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.