Gone are the times when grandmother’s tales and Doordarshan were the quintessential depictions of Indian sensibilities. Now people look forward to Bollywood and news channels to discover the new qualities of an Indian. And why not? Media is supposed to represent our society. So if the big screen tells you that an Indian dons sarees, you do it! But how much of this media representation stands affirmative? Does anyone bother tracing back the origins of some of these nonsensical expectations?
A certain cement ad features very fashionably made up men and women carrying cement sacks and working at a construction site. Is this the image our construction workers send across? They work hard hours trying to ensure two meals for their family and themselves. They don’t get the freedom of expression (through their attire or otherwise) that others do. But this ad, despite being about engineering, chooses to focus on these modelesque people as they swagger back and forth in flowing gowns and buffed up bodies. If only these worker’s profession was viewed in the magnificent light as portrayed by the advertisement.
Moreover, who gets to decide where Indianness ends and Western cognitions begin? The saas-bahu TV shows? Or the individuals who blame indecent attire for atrocities committed? I could be wearing shorts throughout the year and still be very Indian in my thoughts, mannerisms. There are people who sensationalize “item” songs and scrunch up their nose at the sight of a couple being overly affectionate in public. In fact, scrunching their nose is the least they could do; one has to be grateful for not being beaten up by random strangers for acting “out of line” and “not Indian”.
Don’t shun people for living their lives in a happy bubble. Don’t drag out and arrest couples from private rooms in hotels for wanting to be together. In fact don’t arrest people for wanting to have a say about their country or their culture. It would be nice if media representations of an Indian focused on what an Indian actually goes through rather than highlight a paragraph that speaks a contradictory story. We don’t all run around in gowns in palatial houses trying to tease a guy/girl by the scent of our body soaps. Neither do we eat chocolate sloppily so that we get kissed by someone. Its understandable that advertisements try to capitalize on our desires to be modern and open minded. Money is of the essence. But why not do it by actually incorporating what India is today or who an Indian is today. We have progressed so much since the olden times. Why still try to compete with notions that are not really ours? And if we do wish to imbibe those notions, why fight against its manifestation in reality?
Are thoughts ever concrete?
For they are a spun mass of
Previously unplugged words.
They probably are concrete
If we speak them, so brazen
Even if they aren’t, we
Perhaps will them into being so
Through pure want of belief
And ultimately a foundation.
What are we, without our thoughts?
Maybe empty or merely uncaring.
But there’s a moronic carelessness
In “caring less”.
We’re made to care and think.
To understand what the deal is.
So it matters not if our cognitive
Paths are parallel or diverging,
Crossing or always shifting.
It matters that they just are.
Pulsating and absorbing.
They just are.
This story takes us back to the narrator’s childhood days which were filled with horrors and revelations too mature for a 7 year old. As the eldest of two siblings, the narrator often found himself completely alone, and so would preoccupy himself with books. When a lodger commits suicide in his father’s car, a portal of darkness descends over him. Monsters unheard of take over his simplistic world. Driven to an extreme sense of despondence by his parents refusal to believe him and the suffocating dominion of the creature, he knows not a way out. But to his relief, as with any good story, he soon finds his savior in the form of his next door neighbors – the Hempstock women. With the help of Lettie Hempstock, the narrator assumes the role of a brave, tactical individual, ready to face every monstrosity that comes their way. Gaiman’s writing is spellbinding as he weaves instances of the past coupled with creatures that bring despair.
This is my second Neil Gaiman book and it was brilliant from the start. Albeit told from the POV of a 7 year old, mind you its not a children’s book. We don’t get a name for the narrator throughout the book and you’d think that such an essential detail being missed out is a major bother. But its not. You can still connect with the protagonist because all the emotions he goes through are so relatable. There is a kind of peculiarity in this book, that I found to be quite normal. The boy’s relationship with his parents or sister isn’t very great and which the creature ultimately exploits. The Hempstock women are his life-jackets; his one and only reprieve from all the chaos.
The best thing about this book is its magical nature; everything that goes on can be interpreted in numerous ways. The Ocean, I felt was a metaphor for that earthly body from which we all rise and to which, one day, we shall depart. It is that regenerative source of energy which heals us. It is this very ocean that proves useful in the story. The creatures could have been spurred on by his imagination or could stand for something else. There was so much going on, some concepts took a little understanding, others were a breeze. The narrator’s sense of loneliness was so palpable. I wished he had some support from his family. The creature’s logic and reason are explored in the plot too. Every bit of the book was fascinating. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Give it a try. It is one of the best books I have read this year.
Italo Calvino enthralls his audience by spinning vivid descriptions of “invisible” cities. He uses the medium of culture, narration and imagination to convey the conversations between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan. Kublai Khan being the mighty emperor demands that Marco Polo account his journeys around the world. What transpires after, is a treat to one’s mind. For Marco Polo speaks of Cities & Desires, Hidden Cities, Cities of the Dead and various such notions, categorically emphasizing the key aspects of different cities he has been to.
I wanted to like this book so much so that I re-read the first few pages over again. Its beautifully written, no doubt. The various cities he names capture your attention and move you to think about the similarities they possess. Many of the cities were magical and several others had a dystopian feel to them. But what didn’t sit well with me is the direction of the narration. Clearly these cities he described were only in his imagination or seemingly gathered from the other places he had been to. Talking about such non-existent cities didn’t serve any obvious purpose. I think I tried too hard to find meaning where there was none or maybe my interpretations were all awry. But I just didn’t get this book. I got the cities, individually, understood what they represented. But were they just for holding Kublai Khan’s attention? Having read chapters of other fictional books, that had a clear cut beginning and end, I found it difficult to process this one. The writing style is different, the form of the book is unique. They are sectioned as Cities & Memory, Cities & Desire etc. The distinction is clear too but for what aim? Was he just pitting different ideas against each other to see how Khan would react? I had more questions than should be, towards the end of the book. Loose threads that didn’t get tied. Perhaps I ought to read up more on the context of this book before I give it another try. Which I am determined to do as almost everyone else has given this book a 5 star rating. I suggest you try it, because its very different from what is usually written.
Few people have been as humble in power, forward in thought and strong in mien as you have been. You heard the voices of the youth, that were shunned and belittled and you brought us to the forefront. You upheld the beacon of hope to a nation that was on the verge of losing its glory. Not many know how to lead as you did.
Frankly, I regret not knowing the full extent of your being. Of all that you have written and said, of all your persuasion and guidance. It is in your passing that I realize the value of what I have missed out. And yet, it is never too late. Your words of wisdom will, till the end of time, be etched out for us to ponder on. Your efforts of carving a bright future for us will not be in vain. Someday, from above, you will see India reshape into the gem of a land that it was before the dark times. And it will not only be the youth but the senior folks too, who will pave the way to an India you envisioned.
Death is inevitable. It comes for us all. So we shed tears in pride, for having witnessed a man of such caliber, who sought to change our nation for the better. We revel in having known of such a distinct individual whose thoughts led us to question our unreasonable beliefs. In a world where people hold onto knowledge for the mere purpose of holding power, you believed in disseminating it to every individual who would listen. You have educated more minds in the ways of living than any moral science class could have. It is by these precious gifts to the world, that we will remember you. It is by these stepping stones you’ve laid out for us that we will strive to attain, for others and ourselves, a glowing future.
Thank you Sir, for all that you have given. May you Rest in Peace.