Sidharth Vardhan

The Palace Walk : A study in Patriarchy and Politics

(A review by Sidharth Vardhanof Palace Walk by Naguib MahfouzFirst written on November 3, 2016) The Cairo trilogy by Naguib Mahfouz is a work of Tolstoyan proportions, drawing a picture of a place during a certain period through its portrayal of a large number of well-developed complex characters. Though mostly it is a story of a joint family, it expands into the political and socio-religious arena of its times. There is a lot more to this book than I will go into this review of its the first installment of the trilogy, Palace Walk. Palace Walk The amorality of the narrator works for me most of the time but sometimes it is really irritating, particularly initially when he is talking about double standards of al-Sayyid Ahmad. When it comes to running his family, Ahmed is quite a traditionalist even for his own times (the 1910s and 1920s) – ‘strict’ (the polite word for oppressive) both as husband and father; so much that his (second) wife, Amina isn’t allowed to leave the house without his permission even after nearly two decades of marriage. When she gives in to the temptation to visit a pilgrimage place in the city (which she hadn’t

Onions and Potatos : review of ‘The Tin Drum’

(Review by Sidharth Vardhan’The Tin Drum’ – a novel by Nobel laureate Günter GrassFirst written on May 24, 2015) In the very first chapter of Nobel laureate Gunter Grass’ incredible novel ‘The Tin Drum’, I was reminded of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight Children(MC) because of the narrator Oscar’s conversational tone of narrative – same as that of Saleem Shinai of MC. Once MC was in my mind couldn’t help locating similarities – both narrators start their stories with the first meeting of their maternal grandparents, both like talking about sex, both of them feel need to hide from the world (Oskar in grandmother’s skirts, Shinai in laundry box) etc. Still, there are enough differences, MC is more magical realism, ‘The Tin Drum’ is more about the unreliable narrator Unreliable Narrator Did I already mentioned ‘unreliable narrator’? Yes, I did. In fact, tell me, why would you consider a narrator unreliable? Maybe he is out of mind or delusional, or he is a habitual liar, or he is full of inferiority or superiority complexes, or he had lied to you before, or he is full of guilt. Oscar fulfills all these conditions. ‘The Tin Drum’ begins with lines: “GRANTED: I AM an

An Hour of Beautiful Writing

(A review by Sidharth Vardhanof The Hour of the Starby Clarice LispectorFirst written on April 27, 2017) “Every once in a while she wandered into the better neighborhoods and gazed at the shop windows glittering with jewels and satin clothes — just to mortify herself a bit. Because she needed to find herself and suffering a little is a way of finding.” Clarice Lispector (Hour of the Star) One of these days, I’m going to put out a list of 100 most iconic book characters I have read and Macabea of this little book is going to be one of them. She is beautiful, she is healthy, she is confident, she is clever, she is witty, she is wealthy, she is wise ….. Okay, she is very opposite of all these things. She was a typist who was a terrible dresser, lived on only hot dogs and love coca cola.That is kind of people I like. Her poverty falls short only of her stupidity. But it is because of this stupidity, that she is happy – she doesn’t understand how sad and miserable she is. In a world where people are defined those very qualities, she is lacking in, she

Helplessness of those raised to be rich

(A review by Sidharth Vardhan of ‘House of Mirth’ by Edith Wharton First written on February 6, 2017 ) “Her whole being dilated in an atmosphere of luxury. It was the background she required, the only climate she could breathe in.” Edith Wharton (House of Mirth) Lily Bart is such a ‘friend’ and has been raised to be such a wife of a rich man. The only thing she knows well and is good at is ‘manners’ of leisure class – and these manners won’t earn her any money. Higher standards of living are addictive and she is addicted, but she doesn’t have any wealth of her own. And since she can’t earn, marrying a rich man is her only option – which seems difficult as she is aging (it is a society where an unmarried women nearing thirties is likely to attract suspicions and prejudice attached to the phrase ‘old maiden’, another thing still visible in India) and, moreover, she also wants to marry for love. To her misfortune, she happened to be a character in Wharton’s realistic novel, instead of being a character in one of Austen’s happily-ever-after tales. “She was so evidently the victim of the civilization

Androids and Electronic Sheep

(A review by Sidharth Vardhan’Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep’by Philip K. Dick First written on July 15, 2017) Have you ever wondered how we are living in a world where people are becoming more and more mechanical while machines are being turned into more and more human-like? I mean look at it, on one hand, we have people to whom, mobiles have become as important for lungs. They can’t imagine their lives without them – they set alarms on mobiles to determine when to wake up, they carry the thing in their pockets (in their hands at times when it is one of those large smart-phones and their pockets are too small). Not only that, the phones create a virtual reality for them – with music and videos and so on. I read a comic book once about these aliens who had become cyborg over time – they got so many things to carry around, that they decided it is just convenient to build the thing in their body. I am not sure how many of us will mind such an in-built mobile, you know it frees your hands for sex and stuff. On the other hand, we have

Diary of a Cynical Suicide – Part 10

(A short fiction by Sidharth Vardhan February 19, 2019) 226.I subscribe to Joker’s words, “I am an idea, a state of mind.” to explain how I do not always think of suicide. If these notes give such impression, it is because they are written in that very state of mind in which I am thinking of killing myself. No, the notes written here are not by Sidharth Vardhan, there is no Sidharth Vardhan, he is a mere amalgamation of different ideas, states of mind – that often contradict each other, whose mutually envious existence fills the Sidharth Vardhan with more and more of anguish. I,.myself, who write these notes, and call himself, a cynical suicide, is a state of mind. And thus no one should judge the one that goes by name of ‘Sidharth Vardhan’ through this state of mind – on second thoughts I don’t care if you judge him. But you must realize that this is not the only the state of mind he is in. 227.People who like arguing are fools. We don’t believe in something because it is rational. We do so because a belief has an appeal to us. Philosophers do not come with new

On Violence – A review of Arendt’s essay

(A review of ‘On Violence’,an essay by Hannah Arendtfirst written on February 18, 2019) “Violence can always destroy power; out of the barrel of a gun grows the most effective command, resulting in the most instant and perfect obedience. What never can grow out of it is power.” Hannah Arendt (On Violence) Arendt refuses to define power as mere ability to do violence as some of the old authors she quotes has defined it to be. The book is written in times of cold war and during fears of mutually assured destruction. Arendt refuses to see violence as something that goes along with political power. She seems to think that the very fact of the presence of nuclear weapons makes the world a more violent place. There is no weapon humanity ever created that it didn’t use and all that. The best part is where she tries to define like sounding words – power, strength, authority etc. Violence Naturally, words themselves are mere symbols and you can use them to mean whatever you like but it enhances the ability to communicate better if each word described a unique abstract concept and every abstract concept has an exclusive word to signify

Racism in Americanah

(A review of ‘Americanah’,a novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie First written on Septemeber 24, 2016) Weak as a love story but powerful in its social commentary. I found a lot of similarities between people of Nigeria described here and that of India- people wanting to migrate to developed countries and real estate being the only investment that attracts the rich. ” There are many different ways to be poor in the world but increasingly there seems to be one single way to be rich.” – Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Then, there are migrant problems – the social and psychological stress they have to bear. The best parts though are Ifemelu’s sometimes angry blogs about racism in U.S.A. It is not always about the dark racism that is pointed out in the book, sometimes it is nice white people trying hard not to be racist: “Kimberly was smiling the kindly smile of people who thought “culture” the unfamiliar colorful reserve of colorful people, a word that always had to be qualified with “rich.” She would not think Norway had a “rich culture.” – Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Adichie is powerful and honest in her social observations and it

There is a body next to my bed

(A short fiction by Sidharth Vardhan First written on December 4, 2018) There is a body next to my bed. The body of a sick kid. A very, very sick kid. I call it a body because I am already thinking of it as dead. And that is how I write. Not as I see but as I feel. As an impressionist and not as a realist. And anyway, the only people who have any claim to realism have either killed themselves, gone insane or in jungles feeding the kids like these. The body. How it makes my life a nightmare! It wails and cries and moans and screams – and it does all that, I know it sounds absurd, silently. Every morning on waking up, I spend several minutes trying not to think about it. For what is there is to think? Earlier I used to be normal, more or less, before one day, this body appeared next to my bed and now when I am one of Kafkirs. Kafkirs, as you know, react to their misfortune in different ways the first time they see a body next to their bed. Many of them are too embarrassed by their

‘On Chesil Bech’: A Review

(A review by Sidharth Vardhanof ‘On Chesil Beach’a man-booker short-listed novel by Ian McEwanNominated for Booker prize in 2007First written on February 2, 2019) This is an amazing piece of writing. If psychology detail of characters is your kink, you will love this novel. Like many readers, I was a bit frustrated by flashbacks though they did seem to be of value – not to mention there was some really beautiful writing. You get to see that the Edward had a mentally ill mother which would explain his anger (other examples of violent display of which are also visible in flashbacks) and you get to see how Florance is conflict averse (she would leave her house in order to avoid any communication with the vaguest hint of conflict) so it makes sense that she kept delaying most awkward conversation of her life. Sex has something of aggressiveness inside it, something of our animal nature which frightens her who seems to have none of that aggression to herself. A shot from the movie based on book Moreover, sex needs a second nature, away from normal social nature. The couple who has known each other for so long are embarrassed to show

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