Wednesday 30 September 2015

Sitting in a hospital

Sitting in a waiting area of a big, commercial private hospital is one activity that can give you some major insights related to love, life and family. Forget the banks of river Ganga, true moksha awaits right here.

Behind the cleverly designed billing desk sits a clerk. The walls of the desk are such that body parts that are used for smiling i.e. lips remain hidden and only those stern, fierce eyes are visible. Eyes that are used to sternly ward off any medical insurance claims that you are about to make. Eyes that are shaped like a giant 'nope'.

In the gallery you will see some wandering souls. Some walk fast because they have to leave for work and are here to just 'drop off' some flowers or sweets. Fast-walking feelings are more lifeless than the slow ones. But you can't blame people for detesting hospitals. Nobody wants to stay back. All the young ones leave quickly while the zombies with their walking sticks and loose skin are left behind. They wait in their wheelchairs for the attendant to come and help them with bathroom stuff. People turn away their faces because no one wants to hear about a senior lady with bladder problems. Jesus, the canteen is right there and it is lunch time. You got to maintain the appetite for the overpriced cafeteria.

I see old people- confused and waiting for something or the other and I shudder with fear. This could have been a handsome man in his day. Now he sits with that loose wrinkly skin, trying to get up with support. He may be coming out of the operation theater or going in. Who knows? He just wants his life prolonged and we all approve of that but we still make faces and shrug when asked about his health. I, for one, do not want to live after I am past my prime. I may have a prolonged prime like one Mr Clooney but not a moment after that. It doesn't matter what I want though.Old people- they all look the same on one level. Yes, you can tell one from the other but, they all are one community- like babies. You can be Hispanic or an Asian man but once you are an old man, you are more of an old man than anything else. I don't want to be more of something than anything else.

Then I look at the walls and architecture. It is designed to be soothing to the soul. There is a painting of a flower and then there is a giant vase with giant artificial red flowers. I don't understand how fiery red flowers representing passion can be soothing. A painting of the same is soothing because it assures the observer that the passion of the flower is contained and chained within the frame and won't jump out to bite you. The flower in the vase, on the other hand, looks angry to me. I also don't understand these plain walls without paintings. The government hospitals have crafted a much more intelligent way to get their walls decorated with modern art which gives a much more friendly atmosphere to patients of glaucoma who can't see a thing. They sell paan and gutka etc outside the hospital and the people who work in the hospital use their mouths to mix all the shades of red colour and then spit them on the walls to create great, soothing modern art. This private hospital should learn this technique from those hospitals.

The nurses wear floral patterns and are Malayalis for some strange reason. All good nurses are Malayalis they say. But, why? Well, because they are well-trained. I don't understand this reasoning but I nod. I think people from Kerala have a nice, friendly vibe about them. I ask a Malayali nurse if Mr Verma is admitted in the ICU. She rammed the door on my face in the most friendly manner.

Tuesday 29 September 2015

Book Review- The Inheritance of Loss- Kiran Desai

Inheritance of loss cover.jpg

Yes, eventually, I managed to finish this heavy read. This Booker winner, this book of so many feelings. This amazing book. Yes, I am talking about The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai- daughter of another genius Anita Desai.

Now, do not get me wrong. It was not an uphill task to finish this book. It was a breezy read but it reads such that you do not want it to end. You know that no matter what happens, the end will disappoint because it won't be as beautiful as the premise. The book is set in two backgrounds- one in America where Biju- an illegal immigrant from India struggles to fight his fate and the other in Kalimpong where Sai lives with her grandfather Jemubhai, a retired Judge. Kalimpong is going through the Gorkha insurgency and there are riots and anarchy everywhere.

There are many stories in it. Uncle Potty in Kalimpong- a Swiss national struggling in India, trying to make it its own. Sai- falling in love with her mathematics teacher and then realizing how different are their worlds. Jemubhai- living in part remorse and part pride, he is the most detestable character of the book. Biju- the poor cook's poor son who inherits his father's poverty.

Desai has written all the stories with a feminine poise. You can feel the heartbeats and raging emotions with every page. There is touch of humour that makes one sad. The author doesn't take sides. Everyone is right. Even the wife-beater Jemubhai is shown to be a human being which he is. The human touch makes the novel a complex read. You have no one to hate or love in the book. So, there is no reason to read on except for the impeccable language and wit.

The ending disappoints where the author just leaves things as they are. She goes too neutral for my taste and the end is not even emphatic. In her defence, there was no good way to end such a book anyway. It is written in third person but it ends like a diary. There is no grand ending, or a buildup for the same.

The novel is not meant for a quick read. It requires to be read in solitude, taking in every line like a sip of wine. The book also is good for second and third readings. The scenes are very real and there is no enigma quotient. Just real people. A lot of Hindi words have made their way in the book including the curse words.

As far as the mood of the book goes, it is quite sad and leaves one hopeless and yet, you do not feel like crying or venting. It is the more biting kind of sadness that arises out of helplessness. Humour arises in the irony of those sad situations.

A fantastic job, a fantastic book. Read it a textbook for 'Irony'.

5 stars! *****

Tuesday 22 September 2015

Some people, right?

Human beings were not born to be polite to each other. If you don't believe me, look at children. Who would think, in their right mind, that a child can be courteous and respectful from birth? These are taught values- constraining and restraining. We are evolved primates. Our close cousins- Chimps and Orangutans; do you see them nod to each other, making way for the disabled and weak as they go around the jungle? Well maybe, they do. I don't know, I am not a zoologist or an animal behaviour specialist, alright?

Anyway, the point is- we are designed to be selfish and rude. Nature has selected those qualities and that's why they exist. At least in Delhi- Gurgaon area, you can see this natural selection at its magnificent best.

You may bump into a polite stranger every once a while but, the beauty of just elbowing past a crowd to get to the HUDA metro station gates first is a sight to behold. There are those bad apples who hold doors for strangers and park their cars the right way but, thankfully, we have more people honking at traffic signals and overtaking you at sharp turns to keep the faith alive.

Being rude is not disrespect to the community, mind you. It is pro-society. It tells the individual that the world is a bad, bad place and every single person needs to watch out for themselves. Rudeness is the best teacher. In schools, the textbooks need to make the necessary alterations. In moral science, they should tell the young buds that when a stranger asks you for directions, you should just point skywards. Because, God knows everything. They should also teach them that when a stranger hands you their camera to take a picture of them, you should just run with it. Not the idea, damnit! Run with the camera. And then drop it in a nearby dustbin because you are not a thief. You are their teacher. Their life coach!

Also, abuse all privileges! That should be our national motto. Not Satyamev Jayate. Amir Khan should be weeping over those who do not abuse their privileges enough. We are doing it all wrong and this is the time to wake up! When you meet someone new, do not ask them how they are. Tell them what you want from them! And then demand it. Say no to politeness, say no niceties. Also, to throw in a bit of hypocrisy in there, call your rudeness- your genuineness.

Always be genuine.

Issued in public interest by Abhyused. Not really. All rights reserved. Really.

Monday 7 September 2015

Book Review: Laal Tin Ki Chhat (The Red Tin Roof) by Nirmal Verma

This is a novel by one of the most foremost novelist in Hindi literature- Nirmal Verma. Now, there are two travesties with this review- one- it is being written in English while the novel was in Hindi and two- the novel is not available on any of the e-commerce websites at the time when the review is being written.

Anyway, great literature transcends all barriers and much will be lost in translation but, it is worth writing about. You can always read the English translation of the classic which is available by the name - 'The Red Tin Roof'.

The story is about a girl Kaya and how she treads hesitatingly and awkwardly on her path from childhood toward adolescence. She watches as her mother suffers during stillbirths and depression. She watches as her uncle shares carnal relations with a maid from Nepal. She watches the crankiness of Ms Joshua- the British lady who lives with her family. The multitude of layered characters create an enticing field.

Then there is her paternal aunt's daughter Lama. She is the most curious character and seems to be battling with crippling depression. Depression which comes as a pathology and unlike any other disease causes severe repercussions on her whole personality. It is unclear whether Lama was schizophrenic but the author has treated the whole episode with amazing finesse. The story is from the viewpoint of a kid so, there is a unique sense of wonderment in the worldview she shares with the reader. Everything is hazy and dreamy. The smallest noises, events and characters are painted in most curious colours. The novel slowly moves toward Kaya's adolescence and the narrative never really intends to hurry or make a point for that matter. It is all in the beauty of words which you have to feel to believe.

A brilliant novel from a master wordsmith.

5 stars.

Tuesday 1 September 2015

Book Review- Rise of Kali- Anand Neelakantan

ISBN- 978-93-81576-04-5
Title- Rise of Kali
Series- Ajaya- Epic of the Kaurava Clan
Volume- II
Author- Anand Neelkantan
Publisher- Platinum Press (
Price- Rs 399
Pages- 529
Genre- Fiction/ Epic

The second installment in the series of Ajaya (The opposite of Jaya) is Rise of Kali. Volume I of the series was a nationwide bestseller and opened the readers to the possibility of Suyodhana (knows as Duryodhana) being a misunderstood figure.

The first volume of the series: Roll of the Dice

Expectations were huge from this book too as it is the continuation of the epic Mahabharata from another perspective and of course, the readers are curious to know more about the other side, or so to speak, of the fence. Well, the book begins with an author's note where he explains how he has learned the art of viewing things critically from Gita itself. He also has included Gita in his book but here the dialogue is between Krishna who is with Arjuna and is inclined toward war and Balrama who sympathizes with Suyodhana. Balaram is questioning Krishna and Krishna is justifying his acts in the name of Dharma. Author has also addressed the issue of showing Krishna in an unflattering light in his books.

About the author
This is Anand Neelkantan's third book after Asura and Ajaya (Part I). In his own words, he was born in a village with more than necessary number of temples. His tryst with mythology and religion started early on in his life and he has been fascinated ever since.

About the book
The cover has an ominous picture of a vulture flying in the face of solar eclipse. Just like the earlier book, this one also has been beautifully designed. The pages have a crisp feel to them. The typeset is of international standards. The blurb at the back reveals nothing but the basic premise of the book which is essentially- 'Mahabharata retold'. Praise from reputed newspapers and magazines like The Week and DNA are enough for one to be sold to the idea of the book.

The language is simple with short sentences and fast narrative. The book is divided into 85 chapter for easy readability. A preview to the happenings in the previous book make the book a good purchase as a stand-alone product too.

About the plot
The book picks up the story from the scene of Game of Dice where Draupadi is mercifully pawned. Of course in this book, there is no magical Krishna to extend the saree of Draupadi as 'Dushasana' pulls on it. It is a less dramatic, but more believable version of the situation. The dialogues in the book are not low on drama though. Every line compels you to put yourself in the character's situation and feel his dilemma.

The writing is divided in shorter paragraphs which are easy on the eye and the plot moves very smoothly. The book is a brilliant example of how to engage the reader through merely the use of dialogues and interesting situations. The author has used his imagination in most situations and although they might not be the real history of those times, they are definitely more realistic than the actual texts.

I would rate the book with 4 out of 5 stars.