The Fault In Our Stars

11 01 2015

Fault

Though not my usual choice of reading, I picked it up from a friend’s list. She utterly enjoyed the book and her enthusiasm was just contagious. I couldn’t wait long to start it off myself and share her experience. I wanted to read this book for her.

I’m glad I did. I like it. Its crisp and unpretentious narration is refreshing. It’s touching and sad. Though I can’t relate too much with the teenage protagonists (my adolescence and it’s magic seems so far into the past and I feel ancient 😛 ), I fully appreciate the characters and the masterful way John Green has weaved the plot. I found the way the protagonists address each other by full names as cute.

There are several quotes I loved from the book and I would like to present a few here (just for the record. 😛 ) :

“The existence of broccoli does not in any way affect the taste of chocolate.”

“I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly and then all at once.”

“The world is not a wish-granting factory.”

“I don’t ever want to do that to you.”, I told him. “Oh, I wouldn’t mind Hazel Grace. It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you.”

“Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”

“The sun risen is too bright in your losing eyes.”

“You say you’re not special because the world doesn’t know about you, but that’s an insult to me. I know about you.”

“The only person I really wanted to talk to about Augustus waters’ death was Augustus Waters.”

“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, but you do have some say in who hurts you.”

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Prada reflections

24 12 2014

The_Devil_Wears_Prada_coverWhen I read “Devil Wears Prada” more than 7 years ago, I was enthralled by it. I read chick-lit very rarely and this bestseller by Lauren Weisberger was perhaps one of my first. I was enamored with the fashion industry background and the chilly but bewitching personality of Miranda Presley.  I remember even now the terror of Andy working under her. She endured the intense nerve-wrecking conditions for most part of her one-year tenure, only to tell Miranda to f*** off to her face 2 months before her tenure is up and quit on the most ungraceful terms. The job had not only adversely affected her nerves but also her relationships.

One thing that stuck to me about the climax is that – her long-term boyfriend decides that he had enough and breaks up with her. What I had hard time comprehending and accepting is that – he had been with her for most of the difficult time. He knew how important the job was for her and that she was under the most gruesome and stressful work environment. He also knew that she is not enjoying any of it and was just trying her best to finish her tenure so that she can have a better career after Runway. And just when she breaks down and quits, Alex decides he has had enough and breaks up with her – when she needed him the most.

True that the relationship had been difficult for him. But what’s the point of being in a relationship, if you don’t support your partner in hard times? I feel that the deeper issue is that many people chuck out at the sign of inconvenience. They are so self-centered, if something is troubling their relationship or their partner, they leave without bothering to make efforts to make it work, to repair the relationship. Or it could just be young age. Sigh! I know I shouldn’t be judgmental. I just wish people see it for what it is, feel less entitled and more responsible and grateful.

Recently, I grabbed “Revenge Wears Prada” from the library. It’s not a best seller but I needed something light to experiment with audio book and so I went for it. I felt some parts are really very silly. Maybe it’s because I am listening to it – weird when someone reads aloud or maybe it’s because I’ve grown older and don’t really relate to the characters or maybe it’s really is silly.

books2f-2-webIn this sequel, Andy has got a new boyfriend Max and she is marrying him. She is at least 33. I don’t understand why she feels weird and jittery on her wedding day – as if getting married is akin to losing something valuable. I think I know what it is – it’s “freedom”. Freedom to do whatever you want, freedom to walk out. I can comprehend the feeling of uncertainty or panic by someone who is really young – early twenties or younger, but a 33 year old woman not feeling completely ecstatic about marriage, I call this as “weird”.

One thing that frustrated me even more is “how Andy reacted to the fact that Max had met his ex during his bachelor party”. She is so disturbed by the sudden knowledge that she seriously thinks about cancelling the marriage and taking time out to “think things over”. I found it really stupid of her. She couldn’t trust the man she is marrying, the man with whom she had been living together for about 3 years. No “benefit of doubt” whatsoever. To mistrust the person whom you are going to marry in a few minutes is really pathetic. The whole situation seemed depressingly piteous to me.  She really struggles a lot to overcome her uneasiness. “Stupid woman”. Maybe I’m being very judgmental about this, but I am not able to help it. In fact, I’m surprised by the intensity of my own reaction.

Finally, Andy gets back to her first love -Alex. But where did her earlier realization that “he never really cared for and/or supported her as a career woman” go? It was not addressed at all, when they decided to come back together. Can we hope that the “same story” does not repeat again – “Alex getting upset by the ambitious Andy” ? Who knows!





Anna Karenina

16 04 2013

It is a story of love and adultery. This masterpiece of Leo Tolstoy depicts upper class Russian lifestyle. Besides portraying the nuances of day to day life, it also captures internal monologue of various characters. It is with conscious effort and cajoling that I took up this bulky classic. Though I took much longer than I expected to finish the book, I must say that it’s an extraordinary read.

Anna Karenina is a remarkable woman, who falls in love with a young officer outside her marriage. Their saga of love and adultery continues in the midst of the conservative 19th century Russian society. The discrimination and scorn of the society at large coupled with her imaginative disloyalty of her lover finally gets to her and she commits suicide.

Adultery is a popular theme in literature (may be in life too 😉 ) and every time I come across it, I wonder. However much those involved in the affair condone it in the name of love or incorrigible conditions of their married lives, adultery can never be justified in the eyes of the society and is always judged harshly. (Of course, usually the woman is judged more harshly than the man.) It may be possible in certain cases that even a theft or a murder can be made allowances for, but I feel that adultery is always a source of intense shame (for those not insensitive enough) and beyond any excuses in the eyes of one and all. Does this signify that sanctity of marriage still holds big time or is it just a case of eccentric hypocrisy?

A few pearls of wisdom I noted down, towards the end of the book:

If goodness has causes, it is not goodness; if it has effects, a reward, it is not goodness either. So goodness is outside the chain of cause and effect.

In infinite time, in infinite matter, in infinite space, is formed a bubble organism, and that bubble lasts a while and bursts, and that bubble is Me.

Reason discovered the struggle for existence and the law that requires us to oppress all who hinder the satisfaction of our desires. That is the deduction of reason. But loving one’s neighbor reason could never discover, because it’s irrational.





Fun with movies

19 07 2012

Sakuni – a feel good movie. The hero wins with his intellect. The comedy track between the hero and his autodriver friend gives the movie a lighter note despite the serious theme. You won’t feel disappointed if you don’t expect anything radical. The usual “Tamil” flavor exists. Heroine is just ornamental, with unusually less screen time. But Praneetha looked very glamorous and pretty.

 Endukante Premanta (EP) – It’s an OK movie. Quite engaging and entertaining too. Has a supernatural element, which I think didn’t go well with the audience and hence their lukewarm response. I’m surprised why people who can easily accept and approve of slim built hero, usually supposed to be a common man, performing inconceivable stunts and win over dozens of heavily built, tough-looking bad guys, can’t accept certain things. May be they don’t go well with one’s fantasies and innate hidden desires. I would like to understand the psychology behind this. Or may be the movie genuinely lacked something important. Coming back to EP, it’s directed well and logically linked (can’t expect anything less of Karunakaran). Went with zero expectations and wasn’t disappointed. The reason to go for it in the first place is the star cast and the basic expectation of it being a “youth” film.

Cocktail – Loved the movie, though I would have to say that it’s not a perfect one. The first one hour or so seemed more like a documentary with disconnected scenes. The movie gets much better after the interval. I love Deepika and she is absolutely awesome in Cocktail. Her smile lights up the screen. It seems so natural and genuine that it’s a pleasure in itself to watch it. Diana Penty is good. She has considerable resemblance to Sonam Kapoor and also Samantha. It was fun watching the movie. Definitely would like to watch it again. To say something about the subject and characterization, the treatment is mature and the plot reflects and addresses contemporary issues.I have my doubts and questions about various things portrayed and dealt with in the movie, which I choose to save for another day.





Mistress

25 05 2012

Beautiful. It’s the only word I could think of to describe this exquisite work by Anita Nair. It is not too infrequently that I feel at a loss for words to express what I feel about some literary work and Mistress evokes a similar kind of overwhelming emotion in me. It’s just beautiful. It had been such a joy to stop every now and then to marvel at its beauty. (Off the top of my head, I could only recollect a couple of other books which I felt were ‘beautiful” – God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy and Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro. ) I feel that trying to fit the pleasure it gave me into words would be disrespectful to the experience and thus won’t dwell on the same any further.

Mistress is a masterful tale of art and adultery. Chirs comes to Shoranpur in Kerala from America to interview Koman, a famous Kathakali dancer. Koman’s niece Radha and Chris get passionately involved with each other while Shyam, Radha’s husband, could only watch helplessly. Radha’s and Shyam’s marriage is a wreck since the beginning as they are from different backgrounds and have different views of life. Radha is Shyam’s the most prized possession and he is forever waiting for her to return his love. Shyam is insensitive and materialistic, while Radha is sophisticated. They couldn’t be anything else given their backgrounds and upbringing. So, may be the reason for the sorry state of their marriage is just that they are not meant to be together. But what about Shyam’s love for Radha? Does he really love her, understand her?

Koman narrates the story of his life right from the beginning – with his father’s story – “In the beginning there was a sea.” Koman believes that in order to understand him and his art, one has to know where he has come from, and everything around him. Koman is both an observer and a participant in the tale he recounts, which unfolds the complexities of relationships.

The key characters in this novel all speak in first person, giving the reader a rich sense of them. The author presents the novel in 9 parts, one for each emotion – navarasas, the nine faces of the heart: love contempt, sorrow, fury, courage, fear, disgust, wonder, peace.

If I were to note down all the observations and conversations from Mistress that tugged my heart, I’m sure it would run into at least 100 pages. 🙂  I was so captivated by Anita’s prose that my need to capture at least some snippets of it here (for future reference) is so great.

Uncle –

I can see you are thinking forever, and he is thinking here and now . You can’t blame him for that. But it is you who will be hurt…….Everybody is entitled to making their own mistakes, I couldn’t rob an experience from her even if it was a mistake. Besides, whatever was destined to happen would. 

Shyam isn’t a bad man. He can’t be faulted as a husband. But I can see that Radha isn’t happy with him. To divorce him because he bores her – what court of law would hear of it? 

‘You are fortunate’, I said, ‘to be able to preserve your dream as you dreamt it, to want it despite all the years of waiting.’ I know that my dreams have acquired a blurred edge with all the ands and buts I have been forced to make place for. 

How do you live with such deceit for the rest of your life? How much do you not let it haunt you? How do you balance all the acts of goodness you may do against that one act of deceit? 

Shyam –

I would like to kill you. I hate you for what you are doing to me. But how can I? To kill you would be to lose you. That I cannot bear. I cannot let him take you away. I cannot let you go. Nor can I let you do this to me…none of this I can bear.

Chris –

Is this a game perhaps? Something you need to do to prove a point? To yourself. To your husband? 

Radha –

I saw the ease that flowed between her and her husband. The casual intimacies of a marriage. He took her hand in his when he talked. She touched his cheek in a casual caress…I looked away. I was glad to see them leave. Any reminders of my past made me realize how drab and barren my life was. 

The little girl voice, the bated breath, the widening of eyes, the pouting of lips, the touching and stroking as I talk. All I need to do to complete the act is scream and turn pale when I see a cockroach. Shyam would love it. He would love me to be the helpless shrieking female while he squashed the cockroach under his slipper. 

Aashaan –

I know who I am and what I am. I place the burden on you, on how you wish to see me. 

 Uncle –

It is the nature of children to never allow parents their youth, their mistakes or their fears. In the end, this unspoken tyranny children exercise over their parents is just as oppressive as the rules parents lay out for children. 

I was once like her. Is that what drew me to her? When I saw her, I saw a reflection of myself. Was this love? To seek in someone a mirror image of one’s own hopes and dreams, one’s own soul? 

Radha –

An act of defiance for me; an interesting encounter for him. Loneliness and a funneling need that had exploded into unbridled passion. That was all it was. And as is the nature of such things, it died as it was born. Abruptly.

Uncle –

I had hurt her and she was exacting revenge. Is this what living is all about? This perennial scoring off each other; this seeking of retribution.

Chris –

Aren’t you running away because she expected more from you than you were prepared to offer?

If he could, he would do it differently. Start all over again so they might have a better chance of keeping their love alive. But does he really want that chance? The truth is, he doesn’t know what he wants.

Radha –

She feels a great yearning to lean back against a shoulder and feel comforted. It is Shyam she thinks of now.

It is fear that makes me seek him, not regard for him.

I cannot continue to play wife merely because it frees me of worries. I have not done right by Shyam. I have played wife all this while despising him. For this I know remorse. I went to him broken, and expected him to heal me. When he couldn’t, I began to despise him and knew sorrow.

 I loved the way Fear and Wonder were described:

You can pretend all other emotions: courage or love, laughter or sorrow, disgust or wonder, contempt or calm, but you cannot pretend fear… you will give yourself away. Fear cannot hide itself, it emanates from you even if you try to conceal it. There is one other aspect to fear. When you are afraid, you react in two ways – with utmost courage or cowardice. The choice is yours, but only fear can draw that decision from you. 

That is the hallmark of wonder. A curiosity to know, a yearning to possess. And when you do, the wonder ceases. That is the nature of adbhutam. To be transient. For you will never know it again in exactly the same degree.






Rockstar

27 04 2012

Watched this movie last night. I’ve been hearing mixed reviews about it right since the beginning and at last got curious enough to want to judge it myself. One of the reasons why I wasn’t so eager to watch it before could be that I don’t hold a particularly good impression of Ranbir. Something about the characters he portrayed in the first two movies of him that I watched (Bachna ae Haseeno, Wake Up Sid) and my conception of his off-screen attitude didn’t sit well with me and I’ve taken a kind of dislike to him. And also may be I didn’t take his break-up with Deepika (whom I admire) too well. 😛 Though it’s a fact that the personal stuff of celebrities gets discussed around a lot, on the face of it, it seems a bit silly to me that I let it affect me the way it does. 😛

Coming to the movie, it appealed to me very much. And what’s more, I finally gave into the charm of Ranbir. He is a good performer and appears dashing on screen. I really liked him in this movie. This film is about an artist and the role of music and love in his life.

Artists think and live at a different level, making them enigmatic to others. An artist’s mind typically holds a lot of romantic attraction for others. All seems attractive on screen and in fiction but at a practical level, many would find it very difficult to truly understand them or be part of their lives. Only very few can make it. Because in reality, no one gives us the privilege of letting us know what’s happening in their mind.  May be only an artist can truly understand another artist. For one to understand them completely, one needs to view things through their lens, think from their level. We can’t comprehend them well from our own frame of reference. While it’s true with anyone, the chasm between the artists and others is usually wider.

A true artist, by the virtue of his romantic nature, is usually a passionate and intense lover. The love between Ranbir and Nargis was beautifully depicted in the movie. There exists a deeper connect between the two, something which overtakes them. They fit like pieces of jig saw puzzle. They feel helpless before the “love, passion, or whatever” between them that at certain point nothing could hold them apart. I found it amazing how she opened up to him the first time (about “Jungli Jawaani” 😉 ) and how effortlessly everything else followed.

“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.”  – Rumi

Everyone seeks such an intense love and long for such a person in his/her life, but more often than not they are met with disappointment. In fact, many people search for it all through their lives in vain. The problem is that one cannot will it to happen or intervene in any manner in the process; it happens only if and when it happens. Such an intense feeling/emotion/relationship is usually like ‘elixir of life’ to many. The sheer rarity of such an occurrence and the pain and struggle one undergoes in one’s longing for it, gave rise to some practical notions like – no one can make you complete; there’s no “Mr. Right” etc. Nevertheless, the quest continues ceaselessly.

On hindsight, I feel that I didn’t watch the movie with the attention it deserved. I guess some movies are meant to be watched in appropriate and relaxed mood, with nothing to distract you. Will definitely try to watch Rockstar again soon.





Dreams of Joy

15 02 2012

Just finished reading Dreams of Joy by Lisa See. It’s actually a sequel to her Shanghai Girls, which I read a couple of years ago and liked very much. Shanghai Girls had been a story about two sisters Pearl and May, set in the 1930s to 1950s. They both are well-educated, lived a stylish life in Shanghai  and used to sit for ZG’s paintings. Pearl loves Z.G. and believes that he too cares about her but is devastated when informed by May in an awkward confrontation after twenty years that it is she whom he loved and that they had been lovers back then (before marrying rickshaw pullers and fleeing to America). The blow felt by Pearl at this revelation is heart-wrenching. Throughout Shanghai Girls, we get to see Pearl as the wiser, patient, compassionate, responsible and enduring person whereas May is depicted to be childish and self-indulgent. But May’s argument in the end of the book that all Pearl did was to attract misfortune and glorify herself as a martyr; that she could have escaped being gang-raped on that fateful day when they left home in an attempt to leave China, the event which scarred her heart for life, if only she stayed where she was instead of trying to play the “big sister” thing in order to protect May. This accusation or rather insight is as devastating to me as it is to Pearl I guess.

It’s interesting to see how Pearl and May perceive each other. Each has completely different and seemingly opposite personalities and they have a certain disdain for each other alongside the sisterly love. The calm and composed Pearl resents the care-free and selfish nature of May, while May scorns the “air” taken up by Pearl.

Coming to Dreams of Joy, it starts where Shanghai Girls ends – Joy, the daughter of May raised by Pearl as hers, decides to leave America and go to China to help build the People’s Republic of China and mainly to escape the guilt of being the cause of her father’s suicide and also shocked and hurt by the fact that the truth about her parentage has been hidden from her and thus been deceived by her mother and aunt. After Joy leaves, Pearl follows her to China to bring her back.. And the story continues.

In Shanghai Pearl meets Z.G and all her old feelings surface. Even after 20 years, she feels the same for ZG, despite knowing that he loves May and not her. As hurting as it is, she still feels for ZG. As the story proceeds, they get to meet often.. And Pearl deliberately avoids writing about ZG in her letters to May, though May keeps on asking about him. Pearl enjoys taking a small revenge against her sister, even though she realizes that it’s a fruitless exercise. At last, there comes the moment – she sleeps with ZG and then, just like that – she gets over him. She finally accepts the fact that ZG loves only May. He doesn’t feel about her, Pearl, as he feels about May. And then all of a sudden she feels free of burden, joy and happiness. She falls is love with a person from her past in a true sense (not like she felt for her husband out of responsibility and gratitude)and marries him in the end.

What got me curious was the fact that it took her so long and so much to get over ZG. Finally, what really made it possible for her? What’s the tipping point? It’s not very clear. It’s just a momentous realization akin to enlightenment, but it’s not easy to come by – it usually takes decades, not just years. At one time she recollects May telling her that she is only infatuated with ZG and weighs that remark later, while in China, – she doesn’t care whether it’s only infatuation..and only seeks contentment in basking in the pleasure of his company.

My doubt is – is hers infatuation or love? Who is the best person to judge?  Is hers considered infatuation because her feelings are unrequited? Would like some answers here. 🙂

Also, I wonder what really makes a person, especially a woman, to grieve over her unrequited love and forever make a place for her lover in her heart? Is it because that gives her satisfaction and approval? Approval of whom? Unrequited love has forever been romanticized in literature and people who agonize for their lovers, or rather their unfulfilled love, till their death are glorified beyond extent. Does she feel guilty to forsake the reminiscences of her first love? Why does she feel it as her duty, more than anything, to be loyal to her love (even though unrequited, or especially because it is unrequited), even though he doesn’t care a bit about what she does or does not feel for him?

In love, mostly it’s the feeling of being in love, that people love most. People love being in love. It’s even more true in the case of one-side love or unrequited love because they have no other base to carry on with their love.

There is one philosophy which claims that – anything between two persons should be two-way. There must be both “give” and “take”. The balance must be maintained in every and any relationship for sustainment . Otherwise, the relationship won’t last for long. The giver just gives up sooner or later. But the one-side lovers have only this “romanticized” view of being in love as the reason to continue being in love with the same person. They refuse to give up hope to get something in return from their beloveds until a very long time.

But to what effect? They will never be able to love any other man in the same way and they just have to wait for that magical moment when they can get over their first love, which usually comes too late in old age or just never comes. What a pity! I believe that- if only the state of being in love is not romanticized so much, people would have easily moved on to find new love in their lives, which is actually a more fruitful exercise. Is the real test of love to be with the person you love for long and still continue to love? In the absence of which, the only love you feel is for the “imagined” or “expected” traits of the beloved and/or nuances of life.

This is all the mind speaking. But the heart goes on its own way. But the thing is the heart is influenced and shaped by the culture, society and literature and media around it. So, ideally the mind should win. But the heart always knows how to sneak in. it lures the mind with promise of instant gratification in certain thoughts.

I’ve had similar thoughts even while reading about Scarlet’s blind love for and fierce devotion to Ashley in Gone With the Wind. What did it all fetch her in the end? It ruined her life. In a way, it was so upsetting to read about it.

Coming back to Dreams of Joy, it’s my first encounter with anything related to communism. It is shocking and sad to know how flawed leadership has led to the great famine that lasted 3 years, killing millions of people. The novel also depicted how despite the lofty ideals of equality, there are certain classes of privileged people  in the Mao’s New China. Hypocrisy is prevalent and common man suffered. I admire Joy for the way she handled things in China, coming to terms of her life, shocking though it was as it unfolded before her, but never losing her courage and spirit.

I must say that the tale of Pearl, May and Joy has cast a deep impression on me and greatly influenced some of my perceptions. I wouldn’t forget the three ladies and their intricate story.