If I could give one gift…..

If I could give one gift

It would be the gift of knowledge.

 

The knowledge that you are loved.

Even when you don’t love yourself.

When you make mistakes.

More so when you make mistakes.

 

It is not a mathematical equation

Where we have to balance both sides.

Directly proportional to good deeds,

Or a display of excellent manners.

Indirectly proportional to distance.

Love is love.

 

If I could give one gift

It would be the gift of knowledge.

 

The knowledge that shit happens.

To the best of us and the worst of us.

It can be fixed or you can move on.

Both options are valid and acceptable.

 

It is not something that your life

Needs to anchor upon, revolve around.

Breakdown if you need to, then

Get up, dust yourself, take a deep breath,

Tell yourself…

Yeah, that happened. But now I will move on.”

 

If I could give one gift

It would be the gift of knowledge.

 

The knowledge that we are transient beings.

All is temporary – the good and the bad.

Moments will tempt you

To base your whole life on. Stuck.

 

Instead, rejoice and marvel at, the wonders that

life presents you. But don’t get hung up.

Vent, bawl, cry, lose your shit at the

Not-so-wonderful presents.

Again. Don’t get hung up.

 

If I could give one gift

IT would be the gift of knowledge.

 

The knowledge that courage is just

Action despite being scared.

It is not something miraculously

Given to a gifted few.

 

Act. Despite self-doubt shredding

your self-confidence

Act. With butterflies in your stomach

Sweaty palms and shaking knees.

Don’t think, don’t dwell.

Act.

 

It may fly. Or it may flop.

 

But then you would already know

That

It is all temporary.

Shit happens.

And

You are loved.

I received this tag from Shilpa Gupte at fictionandiblogspot.com. It’s my pleasure to pass on this tag to Tulika at www.obsessivemom.in. There are 25  of us on this Blog Hop and it will be spread over 3 days – 6th, 7th and 8th December  2019. Do follow the #WordsMatter Blog Hop and prepare to be surprised! 

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The Diary Note Mystery

Since my daughter started school, I have been living in a strange twilight zone – between reason and utter confusion. Any day can have me pushed off the edge into the sea of baffling diary notes, the circulars, the planners and instructions. Each afternoon, I open her school diary, trembling inside, a sense of dread making my heart grow cold. Will there be something in there today? Will I have to send some incomprehensible craft material, some tube, some box, some string? Will I have to take some pictures, some printout and make her learn some important trivia? Oh! The tension.

It does not matter how many years you have spent in a corporate office, handled client meetings, liaised with multiple teams and trackers. But those sneaky notes. They creep up on you. Yes, they do!

Despite the daily checking of the diary, I manage to miss notes. It certainly takes a knack. Recently I found a note which was sent about 4 days before. I stare at in disbelief. How? What? And it is quite cryptic.

Send Faber Castell writing pencil.”

 Cold sweat. Palpitations. I am already late. Why did K not say anything? When was this needed? Why only Faber Castell? How about I send a pencil now? Apsara? Camlin?  good old Natraj? Certainly, people do not stock up on a specific brand of stationery. Or do they? And why not stock up on our homegrown brands then? Sure Camlin and Apsara write as well as Faber Castell.

I message another school mom.

Me: What’s with the Faber Castell pencil that they have asked for?

Mom 2: Was there a note? A does not have any note in her diary about any pencil.

Me: Oh!!!

Mom 2: In any case, we sent all stationery stuff at the beginning of the term remember? Even FC pencils.

Me: Were there FC pencils in the stuff we got from school? I do not remember what I did with them!!!

(exclamation marks increasing exponentially in my head!!!!!)

Cursing myself, I frantically look for the list of things we had got from school. In my head an opera of “Oh what a terrible mother ….” threatening to ring. Doesn’t take much for guilt to set in.

Miraculously I find the list and send a pic of the list to my friend the other school-mom.

Me: There are no FC pencils!!!!

Mom 2: No.. See at the bottom.. FC colour pencils.

 Me: Colour pencils!!! Did they mean colour pencils in the note??!!!!! But I sent a normal writing pencil. Camlin.

Mom 2: Oh you sent normal writing pencil? Hahaha. We have never sent a normal writing pencil.

My brain is in a whirl. This is what a normal writing pencil can do to you some times.

When K comes home, I check her note again. OK. It clearly says “writing pencil”. I promptly buy a box of Faber Castell writing pencils, sharpen two, put them in her bag the next morning and ask her to check with her teacher if this is what is required.

Come afternoon my daughter assures me that I sent the right thing.

Problem solved, though the mystery remains.

Of the unfathomable diary notes!

Of Festivals And Food…

“Did you celebrate Halloween as a kid?” asks my four and a half-year-old, as I try to paint fangs on her face.

“No,” I told her, “we celebrated Indian festivals. Halloween is mostly an American festival.”

“Ooh! I love American festivals!” exclaims K, as I think to myself, “Oh you firang!”

The black outline mixes with the wet white paint, and the fangs I am trying to make on my daughter’s face turn a sickly blue-grey.

“Must do them again,” I declare as she rushes to the mirror to check the out. The paint is wiped off and we try again. This time making white triangles directly, a little splotch of red. For the blood. My little vampire is ready. For surely a vampire is unrecognisable without some blood on the face.

With bats on her dress and painted fangs on her face, the kid is happy. A very happy vampire.

K vampire

20 years ago, I would never have imagined taking an active part in a festival I had just read a bit about or watched glimpses of on TV. And frankly, I found it terrifying, the menacing pumpkins (I could never for the life of me understand why someone would do that to food!), the creepy costumes, the more fantastic the better. Of course not the candy. That part always fascinated me. The loads of free candy that those kids seem to get. I would have loved to get my hands on that.

And here we are today. All excited. Secretly proud of the fangs I managed to paint with my non-existing painting skills. And also happy to have expanded our festivities. Being able to participate in many more festivals than that our religions and communities allowed at one time. Maybe it is the food that brings us all closer. For surely, we all relish Lohri’s gajjaks, Holi’s gujjiyas, Diwali sweets, Guru Purab’s prashad, Eid’s sevaiyans and now even Halloween candies.

Here’s to the festivals of the world and the specific delicacies that they bring!

 

[WORDS DO MATTER! This post is written for the latest edition of #WordsMatter linkup hosted by CorinneParul and Shalini. The prompt for this edition of #WordsMatter linkup is ‘20 years ago, I… ’]
I received this tag from Anjana at Myriad Musings. It’s my pleasure to pass on this tag to Jyothi at My Bucket List Diary. There are 29  of us on this Blog Hop and it will be spread over 3 days – 1st, 2nd and 3rd November  2019. Do follow the #WordsMatter Blog Hop and prepare to be surprised! 

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It’s Not That Time Of The Year Without…

It’s not that time of the year without…

The frantic cleaning, scrubbing and washing

Of every nook and cranny, till it all sparkles as new.

The desperate search for the string lights

Carefully wrapped and packed away the year before.

The invites to Navaratri Golus

With all dolls out deities or not.

The general feeling of goodwill

Pervading everyone and everything.

The cooking smells from all kitchens

Indian mithais, laddus and coconut barfis.

The rangolis and kolums

And Lakshmi’s feet adorning doorways.

Oil soaked earthen diyas

Winking into the night.

Standing in the balcony to check

Whose lights shine the brightest.

The kandels and paper lanterns

Like dazzling hanging jewels.

New clothes, new zeal

And in general a new feel.

                        As if with all the cleaning, almost cathartically,

                        You have purged yourself too

                        From the messes and negativity

                        That engulfs you on a daily basis.

                        And you are squeaky clean

                        Just like your surroundings.

                        Shining from the inside.

                        Maybe a twinkling diya is winking

                        Inside you.

                        Making you glow.

                        At least for this time of the year.

*******

[This post is written for the 3rd edition of #WordsMatter linkup hosted by Corinne, Parul and Shalini. This edition’s prompt is ‘It’s not that time of the year without…’]
I received this tag from Rachna Parmar at https://www.rachnaparmar.com . It’s my pleasure to pass on this tag to Ishieta at  https://isheeriashealingcircles.com. There are 38 of us on this Blog Hop and it will be spread over 3 days – 4, 5, 6 October  2019. Do follow the #WordsMatter Blog Hop and prepare to be surprised! 

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Review – Roar by Cecelia Ahern

roar

For our book-club this month we all read Roar by Cecilia Ahern, and what a wonderful read it turned out to be. Our discussion went well over the usually stipulated one hour, with everyone having a lot to share and talk about.

This is a book of 30 short stories all centred around women. And these are no ordinary stories. They have been written in an unusual way, and it takes a little time to get used to the style of writing. And once you do, you find stories which will definitely strike a chord somewhere. Maybe not all stories, but some will surely resonate with you.

The stories revolve around women in different situations in life. A trophy wife who decides to step down from her pedestal and smashes it.  A woman who forgets her name, for she is a mummy, a ‘dear’, and many other such sobriquets. A lady who disappears – which the entire group had a lot to talk about. A woman who is swallowed up by the floor, because she lands in an embarrassing situation and meets more like her, and they slowly emerge out of the hole once they have made peace with it and decided to get past it. A favourite was the pigeonhole story which cleverly spoke about how we sometimes ourselves and sometimes by society let ourselves be stereotyped into these labelled boxes like bossy, second wife, husband stealer, victim, mother, wife, feminist man-hater and what not.

Truth is often it is women who label other women, women who pull each other down, and it is women who can help each other rise too. Women need to see women too, the author says in the first book. And women need to see themselves, recognize themselves, their value, their power, their strength. Only then can the world see them as the women they are and not as labels.

And to break out of shackles self-made or otherwise, it is imperative to ROAR. Don’t whisper – Roar. Talk to a friend, make art, talk to your self, vent, speak-up, get it all out. Make space to grow. And listen. To those who may be trying to get heard, trying to share.

We unanimously loved the book. It need not be read as a whole. It can be read in parts. If you are feeling down, pick up the book, flip to any story and it is sure to lift you up. Keep it around, to read whenever you feel like and share it forward.

While each reader will take away an experience completely unique to the reader, I want to share one story which I LOVED. The Woman Who Ordered The Seabass Special. I did really enjoy The Woman Who Guarded Gonads, but the Seabass Special is so simple and so powerful. A woman helping another overcome years of inferiority-complex through a small yet significant step.

Anyway, so here is a picture of me with my favourite story. If the book moved you, if you feel like sharing a “Roar” please go ahead and share a pic with your favourite story!!

seabass

The Book Club – February Chapter

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Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje

This February, we read Michael Ondaatje’s Running in the Family. It turned out to be a book which everyone enjoyed.  The prose, the fascinating portrayal of his life with his parents in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Michael Ondaatje, an award-winning,  Sri Lanka born Canadian writer has woven a magical mosaic of a book. A memoir of charming stories knitted out of the enchanting fabrics of his life.

Ceylon – “The island seduced all of Europe.  The Portuguese. The Dutch. The English.” Running in the Family gives a compelling view into our neighbouring country Sri Lanka (then Ceylon). As a child, Michael lived in Sri Lanka with his family, when it was still Ceylon. The book reveals a captivating Ceylon. A  place of calm and happiness. No mention of the regional disturbances. Instead, we are introduced to unheard of creatures. Large houses, beautiful lawns, the heat and the trees. Stunning, long and winding roads and the seas. The parties and picnics. And most importantly the eclectic community.

The Ondaatjes – A fantastic family – all heart and drama. Outrageous incidents dot the family timeline. Incidents from getting engaged to two women at the same time or going abroad to study and then never making it to college, to children being forced to swallow the tongue of a reptile based on an ancient belief that it will make the child a great orator on growing up.

The book is peppered with names that one may have heard of or read about and are very much verifiable. Distinguished members of the era make this a fascinating account. For instance, there is an incident of the visitors’ book, where Sammy Dias (the cousin of the Sri Lankan PM) and Michael Ondaatje’s father Philip Michael Ondaatje break into a literary war. Each would express his dislike for the other by writing dirt about the other in the Visitor’s Book of a rest-house.  It soon stopped mattering if either one of them had not stayed in the rest-house. Pages had to be ripped out of the visitors’ book and ultimately both were banned from giving their feedback in the book. Getting banned is a regular occurrence. Philip Michael Ondaatje is also banned from the Ceylon railways following his reputation of causing a commotion while travelling inebriated.

Grandmother Lalla is described as an ‘overbearing charmed flower,’ who continues to give treats to people despite being broke. And his mother made of the similar mantle as grandmother Lalla, both “carrying their theatres on their backs”.

There are pictures of the author’s family, which are as striking as the words – giving a comforting feeling of magical existence.

The craft – The memoirs are captivating, the incidents are outlandish and the characters are larger than life. But all this makes a fabulous read because of the excellent way the book is written. Michael Ondaatje writes beautifully. We had read a couple of his books earlier and we are happy to have added this marvellous book to our “read” list.

I would recommend this book to Running in the Family to anyone who loves Michael Ondaatje, or would love to read about Sri Lanka.

Rating – 5/5

Ek Chadar Maili Si – by Rajendar Singh Bedi

ek chadar maili si

The resolution – This year I resolved to read books in Hindi and Punjabi along with my usual reading. Sticking to it, in February, I read Ek Chadar Maili Si, by Rajender Singh Bedi. The edition that I read is the Hindi translation of the novella originally written in Urdu. Rajender Singh Bedi the Sahitya Akademi Award for this book.

Reading regional languages after decades – I thought it would be nice to share my experience so far about reading regional languages. There are words that I don’t know the meaning of and in case of translations from some other language, there is always something lost. Sometimes, there is a doubt whether I am able to appreciate all that the book has to offer. But then it is a slow process and I am ever hopeful.

The book – Set in Punjab, the story revolves around a family with the centre being the daughter-in-law Rano. This is Rano’s journey as a woman, a mother, a wife and a widow. Through her journey she is sometimes aided, often confronted and coerced by the collective goodwill of the village acquaintances and the panchayat (the village council). And how she comes out, in the end, using her own wit and determination.

Early in the story, Rano, a strong-willed and feisty lady, loses her husband Tiloka, who has been murdered. Taking into consideration that Rano has two children and no other income, the village council and her seemingly sympathetic friend reach the decision that Rano should get married to Tiloka’s much younger brother Mangal. The argument is that Rano is in need and Mangal needs direction and responsibility. Hence, resorting to the old custom of remarrying the widow of one brother to another, the decision is made. The ensuing ceremony is called “Chaadar”. Both Rano and Mangal are appalled by this awkward arrangement, Rano, having raised Mangal almost as her son. They protest individually and in their own ways. But the Panchayat has decided, and the ceremony will take place. Mangal is dragged to the ceremony beaten out of his wits.

What follows is what the two make of their perplexing situation, how Rano’s daughter reacts to the whole thing, the daughter’s own marriage prospects. The continued entitled interference of the villagers into the family affairs, as is often the case in villages and close-knout towns. How Rano, ever resourceful and with strong survival instincts charters her path.

The characters are well thought out and believable. The close-knit life of a village, the strong women, the complexities of life in a family and between a husband and wife are all beautifully portrayed. It is a sad book albeit it gives hope as well. The author leaves the reader with almost a shock in the end, which I will not divulge here.

My only grouse was that since this was a translation that I read, I feel some of the substance may have got lost. There were some parts which were confusing, for instance, the family described is a Sikh family, but when the children’s school is mentioned it is called Madarsa. Other than that it was a great read, a moving insight into the anguish and hopes of life and circumstances.

There is a much-acclaimed movie on the book, by the same name, starring Rishi Kapoor and Hema Malini, for anyone who is interested.

The Book Club – Jan Chapter

The Prophet – Khalil Gibran

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December 2018 was an ambitious, fast-paced and successful month. Some of my friends and I set up goals, worked towards them and achieved them. And we were on a collective high. And since most of us loved reading, we decided to continue this high into our reading lives as well. Hence, the book club. We are just 3 at the moment, but we are equally motivated to expand our horizons and reading repertoire. What better way to do it than a book club.

We started with The Prophet by Khalil Gibran. To be honest we did find it a very intimidating option for the first book of the year and that too something that we would be expected to sit and discuss. But well, the Prophet had spoken and that was that. So the three of us, spent the month with our copies of the book, making notes, highlights (on Kindle), dog-earing the book. Not all managed to finish, despite it being a small book. Because, though, it be small, it is deep. It has messages for the human being but these messages are convoluted and confusing at times, and, well, difficult to understand. And some of us feel – not very practical.

The Prophet was published in 1923. And I was quite surprised to learn that the original language in which it was written is English itself. Somehow, I had expected it to be a translation. Another surprise was that the author lived in America – he was called “The Bard of Washington.” I guess, we learnt a lesson in having stereotypical and pre-conceived notions about a book.

Anyways, so as scheduled, we got together at a very aptly named joint – Shakesbierre – to discuss the first book of the first book club.

About the book – The Prophet is a collection of 26 poems on various topics. The story is that Almustafa (the Prophet), has been living on an island for 12 years and today is the day when the ship which will take him back home, comes. So the people of the island gather around him and ask him to share his knowledge with them before leaving. And each of them – the priest, the merchant, the mason, the judge etc. ask questions based on their profession and Almustafa answers their queries – about money, love, about marriage, about friendship etc.

Some of the poems/ quotes that stayed with us and caused us to debate at length were:

“Let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill each other’s cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, Even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.” 

 ***

“Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself”

***

“Beauty is eternity gazing at itself in a mirror. But you are eternity and you are the mirror.” 

***

“For what is evil but good tortured by its own hunger and thirst?” 

 There were mixed and somewhat exasperated feelings. From – it is beautiful and practical, to it is too “lectury” and there is nothing really new. And a lot of unexplained and unanswered questions – like why did they decide to ask him for answers, why did they think he had all the answers, why did they assume he was the prophet of God. It is one of 3 books of a trilogy and the most popular. Some often quote it and live by it too to some extent. It does try to give the reader a sort of a rule-book to govern themselves in certain aspects of their lives. But then, life is too vast and too varied. Who can really define the hows and whys and whats of it? One thing one of the members noted was that it did not say anything about choice. For instance – in the passage about crime and punishment – the book says that the person who commits the crime is a criminal and the person against whom the crime has been committed is also guilty to an extent. But what about the choice of the perpetrator to commit the crime. Or what about the choice of the husband and wife to live with each other. Or the choice to have a child in the first place.

We did not reach any consensus on this book. But then that is not the point of the meetings but instead to enjoy the differing opinions and gaining exposure to genres and authors we may not even have heard about.

Incidentally, there is a movie (available on Netflix) on The Prophet by the same name.

Share your thoughts about the book if you would like to! We will be happy to hear.

What we are reading next?

February is for – Michael Ondaatje’s Running in the family.

See you soon!

On Pinjar by Amrita Pritam

pinjar

This year, I resolved to read at least 1 book/story/article or poem in Hindi or Punjabi. I started with Pinjar.

Pinjar is Punjabi for a skeleton. This book, set in the years leading to the partition of India and the partition itself, revolves around a Hindu girl Puro from a village in Gujarat. At different points in Puro’s story, as she deals with her plight and as her life progresses on, the author brings us face to face, with the condition of women. Not just during the terrible turmoil our country went through at the time of partition, but also in general – like decades-old family feuds, just the fact that women are women – just skeletons (pinjar) with no rights, no dignity, nothing. How these pinjars, these beings have been treated for centuries. Owned by husbands, disowned by family and society if they take one step off of the straight line of tradition (maryada), having to feel okay at making sacrifices for the only brother in a set of say 6 siblings. Ragdolls with no feelings. Just pieces of flesh hung on to some bones. No dignity. No rights. No vajood. Pinjar(s).

The story begins when Rasheed, a Muslim boy, is made to kidnap Puro as an act of revenge for some wrongdoing committed decades ago by Puro’s ancestors against Rasheed’s ancestors. While rioting or while pillaging a village, just as the material possessions are looted and houses plundered, the same way the women of the opposite religion are also carried off and pillaged. (This has not really stopped with the partition of India – but then that again is another article). All the anger, the frustration at some perceived injustice is taken-out first on these pinjar(s), the skeletons.

And if there is no strife, no fight, no reason to seek revenge, but there is a skeleton available, she will still be used and abused. It doesn’t matter if this pinjar is lost to the world if she doesn’t even understand what is happening to her as she runs around barely clothed on the village streets, even as she runs around carrying another pinjar in herself oblivious to what has been done to her.

The book is not biased towards any religion or side. And the suffering of both sides has been poignantly shown. Even the character Rasheed, the man who has been forced by his family members to kidnap Puro, has a very human side. His heart is not in this feud, this revenge, this harming a girl for no fault of hers except that she belonged to a particular family. His personal anguish at having done something so wrong that his soul refuses to forgive him has been beautifully portrayed. Along with his real love for Puro.

Puro goes through a long journey in her young age. Of having been turned away from her own home, by her parents, as they did not have the courage to face the society’s sniggers about a defiled daughter to help in getting her sister-in-law Lajo safely back to her family and making sure that her brother (whom she had never seen before) would promise to never disrespect Lajo.  Puro’s acceptance of her own fate and life with Rasheed and Rasheed’s continuous amends even after so many years of that one terrible action is expressed in a simple yet very moving manner.

Books on India’s partition will never be the kind one can read without feeling agony and despair. This book, despite some words that I could only understand contextually, left me with a big lump in my throat. Puro’s determination that Lajo should not suffer the same fate of other pinjars like her. Rasheed’s selflessly quiet and continuous attempts to remedy the damage done by him and Puro’s own acquiescence to her fate.

P.S. – For anyone who cannot read Punjabi, there is Khuswant Singh’s English translation available for this book. Which, if you are interested, you can buy here. I would also recommend the movie by the same name which came out in the early 2000s. It is beautiful, harrowing, sure to make you cry. There are some changes from the book but it remains a very good movie.

This topic never gets easier. And to think that this book was written by a feminist, by a breaker of chains and boundaries, back in the times when women were barely recognised as a force. Amrita Pritam, who has been awarded some of the most prestigious awards of the country – like Sahitya Akademi Award, Padma Shri, Bhartiya Jnanpith and Padma Vibhushan, a progressive writer, a writer who did not hesitate in presenting the truth as is – stripped of any masks or make-up. Who lived her life with the same spirit in which she wrote her books and poems. We are fortunate to have had such women, forces of nature, to have done what they did, so that we have someone really inspiring and strong to look up to.

 

 

The Book Life

Book Reviews

  1. The Grand Sophy – Georgette Heyer

 Meet The Grand Sophy. Someone completely out of place in the typical Austenian family setting with the mother looking for a match for her daughter, the strict older brother, the jovial but disconnected father and a very staid, restricted way of life governed primarily by the strict brother. Along comes Sophy to turn it all upside down and just the right way up. What a fun ride!

 The story is not exactly unique. It is something that we have read often. A rich and somewhat redoubtable Sir Horace Stanton-Lacy has to travel on some business and he decides to drop his only daughter Sophy with her sister’s family the Ombersleys. He not just drops his daughter but also asks his sister to find a suitable match for “his Sophy”. The Ombersleys paint a picture of a sad motherless girl who would need all the help that they can give to see her way through this world. But what a fabulous shock awaits them.

A viviacious outgoing Sophy barges head-on into the family steeped in morals and stuck up notions and each member having something ailing the peace of their minds. And gets jolted into their innate human natures by the whirlwind of a guest. The Grand Sophy is just like that – a fun, cheerful wonderful read. Like a very fast paced Jane Austen book except this is more story and sheer entertainment. It is laugh out loud funny in some places and the pace of the book never slackens. There is no point in the book where the reader might feel bored.

 And what is best is that the end is somewhat different from what one would typically expect. We often see these exuberant heroines who sort the sad mad tangles of everyone around them nurse some heartbreakingly vulnerable side which a “knight in shining amour’ sees through and rescues the brave soul. Not in this case. Nope. Nada. Nothing doing. Sophy is through and through a riot. She knows exactly what she is doing and makes no bones about it. There is nothing mushy hidden in some deep deep corner of her heart. You get exactly what you see and much more.

 Definitely looking forward to reading some more of Georgette Heyer’s books.

  1. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

 Here is a small fact.

You are going to die.

I recently read The Book Thief and I am overwhelmed with the number of things I would like to discuss, speak out, tell. From the narrator, the narration, the characters to chapters beautifully adorned with breath taking sentences, to the story – so simple, so poignant, so heavy. Everything about this book is beautiful. So much so that it hurts.

A lot like John Boyne’s The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas did. So small. So elegant. So painful.

I saw this book in a book store in another time another place but for some reason did not pick it up. Last week I was walking aimlessly in yet another book store when this book caught my eye. And this time I decided to read it.

The book is narrated by the most unusual person (I am not sure if I should use the word “person”).

It is narrated by DEATH.

So beautifully, so sadly that you almost feel sorry for it/him/her. Such a job it has which generates only hate in our hearts. But even Death is helpless.

The story is set in a small town in Nazi Germany, and magnificently captures the innocence of the children, the dilemmas of the grown-ups, the maddening, infuriating helplessness of it all – the Germans, the Jews and Death. We are not taken to the concentration camps and graphically shown the horrors. But the horror is present, stealthily slinking around in the back ground. And it is not just in the camps, but in the hearts of these German families who, if they could help it, would not have anything to do with the insanity spiralling out of control.

 Liesel, a little girl has to live with foster parents as her mother can’t afford to take care of her.  On the way to her new home, Liesel’s younger brother dies. That is where she steals her first book – The Gravedigger’s Handbook. Liesel and her new Papa set themselves the challenge of reading the book, and she learns to read bit by bit.

This book is a reflection of the WW II from the German families side which we don’t get to see too often. How people living in Germany were also victims in the terrible war. The sadness is palpable because the suffering was real and it was a lot. It is full of gut wrenching stories – How a father sacrifices himself, to prevent his son from going to a Nazi school only to come back and find them all dead. How another father gets whipped physically first and the whips himself in many ways mentally because he had the audacity or should we say idiocy to hand a piece of bread to one Jew in the parade of misery passing through the town.

It is a beautiful book though I am not sure why it is often kept in the children’s book section. It is definitely not for younger kids. It is too painful raw and sad.

I would suggest reading the book before watching the movie. As is always the case – the book is better.

This article was published first in the magazine Goan Espresso, November 2017 issue.