Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Chekhov and Hosseini

Once upon a time there was a book I bought at a book fair two years ago which sat on my book shelf waiting to be picked up. Sometime ago, on a Saturday morning I picked it up and started to read it when I got bored of doing my French verbs.

For a reader like me who likes to visualize everything, the tone of the stories was a little difficult to adjust to. There are no flowing descriptions, just enough to get you started, visualizing the people, the places, the sounds, the smells and then the astute observations come with melancholic undertones as grayness wraps the words.

Having been swept in the world of
Anton Chekhov I have slowly come to admire his style of writing. There is an amazing detached quality, of watching everything from a distance as the characters struggle with their mundane, sad lives and putting it into words. It has to be read to be experienced.

And now I am so addicted to this big fat book which is a compilation of Chekhov’s greatest works, both short stories and plays, that every evening I come home from work, read a bit and then do anything else.

After my
Khaled Hosseini hangover this is quite a change.

Hosseini’s stories weave a visual magic. You can feel the wind blowing, see the blue skies, taste the Afghan food, the characters leap out and you feel their pain, their agony, their happiness.

And he has the distinction of being the only writer who made me cry. I remember bleary eyed, awake at 3.00 A.M reading about Amir and Hassan in the Kite Runner, tears streaming down my face, not caring I have to go to office the next day.

And for days I wondered if someone could be like Hassan and if such a man existed, what would he be like? Just like I imagine him to be? I am already dying to see the
movie version of the book and keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn’t disappoint me like most books-turned-into-movies have.

They are two very different authors, with very different styles of writing, generating very different reader reactions but both have one thing common - they have produced literary enchanting works.

So, my fellow bloggers, what have you been reading?

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Har Tasveer Kuch Kehti Hai…

A dictionary defines Photo (fo.to) as a representation of a person or scene in the form of a print or transparent slide; recorded by a camera on light-sensitive material. What it doesn’t define are the memories attached it to, the moment captured in time, intangible emotion in a tangible form.

Sepia toned pictures
Childhood captured in rare frames
Black and white pictures of a marriage
Grainy colour pictures of their children

The first fancy dress competition
The front tooth missing
The awkward teenage years
A sulking face

Five friends
One tryst with making Maggi
The convocation
The first sari

The first big party
Cheerful banter
A coffee shop
A shy smile

A lazy afternoon of reading
Carefree laughter
A lovely holiday
Wind in her hair

A chubby baby
A toothless grin
The warmth of family
Captured for eternity

Post inspired by casually traversing through my e-mail inbox and phone memory. And they say technology makes us distant. Hmmmph!

Thursday, 3 January 2008

A Piece of Meat?

I was out with a female friend at 11.30 P.M on this New Year’s Eve. As we proceeded to walk towards after car after a leisurely dinner, there was a huge crowd milling about. 90% of the people were aimlessly loafing around consisted of groups of men. We hurriedly walked towards our car and that’s when we heard a slap. We turned around to witness a girl screaming at a boy for misbehaving with her, taking advantage of the crowd.

He started to deny but she kept shouting at him. We didn’t stop to see because we realized, we were two girls alone and it would be better if we headed to our car.

I remember someone whipping out a cell phone and taking pictures of us while we sat in the car and backed out of the parking lot. With our backs turned to the person, and his pictures a complete waste, we quickly made out way out of the lot. And that’s when we saw so many men dancing on the streets, drinking, parking their cars anywhere on the road.

Everyone stared in our car. It looked like we were two animals in a zoo to be looked and photographed. In spite of the fact we were ‘fully covered’ and conservatively dressed in overcoats and jackets.

We reached home in about 15 minutes and ringed in the New Year in the safety of our apartment promising we would never go on New Year’s Eve and thanking God that nothing untoward had happened to us.

Next morning’s
newspaper headlines has made our resolve stronger. As I read the paper there was a feeling of disgust, then anger and the aftermath of it all left a bitter taste in my mouth.

It was repulsive and there was a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. I fail to understand how can men turn into animals? Or worse than animals. I don’t think even 80 animals will pounce on a female like that.

The sick b******s should be stoned or hanged or castrated. An incident like this in a civilized, democratic state is very shameful.

The men need to be taught since a young age to respect women. Somebody needs to tell them we are not a piece of meat to be hungrily pounced upon.

As for all those people who say that women should not go out at night, dress ‘provocatively’, they need to take a hike because it’s not the women who are at fault, its men who need to control their urges.

I remember missing my school bus, taking public transport for the first time alone. The bus stop near my school where the near empty bus started from, the conductor asking me to sit next to him, stoking my hair and undressing me with his eyes, me terrified, unable to comprehend what to do, suddenly losing my nerve, then regaining it and going to sit in the first empty seat.

Another time, in college, thinking I am much wiser by now, standing, I feel a hand near my crotch and I look up to see a young man in his twenties staring down at me rapaciously. I extricate his hand but say nothing. Just go and stand elsewhere. I have lost my tongue as a feeling of being dirty sweeps over me.

And this another time, I am trapped on the foot board of a bus, an African man decides to massage his penis against my back. Since that day I carry a rucksack with me.

I remember walking down a street near CP wearing a salwar kameez and jeered at by men whistling and singing.

By this time I have learned a bit of karate and I know my basic blocks and punches.

I remember shopping in a south Delhi market, both hands full of bags. A young boy grabbing my waist thinking I won’t react. I remember kicking him with my foot, then dropping my shopping bag to hit him and he telling me ‘sorry sister’.

Another market place, an older man grabbing my breast, me raising my hand to slap him, my mother realizing what has happened, running towards me and screaming at him at the same time, he saying ‘ sorry beta, galti say ho gaya’.

The last time I stepped in a bus I remember a beautiful Delhi, lush green with monsoon rain across my cheeks. Then I remember a man sitting behind me, groping my back. A feeling of disgust, of violation enveloping me. The anger of all these years spilling over, I grab him by his hair and slap him as hard as I can. I haven’t stepped in a bus since that day. I probably would only if my life depended on it. I wrote about it

I remember each incident in horrific detail and sadly I know almost every ‘city girl’ has gone through this. Robbed of innocence at a young age, probably scarred for life for no fault of theirs. I don’t think I was asking for it. Neither were those women in Mumbai.

As for the
police commissioner who was so insensitive to say this was a small incident, may he be born as a women in his next life.

Read here for another blog reaction of the incident.