Elixir, a book within a book

So I finished Elixir, the debut novel by Sinjini Sengupta. I did not finish it at one go, and I’d like to confess, I was floating away in my first attempt; the writing was languorous and soporific, despite Manisha’s hard trials at work, both inside her being, and outside of it.  Amit’s strange and insensitive conduct also got to me. Lost, are we? Well these are the two main characters in Sengupta’s ELIXIR, an interesting read to boot, and one that cast a spell of sorts on me- however during my second inning.

Is it truly possible to live a life parallely- i.e, can you actually step into another full-blown existence, even as you are trying to do justice to the one that you had been born into? Is it truly even conceivable? Well, Sengupta does a fine job of pushing the suspension-of- belief envelope, that anything is possible once you taste of it-and discard that voice that repeatedly says, nah, not possible! You embrace it head-on. I am a believer of parallel existences, have always been, so I was good from the word go.

The first half of Sinjini’s debut novel is a bit like Bangla poetry, it whets your appetite. You need to put it away to fully savour what she is trying to build your literary and hungry mind up to. Once you’ve gotten over that ‘hump’ , if I may call it that, you are onto something rather magnetic- you inch along, then you are on a ride that has you by the….stirrups. You want to live Manisha’s parallel life with her- it’s beautiful, riddled with watery drops of romance, and perfumes and love and all that makes life a living heaven. But you return to Manisha’s ‘real world’, the one she must tackle, along with interacting with her blameless husband, who knows no better, boil tea in her kitchen, peek into her fridge, and mix with her professional colleagues. Well what do you know, Moni, as her father lovingly calls her, is quite the gal! She takes it all on, begrudgingly, but not all the time. She knows she wants out- she doesn’t want to re-enter the real world, but who’s going to buy her tale, definitely not the very worldly Amit. He’s befuddled, and he strikes out, using psychiatric means too.

What we have here is a novel with a stark message. Is the message obvious? To me it was. And the distinction lies in the fact that I know I am being made aware that I am also living parallel lives perhaps, but not with dissonance, which allows me to survive each day. Sinjini is telling the reader that it’s perfectly natural to live thus- and it’s a possibility, a real one and infinite possibilities of such like exist. I believe her. I also believed Richard Bach in his novel named ONE, when he and his wife travelled through different dimensions of existence. So why can Manisha, creature hacked by Sinjini’s mind, not do likewise? Sure can too.

Sinjini’s flair for poetic prose, her deep relationship with rain-water is superbly harvested in this novel. I could almost hear Robindro Shongeet playing in the background- no, not almost, I did hear it. My parallel life peeps into this one, and vice versa as I put away Elixir, and sip from a glass of cold water, to suppress the rising heat. Also, i might have failed to mention the fact that this was a screenplay, that Sengupta has deftly ‘rewritten’ as a full novel, no mean task this. I, even as i enjoy the art of writing, would not attempt such like. More power to Sinjini Sengupta and her fertile, creative mind!

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Out with Lanterns by Alisha Kirpalani (a book review)

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This is a beautiful piece of work that, strangely enough, resonated with my own life story- the eternal need to write, and be read. My life, as it were, has caught me by surprise repeatedly, just as Karin’s does in Out with the Lanterns. My internal existence, I believed, rested heavily on my writing, and my dancing feet, believing them to define me. The protagonist of Out with the Lanterns, is also someone who is passionate about writing and dancing, which took the wind out of me for starters. Does she know me?

Alisha’s writing is exquisite- her mastery over the language, tantalizing as she enfolds authenticity of emotion, in every passage, and each email exchange between writer Aksh, and Karin. It is engaging, and keeps you riveted. You are swept up in the labyrinth she creates and lose yourself in this brave world of Karin. The lady is vulnerable, quirky, humourous and bright. The writer Aksh, pitted against Raoul, the hubby are excellently etched characters, complementing Karin’s longing for life itself. Encompassing two distinct worlds, Alisha is able to carry us back and forth, cleverly exploiting the gifts of the modern world- letters on a screen. She nails the bridge that links and brings it all together, with great dexterity. The catch line describes perfectly what this novel aspires to: ‘A discovery of life, love and everything in between’.

It is possible for a tale such as this to transpire- an inexplicable love, that captures your heart, and becomes the trigger for unraveling and unburdening that which may have sat like an Albatross around your neck. Her use of literary references are again, timely, and clever. Once its job is done, it is no longer needed, this relationship which develops and takes on a life of its own.

Alisha manages the complexities of relationships with great maturity and compassion. There is something really quirky and fulfilling about the exchanges between the famous author, and the wannabe author. I fell for these hook, line and sinker, chuckling to myself, even as i realized the dangers of the territory the two were exploring. I suddenly wished to find one such in my own barren land.

I read the book in two sittings, as I turned page after page to delve deeper into the psyche of both Karin and Aksh. Will they, won’t they?

To not present any spoilers, I would like to say that Alisha’s conclusion of the story she has woven is on point, and to my heart and mind there could have been no other. So it’s a winner of a book all the way, because endings are like closures, and if one is left hanging, a strange after-taste disallows the feeling of satisfaction needed after a good read. This one was perfect.

 

The Perils of Communication

‘Hello! howz u gorgeous?’

‘Gud, rmmbr my msg – r dnnr- the pics? So tht’s de latest, in hngo’er state lol ’

‘Ya, I saw. Lovly n all. Wassup?  ’

‘Uh, since last nite? Nthng yaar, tryin to catch sum sleeeeep- zzzzz. CYL. TTYL.’

social-media

And so on and so forth- a minute to minute catching up, sometimes less, sometimes with   longer gaps. But what’s there to catch up with- we are in constant communication. There’s not much curiosity left, is there? What are we talking about anymore, where are we headed, what’s happening to us? These are some of the questions that assail me time and again, and I’m afraid of cutting myself off at the same time. I’ll miss out…but what is it exactly that I’ll miss out on? Unclear. The sad happy jokes? The woman-centric video-clips? And not just those, all the information-laden articles, and the wisdom being passed around every morning via a Good Morning! And a Rumi or a Shakespeare quote from the greats promptly accompanies the cheerful greeting. I like, and I smile back. And there are more wise folk out there, so often, the quotation is a simplistic one by an Anon. person. I like and I smile back with equal zeal.

And just by the way, I woke up at 6, had a cup of tea and made awesomely soft idlis with onion-tomato chutney. Served it up with a flourish, and then….but really now, do you need to know all this stuff about my daily routine? Nah. I suppose not. But I insist on telling you, coz I have this aching need to constantly share. Again, is it my need, or is it something I caught, you know, like a virus out there? Everyone’s sharing, be it on FB (‘I feel so tired today’- c’mon guys, some empathy please, or at least ask why), ‘The Metro sucks, and it hasn’t rained today’….yea, right, it sucks and it hasn’t rained, we all know it. It’s out there, all of it, and a lot of it sucks. One feels obliged to check the Like box, especially if it’s someone you want to have on your side to check your boxes too, haah!

Hang on, let me just put up a photograph of the road I traversed this morning, strewn with potholes and make a noteworthy statement of the rather ailing state of our state….it does make good copy.

Otherwise, honestly, there’s enough of enough that is quite all right. I love looking at photographs of scenaries and birds, trees and flowers, and see people enjoying their holidays, Oh I do. However, I don’t particularly like watching people in front of buildings, and in poor light especially. I enjoy poetry and writing, but not when it’s abysmally written, hankering for praise, accompanied by – well, let’s not go there shall we, not right now!

 

Surely should an anxiety get hold of me first thing in the morning –

“Shucks, I missed a wonderful quote today- how will I pass my day wisely now!” it would be frightfully wrong, would it not? This being besieged by a feeling of guilt and remorse, not okay. I haven’t wished back, what would my friends think of me?

 

So what’s it that drives us to constant communion? What’s this madness that has us in its hold? Why the need to be in the know of every movement of our friends, or non-friends and belong to a myriad groups that chatter incessantly. When there’s a quiet in-between this mindless chuckling, there’s a void felt- one is compelled to shake the mobile’s face – there’s something amiss, or we put it on and off, like a sparkling diamond, to verify that its shine is intact, and not fading with the passage of the hours. One wakes up to this faithful companion, having charged it to life, and then before shutting our eyes at night, we feel this craving to put in a last word- out there, so as to sleep in peace. But do we? In our sleep-state we are overcome by a myriad communications, said-unsaid. We are living in times that are overwrought with words, images, both moving and still. Can one safely conclude that we are over-communicating, over-reaching and over-dipping ourselves in the mire of ‘too much of a good thing’?

 

Benefits : we can be in touch with those far away from us, like our kids, our aging parents; we get to read some surprising thoughts & essays (seldom, but it is known to have happened), we are able to efficiently organize Ladies’ Night, and ensure that we don’t have to write the same message over and over; so far so good.

What else is good? Ah yes, the instant selfies and photographing…priceless.

 

Disadvantages : fewer surprises, less interesting stuff to share and an overriding need to outdo – be it in flavour, be it in humour, especially when it comes to reacting to whatever it is- fastest finger shows off a faster mind. And the emoticons- O lord, save my soul! I sit guilty of over-and mis-use of some very strange expressions and drawings. Many of us are. It replaces the word, and it sounds out the exclamation we would otherwise have used our vocal chords for. Wow! How does it get better than that!

It does, believe you me, it does. Not using them constantly will make them more meaningful and precious perhaps. I am yet to learn how not to. I am yet to understand how I got here, overzealously communicating day and night with people all over the world. I know I would save a few hours, were I to desist, and put them to far better use. Now what might that be, I do wonder, because, believe you me, I have this itch where I am fretting about how quickly I can finish this post, stick it on to my Blog, and share it via Facebook and Whatsapp and ….O all right, just these two for now. I’ve got to communicate my thoughts, and right about NOW! O the delicious tremor that seizes me as I imagine my world of people reading me and smiling, and shrugging their shoulders, saying, so what’s new? They will continue to ‘talk’ at a speed that both defies and defines time.

 

Is this going to change over the coming years? Are we going to embrace quietude and sometimes just go off the grid and become incommunicado? Do we really need to shed tears, or hair, or moods upon a screen- big or small? There are as many answers to these questions as there are people. Yet I have a sinking feeling that loneliness is on the rise, and the perils of communication are encouraging it, feeding it and permitting its dissemination like toxic weeds that grow unabated unless uprooted as quickly as they sprout.

Just saying :

  • Parthenium entered India with imported food grains in the mid-1950s. It is said to be one of the world’s seven most devastating and hazardous weeds and grows undeterred and wild left unchecked.
  • Facebook entered the world in 2004 and its invasion has transformed our world irretrievably.
  • Whatsapp was actively created in 2009, but it is in 2013 that it became really popular and had about 200 million active users and 50 staff members.

 

Some significant members of the Social Media Society : 

 

  • There’s Snapchat- microblogging, Twitter (instant gratification via handles- what you write is instantly swallowed by the world and gregariously opined about), Instagram (more photographs anyone- photo-blog away!), Youtube (show off your own videos, – you name it, and watch short or long movies!), Pinterest (visual pinning of pictures/videos and follow others’ Pins), Tumblr (posts are living documents) etc. ….and social media is kept alive in its myriad forms by we the People.

Lost Childhood

IMG_5496I loved, and I birthed,

A child, a childhood.

The child, he is, forever I thought.

I dreamed, I sang, I breathed,

This child, he grew, and sang along.

He played, he cried, he hurt, he longed.

Then, from child to adolescent,

He stood, swaying hither, thither

A threshold of sorts, a line to be crossed.

The mother- a woman who saw,

A childhood aside cast,

Emerged a lad, whose strength lay,

Not in me, not the universe,

But a tempest that held his sway,

For himself he created a turbulent ocean,

Tossed here, tossed there,

Became the name of the game,

Preferred the rush, the high tides,

To a tranquil home, and gentle rides.

A lost childhood, an end I daresay,

To times that were sweet,

Innocent, blameless fair play.

Matters not, cause all childhood must stay,

Where they belong – so long.

Replaced with matters that shatter, yet

A need arises for order to sustain,

A future of memory that doesn’t stain,

This lost childhood.