Friday, October 10, 2014

Girl Power

It must be taken as given that a man who happens to be the world's most powerful, most terrible, most  deadly sorcerer, must have a woman at his side. But it does not follow, my children, that a woman of similar proportions requires a man at hers.
        Now then , who wants to be a tyrant?

(The Bonehunters - Steven Erikson)


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Escaping Reality

It is so easy to lose oneself in a book and forget reality. Especially if reality sucks. 

Since childhood I've found fantasy fiction to be the best hideaway. Maybe this feeling came about after I read Tilsm-e-Hoshruba at age eleven. No matter how crazy everything became around me, here was the answer to all my problems. Not just the story itself but the possibilities the story provided to my imagination. Solitude was no longer scary because I always had imaginary friends, mostly characters from the novel, at my beck and call. I was queen of my realm and my wazir was a deadly cobra who was constantly at my side but invisible to all. 

I found similar abandon in some works of Neil Gaiman. Step into Neverwhere, The Graveyard Book, or Stardust and the world ceases to exist. While reading such books dread starts to settle in as I get closer to the final pages. I was gripped with such great fear of reaching the end of A Mirror of Beauty (Shamsur Rehman Faruqi) that I've yet to finish the book. These days I am lost in the world of the Malazan House of the Fallen - a ten volume fantasy fiction saga by Steven Erikson. I'm just starting book six.  

Maybe this is an ostrich approach towards life. It is easy to hide behind a paperback and let the world dissolve. To become friends with certain characters of the book and channel all the emotions inside one towards them. Doing so makes it easier for me to let go of my emotions for then I am crying with or for the characters, not at myself. I direct my angst towards the twists and turns in the story and thus manage to obliterate the sources of the pain from my environment...

...at least till I turn the last page. 

Queen or not, I could really do with that deadly cobra now. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Nostalgia post-Karachi jalsa

The first time I went to a big gathering that featured Imran Khan was in Quetta - 1992. He was the captain of the cricket team and they were on a tour all over Pakistan with the World Cup. The details escape me but we all went to cheer the team. While my brothers and father stood on the road looking out for the truck (containers weren't the mode of travel then) carrying the team and the cup, my mother and I went into a girls college where the team was due to make the first stopover before going to the main gathering area or ground. There was a lot of excitement of course but the logistics were such a nightmare that we all came back home without catching a glimpse of the team. Going there and being in the thick of the action was enough to inspire me to write a poem on IK. I don't have it with me now but I think the first few lines went something like 'Imran Khan is a great Pathan....' and so on. At 12 years of age, rhyming is very important. 

22 years later.....

Yesterday was the third time I went to a big gathering which featured Imran Khan. The urgency and excitement was similar to that of 1992. Then, the 12 year old me had wanted to catch a glimpse of the team and the cup. However, the present me went to show solidarity with a cause. A cause that, we hope, will bring a change. A cause that, I believe, has brought a change. When people of all ages and all social backgrounds can come together in front of the Quaid's mausoleum without any fear, on a humid Karachi day, that IS representative of the change that is seeping into our lives.

I voted for PTI in the last elections because I want a new Pakistan. But I also know that IK doesn't have a magic wand that will change everything. He is the harbinger of change. He can only do this much. It is up to us, through our actions, to bring the real change. For the simple truth is that Naya Pakistan, or something similar, is a dream which we've all had at some point. 

The question is can we play a role, no matter how small, to make the hope and dreams of a better future into a reality? 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Little things matter

'Look for the little loves, find and shape the little bitternesses. Savor them in your mouth, try them on your typewriter'. 

(Zen in the Art of Writing - Ray Bradbury)


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

What are YOU reading this week?

There are some new books on the beanbag. I'm really looking forward to reading one of the books I got from Goa; Samhita Arni's 'The Missing Queen'.

And I've also got hooked to the epic saga that is the Malazan, House of the Fallen series. I read the second book, Deadhouse Gates, for our Desi Writers' Lounge - Karachi Readers' Club and now I'm reading from the beginning this amazing fantasy fiction series. So, Gardens of the Moon is also on the beanbag this week.

In case you're interested, check out my review on Deadhouse Gates here and a pictorial of our Readers' Club meet here

One last thing - there are some new titles in the book donation drive so if you'd like a free book delivered to your doorstep, just click here


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

How I lost my books to the aliens...

Or in other words, how I never managed to finish the 15/15/30 project.

It wasn't the number of books, or the number of pages, or the lack of time or motivation which led me to abandon the project. Nor was it the fact that no one was reading along with me although I had high hopes that someone might join this crazy attempt. I am now revealing the actual, real and TRUE reason behind why I lost steam. 

There was an alien invasion in my backyard the night of 11th of July and these particular aliens only wanted to read books by female authors and since they were short of time (if they overstayed there was a slight chance of detection by the dog next door. Who is actually a four legged creature, with a tail and all. No subtle references here!) they grabbed the first books which they found which just happened to be the very stack which I was planning to read. Of course you can imagine how I went into a state of misery and shock to find no books the next morning when I woke up and thus, I was forced to abandon the project. 

No? You don't believe me? 

Well, there is another reason but it doesn't sound very plausible to me. There just might be a teeny weeny chance that I sort of backed down from the project because I didn't like the quality of my reviews. And I came to the conclusion that I am a failure with words and what makes me think I can ever write?  But, the likelihood of THAT happening is so much less than aliens disappearing with my books. 

Or is it?

[In Search of Love and Beauty was the fourth and last book I read for the challenge and you can find the incomplete review here].

In Search of Love and Beauty - (the incomplete review)

Aren't we all?

If you are not familiar with any of Jhabvala's work, I'd recommend you rush off to the nearest bookstore and buy Heat and Dust. In case you only know her for her collaboration with Merchant Ivory Productions on many of their projects, you still need to rush to your nearest bookstore and buy her novel.

Jhabvala's novels are like quicksand; once you start the book you sink into its world completely. Her stories revolve around ordinary people living ordinary lives and facing ordinary dilemmas. What makes her novels an extraordinary read is the way everything is woven together. All the characters are linked in some way or the other and most, if not all, of them are in search of some sort of fulfilment. Her storyline is devoid of major twists but has very strong and well thought out characters.   The people in her story are alive; they have likes, dislikes, distinct personality traits and they change and bend according to their circumstances. While reading her novel, A Backward Place, I couldn't shrug off this feeling that these characters actually exist in people around me.

In Search of Love and Beauty is one of those books which, if you read in one day, can actually leave you a bit morbid. All the characters in the story are, as the title suggests, in search of either one or both. The novel starts in New York of the 1930s and revolves around the life of a group of wealthy European immigrants living in exile. The beauty of the story lies in the non-linear, episodic manner in which Jhabvala shuffles from past to present, explaining and revealing the lives and secrets of Louise,  her daughter Marietta, her grandchildren, Mark and Natasha and their association (and dependency) with the 'former Adonis', guru, spiritual healer, quack/genius - Leo Kellermann.

The story was absorbing but there was a feeling of gloom surrounding the novel and it came as a great relief when I finally finished it. The one thing which is common in all Jhabvala's novels is the end - it is usually very vague and almost without any definite conclusion.

------------------------------------
[I wrote the above while going through my 15/15/30 challenge during Ramazan. Why I never completed this review and what happened to my reading marathon are questions I've answered in 'How I lost my books to the aliens..'].


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