most beloved writers, it is very surprising that I never wrote about her before. But then what can I say for Ms. Austen that has not been said before – what can I say that is original and not hackneyed or trite? However let me attempt to spell out why I resort to Jane Austen, when I am happy, when I am sad, when I am confused, when I need distraction or simply when I need to attain a Zen state of mind!
By now, the very first question of The Classic Club for this subject should be answered by now – I do not love Jane Austen; I am obsessed with her!!!!!
Now to broach why I love Jane Austen – I love reading her because she is one of the original fountain of all wisdom pertaining to relationships, especially those between a man and a woman. All those of who had been nourished on a healthy and completely untrue diet of Prince Charming carry poor little Cinders away, despite strong objections against her background got of first taste of reality through Austen’s work. Whether it is Mrs. Bennett or her relations, there can be no denying that improper behavior by the family of the protagonist will always be a hindrance in the path of true love and will always make a lover hesitate in declaring his intentions. How many times in your adult life have you heard your boyfriend say that your mother/aunt/sister is too loud and an embarrassment in public which led to an eventual showdown between the two of you, regardless of the validity of criticism? I feel this keenly and therefore try as much as possible to shield my guy from my extended family. She was one of the first writers to put forth that while filial respect is always important and should always be of greatest import, one cannot turn away from the obvious shortcoming of the parents, which at times may lead to disastrous effect on the child. Example of the same is Mrs. Dashwood who does not try and control the imprudence of Marianne in her relations to Willoughby leading to heartbreak for one and exposing another to the censure of the world. Sir Elliot’s vanity and pride deprives his daughter Ann Elliot from happiness for seven long years. These were revolutionary concepts, especially when we look at the era that Ms. Austen was writing from.
Many claim Jane Austen had written a 18th century Mills & Boone through Pride and Prejudice. But this in itself is a very simplistic understanding of the novel – this was one of the first books where the heroine asserts not only her own self-respect but also forces the male protagonist to respect her family through sheer force of character. Ms. Eliza Bennett is not a milk and honey miss, like her other fictional compatriots, who faint at anything remotely stressful; nor does she give away to hysteria when ill befalls her family – instead she faces them as a strong individual, sharing burdens with her sister and keeping her own repining in check and rarelyhas moments of self-indulgence. She does not go around being pedagogic to her suitor, but speaks to him on equal terms, in mixture of humor, angst or anger as dictated by natural human tendency. Pride and Prejudice was also one of the first writings to throw an egalitarian twist – while Mr Darcy had 10000 a year and Pemberly, he is dismissed as a gentleman by Elizabeth, who claims equality as a gentleman’s daughter and is completely unapologetic about the comparative material inequities between the two.
Ms. Austen was one of the first writers to create a flawed heroine, whether it was Elizabeth Bennett’s initial liking for Mr Wickham or Emma Woodhouse’s meddling and sometimes rude conduct towards her friends and neighbors. She makes her heroine fall to only make them rise, realize their mistake and become better human beings, woman, wife, daughter etc.
Finally many critics have condemned Jane Austen as parochial and not addressing some of the pressing concerns of her time, like the Napoleonic Wars. She does refer to the Napoleanic Wars when there is a need – Persuasion is filled with allusion to peace after the war; but mostly she wrote about the country – the kind of place she grew up and spent most of her adult life. She wrote about things that she understood and had complete command over than attempt something for which she was dependent on second-hand sources and which may have a false bearing on the tale. After all, since Ms. Austen’s celebrated examples of writing about spheres understood by the author, more than 200 years later, the apparently modern and up-to-date social networks, work on her principle of writing locally!
Jane Austen is not out dated, she is not boring and she is not parochial – she is in fact very cool, with writings that can be handed down from one generation to another, because it addresses the really never-changing mores of human interactions!
To address the last part of The Classic Club Challenge – my favorites in order of 1 to 6 are (with 1 being the best!)
- Pride and Prejudice (No Surprise there!)
- Sense and Sensibility and Persuasions (I know…I cannot decide between the two!)
- Northanger Abbey
- Lady Susan
- Mansfield Park (Only Austen that I consider tedious and didactic!)
Do let me know what you think about Ms. Austen as well!
There are many things that comes to us a legacies – a house, jewelry, money, an old piano…..the list I guess could go on. At any case, legacies are of great importance, for they bind us to a past that is inherently our own and through which, in many cases, our identity derives from. The legacy might be part of the very answer, if not the answer of who am I?
So what am I trying to say here????
I am talking about legacies (Duh!), but intangible ones. I know many families have intangible legacies – legacies on which prices cannot be placed because, they are feelings, stories, tales of a house, handed from one generation to other, in forms of memories and wisdom. I too have a similar legacy – not tangible. (My grandparents came over as refugees, leaving all their possessions behind to escape religious tyranny, so really not much in terms of material wealth!) My legacy is therefore of – books! Not books that are handed down from one generation to another; how could my grandparents carry books when they could barely get out with their life and limb intact? It’s rather about tales and authors that have been favorites of the past and have been passed down to posterity.
Let me get to specifics –
My granddad, i.e. my mum’s dad, was an avid reader. One of his all-time favorite author was A.J.Cronin and his all-time favorite novel was The Citadel by the same author. Many years later, when my mum wrote her graduation paper at the University, she wrote about The Citadel. Fast forward another twenty years down the line, as I graduated from Nancy Drew and Ann of Green Gables (not that one ever gets over their love of these books) and hesitantly stepped into the adult literature, my mum told me to read The Citadel. Browsing through the school library, finally stumbling into a dusty corner, I found a copy of the book and reading it in the sunlit library, overlooking the lush gardens of my school yard, I knew I was linked to my grandfather, who has died so many years before my birth, in some indelible way. Till date, whenever I read The Citadel or any other works of A J Cronin, I feel that in some way I am reaching out to touch my inheritance – my literary inheritance.
Similarly, in 1930s England, my other grandfather, my dad’s dad was greatly inspired by the Fabian movement. A young impressionable student, he was convinced that Fabianisim was the way for a better future for one and all. He devoured works of Harold Laski and was completely in awe of this academic, from whom he claimed to have understood the very ethos of socialism, in his early years in England. My father however completed his education in Business Administration; however, he was a very active member of university politics and his speech during his University’s student body elections in 1964, is still remembered and borrowed heavily from Harold Laski’s essays from The New Republic. In 2005, I wrote my Master’s thesis critiquing Fabian Society and its politics, arguing against the very theory of Harold Laski. This too was and is part of my inheritance and like all inheritance, which consists of thing both likable and not so likable, my political beliefs and studies were in complete antithesis of my grandpa’s and dad’s political stand. But there is absolutely no way of denying that this too shaped my identity and my belief system and made me what I am – a very political creature. (Yes! I know this may come as a surprise, since in my gift of gabbing all over the blog over all these months, this relative “serious’ side of me never came out….but there is a time and place for everything!)
Not to procrastinate, the point that I was trying to make earlier is that all families have legacies. Some of these are simple and tangible and some much more ingrained and imperceptible. However the latter are very much part of the identity that one derives for oneself – consciously or unconsciously!
I have come to my parents place for the holidays! Now when I say my parents place, that’s a loaded term; cause it’s not only my parent’s home, but in the grand tradition of dynasties, my uncles and aunts and even my cousins all live together in this rambling mansion, that was built more than a 100 years ago. Though time again, the various members of this extended family have flown from this house, including my father who left this house and city more than 40 years ago in search of better prospects, they all come back here! Whether it’s after their retirement, like my father or like my cousin who spent 15 years in Europe, only to come back here, so that he could raise his children in the way he was, in the very heart of the family!
I love this old house, its shaded nooks and the sunny parlors and wide staircases which for generations had served as gateway for a child with a secret game or a book to read in peace – something I did as a child and still do as an adult. The pistachio colored outer walls and cool deep green insides and the high pillared ionic columns or the inland courtyard, where I spent my childhood alternately playing with my favorite cousin or being teased by not so favorite ones!!!! I love getting up in the morning to the sound of the main street – this mansion overlooks one of the busiest thoroughfares of the city; my great grandfather who built this house had no conception of far from the madding crowd! Or to traipse down to the local bakery just two blocks down the line to smell of fresh bread and what I consider the world’s best plum cake! I love wafting through the books that were the “in reads” and when Fitzgerald was not a distant figure but a literary l’enfant terrible and a contemporary of the people who had bought these editions, including my grandfather! I love the old spacious kitchen, which is larger than my room in my apartment and the stone stoves, which stand next to the new electronic stove and the traditional food cooked and supervised by my aunts! I love the history and the sense of timelessness that go hand in hand with each other!
Yet despite all my sentimentality, I cannot imagine living here except for a brief spell of time. Unlike my cousin, I feel no compulsion to come back here eventually; nor like my father do I plan my retirement around this house, nor like my uncle claim that the very meaning of life and its travesty is embodied in this house! I am not sure what I lack or what makes me so different from others? Was it because I was not born here or because I grew up away from large groups of people; I am not sure what keeps me and makes me shrink away from sending a lifetime here? Or is it just a highly developed sense of space that cowers me from large groups of people – but considering I am such a social animal, I somehow cannot seem to believe that theory either. But while l love this house and the identity of belonging this house and family, it’s important that I step away and make a separate identity of my own and create my own space that is not crowded by my past and holds the promise of a future that is not shaped by precedents. At the same time, I do look forwards to returning to this warm shelter at the end of the exhausting year, to renew the ties that help me forge ahead for the next year. It is the balance between staying here and moving away that keeps me sane and independent and at the same time rooted to all that is beloved and part of my DNA. So here’s wishing a rip roaring success to the this legend of a house, – may it continue to provide nostalgia, safety and history for generations to come!
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…..
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!
I promised you in the last post that I would be back to talk about the The Bridge of San Louis Rey and guess what???!!!! Surprise!!! Surprise!! I am going to talk about The Bridge of San Louis Rey.
Now I know this book is one of the modern classics (I am still to completely understand that term!) and it won Thornton Wilder his first of the three Pulitzers and Yada yada yada!! I am not a person who goes with Pulitzer and Nobel. I mean I fell in love with Orhan Pamuk, way back in my sophomore year when no one or at least a very limited population knew him outside Turkey! On the other hand, there is J.M. Coetzee and I know a lot of you out there swear by him, but I do not understand him at all and gave up on him after Disgrace! (I could not understand Lucy marrying her rapist!) Give me a good yarn with some creative language and I am a sucker for that work, though the world in general may have never heard of it! So, though this book was on my list, it was never a top priority, nor did I go out of my way to find and read it. Until, one fine morning while doing some online shopping for some exotic books (will tell you about them later!) I came across a discounted copy of the book and decided on whim to buy it! It was bought more like a task… a necessary chore that needed to be completed in the journey of reading through every type of fiction in print!
Then the inevitable happened….like all love stories, the thing that one ignores the most, one ends up falling in love (trust me! I speak from experience!), I fell in love with The Bridge of San Louis Rey.
Thorton Wilder was born to an US diplomat in 1897 and spent his early childhood in China. All his siblings were accomplished scholars and writers; in fact his elder brother was the Professor of Divinity at Harvard Divinity School. He began his career as a writer with the publication of The Cabala in 1927 and spent the next 40 years writing – his last work to be published was Theophilus North in 1973. Through his life he won three Pulitzer Prizes, the first one as mentioned in 1928 for The Bridge of San Louis Rey and two more for his plays – Our Town in 1938 and The Skin of Your Teeth in 1942.
The Bridge of San Louis Rey is set in 18th century Peru, where on a fateful day of July 20th 1714, the bridge spanning the San Luis Rey, built by Incas a century earlier, snaps and plunges to death 5 people. This tragedy is witnessed by Brother Juniper, a Franciscan monk, who then sets out to find more details about the lives of the 5 people and understand why things happen? Are some actions fated or does being good or innocent help in bringing on a definite life and its end? Or does the universe work according to a random cosmic plan? The book then explores the lives of the 5 characters –
- Doña María, the Marquesa de Montemayor : The lonely Marquesa who spends all her efforts in trying to get closer to her daughter who had married an aristocrat across the oceans in Spain, to get away from her mother.
- Pepita: An orphan girl raised at the Convent of Santa María Rosa de la Rosas and sent by the Abbess of the convent to act as a companion to the Marquesa as part of her training, albeit unknown to her as the heir to the Abbess in the management of the Convent.
- Esteban: Another orphan raised again at Convent of Santa María Rosa de la Rosas, and who begins to work as a scribe in the theater along with his twin brother Manuel
- Uncle Pio; The mentor, guide and protector of the actress Camila Perichole, who transforms a 12-year-old mimic called Micaela Villegas into the renowned Camila Perichole and remains faithful to her even when she becomes the mistress of the Viceroy.
- Don Jaime: Camila Perichole’s son whom Uncle Pio takes with him to train the boy like he had once trained the mother.
The book ends with Dona Clara, daughter of Marquesa de Montemayor coming back to Lima and meeting the Abbess who takes her around the convent. Dona Clara is moved by the sights and sounds of the hospital and the sick and poor being cared for at the Convent. The novel ends with one of the most critical observations on mankind – There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.
Written a simple style with some wonderful play of words, this book’s is an easy read in terms of a tale. It covers less than 120 pages. However vis-à-vis a parable or rather a philosophy, the book is unique in the sense, Wilder manages to convey a lot of moral and insightful ideas, without seeming didactic or pedagogic.
This is a must read, but do not read it in a rush, but absorb the language and the ideas as nuggets over a slow afternoon, where you have the night to think them through!
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 –
- 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! )
- 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!
- 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!)
- 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!
- 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!
- 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!
- I do not like poetry….that is one form of reading I could never develop an affinity too!!!
Now to the sound of drum roll and thundering applause, the 7 incredible bloggers that I am nominating for this award are –
Do check out their page….trust me………these women are out of the world! Enjoy!