The nights of wonder

(A review of ‘[Arabian Nights’ –  5*5*) A Story to Save a Live The beauty of the stories and the poetry of the thought that most destructive demons can be tamed back with a few stories was fascinating to me even when I first saw the serialized version on tv. What I didn’t realized was that the stories Scheherazade, that great goddess of story tellers and inventor of cliff-hangings, told the king weren’t as random but had an order in themselves. This book has made Scherzade my favorite superhero – superhero was the word we use for one who risk one’s life for others, don’t we? I mean we like Doctor Who for he won’t use weapons – and yet the enemies he fought weren’t in any way real. What Scherzade had to fight was real, and after centuries of her single victory continues unfortunately to remain real – lack of trust among sexes. Sheriyar is misogyny humanized. There is another famous collection of stories called ‘Tota Maine ke kise’ from same regions (Iraq, Iran, India etc) which comprise of a parrot and she-parrot who are in love. The frame story is simple. The parrot would say mynah is sure

Atonement

(review of Atonement, a novel by Ian McEwan – 5*/5*) “It was common enough, to see so much death and want a child.” We each live in our own world – and worlds of children are so far simpler than those of grown-ups; the friction between these worlds allows chances for misunderstandings. McEwan, who seems to have a thing for misunderstandings, banks on them for the beautiful story. The number of coincidences in the first part could have looked objectionable in hands of some other author. Robbie suddenly finds his life thrown off the track and is made to bear punishment for a crime he never did – that must be how most of Europe have felt during second world war. A child’s innocent mistake destroys future of a young man. But scratch the surface there – was she as innocent as she claimed? Or was there malice, at least at subconscious level? She repents as she realizes her mistake, but the wrong done can never be corrected fully. It is so far easier to wrong than to correct: “A person is, among all else, a material thing, easily torn and not easily mended.” The guilt will never die –

Our lady Chatterlay

“Sex is just another form of talk, where you act words instead of saying them. Lawerence’s last novel, Lady Chatterley’s Lover is one of most challenged works– on account of its use of then unprintable words. Its free publishing was one of the main events of sexual revolution of 1960s. And okay, I mean it is a great book but what will you say to a book that has conversations like these: ‘Well, young man, and what about my daughter?’ The grin flickered on Mellors’ face. ‘Well, Sir, and what about her?’ ‘You’ve got a baby in her all right.’ ‘I have that honour!’ grinned Mellors. ‘Honour, by God!’ Sir Malcolm gave a little squirting laugh, and became Scotch and lewd. ‘Honour! How was the going, eh? Good, my boy, what?’ ‘Good!’ ‘I’ll bet it was! Ha-ha! My daughter, chip of the old block,what! I never went back on a good bit of fucking, myself. Though her mother, oh, holy saints! … Did I tell you the daughter in question is already married to another man? And believe me, it is a very modest sample compared to what this book contains. Emma and Connie Connie Chatterley sometimes reminds you of

Nihlism : Céline Style

(Review of Journey to end of Night, a novel by Louis-Ferdinand Céline – 4*/5*)   “The sadness of the world has different ways of getting to people, but it seems to succeed almost every time.” “When you start hiding from people, it’s a sign that you’re afraid to play with them. That in itself is a disease. We should try to find out why we refuse to get cured of loneliness. “ Reading Celine’s ‘Journey to the end of Night’ is like listening to a drunk old man – the kind one sees in those cowboy movies, telling you why his life sucks. He can’t talk about a woman without talking about her legs and there are women he mentions just so as to talk about their body. Then there are a few racist remarks as well. But it is not to say that he is treating others better – there isn’t a character in the whole book who hasn’t been joked about. Céline is that kind of guy – he just can’t have an acquaintance you don’t want to run away from or a boss who don’t give all the negative connotations of the word and so on. He may

Bostan of Saadi

(Review of bostan of Saadi 4*/5*) Travelers bring sugar-candy from Egypt as a present to their friends. Although I have no candy, yet have I words that are sweeter. A sagacious youth of noble family landed at a seaport of Turkey, and, as he displayed piety add wisdom, his baggage was deposited in a mosque. One day the priest said to him, “Sweep away the dust and rubbish from the mosque.” Immediately, the young man went away and no one saw him there again. Thus, did the elder and his followers suppose he did not care to serve. The next day, a servant of the mosque met him on the road and said, “Thou didst act wrongly in thy perverse judgment. Knowest thou not, O conceited youth, that men are dignified by service?” Sorrow fully, the youth began to weep. “O soul-cherishing and heart-illuminating friend!” He answered, “I saw no dirt or rubbish in that holy place but mine own corrupt self. Therefore, I retraced my steps, for a mosque is better cleansed from such.” Written in thirteenth century, the book is full of similar fables and words of wisdom written in verse. I had no intention of taking away

Of Africa

(Review ‘Of Africa’ by Wole Soyinka 5*/5*) The title itself was fascinating to me. Not ‘Of Nigeria’ but ‘Of Africa’. Anybody who talks of thinking beyond political boundaries quickly gets my respect. “The rise of extreme nationalism, often developing into outright xenophobia, barely disguised under legislative formalisms that never name their real goal – exclusion – is a symptom of the increase, not decrease, of the we-or-they mentality that appears to be sweeping across the globe.” He thinks that national boundaries in Africa are all fiction. Of course, all national boundaries are fictional; but in Africa the situation is made obvious by the fact that it is a fiction created by outsiders: “Boundaries imply exclusion, and it is undeniable that this tainted seed of guaranteed future conflicts on the continent was sown at the infamous Berlin Conference of 1884.” The thing is made clearer if you were to look at political map of Africa. You would notice many national boundaries to be straight lines, as if drawn by a ruler. That is exactly what Colonial powers did in Berlin conference. There are very few other borders that are straight lines – US-Canada for example and those too are results of

Who’s the Mr. Capital-G in here?

  (Review of ‘Children of Gebelaawi’ –  a novel by Naguib Mahfouz, translation of Philip Stewarship) This is an allegory on the history of prophets of Abraham religions – Adam, Moses, Jesus, Mohammad represented as far as humanly possible. Gebelaawi, the creator of the alley, favored his son (from a servant) Adham over his other sons of higher birth including Idris (Iblis). Idris walked out on his father and later tricked Adham into the temptation of knowing G’s will causing G to throw him out. “Your mind stays in the place it’s been thrown out of.” Adham lived on hoping to get back the comfortable life that was once his, scorn-ing at life to sustain which you have to earn: “Only an animal worries all the time about the next meal. “ Adham lived a miserable life – memory of lost paradise can bring more suffering than residence in hell, he saw one of his sons killing the other. However, G promised dying Adham that his children will get the life he had yawned for. Although G didn’t take Adham’s successors in his place, he created a trust for their benefit. However, soon trustee (our symbol for powerful) grew corrupt

Gitanjali: Beautiful Songs

(Review of Gitanjali by Rabindranath Tagore – 4*/5*) The word Gitanjali means devotion songs and these are exactly that: “I came out alone on my way to my tryst. But who is this that follows me in the silent dark? I move aside to avoid his presence but I escape him not. He makes the dust rise from the earth with his swagger; he adds his loud voice to every word that I utter. He is my own little self, my lord, he knows no shame; but I am ashamed to come to thy door in his company.” There is something so pure in the very concept of bhakti – the submissive devotion to god; something so poetical, that it shall touch your heart even if you were skeptic, atheist or simply indifferent, as can be found in Tagore’s collection of devotion poems, Gitanjali. Perhaps it is complete lack of self-ness, of pride – an effort to gain innocence of a child. “They (children) build their houses with sand and they play with empty shells. With withered leaves they weave their boats and smilingly float them on the vast deep. Children have their play on the seashore of worlds.” I don’t

Genes and Gods

(Review of Selfish Gene – a book by Richard Dawknis 4*/5*) “ There are more possible games of chess than there are atoms in the galaxy.” Sometimes science books can become unintentionally funny: “What is the good of sex? This is an extremely difficult question for the evolutionist to answer. Most serious attempts to answer it involve sophisticated mathematical reasoning.” One of stupidest criticism here on Goodreads of Adam Smith’s Theory of Wealth of Nations’ was that he made the human selfishness as basis of his theory. It was stupid as Smith didn’t invented that ‘selfishness’ he merely showed us how our economy was already based on selfishness of individuals. It is same here. In fact, in this case ‘selfishness’ is apparently selfish behavior of genes (‘apparently’ because genes do not make conscious choices, selfless ones just won’t survive) and any effects on the individuals are subconscious. Dawkins shows how selfishness of genes can actually bring out what, at first, may look like altruistic behavior among animals. Also, we need not be slave to our genes. In fact, we do resist behavior imposed on us by genes. The best examples are people who remain without children all their life, contraceptives,

Hinduism

(Review of The Hindus: An Alternative History by Wendy Donigner, Rating 4*/5*)   In his book, the ‘The God Delusion, Richard Hawkins debated about the undeserved respect given to religious issues. This, very same undeserved respect is responsible for the genuine resistance, this book has met. It is undeserved because no religion or belief can be shielded from criticism. Much of the fuss is however made by Hindutava whose political agendas will be badly affected if Doniger’s version of history gains popularity – specially the parts relating to Ram-setu and Ayodhya Ram Mandir. The so called danger this book is supposed to have brought on Hindu religion is only a red hearing to mask their own little interests. To stop any book from being read is wrong but even if these fundamentalists feel so protective of their little gods then why don’t they fight against such books like Ajaya, Asura or Shiva trilogy (or – well Chota Bheem)? That Penguin group should remove it,is something which is scary for all of us. Arundhati Rai’s letter to Penguin group is something I will never forget: “Tell us, please, what is it that scared you so? Have you forgotten who you are?”