Book Review: English, August: An Indian Story by Upamanyu Chatterjee (1988)

English, August: An Indian StoryEnglish, August: An Indian Story by Upamanyu Chatterjee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Indecision will be your epitaph.

As the statement rung in my ear for more minutes than I cared to count, I stared at the mouth that just uttered it. No, it was not Agastya, the hero of this story but his best friend, Dhrubo, a brain-wracked, stoned, cajoled-to-distinguished young man who spent his time between perusing applications and criticising its submitters in an MNC bank in the megalopolitan city of Delhi. What light was he showing to Agastya, the young conqueror of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS as we call it), arguably the creamiest cadre one can land in this country? Apparently, the designations that elongate our names on our visiting cards belie the stark commonality in the ways we validate them.

Meet Agastya Sen. Or simple August (for the Sanskrit-naysayers). A 25-year-old-city-bred-booze-refuged-IAS-entrant-with-a-rural-posting lad. When he lands at Madna, Continue reading

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Book Review: The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas (1963)

The Ice PalaceThe Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When a few dotted lines can cuff my heart into a promise and bind my palms over it in sombre armory, keep me lain in its pristine shadows for hours and yet freeze the time in crystalline imagery, I beam at the prospect: the prospect of living in that promise; that promise which lights up with the chandeliers of frosty realizations hanging from the ceiling of dreams and a sea of incomplete chances freezing my being.

A life is made of promises; some made to self, some to others. And like a diffident fuel, it comes into play when life derails to reserve. Aren’t all the promises tested at the brink of uncertainty? Aren’t all the promises repainted at the threshold of patience? Aren’t all the promises questioned at the gates of survival?

What do Siss* and Unn**, all of eleven, seal during their first (and only) conversation, Continue reading

Book Review: The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon (1966)

The Crying of Lot 49The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Muted – I am in an alien way,
Post – reading this weird novel about a
Horn – that despite many mouths, remains

Muted – across the
Post – offices of circuitous US lands although the blare of this
Horn – is audible to a secretive group that moves in

Muted – shadows and sews in its hem, high
Post – bearers and zany professors who insist to
Horn – out any intruders who, in public or

Muted – way, attempt to
Post – any letters sent with this
Horn – bearing stamp to any  Continue reading

Book Review: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera (1981)

The Unbearable Lightness of BeingThe Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s rare that I come across a title and intuitively tag it as an oxymoron; rarer still, I continue to silently contemplate the space lying between the duo.

Unbearable Lightness. How is lightness, unbearable? Isn’t it the right of heaviness for all I know? But the oxymoron is further granted a neighbor – Being. And that muddles up the equation for good.

What is Being? A floating mass of dissimilar silos, each absorbing and dispersing in surprisingly equal measure to stay afloat? Or a concrete structure of unified sketch without an exit, so everything entering its surface always lay within, if only in pale remnants? It’s the curse of contemplation that draws a bridge between this airborne lightness and earthbound heaviness and lets run a stream under it which, although, palpable, remains an enigma in life’s moonlit moments; Continue reading

Book Review: Vertigo by W G Sebald (1990)

VertigoVertigo by W.G. Sebald
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I take refuge in prose as one might in a boat.

Laughter erupted from the adjacent table. A middle-aged lady chided a young man for his deteriorating writing skills. The young man shifted in his chair with a sheepish grin, nudging a tiny vial of admiration in his copper-brown eyes. [Were they bearer of a clandestine moment?] His neigbour was now invoking poetry gods with the adulterated whim of a ventriloquist. He quoted Baudelaire. [I think. Or was that Verlaine? Damn! My poetry quotient is not worth a tarnished dime. Anyway, back to the poet.] He is now towering over a nubile being and scanning her notes. This young thing is explaining a sonnet with gusto, snapping the air with jingling of her bangles. [Does there exist a common set of fans of both Baudelaire and Shakespeare? Of course! Stupid me! Focus!] There is a fifth person around the same table who is presently sweeping the quartet with the incisive broom of her bushy eyelashes. [Is she the decision-maker or the note-taker?] Now and then, the five rearrange Continue reading

Juxtaposed Notes

Palimpsest (Family)

Two days ago, it so happened that I was passing by my bookshelves and my glance fell on a book. Given by a friend, to read and return, it lied pensively, giving me nasty stares with a disdain for my delay in meeting it. So, on impulse (and driven by a bit of guilt), I picked it up to read. Of course, it helped that the author was a favorite one.

I was only at the fifth page when I encountered a  few words, scribbled in fading blue ink on the left side of a paragraph. Well, it is not the first time I have come across a scribbling on a book. People have a bad, nagging habit of doing it on books from the public libraries and I have had my share of blue and black, indecipherable pulp leaping at me suddenly. Continue reading

Book Review: Pereira Maintains by Antonio Tabucchi (1994)

Pereira MaintainsPereira Maintains by Antonio Tabucchi
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It was one of those days when I had a good meal; the fresh herbs, the right salt, the approachable variety, the generous portions, the nice host. I walked back home with a content smile. Upon unlocking the door, a whiff of scented potpourri filled my senses and I sunk on my couch thinking, ‘a day well spent, a tummy well fed.’ I, then, switched off the lights of the living room and yawned to usher in a good night’s sleep. I got up the next morning at the invigorating slant of the sunshine and was enveloped by a good feeling. My mom called up while I was sipping tea. Continue reading

Book Review: The Letter Killers Club by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (1976)

The Letter Killers ClubThe Letter Killers Club by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stop! Yes, You! Stop! Don’t Read Any Further!
No, I’m serious! Like SERIOUS! STOP!
I’m not going to repeat! STOP, RIGHT, HERE!

Ha, you didn’t listen, did you? Well then, be prepared to sever ties with only ever thing that made your enriching circle of reading, comprehending, reflecting, retrieving and disseminating complete (and) visible to the world : Words. Continue reading

That’s the BEAT, Heart!

Close-up of sand heart in woman's hands decorated with colorful bracelets

The voices are numb and the noise so dim, chances of movement are oh so slim,
As I imagine It to wriggle out somehow; and bravely take a last intrepid vow.

It musters every ounce of strength, and peppers up with a ferrous will;
It gears feverishly to step forward… But hell, the limbs stare, still.

Puzzled, like a master clockman, It rips open the machinery within,
Resets, reformats, rearranges and rechecks every connecting pin.

Reassured of its flawlessness, armed by its unparalleled solidity;
Forth goes It again, this time with laudable audacity.

The battle rages and questions arise; Continue reading

Happy Birthday, Italo Calvino!

italo_calvino_g

Buon Compleanno, Mr. Calvino.

You know, your name invokes multiple emotions in me; some I can put in words, others I cannot. Basically, what you do is exactly this: treat me like a friend but never lemme forget even for a second that you belong to a different world, a mystique and scintillating land, way beyond my reach. And that’s the sort of wierd reason why I love you. You are acutely aware of your superiority but you never intimidate; on the contrary, you inspire! Voila! Should I learn that from you? Hmmm.. You bet! 🙂 I have often wondered if I should bind your writing in the confines of magical realism, a genre you own like none other. But  then you scoop something like these from your box and shut me up good:

The unconscious is the ocean of the unsayable, of what has been expelled from the land of language, removed as a result of ancient prohibitions. 

Continue reading