L’Étranger

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What if I were

To not feel pain

What if I were

To not see love

 

Would I have

Lived this life in vain

Would I have

Found the eternal truth

 

What if I were

Deemed insane

What if I were

Incarcerated for the lack of tears

 

Would I have

An afterlife to gain

Would I have

Died a martyr?

 

If I were a stranger

To this unsought fame

If I weren’t a stranger

To the ways of the world

 

Would this noose

Have been my fate

Would this noose

Have meant anything at all?

 

I am now ready

To face the pain

I am now ready

For a thousand guillotines

 

For there is no greater joy

than the beauty in bane

For there is no greater joy

than the embrace of a void…

 

“I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world.”- Albert Camus

The Sunset Club

“I don’t want to grow old.” Parul said today morning. I, now sit wondering is there any truth to that. Do any of us want to be old and in the twilight of our lives and those who already are there, are they any different from us?
The Sunset Club is a story of three such men, waiting for the end and living in vain glories from yesterday. Khushwant Singh has turned this often autobiographical account into a life lesson for those waiting to live their lives out.
Boota Singh, of course, is the parallel to the author himself. An aging widower drinking to formal carnal glories often dreaming of his own daily excrement. Baig, the medicine man, living a lazy existence in a quaint corner of Old Delhi. Sharma, the virgin pandit, living with his sister and servants.

What really mixes the plot up is that Delhi, my beautiful city, actually is one of the characters of the book. Its seasons are celebrated like festivals and its political climate an oft discussed topic for the three veterans. Clearly, beyond the story lies the layers of characters and how they melt into the city’s artistic landscape. The story in itself tells of one year in the lives of these octogenarians and goes back to how their relationships came to in the first place. A light read that I romantically picked up during a journey from Delhi to Mumbai, it perhaps had greater sentimental significance to me than most readers for it tells of a Delhi I have known nothing about.

Would I ever have my own sunset club, I wonder? One where I find random strangers who turn into friends and eventually live out each other’s twilights. Or would I be at least a reminisce living in the memories of men who talk of the best and worst loves of their lives?

The Sunset Club makes you want to grow old and live out a life that is worthy of a remembrance.  It scores in its sarcasm and wit and in parts even makes you sentimental. A must read for the Delhi fans, it will either give you a future to dream of in the city or make you sit down with a glass of your favorite scotch and remember the good times!

Of writing a nightmare…

I had a nightmare. Which is a worse kind of speech than I had a dream, but the point is, I have been having these nightmares and turning them into stories almost all my life. Which brings me to how we write stories, why do we write them? Why do we write AT ALL? Writers all around the world have a weird sense of non-artist-ness about them, they don’t paint beautiful pictures or sing songs or dance, they write. They just put down on paper what most people think and that’s that. Beauty, its basic definition for a writer, is just what he/she writes on a scrap of paper.  
There is a very thin line for most writers between reality and fiction which is why it seems only real to write about dreams and nightmares and what we see. I remember reading the Finkler Question and telling myself I’m a lot like one of the main characters in the book Treslove, who almost always was waiting for something tragic to happen in life. I have been waiting that wait.
A life which is a little too uneventful is no perfection for a writer’s life. Hence, the nightmares, they are my subconscious’ way of feeling the exhilaration, of a tragedy. Unlike a lot of “artists”, I have had too many things that have gone right for me. A less than perfect yet uneventful childhood, a more eventful but less tragic youth, so I wait. I wait for fortune to bring me a misfortune. Meanwhile, my mind brings about unrealities in front of me, plays the truth of death and helps me write about lives full of lies.
But when eventually the lines blur, between reality and fiction, that’s when my masterpiece would present itself (or so I think). Virginia Woolf was right; a woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.
So this is me waiting, wanting and hoping for a tragedy, until then my dreams would stalk me until I pen them down. 

Confessions: Thespo @ Prithvi \m/

Ever thought of what Pulp Fiction would look like in a play, on Wednesday, Le Chayim theatre productions; brought us an interesting surprise in a dark comedy taken from the award winning play by Martin McDonagh called “The Pillowman”. The play is a dark reminder to all writers who tend to “enjoy” writing horrific stories with worse endings. Stephen King had once talked about how when he wrote his million short stories the ideas always came at the end of a “What if” moment. But I wonder if he ever thought of “what if” whatever he wrote were true!
There is a lot of Kafka-ism (a new ism word for the day) in the play. The concept of the police state, the lack of control over one’s own writing, the weaknesses of a totalitarian society, all reveal themselves layer by layer in a small interrogation room. Katurian, a writer of twisted, dark short stories, is being interrogated by 2 detectives, Topolsky and Ariel, because of the close resemblance of his stories to the bizarre incidents in his town. The story moves on to why the writer writes what he writes and the unconventional concepts hidden in his stories.  The star of the play was clearly director Kashin Shetty who plays the sarcastic detective Topolsky. He is effortless in his comedy and manages to bring out the various layers of the nihilist detective.
The highlight of course remains how the cast clicks as a unit; the production has clearly excelled since its debut in 2006. The entire presentation, be it characters finding more than one entry point or the unique lighting effects or the parallel story telling of Katurian’s stories, comes together as a unique comedy. At some places, the audience laughed realizing how inappropriate it is to laugh at something so sinister. Managing to make blood work funny, the play is the perfect candidate for pulp fiction in contemporary theatre. Can’t wait to catch another Thespo@Prithvi play soon!

In a stereotypical world…


“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman.” Virginia Woolf

I suppose the typical urban woman would consider the above thought almost biblical. But the truth remains, that our voice as an entire gender is almost always driven by stereotypes. A man has to deal with only common identity issues like which place or what religion he belongs to. We, women on the hand, spend all of our lives fighting stereotypes (and add to that the normal communal and geographical ones too common to all MANkind!) Even now half of the audience reading this would probably think in their heads oh, this WOMAN is getting emotional, is becoming a feminist, and is, well, a recent word I made up – womany!

I was searching for ways of getting published (aren’t we all?) and stumbled across this blog that explains how the New Yorker and the NY times have a majority of female audiences and yet most of their writers are male. It went on to talk about how women tend to write about more personal things and these journals do not consider that as literary prowess and that women writers are “intimidated by the white male culture” as the editor of Atlantic Monthly pointed out. So the article makes two assumptions, one that women are incapable of writing big policy pieces, and second, their “emotional” articles and those with a “sexy twist on work/life drama” is not worthy of literary recognition. This coming from a country that boasts of having a woman in a key policy making position.

It is true though, we like to write about what we feel rather than what we see, but whoever said that policy decisions and strategic moves for a nation or a corporate for that matter have to be devoid of all emotion and empathy?!

Remember the times when women had to write under a pseudonym to be published? Well, by the looks of the times today, we aren’t very far from that world. (I used to think we are) There are still occupations women are “not good at”. (A stereotype we fight every single day at our workplace) Like recently a classmate of mine observed, “Women are not good traders.” Another once mentioned how “women can never understand politics.” I am reminded of how many men rejected marriage proposals because the girl was a journalist (she wouldn’t be able to do justice to her “duties” as a wife)

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not one to stand on soap boxes and hate men for their stereotypes, it takes two to tango. If we are so upset with these stereotypes, we should just stop attempting to adhere to them! We should be content with who we are and not try to prove a point every single day at our work place. (Lesson to self!)

I’m not a feminist or a nihilist (Gosh I hate the “ist” words, they are so patronizing!). But these stereotypes (and the million others I have broken) just make me attempt to fight them just for the heck of it. And it is beginning to get tiring to try and break Plath’s bell jar. Why bother upsetting yourself for somebody who has in his head made the stereotype (unless he/she is your boss: P ). And isn’t the fact that you’re trying to prove yourself mean you yourself believe in the stereotype? I’d rather just be myself and not worry.  However, the real”IST” in me is wondering if I should just swallow my pride and write under a pseudonym, who knows the New Yorker might just find me! 

To Sylvia

She conquers death everyday
lives to see the bloodstains
the slit wrists
everyday the window is darker
and the house lonelier still
She walks down the stairs creak
indomitable sounds of the night
tear through the silence
every night a new dream dawns
of white lights and what not
Mornings return unforgiven
The smoke settles and the drinks drain
The emptiness back
and wounds reopen
the world seems ugly
and her soul uglier still
Trapped in a Bell Jar
the world is far away
noises fade away
and the house is a silent friend
And then one day
when the jar will break
and the rug blood red
will welcome the uninvited guest
The world was always
too beautiful, too ugly
all in the same life!

Three Cups of Tea

The idea that appealed  most to me when I saw this book was the subtitle : “One man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time” Here comes a story I have never heard of before. In fact had somebody narrated it to me I wouldn’t even believe it. It breaks past stereotypes of all kinds and makes you realize that if you want to help anyone at any part of the world all it takes is one good heart!
Greg Mortenson is ahead of his time always. He is a new picture of America, a picture I’d like to keep. One of humanity and kindness. And one of humility.

This story is far away from the images we have of Pakistan: The “madrassas”, where maulvis “train” children to become terrorists and how every village has a Kasab born in them.

We, Indians, are generally very shallow. We take everything exactly the way it is served and forget that there exists a world where such battles exist, where a walk to school could maim you or even kill you. Greg Mortenson goes to such a world and comes back victorious. He talks of a tangible permanent solution which we could use against all forms of terrorism (and god knows we have fought our demons too many times!) He answers the question everyone is now asking regarding the Maoist “situation” in our country. He answers it with one word : education.

A part of a team of mountaineers, scaling the difficult terrain of K2, Greg was lost and spent a terrible time surviving the grueling cold mountains of Karakoram till he was found and taken care of by Haji Ali a local village chieftain. There is a sweet moment in the book when Haji Ali shows him the local school, or the place they call a school. The village has no teacher who’d come this far everyday so on the days without a teacher, the little boys and girls sit in an open ground writing on the sand with sticks. Haji Ali says, the one thing I wish for is a school for this village and Greg overcome by the desperation of the kids to learn puts his hand on Haji Ali’s shoulder and says “I’ll build you a school”.

What starts with one school goes on to become a revolution. The one thing the author writes about is that the moment you meet Greg Mortenson you start thinking “What should I do? How could I help?” and this emotion is not just on the meeting. I found myself going through the Three Cups of Tea website and clicking on the How To Help section, the moment I finished the book. The story is simple enough. The man had no money, no job and just had a simple dream to build a school for a bunch of Pakistani kids he had only met once.
The best part of the story would probably be Mortenson’s humility. He’s bad with compliments the author says, he just blushes and mumbles I just got lucky. And he did, the story has a lot of other heroes as well. But for Mortenson’s desire and relentless will, these people would have never known how exactly to help.

For the first time I saw the Kargil War from the other side and actually went ahead to apologize to my counterparts across the borders. We all really do have the same problems : corrupt governments, uncontrollable armies and social issues. I wish Mortenson would realize that none of the Indians knew about the injustice done in Pakistan during the war.

The book is a must read for inspiration, kindness and most of all for humanness. I think we are innately human and want to help, we just have to believe in our convictions and take that first step and make the resolve. With you all the way Dr. Greg 🙂

P.S: The next book has been published and talks about the next piece in the struggle and is called “Stones into Schools”. Mortenson has now moved on to Afghanistan with the resolve of building schools for the war ravaged country.