Saturday, May 23, 2009

Lasting impressions of the Literary world

-By Swetha Amit
Books are indeed mans best friends as they say. Reading is a means of either getting away from reality or plunging into the same in a different manner.

While some prove to passing clouds, there are a few which tend to reign on your mind causing a downpour of thought processes and a hurricane in your cognitive space. There are a few which make you cry, laugh or think. Nevertheless they tend to leave lasting impressions which changes ones perspective of themselves or the world. The below are a few ones which have had that impact on me but may not necessarily apply to the rest.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas- This book by John Boyne was made into a movie which released last year. The book depicts a poignant tale of friendship across barriers set in the background of the dreadful holocaust. A tale of innocence weaved into horrors and an appalling depiction which makes one wonder if ignorance is really bliss after all. The write up is in simple language with a lot of subtlety.

Atonement- The write up by Ian McEwan makes one realize how a false perception of events taking place in a fraction of a second changes your life and that of others as well. This was also made into a movie but the book as most of time is better than the visuals. It carries a lesson that one can incorporate into our attitudes.

The Alchemist- This is probably Paulo Coelho’s finest works depicting a heartwarming tale. It teaches one the aspect of following their heart in certain aspects rather than the head which acts as a guiding force.

The Kite Runner- Khaled Husseini portrayed the tale of innocence and redemption in the end in a poignant manner. Not everybody gets a second chance to atone and if they do, it’s one of the most precious gifts life has to offer.

A thousand Splendid suns-This book by the same author of The Kite Runner makes one cry by its appalling story. This is one such piece of literary work which is bound to leave deep imprints. It makes one get a glimpse of the pitiable conditions Women especially are subjected to in certain parts of the world. Such aspects make one realize the true essence of freedom which many take for granted most of the time.

Black Beauty- A classic by Anna Sewell which denotes a tale coming out from the horse’s mouth literally. It describes the life of a horse at different stages, its feelings and the ray of hope it attains in the end. For most animal lovers, this is bound to be an appealing read and for the rest its an interesting perspective from the other side of the reigns.

Heidi-Read this in fifth grade and could identify with the girl and her love for her grumpy grandfather. My relationship with my late granddad was similar during my childhood days. It’s a story of a little girl set in the scenic Alps which is portrayed by Johanna Spyri in a marvelous manner.

Rebecca- Intriguing, mysterious and powerful. It amazed me as to how the main character despite being dead continued to dominate the entire book making the protagonist linger in her shadows. Rebecca did win in the end after all especially since we don’t know the actual name of the former. It was made into a movie as well directed by Alfred Hitchcock which was truly a classic.

Shantaram-Love Mumbai and could completely relate to how South Mumbai especially was described here in a poignant manner. The latter consists of beautiful architecture and buildings that take you back to the colonial era. This is a city which enables one to get a new identity by shedding our painful past and finding ourselves again.

The Fountainhead-Made me think that being selfish wasn’t a crime and enabled me to believe in its virtue after all. Selfishness now to me is fiercely sticking to your individuality and not compromising it for anyone or anything. This route may be a stumble amidst the thorns of frustration but that’s what guarantees you a bed of roses in the end.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel: This book is an embodiment of survival in the most trying circumstances. It makes one ponder and wonder for a long period of time marveling its epitome of hope.

Memoirs of a Geisha- Found this to be a poignant tale of a young girl under pitiable conditions. It brings out the murky elements of the dark world of Geishas but not without the ray of hope in the end looking at it from the protagonist’s point of view. Brilliantly written by Arthur Golden.

Tuesdays with Morrie- Very inspiring and teaches you to possess a never say die attitude even when one lies on his death bed. It makes one that self pity can be replaced with philanthropy and humanity making time for those surround you even as your clock ticks away.

Mahabharata- Mythology is nevertheless intriguing. It’s more than just an epic as it consists of lessons one can incorporate in different facets of life. It emphasizes on what not to do and present interesting sketches of its various characters.

Couple of Short stories that lingers in my mind today:

The Gift of the Magi- O’Henry’s wistful story makes one realize the essence of a gift which spells irony all over.

The Leopard by Ruskin Bond- Love the Author for his vivid description in his writings about the lush green valley of Dehradoon. This particular story is a touching one. It depicts friendship and trust which is attained in a subtle yet powerful way. And makes the author wistful and attain responsibility for its devastating end brought about by mankind. One can relate to it if they are nature or animal lovers.
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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Moms are the best

-By Swetha Amit
Many may dispute about the concept of Mothers’ day. Their arguments categorically state as to why only the second Sunday in May should many express their unconditional love to their mothers. And why not every day in the year. While they aren’t entirely wrong, it does take one special occasion or the other to make one feel how much they are cherished in another’s life. If going by the same argument, one can apply the same logic to birthdays and anniversaries and celebrate the entire year. Yet it wouldn’t be the same.

This can also be looked upon as a break from the mundane routine one is accustomed to. What with scurrying around from pillar to post and professional demands round the clock, it tends to leave one hard pressed for time for near and dear ones. At times like these, one longs for that particular day to unwind and do something unique to make it up to their loved ones. When such an opportunity is given on a day like this, why not seize an opportunity to make the most while you can? And while given a chance to celebrate who should complain?

I often contemplated on the factor of motherhood which has intrigued me further on hearing my mom’s encounters with me all through. From nursing me in her womb with acute sufferings in her biological clock to rendering sleepless nights with my continuous wailings; trying times during my adolescence and eventually a friend all through which has enhanced even more as I got married and moved away to a different city. To sum it all it’s been nothing less than a roller coaster probably worse than that in a Disneyland considering this one had no time limit.

So what does motherhood mean to me? The prospect intimidates me to a large extent. Going by several experiences heard and keen observations, it denotes sacrifice, patience, endurance, empathy and understanding. While these form essential ingredients, going by the contemporary times, I realize that it also needs a great deal of flexibility. The ability to accept your kith and kin as who they are despite the fact of both individuals being different as chalk and cheese is a vital factor. Unconditional acceptance all through is a must along with the time factor.

At the same time, motherhood also retains its respect as one learns the art of letting go at the right time. Clinging on dearly and refusing to see your child as a ‘grown up’ only evokes a sense of resentment in the latter. It’s about adapting to changes and growing along with your children in their several stages. From being bound to them 24/7 to meet their dependence and demands on you, it sure does require great skill to accept their independence and allow yourself to be a child to them in their twilight years.

Yes motherhood is a cycle of redemption. One always marvels at the fact of how much moms have done for us and whether we would get our chance to ever repay them. Yet the very golden opportunity is discarded with contempt as one gradually views the twilight years setting in. Such is the brutal irony of life when one hears of old age homes and inhuman tortures inflicted upon those whom we once considered our gateways to the world. Very few are blessed with the opportunity to grab this chance to their hearts content and ease their cognitive space with guilt and regret later on.

Mother’s day may be a special occasion for a mother daughter bonding with flowers, lunches, movies and a short getaway. Yet what enhances its speciality of its continuous occurrence is that of ensuring that one is always there for the other. It needn’t mean calling each other on a daily basis, smothering with mushy messages or telling each other every single detail. Providing the very security of being there during trying times even where a long gap of communication through busy schedules exists.

No explanations for not calling often, giving each other space and respecting one another’s independence is what denotes my relationship with mom. It’s her attitude that has made me the person I am today which makes me truly say that moms are the best.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

-By Swetha Amit
The title is catchy enough to induce interest in one to grab a copy of the DVD instantly. It certainly isn’t a bed time story as the film leaves a long lasting impact to an extent of rendering a sleepless night. Based on the novel by John Boyne, The boy in the striped Pyjamas is a tale of innocence and friendship interspersed with the horrors of the holocaust.

Eight year old Bruno (Asa Butterfield) finds to his dismay that his family had decided on moving from their beloved home in Berlin to the country side. Explanations seem to evade him and his questions are met with a lukewarm and a rather reluctant response. The fact he is able to comprehend is restricted to that of his Commandant father having gotten a promotion and being asked to shift his work premises. With his father busy on a new mission, mother bustling about her new home, sister Gretel on the brink of puberty, Bruno finds himself engulfed in loneliness in this desolated area. Boredom soon sets in and propels him to go on an exploratory mission at the bottom of his garden only to find his way to a barbed fence. A peculiar sight which overlooked his bedroom window had invoked his curiosity levels.

Across the wired lines he sees hope in the form of a young boy Shmuel (Jack Scanlon) of his age, wearing striped pyjamas. From there on strikes a new found friendship with the lad who happens to be a Jew of the concentration camp. And soon his loneliness begins to fade away with his frequent visits to this fenced area, quite oblivious to his family. Little does he realize that such a friendship would result in a dark spell of horrendous torture and a tragedy eventually?

The film is well directed by Mark Herman. It lingers on the mind of the viewers and evokes multiple emotions as they cruise through the 94 minutes. Heartfelt sympathies are felt towards Bruno for being kept in the dark and his miseries on having to leave his friends behind in Berlin. Few scenes are quite moving and poignant and actually make one go moist eyed.

Bruno falls off his swing bruising his knee badly and is attended to by his Jewish servant Pavel. The conversation exchanged between the two as Pavel tenderly nurses the young boy is quite touching. Especially when Bruno learns that Pavel was a doctor and innocently questions the latter’s’ reasons to peel potatoes instead.

Bruno’s pitiable innocence is exhibited when he inquires about the ‘bad smell’ from the chimney which is evaded by his father. Later when one of the latter’s soldiers remarks with casual arrogance to his mother stating “They smell worse when they born don’t they?” ; exhibits cold callousness that makes one cringe in horror.

The other instance where Bruno runs into Shmuel in his dining room as the latter is ordered to clean the glasses is yet another tender one. Bruno refuses to acknowledge Shmuel as his friend when confronted by the lieutenant as his honesty is held captive in a cage of fear. Yet it’s the turning point to Bruno’s attempt at redemption for his friend as he offers to look for Shmuel’s missing father. That which makes him muster enough courage to wear the striped pyjamas and cross barriers of the barbed wire. His innocence fails to be washed away by the pelting rain when marched into the room and stripped off his pyjamas as he states “Maybe we are here till the rain stops”.

The irony is clearly exhibited of the fact where parents having kept Bruno in the dark had eventually brought darkness into their lives inevitably. If only questions were answered with fervour, Bruno would have never stumbled upon those barbed wires to explore for the answers he was seeking curiously.

The appalling conditions of the Jews are subtly brought out here. The film carries a contrast of innocence and prejudice, friendship and hatred, torn loyalties, confusion in the mind of the protagonist. It depicts the brutal catastrophe that turned the world to what it is today making one feel the cost of anguish, millions would have encountered to have created such a history.

The film is a must watch for all for its poignant and powerful depiction.

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Monday, May 04, 2009

'The Assassination of George Bush': Power play

-By Swetha Amit

One quick glance at the title is enough to suffice curiosity within the prospective readers. Perhaps it’s the catchy headline that instantly grabs the attention with utmost interest enough to flap through the pages.

Varon B K Sharma’s write up on the same is a work of fiction interspersed with events pertaining to real life scenarios and occurrences. The book deals with a common disease prevailing in many parts of the world and has confined millions into its sphere of fear. And it’s the same dastardly syndrome which has enticed the innocent and not so innocent into its jaws of death. Terrorism is that illness which seems to have no cure as one hears of such heinous instances across the world.

The globe has witnessed several horrors in the form of brutal wars, the appalling holocaust and other catastrophes which make all the five senses bleed with horror. Yet this remains to be seen as one creating deep fissures into the society and human psyche. How and why is what the book aims to delve deep into making one indulge in cerebration about the different angles of the same issue.

The fiction starts with describing the last few days of George Bush’s presidential rule before Barack Obama takes over. Little does he realize that his visit to Iraq as his last PR attempt to restore his image in front of the whole world would lead to events bringing shame to the USA? After his speech, the next few minutes spell commotion, dismay and cries of disbelief as he is whisked away by five men. The latter prove to be the embodiment of hatred, revenge rage and extremists whose unknown purpose of kidnapping the president keeps the reader glued to the pages. Their demands astonish the US officials on calling for the entire media to broadcast this episode live. Unable to combat these 5 individuals, the story then goes on to uncover helplessness, voices of anguish, cries of injustice, the brutal game of political power play that had cost millions of lives.

Thirst for avengement comes across in a strong manner when the real motives of the fundamentalists unravel slowly. Inflicting the same helplessness they were subjected to, accusations of the cause of unwarranted war and bloodshed, enraged at the injustice, the write up goes on to bring about several aspects of terror, violence and disasters.

The assassination of George Bush is a honest work of the author written in a style comfortable for the readers to interpret and indulge in retrospection. It is bound to stir slight controversy, feelings of indignation, appreciation for its bold theme. However one can be assured of experiencing anything but indifference as its thought provoking lines invariable forces one to form an opinion.

It raises pertinent questions about this precipitating issue such as the origin of terrorism, purpose and the irony behind it. It’s an attempt to reform attitudes and beliefs in the right direction and terminate such destructive aspects amidst mankind.

As the tagline states that “It’s not just about killing”. It’s about inflicting the similar kind of pain, mental anguish, appalling conditions and make man realize that an eye for an eye will only end up in a blackout of humanity. The book brings about the religious divides and the write up aims for a better world. Can one hope for such a scenario or do they have to bear the cost of being labelled as an idealist for doing so? And yet it’s what millions are praying for earnestly.

The author’s theme of terrorism can also be traced back to the critically acclaimed Bollywood film “Black & White” where he takes credits as that of the story writer.
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