Tag Archives: books

Rain, Ravan, and Books

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It drizzled in the morning, as I sat on the wrought iron bench in the garden in my compound. It was an unexpected shower and I looked up at the sky to welcome its unseasonal gift. If only for a few seconds, the ground beneath my feet cooled down, as the drops settled inside the cracks, and the lovely scent of wet earth permeated the air. The koel went on a cooing overdrive. Rain does that to some. Makes them delirious. I sat there with my eyes closed, surrendering to the patter of the falling drops, which wet my hair, washed my face, and made a tiny puddle in the centre of my palms. It takes so little to smile spontaneously.

The kids in my neighbourhood were waiting for their school bus to arrive. Two little girls had their noses buried inside their books, their faces flush with all the mugging up done last night. ‘Last exam,’ they chorused ecstatically, looking up to greet me, the guarantee of the impending relief lighting up their eyes. I remembered the several ‘last-exam-days’ of my childhood, when I drew up long lists of things I would do, only to realise after writing the last sentence of the answer, that all I wanted to do was to rush home, snuggle under a warm blanket and sleep. Play could wait.

Today, I have to make a difficult choice. How does one choose between Elena Ferrante and Karl Ove Knausgaard? Toss a coin? That too, when I’m already thick in the middle of reading Pervin Saket’s Urmila, and have my first Kindle edition of a Marathi book, Shrimanyogi by Ranjeet Desai, waiting in the wings? Not to mention Half of What I Say by Anil Menon, one of the most easy-going, and affable writers I met recently at an unusual book reading by Pervin, which was complemented by a scintillating dance performance, which depicted the narrative of Urmila. The dancers blended Kalaripayattu, Chhau, Odissi, and contemporary dance seamlessly, weaving a tapestry that gave me goosebumps. Lakshman’s suffering spouse would have approved.

On my way back from the performance with my dear friend Harvinder, discussing a few aspects of Ramayan, and setting aside symbolism, I couldn’t help thinking that Ravan was quite a lucky chap really. With his ten heads and ten pairs of eyes, he could have read ten books at a time, placed on a specially designed book holder. Imagine Ravan, with his central processing system, that is the head fixed to his neck, resting on a large pillow, four heads on one side, and five on the other (that’s what probably created the mental imbalance), resting on as many pillows, reading. What would he read apart  from the Shiva Purana? Well, considering that the Ramayana is surmised to have happened thousands of years ago, the question of books in the form we see them now, obviously doesn’t arise. Even if there were any, had Ravan been a reader, perhaps he wouldn’t have embarked on his several misadventures. But, if he hadn’t, we wouldn’t have had a wonderful epic to ruminate on. That brings me to my nephew’s innocent  question, when I told him Sita’s story and reached the part about the Agni Pariksha, her trial by fire: “But, didn’t they call the Fire Brigade?” Innocence and presence of mind. Ram was probably too pulverised by the earth opening its mouth wide to embrace his wife, to react.

I look at the  line-up of books and remind myself that I have one head, one brain, and one pair of eyes. Thank heavens for that. Imagine ten mouths to feed, ten scalps to shampoo, ten heads of hair to comb, ten times the thoughts to assimilate! Calls for one more note in my gratitude journal. So, instead of hopping greedily and aimlessly from one book to another, it’s best to continue engaging in a conversation with Urmila. She has captured my imagination already. I’m not deserting her.

 

 

 

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Picking Up the Threads

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Today, I woke up feeling like a warrior. As if I could and should slay everything that holds me back from writing – my moods, lethargy, boredom, and my worst enemy – procrastination. If I gave the impression that I was going to indulge in violence, let me assure you that I’m a peace-loving creature, but when it comes to facing the blank screen, and getting myself to write, I wage a daily battle. Most days, I allow one or the other of my enemies to prevail over my better sense, but today is different. I’m actually posting, after having silenced the voices in my head that were saying, ‘Oh, but nothing special has happened today,’ OR ‘Why post something inane?’  (which would have stopped my overworked index finger, the solitary typist of my right hand, in its tracks),’ OR ‘I have nothing to say’ (well, that’s not quite the truth, it’s just the killjoy in me that rears its head every time I begin to write).

I started by making a new list. Lists shake  me out of my listlessness, and putting down everything in black and white, with some doodles enhancing the page, and pinning it on my bulletin board, reminds me that it’s going to be a fulfilling day. I discovered recently that bulletin boards can be popped up creatively, like the several I saw on Pinterest. (I love owls)

Bulletin Board
Picture: Pinterest

My bulletin board will have the beginnings of a story, writers’ quotes, index cards filled with references and research, colourful post-its with names of characters from my next book (the first is still waiting in the wings, rather impatiently, to find a home), a collage of my writerly life. The thought itself is  invigorating. Well, the best of writers have fought their  way out of inertia to put words on paper. I’m a fledgling aspirant, trying to enlarge and romanticise my daily struggle. And, to borrow J K Rowling’s  words, I’m a muggle. In a writer’s world, Muggles are creatures who need a large mug of coffee (in my case, ginger tea) to create magic on paper.

Today’s Quote:

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Picture Quote: Google

I have that longing too. Obviously, Knausgard is on top of my to-read list. (Well, er… I think he looks great too.) So are Elena Ferrante, and a host of classics.

Note to myself: Plan reading. (I get overwhelmed by the pile of books by my bedside, and every time someone mentions a good book, I want to grab it instantly. So I remember my friend, Arundhathi Subramaniam’s sage advice: ‘Read at will.’

Time to scan the bookshelves. To make the choice. To immerse myself in the world of fiction. To read. To write. To battle. It’s going to be an eventful day…

 

Books to read and some herbal chai

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December is a month of waking up, of taking stock, of being startled into action by unfinished business, and of silent promises, and vows to do better, rectify and start anew. This morning, I woke up to the realisation that I had distanced myself from my blogs for a period long enough for me to forget my passwords. That I was kidding myself that I’m a blogger. A blogger blogs regularly, posts either every day or every week at least. I had been on a sabbatical so long, that I had to begin afresh to reclaim my identity. I’ve been there before. I struggle with the erratic nature of my writing–periods of silence followed by periods of intense activity. Most of the time, I’m writing in my head with spools running through my mind and I’m so lost in this world that I’m loathe to  abandon it  even if it is to give concrete shape to the ideas that bloom.

“Write something,” I told myself, afraid at the same time, that I would end up posting something inane, inconsequential or insufferable. “It’s better than not writing at all,” I chided myself, reassured by the recollection of the “shitty” stuff, Anne Lamott refers to in her wonderful book ‘Bird by Bird’, which most writers fill their first drafts with. Anyway, this blog is about the ordinary life, the mundane, the banal. In her book, ‘Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life’, Amy Rosenthal gives the truest account of what she saw, felt, learned, loved, and strived for! It’s a book that gave me a new perspective of looking at objects, events, words, nature and the most inconsiderable, in a new way.

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Amy Rosenthal’s amazing book with my favourite bookmark

It inspired me to look for the unfamiliar in the familiar, for the bizarre in the normal, for the terrific in the commonplace. I browsed through it yet again today. I also made a note of the books that I had begun reading but not completed–not because I didn’t want to but because I read at will and tend to flit from book to book, unless it’s fiction, which I read from beginning to end.  I’m currently reading Jeanette Winterson’s ‘Oranges are Not The Only Fruit’, ‘A Million Thoughts’ by Om Swami, ‘Ordering from the Cosmic Kitchen’ by Patricia Crane and ‘H is for Hawk’ by Helen MacDonald. Next on my list is ‘Hot Milk’ by Deborah Levy. However rapidly I read these, I’m still going to fall short of the target I had set for myself, of reading at least 50 books this year. I’ll just about manage 45 and I know of readers who devour a 100 books every year.

Someone forwarded a video to me today about how the body heals itself, how positive thoughts direct and facilitate repair, restoration and wellness. It reiterates what Yogis knew–that we are a mind-body complex, that every emotion has a corresponding physical manifestation in the body and that our biography is our biology. I’m learning to observe my emotions, to detect the signals my body sends me, to focus on my breath, to live more mindfully. It isn’t easy but it’s not impossible. Dare I say, it’s one of my New Year resolutions. Despite my previous record of breaking a majority of  my resolutions, I’m still committed to making new ones. It’s  a ritual that gives me hope, gets  me excited like a child and adds zing to my life. Number one on my list is: Do not romanticise overwork and overexertion. (Most of us do that, as if it’s a medal to flaunt): “Oh, I’m just so  ambushed.” New resolutions demand a new diary:). During my search for one, I rediscovered http://www.chimanlals.com/new-pro.php. Dig these

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Elephant Diaries

I also rediscovered herbal tea. Here’s the recipe a close friend, Pushpa Mani, shared with me:

Herbal Tea

For two glasses of water

Ingredients

Dry coriander (dhania) powder – 1 tsp

Cumin seed (jeera) powder – ½ tsp

Pepper (kali miri) powder – ¼ tsp

Turmeric (haldi) powder – two pinches (optional)

Two inch piece ginger – grated

OR  Dry ginger (soonth) powder – ½ tsp

Tulsi leaves – 10

Jaggery – as per taste

Method: Boil the above ingredients and strain.

Tip: You may add a pinch of elaichi or dalchini powder or any other spice according to your taste.

Note: Have only a quarter glass of herbal tea at a time. You may store it in a thermos and sip it through the day too.

Just what I need, now that I’ve overcome my block. Smells good, tastes divine. Try it.