Sidharth Vardhan

Mouthful of Birds – a review

(A review of ‘Mouthful of Birds’,a collection of short stories by Samantha Schweblin long-listed for International Booker in 2019 for English translation by Megan McDowell) Most of these short stories have a sort of nightmarish qualities about them, much like another Intentional Booker nominee from author, Fever Dreams (but ‘Fever Dreams’ had a far better execution IMO and, to be honest, should have won International Booker that year). Sometimes the nightmarish quality is due to environment or because of the perspective of a child narrator while others really have a somewhat Kafka-like dream-realism (unpredictable sequence of surreal events) with an which is the thing I enjoy most about this author. The unease one feels during a nightmare is common to the narrators of all the good stories in here. ‘Headlights’, ‘Butterflies’, ‘Preserves”, ‘toward the civilisation’ etc are some of the best ones. There a few less enjoyable stories (the titular story, incidentally, was one of those I enjoyed less), but the 5-star ones are too difficult to ignore. A bad sample, bad not because it is a bad story, but because it doesn’t have this nightmarish quality, can be read here.

Man and His Symbols – an introduction to Jung’s ideas

(A review of ‘Man and His Symbols’a book by Carl JungFirst written on March 29, 2019) Hands down, it is one of the best books I have read and I wish I had read it earlier. This book is a perfect gateway into Jung’s ideas written expressly for the layman (like yours truly) to understand them. I think even if you don’t know the details, you know that his ideas provided a new dimension to psychology, taking it beyond nightmares and childhood traumas. Freud took away the extraordinary – the possessing demons as well as fantasies etc from psychology, Jung provides us with a hope that not all our time spent with those things is wasted. There are though two more ways of gaining from the book for a curious mind. For one, you gain an additional perspective, another angle of looking at things – at art, literature, philosophy, political and social conflicts, even natural sciences. Again, it seems to show the very limitations of rationalism which seems to be the basis of all our social sciences – economics (with its capitalist logic), politics and diplomacy (the ‘carry a stick and talk politely’ approach), culture (consumerism). “There is, however, a

I couldn’t make ‘The Sense of Ending’

(A review of ‘The Sense of the Ending’,a novel by Julian Barnes2011 Booker Prize winner) “What you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.” Julian Barnes (The Sense of the Ending) A still from 2011 movie of same name inspired from the book Have you ever wished that there should have been a delete or edit button to change your memories? No, there is no such button but there definitely exist internalized mechanisms which can do those things for us – although a little slowly over time but definitely calculated to make life easy. The truth in our memories is slowly killed over time : “How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts? And the longer life goes on, the fewer are those around to challenge our account, to remind us that our life is not our life, merely the story we have told about our life. Told to others, but—mainly—to ourselves.” Julian Barnes (The Sense of the Ending) Or.. “We live with such easy assumptions, don’t we? For instance, that memory equals events plus time. But it’s all much odder than this. Who was

The Legends of Maltava

(A short storyFirst written on March 9, 2019) 1. The superstitions and the legends that are connected with the tribe of hidden valley of Maltava can all be traced to the fate of Mr. Robin Samuels. For the sake of science, one almost wishes that it was not so well known. Because ever since him, at least five different researchers  – including three women, a man and a transgender, who had gone to study the tribe have shown a change in behavior that follow the neurotic pattern of Mr. Samuelels’ fate. However, unlike with Mr. Samuels, the effects haven’t lasted for them after they were back in the civilized world – one wonders whether the quick return to the civilized world has cured them before it was too late or they were just imagining the whole thing. Another factor that might have affected them is the presence of Samuels acting as one of the tribe people. And The sight of a civilized person in such a primitive crowd can’t be comforting to one’s mind. A terrible thought catches with one – if Mr. Samuels can forget himself and start acting like them, what are chances it won’t happen to the

‘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

The Driver’s Seat – a SPARKling thriller

(A review of ‘The Driver’s seat’ a novel by Muriel SparkFirst written on August 16, 2018) A kind of novella that spends more time in your mind than on the page. Spark does it brilliantly by working under-the-hood. It is no spoiler that it is all about Lise executing her plan to kill herself. And so it is “it’s a whydunnit in q-sharp major and it has a message: never talk to the sort of girls that you wouldn’t leave lying about in your drawing-room for the servants to pick up.” – the lines Lise used to describe the last book she read. But the why never gets answered clearly. Elizabeth Taylor in cinematic adoption of The Driver’s Seat By the end, we get clear clues that she must have suffered some psychological problems. And mental illness can describe her problems and one can easily dismiss it at that, but from Shakespeare to Plath to Gogol to Grass to Han Kang, writers have long held habit of putting methods in madness. I will forward two theories, not mutually exclusive. Suicides, especially those who have been planning to kill themselves for a long time, tend to be dramatic (think ’13 reasons

Die My Love by Harwicz – a review

(A review ofDie My Love by Ariana HarwiczTranslation to English by Sarah Moseslonglisted for International Booker 2018First written on May 5, 2018) “I’m fed up with the fact that it’s not okay to bad-mouth your own baby or walk around firing a gun.” Ariana Harwicz (Die My Love) I know, right? As somebody of other said human beings are born free, but everywhere they are in chains. Chains of different types – social, religious, national etc. In this case, they are of family. The chains of expectations as to how mother should talk, behave, feel. I mean we all know that everyone can not be a cook, but we do always expect everyone to be a good parent. Specially mothers. Die My Love Ariana Harwicz If you think about it, all freedoms boil down to just one freedom – the freedom to be oneself. And being a parent (again, specially mothers in a traditional patriarchal families) must take a heavy toll on one’s freedom – for you are no longer doing what you want to do, but are struck looking after those stupid, smelling, needy little creatures that won’t even thank you for the trouble (okay, why are people bothered

Cramps, Sarees and High heels

(A short fiction by Sidharth Vardhan March 3, 2018) He had to ask her out the very day she was having her ‘those days’ –  that is what she called it in her mind, the technical words and other euphemisms were too alien or repulsive for her to even use in her own mind. She took the wrapper of sanitary napkin she had just put on and buried it deep with the dustbin covering it over with a polyethene – a habit her mother had taught her, or “Ravi (her younger brother) will be asking questions.” So these are what they call ‘old wives tales’ she had thought wondering at the secrecy of it all – she had often wondered what they mean by ‘old wives tales’ – how come they are only about wives or women? Why not men? She knew, of course, of other more-fun tales – when in their women-only meetings they will act mischievously, flirting with each other, spanking each other, talking about men as if they are some sort of consumable dishes etc. Even her mother who, as soon as a man entered the room, was the picture of a lady.

Of Fever Dreams

(Fever Dreams by Samanta Schweblin English translation by Megan McDowell  was long listed for International Booker in 2017First written on August 13, 2017) The harmful effects of pesticides – a theme that might not be obvious to an urban reader of the book (the characters themselves seemed to not know about them) is the unnamed curse of the town. However, as with the treatment of psychopath theme in ‘Room’, the much louder theme just serves as a background for theme of how strong a mother’s love is. You know how homo-sapiens, especially females, keep on sentimentalizing over their parental investment and all that. Now comes the best part though – and it is the fact that the things occur, or rather are being remembered as if they occur in dream – Nah, a nightmare. For the most part, it makes most logical sense – Amanda, the protagonist, is dreaming while lying on her deathbed (hence the title) – there are some things towards the end that Amanda couldn’t have known but then she might still be dreaming – the whole unreliable narrator thing. It is how brilliantly this dream reality has been created which gets the book 5 stars. Nabokov

Being Watched – A Play

Time ~ 5 minutes Characters: A girl – in later teens. 3 to 5 boys – late teens too, they are sitting on stools throughout the play.   Play:   Part 1 The lights are off as curtain opens.  A light follows a girl as she enters from left, moves from left to right – she is singing to herself (a locally popular song), there is a bit of dance in her movements, and she is smiling, laughing to herself. As she moves a little ahead, lights turn on a little ahead on her path to reveal some boys sitting on stools on one side. She becomes self-conscious, stops for a moment to check her clothes – she stops singing and laughing and crosses in front of them with a serious look on her face, her gaze down, somewhat scared as the eyes of boys follow her movements as far as they can. Once she passes them, the lights on the spot where boys are sitting will go off, and she again loses herself in mirth –singing, same easy steps and laughing. Reaching the right end of the stage she exits, the light goes off. A few moments pass.   Part 2

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