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Men Without Women

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Title: Men Without Women

Author: Haruki Murakami

Publisher: Harvill Secker, London

Year: 2017

I just finished reading Haruki Murakami’s Men Without Women. It is a collection of stories. There are in all seven stories. Each one with a distinct flavour and a lot of mystery.

What a master storyteller Murakami is! This book is about men without women. Each character in the story has loved and lost a woman. He is an amazingly thoughtful storyteller. This comes across in the slow pace of his stories. His words and expressions are rhythmically attached to each other and form sentence after sentence carefully maintaining the pace he has set for the story.

But what I enjoyed most were his characters. Such layered characters are a treat for readers. You are actually not reading a story but getting to know each of these characters and his study of these characters. They make the story.

Finally, story always leaves you asking for more. It always makes you want to take it forward in your thoughts. Your engagement with it does not end with the book. After reading the story, you find yourself asking why was he in such a bad shape locked up in a house? Why did she commit suicide? or Why did her husband phoned him to inform about her suicide? Each story leaves you with a number of questions and you don’t want answers to them. You just want to live with them a little more.

Amazing book. A must read.

Our Expression in the Money Economy

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I am in between translating an English text on Black Drongo in Hindi for my magazine for children. The text is informative and readable. There is this one sentence that caught my attention- “sometimes black drongo takes a free ride on a cattle”.

The phrase ‘free ride’ particularly got me interested. How commonplace has it become to use phrases like ‘free’ to describe a relationship between two organisms. It is two people sharing a space at a certain time and interacting with each other. Their moment and their relationship can not be described as a free ride or free anything.

It could be a fun ride. One could think about drongo’s perspective from above the ground. Or the feeling it could be feeling. Or how does the cattle feel about it. It’s just them being themselves.

Success is Trending

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As I was growing up, my parents urged me to study harder. “Just be financially independent. I don’t want you to be a career-driven girl.”, my mother would remind me. She was worried if I got trapped in a bad marriage, I should have the financial stability to take my stand. She was also concerned about my wishes after marriage. She would say that although she earned but she gave all her earnings to my grandmother, who was very loving and gave everything to my mother before she even asked. That is mainly because she never asked. But my mother lived this pain of not being able to buy even trinkets when her peers could buy expensive saris and jewelry. She thought that my financial independence would let me fulfill my wishes.

She never desired me to be successful. In fact, she was very clear that I should not be successful. I should just be able to get by. Because I am a girl, you know. I have to get married and be a mother. Here, she set the bar very high. She trained me to be the best daughter-in-law and a self-sacrificing mother.

However, my commitment to my professional degree gave me a different perspective on my life. I worked and it got appreciated. This new found confidence in my skills encouraged me to walk on a path of creativity. My father used to say, do whatever you wish to do. But be the best in what you do. I found this desire to be the best at whatever I did. At some point, I was actually quite good.

My cousins and peers had the desire to be successful, which I could never develop. So, even today I am not successful but I am good at what I do. Success never attracted me.

However, success has become quite popular. Today, many people are discussing it. Successful people are talking about their success. They are not sharing success stories. They are telling you that they are successful. They are successful in spite of their educational failures.

This is new to me. I wonder what is the meaning of success for an academic who does not read well or write well. I found that a government job that pays well is the definition of success for an academic. Then I hear stories of humiliation by the hands of these successful people. I wonder what is this kind of success that is not creatively satisfying, that leaves you with a strange emptiness, which is filled by arrogance and violence.

Money and domination are the two ingredients of success. We got this definition of success from the colonial rule. We saw their success in the form of their ability to dominate us and acquire riches. This idea of success is not new. Empires were built and conquered for it. What is new is that my friend, my brother, my peer wants to be successful and dominate the world.

Can you see the implication of this success in our world today? Is this why grand old wisdom tried to show us the difference between happiness and success?

Happiness is so tacky and low standard. Success is trending.

 

Learning to Revise and Edit

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Ever since I plunged into the write everyday cycle, writing the first draft has become easier. In the past two years, I have written several first drafts. These drafts are based on hours of research. However, once the idea is on paper, I seem to find it painful to revise it.

Once I get to it, I keep revising it. This revision is directionless. I feel like I am lost in a jungle of words and don’t know where to go and how. I also continuously doubt my decisions. The process stretches to months and years and most first drafts never make it to the editing table.

Editing is less painful and there is some direction. I would know more about its pain if I get more papers to the table.

Dear Readers, do share your learning and experiences with me to achieve this milestone in my writing journey.

 

 

How To Read A Book

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I have been reading a book by Mortimer J. Adler, How to Read A Book. The book was first published in the early months of 1940. I am reading the revised version of the book that came out in 1972. This version is co-authored by Adler and Charles Van Doren.

A friend introduced me to a chapter from this book by a friend, How to Make a Book Your Own. In this text he advocates such a reading of a text that it enters your bloodstream and becomes a part of your self.

In my last post, I talked about my teacher’s teacher. An interaction with him informs you how well he has read the text that even after 40-50 years of reading it, he can quote from the book. I want to read a book like him. Adler discusses the steps to become such a reader. I read this chapter more than once. Inspired by his convincing and authoritative style of writing, I decided to buy the book.

This revised version of the book is even better. It is a fat book of 418 pages. It is a compelling read especially today when we are increasingly losing the capacity to read. I will write more about the book once I finish reading it.

My Teacher’s Teacher

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I went to see my teacher’s teacher yesterday. He taught my teacher during his graduation years. Now, he is 90 years old. He never fails to amaze me with his memory. Yet during every conversation, he complains that he forgets. I tried to tell him to see how much he remembers.¬†During our conversation, he narrated a long poem that he read in a newspaper in 1945. The poem was about an incident in which a student died during lathi charge.¬† He remembers the names, writers and even quotes from books. My teacher still consults him for books because he remembers nearly everything that he read even if he read it in a newspaper.

I wonder how well he must be reading. Yesterday, he shared an anecdote about his teacher, Dr. Dhirendra Tripathy. Dr. Tripathy was a D.Litt from Paris. Around 1945, as my teacher’s teacher graduated, he went to Dr. Tripathy for a testimonial. He had applied for a teaching position. Dr. Tripathy called his secretary and dictated a testimonial. One thing I valued most in the testimonial was that Dr. Tripathy described him as a student who almost always, “either adds something of subtract something from the lecture that was given to him. He chose what he liked. So, he is a man of independent ideas.”

So, after Dr. Tripathy gave him his testimonial, he asked, “Do you know how to teach?” He replied, “I know how to read.” The forever serious Dr. Tripathy smiled and said that you must take three counsels from me:

  1. Always be better than the best student of your class.
  2. Never enter a class unless you are fully satisfied with your preparation.
  3. Be honest. Tell your students with honesty that you do not have an answer to a particular question but will find out about it.

I have a feeling that my teacher’s teacher gave this counsel to my teacher too.

 

Time

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In one of our conversations before marriage, my husband said, “Relax. We all have a lot of time. We have to live a long life. It is not time that is less.”

His tone was so peaceful. His expression was so calming. I believed him. He believes in it too. He is never in a hurry. He works at his pace. He loves his work. He loves himself. He has a strong sense of ownership towards his work. He keeps re-doing it until he is convinced with it. Once, convinced, he looks at it admirably.

In case you are wondering, my husband is an artist. He paints. Water-colour is his preferred medium. From him, I am learning to do one thing at a time. Give it my best and keep at it till it is not the best I could do. From him, I am learning to understand time. I am learning to observe my pace. Most importantly, I am learning to understand myself.

Time is never less. We are not giving it its due. Every moment needs to be lived to the fullest. It should not be rushed or passed. I have to learn to make every moment my moment. It comes from a sense of security and calmness. The world I live in is one of my making. The time that I live is also of my making. Looking back, I should be able to say how well I have lived every moment of my time. I remember each moment touching me and leaving me.