A month or so ago, when life seemed particularly bad, I decided to read Mary Oliver to cheer myself up. Bad, bad, bad idea. When one is sitting in an ‘open’ office, in a gray cubicle, with no windows, no idea of the time outside or the direction one is facing, it is very very bad idea. I only depressed myself more and had to click the page closed in a bit of a hurry before misery began leaking.
Now that I am back replete from the mountains and escape to even more good times seems close at hand, reading her is :-). Sitting by my window with the gurgle of pigeons nearby and a view of a sky amorphously light grey with cloud it is :-) :-). Listing the first of my reads below for the lazy but for more click on …
A Dream of Trees
There is a thing in me that dreamed of trees,
A quiet house, some green and modest acres
A little way from every troubling town,
A little way from factories, schools, laments.
I would have time, I thought, and time to spare,
With only streams and birds for company.
To build out of my life a few wild stanzas.
And then it came to me, that so was death,
A little way away from everywhere.
There is a thing in me still dreams of trees,
But let it go. Homesick for moderation,
Half the world’s artists shrink or fall away.
If any find solution, let him tell it.
Meanwhile I bend my heart toward lamentation
Where, as the times implore our true involvement,
The blades of every crisis point the way.
I would it were not so, but so it is.
Who ever made music of a mild day?
I was waiting for my head to settle before I devoted writing time to VoF. A chronology of the trip seemed too mundane. It was similar to other trips in one sense – the anticipation, the pleasure gained from plugging in (however temporarily) into another way of living, breathtakingly beautiful scenery, good company, new tales to tell at family dinners and the final sigh of comfort when returning to the familiarity of home - they were all there. So recounting them in neat ‘day 1, day 2 posts’ would not have anything new to offer.
This is the standard profile of pilgrims that make the grueling trek up to Hemkund Sahib. There are several who take pithus or ponies making one appreciate the hardy pilgrim even more. No trekking shoes for this lot – normal footwear, hawai chappals or in some extreme cases, naked feet are the order of the day. A stick for support of the body and a chant of ‘wahe guru’ to keep the mind going. I felt rather jealous of the strength this faith gives. Especially on the final 3 kms where I was stopping every few minutes to catch my breath!
There is one class of books that I find difficult to judge. Books that deal with holocaust or partition - difficult to pick up and then impossible to put down. It seems an insult to the victims somehow, to not finish their story. It’s a feeling of ‘they suffered through it, can’t I just suffer through the book.’.
The past few months have been a bit holocaust ridden – first there was Maus. Then there was The Boy in Striped Pajamas and just now, there was The Book Thief. The first is a cartoon; the other two are fiction for young adults. The nature of audience and in the case of Maus, the technique of delivery, means that the facts seep out slowly through the story. Telling the tale of one boy or girl and in the case of Maus tracing the life of one survivor through the eyes of his estranged son forces one to measure the horror in something other than numbers.
Sigh. Now I want book where only the bad guys die and fully happy ending happens.
On a little sinful expedition into Landmark my experiments with the vernacular continued. Moser Baer has decided on a logical extension – cheap CD’s to cheap movies on CD’s. Very brilliant. For Rs. 28/-, I thought my ROI will be good. Low denominator, you see. K put ‘Edir Neechal’ into my basket and I thought ‘Bandhana’ would go well with it. Nothing like a little head to head between Tamil and Kannada to bring that happy Cauvery feeling back. J
Now, my previous experience with Kannada movies has mostly been thanks to the Sunday evening movie on good old Doordarshan and my memory of Vishnuvardhan from those happy times is of the tubercular hero who gives 10 minute speeches while attempting (and failing) to be discreet in coughing blood (or tomato ketchup) into handkerchiefs. He lives up to this in Bandhana. Wah wah. In fact he excels himself. Even before the 10 minute death speech there are several bad lines. Move over Partner... the woriginal is here!
The movie begins with Dr. Harish (Vishnuvardhan… henceforth known as VV) and Dr. Nandini (Suhasini) in a rattly minivan heading into the hinterland to provide quality medical aid to the deprived folk of rural Karnataka. For 20 days, while they serve the masses, advising them to have hysterectomies and vasectomies, VV and Suhasini find time to go jogging, play a couple of games of badminton, exchange some extremely corny dialogues and (on VV’s part) fall in love. The first hour of the movie is spent in VV delivering truly bad lines (either in reality or in dream sequences) to win heroine’s affection. Consider this sample:
VV: I found this flower in the garden. Isn’t it nice?
S: Beuutifull. It is verry nice.
VV: A beautiful flower will look beautiful in beautiful hair. (holding out flower to S) .. Please wear it.
And this dialogue is at the beginning of all acquaintance. Maybe that line worked in the 80’s. Plastic earrings did.
Unfortunately for VV someone else (Jai Jagadish… henceforth known as JJ) had already beaten him to delivering the lines. So when VV finally gathers up courage and confesses loove S tells him ‘Uh. But I got engaged yesterday to childhood friend.’ Heartbroken, the next time we see VV on screen, he is coughing and his patients are dying on the operating table because he is too busy having little fits.
Along the way to this point in movie there are dream song sequences where hero and heroine dance around in white. And hero pours red water on heroine in white salwar kameez / sari. I’m not even touching the symbolism on that one with barge poles.
Back to main story line. Post wedding and honeymoon, it turns out that JJ expects our heroine to be adarsh bharatiya nari and our lady has hospital shifts to do. He is not understanding when she has to visit a sick VV at his home or comfort him with a hug when his mom dies of third degree burns. VV after having lost mommy also, gets ‘enlarged heart’ and is given grim prognosis - only six months to live. S, is devoted ‘friend’ now. And JJ cannot understand this either. VV tries to make matters better by insisting S and JJ throw anniversary party which he then promptly spoils by
a) Turning up
b) Singing sad song while clutching heart and coughing blood
c) Quaffing drinks , getting sotted and then coughing blood into the balloon glasses
d) Collapsing after the drinks
e) Riding off from party in ambulance with S by his side while poor JJ is left to deal with blood, dirty dishes and guests
JJ takes revenge (evil man!) – demands divorce from pregnant wife if she will not give up the VV and then makes unwelcome advances to poor widowed relative that has moved in with them. S is stoic through all of this, listens to VV’s dialogues and continues with pregnancy. Sample of priceless VV dialogue that S bears
VV to S: “I would ask God to take me quickly. Do you know why? In this janma I have not had the good fortune to be your husband. So in the next janma I want to be born as your son so I can stay with you always. (I could not believe my ears and went into rewind mode to make sure I had heard right. I had!)
So in the denouement that is what happens. When S walks out on JJ over his infidelity, he pushes her, resulting in “operation that has to be performed in half an hour” by none other than our hero who braves power cuts, lack of staff and his own failing health to deliver baccha and save jaccha. Baccha is delivered but is not breathing so our man after 10 minute speech to god, dies and baccha lives. S divorces JJ, picks up baby in one hand, stethoscope in the other and walks off into shining light at the end of the hospital corridor unheeding of potentially repentent husband calling out 'nandineee'. And this line comes up on screen ... “The Bandhana of love was broken into a hundred pieces, The Bandhana of duty has begun calling out.”
Did I say I was missing home? The past couple of days have been amazing weather. After the rains, the world was muted, the greens are greener but every other color is softer, the brash reds and yellows of summer have disappeared and the air is fresh and cool. The ever present clouds, never present sun and the occassional threat of a drizzle, all remind me of home. Heart felt sighs for
Then today I got on the road and remembered why I left
There are times when one has absolutely fabulous runs of books and there are times like now L . The Hedgehog is turning out to be utterly puerile. So I’m sorry folks… the transliteration might not proceed apace.
I decided to go back to old favourites (need recovery time!) and pulled out all the books I wanted from the divan. While MacLean and Harry Potter serve to amuse for now, I can’t find The Edible Woman. L L My beatiful, tattered, second-hand version with blue cover seems to be missing in action.
Its long been an ambition of mine to read in a language other than English and my efforts have always turned out to be memorable. I have Kuvempu to thank for several laughs with SRS. The expression on his face when I cornered him on the basis of a (then) very slender acquaintance to ask him what “Loudi” meant was simply priceless. And once I moved languages, my grand mom’s attempts to explain the meaning of ‘suvaru’ in context still get me in splits every time I think of it. I am dedicated to the cause - I still refuse to read ‘Parthiban Kanavu’ in translation. One day, my Tamil will be good enough to read it. (sigh.)
At any rate, a couple of weeks ago, inspired by how well the unsuspecting French populace took to ‘mon francais’, I invested in a book written in (hold your breath) French. Now, this book came with recommendations.
a) It was the best that Relay had to offer at the airport. Everything else seemed to be a translation of the latest angrezi chick lit.
b) I liked the blurb. ( i.e. I understood all of it)
So I bought it. And now that I have disposed off Potter and given up on Pamuk, I have begun reading Ms. Muriel Barbery. Except that the blurb was deceptive. I seem to be reading Le Robert and Larousse de Poche even more than I read her. L
I have decided to share my experience with reading in transliteration with a wider public as an experiment. You can go here to read a chapter a day from “The Elegance of a Hedgehog” translated by yours truly. As a teaser, you can read the blurb below without making the extra click. ;-)
The Elegance of a Hedgehog
By Muriel Barbery
Translated by Gayathri
“My name is Renee. I’m 54 years old and I’m the caretaker of
“My name is Paloma. I’m 12 years old. I live at
Staying with yesterday’s theme... I wish this were my Catcher in the
Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O'Brien,
they seem to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.
Other comments are more offhand, dismissive -
"Nonsense." "Please!" "HA!!" -
that kind of thing.
I remember once looking up from my reading,
my thumb as a bookmark,
trying to imagine what the person must look like
why wrote "Don't be a ninny"
alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.
Students are more modest
needing to leave only their splayed footprints
along the shore of the page.
One scrawls "Metaphor" next to a stanza of Eliot's.
Another notes the presence of "Irony"
fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.
Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,
Hands cupped around their mouths.
"Absolutely," they shout
to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.
"Yes." "Bull's-eye." "My man!"
Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points
rain down along the sidelines.
And if you have managed to graduate from college
without ever having written "Man vs. Nature"
in a margin, perhaps now
is the time to take one step forward.
We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.
Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria
jotted along the borders of the Gospels
brief asides about the pains of copying,
a bird signing near their window,
or the sunlight that illuminated their page-
anonymous men catching a ride into the future
on a vessel more lasting than themselves.
And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,
they say, until you have read him
enwreathed with Blake's furious scribbling.
Yet the one I think of most often,
the one that dangles from me like a locket,
was written in the copy of Catcher in the
I borrowed from the local library
one slow, hot summer.
I was just beginning high school then,
reading books on a davenport in my parents' living room,
and I cannot tell you
how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page
A few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil-
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet-
"Pardon the egg salad stains, but I'm in love."