Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Albert Camus

I read Camus' 'The Plague' years back as an undergraduate. As I had read Camus' much aclaimed novel, 'The Outsider' earlier, and not having been impressed with the same, I was in two minds about reading the same. But after reading the first two pages, I could not put it aside, literally. I was eerily entranced by the unfolding saga of a city in the grips of plague. Though the existential novel is written in a realistic vein, it was meant to be a metaphysical and surreal experience.
I was neither moved to tears or mesmerised by the actual beaty of narration. The sheer scenario left me spellbound.
At the time I was unaware of the nihilistic view of the world that Camus, Nietzhe, Sartre, Jenet etc presented in their literary works, I could not disagree with them either. If today literature is all about looking ahead, rejecting hopelessness and nihilistic tendencies altogether, it used to be the reigning romance of the seventies. Even then I would rate 'The Plague' as one of the 1000 books that one must read in one's lifetime.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007


I recently read Pamuk's Snow. As the blurbs rightly pointed out, Snow is essential reading for our times. Snow is eerily prescient, both in its analyses of fundamentalism as well as the conflicts arising out of Westernization. It catches the pulse of a nation, Turkey, in eternal transit.It takes us on an in depth tour of the divided, hopeful, desolate and mystifying Turkish soul.
Among all his novels, Snow is closest to realism, but told in an unconventional and sardonoic manner. It is a political allegory, stitched around a melancholy poet cum jounalist. During a week's stay in a small, provincial town of Turkey, Ka the Hero comes up against the shocking suicides of young girls, referred to sardonically as the head scarf girls. The thing that sends shock waves and frightens Ka is the manner in which these girls had killed themselves - abruptly, without ritual or warning, in the midst of their everyday routine of life. These girls maintain that their arcane beliefs need not be challenged with rationale. Also that men may have several means of protest, but women have none - except to die. It is against the backdrop of such a decaying city reeling under the onslaught of the crisis of identity, that love blooms.
It is a tragic love story, all the more so because they are a departure from Pamuk's earlier heroines who were idealised objects of desire as Shekure is in My Name is Red, and Ruya is In The Black Book. The female characters in Snow are strong and hold opinions of their own and they are not willing to trade it for their own pleasure. They have responsiblities from which they do not want to escape, which is what men do, faced with black circumstances like these.
There are flashes of black comedy as also all the other elements that make Pamuk what he is. It is a thrilling and dark journey into the all too familiar Pamuk territory - of mysterious deaths, innovative killings, where the murderer talks his mind to the to be murdered, a format Pamuk has patented in Red. It is also about faith, identity, betrayal and solitude.
In the final act, stright out of a Brechtian play, infact a play inside a play, the leader of the head scarf girl bares her hair and the editor of the small time newspaper who has employed Kar in the first place, actually kills himself on stage, while the audience who do not understand the black humour of it gapes and is then faced with gunfire and bombs. It is a staged coup that has been enacted on stage. Take the case of the unusual character of the editor who writes the story even before it happens. I was reminded of an MT film with Mammtty as the hero when he, a newspaperman, in the clutches of a mortal sickness,stumbles upon his own obituary written neatly and readied for publication.
Ka the outsider leaves the Turkey without realising his dream of taking Ipek, his former girlfriend to Germany. His dreams of living with Ipek away from Turkey is dashed to the ground by Ipek's own denial os self abettment. I shall not leave Turkey or my old father for the sake of my safety and happiness - that is her final argument. There the tragedy sets in.
Snow is also the most contemporary novel of Pamuk, nearer to The New Life which is a commentary against the ills of globalisation.
Like I said at the beginning, Snow is essential reading of our times. Check it out.

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Medical Ignorances

Kerala is supposed to be the most literate state in India, so much so that its health standards, maternal mortality, social equality etc are considered on par with the First World. But when it comes to common fallacies regarding sickness, lots of superstitions abound. The commonest fallacy is that of catching a cold after having been in the rain for a few minutes, which could actually cause you no harm, especially to people who take bath twice a day. Common cold as we all know is caused by a virus and virus is present everywhere. When someone with a cold virus sneezes, he releases millions of the virus and if one is standing near to the person in a closed environment like a bus, lift etc. the chances of him catching cold is multiplied. Sure enough, the moisture in the air due to rain makes for an easy carrier for germs and viruses. Other than that rain is definitely not to be blamed.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Setu Samudram

Politicised beyond recognition, the Setu Samudram Project which proposed to build a linkage between Srilanka and India at a staggering cost got mired in controversy from the beginning. That the resultant project would be useful only to a select few and rather unnecessary at the moment raked up controversy upon controversy, both political and religious. The finding of the committee that there was no evidence of the existence of Rama and if he did not exist, how could a bridge built by him and his followers exist over the ocean? Point noted.
Everyone with a rational point of view will agree that Rama could have been a ficticious character endowed with godly hues. But a small doubt scratches at my mind. How could the writer of the epic envisage such a huge project, a bridge over the sea, connecting a continent with a group of islands thousands of years ago? And that too at a time when it was taken for granted that our planet was flat and stretched to infinity? It is another matter altogether that the satellite pictures of the last century proved it to be true. Remnants of a structure, in all probability, a natural phenomenon was photographed by satellites. Now the question remains how come the knowledge of the vast seas and continents came to visit on a writer. But yes, nothing is impossible for a writer.
PS I get a nagging feeling each time the feelings of the majority community is brushed off under the carpet as being nonsensical and not of much importance. What matters is the appeasement of the minority with an eye on the vote bank politics.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Monday, 8 October 2007

Booker Prize

In the recent past, the Booker Prizes have featured many writers of Indian origin, but at no time has an Indian and a Pakistani writer are together in the running. Initial reports suggest that neither are favorites to win.
I have started on Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss, last year's Booker Prize winner and I must hesitantly admit that the book definitely does not smack of greatness. But it is early days yet!
There was a printing error on the second page itself! Alas!

Friday, 5 October 2007


The word Athiesm brings up a bad taste in your mouth - as though you have not gargled your mouth properly. there is nothing basically wrong with the word as such, but it always used in regard to the superficialities of religion.
A person should be rational and humane. Should be willing to percieve change and move with the times. Most importantly they should rid themselves of superstitions. Though we take pride in calling ourselves highly literate, superstitions haunt people at every step. We believe more in grandmother tales than in rationality. It is high time we change this attitude.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Painters and painting

Painting is perhaps the origin of all creative activity. All five senses come into play to create unimaginably magical works of art that go down in time. I have heard from many people who profess that their ultimate desire is to stand in front of Da Vinci's Mona Lisa and forget the world ticking by. And who cannot be moved by Vincent Van Gogh, the original mad genious's paintings and his throbbing life?

Tuesday, 25 September 2007


Just read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's second novel, Half of a Yellow Sun, which had won the Orange Broadband Prife for Fiction 2007. Exquisitely written, it is the heartbreaking story of a war torn African Nation. Nothing like what has been written on war, as this one is written by a woman. Her language is breathtakingly fresh.

Friday, 14 September 2007

The Black Book

Pamuk's The Black Book is one of his earlier works which itself is the cauldron from which most of his later novels came into being. It is darkly mysterious and a fantastic example of how a book could change you. The finest in magic realism.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

My Novel

My first novel,which I have been writing for the past four years is in its last stages of revision and is titled Mantra of Belonging. I hope to release it internationally. It talks off the disintegration of the joint family, the positive and the negative aspects and the journey towards the nuclear family.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

For the Unsung

Last evening, I had an occasion to attend a different kind of awards function, hosted by a Bollywood actor of repute, Ashish Vidyarthi. He honoured unsung people, the ordinariest of the ordinary in a small village and people thronged the small auditorium. The trophies, incidentally were hand - crafted as also the shawl that he draped aroung the shoulders of the awardees. Sincereity is the flavor of the day. And the crowd was an amalgam of people from various states, like West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Andhra Pradesh and so on. A little can also be enthralling.

Friday, 31 August 2007

Orhan Pamuk

These days myself and my friends are on to reading Pamuk in a big way. Nobel Laureate, who lives in Istanbul has some enticing novels under his belt. My Name is red, Snow, The Black Book, The White Castle and Istanbul. You start reading from anywhere from his sizable oevour and you are sure to be mesmerised. The best writer in years to emerge in recent years from Turkey. Snow is a political novel, whereas all the other novels of his has an element of mystery in it. Thoroughly engrossing and enlightening.


Today what the world needs is the political will to tackle terrorism in a big way. There is no need to panick when the time comes to call a spade a spade. It is always better to weed out religious fanaticism at the roots, instead of sidetracking it.
There have been umpteen clues regarding the Hyderabad blasts, but no one cared or dared to do anything about it. Result - 44 dead and hundreds injured.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Khaled Hosseini

Recently I read two novels of the Afghan writer Hosseini. The Kite Runner is a cultural phenomenon. It brings to life the unforgiving landscape of Afghanistan, which people watched on their TV sets post 9/11. The second novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns is a heartrenching story about two Afghan women burdened by patriarchal despotism.To readers of the subcontinent, it provides a sense of deja vu as both novels abound in Hindi, Urdu, Arabic and persian words.
Check them out.

Monday, 27 August 2007