I’ve been a bit absent online these past two months, both because of the holiday period but also because I was trying to finish editing my novel-in-progress before the new year. It took longer than expected, but in the end I managed to send it off to beta readers just after Christmas, so that’s at least one resolution achieved! (even if others fell by the way side).
Now that I’m finally back to blogging, I figured I’d start the new year by looking at my favourite reads from the last one. I picked up many great books in 2019 but I’m only going to list the 5 that most impressed me, and I’ll do my best to keep my ramblings on each brief and spoiler-free (if you want to know more about any of them you can click the links to see the blurbs on Goodreads).
The pandemic, lockdowns and quarantines have taught us, more than anything else, that we need to live with ourselves. That we cannot rely on other people, places and institutions to entertain and/or occupy us.
The virus has lowered us to our lowest common entity, the no frills, basic entity of our own selves.
Thoughts and feelings, complexes and phobias that we have held in check with the external expressions of our lives, are crowding in upon us now: and they will not be denied their existence. Age-old grudges, family feuds, friction and bitterness that were held at bay by the daily business of living, demand examination and resolution.
Learn to forget.
Learn to forgive.
But let that purge begin within our own selves.
When we think we are perfect, we upbraid ourselves for any lapses that we notice in ourselves. “I should not have done that. How COULD I?” “Why DID I think that? I should not have!” are only questions and observations that arise when we believe that we are infallible, perfect, divine.
Which none of us is. Thankfully.
Why don’t we tell ourselves that it is ok to make mistakes? only when we allow ourselves that liberty, can we allow ourselves the freedom to rectify that mistake.
If we are constantly chastising ourselves for eating too much, for instance, stop the blame game. Stop the self hate and the loathing. When we do that, when we allow ourselves the indulgence of deciding what we want to do with our bodies, and stop fat shaming ourselves, we might also allow ourselves to taste every morsel we eat and relish it. And when we are conscious of what we eat, we might eat less. Or decide to continue eating, regardless. It is our choice, our life, our body. What we put into it, is entirely our concern.
And that time, long, long ago, when we had behaved rottenly to our friend/acquaintance/family member/colleague, and we have been carrying the guilt with us all these years? Or the irrevocable, thoughtless words we had uttered to someone ages ago, which caused a rift in an otherwise perfect relationship? Let us allow ourselves to forget those, if we can. If we find that difficult to do, let us definitely allow ourselves to forgive those.
We are not God. We need to fix that very firmly in our minds. We are human and we do make mistakes. Let us not scourge ourselves for being fallible individuals.
But whatever forgiveness we distribute to other people, please let us remember, that we need to forgive ourselves first.
On this, the first day of the first month of Spring, let us discover the fresh blooms within ourselves.
Good morning. Now that the euphoria of the new year has died down, there is a subtle, but scary shift of mood which affects all of us. All. Of. Us. When we are ‘different’ in public or are sitting in corners and not talking, sometimes all we want, is to be left alone. All. Of. Us When you ask us what is wrong, and we say, ‘Nothing’, it doesn’t mean that we are trying to avoid you or prevaricate, it is just that too much has happened and we don’t know where to begin the story from. All. Of. Us. When a ‘normally’ talkative person neither smiles, or talks, and your question about ‘what’s wrong?’ doesn’t elicit any answer, it is not because something is wrong with you, or your relationship with that person, it is just that we want our space for the moment. All. Of. Us. When someone decides to open up about their own internal battles, which you have not gone through, don’t dismiss the account, with ‘You’ll get over it/ its a passing phase/you must not think like that’. I am sorry, but we DO think like that, and we are too terrified about tomorrow to know that it is a passing phase. And DON”T walk away pretending that you have got a phone call, so that you can avoid the person. It hurts way more than you know: and when we have come to you with trust and hope, when you brush us off, you are only reinforcing our own negativity. All. Of. Us. So what do we need? We need time. We need our space. We need a smile or two, a kind word, sometimes a pat on the back, or a peck on the cheek. All. Of. Us. But we certainly do not need officious people who think they are mentors, figures of authority, or people sitting on ‘chairs’ by default, to tell us that we are ‘mad’, ‘L.Ds’, or crazy. We do not need people telling us.”How could you forget such a simple thing???” I am sorry, but we did. We do. It is NOT done deliberately, so harping on that does NOT help us in any way.That hurts. All. Of. Us. This is a fervent plea for understanding. Today, we are in need of it. Who knows? Tomorrow, you might be. You see, it affects us. All. Of. Us. Have a blessed day.
We were out today, buying some very essential things like ice cream and fish, and we were leaving Hypercity, when this child comes up to me and asks, ‘Teacher, have you seen the sun today?”, and I look up and it is Mohit Gadia, a student I had taught 33 years ago. He was exiting as we were about to, and he drew us to one of the tables on the ground floor, near the Exit, and insisted that we try the chilli paneer that he was taking home for his family. This kid owns the Subway franchise here and at other places, and some other franchises, too, I think.The food was offered with so much love and sincerity, it brought the tears to my eyes.I taught this kid half a lifetime ago, maybe for a year or so: but he greets me like I was entering the class for a lecture, and he was sitting in school uniform on one of the benches in class.I feel blessed, twice over, that I am a teacher: and that I was able to meet every year, students who have touched my life, kindled my heart and sang to my soul.There is a gratitude in me that overflows my heart every time I meet one of these kids, and a thankfulness that for a brief period when our lives touched, before we moved on.
Have a safe night with people you love.
82Anuya Warty, Suja Sukumar and 80 others38 CommentsLikeCommentShare
There is a black door in my office that I usually use as a chalk board to keep track of schedules, upcoming projects, etc. at work. But in the last few weeks, it has turned into a board that lists words, terms and phrases I have come across while editing or reading documents as part of work, or have been contributed by colleagues. All these words, terms and phrases are new to me and while I understand some (or at least I think I do !), most have left me baffled. For example, “affordance”, “unlived experience”, “hedonistic sustainability”, “unstickiness of pedagogical structures”, among many others.
Every morning, when I arrive at work, I look at this ever-growing list. I puzzle over the words, brood over them, look them up in the dictionary to make sense of them. Sometimes, I discuss these words with colleagues in an attempt to understand them…
Parimal Gavit runs a small restaurant near Thane station.
Rupali Bhutia is a small child who is nine months old. Her mother, Sonali, sells flowers on the pavement near the restaurant. Parimal noticed that the infant never lay down even when she was sleeping. Her mother propped up the sleeping infant with her bags of flowers. He decided to find out what was wrong…and it was then that he saw that there was a large cyst on her back. Parimal says that he was shocked by the size of it and his heart went out to the child who was obviously in pain, but was always smiling.On approaching and conversing with Sonali, he learnt that although she knew it had to be seen to, she could not afford taking the child for treatment.
Touched by their condition, Gavit took the baby to Wadia hospital on 27th January. Doctors there were stunned at the size of the cyst, that had made the baby lose strength in her legs…it was 150 gms big.The authorities said that if the baby had been brought in, even 48 hours later, the cyst would have burst. Gavit offered to pay for the three-hour operation which entailed removing the cyst which had already got entangled with the spinal nerve roots. But the hospital waived all charges, and conducted the surgery free of cost.
The baby will be discharged on Tuesday, but will require long term physiotherapy. Gavit, the good Samaritan, in the Biblical and every other sense, is discussing ways and means to pay for this convalescence, with hospital authorities.
Three cheers for Parimal Gavit, hip hip hurrah! And if any of you know him, do let him know how much his example has stoked my faith in humanity.
And three cheers for Wadia hospital, and Dr Minnie Bodhanwala, CEO of the hospital: hip hip hurrah! And if any of you go there, or know her, do let them/ her know that this shining example will go a long way to dispel the suspicion that doctors, as a race, have seemed to have incurred over the years.
Have you touched a life today?
Have a blessed day.
The Sunday Times assigned the book the status of Number One bestseller, in 2014.
The year is 1686, the place, Amsterdam.
18-year old Petronella (Nella) Oortman has travelled all the way from the country, to the richest quarter of Amsterdam, to meet her husband, Johannes Brandt, a reputed, and rich, merchant trader. The marriage is an ‘arranged’ one, to get the Oortman family, genteel, but penurious, out of impending bankruptcy. She knocks at the door. It opens silently. And she enters, clutching the cage of Peebo, her parrot.
She is met by darkness and mysterious shadows. Then one of the shadows detaches itself, then another, and another. Nella is grateful that they are all flesh and blood. They are Marin Brandt, Cornelia, the maid, and dark-skinned Otto, the man servant. None of them, apparently, knows where Johannes, her husband, is. Nella is assigned a room upstairs and Peebo is taken away from her and consigned to the kitchen.
Nella meets her husband the next day and he gifts her a dollhouse made to look like the house she is living in. Nella hires a miniaturist to help her furnish the doll house. When the first batch of ‘furnishings’ is delivered to Nella, the latter realises that not only does the miniaturist seem to know every detail about the house she is living in, but subsequent deliveries prove that be able to foresee things happening before they actually do.
At the same time, there are mysterious inexplicable things happening within, and outside, the house. And Nella is stalked by a strange golden-haired woman whenever she leaves the house.
The book is plot-driven, rather than character-driven.It was inspired by Petronella Oortman’s doll’s house on display at the Rijksmuseum. It paints a grim picture of the conservative mindset of Amsterdam at the time, especially regarding homosexuality and black people.
The book is an engaging one, well-crafted and fast paced. It haunts you, and the prose creates magic and momentum.The author has painted a canvas with dark colours with a hint of light shades. Between the two, scarcely visible, is a darkness that seems to spread, inexorably, threatening to overwhelm both shades and colour. The novel both shocks and awes.
Read the book for the story. Then read it again for the atmosphere. And again, for the prose.
Have a blessed day.
The men bind her again. Different this time: left thumb to right toe, right thumb to left. The rope around her waist. This time they carry her into the water.’
So begins one of the most powerful books I have ever read, Paula Hawkins’ ‘Into the Water.’
Two police officers arrive at Jules’ doorstep to inform her that there has been a tragic and fatal accident. Jules is apprehensive, thinking that something had happened to her friends, her colleagues, or her ex-husband. But when she knows that it was ‘only’ her sister, she is relieved. And on that one fact—- her sense of relief when she knows that it was only Nel, her sister, who had died—- hinges the entire book.
So there are two sisters. Nel, the elder, and Jules, the younger. Jules, the ‘baby’, is fascinated by her elder sister and her friends, her style and her sass, her easy air of assurance and her boyfriend. Nel tries to push Jules away every time she is anywhere close: and it doesn’t help that Nel is tall, willowy and attractive, and Jules, short and fat. Nel’s boyfriend is amused by Jules’ prickliness and tries to discover how deep the prickliness goes. The trauma this causes results in Jules trying to drown herself, Nel rescuing her…and a gap in their communication caused by misunderstanding that completely destroyed their relationship.
Nel is dead now and Jules has to return to Beckford and Mill House, where she had spent her childhood and teenage years. She meets Nel’s 15-year old daughter, who is convinced that her mother would have been alive, if her aunt had tried to connect to her in some way, or had replied to her mother’s calls or messages over the years. She insists that her mother had repeatedly tried to get in touch with Jules, but that the latter had neither returned calls, nor initiated them.
Lena’s friend, Katie, lived next door. At least, she used to, till they found her dead body in the same ‘drowning pool’, where they had found Nel’s. And Lauren’s. And Libby’s.
…and the bodies of several women who were ‘inconvenient’ to patriarchal mind sets.
Nel had been putting together an account of all the women whose corpses had been found in the Drowning Pool. She was asking questions, creating testimonials, putting together fragmented lives to form a mosaic of events and characters. She had even set up a camera on the hillside to record the movements of anyone who went up the hill that overlooked the drowning pool. But she was not able to complete what she had begun.
The story and plot are related by 11 characters in a collage of first person and third person accounts. Two police personnel: Erin and Sean. Lena and Josh, Katie’s 11-year old brother. Nickie, the local ‘witch’, and her sister Jennie, the erstwhile police woman. Helen, the headmistress, Sean’s wife, and Sean’s father, Patrick. Mark Henderson, a teacher in the school Katie and Lena attended. Katie’s mother, Julia, and her father.
Mystery, mysticism and magic are woven into the narrative. Half-heard voices, half-seen images, half-felt touches; and beneath them, all the time, every moment, and beneath every word, you feel the water in the drowning pool moving, like a living thing, glassily gleaming, slyly smiling.
Every time the reader feels that she has reached the end of the maze, she sees another turn or dead end in it. And so on. And so on. Until the very end.
The book touched a very visceral part of me. It is one of those books that you finish reading, and then stare at the wall, wondering what you will do for the rest of your life. Estranged sisters. Magic and mysticism. Elemental forces at work in ways that are odd and un settling. Silence. A lot of silence; and the sounds that interrupt it, sharp, and blood curdling.
But the sounds that you hear are not always external, or physical. They reflect the sounds that the mind makes, and the heart hears.
What stays in the mind for the longest time, is the way the author lovingly paints every nuance of a woman’s mind. Not what the world thinks she should be, but what she really is…passionate, lustful, terrifying, amusing, irreverent, compassionate.
Sadly, the Wikipedia page detailing the book, is not only replete with grammatical and syntactical errors. The way the plot is related would kill any interest in the book. Which is a pity.
Read ‘Into the Water’, for the truth. Read it for the love. Read it for its re iteration to stay in touch, and keep connected. Read it if you are a woman, and you are not afraid of looking into a mirror. Read it if you are a man who does not try to ‘change’ women.