Are you up for a book ride?

I’m literally on a book ride this year. It’s keeping me busy and entertained. In the past few weeks I feel like I have known so many people and their stories. It’s as if hundreds of short stories are spiralling in my head. Reading can bring that creative kick to you in a strangely deep manner.

I have seen a grumpy Ove narrate his life in ‘A man called Ove‘. This story of an old man’s failed attempts of ending his life after he loses his love to an inevitable death subtly nudges us to look at life of an old and how his loneliness makes even lovable people and things around him invisible. This tale by Fredrik Backman cracks open the life of an ordinary man with an extraordinary humour.

After, I dived into African short stories with ‘An elegy for Easterly‘ by Patina Gappah. They were raw, unfiltered and great telling of life in Africa. The social, political and economic situations are narrated in a style that anyone could connect to. I had an urge to read authors from Africa and this was a great start.

When I was in India I’d picked a few books and Garry Kasparov’s ‘Deep Thinking‘ was one among them. I picked this out of curiosity to understand his emotions and his process of battle against a silicon chip that would eventually learn to master his game. It was a very detailed narration on his journey in playing chess against and with computers. I took a few weeks to finish reading this, but, I was delighted to see his positive remarks about Artificial Intelligence. This read leaves us with a note that we should stop being scared of losing our jobs to robots, instead, we must focus on how to adapt and work with them. Are you watching the digital thefts and breach of privacy in the news especially in the context of country elections?, but, I do think it’s beyond elections and AI is influencing every day of everybody’s life. This read convinces us that we are in the process and such glitches are bound to happen.

I am a big fan of Ashwin Sanghi. His writing is like an Indian Dan Brown to me. His ‘Keepers of the Kalachakra‘ was brilliant to stir up my curiosity around space and time with an Indian historical and mythological referencing. I wait for his book every year and the read never disappoints me.

Mark Mason is a great blogger. When I read about his book ‘The subtle art of not giving a F*ck‘ through another blogger, I knew I had to read this. It just set things right for my over analysing and victim feeling part of brain. I appreciate when someone comes by straight to the point without having to be politically correct or weigh their words more than required, and his writing style worked for me as if it were a screwdriver repairing my faulty brain.

A story of clones living their life to become donors, a possible future, left me questioning about ethics. ‘Never let me go‘ is my first of Kazuo Ishiguro’s work. It’s with lots of details creating a movie in your head as you read and maybe a reason why it feels slow, but, the impact it leaves is much deeper and far stronger.

I was recommended to read Soha Ali Khan’s ‘The Perils of being moderately famous‘ by my beloved kindle. I haven’t seen many of her films, but, I liked her performance in Rang de Basanti. I was beginning to wonder whether all the second generation actors who failed to make it big like their parents onscreen took to writing ? Twinkle Khanna and now Soha Ali Khan. I’m glad they did, they have such good flair for writing. Soha particularly mentions of her being moderately famous and I respect her even more for embracing it so gracefully and living her life.

I have begun to like reading short stories and essays and I bumped into Umesh Luthria’s ‘Coffee shorts: A story in every cup‘. What a delight reading this, I must say. It was the unusual witty twists and liners that I enjoyed the most.

Read a full length love story after a long time. Preeti Shenoy’s ‘Life is what you make it‘ is also an effort to break the stigmas around mental health issues. It was a quick read as if the author wanted to rush through chapters to reach the finish line. It felt as if it was tailored for readers who prefer limited words and bullet points. It had the context, but, didn’t have enough substance to hold through after putting it back in my bookcase.

I took to my friend B’s suggestion and have picked up Peter Allison’s ‘Whatever you do, don’t run‘. It brings me immense joy while reading his anecdotes on being a safari guide in Africa. Thanks to B, I got introduced to Peter Alison’s wonderful work – both, as a safari guide and a writer.

When I look back, this year has begun with good reads. What are you reading?

 

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Delicious mangoes

‘The mangoes were very good this year. How many could I have eaten all by myself? That’s why I leased the tree to Ramu. He paid me six thousand rupees and took care of plucking and selling them”. Before Triveni could attack with business flaws, Padma continued “Atleast Ramu could make some money. It will help his household expenses and his son’s school fee”. Triveni shook her head and didn’t know whether to feel happy about Padma’s generosity or feel sad that the mangoes had to be sold, because their children chose to not visit their village this summer. Summers before weren’t like this in Padma’s and Triveni’s.

It used to bubble with conversations and laughter, games and kids running around, delicious meal and annual events at their village temple, and of-course tasty yellow mangoes. The hot and humid weather couldn’t lower their energies either. Padma would wake up before sunrise and take a cold shower. She’d give immense love to her cow and its calf. She’d walk to the temple and offer her prayers. She’d make tea and breakfast for her children and grandchildren, a good 15 of them. She’d walk up the hill to fetch firewood. She’d nurture the small patch of pineapple, chilli, banana, a few other fruits and vegetables, and of-course everyone’s beloved mango tree. She’d sing folk songs for her grandchildren while cooking delicious meals for lunch. She just couldn’t stop herself from sharing everything she had in her capacity. It was as if she could bring all her energy into these two months, exactly like the 100m runners who can bring all of their energy to that one sprint.

When the summer holidays ended, she’d walk up to the bus-stop with her family. As she’d wave her hands to the loud ‘bye and see-you’ of her grandchildren, one could see how she’d struggle to hide her pain. Those eyes would long to have her family beside her, always. Those eyes would hope to spin the globe faster to arrive at the next summer holidays. Those eyes needed someone to comfort her. Everytime, it was Triveni who’d go and stand beside her in the empty bus stop. Only Triveni could understand Padma’s feelings, she also had to bid those goodbyes to her family. In these years of friendship they’d learnt to smile and comfort each other in times of silence, hardships and emptiness. Cherishing their summer holidays and time with family, they’d walk home with a light conversation and a laughter of innocence.

This year, their children and grandchildren couldn’t visit the village during summer. Padma and Triveni were rejoicing the memories.

These memories always brought immense joy and at the same time a sense of loss. They were losing themselves to time, time that changed relationships, time that made attractive cities, time that turned them old. Triveni let out a heavy sigh and got up to leave. Padma pulled Triveni’s hand and took out two mangoes. “Ramu left a few mangoes for us”, Padma smiled. Triveni joined her with a grin. The delicious yellow pulp slipped out of the fruit’s skin and the ladies playfully gulped the pulp and slurped the juice that tried dripping from their lips. Triveni danced a few playful steps to Padma’s folk tunes before heading home. Padma went in to relax on her easy chair. The cat jumped on her lap and purred for a while before taking its post noon nap.

4pm, Sunday on Doordarshan

Growing up in 90s at Bangalore, I remember spending most of my evenings outdoors playing games like hide and seek, lagori or hopscotch. However Sunday at 4pm I’d glue myslef in front of our television which had a channel or two, ‘Doordarshan’. Our family would sit together to watch a kannada movie. Our curious eyes would fix on waiting to see which movie doordarshan had decided to play for us. When it was a movie that we hadn’t seen before, there would be so much excitement in the air. With such limited content they still managed to get us excited and happy.

In the past few weeks I’ve been re-watching a few of Dr. Rajkumar starring kannada movies and have moved into a nostalgia kind of mood remembering those days. I’m amazed at how our brains connect memories of such distant past and how it just needs a trigger like in my case it was re-watching a set of movies. I could feel those emotions of our living room encapsulating again in me while I re-watched. Of-late these are the simple pleasures I seek for and become child-like happy. I’m grateful to all the online content made available for us, which helps us browse back to old memories in a touch-play ease.

Also maybe because back then movies were meant as entertainment and taken as entertainment. Nowadays, with publicity, critics and media in general or maybe the concept and storylines coming out, somehow I’m left stressed by the end of a movie or series. It’s not a comparison to make, I understand, the world has changed and we’ve moved couple of decades forward. It’s just about how I feel, how much I enjoy and want to go back to those simple family or social message stories.

Somehow it makes me wonder, in-spite of so much new content made available through Netflix, online or channels, it doesn’t seem to make me as happy as I used to be, you know, waiting for my movie show at 4pm, Sunday, on Doordarshan in 90s. Maybe it’s just because it brings memories of happy childhood, or is it the storytelling? or is it about availability of vast content now that leaves me confused?

I can’t seem to boil down to why?, but, I’ll continue to watch a few more of those movies in the coming weeks and enjoy them with a cup of tea and some popcorn.

 

 

Questions?

Why do we let out a loud cry as we come into this world and have a peaceful silence as we go?

Do we know this life would be of conflicts and to go means we’ve resolved each one of them?

Why do we dream and why doesn’t every dream turn into reality?

Is it saving us from our dark dreams or is it depriving us of a bright one?

Why do we struggle to survive?

Are we looking for an absolute constant and can’t come to terms with the variable reality?

Why is it that what we want doesn’t happen?

Are we thinking too much and working too little? Or is it the other way around?

Why do we smile and others smile back?

Do we also cry when others do or have we even stopped smiling back?

Why can’t it all remain simple?

Does a complicate path define our victory? Does simple equals easy and not worthy?

Why do we have questions all the time?

Maybe we are in search of answers all the time.

Why ask the same question again and again?

Maybe we want these answers to fit in our present.

Why? Why? Why?

Maybe and just maybe, we want to become less wrong than we are.

‘This way sister’

‘This way sister’, ‘salwaar set hundered rupees only’, ‘You are looking nice’, ‘DDLJ parallels also available’, ‘See my side once sister’, ‘ ‘many patterns’, ‘Sister’, ‘Sister’…

Before the culture of malls and franchises there existed a complex full of shops. There were neither fragrances nor air conditioning at such places. These shops didn’t give big size advertisements on the roadside hoardings. They neither collected information like email address/name/birthday/how did they hear about the shop from people who bought clothes in their shop. They still did business. I was once their customer too. In the 90s and early 2000s Bangalore’s Majestic, Malleshwaram, Gandhi Bazaar, Jayanagar had such complex and shops. They still do. There used to be many sales boys at the front door who’d keep shouting those phrases, you know, ‘this way sister’ sorts, so that people walking in become their customers and buy clothes from their shops. I think most of the sales boys were less good at sales and took this exposure as an opportunity to tease girls. I remember pacing in as fast as possible to a shop which had none of those boys and had one or more women in the shop sales team. Generally in our family, shopping was a rare affair and yet I dreaded the whole experience of shopping for clothes, footwear and accessories as a teenager. There was a fear for no wrong doing of mine. I expressed my hatred for such teasers. I suggested we must teach them a lesson. Like every girl I was told to ignore them. There were many shops in many cities; I was asked how I could change everyone. They convinced me that it was a society menace. I didn’t have the courage to battle it all by myself. The helplessness had turned into my irritation for shopping. Then I grew up. So did the malls and franchise stores. I used to find them very expensive and yet would go onto buy only because I didn’t want to go through the ‘sales boys’ harassment. I wonder how many girls like me put an end to these small shops and drove to chain stores in the malls, for this reason. I worry how many didn’t / couldn’t and have to still go through this. For many years I had a suspicious eye for every sales representative, even the genuine. Probably, I still do. The way business is done might have changed over the years, but, the picture isn’t rosy yet.

We still have teasers in ‘many patterns’, in all lengths and forms. They are not only in these markets, they could be anywhere.

I was reading a book called ‘An elegy for easterly’ by Petina Gappah. In one of her short story she mentions a Zimbabwe market where a sales boy calls out ‘Sister, sister, this way’. When I read this, like a jolt the Alankar Plaza and sales boys that I thought I’d kicked out from the deep and dark corners of my memories, came back in a lightning speed with their haunting voice calling out ‘this way sister’. However this time, I wouldn’t walk away with fear. I say NO to teasing and bullying. Teasing is an ugly social behaviour.

Nayi Soch