Wednesday, 28 July 2021
Monday, 19 July 2021
- Baba, The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini
I have been saving this read since a long time. My last book by Hosseini was the famed, deep, disturbing read: A Thousand Splendid Suns. The story and even some powerful scenes have stayed etched in my mind despite the passage of more than half a decade of reading it. I knew that 'The Kite Runner' would be a similar read: powerful and impactful.
There are few characters, well defined and memorable. Amir and Hassan are the friends, who are handed different statuses in society by a cruel twist of fate. Baba’s character evolves continually, even after his death. Sohrab, the child throws light on multiple cruelties meted out to children by the Taliban.
The other characters such as Hassan's father Ali are crucial to the build up of the tale. Amir's wife Soraya and uncle Rahim Khan, assume more importance as the story builds up with the turn of the pages, especially in the second half. The cruel character of Assef returns to offer an element of more shock and surprise, towards the climax.
Set in Afghanistan during the initial days before the country was plundered and ravaged by the Taliban, with a shift to America, the story brings out the contrast in the lives in the two countries, and its effect on the people. The latter part is rich in atmosphere, where the damage caused by the Taliban rule is showcased in a highly impactful manner.
However, the story is about the deliberate disruption of friendship of a lifetime by a mind that is insecure, envious and cowardly. It is about unquestioned loyalty amidst betrayal and hurt. And then, it is about seeking redemption, while paying a price for acquiring it.
Thereby, the story is a bildungsroman, narrated by the protagonist Amir, charts his growth through his childhood to manhood amid a lot of honest soul-searching and courage. Strong symbolism plays a constant role in adding layers to the characterization and story-telling - the main one being the kites.
Friendship, jealousy and redemption are the main themes. Other important themes such as religion, parental relationships, racism, casteism, romance, love, trauma and childhood rape add potent nuances to the storyline.
A powerful novel, that juxtaposes history with human psychology, a must read. I rate it 4.7 out of 5. Pick it up only if you are able to read it in as less sittings as possible, because it won’t let you go until the last page is turned.
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Wednesday, 14 July 2021
Monday, 5 July 2021
Tell me what does the jawan get?
You get your story,
we get our quotes in the newspapers,
what does the poor jawan get?
If he dies, he stops getting
even the pittance he earns as salary.
– Brigade Major Rajeev Srivastava,
Journeys without maps, Sankarshan Thakur
This anthology is a first of this genre for me. Being a fiction buff, I rarely read non-fiction unless the topic in question is compelling enough to hold my attention. And Kargil definitely qualifies as compelling, and then some. I took a far longer time to finish this book because some paragraphs just do not allow readers to go ahead after reading – rather demand an insightful imbibement or reflection. I admit that I may have missed many insinuations that ought to have been picked up but will only reveal themselves in repeated readings, perhaps in the third or fourth attempts.
‘Guns and Yellow roses, Essays on the Kargil war’ is just what it claims. The anthology of ten essays, penned by eminent journalists and writers, covers a wide horizon of versions of what happened at Kargil during those crucial days. What I found interesting were the varied perceptions that either matched or clashed between different groups – the people of Kashmir, the political honchos and the Indian army. Also, the powers that be, political or otherwise, who weave their influence into the happenings of the countries involved, while at war or at peace, is showcased with no holds barred.
Also, the photographs included in each of the pieces add a wholesome feel to the comprehension of the topics discussed by the authors.
The first piece by Sankarshan Thakur is heartrending. ‘Journeys without Maps’ traces the beauty of the landscape that morphs into a warzone, and thus gives the book its title. The changing scenarios and the interviews within the army camps make for an engrossing read. The plight of foot-soldiers who perhaps become scapegoats to the whims or lapses of those in power, cuts into the sensitive readers’ psyche.
Although all the tales have their own impact, ‘It Was Not Our War’ by Muzamil Jaleel is compelling in the questions it raises.
‘The people of Kargil bore the worst
and most direct brunt of the border conflict.
Pakistan shelled their homes
and drove them off their lands.
India failed to provide shelter for them
and ignored warnings of the coming invasion’
The author delves into the reasons for support or resentment towards both the countries, by the local populace of Kashmir. The struggles of refugees are iterated well.
The Kargil war was fought, won and lost…
But in Kashmir, both sides seem to have lost’
Rahul Bedi’s piece ‘A Dismal Failure’ showcases the inability of the over-complacent Indian officials to take the obvious threat seriously until it had aggravated to grim levels is an eye-opener.
‘The responsibility of the higher command
is not to lead men into battle
but to make accurate assessments
and to act on them professionally.’
The essay by Bharat Bhushan namely 'In the Enemy Country' was captivating as well. The journalist echoes the words of the head of Lashkar-e-Taiba and the conflict with the then PM of Pakistan, Nawaz Shariff. The scenes of the Lashkar rally in lslamabad gives readers goosebumps. The processes of internationalization of the Kashmir issue and the misinformation of the press is explained well in the essay.
However, the last one which is Suketu Mehta’s piece, ‘A Fatal Love’, seems grossly out of place, almost an afterthought addition that need not have been there. Yes, love conquers borders and is all encompassing, but the book on the whole is a narrative on the war aspects of the conflict situation in Kargil.
Hence the inclusion of the theme of Mehta's essay – a contemplation of Bhai Bhai brotherhood or blossoming of love between couples of the two countries, a la-Refugee Bollywood movie style - is akin to forcibly sticking a rose at the end of an ambush rifle.
Highly unapologetic, concise and with no remorse, the book presents the inside stories as they are. There is a lot for clueless civilians to learn from this book. One conclusion that can definitely be drawn at the end of it is that the said issues are inconclusive – there is no single right or wrong answer to the problems that plague the region. The book leaves the reader somewhat frustrated, given that the lack of clear-cut solutions is distinct, despite all the analyses and contemplation.
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I believe that humans are absolutely the worst things to happen to this planet. Reading this story seemed like a reiteration of the same theory.
It starts off as a simple story of a disturbed man in an asylum, with an understanding nurse who assists him in ways far beyond her duties. His narrow escape from a murder attempt and the consequent chase across half the world is just one facet of the story.
The other dimension is the one which adds a surreal thrill to the plot. The simultaneous flashes of a tiger living his life in Bengal projected into Karl’s mind make him go more insane. The result is Karl and Althea ending up chasing the tiger across the landscape of India. Add to this the crazed murderer baying for his blood, plus a narcissistic hunter baying for the tiger’s blood and we have the perfect recipe for an unusual thriller.
The theme of magical realism has been used to heighten the effect of the conservation of wildlife to the plot and add a surreal twist to the tale.
The Tiger is the most endearing character of them all. And Swartz brings out the real danger of extinction of the striped mammal in a classic characterization that delves into the mind of the tiger himself. The portrayal of love between the tiger and his beloved mate is convincing, endearing , adorable and heart-wrenching.
What I found most interesting was the depiction of the man-eater as harmless, if left alone. It is highly convincing as well, especially since the prevalent theory of man-eaters being irreversibly harmful to humans has sanctioned the slaughter of beasts perceived as dangerous.
If the objective of the author was to showcase the character of man for what he is – in all his cruelty, sadism, foolishness and arrogance of false entitlement over the earth – he has succeeded with aplomb. And the human characters fighting to kill one another even as the tigers wait to attack them is a classic showcase of man in all his shameful way of existence.
Overall, an entertaining read. I rate it 4.8 out of 5. Extra points are for the juxtaposition of two seemingly different themes with smooth finesse.
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Sunday, 4 July 2021
faceless, he is
Living between rainbows you painted in my skies
what have you done to me?