Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thursdays With Tagore - October 28

This week on Thursdays with Tagore, I'm featuring a poem that moved me a lot and is a subject that Mahatma Gandhi (Incidentally, it was Tagore who gave Gandhi the title of Mahatma or Great Soul) spoke a lot about. But no body puts it more meaningfully and emotionally than Tagore in this case.

Here is thy footstool and there rests thy feet where live the poorest, and lowliest, and lost.
When I try to bow to thee, my obeisance cannot reach down to the depth where thy feet rest among the poorest, and lowliest, and lost.
Pride can never approach to where thou walkest in the clothes of the humble among the poorest, and lowliest, and lost.
My heart can never find its way to where thou keepest company with the companionless among the poorest, the lowliest, and the lost.

Any analysis of the poem is in a sense unnecessary, because it speaks for itself: simple, striking and something that moves you to think.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A Gift, A Purchase and one more addition to the Wishlist

At least one aspect of my birthdays are quite predictable to me: the fact that someone will gift me a book! And this October 18, my friends gifted me a classic that I've been long wanting to read. I've of course heard that this masterpiece is not necessarily an easy read and not for everyone, but I'm still excited about having Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina on my shelves!

Shocking though it may be, I've not read a single of Tolstoy's books. Have you? Is Anna Karenina better than War and Peace like my Dad seems to think?

At the cost of repeating myself, Rabindranath Tagore is my all-time favourite poet. But he was more than just a poet; he was a novelist, musician, painter, playwright and one of the foremost thinkers, feminists and makers of modern India (more on that later). He also delivered some very memorable, 'chillingly prophetic' lectures during the First World War that spoke of the theory of nationalism as an inclusive and not exclusive idea. Penguin India has published a collection of these lectures titled Nationalism which it calls 'mandatory reading in today's climate of xenophobia, sectarianism, violence and intolerance'. Plus, this book has an introduction by one of my favourite writers Ramachandra Guha. Needless to say, I just had to buy it. I can't wait to read and review the book!

I'm still not done with Guha's magnificent India After Gandhi. In my defense, it is a mammoth, almost 1000 page book which transverses the history of India after Independence in its pages and it isnt worth running through such a book. Savouring it and slowly studying it is a much better bet for me. Anyway, I'm extremely excited about Guha's newest book which hasn't released yet here. Makers of Modern India is a book where Guha 'profiles nineteen Indians whose ideas had a defining impact on the formation and evolution of our Republic, and presents rare and compelling excerpts from their writings and speeches.' Read more about it here

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Thursdays With Tagore is back!

Of all the things I've missed about blogging, what I've missed the most, is sharing Gurudev's poems with fellow bloggers. I don't know about you, but I've always thought of Thursdays with Tagore as a sort of poetry club where people from across the world read, feel, enjoy, reflect and think of the great man's poems. Tagore loved the idea of making the East merge with the West and exchange thoughts and ideas ( Santiniketan was based on that idea) and I'm happy we're doing the same in our own little online way :)

Enough of me rambling. I'll let Tagore speak. From the Gitanjali:

Thy gifts to us mortals fulfill all our needs and yet run back to thee undiminished.
The river has its everyday work to do and hastens through fields and hamlets; yet its incessant stream winds towards the washing of thy feet.
The flower sweetens the air with its perfume; yet its last service is to offer itself to thee.
Thy worship does not impoverish the world.
From the words of the poet men take what meanings please them; yet their last meaning points to thee.

This is beautiful as ever. The metaphors - of the river, the flower, and the interpretation of the poet's words - bring the poem to life and make it simple, yet rich with meaning. I love how short yet evocative this poem is. What do you think?

AlyceVaishnaviPriya ParmarPriya IyerSukoWhitneyJoAnnThe Book Mole and all others who've dropped by to spend Thursdays with Tagore, hope you'll be back again and have a lovely time :)

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rich Like Us - Nayantara Sahgal

Rating: 9/10


Rich Like Us is a snapshot of India and her people before and after independence, and the story of how the Emergency of 1975 ruined the democratic values that this country was founded upon. This is a story told through the lives of two women - the 'Cockney memsahib' Rose and the young, well-educated, unconventional Sonali. I went in looking for a tale about the Emergency but this book is a chronicle of the ills, weaknesses and strengths of a country so complex that it would take more than a lifetime to 'discover'. 

Sahgal's writing is beautiful, sometimes almost lyrical while at times overboard with metaphors. Nevertheless, to convey powerful ideas and opinions in a deceptively simple style is a great achievement indeed. This book is very quotable too. Sample this:

'Only the perfect relationship can be utterly destroyed the moment one fine hairlike crack appears in the structure, when betrayal becomes a matter of one person ordering fish and chips for dinner instead of the stew agreed on, and a chapter read separately out of a book two were reading together.'

It is very easy to see why this book won the coveted Sahitya Akademi award and the Sinclair Prize and equally difficult to see that not many even in India read Sahgal's books! I can only say that you're missing out on one of the most wonderful writers I've read, one who has a keen eye for history and politics and seamlessly intertwines the both in her books.

The two female protagonists in this inherently feminist book which feels no need to shout out its feminist theme from the rooftops, are amazingly interesting and beyond cliches. Both the strength and something of a weakness of this book, is the fact that Sahgal deals with so many themes from sati to corruption to religion to the British Raj to Ramayan to partition to politics which on one hand is an amazing collection of thoughts and on the other, might be too overwhelming and sometimes irrelevant. 

Politics forms a major part of the book and Sahgal, a well-known critic of her cousin Indira Gandhi, minces no words in slamming Mrs.Gandhi's emergency and her nepotism in bringing up her son Sanjay to a position of great power. Of course not once does she mention either Indira or Sanjay by name (she calls them 'Madam and her son' instead), but she doesn't need to. Her sharp sarcasm and dry sense of humour sparkles and makes this book all the more exciting.

Sahgal dedicates this book to  'The Indo-British experience and what its sharers have learned from each other' . That is exactly what the book is all about, in addition to being a wonderful experience for the reader that I highly recommend.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I Miss...

There's nothing more annoying than not finding time to finish reading a book. My list of books that I'm-half-done-with-but-had-to-give-back-to-the-library-because-I-found-no-time is embarrassingly too many, especially this previous month. I've been just so caught up with work that September was a pretty pathetic reading month. I've made the effort to read, but it's just no use reading a book with something else weighing on your mind.

I miss settling on to my couch and reading endlessly. I miss facing the 'Which book to read first?' 'Which book to review next?' dilemma. I miss the time when my only worries were clich├ęd plot lines, editing mishaps and predictable characters. I miss analysing books, discussing Austen, quoting from Persuasion, making a wishlist of Pride and Prejudice goodies, singing DownTown with Amanda Price in Lost in Austen

I miss looking forward to every Thursday, laying out in my lap a copy of Rabindranath Tagore's Gitanjali, savouring every beautiful word of those poems and typing them out in my blog, waiting eagerly for responses. I miss jotting down points for my reviews. I miss blogging and my blogger friends.  I miss reading without a care in the world. I miss the calmness the mind acquires when the hand feels the pages of a book, the inadvertent smile and anticipation when I flip pages, the sigh, the gasp, the snort, the grin and the myriad emotions that a single book can evoke in me.

When I had all the time in the world for books, of course I loved it and appreciated it. But never did I realise how special it was. So every one of you with a book in hand or a book to go home to and the time to read, please love the reading experience. Its precious, special and one of the most beautiful things in life. 

I look forward to some of the load getting off my shoulders in the coming weeks/months. In the meantime, I hope to get back to Thursdays with Tagore and book discussions, even if I don't find the time to read or review new books. Hope you're having a good week :)


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