Oops I or (did he) do it again!!!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The ‘romance’ of romantic novels…..

I was just 12 years old and I wondered into a book shop. The owner showed me all the books a young adult would like – Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Anna of Green Gables. I picked them and one more – a vague book with green cover, called Shadow Princess. I picked it up because the back cover said that the heroine was a Ph.D student and even at that age I knew a doctorate was ‘the thing’ for me; so I was going to read up everything even remotely related to it. My ever encouraging dad paid for the books and we walked out.

However it was not till two years later that I got around to reading Shadow Princess….I do not quite remember what happened; but  I think I lost a couple of books traveling and then found them two years down the line. Anyway that’s not the point. The point is at the age of 14, I read the “Shadow Princess” and after reading the slim book, I decided that romance was a piece of nonsense! It took the protagonist (who by the way was supposed to be intelligent; what with a Ph.D in chemistry) 180 pages realise that she loved the male protagonist for no better reason that one point his father had dated her sister!!! Oh! Lord!!

That was my introduction to Mills & Boons……..

So many years down the line, my view has not changes. It has just expanded to include Silhouette romances and all flowery cover jacketed books with apparently, the key word is “apparently” intelligent heroines and the silent strong men. Give me a break!!!
I defy anyone to show me such a piece of work which does not adhere to the following premises – 
  1. The writing is always from the woman’s point of view considering most these things are written by women
  2. The obviously stunning girl whose looks are played down in the initial part of the book for the “wow” effect later with large black/blue/green eyes (they always have large eyes!) meets “the guy” at some gathering
  3. The girl is obviously someone who is supposed to have substance though she has done very little in the first 10 pages to show it and might be in some kind of trouble which only “the guy” can rescue her from.
  4. The Guy” is obviously extremely tall, extremely good looking, extremely intelligent, extremely rich, extremely popular among opposite sex, extremely in love, extremely rude…extremely annoying!!
  5. They get off to a rocky start because they have a past or because they are trying to deny their attraction for each other because of some weird twisted logic that will be revealed at the end of novel that will want to make you barf!
  6. We will now spend 80 -100 pages skimming through various ups and downs where the two fight, detest each other and end up making out (Have you ever made out with someone you truly detested?????)
  7. The novel ends with “the guy” doing some incorrigible act of daring and chivalry that will make the girl declare her undying (yawn!) love for him (now that was an ending I never so coming!!) with some trite vapid wannabe joke!

Oh!! Please!!

Long back, a friend’s brother told me at an impressionable age, when I voiced my disgust for such writings that we can thank Jane Austen for introducing us to such plots via, Pride and Prejudice.

Agreed…. P&P does follow this plot line….but Jane Austen actually originated it. Furthermore, she addressed some very serious concerns of that age – marrige as the only security for educated women; the case of entailment of estates; marriage between people of unequal status….I can go on!! Besides, her humour is subtle and sarcastic!!  I refuse to believe in today’s day and age, women marry for security and in a more and more democratic world where Princes are marrying commoners, one writes about an unequal marriage where a rich ‘the guy” marries our woman of apparent substance, albiet of lower social standing and there is an ado about it! If she has substance, she will cope!!

I know this will put many in a tizzy, but can’t we do a book, a romance novel, where the heroine is fat or taller that the hero. Also what if the hero is an average guy with a good job, but is not a power wheeler dealer. I am told such books would not sell….really? Is our reading population so insipid? Maybe there is a certain section of the population that will never read such books and thrive on traditional romances, but I am sure, if a romance is a good book that truly depicts the poetry and humour of our lives, people will read.

In the meanwhile, if you like many of my friends feel the need for an out of the world, so unreal romance, there is always Messer’s Mill & Boon!