23
Jun

Scorching Heat

In this scorching heat, I sweat, I fume and I cry

This hue of heat is something irritating

The stickiness that wants to make me go naked…

The lily out was supposed to be purple, the heat could make it lavender

But oh my, it’s stuck at brown!

The little sparrow quenched and danced every day in the bird pond I had,

And today, look at it, went to my neighbours pond,

The scorching heat had drained my pond, but then it was my bird pond for my sparrows and it had some more…

Everyone thought the scorching heat made me mad…

But me in gratitude… the scorching heat was a shield..

My emotion could be camouflaged, my sweat, my fume and my cry…

The nakedness…. The scorching heat… could share the blame…

– Satish Menon

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Jun

Next What!

I wonder now, next what!

Is it a cross road , a junction or crossing?

Is it a left, right, straight or reverse…

Or is it just a wait for the signal to turn green…

Or a junction jam….

Why are they coming over, and why are they not

Why are they talking and about, and why are they not

They say they are saints, and I insist I am the one..

They say they have powers and proximity to miracles..

And I believed them and betted my lot!

And it just happened again that they raised their hands

And behind covers they have a hearty laugh..

A relief that the miracle has happened and

They play a new game in all…’

Experience they have non, but me was born with all

Had never to go through any first time, for I had to know it all

Ha… Experience they have non, but me was born with all

I wonder now, next what!

 

– Satish Menon

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15
Jun

World of Witches

Witches

– Shana Susan Ninan

Review of The Witches by Roald Dahl, Illustrated by Quentin Blake; Puffin Books 2013; pp 208

This fantastical tale of real witches is as much for children as it is for adults. So, how does one identify a real witch if she doesn’t ride around on broomsticks, nor wear black cloaks and hats, and disguise themselves as ordinary ladies? Well, the grandmother in the story tells her grandson, ‘boy’, that witches have claws instead of finger nails (so they wear gloves all the time), bald heads (which means they wear wigs), large nose holes, square feet (so they often take off their shoes to relax their toes), and blue spit. And not just that, real witches hate kids.

Most of the story revolves around the witches’ annual general meeting at a hotel in Bournemouth, Norway. The boy finds himself in a room with more than 200 witches! Their plan to turn kids into mice using the Delayed Action Mouse-Maker in chocolate bars in candy shops across England sends shivers down his spine. Poor Bruno is turned into a mouse. And the boy, too!

The twist with the boy being left as a mouse is quite catchy, as it ends with the promise of more adventure! The boy-mouse and his grandmother return with the thought to rid the world of witches.

A delightful read, I’m sure I’ll enjoy reading this out loud to my now four-year-old son, a few years later. And the illustrations are just perfect!

 

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12
Jun

DANCING WITH THE DEVIL

Is a phrase oft left me wondering …what?

Many a trials and tribulations…later,

I still am where I always began .

Life’s journey, so strange and unnerving,

Yet the strange calm in all the din. .

Makes me take a breath and trudges me to move on.

It was never about the acquisition , or never even about proving oneself

Yet the whole destination thus reached was only about the race

Betrayals plenty only proved time and again

All humans are mortals, then why dance with the Gods. …. ..Dance with the Devil…

– Dr Liza Raj

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Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)
06
Jun

THIS DAY…

there is an agitation in me

to find truth, direction, cure, and light

I live in a turbulent time

moving left to centre to right

 

emotions are high

as I pick a side

as I lose time

as I leave my self behind

 

this here is my leader

this here is my written word

this here is my God

where though is my conscious, to be heard

 

after birth, life

after life, death

is life enrichment of my soul

or is it a loss this breath

 

this here war, strife, and famine

this here waste, corruption, and violence

this here struggle

is this life my penance

 

or, is it love and kindness bestowed,

abundance of nature,

the beauty beheld in my senses,

the blend of these my past, present, future

 

will good prevail

and ease this agitation mine

will god bless

this world, my shrine⁠⁠⁠⁠

 

– Suraj Menon

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Rating: 9.3/10 (3 votes cast)

Jun

Caste calls

Pyre

Review of Pyre; Perumal Murugan; translated by Aniruddhan Vasudevan; Penguin Random House; Rs 250; pp 270

– Shana Susan Ninan

Perumal Murugan’s Pyre is a caustic reminder of India’s caste intolerance. Clearly pointing a finger at the harsh treatments meted out to inter-caste couples across India, the title of the book is a clever one. Following his now-controversial book, Madhorubagan, this is a story of hatred, intolerance and human suffering. And beneath it all, tucked away in little corners of the book, is the love between the couple.

I only wish I could read it in the original Tamizh. The Translator’s Note at the beginning tells us how his job wasn’t easy, partly because, although speaking Tamizh, the two protagonists – Kumaresan and Saroja – conversed in dialects. The variations in the two cannot be fully brought out in English. The explanations of the same also renders reading a tad bit marring.

The large use of metaphors and visual imagery in the story is just too good. Chronicling a place and a people that have nothing other than village rules to follow, I’m sure Murugan’s work wasn’t easy. Nondi’s mother, Mariya is a one-dimensional woman here: she seems to open her mouth only to abuse her new daughter-in-law, a city-bred, fair-skinned girl who wilts under her words.

Destruction is in our blood. From the cave to the skyscraper, humans haven’t let go of that trait. And when you couple the intolerance with centuries of adherence to community mores and norms, nothing could be more drastic than marrying a woman outside their caste and rendering the village unclean.

Murugan has taken one emotion – hate – and portrayed it in so many myriads of ways. From the villagers spewing hateful curses, and women gawking and saying the angry words to Nondi’s relatives and the final fire that destroys the outsider, it’s all about hate. And how!

The only glitch in my reading was that Nondi comes out as too soft. In spite of marrying a woman of his choice and trying to stay afloat in his village, when the whole community and his family turn against them, he doesn’t even raise his voice nor opposes with strong nerve.

Murugan has, to his credit, six novels, four collections of short stories and four anthologies of poetry. Three of his novels have been translated into English: his controversial, One Part Woman, Seasons of the Palm, shortlisted for the Kiriyama Prize in 2005, and Current Show. A professor of Tamil at the Government Arts College in Namakkal, he has received several recognitions from government and other agencies.

 

 

 

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04
Jun

A TRIBUTE TO PRABHAKARAN, THE TAMIL REBEL

– Soma Dutta Gupta

 

:To Prabhakaran…..so long!!

Forty summers passed,

I slighted the sun, going behind the horizon.

It was a riot of red,across my gray sky.

The gentle falling leaves,

cradled my comrades.

I submersed myself in mutilated mirth.

Marching on the invincible path,

I stumbled upon destiny.

 

She ridiculed me with her gear, death.

I embraced it silently.

The slanderous wind unveiled me of glory,

Barring a handful of earth, where I stand sublime.

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Jun

JOURNEY

– Sara Caleeckal

the child who sits beside me

is not mine,

mine I left behind

back home.

 

this journey is mine,

mine alone,

lonely in a carriage full

of strangers,

away from home.

 

I sit by the window and watch

the endless tracks

run over by relentless wheels

keeping the beat of my heart,

the heart I left behind,

back home.

 

Some day I hope to trace my way

back home,

same wheels over same tracks

with some child beside me

but the child of mine

I left behind will be gone,

when I reach

back home.

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09
Dec

The Sea and its People

dance-of-the-sea

Review of Dance of the Sea; Soosaiya Anthreas; Gatekeeper Press 2015; pp 462

– Paavana Varma

Franklin D. Roosevelt once remarked, “A smooth sea never made a skillful sailor.” This quote fits rather perfectly in Soosaiya Anthreas’s fine novel, The Dance of the Sea. Set in a coastal slum village of Kanyakumari, his book paints an intriguing picture of the difficult challenges life puts forth. The Dance of the Sea traces with remarkable subjectivity, the unfortunate lives of the fisherfolk situated in the southernmost tip of the Indian subcontinent. It speaks about how ambition and poverty strives together in the rural lives of Indian fishermen.

The protagonist, Sebastian, struggles to escape his squalid town of slum dwellers and later on emerges as a successful engineer. Sebastian’s success makes him less self-effacing as he goes on to desert his lover, Gloria, who lives an independent and more successful life, with regards to money and fame. He also leaves his poverty-stricken sister to herself, not bothering to lend her a helping hand in deadly crisis. But the problems develop into a more serious one as the 2004 Tsunami strikes and takes the lives of hundreds of fisherfolk, and their properties are swallowed by the sea. More troubles follow as the fisherfolk divides themselves into two rival factions based on the method of fishing, and the community disintegrates.

Reading this book will be an emotional experience as the common man will get to live the lives of a set of people hitherto hidden to the fast-paced urbanised population of the world. The unthinkable lives of the characters, ravaged by pain has been addressed directly and in a poignant manner. It shows the research that the author has done over the years. There is anger, humour and grief. Somehow, I felt that Sebastian’s longing to escape his hometown was his own way of seeking salvation. Sebastian wanted to disappear and his search for respite from the brutality of the world is rather breathtaking.

The author hasn’t hesitated to expose the vulnerability of his characters and this makes the book all the more dramatic. The tenacity of the characters especially that of Gloria is admirable. The deadening weight of the circumstances draws a thoughtful picture, nevertheless. A picture of how people find themselves in each other and how strokes of empathy lessens the naive narcissism of the better off and how there is a light of hope however faint, shining through the wreckage.

The writing style is fine except in some places it lags and tends to get jerky. The author has used rich language to depict the lives of the poor fisherfolk. In spite of the challenges and traumas, there exists a kind of harmonic suppleness. The novel is extremely atmospheric and very emotionally involving. There also prevails the inevitable melancholy the story brings with it. The Dance of the Sea is a very interesting novel. It is the kind of book that you might want to read in sessions, to take time and read it in your own pace. The book doesn’t fail to communicate effectively with the reader and even when the book has ended, the sea looms over your imagination distinguishing itself as an entity.

Soosaiya Anthreas was born in the year 1959 in Azhikkal, Kanyakumari District, Tamil Nadu to fisherfolk parents. He graduated in Engineering from CIT, and is interested in Philosophy, Literature and Spirituality.

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24
Nov

Stalker on the loose

stalker

Review of Stalker; Lars Kepler; Harper Collins; pp 603

– Karthika Nair

Stalker is the fifth book from Jonna Linna series written by Swedish pair Alexander Ahndoril and Alexandra Coelho Ahndoril, under the pseudonym “Lars Kepler”. Before reading Stalker, I was not aware of their works and talking about Swedish bestsellers, The Millennium trilogy takes up the top spot. The name and the book blurb drew my curiosity; it is about a person who stalks women with a video camera, capturing their “last” moments. And then goes on to kill them in a brutal manner and leaves them in a particular posture, disfigured. This video is received by the national crime investigation team and they are unable to trace the video source and while they are watching it, the victim is facing the last few minutes of her life. Detectives Margot Silverman and Adam Youssef are on a manhunt and eventually Joona Linna, who had been absconding, joins the investigation.

Since this is the fifth book of a series, I did find some plot points confusing and felt like several characters were introduced at the beginning of the story. The course of the plot is so intriguing that I ended up taking the book everywhere with me, even ended up dreaming about the characters and their circumstances. The character development and the build up of the suspense are all up to the point. The pinnacle is the twist of the story: you won’t see it coming and it challenges the general perception by an average audience about a typical “stalker” and the book cover will look completely different to us. Until the big reveal, you are in a dark room where your mind is working on several possibilities as you are reading it.

There are many instances depicting gruesome violence in gory detail; the murder scenes are disturbing and one may feel like throwing up. A major limitation I felt was Joona Linna’s limited role in this book as he is someone who is hailed as a hero. But, his involvement during the final situations is quite heroic. I also liked the characters detective Margot Silverman and Nelly Brandt. Margot Silverman is the detective assigned to the murdered women’s case and the fact that she is seven months pregnant makes it more interesting. She is determined to find the killer and vows that she will give birth only after the case’s resolution.

The way she stood up for Linna and challenged the circumstances of the case when necessary is vehement and impressive. Silverman in a way broke stereotypes regarding pregnant women’s ability to work. It reminded me of Marge Gunderson from Fargo. Nelly Brandt is a very layered character and we will admire her. Female characters like Nelly are rare. Erik, the hypnotist, is also a very noble character and we will feel sorry for him in the course of the story.

As always, suspense thrillers will leave a massive plot point behind. The same is noticed here in terms of the circumstance surrounding Adam Youssef, Margot’s partner from work. After reading the book, I couldn’t help but think “whatever happened to him”. The connection between Erik and blind piano teacher named Jackie is shown in a nice way. When it springs up amidst the investigation, one might find it irritating and unnecessary, not knowing that it is an integral part. As a reader, I was all agog with anticipation while waiting for the resolution which felt like a deep breath one takes after being in the water for several minutes.

Stalker is a very exciting thriller for all those enjoy that genre. As a fan of thrillers myself, the book reading experience was massively satisfying. I look forward to read the first four books from Kepler’s Jonna Linna series.

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