Sunday, 7 February 2016

The curiosity that was Perumal Murugan

Ever since news of Tamil author Perumal Murugan flashed the internet, I was curious to read and probe as to what provoked the saffron brigade. I finally ordered my copy of One Part Woman and keeping aside The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, I started yet another journey into a different historical time and space. It was soothingly familiar as I identified largely with the local lingo, peculiarities and cultural nuances found in the book. Needless to say, it was a stark contrast to cold, pale and distant Japan. Inspite of having completed a good number of pages, TWUBC  is still to ''wind my spring" (a phrase from Norwegian Wood).

Murugan's story is that of Pona and Kali, a childless couple who are sexually and emotionally quite compatible with each other. They have a strong desire to have a child and not being able to bear one drives them to intense anguish and pain. The story is set in Tiruchengode and in the pages, mention of various temples, deities and other cultural markers are liberally strewn. I completed reading the book rather quickly and to my amazement, I was quite engrossed in the story that I forgot to notice the red signals that might have provoked the touch-me-nots. I tried recollecting portions from the book that created such a furore that made Perumal Murugan swear never to write again. What a waste of talent! I then furiously started hunting Google pages to read up on the various incidents that coloured Tamil Nadu after the release of this book. I finally found that the touch-me-nots were incensed by one practise that Murugan has mentioned in his book. I quote from the blurb for better clarity -

"their hopes come to converge on the chariot festival in the temple of Ardhanareeswara, the half-female god. Everything hinges on the one night when rules are relaxed and consensual union between any man and woman is sanctioned. This night could end the couple's suffering and humiliation. But it will also put their marriage to the ultimate test."

The touch-me-nots imagined that Murugan had interpreted the practise in a manner that defiled the religious intentions of certain groups. Well, Murugan is not only a writer but also a teacher of Tamil who has done extensive research on the topic before writing the novel but alas! all that did not matter. What mattered was the 'sexual union' which was depicted as part of the ritual. If set in a modern context sans the deities and temples, the practise would resemble an orgy of sorts where coupling with strange people is part of the whole fun or perhaps a disco which is another refined form of an orgy albeit in a slightly different set-up or perhaps swapping partners for benefit. One can actually try placing certain age-old customs and rituals in today's context of course, with a different set-up. Kali and Pona could easily be a couple who are working in a software company and after twelve years of childless marriage decide to experiment in order to bear children. These and few other parallels were colouring my mind as I traversed through the lives of Pona and Kali.  

On another note, I am glad that the book was banned, otherwise people like me, though belong to Tamil Nadu would have never heard or read a gem like Perumal Murugan (the angst of not being able to read in Tamil is another story for another post!). I have missed reading another banned book, The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie who is another writer who courts controversies much like young models and actresses! Maybe I will soon start a club with the abbreviation BBC (Banned Books Club) and when I do, I will sure put up an invitation for you to join.

Have you read any banned book? Do share your experience.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Asian stories and Western sensibilities

The past week saw me ordering Haruki Murakami's two books on an impulse after a passionate conversation with my friend/colleague on how reading time is slowly leaving our systems. I started reading Norwegian Wood first, for no specific whim or reason and thus began my journey into the lives of Watanabe, Naoko, Midori, Reiko and several others. I have read Murakami before and the remembrance of past reading pleasures drew me to his books again. It comes as a surprise to me that somehow I pick up a Murakami in the beginning month of the year. About two years ago, I had read Murakami on a January and also had written a post (Murakami and related thoughts), which surprisingly echoes most of what I have written now albeit in a slightly different manner. Murakami is Asian, Japanese to be specific but that awareness slowly dissipates as I progress with the book. That Murakami is a fan of the pop songs of the 50s, 60s and 70s is quite limpid in his works. In fact, the title Norwegian Wood  is the title of one of the popular Beatles' songs. Now, my senses are quite welcoming of the references to diverse cultures and habits and knowing fully well that a Murakami will lead me to the Japanese way of life, I tend to lose my way somewhere in the pages. Though my imagination is coloured with petite women and men with pale skin colour, somewhere I lose the track and start imagining western people and surroundings. Then, mid-way, I realise that here I am reading a Japanese author and imagining western people. The character Reiko, especially. She plays the guitar and belts out popular numbers, all of which I know quite well, having grown up listening to them. My image of Reiko is that of a blond, fairly well-built with an imposing personality but then reality often intervenes and I try hard to stop this as it seems sacrilegious to do so.

I wonder whether I owe this to the explicit Western sensibilities of Murakami or to my knowledge of the songs which colour the story or my imagination which is used to imagining white skin and blond hair (Read influence of Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen and other sundry writers). Whatever the reason, alongside getting entwined in the characters' lives, a parallel track on my imagination was also niggling me.

Well, I have now completed Norwegian Wood and have embarked on the second novel, The Wind Up Bird Chronicle

A quote from the book Norwegian Wood

Image 1: Internet
Image 2: Internet

Monday, 4 January 2016

Hobbling into 2016 (Literally!)

Anything new fascinates me as it gives me another chance to rebuild, a chance to look forward to altering me and a chance for hope to abound and if it's a new year, then the prospects triple. Well, 2016 is here and I am overwhelmed and excited by how I get another opportunity to better myself. And lest I forget, the beginning of this year saw me with a broken big toe nail; ''broken'' would be an under statement because the broken nail led to a state of no nail. Yes, I entered 2016 without a nail on my left big toe. I am unwilling to go through the process of how I ended up without a toe nail as I have been narrating the experience to all and sundry throughout my five-hour of my first working day. Phew! the thought itself tires me immensely.

A colleague upon observing my gait, went into a philo-spasm exclaiming how life slows us down when we are running and that one needs to mind the pace with which one works and so on. She is right, I thought, not about life slowing down and all but about SLOWNESS itself. How often we just rush through everything. Slowing down to observe and be mindful is something I consciously try to do but end up forgetting. I stumbled upon this quote of John Muir which speaks to me about a certain calm,

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity.

- John Muir -

This is what we are exactly doing to ourselves - getting tired, nerve-shaken and over-civilized and in the process forgetting to slow down and cherish our surroundings, US! 

Well, the injured big toe is slowly teaching me to see the world in another fashion and thus ushering me into 2016. 

I hope and pray that you have a blessed and mindful 2016.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

In search of 'What is my passion?'

If you have seen the 2014 film Whiplash, you will understand what true passion is - passion that consumes your time, thoughts and almost everything you live for. I have seen many people having such passion - something that they live for (and sometimes also die for). I hope you have not mistaken passion for romantic passion in this context. I am not even thinking of that, though, I cannot deny that that passion also consumes the individual.

After watching that film, I asked R, ''Do you know what is your passion?'' to which he did not have a logical answer and as I was questioning him, I was also asking myself - ''What IS my passion?" A passion that I could live and die for, a passion that consumes me and a passion that fills my vacant hours. I could not think of anything. I was distressed for after all, everyone has that one passion which keeps them alive and going. I tried to think of many attributes that have defined me through the years but alas! I could not put my finger to the ONE passion and exclaim - I can devote my entire life to this one!

I had imagined that I liked reading and that it was my passion but then reading is a hobby and a life-line, not something which can be defined as passion. Then, I thought travelling and then realised that it was something that I liked intermittently. Teaching? Nah. I like interacting with young and curious minds but passion, no! Writing, perhaps. I dwelt a bit longer on this but could not convince myself to say, ''Yes, writing is my passion.'' But I don't write all that much. I have strong memories of a well-watered and nourished blog but that is a lovely memory now. I used to scribble in my journal - The journal remains albeit with blank pages . . . I could go on and on about my terrible failing when it came to writing but I hold myself and stop.

I am still searching for my passion. Even today morning, I had a conversation with my sister about the passion of doing something consistently and getting a high inspite of doing it every single day. We blamed boredom and laughed away our lack of passion for anything.

I am still not done. I feel like an inadequate work in progress which has some vital piece missing. There are days when the search consumes me and there are other days when I hardly think about any such piece. But here I am, painfully aware of that passion.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Why not Grammar obsessive/fetish instead of Grammar nazi?

The word Nazi in 'Grammar nazi' leaves me a bit disturbed. Whenever I come across that phrase, I stop and completely oblivious of the first part of the phrase, start contemplating the second part. 'Nazi' brings to my mind holocaust, gas chambers and The Boy in Striped Pyjamas. It makes me sad and gloomy. Not always but most of the times. I wonder who coined this phrase! Yes, I can hear you when you think that I am making a mountain out of a mole-hill but aren't words powerful? Don't they have the power to bring memories? Don't they pierce?

Words are powerful and make a deep impact, if you know what I mean. There are many such terms which evoke gory memories and ill-fated times. A word is enough to transport the mind to memories that are tinged with sorrow and hurt. The words, ''rainbow,'' alongside bringing the picture of seven lovely stripes set in a curve also bring pictures of the LGBT community and their struggles. So the rainbow is not a rainbow alone!

Many of us know the oft-quoted saying, ''Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,'' but the pain caused by sticks and stones will pass unlike the hurt caused by words. It sears, lives and throbs within the crevices of the mind.

So, next time you utter something, dear reader, pause. think. utter.

Leaving you with a personal favourite number, Words by Boyzone

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Visions around me

Mandovi serenely flowing

A hoary tree at Campal

A wee sun bird toiling at its nest (Spotted outside my window in my garden)

Three different pictures taken at different places make me come alive with the vision that surrounds and uplifts me. I feel glad to be able to partake in the beauty that without any effort is presented to my sight.


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