Saturday, December 21, 2013

Dear Life - Alice Munro

Alice Munro builds her stories the way Jackson in her story Train renovates the barn and the farmhouse. She finds a good foundation and then repairs and builds the walls and then works on a sound ceiling. You are willingly trapped in the story, and yet you are free to go. There are no doors. At times, there is no foundation, she just waves her hands and behold, there is a house!

I just finished reading Dear Life (Penguin 2012).

The stories are snippets from, before and soon after the Second World War, and of the mid twentieth century - my favourite era.

Her characters are real- from day to day life. At times, they look like me, like you and you wonder if you had ever met her, if she had seen you inside out – from up close, close enough to know you and to write about you. 

Some of the male characters you hate but you love. Harris is the poet Greta’s longing who surprises her by reaching Union Station. Howard is the crafty architect who eats his cake, has it, and stashes some for the future too.  Uncle Jasper is the expert doctor and the imposing husband. Another doctor decides to marry the young teacher, and chickens out at the last moment to abandon her, eventually bumping into her years later on a Toronto street.
For me, it was the same as when I left Amundsen, the train dragging me still dazed and full of disbelief.
Nothing changes really about love.” (Amundsen)

Her women are marvelous. Lilian - the supposed blackmailer, Corrie - the blackmailed, Greta - the passionate poet married to an engineer, Aunt Dawn- the repressed housewife – I love the scope of Munro’s vision. Leah, the shy girl who somehow unexpectedly transforms as the scandal maker, a villain and the temptress; and ‘my mother’ who with her two children, leaves her loving but boring husband to go to live in a trailer for an exciting life with Neal, the theatre artist who eventually abandons her with a new born baby – both are unrepentant but lonely.  Belle, the lonely farm girl, amazes you when she reveals that she has been an alumnus of Bishop Strachan School, and her father had been a reporter for The Toronto Evening Telegram and an unpublished novelist.  

And I have not talked about many others. Somehow her women emerge stronger than her male characters. Is she biased?

For four days, my house did remain unkempt, food was hurriedly cooked, shower postponed with excuses of ‘just another story and then I am going,’ and kids not yelled at for watching endless episodes of Pokemon or staying on Facebook well past their curfew time – that is what your pen does in my life, Ms Munro.

Its all about -
“She was a certain kind of woman, he a certain kind of man”.

Monday, November 18, 2013

The English Patient

The novel had been on my reading wish list for a long long time. Finally finished reading it. And I loved it - in parts. The part on bombs, while very comprehensive, frankly did not interest me. I devoured the passages about human relationships and love. Loved Kip, got intrigued by Almasy and Caravaggio, adored Hana and admired Katherine. I wanted to post many many small bits from the novel. But somehow after some time, I forgot to put markings in the novel and lost the pages. Here are a few of the selections - in random order.


“She had always wanted words, she loved them, grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape. Whereas I thought words bent emotions like sticks in water.” (238)

“Women want everything of a lover. And too often I would sink below the surface.  So armies disappear under sand, and there was her fear of her husband, her belief in her honour, my old desire for self-sufficiency, my disappearances, her suspicions of men, by disbelief that she loved me. The paranoia and claustrophobia of hidden love. (238)

Death means you are in the third person.” (247)

“If I gave you my life, you would drop it. Wouldn’t you?” (145)

“- the old guy upstairs is asleep. Hana’s obsessed with him. I am obsessed with the sanity of Hana, I’m obsessed with my ‘balance,’ and Kip will probably get blown up one of these days.” (121)

“I’ll rewire him in the morning.” He puts his left hand on her shoulder. (115)

“… Could you fall in love with her if she wasn’t smarter than you? I mean, she may not be smarter than you. But isn’t it important for you to think she is smarter than you in order to fall in love? Think now. She can be obsessed by the Englishman because he knows more. We’re in a huge field when we talk to that guy. We don’t even know if he’s English. He’s probably not. You see, I think it is easier to fall in love with him than with you. Why is that? Because we want to know things, how the pieces fit. Talkers seduce, words direct us into corners. We want more than anything to grow and change. Brave new world.” (120-21)

Words, Caravaggio. They have a power. (234)

“This alcohol will probably kill me.”
“Nothing will kill you, my friend. You are pure carbon.” (109)

“You have to protect yourself from sadness. Sadness is very close to hate… if you take in someone else’s poison -  thinking you can cure them by sharing it – you will instead store it within you.” (45)

How did you hate me? She whispered. You killed almost everything in me. (257)


The English Patient - Michael Ondaatje
Vintage Books Canada Edition, 1993

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

on the acquittal

I am ashamed 
of living in a country
which rejoices in meting
injustice to my people
which justifies blood
that I am, till today, washing away from those cool marble tiles
with my tears
ever since those tanks crushed the delicate vines
on the floor
ever since the guns thundered inside an epitome of peace
and much before.

I am ashamed
of growing up in times
when I didnt know 
if that random bullet
would strike me
or my turbaned father
or his unturbaned friend
or my conscientious mother
or a random stranger going to his fields.

I am perhaps ashamed 
of growing up at all.

yes, these words make no sense.
Dear Facebook, I wish you hadn't asked again 
what is on my mind.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Murderous Murder 2

Ludhiana: 8th July, 2011. 9: 00 pm onwards-

Mampi on whatsapp (hereafter referred to as WA) with cousins from Jaipur: Garry. Its been a while since u said – “Bhabi ji ki jai ho.” Make me smile. Say that.

Garry (on WA from Jaipur to Mampi): Bhabiji ki jai ho. Howz life, hubby, and kids?

Mampi: Same old life, same old man, same old kids. Going to see Murder2 today. (remember readers, this used to be our routine? Friday night – movie, however rubbish it might be.. remember?)

Garry: Okay, Delhi Belly?

Mampi: Seen.

Garry: What a comedy, nahi?

Mampi: Oh yeah.

Garry: Whats the show time today?

Mampi: 10:45 pm

Garry: (Suddenly wakes up) Haha, the old man is fitter than all of us…whats going on with Ajj da Masla (Remember folks, I have been doing a TV show for the past few months on the good old boring DoorDarshan? This is what he is talking about)

Mampi: Will do one next week (Dear readers, don’t forget this)

Twist in the story: Garry’s sister, Gunnu joins us in the conversation.

Gunnu-Oye how are you?

Garry-I am your older brother stupid, tameez naal gall kar.

Gunnu-Oye, I m sitting two feet from you and you decide to shout in the chat?


Gunia-Bhabhiji how is the Qatl Dwitiya (Murder2, sweeties, Gunnu is really funny.)
Mampi-Yet to start

Gunnu-Apna dristikon hume awashya bataiyega,

Mampi-JI Medem

Gunnu-Beta Raabart tum kahan ho?

Garry-Yahin hoon sambha.

Garry-Bhabhiji, u alongwith kids?


Gunnu- Beta Raabart, its an aedult filym. No kiddies.

Garry-(the gentleman that he is) Ok Bhabji, enjoy the movie. catch you later, tell me how the movie was.

Mampi-(5 mins into the movie now) Ppl are whistling (Emraan Hashmi is back to his old ways-the bijness of kissing and garment removal but I don’t reveal it to them)

Gunnu-Aaye haye seetiyan baj rahi hain Raabart beta chalo naachna shuru karo

Mampi-(forgets about the movie)- haha ha ha ha haha ha ha ha

(by now there is this gory murder sequence on the screen and I am beginning to feeling sick.)

Mampi- Horrible movie, folks.

Gunna-Tai tai phisssss, Raabart, beta nachna band kardo, bhabiji ko movie achi nahi lagi.

(and somehow my laughter is out of control when I read this. On the screen the girl is struggling to survive, I am fighting hard to control my callous laughter. )


People around our seats are looking with a great sympathy at Mahesh. Secretly they are happy-for it is the other man who has a mad wife. I suddenly look like a pervert, laughing uncontrollably, albeit silently. My forehead crinkles, my breath stops-I cannot control it when I laugh so hard. Rabart dancing in front of us, and ppl whistling, the image still haunts.
Intermission continues. And I prepare to run out of the hall, the supremely composed Mahesh sits there stoically, sagely commenting- it is a lousy movie. I give him an I-told-you-so look, (I had looked up the reviews in the evening) giggle and quickly descend the stairs.

And promptly I rush out of the hall. My laughter is so intense that I don't think I can walk on ramp. I feel like rolling on the ramp laughing. I dial Gunna’s number, I have to talk to her. I manage to find a seat in the waiting area and laugh my head off for the first one minute of the call. “Okay okay, what happened, you wanna talk about the movie?” Oh she thinks I need a catharsis. “No silly, I wanna thank you. I was sooo under the pressure of the movie. And you guys made me laugh.” And then I go on to tell her what an anti-climax the WA conversation was.

But for them, the movie would have been unbearable.

I go inside the hall, movie begins again. I know what Emraan Hashmi will do. Now that he has done enough of the kissing wissing for one movie, he will do the needful with the social service also. (But who told him long hair go well with social service?)

Garry: Is the movie at least a one time dekho?

Mampi: No beta, don’t go to watch it. Not even if someone else sponsors the ticket.

Garry: Is it that bad?

Mampi: Yes, even if they sponsor your popcorn and cold drink, decline politely.

Mampi to you all – surely give it a definite miss. It would have been more appropriate to call it Murder of the Audience 2011 instead of Murder 2. The only redeeming factor in the movie is Prashant Narayanan who I hated perfectly in the role that he did full justice to. Girls who are drooling to see another six packer in Emraan Hashmi, please hold your royal drool back, he shows these packs only in posters. Bibi Jacqueline has really pushed the limits as she claims, but she still remains unimpressive. Its not that I missed Mallika who I recently discovered has been posing with her tongue stuck permanently somewhere in her hard palate.

But I loved the time out. I call it counting my blessings.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Delhi Belly

Candid, funny, raw, hilarious – is how I would describe Delhi Belly. The posters had promised Imran leading a group that I thought was saving the world from the likes of Amjad Khan and Amrish Puri and Prem Chopra. But it turned out to be different. It was absolutely funny-even shocking at times. In fact my moment of enlightenment came when Mahesh whispered the truth in my ear during the DK Bose song. He was wary of watching it in English/Hinglish. "Yaar, it wont be fun," he said when it began. But within the first five minutes of hearing them speak, you feel –yes, Indian- English/Hinglish whatever you call it, has arrived. And then the movie begins to shake your sensibilities, it makes you laugh, it scandalizes you and at the end of the movie, you get up from the seat saying, “Oh I loved it.”

No intermission? Thank God I had bought my popcorns and coke bfore the movie started. An Aamir Khan at the end of the movie dancing to a stupid song was lovely. This song and dance sequence is a bit overdone actually, they could have managed with a shorter one too. And in the whole of the movie, I kept wondering if it is the same Shehnaz Treasurywala who had bloated par limits and had turned to television in her fat avatar? If she is the same, how did she manage to thin down so wonderfully to squeeze into the Singapore Airlines uniform? I have to know, just so I can thin down a little bit to fit into my own clothes from a year back. Sigh!

Imran’s onscreen chemistry with Poorna Jagannathan as Maneka, the hanging cables and wires overhead, the metro train going past a dusty Delhi road, Kunal Roy Kapoor’s poo act, Vir Das’s Ja Chudail number, Vijay Raaz’s unique act, they all fit into the kaleidoscope of the Belly of Delhi. Swear words abound and double meaning dialogues attack you with a vengeance.

But you HAVE to watch it to experience the stink of innards of Delhi.

And I must mention that this was the one movie that I loved after Dev D.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011





Thursday, May 05, 2011


ਕੋਿੲਲ ਦੀ ਿਤੱਖੀ ਹੂਕ

ਵਾਲੀ ਕੂਕ ਸੁਣ

ੳੁਹਨੂੰ ਦੱਸਣ ਨੂੰ ਿਚੱਤ ਕਰਦੈ-


ਮੀਹ ਮੰਗਣ ਨਾਲ ਨਹੀ

ਬੱਦਲ 'ਕੱਠੇ ਹੋਣ ਨਾਲ ਪਿਆ ਕਰਦੈ

ਤੇ ਬੱਦਲ

ਆਪਣੀ ਮਰਜੀ ਨਾਲ ਈ 'ਕੱਠੇ ਹੋਿੲਆ ਕਰਦੇ ਨੇ