Category: Fiction & Poetry (Page 1 of 3)

Book Review: The Catcher in the Rye

We all go through that stage of pointlessness in our lives. A goalless appraoch without a clear path and unsure of everything. ‘The catcher in the Rye’ by J.D Salinger is an extended rant of a teenager going through a similar phase where he doesn’t hold back anything. 

Imagine describing every emotion, every feeling about other people or situations being blurted out without thinking twice. The entire story is an exact depiction of that very feeling. The unsaid being said out loud or at least thought of in contradictory fashion. The Main Character’s (Holden) views shift from one extreme to another. Typical bipolarity, if you can term it. He’d hate someone for a while and then miss not being with them. He’ll call almost everyone a phony for sticking to the traditional or conventional system. 

What I like about the book is the sheer audacity to not hold back anything. It can be wrong in thought but not wrong on the front of being honest to oneself, which is an achievement. 

The story is a first person account of Holden Caulfield who is struggling to adjust with the set processes of his various schools from which he gets kicked out of. From the day of this being known, how every encounter with people: roommate, hostellers, teachers, random co-travellers and even family and how he terms them all as ‘phonies’ and ‘lousies’ and questions their motives all the time. 

I found myself laughing at a lot of simple inferences spread through the narration. Spread over 5 days, this is a brilliant way to bring to life the complexity of a teenage mind . 

It’s a very easy read over a lazy afternoon and highly recommended. It’s approach towards philosophy is directed towards asking questions and constantly re-evaluating life’s choices. 

Go grab a copy of this masterpiece. 

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The Kid and the Grandfather

A Late afternoon walk towards the beach, with his grandfather, the kid walked alongside holding his hand. His grandfather towered over his tiny self. They were more than tens of thousands of steps away from the beach. He wanted him to put him on his shoulders like they did back at home, and from where they came traveling on a train.
 
But grandpa wanted the kid to walk. He should walk. His favorite lines included a lot of thoughts about having to walk after eating. The kid usually noticed him talking about digestion, quite often, with his old grey-haired friends. He would always dictate what not to eat. This included chocolates, Ice-creams, and Frooty. The kid liked just these things.
He disliked the opinion of his grandfather who mocked him for eating all this and spoiling his teeth. Yes, the kid had lost a few frontal teeth but everyone says, they’ll come back. All white and new. Unlike the fake ones that the grandpa had. The kid also mocked his grandfather with the able company of the grandmother. But now, his grandmother wasn’t there. So, he had to just listen to what the grandfather told.
 
A boring day this would be. The kid was sure.
 
As they walked towards the beach. The grandfather took a small turn and instead they headed somewhere else. It was like a beach but not like it. It was mostly still water. No waves and no running away from the water when the water came really fast. Grandfather said it was a ‘lagoon’ and he’d probably read about this when he grows older. The kid thought he was old.
 
There was a boat there and lots of people on it. They both went and sat in the middle of the boat. His grandfather gave money to the man and placed him next to him.
 
The kid was excited. Before this, he had only made paper boats and ran with them during rains. Sitting on a real boat made him happy. He was talking really loud and the other people sitting on the boat were laughing, along with the grandfather. Grandfather held him and made him dipped his hand in the water. They went around a circle and returned to the same place.
 
‘How was it, huh? Goood?’
 
‘Should we do this again?’
 
‘Next time’
 
As they headed back, the grandfather even bought two popsicles from the ice-cream guy there. Back home, these ice-creams are made from the dirty drain water and not here. That was what the grandfather told the kid while eating the other popsicle.
the gift

The Gift

“It’s the thought that counts!” She insisted for the nth time. The ‘gift’ was on the table in front of her while he stood there, with his hands in the pockets, looking embarrassed. He made an expression reminiscent of ‘Are you sure?’ by twitching his face and biting his lips.

She wasn’t sure of it herself. But she had to appear certain. He needed her to be. “This’ll be really useful; unlike so many other things they’re going to receive.” She reasoned with her smile while wrapping up the gift in a red wrapping paper diligently. He looked towards her, neatly folding the paper, and thought, ‘She’s right. As always’, as he headed towards the mirror to knot his tie.

As they headed into the glittering Convention Hall, the dressed up crowd, the lightings around was all they could see. He saw the table where all gifts were kept and they both headed to place the package. It was like getting rid of it was in both their minds. And just when they were to place it there, someone tapped on his shoulder, and a ‘Hey!’ filled the air around them. She knew it was them, but she didn’t turn around immediately. She had to make sure the hosts did not see the package in her hand.

She turned around in surprise, clenching her fist, to greet the hosts who were out there welcoming the guests. Thankfully they had just careened close by when someone pulled them up for a selfie. ‘Thank God!’ she thought at a minor reprieve to place the gift among a pile of others.

He looked at her with a smile. Yes, she wanted just that. He looked agreeable to her being right about ‘No Gift is small’ with the way their hosts welcomed them.

As they finished the gala dinner and headed outside to catch a taxi. She asked him to ‘take a walk’.

‘Isn’t it far?’

‘I ate too much!’

As they walked away, holding hands, she took out two crumpled name-tags of ‘best wishes’ out of her pocket and aimed at the dust-bin. Bulls Eye!

Book Review: George Orwell’s 1984

This book is the stuff of which nightmares are made of. An Orwellian Nightmare to be precise. 

The dystopian nature of this puts you in a headspace you don’t want to keep yourself in.

I’m not sure how I would’ve reacted to this, had I read it few years back. Now, it’s a reality check. Like, we’re either in the midst of one or being taken towards one. 
The book throws up a question, ‘What if your government monitored everything you did?’

And of course, control everything. From your thoughts, to media to altering history  (rather manufacturing a parallel one) and make you believe in the existence of an enemy that doesn’t exist. By not only shifting agendas at will but making you believe that it was never changed. 
Taking the economy to a bad state and yet making you believe that ‘we’re doing better than before’. 
Bizarre execution of ideas that are normal for the citizen of the fictitious super-nation of Oceania here. This includes, conducting ‘hate-week’ where you shout profanities at the enemy of the state. Children trained to be spies to ‘rat-out’ their own parents for any ‘anti-state’ activity and making them all believe that it is all for the overall good of their nation. 
It’s a book that must be read to know what absolute power can turn nations into. 
George Orwell, you’ve again succeeded in  giving me a few nightmares for which I won’t even have to sleep. 

ठंड के वो दिन

आज बैठा था धूप तापते हुए बालकनी में। हवा साथ मे चल रही थी तो धूप की तपिश का वो मज़ा नही मिल पा रहा था। मैंने अपनी नीलकमल थोड़ी खिसकाई और आगे की तरफ बढ़ा। पर हाल फिरभी वही था। 

यूँ तो मैं सर्दियों का फैन नही हूँ। वैसे देखा जाए तो गर्मी या बारिश के extreme नेचर का भी फैन नही। हर चीज़ में मॉडरेशन पसंद कुछ ज़्यादा है हमें। लोग आजकल लिबरल भी कह डालते हैं। कुछ विषयो पे एक्सट्रेमिस्ट भी कह चुके हैं। अब लोग तो लोग ही हैं, काम हैं उनका कहना। 

खैर, अभी बस ठंड की बात करते हैं। आज घर वाली सर्दी को miss कर रहा था। धूप में भी स्वेटर पेहेनके बैठना , घंटों तक, कॉमिक बुक हाथ मे लिए। फिर जब वक़्त हुआ तो , खेलते रहना बिना थके। उस दौरान हुम बड़े चाव से टेस्ट क्रिकेट भी खेला करते थे। हालांकि में कुछ खास नही खेलता था पर उत्साह हमेशा ज़ोरो पर रहता था। आलम तो कुछ ऐसा हुआ करता था कि हम रमज़ान के महीने में भी घंटों खेल लिया करते थे। क्रेजी कह लीजिए। फज्र की नमाज़ के लिए न निकले पर बैट धरके सबको जागाते हुए गांधी मैदान में दिख ज़रूर जाते थे।

गरम पानी के इलावा कुछ चूना कहर हो मानो। लकड़ी के चूल्हे पे बारी बारो पानी गर्म हो चलता और नहाने की बारी लागतो। थोड़ा टालते पर कुछ डांट सुनते गुसलखाने की जानिब चल ही देते। नहाके सीधे दौड़ते हुए धूप में। ठिठुरते हुए। 

इस मौसम में बैर काफी मिलते थे। कभी कदर हम पास के एक कंपाउंड को फांदके बैर भी चुराया करते थे। और ये भी न किया कभी तो कमसेकम घर मे बुयाम में हल्दी लगाके रखे बैरों का चुपके सेवन तो ज़रूर किया है। 

रातों को बड़े की निहारी सुर सुर करके खाना तो याद है ही और साथ मे मोहल्ले के चौराहे पर अंडे के कूट से हाथ सेकना भी। फिर अम्मी के चिल्लाने पर घर आते ही रज़ाई में दुबक के दादी के साथ सोना, ताकि अब्बू डांटे नही। 

वो थे ठंड के दिन। और आज यहां पंखे की स्पीड को ताकते नींद को बुलाने की कोशिश जारी है। 

नींद से याद आया, कल मंडे है। 

कोई कह रहा है, ‘आज कहिये जनाब’।

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Reading List 2018

This year is going to be about targets instead of resolutions. Resolutions that get recycled every year instead of getting accomplished. Targets that I’m going to put out there to help achieve them for the sake of ‘my word’ if nothing else.

One of my many targets is to read more. The target is 24! Yes. Pretty Humongous. But I figured, if I stick to the good books, it should be pretty easy. What say?

Reading List 2018

Hence, I sat down to jot down a list of 18 books that I plan to read in 2018. I’ve selected 18 different books by 18 different authors from across the globe. There’s a scope for adding 6 new titles to the list, including non-fiction, but maybe I’ll just pick something up as the year unfolds. Maybe, Khaled Hussaini will finally come out with his 4th book? Although, there’s hardly any Internet chatter on that!

I’ve included 2 Hindi Novels to the list as well. A few excerpts of Godan were part of our Hindi Books and I do remember watching a tv-series on Doordarshan back in the day, so, that’ll be interesting. Apart from Comics, I’ve not read a good Hindi book. I’m actually looking forward to these.

Apart from George Orwell and Mark Twain, I’ve not read any of the other authors yet. But, hey, that’s a start.
I’ve already watched, The Great Gatsby, but I’m still interested in reading the book. It’s always fun to compare the book and the movie.

The biggest hindrance to reading more is the habit of indulgence to Visual Medium and I’ve been guilty of spending time in that. Most of my reading last year happened when I was traveling or away from my laptop. With more trips planned, the laptop can be replaced with the extra book, and resisting myself from starting any new television series might do the trick.

The Goal is pretty big and unrealistic to some extent. But, what’s a goal if it isn’t out of your reach. Or, was it something else? 

Expiry Date

There, but not there! 

Seeking perfection even in the camaflogue of the broken, twisted and peculiar settings, our innermost desire still remains – finding that perfect story. 

In the corners of the world, probing for boxes with that one perfect story hidden somewhere. They all look appealing. 

‘Maybe, I want them to’, the voices warn!

One after the other. Open. Each box is supposed to be: ‘the one’. 

Anticipation. 

‘Please try again’

And we move to the other.

‘Better luck next time’

The cycles. 

Boxes. Us. The stories. 

They all change. The us-es. And with them, the stories. Just like the changing boxes. 

You’re ired to continue opening another one of these. You’re tired of the disappointments. Of those stories that are there, but NOT there. Of yourself. Of them. And you so wish that it was in your hands to let it all stop. 

The myth of the choice. Hadhtag My Choice. Hashtag their choices. The puppets think they have free will. The strings are just accessories to walk around the life’s stage. Idiots. We’re all the Siri’s and Alexa’s in a parallel universe. 

Stories where cliffhangers are the norm just tend to miss out on cliched endings like.. ‘…ever after’. Lifelong happiness sure might be a myth. But even seeking the permansncy of a ‘they lived’ is a tall order. 

They say, there’s no correct box. The idea of that one box doesn’t exist. Unless it’s a book. A really good book. Or a movie to lend thoughts to those imaginations on 70mm. But, who listens?

‘Customize it!’ They say. ‘Weave your own story. Paint it the way you’d like the world to see. ‘ they add to their wise sayings.

‘But.. the story isn’t for the world!” I contest. 

‘No one gives a $#@*’. Their look says it all. Uncensored. 

Expiry Date

Expiry Date

Empty rooms shout the loudest. On their own. Laced with the echoes of yesteryears. The silences shout louder from the depths of it. There are traces of your laughter. Those awkward ones with a snort as if you’re trying hard to not laugh. Failing, of course. But successfully remaining etched. Redefining what failures means.

Ever wondered how their flaws stay back while the perfections fade away? Perhaps that’s the charm.

There’s music adding to the gloom, failing to drown the noises of the past. Instead, helping it thrive. Words, I don’t know of. It probably does. As the strings caress each other and the symphony flows out like the background score of a Spanish drama, I stare out of the dark smudges of the window. Nothing.

With my back stretched on the sofa and the legs dangling out on the carpet, I stare at the ceiling. Questions. All over the carvings on top, flowing without answers. Navigating my way, forlornly, from one pattern to the other. Following the mundane routine.

‘Why it had to start?’ The question on loop since the exit.

The numbered days had already stapled an expiry date for the end. I knew it, she did too. A set timeline for it to happen. For a change, I chose the short term joy over my long-term sanity. I overlooked the pain of not looking into those eyes ever again over the laughter accompanying me for a few. But it did start something. A beautiful beginning awaiting cessation. The end was always in sight. Tick Tock. Tick tock.

‘Why it had to start??’ The question was still unanswered.

As we sat on the stairs, while the moon shone brighter, silence engulfed us both. I feared, that this is it. Did she?

Her eyes said, ‘Maybe this is for the best’. She said nothing.

‘Why it had to staaa…’

‘Ting’

A smile dangles out, effortlessly, as a message popped up.

‘Kitna roega be C%$#^? Neeche hoon. Jaldi aa’.

Maybe they all don’t come with expiry dates.

…and that’s when I knew

That look of yours. Yes, the same one were you magnify your eyes. The one which makes me feel that they’ll just pop out. That. 

That’s when I knew. 

When you blurt out the same things. And when I do the same. And then we understand, but don’t laugh. The silent high-fives.

That’s when I knew. 

When you share those uninteresting stories. Oh, sorry that’s just me. You hold them back. But you listen, to mine. And remember.

That’s when I knew. 

Your start-stop act of being funny (trying to) and thoughtful. 

That’s when I knew. 

Maybe we both know. Now. And then. Or maybe it’s just me. Again. Waving at the bus, I keep missing. 

”It’s just in your head”

‘Yes, and that’s the damn problem!’

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The Ministry of Utmost Happiness: Shattered stories of our times

‘How to tell a shattered story?

By slowly becoming everybody.

No.

By slowly becoming everything’.

True to this, Arundhati Roy is able to become the shattered selves of each of the characters she pens down in the book. It is a story of one, and it is the story of others, as we read.

‘The Ministry of Utmost Happiness’ is a fiction about current affair calamities woven together into a book about the modern conflicts. It mirrors through the length and breadth of the country’s many tragedies like a pendulum swindling across unsymmetrically.

 

I’d still rate ‘God of small things’ as a better book but this is still one amazing book I’ve read in a while. Although, full disclosure, I read only a select few. The half-read books on my shelf are now shouting, ‘Say..finish reading only a few’. However, if you are looking for a recommendation, then I’ll say, yes, go ahead and buy one!

It has been a few years since I read ‘The God of Small Things’ which was Arundhati Roy’s first novel. A Booker prize winning debut novel. When I first read it, it was a fascinating insight of Kerala, at least a little, Communism, caste-system among other things which formed the backdrop of the lives of two twins. They were central and everything else was background.

‘The Ministry of utmost happiness’ keeps the background running parallel along with the many protagonists that are scattered through the storyline.

It has an interesting ensemble of characters. There is a ‘hijda’ Aftab who became Anjum, who is central to her world of other characters, ranging from her gharana, to people who walk through and along with her, literally to the graveyard. A graveyard which gives refuge to the shattered souls of the world. Then there is Tilo, the non-beautiful dark skinned woman, who is loved by three distinctive men with shattered stories of their own. Each of the characters walks across others’ lives. Making a difference, to their own, and others they touch.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness captures the unrest in Kashmir as well as the plight of ‘naxals’. It talks about transgender lives and their conflicts, changing face of our society, communal riots, political commentary, and things which as a subject, you won’t tag as fiction.

Yes, sometimes, Roy seems to go overboard in blurring the line between political commentary and fiction, and if you’re acquainted about the happenings, appears like a view point pushed deliberately. But this happens in the case of issues, I’m familiar with, the ones I’m not; seems fascinating for the lack of a better word. But, even with this, the commentary does work in giving you an overview of the times.

The joy of reading the book was in how the characters appeared to say so much without telling it. The book is like a narration of a theatre play where the actors are very emotive, grabbing your utmost attention and giving you a semblance of happiness, grief and more importantly an understanding of their worlds.

Thank you, Arundhati Roy for your second novel!

Scene

There’s so much to write about you and then literally nothing. You’re the preoccupation that refused to get off the mind space. 

Not that you’re present in the specifics. You are all so vague. Like you were. 

I’ve replayed that scene. Of how it could have been different. How my fake laughter should have given away the disappointment. And you could SEE.

When you asked rather rhetorically about him, I should have shown my disgust. Not for him. But for the question. Even thrown away the plate of canteen food that was itself hard enough to gulp down. A tantrum or a two. Or just walked away like others had done. To you. 

But there I was. Laughing. At my own misery. 

Don’t mistake me for your cliche of a good guy. I’m not. Our breed is just scared. 

 ‘… after all this, there is an Us. Of a you and a me. ‘ echoed in the noise.

As I walked back to the class where a C+ desperately wanted to be an A, it was the numbness of the lunch with you that presided over the presentation. Of watching people and reading out the slides. Next. Next. And next. 

Thank you. 

.. and Scene!

The Uninteresting stories

Her eyes grow bigger every time she tries to tell a story. The sincere eyes moving around, even though it’s just the two of them talking, tell their own story. 

He, half-listens her story, while his eyes remain preoccupied with the shine in her eyes. Her excitement in narrating an uninteresting story fascinates him. Of the few stories that she decides to share with all. 

He knows his stories are told the same way. Uninteresting. While she listens to them with rapt attention. Remembering details to be recounted later. Her wandering eyes try hiding in the imaginary crowd. But he adamantly dives down in them. Every time.

With an actual crowd, sneaking innocent glances while people laugh about everything and the random, alike. A world of their own. The alternate glances. 

“…but this would not last. There’s just no time.” Their minds would shout almost in a chorus.

‘So what?!’ The eyes rebelled for that temporary solace.

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