Mind

Book Review: Ramayana-The Game of Life : Shattered Dreams by Shubha Vilas

RamayanaWhat happens to an epic such as Ramayana in the age of globalization and technology? We know well by now of the new lease of life that the epic received with its televised avatar in the 1980s. Shubha Vilas the author of this new series on the same epic seems as fascinated by the tale of Rama as so many other writers and artists. His project reminds me of the great works of Hindi novelists such as Narendra Kohli and of Amrit Lal Nagar. Going by the blurb of the book under review, the narration is that of the ‘riveting drama of Rama’s exile‘ and is aimed at teaching us ‘how to handle reversals positively‘. The book is a sequel and is the second part of a series that the author wishes to complete. The nine chapters of the book are organized according to the sequence of events as outlined in Valmiki’s Ramayana and other regionally popular versions such as Tulsidas’s Ramcharitmanas and the Kamba Ramayana.

The book makes for a not so smooth reading. Vilas writes while facing obvious difficulties of translation. His language in the book is colloquial and at times quite informal. Vilas seems to be in a hurry to address a modern audience that in his view does not care so much for the poetics and details of presentation as much it cares for the ultimate product that can be quickly read and done away with. Take for instance the scene from the first chapter where Dasaratha has had a bad dream. Vilas calls it a nightmare

Between his delusions and his consciousness, Dasaratha realized that he was in fact fighting two monsters- the monster within and the monster outside, Everything had become a big blur. Which of these two monsters was he fleeing from?“(p.2)

Another instance from the book dealing with the Kaikeyi-Manthara episode where he writes:

Kaikeyi was disturbed by Manthara’s constant babbling. She said “Don’t go in circles or mince any words; just speak clearly, without fear. What’s on your mind?” (p. 86)

It is not that one gets merely a sense of ‘loss’ in this translation, one also gets a sense of an imposed contemporaneity as far as an attempt at adapting the text for a new age audience is concerned. It ends up sounding like a desperate bid to make the epic sound fashionable and hence marketable. Instances abound where the flow of sentences is interrupted by words and terms (read expletives) written in ‘quotes’ which do not add to the quality of the tone and tenor. Despite these weaknesses, the innocence and the personal attachment and admiration of the author for the epic is amply visible throughout the text. It would have turned out to be a much more enjoyable read had the author spent some more time reflecting on the readership that he wishes to generate. Ramayana in my opinion cannot merely be a new age self-help book bereft of its music. It has to necessarily have a magical rendition to it for there lies its real character. Reversals of fortune and ensuing problems in life may well be addressed by reading about monks who sell and do not sell their Ferraris. I don’t really know much about those things. Coming back to the question that I ask in the beginning I have this to say- what we have come to call the era of globalisation and of new technology, is an era where frivolity goes unnoticed. The epic is bound to lose out substantially on its aura and beauty!

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Advertisements
Heart

Dear Mr. Writer

NPG 2929,Thomas Hardy,by William StrangI have read a number of your writings. I belong to an age where satisfying the needs of the person at the consuming end matters more than anything else and hence I write to you with a wish list of things I want you to pen down in the work that you take up next. I sincerely hope that you would not take to heart a petulant reader’s intrusion into the world that you alone are and should be the master of. See if you can be accommodating enough and touch upon themes I so want to read about. If you could write a short story dealing with the bane of our times. Yes, I mean privacy. If you could clarify through the wisdom soaked nib, nuances of all the lies we say to each other all the time merely to keep our cupboards with hidden skeletons locked and away from the public view. Would you be interested in painting the portrait of an artist as a young man who does not realize and has no belief in his acumen. It would fascinate me no end reading about his encounter with a real life successful artist who cannot do justice to his oeuvre merely because of the shallowness of his approach and the powerlessness of his style. See if you can talk about vanities that have come to count for distinction. Thackeray is dead and gone. I want to read about a pair of women professionals who live a dying life each day in order to proclaim their status of being alive to the rest of the world. If you could put in a chapter where they cry hoarse about their birth as humans first and as women later. Will it be possible for you to devote a section of your book to overgrown children who look half their age and think along varying shades of grey. Write about a tree that looks at all these people standing silent and firm. Bring in the buffalo chewing its cud and pondering deep over the next big thing that the internet would be able to do for it. I don’t think including all of these requests into a piece of writing would be feasible, but then, yes, at times you must attempt a failed novel, a prosaic poem and an autobiography that is a disaster of all sorts. After all nonsense matters as much.

I hope to hear from you,

Regards!

Heart

Sailing To Byzantium by W B Yeats

download

I woke up today to lingering thoughts of this lovely poem that I read a long time ago. Not far behind was the flash of the brilliant Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin thriller that draws its name from the very first line here.

Hope you will enjoy reading it yet again! Keen to hear about what you feel reading it!

——————————————————————————————————————————————————————-

That is no country for old men. The young

In one another’s arms, birds in the trees

—Those dying generations—at their song,

The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,

Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long

Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.

Caught in that sensual music all neglect

Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,

A tattered coat upon a stick, unless

Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing

For every tatter in its mortal dress,

Nor is there singing school but studying

Monuments of its own magnificence;

And therefore I have sailed the seas and come

To the holy city of Byzantium.

O sages standing in God’s holy fire

As in the gold mosaic of a wall,

Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,

And be the singing-masters of my soul.

Consume my heart away; sick with desire

And fastened to a dying animal

It knows not what it is; and gather me

Into the artifice of eternity.

Once out of nature I shall never take

My bodily form from any natural thing,

But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make

Of hammered gold and gold enamelling

To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;

Or set upon a golden bough to sing

To lords and ladies of Byzantium

Of what is past, or passing, or to come.

Mind

Book Review- Salvation Of A Saint by Keigo Hogashino

Salvation of a saintThe plot of the second novel by Hogashino revolves around the investigation of a ‘murder by poisoning’ case of Yoshitaka, a reasonably rich Japanese man. Married to the pretty woman that Ayane is, Yoshitaka is in an extramarital relationship with Hiromi, his wife’s pupil assistant at the patchwork training school run by her. The novel opens to the reader with a feel of the  apparent discord and unease that has crept in the fabric of Yoshitaka and Ayane’s married life. The Ikai family comes to the couple’s house for a party following which the wife leaves for her parents’ place in Sapporo for a break. After she leaves, Hiromi meets Yoshitaka and the following day he is found dead on the floor in his house. Kusinaga, the detective from Tokyo takes on from here and investigates the case with his assistants Utsumi and Kishitani. It is established that the man has been killed by poison in his coffee. The wife and the paramour both emerge as the suspects. Interestingly it so happens during the course of the investigation that Kusanagi, the detective gets enamoured by the beautiful wife and his observations are subsequently guided by this feeling he develops for the woman who is a suspect in the case. The remaining plot is further foray into the investigation during which arise some necessary and emotional and at times not so necessary and not so emotional situations before the murder mystery is cracked.

In my opinion, the strength of a novel or of a film lies in the ability of the writer or the director to conceal to the extent possible the design of the work from the reader and the viewer. What adds to the mediocrity of a work is its manifest attempt at explaining situations and justifing the occurence of events or continually relating one event with the other so that reading the novel becomes a major exercise in nothing else but connecting the dots. In the process, the reader loses the essence of the larger aesthetic that the author has in mind. I found Salvation of a Saint to be precisely such a case. The author says almost everything through his characters. This approach frames the characters very well as we get to know who they are and their personalities stay with us. At the same time this approach makes reading the novel a mechanical exercise if one may call it that. A lot of ink is spent on the ‘thinking aloud’ characters. Consequently the author fails in painting the canvas where his characters stand as wonderfully drawn sketches. Undoubtedly the novel has a good plot and makes for an interesting reading. There is much that goes missing in the detailing of things not so necessary, of dialogues not so pertinent.

Lastly, Salvation of a Saint is a translated piece and hence a comment on its language might end up being unfair. Yet it may be pointed out that it makes for an ordinary reading of what could have been a brilliant thriller. Despite these shortcomings, Salvation of a Saint does moderately succeed in keeping the reader glued till the end. It is in my opinion a sincere attempt at targeting a readership that has predetermined ideas of what a ‘murder mystery novel’ should be and hence fails to break new ground.

——

This review is a part of the biggest Book Review Program for Indian Bloggers. Participate now to get free books!

Mind

Missions

Trobriand_village

‘Leave me alone’ she said with a smile

Thinking of a trip to the Amazon and the Nile.

Away he walked in some relief

Made his way to the coral reef.

She rode on boats of waves and rains

He walked alone in mounts and plains.

Further as she touched the banks

To many more suitors she said “No Thanks”.

He befriended men on distant lands

Clicked naked women wearing flowery bands.

As affairs blossomed, she grew in repute

As wisdom dawned, he allayed dispute.

These journeys brought them together in the rain

They promised to each other “No quest again”.

They lived and loved in the city forever

Lost in the crowds very high on fever.

Till one day when arose disbelief

Knowledge or bliss was the contention chief.

He knew of nothing he had ever felt

She had no feeling of all that belt.

Leaving the world they landed in space

Dwelt thinking and feeling of love and race.

The oxygen depleted and she had no clue

His hope had died long before he knew.

Breathless they ran and hugged in the dark

No flowers bloomed and sang no lark!

Mind

Showcasing My Friends-6

(For the sixth post in this series, for which I have interviewed people I am close to, I emailed Uma Shankar Pandey a set of questions. His responses have been reproduced here. I hope that you would like the idea and enjoy the conversation. The series is to be continued with other friends as and when possible. Sincere thanks to all readers who commented on and appreciated the earlier posts).

viewerUma Shankar Pandey is my newly found friend on the blogosphere. What initially attracted me to his blog was a kind of poetic prose that is so characteristic of whatever he writes- short stories, reminiscences or book reviews. I find him to be an avid reader, a fiercely attentive writer who has all the concern possible for details and above all a very gentle and endearing individual, interacting with whom can be a real source of joy and inspiration. The vocabulary he employs in his expression is rich and classical to the core, to say the least. In this interview, I plan to dig slightly deeper into the person that Uma is. He says on his blog page that he is a “A banker by profession and a writer by confession” and that he shoots when “…the sordid pursuit of livelihood condones such indulgence”. A minute more with some of his lines that linger in my head each time his blog comes to mind should be in order here.

Reviewing a book he says about the author:  “She is a quiet writer of the human disquiet”. Describing in fascinating terms one of his childhood visits to a temple in the city of Varanasi, he writes : “There was no priest in sight and we had to deal with the Goddess without the luxury of a bailiff.” Goes Uma at another point in one of his short stories: “A month passed and the April suddenly started getting intolerably hot and stuffy. I fell to my old habit of pulling out a mattress on the terrace, fixing up a mosquito net on sticks and sleeping under the open sky. The nights were hot to start with but once past the midnight, the wind would pick up thick with the fragrance of night jasmine.” For more of the lovely stuff he writes please do visit uspandey.com. I promise you would not be disappointed!

With that glimpse into the world of his words and musings, on to him directly!

————–

 

Personal Concerns- Benaras to start with- I wanted to know of your take on the charm and mystique that this ancient city is sort of emblematic of.

Uma Shankar Pandey- I have conflicting memories of Banaras.

Ganges River, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India.

 We used to live in a house on the riverbank. I remember peals of bells, many, many of them, ringing, every morning and evening. Then I remember a boat ride where I almost drowned. It was a serene evening and the wind was picking up. People had started scrambling into the boat and I tried to make it on my own and slipped into the river. I was retrieved quickly and someone took off my trousers. I believe I was embarrassed but I was quickly enraptured as the boat pulled into the river, merrily swaying to and fro. Soon, all that stretched out from the boat was rippling water. Ghat after ghat slid past and the chanting grew louder. Beating of drums and cymbals grew and faded as we closed in on temples and then moved away. The women in the boat started singing.

 

I grew up with the perennial awareness of the huge river in which I could drown and on which stood a distant bridge. And all the meandering lanes invariably led to temples milling with people murmuring with half-shut eyes and bowing and falling flat in front of idols. I was more conscious of monkeys gliding across ledges and rooftops than the cows with menacing horns. What hounded my thoughts often though were the human shapes being carried away on bamboo stretchers, the quartets ushering those chanting dully. As a child, I soon learnt what it meant when a group of grim looking men from our paternal village stood at our doors, refusing to come in, demanding to see our father urgently. Draped in shrouds shining red and orange, someone surely awaited the final fire at a ghat nearby. The river of life was filling me with shivers for life.

 

People visited us when they wanted to take a holy dip in Ganges too.  I was told about Kal Bhairava, an incarnation of Shiva who in a fit of anger had severed one of the heads of Brahma and the head had clung to him and accompanied him everywhere. The skull dropped off his hand only when he visited Kashi, or Banaras as it was known then. It is the legacy of deliverance that prompts the sinners among Hindus, and who isn’t a sinner among Hindus, to trudge their way to the holy city by the river ever so often to drop their baggage of misdeeds. And the Ganges has remained a mute witness, a perennial cleanser of the physical and mental excretions of the sinners.

 

Those are the thoughts that sweep my mind when I think of Banaras. Death, because that is what humans fear but actually succumb to; deprivation, because that is why humans pray but to no avail; hope, because that is what humans pray for and their success may vary; delusion, because that is how humans pray and there really isn’t anything out there.

 

PC- During one of my conversations with you, I got to know about your unfinished Ph.D at Lucknow University. I was interested in knowing more about your research. 

USP- My guide, Prof R N Srivastava, had a mysterious brush with T. S. Eliot. He’d get dreamy talking about it, breaking into a vicious American accent. He had a book gifted to him by the towering litterateur and he cherished it like his life. During my stay in Lucknow University as a student he had taken a liking to me and would trust me immensely and that is why I was once lent the very same book which I went on to possess for an unduly long period. I was never truly forgiven for the sin.

Professor Srivastava was a man of honour and a man of words who clung to what he professed come hail or high water. He was kind enough to take me under his fold and suggested ‘Comic Apocalyptic Fiction with Special Reference to Joseph Heller, Thomas Pynchon and John Barth’ as a topic for the doctoral thesis. Of all those names, Joseph Heller’s masterpiece Catch 22 readily rings a bell to many. I was done with reading Heller and had started writing my critical interpretations. Prof Srivastava, however, wanted me to consult certain tomes even before I put my pen to the paper. I, on the other hand, feared reading other’s works about the genre may perchance sneak in a bias in me or worse, nip my original ideas in the bud. I was afraid I’d be overwhelmed. I did express my apprehension to the professor but he would not budge. It was not that I was adamant or I was sworn not to check out the works my guide wanted me to, much as I was in awe of him anyway. But, it being American Literature, the British Council Library at Lucknow would yield nearly nothing on those authors. The other libraries in Lucknow claimed never to have heard of those, whatsoever.  It was the early 1990s and Internet was not yet born to us. My only option was to go to Central Institute of English and Foreign Languages (CIEFL), Hyderabad., down south. It was a long way off, Hyderabad, two nights away, not earth shattering but a deterrent nonetheless. That, I was a Research Assistant associated with a critical project at IIM Lucknow didn’t help matters much. Eventually, the impasse became insurmountable.


PC- How do the profession of banking and the urge to read, write and blog go together? Since when do you blog?

USP- My earlier job at Indian Institute of Management Lucknow was contractual in nature. I was fervently looking out for teaching positions in Lucknow University and its associated colleges. Unfortunately, it was a complex system being controlled by non-transparent machinery. I am not sure when, if ever I would have ended up in the coveted vocation. Meanwhile, the sordid saga of livelihood started gaining the upper hand with each passing day. Calls for cracking the commonly held recruitment tests started getting shrill. Even Professor Srivastava opined that I should be able to sail through competitions such as those for probationary officers for banks. I did write a few of them and cleared a couple of them and joined my present employer in 1994. For many years after that I was a rolling stone, moving from one branch of the bank to the other, forgetting everything about writing. But I did put up a ‘Homepage’ in 1999, when ‘TCP/IP’ Internet connections became common. Prior to that, I had been trying my luck with publications like Pioneer, TOI, Gentleman, Dharmyug and Saptahik Hindustan. But once my own website was up, I started posting sporadic works there. I started dabbling with ‘Blogger’ circa 2004. I have preserved my first post, ‘Soliloquy’ at uspandey.net. I have been writing intermittently on my current blog One Grain Amongst the Storm at uspandey.com since 2007.


PC- Who are your favorite authors? Any specific novel that you wish to talk about?

USP- It is impossible to have just one favourite author. Some of the authors I love to read are as under:

Shakespeare
Thomas Hardy
Emily Bronte
D H Lawrence
Ernest Hemingway
Mikhail Bulgakov
Boris Pasternak
Joseph Brodsky
Anita Desai
Shashi Deshpande
Arundhati Roy
Rohinton Mistry
Vikram Seth
Manju Kapur
Phanishwar Nath Renu
Janice Pariat
Jeet Thayil

And many more! Hamlet, Jude the Obscure, Wuthering Heights, A Farewell to Arms, Doctor Zhivago, Fire on the Mountain, God of Small Things, Small Remedies, The Immigrant, Boats on Land, Narcopolis are some of my favourite books.

PC- Is communalism ( I am referring to Hindu Muslim animosity/ events of violent conflict in particular) in Uttar Pradesh entirely a political problem?

USP- It is a complex problem. It is impossible to singularly pinpoint at an agent that is at the vortex of the persisting hurricane. I am afraid the seeds of discord may have been sown way back in our history.  I do not intend to invoke the communally subversive strategies of many a Muslim ruler of this land, nor do I wish to invoke the ghost of Jinnah, who have been redeemed by none less than the top faces of a party with a prominently ‘saffron’ bias. What I do believe in is that alarmingly low level of poverty and the resultant illiteracy in people constitute a fertile ground for superstitions and excitable emotions. It is the avarice for power that propels the communal, religious and political leaders to perpetuate the status quo of the preacher and the preached. Enlightenment will mean an adverse shift in power in favour of the populace.  I find the holy altar of so-called secularism more alarming than the bogey of communalism. These pseudo-intellectuals tend to impose themselves where they are not only not needed but are wholly unwelcome too.  They are like the bad conscience that kept egging Adam to eat the forbidden fruit. The underlying equations are overwhelmingly common to both Kandhar and Uttar Pradesh.


PC- Tell us something about your plans regarding the upcoming book?

USP- All I can say is that it is a recurring old dream that grips me off and on with varying force.

PC- I have discussed this with you once. What according to you is the strength of the stream of consciousness style of writing?

USP- The Stream of consciousness mimics the human mind at work. Emotions like pain, anguish, love, hate, sorrow and joy have contextual rather than chronological existence. The fabric of memories is woven of people, places, objects, suffering and happiness, free of temporality. It is one of the most effective tools to explore the psychological landscape of characters and render a meaningful structure to the whole as well.


PC- Favorite film/ song of all time?

USP- I cannot have a favourite film/song for ever. Yet, my favourite singers are Mukesh, Ghulam Ali, Paul Simon and Norah Jones. Some of the best films I have enjoyed and still think highly of them are following:


Enter T
he Dragon (I was a child then, but then still!)

Gone With the Wind

Casablanca

Star Wars

Terminator II

Ben Hur

An Officer and a Gentleman

All Quiet on the Western Front

Ghost

Gladiator

The Ghost and the Darkness

Forrest Gump

Bazar

Saransh

Parinda

Dor

Welcome to Sajjanpur

Khosla ka Ghosla

Well, that is just an indicative list!


PC- A scene from a Shakespearean play that you love. What makes it worth a mention here?

USP- It is from Macbeth’s soliloquy (Act V Scene V)

She should have died hereafter;
There would have been a time for such a word.
Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

Well, the bard has said it all. We are but a small cog in the big scheme of things. Overarching ambition? Greatness? Where am I headed to? ‘Quis hic locus, quae regio, quae mundi plaga?’

—–

At the end of the interview, Uma also sent me in writing this added small gift- a short note about Personal Concerns. Just made my day!

USP

Your blog

“I have recently started reading your blog and am often stung by the breathtaking evocativeness and sensitivity of your posts. I have read ‘Sleepy Men’ several time over and am mesmerized anew every time.  I wish the best to your muse and I’d love to see your art blooming into a valley of flowers. That said, I’d like you to write oftener.

Yours truly,

Umashankar Pandey”

 ——-

(All comments and suggestions about the format and the presentation of the interview would be deeply appreciated. Friends who wish to be included in this series, please let me know. It would be lovely to have you here on my blog. Cheers!)

Heart

Strikes

Thank heavens! Infatuations last but hours and minutes. God forbid the outcomes this churning of the being would have had if it were to extend into days of my life that are to follow?

This ambience arrests the mind and soul, imprisons it for a phase. Yearning as Wells says in The Time Machine has a fourth dimension too. One yearns only because there is a duration through which one yearns. Imagine yearning in the absence of time or through the entire expanse of it. Sincere thanks to the creator of our psyches. Thanks for it is intelligently forgetful of the most venomous of arty sensations. That face impresses  in the most ordinary circumstances. No flower beds and no waterfalls are called for when a heart has to fall for the falls of the tresses of a beauty. When that grace flutters around, the heart stoops down to the dirty, slimy ground, gathers every bit of it in the pockets of the clothing I wear to transport it back home, to kiss it when alone and to sleep with the scent of those floral prints, head meshed in thought while the arms hold tight to the moment still alive!

These faces are peculiar. They seldom speak. Even if they do, one does not actually get to hear of that tone and modulation. Lips move at a distance, rarely uttering anything audible. Most of the time, they chew at the helplessness of the onlooker.

This person assisted. Because of her being there, the journey back home free reeled into the circles of energy that engulfed. All along the lengthy road back to the abode, lingered in mind the coziness of the bed where I would lie at ease, recollect the scene, admire the eyelids, inject myself with the charm once more in the most private ways I would like to. The dogs barked in the dead of the night as I walked carefree, humming the tune of ten instruments mixed into one. Fearlessness.

These grace fountains are deceitful. They dry up once the eyelids feel heavy. In dreams appear crocodiles, snakes and lizards- never those heads. In gardens bloom roses and jasmines- never the little flower on that print. In libraries are stacked books- never those words I could not hear those lips chew away.

To prepare oneself for the next entourage is mindlessness. The uncertainty of the frequency of its occurrence just kills. A sex machine alone can truly guess when another of her like would next come calling to stir and shake. To think of a cure for this disease would be suicidal for the malaise creates a life enough!