15
Aug

Devam

In the thick night,

the lamps are lit.

A lone drum plays

and then more.

Cymbals join.

He comes on stage,

in all the glory.

anklets in rhythm.

The regal head gear,

a face fiercely painted

and yet so divine…

body dark as the night.

the legs move,

hands gesture,

every muscle alive,

eyes capture.

Me in rapture.

The music rises

falls. rises.

Movements blur,

flows, blur.

His body glistens,

in fire and vigour.

my heart pounds.

His eyes ablaze.

Me ablaze.

As he swirls,

I shake with joy,

so pure.

I bow to THE divine,

so enigmatic.

The show is done.

i long to see him,

THE divine.

I meet –

a disrobing man

ordinary

plain

human!

I return.

  • – Sajitha Rasheed

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Rating: 6.0/10 (1 vote cast)
25
Jul

Of Daughters and Women

Three Daughters of Eve

Review of Three Daughters of Eve; Elif Shafak; Viking 2017; Rs 477; pp 384

– Shana Susan Ninan

Turkey and Peri are metaphors for each other: flanked by a religious side and a more Western one. Always having to choose between religious ideals and liberal lifestyles. Elif Shafak’s revealing work, Three Daughters of Eve is a medley of three perspectives/ ideologies, three women who represent a larger section of society, within and outside Istanbul: a believer, a rebel and a confused soul. In fact, the three can be anyone – three men, young women, people of any religion or background. Starting at the present and going back a decade or more to their youth, the book kicks off at a lavish party in the capital of Turkey.

The three protagonist women end up sharing the same living space in Oxford University and a common course. All three are similar for the facts that they are highly independent, strong-willed and often live against societal norms. Peri’s life in Istanbul is much like the city again: a liberal father and a highly religious mother. And two very different brothers. Growing up in that household has been a tug of war for her.

Her study years in England are decisive and life-changing. For someone who keeps a ‘God diary’, getting into a course at the Oxford called ‘God’, would only seem natural. The seminar, led by the infamous Professor Azur, informs and debates more about the self than God. The students don’t choose the seminar, the professor screens them and hand-picks the few who’d attend it. He doesn’t force his opinions of the self or about god on any of his students or peers, but gives them various perspectives to look at.

The dramatic, Hollywood-like ending spoiled my reading and marred the beautiful feeling that had built inside me. As a reader who loved her previous works, this ending seemed a little hurried and very filmy. As opposed to, say, the dense poetry that’s

The metaphors are superbly crafted: my personal favourite being ‘the night was a swollen river’. And the reference to Eve in the title is a major thought-provoking usage. Why Eve? Had Eve borne any daughters? And why three? Since the story happens in 2015, it’s very recent and relatable. The ‘baby in the mist’ that Peri often witnesses in her dreams and otherwise is a source of mystery for the reader. And as the story progresses, it unravels beautifully.

 

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Rating: 9.0/10 (1 vote cast)
19
Jul

The page

The page lay open,
It had no name,
It had no color.
“will you be free
on Friday evening? ”
I blurted out blushingly.
“I live just for the moment,
can’t we make it today? ”
you replied nonchalantly.
I sad to myself
“today is an extension of yesterday and a prelude to tomorrow!
So welcome home stranger
and be my lord of the day!”
Then you say beside me,
watched my days and nights
bloom and glow into
glorious verses.
– Sara Caleeckal

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29
Jun

Drums of War, of History

Empress EMerald

Review of The Empress Emerald; J.G. Harlond; Penmore Press LLC 2016; pp 295

– Paavana Varma

Every once in a while you come across a piece of literature which marks its territory in your heart. From the romantic works of Austen to the fantastical themes that Gaiman provides, the list is endless. Written by J.G. Harlond, The Empress Emerald is yet another brilliant work that is certain to stay with the reader for quite a long time.

The protagonist of the novel, Leo Kazan is a Russian-Indian orphan; a thief and a talented linguist. Just the way a moth gets attracted to flame, Leo is drawn to everything that glitters. Discovering Leo’s talents is the District Political Officer in Bombay, Sir Lionel Pinecoffin who realizes that he is sharp-witted and capable even as a young boy. Leo’s talents in stealing, socialising and languages makes an excellent spy of him and thus he becomes Mr. Pinecoffin’s protégé. The story then follows Leo’s life through forty years over several continents and his adventures as a spy as he gets involved in international espionage and diamond smuggling.

The author is successful in painting an intriguing picture of the political instability in India at the beginning of the twentieth century. It is impressive how Harlond turns on the historical lane and makes the characters interact in the background of rising political turmoil. However, in addition to discussing political drama, she has skillfully interwoven personal events of the characters into the work which helps the readers delve into a new hitherto untouched side of the protagonist. We see this in Leo’s romance with Davina Dymond during his time in London which evokes a new found adoration  for him thus enriching the reading experience. However, moral values and principles are also judged when Leo has to leave a pregnant Davina as he has been assigned to go to Russia where the Bolshevik Revolution has taken place.

Harlond’s characters are near to the realistic as she refuses from rendering a thoroughly positive picture of them. She draws our attention to their good, bad and ugly sides. It is up to the readers to judge Leo as he decides to never depart from the strict requirements that come with his profession. The characters are as clear as they are vague for it never becomes certain what we are to make of them and this applies to the bitter reality of our lives too for it seems impossible to figure out the confusing set of people in our lives and at times, ourselves. The various numbers of subplots and tales can be a bit confusing but gives it ample time to come together as a finely devised novel making it all the more dramatic; the apt ingredient required for any piece of historical fiction.

Though the abrupt perspective shifts may, at times, set the reader off track, the language makes up for it. It is powerful and the author seems to have an eye for detail. Her vivid descriptions of the people and places are sure to take the reader on a magnificent journey through Spain, UK, Russia and India over a span of 40 years. At times, it even feels as though the words have been put into a reel because the wonderful panorama of the places has been portrayed in such an effective cinematic style.

This is a tale of love and separation, of faithlessness and treachery. We learn an essential truth from the novel that time can do a lot to people. It can hurt as much as it can heal. It should be appreciated how the author has captured a number of themes, countries and four decades in all of 295 pages. A thoroughly engaging work and an absolute page turner, the book is self-contained and teaches us a thing or two about the world and its residents.

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Rating: 10.0/10 (2 votes cast)
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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Rating: 7.5/10 (2 votes cast)

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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Rating: 8.5/10 (2 votes cast)
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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Rating: 8.0/10 (1 vote cast)
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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Rating: 9.0/10 (1 vote cast)