"A room without books is like a body without a soul." ~ Cicero.

"A room without books is like a body without a soul." ~ Cicero.
"I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book." ~ Groucho Marx

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Shadowed Existence

Being a 'Probashee Bangalee' I was never much into the Bengali culture and history and like any other 'Khotta Bangali' considered the partition of Bengal as just another historical event. Then I came across Amitav Ghosh's 'The Shadow Lines' as it was there in my syllabus for M.A. The book catapulted me from an ignorant and somewhat insensitive Bong to one who not only empathised with the victims of the partition but also wished for history to change.

With the narrator being a nameless young boy I could feel as one with him seeing the events unfold before me. Though the book doesn't have a set storyline, yet the collage of events happening one after the other and even simultaneously forced me to sit up and feel every minute detail.

Tridib's lifestyle mirrors the mindset of the youth in calcutta in the times when I wasn't even born yet I almost felt like his friend sharing his life and times.

Ghosh has vividly narrated the whole story oscillating from the Present to the Past and then back to the Present. Though I don't remember the details,but what touched me the most was the part where Thamma goes to Dhaka to bring back her uncle. The way Ghosh has described the view from the aeroplane is marvellous. How just a line on the map can result in so much of bloodshed and violence is disturbingly thought provoking. From up in the air one couldn't even demarcate where one country ended and the other began. It forced me to contemplate on the futility of any kind of aggression over something which wasn't even there for one to see. How hatred clouds one's thought process and overshadows his sensibility.

Thamma's pain in seeing her house taken over by strangers could be felt deep within. Tridib's brave attempt to save May from the muslim mob in Dhaka and his susequent death stirred me from my emotional slumber.
The riots and the insane mob violence depicted in the book made me yearn to be out of it. I wanted the madness to stop, yet was unable to do so. The feeling of rootlessness of one forced to live away from his origins kept echoing in me the whole time. 'The Shadow Lines' affected me in an unexpected manner. The sheer horrifying depiction haunted me for days and sensitizing me towards our kind at the same time.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Height of Passion

Wuthering Heights is the best book I have read till date. The overwhelming passion floods out from the book and engulfs you into it like a whrilpool. I share my feelings for this all consuming book in the tiniest possible hope that you might share the same. I was overawed by it even before I read the first page. Actually this book belonged to my late grandfather, who had bought it with the plan of reading post his retirement. But, as fate would have it, he passed away even before his superannuation. The tragedy in this book and that of its owner kind of overlaps, doesn't it? Well! it sure holds a special place in my heart.

Emily Bronte is perhaps one of the very few lady writers to have written from the male point of view with Heathcliff as the protagonist. Wuthering Heights is the name of the place where Heathcliff is brought as a toddler and is ill treated especially by Hindley, the son of Mr.Earnshaw. The novel revolves around the passionate love between Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw and how a misunderstanding, stemming from a deep-rooted class insecurtiy, ruins not only their lives but the lives of all those around them as well.

Though Heathcliff is termed as a 'diabolical' character, yet I couldn't but fall in love with him. Bronte's powerful potrayal of the setting, the characters and their emotions made me a part of the whole saga. It took a while for me to get started, but once the drama unfolded it felt as if I was sucked into the book and could see everything happening in front of my own eyes.

While reading the book I could almost feel like Alice, except that this Wonderland was a tragic one. I wanted to scream out and stop Heathcliff when he rushed out of the house on that stormy night. I felt sorry for Linton and at the same time hated him for marrying Catherine Earnshaw. Towards the end, when Heathcliff suffers a mental breakdown and desperately seeks to meet the dead Catherine Earnshaw, I felt as helplessly desperate as him.

Bronte has weaved the whole story so inrticately that I missed the book when it ended, though, throughout, I was hoping it to end because of the pain I felt. Hareton and Catherine Linton's love not only redeems the novel in the end but also acts as a much needed breather. I hoped to have the sweet taste of their love to linger on after the book ended, but it was Heathcliff who occupied my thoughts as soon as I closed it.

He is still ruling my thoughts even after so many years and looks like he will continue to do so for many more years to come.

While declaring her love for Heathcliff to Nelly, Catherine Earnshaw says "I am Heathcliff". While reading the book I felt it and even now I feel that "I am Heathcliff".

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A fine collection of short stories

I like reading Jeffrey Archer’s works and have read a few novels and collection of short stories before. I particularly liked the collection “36 short stories” I borrowed from my friend’s father. The stories were dramatic and contained all the good qualities of short stories. This time I read “And thereby hangs a tale”.
This collection is a different one in many aspects. Firstly, most of these stories (ten out of fifteen, to be precise) are based on true incidents. He gathered these stories over a period of six years while traveling all around the world.
The stories contain slices of lives of people from motley of backgrounds and make an interesting read. Though they may lack the usual drama and twists that come with imaginative stories but most of them contain a surprise that unfolds itself in the end. These surprises will bring either tear to your eyes or a smile on your face.
I found myself amused by most of them and could not but appreciate Mr. Archer’s capability of presenting them in such a light. He has captured the essence of Ireland, Germany, Italy, India and even England with such grace.
His choice of words, how he refrains himself from divulging more details is quite praiseworthy.
Although I liked all of them but my particularly favorite ones are the “High Heels” in which an enthusiastic insurance agent saves millions of dollars by finding out the little secret behind burning of shoes, or a simple story like “Blind Date’ which left me imagining for a while, or the “Better The Devil You Know” which is about a ruthlessly ambitious businessman and which has a cunning twist.
There are some characters that are intelligent and emotional and a few who are cunning but they are endearing and seem so close to us.
Jeffrey Archer has shown his class time and again through his novels and this time also he has succeeded, much to the enjoyment of his readers.

Monday, August 9, 2010

2 states: The Story of My Marriage- Chetan Bhagat's latest book

I received “2 states: The Story of My Marriage” as a birthday gift. I have read all of Chetan’s books before and was happy to have this one also. But somehow for months the book lay on my table unread with a pile of other books. Then last Monday, as I was arranging those books my eyes fell on this book and I started reading it.
I finished the book in two days, not a feat at all considering the length of the book (only 294 pages), and of course, it being Chetan Bhagat’s books- one of the accomplished story tellers of our time.
From the prologue itself the book carries the signature mark of Chetan, that same style of writing which intrigues the reader and takes him in its folds. I think “unputdownable” is the apt word.
The story is set against the backdrop of IIMA where a Punjabi boy, Krish meets Ananya, a Tamil Brahmin and they fall in love.
Like in his previous novels here also Chetan raises some pertinent questions about our education system where subjects are crammed into complex mathematical equations to be mugged up by some of the best brains of the country just to earn good grades which translates into fat pay packages. Everything is measured in terms of money and why not? That’s what the young generation is taught by their parents.
Krish’s mother places high value on big houses, luxury cars and want to possess those at any cost-even by marrying off her son against his will. All of Krish’s elder relatives take notice of Ananya when they come to know about her salary.
Hey, if this seems like serious stuff then wait. All the stereotype ideas and social customs and norms are taken potshots at by Chetan but suggestively. On the surface you have a racy and sweet love story in which Krish and Ananya try to coax their mothers to accept their relationship. Even though Krish takes up a job in Chennai to woo Ananya’s family yet things do not turn as they have planned and the parents do not approve of their marriage.
Chetan is a master story teller. The way he gives minute details of lifestyles of Punjabi and Tamil households is praiseworthy. Add to it all his tongue-in-cheek comments which leave you laughing all the way. Krish’s mother keeps on referring to Ananya as “Madrasi girl”, much to the annoyance of Krish.
Chetan’s books always create feel good factors. So at the end an abusive and insensitive father changes dramatically and the boy and girl get married with much fanfare which is described hilariously.
I have always felt that Chetan is heavily influenced by Hindi films. His story lines, the narrative and the visual effect that he creates resemble films that Bollywood churns out in scores every year and is lapped up by the audience.
I think this is where Chetan scores. He understands the psyche of the urban Indian youth so deeply that he never fails. This makes him the most popular Indian writer of present times.
I felt that the Chennai episode was a big dragged, but there were funny incidents which give insights into the Tamil lifestyle and their view about others.

At the end the feel good factor prevails and as you finish reading the book you will find yourself smiling. That’s what counts, doesn’t it?