Tuesday 31 March 2020

The Future awaits us - A Quote

Age has nothing to do with
changing our life. It does
not matter how 'young'
or 'old' we are. We all
have our life ahead
of us. We all have
the chance to
change it for
the better
The past
may be
still awaits us
Let's make the best of it!

Be the one, others wait for - A Quote

Don't wait for someone
else to save you from
distress or difficulty.
Salvaging Your life
is your own duty
& responsibility.
And when you
put your own
life in order
you become
more capable of
being a savoir for
someone else in need
Be the one, others wait for!

Monday 30 March 2020

Book Review: 'Kanthapura' by Raja Rao.

When we generally begin to read a book based on the Indian freedom struggle, particularly on the ideology of Mahatma Gandhi, we expect something different from all the others in the genre.  And each book has something new to offer. Kanthapura does not disappoint readers in this regard.
Most of us have grown up listening to stories from our mothers and grandmothers. The USP of Kanthapura is the similar feeling it gives us, when we turn the pages.

One must get used to the narrative, which is like no other I have read before. An old woman, reciting a long story in her classic village gossip style is not something that one may expect to gel with the story of an independence struggle. And Raja Rao has managed to pull off exactly that, with finesse.
"We have neither punctuation nor the treacherous “ats” and “ons” to bother us—we tell one interminable tale. Episode follows episode, and when our thoughts stop our breath stops, and we move on to another thought. This was and still is the ordinary style of our story-telling. I have tried to follow it myself in this story".
The most unique thing about the narrative is the stream-of-consciousness style which is juxtaposed into a classic legend oratory 'sthala-puraana', which brings the cultural and historical essence of Indian villages to life. Further, it is refreshing to read a novel set in South India, rural Karnataka to be precise. The nuances of the Kannada language, the people and the cultural  essence have been captured effectively by Raja Rao.
Each line has so many repeated phrases that one may either get annoyed by them or may get pulled into the lines so completely that they enrich the feel of the story. At times when the protagonist-narrator Achakka tells us about people, we agree that what she reveals to us is relevant enough, and what she leaves out is irrelevant. When she tells us about tense episodes in the struggle, we hold our breath as she nonchalantly narrates instances of violence, death and disaster. Her unending sentences fire and feed the excitement of the moment and fuel the rush of feeling during the episodes.

As for the characters, one needs immense memory to remember the peripheral ones. Moorthy, as the pioneer of the freedom struggle in the fictional village Kanthapura of course, stays throughout the book and is the actual protagonist, so to speak. His Gandhian ideas and his steadfast commitment to his principles are noteworthy. It is interesting when at one time, he fights his Brahmin conscience to enter a Pariah home and accept milk from a pariah woman. This is just one instance how Rao’s characters are real, and behave like real people do.
But what really captures the readers’ attention are the epithets that Achakka gives most of them. The one that caught my attention at once was Waterfall Venkamma, the vocal critic who tries to minimize the pollution of the castes.
Pock-mark Siddha, Beadle Thimmiah, Postmaster Suryanarayana, corner house Moorthy, Four-beamed-house Chandrashekarayya, Postman Surappa, Alur Purnayya, Temple Rangappa, Front-house Suranna, Advocate Seenappa, etc are some others. The way the humor of the epithets complement the information about the character is exemplary.
The character of the wealthy Bhatta who manipulates the villagers shows the shrewdness of Indians who take advantage of their own ilk by colluding with the conquerors. Even the absent characters like Swami who oppose Moorthy have powerful roles to play, as they showcase the regionalized, obscure processes of colonial rule. Moorthy's mother Narasamma’s character is heart-wrenching towards the end when she dies a miserable death.
Irrespective of whether they play a vital or passing role in the story, Achakka’s unique narrative brings them to life in a raw, vital and engrossing way. Bhatta and Waterfall Venkamma provide the opposing antagonism to Moorthy’s initiatives.

Apart from the Gandhian principles that are predominant in the story, we see the effect of the same on other related themes such as the caste system and colonialism. This leads to the theme of change, that erodes the strong elements of religious superstition related to the myths of the land. One such example is how Moorthy finding a lingam in Achakka’s backyard leads to building a temple for Lord Shiva, who is a more universally worshipped deity than the Kanthapura Goddess, who is known as Kenchamma. This is despite the strong legend of Kenchamma who has slayed a demon over the scarlet-coloured hill which is believed to be stained by his blood till date.
The other themes are the social structures that are gradually eroded too. Achakka, the staunch Brahmin ends up being part of a movement that includes all the other castes, including pariahs too. The irony is powerful in many instances too. One among them is how Ratna the young widow is not only a rebel, which is surprising in itself, but also a character who grows from being ostracized by the women to becoming their leader towards the climax.

The Skeffington coffee estate and Boranna’s Toddy farm are symbolic of the colonial mastery and oppression of the poor by the British.
Ratna symbolizes the ostracisation of women in society and also the empowerment of equality that Gandhi provided them with. Narsamma’s  opposition to her son’s activities symbolize the power of the caste system within the fabric of rural Indian society.

There is no fixed story-line as such, because the meandering narration moves ahead with key events related to the freedom struggle. The book grows on the reader and the breathless pace keeps us hooked. The best scenes are those related to the women actually resisting the police, especially the ones in which they are taken away, beaten up and abandoned in a distant forest. How good leadership makes them build their resilience, garner their united strength and march miles across the landscape to return to their village makes for  a thrilling read. It is heartening to read about simple women who rise in rebellion against colonial rule, are crushed and yet return like phoenixes to reclaim their goals.
The scenes where a baby is born prematurely amidst a raging fire in the vicinity, where they are escaping from violent attackers would make a thrilling scene if filmed in a movie. Also, the way the women support each other, when locked in the temple is outstanding. The irony of a pariah girl rescuing the ladies is not lost on the reader.
The best line in the book that gave me goosebumps:
‘And when the beds were laid and the eyelids wanted to shut, we said, ‘Let them shut,’ for we knew that our men were not far and their eyelids did not shut.’
It is gripping when the women run helter-skelter to escape the police and realize that the menfolk who had disappeared overnight, were actually hidden in the lantana growth in the nearby backyard.

Kanthapura is a unique read, that deserves a rating of 4.7 out of 5. The feminists of today would love the powerful evolutional characterization of the women, narrated by a woman of ample grit, intelligence and substance. And to have been penned by a male author gives it more weightage for sure.

Follow me for more reviews of the books I read. Your comments on my work are welcome too. Until next time, Happy reading!


Wednesday 25 March 2020

You: A Poem

You, the song
I sing 
to hear music
when I am sad.

You, the memory
I relive
in my heart
when life is bad.

You, the words
I repeat
in my mind
when none are said.

You, the poison
I consume
to feel alive
when life is dead.


#poetry Image: pinterest

Stay By Me: A Poem.

My feelings of ugly
evolve into beauty
from the way
you look at me.

You allay my fears,
& dry my tears
when you say
that you love me.

In sunshine & rain
through joy & pain
only yours, I remain;
Just promise to stay
forever, by me.
#poetry Image: pinterest

The Last Reality : A Poem.

In an awakening
of the last reality
I saw yesterday
in your eyes
faded echoes
of empty hours
erase the eerie
trace of us.

Sighs of secrets
never shared
weigh heavy
in our seclusion.

I survive
on the furthest
edge of hope
that a zephyr
of my love
touches you to
whisper my name.
Image :June Ascension, Timothy Rees.

Wednesday 18 March 2020

Book Review: The Last of the Mohicans , by James Fenimore Cooper.

This is one of those books that puts you off on page one, because of the extensive verbiage, but grows on you as you get on with reading it. I’ve always wanted to read this novel, but I must admit I struggled through the first couple of pages until I let myself get used to the language and flow of narrative. And then, I was hooked, and how!
The story is filled with one enthralling adventure after another, set in a forest, no less. Add caves, waterfalls and rivers to this setup and we have the perfect recipe to relish some enticing escapades. And the protagonists take up a journey fraught with danger, spiced with pursuit, fear, emotions and gory battles. Two maidens escorted to safety by a small group of men, both natives and Americans, through a dangerous forest while fleeing for their lives from savage pursuers - this makes for an action-packed story-line indeed.
What adds an amorous touch is the romance between not one, but two couples. This is even more enticing because the couples are so different from one another. Cora Munro and Uncas, the Mohican, charm us with their guarded strength while Alice Munro and Duncan Heyward are the quintessential romantic couple who are portrayed in many a traditional love story.

The main protagonist is a study in human nature. Hawkeye, as he is known, gives us a feeling of being the mouthpiece of the author. On one hand he is friendly and gets along like a house on fire, with Chingachgook, the older Mohican and his son, Uncas, the last of the Mohican race. On the other hand, he does not support the possibility of a romantic liaison between Uncas and Cora, owing to racial reasons. He wows us with his extraordinary, adroit shooting skills with his rifle, interestingly called 'Killdeer'. He charms us with his knowledge of the frontier terrain and uncanny prediction of enemy moves. And he also makes us wonder why Cooper did not choose him to be one of the two romantic heroes of the story.
Uncas completely wins us over. He easily overshadows even Hawkeye, with his unbelievably precise tracking and detection skills in the forest. The scenes where he uncovers lost trails of the kidnapped women are stunning in their descriptive complexity. His death at the end seems like a waste of such fascinating character-building, but then, that’s what elevates a tragedy from mediocre to excellence.
Cora is a heart-winner. Her bravery during crisis, her love for her sister and her clarity of thought and action, effectively serve as a powerful contrast with the weakness of Alice. But then, I was disappointed when she begs the native leader Tamenund for freedom and then meekly submits to the villainous Magua in the climax when he kidnaps and threatens her. Her character in the beginning seems to suggest that she would pick up a sword and fight her tormentors, instead of the timid submissiveness.
Duncan Heyward is silly at times, with his typical captivated-paramour behaviour. His lover Alice is sillier, with her weeping weakling character, though she perfectly fulfills the role of a damsel in distress, giving Heyward the opportunity to be her Knight in shining armour. Heyward does win us over with his acquired bravery when he volunteers to save Alice from the clutches of the enemy.
Which brings us to Magua, the antagonist. He is truly impressive, in his cunning maneuvers throughout the story. He is a perfect match for the skills exhibited by Uncas and Hawkeye. Although he is showcased as the epitome of evil, one must realize that his affection, perhaps love for Cora shines through, especially in the climax when he does not kill her. His enraged attack of her killer corroborates the same. His redemption also lies in the fact that he does not hurt or harm his female captives, despite ample opportunity to do so. An in-depth analysis of his powerful leadership and oratory skills would teach us a few lessons on influential techniques of modern team management.
The other characters like Munro,  Tamenund and Gamut have important roles to play as well. Munro as the father of the abducted girls, gives the readers some rich parental emotions to savour. The calvinistic psalmodist David Gamut who is shown as rather unimpressive in the beginning of the book, does impress us along the way, especially since he risks his life to save the others and actually manages to stay alive in the bargain. Tamenund, the ancient sage, disillusions us with his verdict that allows Cora to be fetched away by Magua, but his role is important because he explains the importance of the title of the story in the end.

The Novel
The significance of the novel in American history is more pronounced by the footnotes that Cooper has offered in the book at regular intervals. They add an intriguing element of historical truth that separates fiction from hardcore facts about the geographical and historical magnitude of the places and events he mentions. I normally do not have the patience to read footnotes, but this time I devoured all of them with elan. 
Also, the narrative ‘talks’ to us directly, in many chapters. It is as if Cooper reaches out to us to ensure that we get the complete feel of what he is trying to convey. 

Thrilling & Impactful Scenes
Some scenes are exhilarating in their detailed imagery. I actually held my breath for many seconds when Cora and Alice almost escape from the Hurons inside the cave. And then I released an inward groan, when they get captured by the wily Magua. That is easily the best scene in the novel, worth all the hardship of trudging through the difficult frills in Cooper’s language.
Another scene that is impactful is the one in which a cunning Huron manages to fire at the hidden captives from atop a tree. And then, the excruciating image of the wounded man hanging by a single limb from a branch, until Hawkeye shoots him in compassion keeps us on tenterhooks. Here, the bitter irony of sympathy and mercy that encourages killing of another human being is highly palpable.
The part where an infant is smashed to death, before the mother is pierced with a tomahawk for a mere piece of clothing, stays in the reader’s shocked psyche.
Yet another impactful scene is when Gamut saves himself from certain and violent death by breaking into a song, amidst the savagery of the battlefield. The descriptions actually shows us the tribes being enchanted enough to spare his life, multiple times in the story.
Some far-fetched episodes make the narrative filmy. However, they may serve to balance the gory descriptions with some comic relief for readers. A man disguised as a bear or a beaver makes one wonder at the authenticity of such a possibility, especially when it suggests that seasoned aboriginal forest dwellers are actually fooled by the masquerades.

Don’t miss the book. It may seem hard to read, especially in the beginning, but trust me, it’s worth it.
Cooper’s genius in juxtaposing true history with fictional romance, adventure and thrill deserves a 4.7 out of 5.
Did you find my review useful? Do let me know in the comments below.
Until my next offering, Happy Reading, Bookworms!

Tuesday 17 March 2020

Footprints of Love : A Poem.

Footprints of love play
a passions song blue
somewhere in a yesterday
I lost a smile anew.

Scarlet rain of sighs
in the wind subdue
ribcage chorus, twilight highs
extrinsic whispers few.

Night fallen echoes quaint
crave desires new
no resistance, no restraint
whenever I find you.

Image: MC Illusion Photography

Intrigue: A Quote.

A mind full of passion
knows only happiness 
and intrigue.

A heart full of love
feels no darkness 
or fatigue.

Painter: Anon.

Nostalgia : A Quote.

We always remember 
the simple, little 
and obscure joys of life
with more nostalgic fondness,
than some of the greatest feats
and achievements of our lifetime.


Capture : A Quote.

It is only 
when we try
to capture the Sun,
that we realize
how caged
we are
to the Earth.
Photography: ⒸChethana

Sunday 15 March 2020

Her : A Poem.

You'll find her
in the treehouse
seeking daybreak's
silent frondescence.
You'll spy her 
in inflourescent forests,
wandering in
bohemian defiance.
You'll relish her
on the rainbow's edge
dancing with her
vibrant essence.

You'll seek her
in ephimeral light
glowing, contained
within phosphorescence.

You'll hear her
in earth & sky
humming ocean's
song in exuberance.

You'll cherish her
in treasured thoughts
falling in the haze
of aching innocence.

1.Laura Milnor Iverson
2. Pinterest

Friday 13 March 2020

Serene echoes : A Poem.

An enchanting place,
Me, a rapt observer;
Search for solace,
a perpetual endevour.

Waves mimic the stars
twilight hues persevere
Seconds turn to hours,
my blues disappear.

Sinking orb plunders the sky
neither regrets, nor fear;
Scarlet garb renders goodbye
serene echoes draw near.

Image: Pinterest

Tuesday 10 March 2020

Wings and Roots : A Poem

Don't cage the goals
of those destined to fly
beyond rivers & forests.

Don't coop the souls
that are born to lie
in beautiful nests.

Build them
a secure dome
of love undiluted
in vibrant hue.

Furnish them
a blessed home
& they stay rooted
forever, to you.


Monday 2 March 2020

Feed : A Quote.

Feed the lust
for learning,
not the rust
of ego-yearning.
Spread the cheer
of joy & smiling,
not the leer
of hate-mongering.

Saporine Touch: A Poem.

His saporine touch is magic,
demanding & wanton...

Broken promises
are forgotten
Strings of lies
are forgiven
Until the next
betrayal is begotten.

Parched pen paints
in ink scarlet & rotten
Resigned memories
are relived often.

Tales of just another tragic
yesterday, rewritten.

Image: Pinterest

Grounded : A Quote

It is better to remain grounded when the flight of praise raises us to the sky, so that we aren't left wounded when the fall of criticism, is too high.

Life flips her Coin: A Poem

Life flips her coin again and again. Heads for pleasure tails for pain. Enjoy the first: love, joy & gain; Accept the next as an inevitable strain. It's only a phase when sorrows reign, Await the other side in a lighter vein.


Book Review: 'Tara' by Mahesh Dattani.

Less is more, they say. How true, I thought, as I put down this tiny book. The weight of the pages belied the burden in my heart. This tiny book causes more impact than the ink of many a thick spine. Dattani’s play reveals how heart-wrenching some stories can be, more so, since we know that some fiction is inevitably based on harsh truths prevalent in society.

Characters and Storyline
Humans are monsters, albeit their tendency to sometimes regret their own evilness, when it is too late to repair the damage of their actions, or inactions. And sometimes, the guilt begot of the regret, grows  like cancer and destroys the very being.
A mother is plagued by guilt, after her choices lead to actions that betray her own child. A father's inaction at the opportune time leads to distortion of normalcy and peace in the family. Two children bear the brunt of fate that hands them a Siamese deal at life, as well as the consequences of having parents who fail to make the right decisions about them.
The separation of Siamese twins is a compelling story in itself. But the twist, where the male is favored over the female, so much so, that the whole exercise ending in vain leaves the twins physically and mentally shattered beyond repair is shocking to the core. It isn’t just Tara, the girl who is betrayed. She perhaps dies more of heartbreak, than of her medical complications.  Chandan or Dan, her loving brother is left traumatized too. Haunted by her memory, he stays mentally lacerated for life.
Tara’s leg being discarded after it fails to attach itself to Dan, is the final straw that reveals multiple facets of a flawed society. Dr. Thakkar, who sells his ethics for a piece of land, exposes the maggots that thrive in the medical profession. The fact that he is shown as a gloating braggart, who exemplifies the success of an unethical operation in his interview leaves a disgusting feel in our senses. The grandfather whose blind favour to the male heir ironically does irreparable damage to the chosen child, is a powerful presence, despite his absence in the play. And the neighbour, who provides comic relief to the twin and the audience, holds a mirror to the disgusting attitudes and behaviour of society in general, towards the differently-abled.

Dattani’s brilliance has to ‘seen’ to be experienced. I’m not referring to the vivid imagery that the play evokes during the read. I mean, one feels the need to watch the play, with its elaborate stage settings that allow multiple scenes of the story to run parallel to one another. One moves from one scene to another seamlessly and is able to absorb the subtle nuances that play out between the characters, while reacting to the building tension in the gut, as one morbid mystery after another is solved.
The suspense that builds up throughout the narrative is punctuated by layer after layer of unveiling each part of the puzzle that ails the family.
Bharati and Patel’s bitterness is revealed in their arguments that are laced by threats and abuses hurled at one another. Here again, their exchange discloses only enough to build suspense and foreboding of the horror of revelations to come.

What stands out is the brilliance of the twins: superior vocabulary, acute sensitivity and above all, that unique bonding that only conjoined twins could share. The symbolic character of the neighbour girl Roopa, is a perfect element that serves dual purposes of highlighting the twins’ intelligence & sense of humour, as well showcasing the hypocrisy of society.
I was glad that the play did not show us Tara’s actual death, although the casual mention of her demise in the end nearly causes the same impact, especially because her last line in the play is ‘And she called me her star!’
Overcompensation of love can never make up for the blind murder of humanity and common sense during times of challenge. What purpose does guilt serve, except to devour the soul of the one it consumes? Bharati’s excessive affection to assuage her own guilt, ironically backfires, as it only magnifies Tara’s shock later. It also destroys her own mental faculties, and the poignant news of her death leaves no impact on her son. Her calculated ministrations ruin Tara’s reputation further with her neighbours and leave the children disgusted with their father too, especially since his authoritative demeanour causes too much damage, and he fails to redeem himself even after his confession.
If I must find a grouse, it must be that the story was too perturbing.  Perhaps, that is one of the qualities that make it an unforgettable must-read.
I rate the play 4.8/5.
How did you find my review? Do share it with literature lovers and post your thoughts on the same, in the comments below.
Until my next one, happy reading!