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Archive for October, 2011

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Shattered, the walls were – the skin tore and the eardrums exploded.
Flying, he was – through the roof, in the air, hitting the dust crumpled.
Blood, everywhere – in his eyes, in his ears, pooling around him in its vastness.
Remains, scattered bricks and wood, his house now a pile of rubble.

He could no longer hear, but God had not yet taken his life nor his sight
Endowed thus, drowning in his own blood and silent screaming, he watched.
She lay only metres away, moments ago she had been feeding their child.
Now she lay Prone. Silent. Dead.

His young bride with her playful eyes and rosy lips lay spread across the dirt.
A gaping raw hole seeping a river of red pulsed through her open chest
Her leg skewed, shattered bone protruding like wizened fingers grip his heart
Every nerve screamed movement and yet he could not.

He looked down.

Stumps of burnt  smoking flesh, drenched in flames, blood and dust greeted him
Where were his legs? There. Scratched Red. Mocking him with their distance.
He tried to crawl but his right arm was slit open as if by a surgeons hand.
Each vein pulsating like crazy to pump the blood that seeped out of him.

The left hand moved to his head grasping at blood, metal and pieces of his ear
Silent anguish flooded his vision blurring the open carcass of his wife.
Blood that rushed out of him now seeped backwards gluing him to the dirt
Close his eyes. Wait for Death. He had no wife, no daughter to live for.

His Daughter! His eye flew open and scrambled in desperation, Where?
There! A delicate tiny hand rested on his wife’s shoulder.
A mother had made the ultimate sacrifice and her baby was unharmed.
Tears soaked through his open wounds as his baby girl sat crying. Helpless

As if the silence allowed him to see more clearly, he saw her face explode.
Open mouthed target for the bullet which rained shreds of flesh
They jumped down from their tanks and stood over mangled flesh.
Laughing at the remains of his life.

He closed his eyes.
Helpless.
There was nothing left.
Death.
He wanted Death.

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Tears of Joy

Bhaiya sent around this video today:

It made me laugh and melted my heart. Kids are so adorable! Every expression of Lily’s was so genuine, so heartfelt and so full of life and vivacity! Her tears of joy were real and showed just how touched and overwhelmed she was with her gift. As we grow older our ability to keep our emotions in check improves, but does it lessen our appreciation of life? If this same gift were to be given to a child even a few years older, most likely the reaction would be a smile, at most a hug or a laugh…sadly the unadulterated joy which escapes Lily as uninhibited tears are lost as we grow older.

We are taught self-control at a very young age. Don’t laugh too loud; don’t cry too much … people will think you are crazy if you act so weird! But it is this very lack of self-control we love and adore in children. Their genuine joy in the simplest and smallest pleasures in life is something we forget to appreciate as we age.

Our hearts harden in the face of the adversities we put it through. The daily grind jades the softness and vivacity till our hearts are but a dull sheen of tough exterior that we walk around with to face the day. I find myself spending time with my cousins when I feel down – their effervescent laughter, ready smiles and willing hugs coax me into a better mood.

I found Lily’s tears of joy having the same reaction and so today I look around me at the pretty new petunias on my way to work, the slight chill of a departing winter as it awakens my pores and I laughed out loud in the middle of the street. And you know what? People smiled back. So do something a little crazy today – Laugh a little louder. Cry a little harder. Access your inner child and set her free.

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September Reading list

  1. The Good Muslim by Tahmina Anam
    Rating: 4.5/5

I absolutely connected with this book. It speaks to the core of the secular vs religious debate that rages within us. The protagonist’s – Maya’s –  self-development and awareness is symbolic of a nations exploration of the ravaged landscape of a vulnerable Bangladesh. Much like the Kashmir Shawl, the narrative of family relationships is laced with politics and religion – even more so as it probes the raw wounds of a war torn country struggling in its first steps of independence. This is clearly depicted through Mayas own struggles with her family and herself.

Maya is a strong character who is so firm in her confidence, education and intellect. And yet her family and her circumstances force her to continually question herself and her direction in life. This is something I strongly connected with. As a character her flaws are as endearing as her strengths despite the consequences of her actions. All the characters in the novel have a part to play which they play very well in spite of and maybe even because of, the frequent authorial intrusion which occurs through dialogue or introspection.

The author has also captured the essence of Bangladesh right after its birth. The aftermath of brutality and the enduring psychological scars which drove people to radical extents, sometimes drove families apart. Anam addresses the raging secular vs religious debate which has plagued Bangladesh since its inception and raises more questions than answers – a mark of a very good read.

  1. The Kashmir Shawl by Rosie Thomas
    Rating: 4/5

I love a good book, even more so when it is about one of my favourite topics – the history of the independence of India (including Pakistan and Bangladesh). This book explores the implications of British colonisation and the ensuing battle between nations as reflected in the microcosms of the family sphere.

The Kashmir Shawl spins the tale of two narrators into one seamless narrative. Nerys in her pre-independence India speaks the same exploration of an exotic land in unison with self-exploration as does Mair in her search for the truth decades later in a very different India. The story revolves around Nerys – the life she led in India and the secrets she kept which decades later her granddaughter sets out to uncover.

 It is beautifully written and well-coordinated. The characters are real to the point where they can be empathised with and their development through the narrative binds them closer and closer to the reader till the very last page. A very well written good read that speaks as much about the politics of colonisation and nation building as it does of family and relationships. 

  1. The unbearable lightness of being by Milan Kundera
    Rating: 4/5

I love historical fiction. I love it even more when intricate human relationships are explored on the backdrop of social upheaval. This novel is the epitome of self-exploration to a fault. The characters are so powerfully flawed one cannot help but be moved. Kundera weaves such skill in exploring the horror of kitsch, the banality of normal relationships and the definition of what it means to love and be loved. The narrative weaves in and out of being a story and a moral dissertation. Kundera writes just as freely about Nietzsche with his strong authorial dictation of how to interpret his narrative as he does the narrative itself. But while he alludes to the answers of the questions he poses – the answers are as elusive as the questions are timeless.

While some of the vivid symbolism and well-crafted quotes will remain etched in your mind long after you read this book, the characters themselves will dissipates into the vapours of your being. They will enmesh themselves into your psyche till you cannot differentiate between what they have felt and what you yourself are feeling – the unbearable lightness (or heaviness) of being.  

  1. Anthem by Ayn Rand
    Rating: 4/5

Dystopian fiction is always scary to read. It’s scary because writers of the past had such a good grasp of the future and an even better grasp of the bleakness of human authoritarianism. Anthem is a book that explores the inherent guilt we feel in pushing the boundaries of the norm just to be ourselves.

The novel is deeply compelling in that it forces the reader to confront their own sense of individualism and appeals to our sense of self. It entreats us to looks beyond the patronising collectivism preached by governments, religions and families and addresses the core of human ego – individualism.

This book makes me want to be selfish. It makes me feel powerful and self-contained. You could probably read it as a self-help book and it’s only a 100 pages! 🙂

  1. The Messenger by Markus Zusak
    Rating: 3.5/5

This was a fun read. There are few ‘Aussie’ books I like. They tend to derail into the stereotypical yobbo banter in an attempt to be endearing. Zusak makes no such attempts nor does he care at all about endearing his characters to the reader.

Throughout the novel each character is presented as you would present a juvenile delinquent, or an embarrassing family member. Quickly, matter-of-factly and then we move on. It adds to the dark humour which abounds in this book. The narrative itself is cleverly woven with a surprising twist

  1. The girl in the garden by by Kamala Nair
    Rating: 3.5/5

This story has elements of the fantastic and the mundane. It harbours deep dark hurtful secrets but never goes too far into the realm of melodrama or pathos. Narrated by a woman struggling to accept her past so she can move on with her future – I see a striking resemblance between Rakhee and the protagonists of all the books in my reading list thus far. All of them are at crossroads in their lives where they must look to and resolve past discrepancies in order to move forward.

Nair’s debut is a well told narrative with a strong structure and plot as well as characters that are well rounded and enough revealed about them to make them interesting and their secrets alluring. The layers of secrecy are intricately woven although never confusing. Highly recommended read.

  1. Ugly beauty : Helena Rubinstein, L’Oreal, and the blemished history of looking good by Ruth Brandon

Rating: 3.5/5

I like reading about powerful people and their ascent to power. I like the feeling of empowered authority they exude just through the words on the page. Their relentless determination and hunger for success screams out from the page. This book is no different. It explores the motivations of Helena Rubinstein and EugÈne Schueller for getting into the cosmetics industries despite their starkly opposing backgrounds and the ensuing politics and hegemony that embroiled them and many other high profile figures into controversy and scandal.

Brandon not only explores the lives, motivations and consequences of their success but also the standards of beauty we propagate and the implications it has on the women it is aimed at, the men who participate and the politics that govern it.

  1. It happened in Paris by Molly Hopkins

Rating: 3/5

After reading the Unbearable lightness of being I was feeling unbearably heavy. This book was the perfect  antidote. Light, fluffy and full of fun the protagonist of this book could well be the twin sister of Bridget Jones. Her penchant for the dramatic, her hilarious friend, her numerous scrapes (which are never her own fault mind you) and the inevitable McDreamy she manages to snag all make for a packed ride through the streets of London and Paris.

About two thirds of the way into the book though I began to wonder if someone’s life is so perfect then what could possibly be the complication in this narrative that every story needs? Well there is a complication alright. One that usually comes after “The End” and authors don’t write about. But Hopkins addresses it and she does so with a realistic touch of desperation and drama that females all over can identify with. Of course the resolution is again just as fantastic and McDreamy but then that’s what chick-lits are for aren’t they? A good giggle and a daydream.

  1. Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

Rating: 3/5

I liked this book. The moment I saw the cover I knew it was teen fiction but I had seen it in a friend’s reading list and I wanted to know why she liked it. It was obvious about 10 pages in. Stargirl is no regular girl. She gets home-schooled and skipping class is sometimes expected, mandatory even!

But Stargirl is not a little girl anymore. Her heart was broken and is taking time to heal. Some days she just doesn’t feel like being Stargirl.  This book is so unbelievably cute I can’t believe a man wrote it! It deals so beautifully with the pangs of first love and the growing pains we all remember so fondly.

  1. The sandalwood tree by Elle Newmark

Rating: 3/5

If I had read this before the Kashmir Shawl maybe I would have liked it better. But following the Kashmir Shawl and exploring the same issues in the same context and country, this novel did not compare.  It’s a less interesting version of the Kashmir Shawl.

  1. Half life by Roopa Farooki

Rating: 3/5

This book brang home to me how important it is that one clearly like or dislike the main character in order to appreciate a book fully. Throughout this novel, much like I did with Monica Ali’s Brick Lane, I flitted between like and dislike for Aruna. Her abandonment of her family is explained as a consequence of the bipolar disorder  but in my mind I didn’t acquit her of that. Maybe that’s why it tainted the rest of the book for me. Otherwise Farooki spins a smart well told tale with many aspects I could relate to. Farooki’s lack of emphatic dialogue is made up for in beautiful prose and I learned a lot from her writing.

  1. Bed by David Whitehouse

Rating: 2/5

Maybe if I had developed an early empathy for Mal I would have liked this book better. It is well written but the character and the plot itself I found so fascinatingly repulsive that I cannot recommend it.

  1. The homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield

Rating: 2/5

I like Swan Lake. Her ‘formidable’ air and her attitude towards her family and surrounds reminds me of Jem (The protagonist in Harper’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” which is an all-time favourite of mine). However the rest of the cast of characters did not feel developed to me. The dialogue was stilted and the story while realistic and at times beautifully told did not capture my attention as fully as I would have liked. Wingfield’s exploration of love and violence in small towns and the families within them was a good attempt at raising questions of good and evil but she didn’t quite manage to pull it off.

  1. You or someone like you by Chandler Burr

Rating: 2/5

I picked up this book because of the good reviews I have seen online. I was sadly misguided. The first ten pages bored me and the only reason I continued was because I have never ever not finished a book.

The protagonist and those around her weep for pity at every turn. I could not empathise with the characters nor take any interest in their development. No idea why it received good reviews.

  1. Norwegian wood by Haruki Murakami

Rating: 2/5

I did not like this book. I have not yet found a book of Murakami’s which I like. This is confusing to me as he is very well reputed and the Guardian praised him as “among the world’s greatest living novelists” for his works and achievements.  I find in all his stories that the characters lack zeal. They lack a pizazz and panache a zing for life.  The sobriety and even pity which his characters and narratives elicit bores me to the point where I no longer wish to keep reading.  A book should uplift a reader and if not then make them cry and touch their hearts. This book and indeed all of Murakami’s work I have read so far has done nothing but left me utterly confused due to the lifelessness of his characters. Read his work and let me know if you can find what I cannot see… why his books are so liked.

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