And Now For Some More Inspirations….

I have been planning to write this for a while, but there have been so many things to write about lately, this kind of got late, but I guess better late than never. This month’s The Classic Club Meme was provided by Ruth and is again one of those questions, that one has to write about those –

Which character from classic literature is most important or influential to you and why? Or which character do you most despise and why?

I could somehow never really despise a fictional character, maybe because I knew they were fictitious and my hope was and is that art here is stranger than reality and mankind is capable of far more goodness than despicable actions. Though to quote Jane Austen, “The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense.” But one cannot help but hope that good will triumph over evil and therefore I always remember characters who inspire me more than the ones I find despicable.

I know I have talked about this in the past and that too several times, but one cannot help but talk about this again and again, because the character is such. No character has had a more significant or profound impact on me than Atticus Finch. When Ms. Lee wrote “To Kill a Mockingbird”, she knew what she was writing about; for here was a character who was actually asked to stand up for the values that he professed – honor, integrity, truth, equality, and justice.  There are so many times when in our lives we stand at those crossroads, where there are really two paths – one that is simple and easier to take and the other which has more hardships that one can count, but it is also the path that defines who you are. Atticus Finch is a beacon of light and inspiration for all us who have or will be at such junctures; if you don’t speak up when you should and do not act to what you profess , well then you are not what you are who you think you are! And like I said before Mr. Finch taught at a very young age and Thank God, I learnt this lesson early, that unless I can look myself in the eye, nothing is worth it!

But when you read so much, there are other characters who stand tall and inspire you and while I can write a whole 100 page of them, neither time nor cyber space memory will allow me such liberties, so U restrict myself to only three –

Mrs. March, Jo March and Beth March – Yes I know they are three characters and no they are not “the three” but I club them in one category because they are progeny of one book, the seminal bible of all independent young women Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women”.  To begin with Mrs. March, who I think is often overlooked among the glamour or aura or squabbling of her four daughters.  We forget that here is a gentlewoman who is no longer in the comfortable circumstances she was originally born or married to, yet she tries her best to single handedly bring up four,  albeit difficult daughters, manage a household with diminishing funds, and yet instil joy and faith among all. It requires a lot of courage, what I call quiet courage to face the world everyday alone bravely. She is first single mother of modern literature and by far the most intelligent, kind and strongest of them all. Jo March I think almost all of us relate to while growing up, fierce in temper, independent of thought, extremely intelligent and emotional to the T….she is as human as one can get. Most importantly, in the lines of Jane Austin’s Elizabeth Bennett, she refuses to marry for the sake of convenience and though Laurie is much better candidate than Mr. Collins, the logic is the same – marriage for equality and companionship and most importantly love and not for material or other escapist gains. Call me idealistic, call me foolish (in the light of recent events, trust me foolishness is a strong emotion I feel these days!) however marriage should be because of love and for no other reason. Jo March, in the lines of Elizabeth Bennett and Emma Woodhouse, stands as one of the first feminist of modern literature. Beth March I realize I bore much more affinity to as I grew older and re-read “Little Women” and though I cannot profess to 1/10th of her goodness, nor do I have her gentleness, shyness or lack of character flaws, I do find a lot of joy in the simple domesticity of lives, where there is such joy in doing things for others that your own self does not matter.

Larry from The Razor’s Edge is yet another character who inspires me; he convinces me that there is more to life than acquiring a house, a car and a million dollars. While money is important and necessary in today’s life, one cannot be a slave to it and one has to find one’s identity and belief to really enjoy  and find meaning in life and that no money, no wealth can provide as was evident with Isabel’s meaningless wealth and her uncle’s lonely death.

The one final character who inspires precisely because, like all human beings I struggle to achieve and become a better individual and at times even succumb to the softer options is Andrew Manson from The Citadel by A.J. Cronin .  The book starts off with an idealistic Dr. Andrew Manson who is eager to help the people of small Scottish mining town and is sensitive enough to understand their wretched conditions and wants to elevate them. His research and subsequent success takes him away from his original plans of helping the less fortunate and follow a life of luxury and only a tragedy makes him realize what is truly more important. He returns to his plans of helping others and overlook the immediate selfish gains. This struggle to leave behind softer options for a greater good and its ultimate triumph is something that makes me go on day after day when all things that are more lucrative in short terms is also mundane and mind numbing and temporary and drives focus on what is truly important.

 

All those Legacies…..

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 –

the_inheritance_1358395My 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!