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I have been wanting to read The Odissi Girl by Donovan Roebert for a while, for obvious reasons. Being from Orissa myself, I was intrigued by the title; and then the author’s nationality. Looking at your own culture and country though another set of eyes is always interesting.
I read it in a few sittings. Even though it’s a classical, descriptive love story, I felt for the main characters and wanted to know about his final resolution, so it was a page turner from that sense. Jay; a vulnerable sensitive young man, feels rootless even though he’s from a wealthy established South African family- and in an attempt to find his roots and connect with his Indianness, comes to India. Here he meets some interesting characters for example the very quintessentially Indian, Mr Das with his cryptic statements and ancient wisdom. Mr Das helps Jay in his quest to meet Ananya, the beautiful Odissi dancer. He falls in love with her poster itself; then gets appointed as the dancers' photographer. When he photographs her, it is as if he sees her the way no one else does. While Jay is overcome by his love, Ananya herself seems to have a very practical approach, and her coolness and unapproachability is like a denial to Jay. While he understands her soul, his upbringing so different from the traditional Indian way, perhaps doesn’t let him see the constraints she lives with.
The scene shifts to South Africa, where we see Jay a different form, he’s still a photographer but of war and violence. He has married and got divorced, still burning in his love for Ananya. I loved most of the characters, Jay’s light-hearted parents,
so bewildered about their sons obsession, but eager to help him ‘get’ her when he hears of her coming to SA; the boss Hal with his special friendship and understanding; old, wise Malusi with his grandson; even the Nguni cow. I felt for Jay in his love, his anger, his rootlessness, and finally his clarity. At times I wondered if the object of his love was really deserving of such a devoted passionate love, but towards the end, we see more of the actual Ananya and ultimately the passion in her as well.
Donovan describes Odissi dance exquisitely; if you have grown up with something, you don’t often see the uniqueness in it. For me Odissi dance was about the dreaded dance classes in school, the dance teacher who rapped us on our knees when we didn’t bend them enough, and the performances which some of the more graceful girls did on the school stage. Through Jay’s eyes I saw the Chauka, Gita Abhinaya, Tribhnagi come to life, I could see why someone would want and learn more of about this form of dance.
In terms of novel structure, I liked the way it goes back and forth in Jay’s mind- the delicacy of his love and the harshness of his environment in sharp contrast. The use of the present tense gives a sense of immediacy in an otherwise descriptive novel. The dream sequences are poignant and evocative.
In today’s world where a lot of novels are about irony, wit and style, this one stands out in its sincerity of portraying a beautiful love story, with well researched background on dance.
I took the step this year, applied and got accepted for a MA in creative writing. The seed for this was sowed years back I feel. Every time a well-meaning friend or acquaintance
suggested I could value add to my career by completing a MBA in London, anything to move onward and upward, I said 'If I have to study again, I would rather do something I really liked.' Finally after slowly suffocating in a desultory job, I thought, so why not? Why not actually enrol in a course, without spending the rest of my Life thinking that's what I would like to do?
Hence my weekly classes in the London Met. Now I can't wait for a Thursday, knowing at the end of a tube journey to a grotty station, getting lost in the walk to the classroom in the maze of the London Met, at the end of three hours, I will come away refreshed and happy. Having graduated and post graduated in technology and business respectively, the bliss of actually studying books and poetry is a luxury I can't appreciate enough!
One of the first novels we had to read was The Lighthouse by Alison Moore. Published by an unknown small publisher it made it to the Booker shortlist. It is Alison's first novel as well. I could see why it was chosen as a reading material. A slim volume, bordering on a novella, the language is simple and taut. It is literary fiction at its page turning best. You start the book knowing something awful is about to happen or has happened in the
protagonist Futh's life. When it does happen at the end of the book, you almost miss it. There is just a subtle hint and you have to re-read to understand the significance of a faint smell of camphor outside the door. The ending is left to your own imagination, some like me feel there is a death. Some say maybe not.
This is the story of an ordinary man's life told in fragments and smells. The lighthouse, signifying direction perhaps is a fixture in his life, a symbol of his childhood. I felt the symmetry of Futh and Ester's life a little overdone at times. Venus fly traps and lighthouse shaped perfumes are not very common and to have two characters have the same is a little too much. Also the fact that all four women are a little loose when it comes to morals!
But as a literary book, I really enjoyed it and while I don't know if it should have won the Booker, I have to confess I managed only ten pages of Bring up the bodies by Hilary Mantel! It was too tedious to say the least, and that’s not something one can say about the Lighthouse which has to be read in a couple of sittings appreciating the delicate language all the while. AThat is saying a lot!
Finally I have done it- read all three volumes of the famous or should I say infamous Fifty shades trilogy. It took me a while, one reason being I was reading a pdf copy sent to me by a friend and I remain more of a real book rather than e book person. No, I wouldnt have wanted to actually buy these books- but I confess was curious enough to read them to see what the fuss is about.
They certainly don't pose a literary challenge- the expressions are tedious and repetitive. I wish that the whole inner goddess analogy hadnt been mentioned-ever. Its not funny after a while. The language is childish to say the least- the expressions trite.
Yet everyone is reading it, from the chick lit readers to the intellectuals.
The first book Fifty Shades of Grey is the strongest page turner, by the time you come to the third you know sooner or later Ana will do something shes not 'meant' to, and be 'punished' for it!
Why is the book so popular then?
Somethings are done cleverly, E.L James has the point of view in control. Though told in first person, it works quite well as the reader is in the protagonist's Anastasia Steele's head and that could be the reason so many women are swooning under Christians Greys actions! They are seeing themsleves in Ana- her thoughts are mentioned after every action, the readers question is her question as well.
The story is the ultimate fairytale, a beauty and beast saga except that the beast here is utterly divine looking on the outside, a beast on the inside with a heart of gold which remains hidden. A tormented soul touched by the innocent and all powerful love of Ana. Nothing works better than this- a womans love transforming the tortured demented soul. Add to this some seriously silly wealth, a loving family, a doting man- what could be more idealistic?
The action is stepped up by weaving in sub stories of revenge and deceit. And of course all the activity for which the book is now referred to as Mummys porn and has probbaly revived the erotica genre. Very lucid, very vivid, since we are in Anas head we see her surprise, her excitement, her fear, her admissions that she too actually enjoys all the 'kinky fuckery'. Ana in many ways is a heroine I am happy about though- a literature student, serious, not frivolous in anyway, unassuming, honest, she seems as far removed from Christians world as the protagonists in Notting Hill or Pretty woman. She remains true to her own ambition and dreams inspite of the wealth she has at her disposal. A bit refereshing considering how so many women (espcially in the western world) are so happy to give it all up for the man and her children and dont work if they dont need to.
I am not sure how it ended as it got so tedious that I stopped scrolling down the pages and didnt exactly understand how many children they had produced, did Ana remain an editor? Whatever it is, she is an intellectual with a fiery passion hidden in her and that works for me. Though they never really explain why she has such low confidence at the start when she is apparently so gorgeous as Christian keeps saying.
The rest of it? well a man who loves so passionately and wholly, but likes to stay in control so literally, admits he likes hitting and putting his women down- but then he confesses he has 'known no other way.' Sympathy for Christian Grey is tremendous as he is trying to break the beast down in himself. Would everyone feel for him if he was 40, not that rich and not that good looking- hmm maybe he would be labelled a pervert rather than every womans dream!
I dont know if all the women reading this book are reading it for the characters or the sex, but I am sure the movie when out will make millions as well. And like many others even I am wondering who will they cast in it..
Britain is celebrating - the Jubilee weekend. A flotilla of 1000 boats on the river, street parties in every corner, the media talking about the 60 years of the Queen...it is an incredibly festive time. And its hard not to get caught up in it...you cant help but feeling happy about this time in history. But at some point, being from India, where monarchy was consciously abolished, incidentally the British being instrumental, one wonders at this fascination with the Queen. While I am sitting here, watching programmes of the queen as a mother, wife and queen, I am wondering still..Really? a queen? but surely thats the stuff in fairy tales, or at best archaic times. Can this be the modern world ?
Gold carriages down Londons roads?
Its still not a concept I feel too sure about.
In India we grew up the idea of democracy, modernity meant eschewing the monarchy.
But would India have been better off with a queen admired by the common man? After all Indians like to look up to someone, if we dont want a king and queen, how can so many countries in Europe still want one! What about the expense!
While I am still wondering about this fascination, I also realise I am almost feeling left out that I can't be joining the crowds on the banks of the Thames and see the queen in person perhaps; since we are away in Lake district. Am I missing something I shouldnt be, maybe it would have been worth it to wait and catch a glimpse of the royal family inlcuding the young princes and Kate, who is another surprise about this whole monarchy thing.
A little swept awayby the evident happiness of everyone around, a little surprised by the evident fascination of the normal stolid english actually revering someone so much, and a little confused about whether monarchy really fits in the modern world!
But all said and done, nothing better than the extra holiday it has got us- Happy Jubilee weekend!
I am reading Peony in Love by Lisa See, or should I say I was reading. I couldnt go beyond half of the book- the view point changes from the living's to the dead, and at that point I had to give up.
Books set in the fifteenth century onwards in China and Japan have always been of interest, I like the descriptions, and have a real curiosity about those times, which are so far removed from present days.
And that brings me to the practice described quite in detail in this book, and many others about the foot binding. Disgust, horror and a real sorrow that this practice actually existed for so long. One might say there are enough such practices in the world which cripple womens lives literally. There is Sati for example in India- and while not for one moment am I glorifying it ,at least there is some amount of nobility involved. Sacrifice, martyr like, saint like- qualities which are always upheld in India, whether rightly or wrongly. Foot binding can at best be described as shallow, some perverse eyes seeing beauty and desire in a misshapen, sad little foot of a woman who was made to believe a lily walk was beautiful, desirable. And to think it continued till the 20th century. Maiming and forcibly disabling generations of women, under the guise of beauty and just to serve as an object of desire. A cruel practice can redeem itself slightly if at least it has some amount of a higher purpose behind it.
I hope of course that high heels worn today are not perceived in the same way years later! But in that, there is always a choice!
On a much lighter note, I enjoyed esquared by Matt Beaomont. A story told entirely over blogs, emails and texts, its about a dysfunctional office. Not one description of a character, but its so easy to imagine them all. Really hilarious ! If it wasnt for the unique form of the book, would it be as interesting? The form and structure of the book is as important as the story. All good stories have been told and re-told, its the how of the telling that makes all the difference.
On another note, to think that one spends a third or more of a lifetime in places like these! That can't be too healthy for one's creative side!
Of Indian origin,Mona Dash now lives in London with her husband and young son. An MBA by profession, she works in international sales in Telecoms. With a beginning in poetry, she writes fiction, with a couple of novels on the writing desk.