How I became a Tree – Book Review

How I Became a Tree

 

It’s been some time since I read a book and I am glad I choose this gem by Sumana Roy.I have been nodding at various passages in sync with the author and at times I was marveled at the way she was able to draw a parallelism between being a human and being a tree.
Trees have always fascinated me.Their long trunks as a testimony to their strength, their deep roots, their ever hugging nature by the branches.Sumana was able to put words into my thoughts that had always marveled me.
This is a book I will always remember reading. 🙂

 

Em and Big Hoom

Em and the Big HoomEm and the Big Hoom by Jerry Pinto

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When you go to a home, you knock and wait for someone from the home to open the door and let you in.There is a certain premise to enter the home, make oneself comfortable and then have a chat.And when it’s finally time to part, you might or might not have understood the reality of that home or the family.But that was not the case with Em and Big Hoom.

When I started reading this book, I was literally put in the middle of the lives of Em, Big Hoom and their family. I felt warm and welcomed to their home.Not one time did I feel I was not a part of their family.I literally lived and breathed with them.

I felt the burning and suffocating smell of beedis in my eyes and nose.I understood the bits and pieces and was able to read in between the lines from Em’s talks.I felt ashamed at the same time intrigued at her adult talks.I felt the silent, yet the roaring presence of Big Hoom.I sensed the tender love between these folks.I could hear all the thoughts of em for endless hours.I also shivered when she tried to let go of her life.And I was part relieved and a part sad when she finally left.I knew I was somewhere becoming the shadow of the narrator, who has poured his hearts out!

Our mothers are very dear to us.She somehow has been bestowed with the power of holding all the members of the family.Now, it’s very scary situation if something happens to such a strong link.And even scarier if it related to being mentally disabled.Imelda, aka Em, is one such person, who slowly and at times looses the grip of reality.

‘After you were born, someone turned on a tap. At first it was only a drip, a black drip, and I felt it as sadness. I had felt sad before . . . who hasn’t ? I knew what it was like. But I didn’t know that it would come like that, for no reason. I lived with it for weeks.’

‘Was there a drain?’

‘No. There was no drain. There isn’t one even now’.

‘It is like oil. Like molasses, slow at first.Then one morning I woke up and it was flowing free and fast. I thought I would drown in it. I thought it would drown little you and Susan. I got up, got dressed and went out onto the road and tried to jump in front of a bus. I thought it would be a final thing, quick like a bang.  Only,it wasn’t.

I don’t know if there is any better way of defining depression.It’s akin to drowning in one’s sadness, though we don’t want to be drowned and we know how to stop oneself from being drowned but yet, yet simply could not help but sink down.That’s depression.

And how can one forget Augustine, the Big Hoom ?. When there are people who simply choose to stay out of trouble by avoiding ill people from their lives, here a man who stays and fights for a normal life.His love for Em, cannot be said in words.It can be known only from the heart.

“Love is never enough. Madness is enough. It is complete, sufficient unto itself.”

Such a brilliant portrayal of a dysfunctional(?) family amongst us describing the vivid emotions and the broken thoughts of a depressed, bipolar, suicidal mother but more importantly reading this book showed me the difficulties, that sort of numbness and the absence of normalcy in the lives of the caretakers of these mentally ill people.

I wonder if one day, I fall as hard as Em, will I be lucky enough to be surrounded by folks like Em’s family?

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My Husband and Other Animals

My Husband and Other AnimalsMy Husband and Other Animals by Janaki Lenin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What made me reach for this book was the title,”My Husband and Other Animals”.Since I had never read any of Janaki’s columns in The Hindu, I didn’t know what the book would be about.While reading this book, a bunch of articles gave me a totally new experience.
We live either in a city or in a village or in a flat or a good old mansion.We make god friends and enemies with your neighbours, relatives, friends etc.But we never would have given a thought about the various “other” beings around us.Reading this book made me literally me sit up and think about the toads, cats, dogs, birds, worms, flies and even mosquitoes[the beings around me].It did make me wonder about their conversations :).

Ms.Janaki favourite and recurring topic in her articles is her husband, Mr.Romulus Whitaker-who is an herpetologist and founder of Madras Crocodile Bank. They together have been living in Madras Crocodile Bank, and later on moved to a farm house near Chengalpet.While reading through the experiences of the author I was quite envious about her adventures and most importantly the fun she had while on them.Be it “always finding a way back to home toads” or “cyclone crocs” or “trekking deep forests”, she has had a great run which we can only imagine.

Laughing and giggling to myself, I finished the book in no time.It was a quick and hearty read and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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The Kaunteyas.

The KaunteyasThe Kaunteyas by Madhavi S. Mahadevan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the tale of Mahabharata retold from the viewpoint of Kunti, who I believe was the one who had the power to avert the great war but she couldn’t choose to do so.I now realize why !.At every point of the tale, she always chose the well-being of her family and her kingdom above her own life.Though she is very intelligent and witty and full of love and honor, she always did what a lady is advised and supposed to do since the day she is born.She had huge powers vested upon her but she was always bound to look beyond herself and chose not to utilize her power as a mother, as a queen or as a lady.

The life of Kunti was depicted in such a way that we naturally sympathize with her and her choices and life.From a girl who was given away right after she was born, growing up in foster care, being naive, being vulnerable, being obedient but inquisitive and intelligent, her pain of being in love, her defeat to share her husband, her sacrifice for children everything is elaborately described in this book.For me, it felt like a mirror to the lives of women in our society today as she is expected to keep herself and her priorities at the bottom of the chain. These long tales painted such a picture of how a woman needs to keep sacrificing for her family and how she must follow her husband’s orders, how she is not allowed to make herself a priority, how she has no support from anywhere that it has become the new norm leading our society to a patriarchal one.

I was not particularly blown away by the narration as it had nothing new to offer except a new viewpoint as that of a women’s narrative.This may because I had expected something on lines of MT Randamoozham.Nonetheless, a good read!

When Breath Becomes Air

The title is what made me want to read this deeply moving memoir.Such a profound one, your breath is your life and you don’t realize until it becomes just air.I am not sure if I grasped it correctly, but that was what spontaneously came to my mind when reading the title there.I understand that it has been taken from here: “The book’s title is paraphrased from a verse in Caelica, a 17th-century poem by Baron Brooke Fulke Greville: You that seek what life is in death, Now find it air that once was breath ”

We all don’t understand the real value of our life until we have been through the tragedy of it.Our perspective suddenly changes.The sufferings and pain become too real to ignore.The author Dr.Paul seemed to have everything in his life, until one day when he found them to gone out just like that.The author ended up being a neurosurgeon to understand the ultimate philosophy of life.All the hard work he has done to make it this far, the many sleepless nights, the choices of subjects he chose to learn, his ultimate seeking of truth about life died a sad ending.

The book showcases the changes of Dr.Paul from a doctor to patient.The reader is taken through his choices of subjects to learn and why he ended up being a neurosurgeon.He discusses the flimsy knowledge of life we have and how he wanted to help more of people with the knowledge he possessed.The book provides a great insight into the lives of the saviors, their working hours, their procedures, the emotional trauma, their depressions.

It also outlines his personal struggles with his life partner, about Lucy both before and after his diagnosis.It also dis is own sufferings and the limited amount of time he had in this world and how he chose to spend the same.I wonder how much pain would he have endured to write down his thoughts.One of the most touching verses in the book is where he and his wife discuss the possibility of having a baby. Lucy wants him to decide: he wants her to.

‘Don’t you think saying goodbye to your child will make your death more painful?’ she asks.Wouldn’t it be great if it did?’ he replies, adding: ‘Lucy and I both felt that life wasn’t about avoiding suffering.’

Paul and Lucy together had “Cady” and he was able to spend a few months with her.It might have been difficult, but “Cady” is a lucky girl to have a great father and a great legacy.

whenbreathbecomesair

 

Reading this book which has been posthumously published after Dr. Paul expired to stage IV lung cancer in March 2015. Through this book he makes us realize that If we had led a meaningful life and if we made the right choices, then our lives are wonderful even of we see a sudden end to it.this book has given me another reason to cherish my life and I keep adding newer memories every day.

Book Review : The Story of A Suicide

The Story of a Suicide indeed illustrates the circumstances of how an individual decides why he no longer wants to live in this beautiful world.I am totally against suicide,yes even in cases where a person has no longer a life,we proclaim fit to proceed.I believe we are one of a kind and the mere fact that we are alive and thinking,must help us overcome the thoughts of being dead.I feel that half the courage one has in oneself  to be able to choose death willingly is more than enough for him to face the world and live a life ahead.

And the real reason,I believe that one becomes forced to choose death over life is the weight of the burden of expectations that hangs as dagger above us.Only if we are able to break free the expectations set upon us,will we be able to rise and make a mark.If we are born poor,our society deems us unfit to be a part of it and taunt us.Even if get the right education,if our social status is different that their “superior” ones we get insulted.It’s a truth that this sort of expectation kills,especially in our social set up.The ranks,marks,relationships, everything matters to parents.Their entire future is closely aligned to their children’s.So if the child deviates a little bit from their path of dreams aka expectations and if there is an emotional background to it,it’s better to be dead that be alive and being taunted for their rest of lives.

Being said that this web-novel narrates the story of four people Hari,Charu,Sam and Mani and how fate had intervened in their actions that each one becomes a responsibility to the death of the protagonist,Hari.It was a final destination of how the entire chapters were set up for the final showdown.The characters are well thought of and important taboo topics of child sex abuse, homosexuality, love, betrayal, expectations, cyber crime, sex, passion are well described,connected and illustrated.Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 7.58.16 AM.png

The crux of the story,I felt was the failure of expectations.Sam believes Charu is in love with him and when he finds out it never was the way he had expected,he sets out for revenge.He sets up Charu and stalks her,that she decides to catch hold of him while in the act. A twist in the tale makes the trap set up for Charu ends with the life of Hari.Hari is forced to take the decision of death,due to the burden of expectations his parents,his social status and the expectations he had in his partner.He expects to find solace in his partner,Mani but Mani’s actions had his relive his most traumatized part of a life of his robbed childhood.And Mani,he expects Hari to understand his acts as his love,but Hari could not tolerate the same.

We need to be aware that times are changing so fast that our outlook towards life also needs to be changed.The social status or facebook status is no longer important but the life status, on finding what you are meant to give this world and how you can do it must be one’s aim.Parents should help and guide children to find their passion and support them for what they need to win their life.No matter what  circumstances are parents must spend time with their children,make them feel comfortable in sharing their thoughts and struggles.

Child sex abuse is very prevalent in any society and we all need to stand up against it.Status shows that mostly it is our family members whom we think we can trust, takes the chance to exploit the innocent kids.We must never turn away from what a child has to say and we must always support and help our child,cause these scars run deep and in turn changes their personality.By staying with them,helping them heal we can also forgive oneself.There are more ways of healing than ever before and I urge everyone to make use of it,rather than staying within themselves and being afraid of taboos.The website itself tells us more ways on how can one find a way out,it just a matter of reaching out.

Maybe I am too old for today’s youngster’s modus of Operandi in achieving instant likes,twitter shaming ,being bold by stating tales of vagina and penises.This novel also told me how I must help my child to channelize his talent to the welfare of another person.I as a parent must know that I can help my child build his world without comparisons,without hate but with compassion and love.It made me realize how the entire thing is relevant only in my head and not anywhere else!!

One of my quickest,deepest read of this year,this web-novel shows that we can easily mess up with a life.It is very easy to go into depression and thoughts of being insignificant emergences.It is a brutal truth of society we live in today.The tale ends with a death,not the sugar coated , the happy ending which we normally crave.The highlight of the web-novel is the illustrations.They were commendable and very apt to the chapters.It felt like Namboodiri’s drawings. 🙂

Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 7.58.54 AM

Note : The entire team of The Story of Suicide,deserves a round of applause as I have never seen such a kind of amalgamation of gems in setting up of a story.Usually, when I read a book,I glance through the Thank you page and the names go into oblivion,but not in this case.Kudos to each one of you.

 

Yugantha : The end of an epoch.

Well,I been reading

yugnta

By Author

Irawati Karve,a well know researcher from Burma has written “Yugantha” which is a set of quality essays based on the well known tale of Mahabharatha. She has also written much about  other academic and general subjects.She is such a delight to read.

And this is all about ?

A set of essays retelling the epic,”Mahabharata”,in such a way that it does create a set of doubts on its authenticity!A thought provoking read,retold in such a way to create strong doubts about the tale.The book consists of essays which are critiques of different characters such as Gandhari, Kunti, Draupadi, Karna and Krishna etc which is based on the oldest available editions of Mahabharata,which itself helps us to wane of many side stories which might have been added later on as part of culture or traditions.

So, how was it ?

A must read for those who are interested in history and also for those with inquisitive minds,who would have had hundreds of questions while hearing the stories from their grand parents or parents.Once read through these essays,the author was able to cast a shadow of doubt in my mind about the authenticity of the characters presented.At some point of time,it did occur to me that the tale is not entirely fictious. A different set of thoughts bubbled up in me about the various characters in the tale,while reading through the essays which was certainly not what I had presumed or heard or told to me.

All the characters were stripped of their godliness only to be interpreted as humans with all the character flaws .The author did manage to dig deep into them and present the facts.

My personal favourite read from the lot was related with Bhisma and Draupadi.

Extra Notes : A more poetic and sensual read would be Randamoozham by MT,which is also retelling of the same tale  from “Bhima’s “point of view.