Review: Sea Horse

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Janice paints her words with a crushing melancholy that is overwhelming in parts but you consistently need to draw yourself in, steady yourself up, and go on, like Nem does. This book is about sexuality at its most elegant, and unadulterated form woven around the cocoon of memory. Silken prose, with sparkles of poetic gold.

We relate to a book because we like to associate. Like a great man once said( actually it is Stephen King),” Descriptions begin in the writer’s imagination but should finish in the reader’s.” Seahorse is too exhaustive in its descriptions of places and people, and it gets difficult to associate the relevance. We all have our own many Nicholases. Different place. Different time. Deadly memories. And I for one would have liked to slap a few faces onto this Nicholas, but had to constantly pull that plug off in order to accommodate the author’s Nicholas. Janice gives us a feast but the meal would have been as good.

Interesting book. Graceful writing. But if asked to pick my favourite between this and her Boats on Land, the latter wins hands down.

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Review: MS – A life in Music

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I have always thought MS to be patriarchy’s favorite Godchild. TJS George’s book not only reaffirms that, but also clarifies on the songstress’ trust in herself to do the right things for her life. Marrying Sadashivam, who was older to her by 14 years, was one such thing. The book is as much a biography of Sadashivam’s life much as it is about MS. Afterall, there is no other without each other in their case. What one still is intrigued about is MS’s personal life. She married Sadhashivam, and they lived happily ever after, but really, how it is like to live under tightly regimented household routines and strictures of Brahminical privileges that she adopted to become what she became?

She perhaps got accustomed, and (I guess) developed a liking for patriarchy because of the lack of a strong male figure in her life before Sadashivam. Also, growing up in a Devadasi family meant being denied the security of being someone’s ‘wife’. The Devadasi Abolition Bill was introduced in 1930, Sadir or ‘Dasi Aatam’ was rechristened as Bharatanatyam (that eventually got inducted into the TamBrahm Maslov’s privilege pyramid), and the ancient Devadasi cult suffered ignominy. It was around this time that MS was trying to break into the Indian Music scene while being certain that she did not want to succumb to the pressures of her lineage. She evaded her own fate with her faith on music. Her music led her to Sadashivam, she let him take control of her life, and she was very happy doing so.

The book did not satiate my curiosity to know more about MS, the individual. One can gauge and probe based on the information available on her milieu and career chronology but material manifestations are poor substitutes to understanding personal psychologies. MS’ music was probably her only personal life. She was that music, and all the encompassing jeevatmas.

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I think I should write more often.

I was cleaning up my Drive folder, and stumbled upon some comment that I had made way back in 2013, on the ‘ownership’ of ideas. My comment was quite complex, but it was also very self-uplifting in a level. I don’t think I ever bothered to recollect the Twitter Story after this comment, and I don’t remember writing this, but in retrospect, if I were capable of writing this, I should be capable of breaking out of my pavlovian excuse for a writer’s block, and just write. I seem to have made a good point here:

“But ideas are what drive the society. Ideas are what differentiates people. I will take the liberty here to assume that idea also includes thoughts/opinions/musings. If that be the case, and if idea is indeed ‘beyond an individual’, then what makes an individual at all? Metamorphosing of an idea is different. Look at the twitter story. Jack Dorsey propounded, but some other guy built on that idea, painted it well and became twitter’s posterboy. Isn’t that also what happened to jobs in ’97? When ideas become common property, then there would not be any necessity for individual greatness in a society. When ideas are branded and chained to the leader of that thought, then it makes sense. The person who owns the idea could not be deemed responsible of how it takes shape, but definitely, the person who birthed that idea cannot be discredited for parentage. That, IMO, is sinning”

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Recapping a crappy good 2014

2014 has been a marvellous year in a lot of ways. After 23 years of entitlement and impatience, 2014 was different and I learnt some important life lessons along the way. It was definitely boring to see through the year, but in retrospect, I am glad that it happened. Some jottings:

1) Travel alone. It’s great fun.

2) Do not believe in all that people say about you. They don’t know you. Infact you aren’t sure about what you are yourself. It’s okay, fuck them.

3) Jerks are not worth it. Fuck them too ( And don’t read between the lines).

4) Have friends. Not many, but a handful, who care about you, and who you care about. They will stand by all your rights and wrongs like an unshakable walrus.

5) Surround yourself with people who have empathy. And people who are knowledgable. That mix is good, and keeps life healthy and interesting.

6) Learn to ‘live’ alone. You will become your own good friend.

7) Some men are born assholes. Some men are obsessed psychos. Some men only live because they have a dick. Some men cannot see the world outside of their ego. Some men believe that money can buy everything. Some men are irresponsible and apathetic. Some men are sociopaths. And some, chauvinists. Some men lie. Some men cheat. And some men are just plain stupid.

But lots of men are nice, and rational, and responsible, and stable, and fun, and intelligent, and honest. Believe that ‘normal’ men who do ‘normal’ things exist. Because they do. Choose well.

8) Learn to differentiate the thin line between ‘self-respect’ and ‘taking yourself too seriously’. It’s a jolly good life, do jolly good things, be with jolly good people.

9) Continue to sing and dance and read and write and watch movies and and tweet and instagram and talk and walk and travel. You will figure it out someday. Idleness is a sin. Confusion is not.

10) Trust intuition. It always always always always always always always says the right thing.

11) Read literature. It gives you perspective.

12) Accept that you are not Mother Teresa, and that you are capable of making mistakes. You are young and beautiful and smart. Now that’s potentially lethal.ūüôā

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On Sylvia Plath, and The Bell Jar

                               Would I be mean to myself, and surrender my individuality if I say I have been feeling like a Sylvia Plath reincarnate right this moment, minus all the writing prowess? Or is it only her brutal, naive, and singularly hallucinating writing that makes this book so personal, so self-definitive that it convinces you of your individuality, surreptitiously depriving you of the same because you internalize this prose to the point of no-return? This book talks to me about me, this book talks to me about people like me, caught betwixt and between the devil and the deep sea, not knowing, not seeking, always exploding and living with a self-imposed dogma, just so to sink into that void of alluring happiness that is very very deep, and hence very shallow because they have just sunk too much. The biggest takeaway from this book for me was that it challenged my need to read literature. Why do people read? Some read to know, some read, to improve upon their radii of perspective. For a few others, reading is their stoic metal jacket, an anti-dote to ills imposed by life, living, values, emotions, and responsibilities, and a few others read, and read without agenda(Like the flowing wind, if I may).

But Sylvia Plath in Bell Jar, Good Lord, she baffles me. How can someone be ambitious for herself, and yet glorify suicide? Plath actually really makes the idea of suicide sound very romantic and endearing. She loves the idea of death. Ofcouse, to kill oneself is a lot of spunk. Not lacking the will to live is not demeaning, because, that’s a bet with death hoping it would take you to a better place. We all try to escape different things, and what’s the big deal trying to escape life itself? To all my Derrida-esque questions, someone I know has only this answer: “Maybe those who die go to an orchard full of chocolates, so it’s okay, go ahead and pity the living”. Agreed. But Bell Jar’s prose is so ambitious, and it admires those who dare, it glorifies those who drift in peculiar homelessness,determined to try everything knowing fully well that it would not stop their suffering. There is so much life and living in this book that a strange, and an equally unsettling contempt hits you in the gut because, Sylvia Plath, this passionate Champion of the Aliens, this monstrous power house of a woman had to kill herself to glorify the life and the living. And I just don’t understand.

Sure. A few sentimental thoughts stem in too. What if she were alive today? Would she have also embroiled social issues that plagued her in her prose, a la Jelinek, a la Llosa? Would she have written more, mocked at our digital lives, and mocked at us, yuppies, for being the yuppies? These questions are so relevant to think, and to comprehend, but so pointless to ask. Just like how the Bell Jar is. But I truly wish she were alive, and living, just a little bit more.

In some way, literature has made me indifferent, some books have made me deliriously happy because they empathize so much to the point that seeking human empathy becomes invalid. But hold on, did all this reading put me in a spot, put me where, as Plath herself declares, ‘I am I am I am’ today, and then now does it try to shower me with all the empathy that words can offer? I think literature inflicts the wounds, and desperately tries to heal it too. Since whining cannot make a review, I will conclude this with one last thought: I think it takes some extraordinary writing to move people. It also takes a lot of ‘strength’ to move people. Sylvia Plath has written the Bell Jar like she owns the world, she has written it like the true master of her craft and that is why I think you should read this book, that is why I am sure this account will move you to bits, and that is also why I think it is okay to just ‘flow with the wind’.

 

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On Devas and Asuras

It is interesting how flexible the idea of God is, in religions across the world. In Hinduism, we have come to recognise the Asuras as shallow, and evil beings. The temples in India are all rife with stories about the Hindu Pantheon of Gods killing the Asuras. But the Avesta, the Persian Counterpart of Vedas, hails the Ahuras ( Asura in Sanskrit), and writes off the Devas as demonic. Infact ‘Ahura Mazda’ is the Avestan name for the greatest of the divine. Zoroastrianism and Hinduism are two of the very oldest religions, and there is quite a paradoxical discrepancy here,and this discrepancy is not only underlined in the belief system, but also in the perception of good and evil. How can this be?

First things first, in Hinduism, Asuras came to be associated with the idea of evil only post the Vedic Era. There came a time when people needed something bigger than logic to place their faith in, and that was also the time when the longevity of the ‘agnostic ideology’ that was Hinduism came to be questioned. Buddhism happened eventually, and it was amassing a good fan following across the sub-continent. No rigorous practices, no reiteration of the pointlessness of it all and it was quite a simple faith to follow. How cool! Hinduism as an idea became endangered, so the patrons had to overhaul the belief system. They added a lot of mysterious zing, spiced it all up, and repackaged the essence of the ideology to suit the taste of the audience. I would say dilution of the essence to cater to mediocrity, but the saleability of an idea is more important than the awesomeness of it. Yes? As part of this grand plan, the poor Asuras, who are as ‘good’ as the Devas, had to be demonised.

So who are the Devas and the Asuras?

In the Rig Veda, there is really no distinction between the Devas and the Asuras. Logically, the Asuras are those forces that convert all the inorganic matter into organic matter, while the Devas are those forces that give life to the organic matter. So there is a ‘constant battle’ between the devas and the asuras for supremacy. But it is quite fascinating how the Asuras became associated to all things bad in Hinduism.

I interpret it like this: We need the help of the Devas all the time and Asuras, not as much. The Fertile Crescent between the Tigris and the Euphrates ensured that agriculture thrived in Mesopotamia. So the Ahura, who is generally the uncreated God, became the Top God for the Persians, because the cycling of organic nutrients to inorganic matter for soil fertility was of huge concern to them. And life thrived there because of the Asuras. In India, the Sun and Indra(who are Devas) are worshipped because we needed these natural forces to catalyse agricultural productivity whilst the Persians did not need these Gods as much as we did. So survival of the fittest happened, and the Hindus took to Devas.

Or it could be that people are always on the lookout for antithesis because, Gods are afterall only a reflection of the society. Really.

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The Strike

I am not too fond of writing random posts , but today has been a bad day. And I just wanted to write something, so I guess no harm there.

These kind nice folks back home gifted me the Kindle Paperwhite last week.So I registered with my Amazon account and was stunned to see the Kindle named as ‘Archana’s second Kindle’. It’s not anything extraordinary there, why even most people would not bother to notice this, but I loved how Amazon thought through a whole bunch of ways in which customers might start using the product. I guess all businesses ought to identify these small things that bring a smile to the face, and boost customer retention and loyalty. I have earlier used the Kindle to download the books from my wishlist just to cloud store them inorder to remember to buy a hardcopy later( I am your proverbial Pound foolish Pennywise person), but the night reading capability of the paperwhite pleases my nocturnal self no end.

I read Atlas Shrugged. Again. When I read Ayn rand way back in college, I went into this hermitic state of personal dissociation from anything living, quoted Objectivism left, right and centre and lived under the clout of ‘I don’t have to tell people how smart I am because it is an insult to my smartness’ ¬†tripe and alienated everyone who deserved my attention (Bragging rights if you may). Ofcourse it was a phase, but rereading Atlas Shrugged made me realise how much I am for Objectivism, and how much of what Ayn Rand says has been so applicable in my daily life and living. Mediocrity can be baffling. You would say I am judging from a high pedestal here, but it is insanely puzzling when you know people who ‘loot’ others’ ideas and condemn geniuses simply because they can never raise to that level of awesomeness.

I have come to believe in a few kinds of people. The average smart joe is smart. He thinks for himself, and has opinions. He works to make him feel smart, and he is pretty confident about his ‘average’ abilities. He may not exhibit sparks of genius but he recognises his averageness, and is very willing to learn. I respect these people, because they are quite honest about their abilities.

And then there are these geniuses. The combination of raw rustic passion and Holymotherawesomeness of talent. These are the guys who ‘produce’. These are the guys who innovate and experiment and never shy away from being arrogant. I respect these people too because I find this arrogance validated. Humility is bullcrap.

But hold on, it is the last types who get me.

The guys who are dumb but think they are part of the creme de la creme and stupefy fellow human beings with inane junk for ideas. Notwithstanding that, they loot. They loot ideas, and write long emails with plagiarised sentences from the agile development handbook. They ridicule passionate people, they try to make a mockery out of folks who consistently try to raise the bar and thereby breed mediocrity. I find the last category too much in common these days.

These people have an unwarranted air about them. What gives them the right? Social Media? Access to information? When did upvoting answers in Quora come to symbolify voracious reading ? What great insult to passionate voracious readers! When did owning a twitter handle come to indicate aristocracy? Jack ¬†Dorsey has been shamed. He built a platform to help people exchange interesting thoughts , and the so-called knowledgable have promptly romped it up with gossip, gangs and catfights, pleasurably masturbating on each other’s ego.

Write a stupid answer in quora and have your other stupid friends upvote it. Boom. Wow. And then there are a bunch of jokers who call you intelligent, because hey you are the local twitter celeb. If this doesn’t work, then use the humility shield. Call a genius arrogant because humility and non-violence are what what keeps humanity intact. Plagiarise characteristics, and walk around with a false air of intelligentsia. Thrive in mediocrity, dilute art, pollute workplaces, copulate and produce mediocre specimens and sell all the mediocrity to glory.

Maybe Ayn Rand was right. The Atlas should just shrug.

P.S: If you were smart enough to figure out I was talking about you here, I probably wasn’t
:D

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