Saturday, January 17, 2015

Reading Ghalib

I finished reading the biography of Mirza Ghalib titled, Ghalib - The man, the times by Pavan K. Varma. I also went through the Diwan -e- Ghalib simultaneously which made the read very enjoyable. Over the weekend, I'm going to watch the television series Mirza Ghalib, made by the poet-director Gulzar and starring the super talented actor Naseeruddin Shah. Gulzar also had a bust of Ghalib commissioned and installed at the poet's haveli in Delhi. Read more of that here.

This is one of my favourite artwork based on Ghalib's poetry by Abdur Rahman Chugtai. Ripped out of a diary, its been a part of my life since many years and occupies a prominent place in my writing area. 


Monday, January 12, 2015

a post-crash confession

In the middle of the afternoon today, I crashed.

It wasn't a physical crash although eventually I did crash in front of my telly and watched a christmas chick flick which incidentally gave me a great idea for my new lamps which are technically not new lamps but a gift from my aunt who is giving away her stuff but in a way they are new.

Why did I crash? Why does one crash? In my case it's usually a combination of pending things to do and things that I AM supposed to do and things I PLANNED to do. When I'm unable to meet the latter, postponing the planned activity day after day after day, frustration builds up and then at the most unlikely moment (which has NOTHING to do with the planned activity), I snap. 


Emotional snap = morose face and zero response to anything including phone calls from close friends. Also, ignoring hubby.

Mental snap = Self pity, mostly!

Physical snap = Lethargy which usually leads to long periods of time in front of the telly. 

And so I sat for almost three hours, staring at the telly, watching the Top Gear team travel through Rwanda, some bits of the television comedy Web Therapy (which is a great find!) and finally a chick flick. Between the time dinner started and the chick flick ended (roughly ten minutes), I directed all my angst at the remodelling of the lamp shades which I don't want remodelled anymore. And while having dinner I kept thinking I'll probably end up dreaming about the whole fiasco (which, in reality, isn't that big really) and wake up miserable the next day when I heard about the massacre in Nigeria. 

And my snap! moment kind of melted into a little pool of water. The same one in which one is supposed to drown in the Urdu proverb (chullu bhar paani). 

Here I was, twisting my insides over a bloody lamp and there were people in Nigeria, who not many days back, were killed mercilessly and some actually drowned because they were trying to escape being killed by militants? It was like a jolt of electricity. A major wake up call for me. What am I doing? Why am I focusing all my energy on something which is not going to, in any way, change the direction of my life?

So I took a deep breath, smiled at hubby dearest and thanked HIM. Things might not be perfect all the time but they are pretty good and that, I think, will do just fine for now.  

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Love Stories are Evergreen

Following is a synopsis.

The son of a farmer is in love with the daughter of a wealthy landowner. From a young age (read around 8yrs), he fancies the girl and is very fond of her. The girl also has feelings for him but she doesn't display them very much. The little she does, at times, is enough for our hero and he spends his days and nights dreaming of her. But where there are roses, there will also be thorns. The son of an even wealthier land owner is good friends with our heroine and obviously becomes a rival of sorts. 

Time passes and our hero leaves for the city to pursue higher education and becomes a (wait for it...) poet. Of course, ALL his poems are based on the heroine or around his love for her. One day, one fateful day, he runs into her, just like that, at a street corner in the VAST city. They make small talk and then he pours out his heart to her but suddenly he spots a ring on her finger. Engaged? His beloved? To whom? (hint: an old childhood rival. No hint required really, it was so glaringly obvious!).

BUT even though she may wear the ring given by another man, it is our hero she loves deeply. And she proclaims this love by kissing him right outside the house of her fiancé. Of course, no one happens to be drinking tea in the garden, or looking out of the window to see if the weather is rainy or sunny and thus the kiss remains a secret between the two. Nothing changes after this episode as the heroine refuses to break the engagement and yet, proclaims to be in love with the hero.

Heartbroken, our hero leaves for abroad and no one, not even his parents have a clue where he is. During this time his fame rises and everyone, including the wealthy landowner (father of the heroine), is proud of him. One fine day our hero comes back and everyone is over joyed. The heroine immediately sends him an invite to attend a lunch at her palatial home where she promises him a surprise.

And when our hero reaches the lunch, she acts as a match maker and pairs him with a girl half his age (who he had saved from drowning when she was only a babe) to make up for her marrying the childhood rival. The young girl is thrilled on meeting the great poet and falls in love immediately.  The finance' (childhood rival) suspects the heroine is in love with the hero. She denies and he pretends to believes her lie and since he's a gentleman and won't harm her (or the hero) he goes hunting (to vent out his anger on hapless animals) where he (very mysteriously) dies in a shooting accident.

Everyone is devastated, especially the heroine's wealthy landowner father. Turns out he isn't wealthy no longer and his daughter's marriage was the only way to save him from disgrace. So when everyone leaves for the city for the funeral, he stays back and conveniently burns the house down, with himself in it.

Time passes. Our hero appears to be happy with his young finance' but she falls in love with a younger guy and leaves him. And the very day they break up, an old friend turns up at his doorstep to tell him about the heroine's death and hands him a letter from her. 

This is from the novel Victoria written by Knut Hamsun in 1898. All resemblance to a Bollywood or Lollywood film is very creepy!

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Severed Head starts off the GRP 2015

Books should have themes. I choose titles carefully and the titles in some way indicate something deep in the theme of the book. Names are important. The names sometimes don’t come at once, but the physical being and the mind of the character have to come pretty early on and you just have to wait for the gods to offer you something. You have to spend a lot of time looking out of the window and writing down scrappy notes that may or may not help. You have to wait patiently until you feel that you’re getting the thing right—who the people are, what it’s all about, how it moves. I may take a long time, say a year, just sitting and fishing around, putting the thing into some sort of shape."

Iris Murdoch - The Art of Fiction No. 117, the Paris Review

A depiction of one of the principal characters, Honor Klein, with her Samurai sword.  "She had been standing before me, still holding the hilt in a two-handed grip, and looking down at one of the severed napkins."

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

GRP 2015 - of reads and re-reads.

My Grand Reading Plan for 2015 involves reading more and widely across genres AND finishing the Malazan Book of the Fallen series (I'm currently reading the seventh book). The plan is foolproof this time and (*drum roll*) I've already finished the first book of the GRP 2015. 

So what is this Grand Reading Plan? Simply this. I have a comprehensive list of books I own with details of where and when they were bought. So I'm going to read (and possibly re-read) the books each month bought in those months, regardless of the year. Within each list, I'll read female authors and translated works first followed by South Asian authors and finally works by white male authors. 

THIS is the mix of books for January and here they are in the order of reading:

  • A Severed Head - Iris Murdoch (Finished)
  • Victoria - Knut Hamson
  • The Master of Go - Yasunari Kawabata
  • Ghalib - Pavan K. Varma
  • Man-eaters of Kumaon - Jim Corbett
  • Nights at the Circus - Angela Carter (re-read) 
  • A Long Way Down - Nick Hornby (re-read) 

Why re-reads when so many books are gathering dust in the TBR pile? I re-read books a) because I didn't really understand it much the first time, b) for the sheer love of the story or characters or, and most importantly, c) a movie based on the book exists or is being released. 

One book down, six more to go. Let the reading begin!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The First Step

How do you make a resolve to change your life?  

Resolve. To decide firmly on a course of action. And not be distracted by both external and internal forces. It is the internal forces which usually derail me. Once upon a time I had decided on a course of action, shut myself away from the world and prepared for an entrance test. 99% in my external environment believed I had no chance but I knew I'll nail it. And I did. (Of course, the irony is that in retrospect I think it was probably the worst decision of my life).

I keep repeating this story to myself a lot and I keep asking myself, why can't I do the same for the things I want to do most now? Why can't I shut myself in my study and write? Something I've wanted to do since I was eleven. Why is it so hard to stay up creating stories and weaving narratives when I had done it all so many years ago for a boring, good for nothing business school entrance test?

I've gone over these questions many times and I think I've found an answer. I'm afraid of failure. Of not writing something good enough. This fear is so great that I'm terrified of putting pen to paper. This fear is a reason why I've kept away from the blog. And if I'm really honest, I've sort of used this fear as an excuse not to write. 

Today, the third day of the new year, I decided to chuck this fear out of the window and started writing. Even if it's just this blog entry. One has to start somewhere...