Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones - Another Rambling Non-Review

>> Wednesday, January 23, 2008

I usually do not attempt reviews, mainly because I get hold of the wrong end of the discourse or because I am afraid it may actually lead up to an argument I would pitifully crumble against. But sometimes, one comes across a book one feels very strongly about. Thus, a blog post is born, just to ask people to get acquainted with the book once, not because one wants discussions, but because good books deserve to be read.

All avid Dickensians would immediately recognize the eponymous character, the main protagonist of the " greatest novel by the greatest writer of the nineteenth century", Great Expectations. This book reveres Dickens as a rock against the insane ravages of a modern civil war. Set in remote South Pacific island, it deals with cultural imperialism, uprisings, generation gap, inter racial marriages and religion all against the backdrop of Dickens. An island where the only sign of civilization is the faith in Bibles.

Yet, the book is essentially a simple one. And, thus, equally devastating in its simplicity.

Seen through the eyes of a 14 year old black girl, it begins with an achingly familiar topic of reverence to a teacher who changed lives. But the narration keeps taking sharp diversions, but with smooth accelerations. The teacher, the last remaining white in the island, Mr. Watts, takes to the reading of the book in his classes periodically. And soon, the students start finding parallels with the problems of a white orphan, residing five thousand miles away from their little, forgotten island. Pip becomes more than a character. He becomes a friend, a person they wake up to, whose life they mull over before going to sleep.

Resentment thus takes birth among the parents. What it boils down to is that a white atheist brings hope to black children, who have lost faith in religion, with a person who is fictional, yet closer to them than their ancestors. A man who challenges the existence of the Devil by saying he is a make believe character and yet believes whole heartedly in the trial and tribulations of a boy. But soon, fiction and reality start merging with devastating results.

This book, frankly, taunts the readers. Every pre-conceived notions, every partisan favouritism is challenged before you reach the end, forcing the reader to go back and review every character and find out the subtly hidden flaws and virtues not noticed the first time around. By the end, you even start having second thoughts about Dickens, the foundation of the book.

But what stays back after the shock subsides are the fleeting thoughts and ideas spread innocently around the disarmingly innocuous looking book. Be it the amusing discourse on broken dreams ( apparently, fishes are the best example of broken dreams. The surprised look on their faces when caught best explains it. They can not believe they will never see the sea again), the breathtaking idea of forming a whole world in your mind with the power of your own unique voice, or the shockingly matter-of-fact descriptions of barbarous murders, haunting images and ideas stay behind, long after the memory of the book is dimmed.

Its a tale of survival despite all odds, where people gain strengths from the power of storytelling. An unusual attempt to retell the old adage that "a book can change your life forever". For it can.

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Dead Turtles

>> Sunday, January 20, 2008

Which was mostly what the weekend has been about. Dead turtles lined up in a broken line, buried ostrich-like in an otherwise pristine beach. At twilight hour, a lone turtle being washed up on the shore, a lone moon directly above me with a lone star underneath and I, plopped down on the golden, silky sand, the sound of the sea enveloping all other sounds and the wind in my hair, the best caress one could ever receive. A seemingly endless beach with two occupants, one of them, sadly, dead and the other, feeling the waves lap at her feet.

And highlights from the world of Television :

  • I watched Apna Sapna Money Money for the third time. Watching it for the first time somehow numbed me from actually providing an opinion. Decided to watch it a second time and write a review. The third time was accidental. However, the sneaking suspicion drew on me that I was starting to enjoy the experience. My system is not only immune to ASMM, but considers a regular dosage of it a health option. Is ASMM to me what Gunda is to Greatbong? Or Ingrid Bergman to Alfred Hitchcock? Or Shahrukh Khan to Karan Johar (more on this later in this post)?
  • The trip was on a bus which played (horrors) videos. My poor earphones knew when they had been outnumbered. The insomniac in me gave way helplessly to songs from Muskaan, Kasoor, Raaz and songs from a similar genre. Of course, newer movies did get a chance with special preference to Fool 'n Final. Needless to say, today, I am a changed girl and will never ever abuse Himesh Reshammiya again. FnF has shown me light. In fact, while I type this, I am downloading three of its songs.
  • Spent a Saturday evening morosely biting a biscuit and watching Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gum for what seems like the 42nd time in the last six months. Its when you do this that you begin to wonder whether this is how you thought you would end up once in college.

    Then again, you forget all about wondering that and begin wondering why you find Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gum so morbidly fascinating. You just stay numb and watch the idle rich fight the injustice they face from the world, the dictates of their hearts, moribund traditions and, of course, their sacrificial, all suffering parents who do not seem troubled watching their sons, husbands or even the occasional elderly father practically making out with the neighbour's daughter, but take offense at the slightest hint of theirs wishing to make the affair legal by the sacred ties of matrimony.

    I seem to have mixed up too many movies in this description, but then, who has not watched these movies. You may pretend to like Apocalypse Now and cry over Casablanca and argue about the significance of title of The Streetcar Named Desire, but you have, on the sly, watched all of Karan Johar's movies and have caught yourself laughing and sighing along with it. There is no solution to the eternal problem named Karan Johar. But its scary to think that a hundred years later, a new generation would be looking at our world and its culture through his eyes and find similarities between the the Greek and the Indian culture. Greece had its Helen, Menelaus and Paris. Our country had Shahrukh Khan, the rest of the world and Karan Johar.
  • Kyle XY now has an additional character who looks uncannily like Michael Jackson and claims to be a female in love with Kyle. All this is obviously a diabolical plot by the producers to prove that Michael Jackson is actually a female android which is the reason he feels attracted to young boys. Boys because his soul is of a girl. Young because as an android, he lost out on the first 16 years of his life. Its a compensation for a lost youth spent under microscopes and brain scanners.
Okay, so I have just watched TV endlessly for the past few days and have nothing to write about and just desperately want to update this blog thing of mine.

Oh, I caught an oyster at the beach. It did not have anything in it sadly.

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The Year That Will Be

>> Sunday, January 06, 2008

One of the few facts I have managed to retain from long forgotten History lessons is that Akbar was made Emperor at the tender young age of 13 and until he came of age, Bairam Khan, his general, ruled on his behalf. Possibly, all it does purport to mean is, fifty years down the line, Gowarikar's son might be casting Hrithik's grandson in the lead role of his movie Bilawal-(enter future wife's name here), with A.R. Rahman's son giving music rehashed from his father's incomplete works. It might also mean the Mughal empire was a democracy and one failed to understand it.

The only fact one can grasp here is, here is a 19 year old, with an entire country's reins falling into his laps, and here is another, musing on what the young inheritor's mother might have meant? What Times of India (yes, I proudly and unflinchingly proclaim I read it, and actually read Calcutta Times before heading for the headlines, if at all) displays boldly as a quotable quote has me fumbling for answers. What did the Benazir Bhutto mean when she said Democracy is the best revenge? Revenge against what? And why revenge? Would not it have been easier focusing on a few salient issues like actually bringing in the democracy for the betterment of the countrymen and countrywomen?

Then again, I never did really understand politics and possibly all the hidden agendas elude my flighty little brain. For how can I possibly deny the whole Bhutto tragedy caught my eye because

1)Bilawal Bhutto is hot. Period.
2) My young, inexperienced life has not seen many assassinations and one so close home always generates excitement.

God bless her soul though. She might have treated the idea of being killed philosophically, but it must have been rather a nasty surprise.

When Shakespeare did say what's in a name, he must have said it in an unthoughtful, unreflective moment, possibly just after giving a series of autographs and wondering how good a name Rob Ray would have been. For there is something about the name Akbar which makes the beholder of the name greater than mere mortals. Though the original Akbar did shy away from forcing his own religion upon his subjects, one of the few things he abstained from, his namesake, Akbar Khan, however, can apparently do anything. He is planning to re release Taj Mahal. Some kind of a Valentine's Day surprise to the unsuspecting world. Of course, all this might be a stepping stone to greater deeds like Ram Gopal Varma releasing a director's cut of RGV ki Aag as a Halloween surprise or on the death anniversary of Veerappan.Which might lead to the sales of a special DVD collection of Fardeen Khan's earlier movies. One fears the worse and actually goes on to wondering whether this might all lead to a Tushar Kapoor starring Yash Chopra movie, but one remains hopeful.

A.R. Rahman turns another year older today. I will always revere the man. For creating the two most perfect pieces of music ever. Parts of two separate songs. But when confronted with it, one does realize what perfection is. For then it does make you feel how absolutely small you are. How completely insignificant. And how wonderfully lucky. For some very curious reason, Bhojpuri movies make me feel the same way. As if in the presence of some greater god. Or perhaps the Messiah of a long lost, dignified, reawakened religion. Perfection, again, is such a subjective topic.

I bring in the New Year, as usual, with forgotten resolutions and a horrible tummy ache from over eating. Realization also strikes that 3 a.m. in the morning is not the time to churn out my thoughts in form of a blog post. What should have been random is strangely confessional (I did not mean to admit that despite Greatbong's tirade, Bhojpuri movies still hold a compelling fascination for me) and that is never a very comfortable thought to go to sleep with.

Good night, blog world.


Book today: The Story Girl, L.M. Montgomery ( compelling, beautiful and an indelible part of girlhood)
Movie today: Lawrence of Arabia (good, but long. Makes the watching rather arduous for someone who is not much into war movies. Probably means I have no taste)

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