Saturday, November 24, 2012

My thoughts - DSC 2013

The books shortlisted for the 2013 DSC Prize for South Asian Literature are, minus Our Lady of Alice Bhatti and Narcopolis, all about war. The Bangladesh war, the Afghanistan war and the Opium wars dominate the list. And my simple question is, why so much talk of war?!

War, for writers, is a great temptation. Old Tolstoy could not resist it; he even put the word in the title! But even though War and Peace is a brilliant work, it is Anna Karenina which is considered one of the greatest novels of all time. And there isn't any mention of war in it (unless you count Vronsky’s departure right at the end to fight against the Turks).

I haven’t read all the books that were long-listed but the ones I was rooting for had nothing to do with war and everything to do with ego, loss, family, traditions, values, rebellion, failure, defeat, death and of course, love. Although I have a non-war favorite in the short-list, I want to mention two long-listed books which touched me deeply.

Between Clay and Dust- A novel that exposed me to a new world, the wrestlers’ akhara  and the courtesan's crumbling house. It also revealed to me that time and place are, sometimes, inconsequential in the face of emotions, moods and relationships.  

Em and the Big Hoom- A story not just about depression, but about love – unconditional, unquestioning, immeasurable love.

The enduring problems of life are not political; they’re existential, they’re psychological and there are no answers to them, certainly no satisfying answers’. Woody Allen

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Timeless Tales

It seems that Musharraf Ali Farooqi, the author of Tik-Tik, the Master of Time, gave a free hand to his inner child while writing this book.

Tik-Tik, the hero of this story, is not happy on the planet Nopter, his home. He wants to become an adult really fast but on Nopter, the growth rate is really slow. It takes ages to become an adult and Tik-Tik doesn’t want to wait all that long.  ‘The adults of our species enjoyed all kinds of freedom on Nopter. They could eat what they fancied and leave what they disliked untouched. They could stay in or go out at will, and remain outdoors all they wished. All this, of course, was denied to us, the small ones of the species’*.

Tik-Tik is sure there is a solution to this problem and he is determined to make the discovery which shall help him, and other children on Nopter, to grow quickly. He’s assisted by his best friend, Nib-Nib, an intelligent girl who helps Tik-Tik in a number of ways on his crazy mission. Although Tik-Tik is very fond of Nib-Nib, he often ignores her suggestions. He is also not very fond of Nib-Nib’s cat, Dum-Dum, a feeling that is reciprocated by the feline creature. Don’t be fooled by the name because Dum-Dum is no dumb cat and as the story progresses, she has a few tricks up her sleeve (or paw?). The one adult person who is crazy enough to help Tik-Tik in his mission is Grandpa Kip-Kip who, too, tried to grow up faster once, but failed.

The illustrations by Michelle Farooqi bring the whole story to life and make the reading process fun and engaging. This book, in my opinion, establishes Farooqi as a master story-teller, for all age-groups. It might also herald a new beginning for children’s literature in English by local writers.

Tik-Tik and Nib-Nib transported me back to my childhood.  As a child, and especially during early teens, everyone just wants to grow older quickly. I, too, felt the same way as Tik-Tik although I didn’t go to the same lengths as he did! The one character I immediately warmed up to was Nib-Nib. I’ve grown up with two younger brothers and lots of male cousins and boys always think they’re so smart, just like Tik-Tik. And they just don’t seem to lose this habit even when they’re grown men!

Even though I’m not a cat person, I liked Dum-Dum. If cats be so cool, I might consider becoming friendlier towards them in the future (and try to prevent our German Shepard to run after them during evening walks!).

Tik-Tik, the Master of Time, is a sort of sci-fi book for kids with a great story and some very unforgettable characters. It is definitely a better read than books about dysfunctional families in the United Kingdom or USA. I mean, really, would you rather your child reads a book about a girl living in a council house, with her mother, siblings and her mother’s boyfriend?

We need to let out children develop their imagination and creativity by reading good fiction which includes fairy tales, classics, and lots of picture books. Albert Einstein said, ‘If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales’.

I don’t know if Tik-Tik, the Master of Time will make your children more intelligent (though there is a bit of science lesson in it also!) but it will make them think, and laugh and wonder and maybe even get inspired to write their own story. They might color the illustrations or even name their pet Dum-Dum. But above all, they’ll read a story about friendship and adventure – something we all need in our lives no matter how old we are.  

* Excerpt from the book

Shades of Autumn

Sunday, November 11, 2012

I blog, therefore I am.

Three years on the blogosphere calls for some celebration so the blog gets a make-over. Yaaay! 

It’s always fun to walk down memory lane and today, I am raising a toast to all my doings on the beanbag.  Many things happened here. There were musings about teaching, a job I have temporarily called quits, of its joys and tribulations. In case you missed it, I was lucky to host a Literary New Year's Party right here and had many interesting authors as guests including Hunter S. Thompson, Virginia Woolf and even Ibsen.

One of the most interesting events on the beanbag was the 15/15/15 challenge which had me reading faster than a bullet train. There was talk about married life as Hubby dear and myself celebrated our first year of marriage (read here) and even, you won’t believe it, an alien invasion!

Although a discussion on aging is depressing, especially among the female gender, we can’t run away from the inevitable. Here are my thoughts on reaching the infamous big 0 which, honestly, comes in our life a little too quickly. Don’t you agree?

Go on a pictorial journey with me and explore a bit of Lahore. In case you haven’t found time to read it, see Hubby dear playing the cursed Oedipus Rex, in pictorial form, here.

Lastly, I leave you on the beanbag with my first impression of London and some recollections  of both Ibn-e-Insha and myself of London, here.

There are whispers of change, both on and off the beanbag, as I raise a toast of dark chocolate (since there is no Coke, zero or otherwise in the house) to three years of tales on the beanbag.

Care to join?

The new look of beanbagtales - a celebration of the old and the new. 
Photograph: Author

Friday, November 2, 2012

Addictions are Escape

I didn’t even realize I was trying to escape, since the past month, till this very moment. Every other day, depending on how fast I was, I was running away from reality into other worlds through the cheapest, most effective form of escape – reading.

It is a most successful method. You must try it. Of course, there are chances you might get hooked onto this readscape (a very lame attempt on my part to combine read & escape) and so, if you have even the slightest tendencies of forming addictions, read no further. If you choose to, welcome!

Reading, literally, shuts you out from your surroundings. You might be anywhere and yet you are only where the words are; on a cliff with Howard Roark, looking for Aunt Agatha’s dog in a hotel room with Bertie Wooster, stuck in a tree with Winnie the Pooh, in a space egg with Tik-Tik, or in India during the Mughal Era – you can be in any which place except at the airport, in the car, in a waiting room and even the loo (a prolonged mental absence is not really possible here but you get the point). You put your life on hold. Your worries, pains, defeats, failures, and even responsibilities drown in the sea of words.

I don’t just shut my surroundings; I get sucked into the story and adopt its surroundings.  Sometimes leaving is easy, I just jump into another book and befriend a new set of characters. Sometimes I have to crawl out and drag myself away. The worst is when I don’t want to let go and end up leaving a part of myself in the books I love. And whenever I want to re-live that part of me, I open the book again and get sucked right in.  Therefore, I avoid re-reads.

What is said about the power of the written word is true. Books have immense powers. If you have stifled a sob after reading a book or felt a knot tighten in your stomach while going over a paragraph or maybe put the book aside because you can’t take the suspense/terror/pain/joy anymore, you have a fair idea of their strength.

This is one of the things that makes reading dangerous and very, very addictive. And I am an addict.

But now, sadly, I need to take stock of my addiction. I need to learn to let go of the stories I read so that I can create my own. I have to make room for the characters I create, in my own words, and leave the others inside their stories, between the pages of their book, on the shelf. They’ll always be there but only when I open the book and allow them to help me escape. 

But..I need to finish my current dose. It's the last one. Promise.