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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Someone I really admire

"Human nature will not flourish, any more than a potato, if it be planted and replanted, for too long a series of generations, in the same worn out soil. My children have had other birthplaces, and, so far as their fortunes may be within my control, shall strike their roots into unaccustomed earth."

These words, from the epigraph of 'Unaccustomed Earth', have always made me wonder the same thing. Did my parents read these lines? Is that why they uprooted me time and again, expecting me to start afresh from scratch, and not just grow but flower? Strangely though, I have never complained, rather I have welcomed these moves. My nature has, indeed flourished, thanks to all the transplantation.

The only regrets, if any, has been the inability to truly start afresh, with a clean slate, even when I have had an opportunity and the fact that there isn't a single place on earth that I could truly call home. Nowhere that the roots go in so deep that could belong there. But then I digress. This post wasn't about that. This is what Jhumpa Lahiri does to me.

Interpreter of Maladies, The Namesake and Unaccustomed Earth. Every story has the same fluidity and an underlying sense of nostalgia, yet the emotions they speak of and the reactions they evoke are different. And I have loved each of these stories. There is something about the way she writes. There is a flow in her narration, like it isn't her writing the story, its the characters following their own heartbeat. Her characters speak to me. They tell me their story, in their language, at their pace. They tell me some of the fact and leave a lot to interpretation. And thats exactly how I like it. It gives the bookworm in me the space to immerse myself into their lives and empathise with them.

In fact, I can see some of her protagonists amongst the people around me. I can feel, often pre-empt, their thought process. The contemporary settings of her stories make them real. The strongest connection, though, is probably the inherent Bong-ness of it all. And in the world that she spins around me, Bongs come in all forms. Kolkatans, Probashis, NRIs, Conservative, Liberated, Confused. Whatever their state of mind, they are essentially Bengali.

The strangest thing though, is how much I can identify with some of the people and their stories. Like the daughter in 'Unaccustomed Earth' who was trying very hard to hold on to her Bengali roots and pass them to her kids the way her mother did with her. Like the sister in 'Only Goodness', I have often wondered whether I have been a good influenc on my siblings or have I spoilt them by being the shield between them and my parents. Like Sangita in 'Nobody's Business' I have kept looking for love with all the wrong guys, never noticing the guys falling for me and well, breaking hearts. I have felt the agony that the wife goes through in her marriage in 'A Temporary Matter' and have actually played the game of one-upmanship and who-can-make-the-other-feel-worse with my husband. Somebody I wished I was though is Hema and have that one all-consuming, mind-numbing, cant-live-without-you foreign affair, even if I have to move on from there wondering whether I should have expected more.

I did not realise how long I had been rambling. I have always wanted to write like her. I have written tons of stories and had people tell me that they are good. Guess I could post some of them here sometime.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

God, You Listening?

Every single place, the same weirdness. Few moments before actually doing her darshan, she sees 'FCUK'. The first time she believed it to be a coincidence, but the fourth time it was like she was expecting it. All four times, they were different guys and different t-shirts. Two of the FCUKs were even fake, not even genuine French Connection. Then why were they interfering in her spiritual connections?
So she had stopped praying 6 months. Praying as in the early morning, after-bath agarbatti-diya-bhajan routine. Not like she had become an atheist, more like she didn't have the time and didn't think a special ritual was required. I mean its God we are talking. Hes omnipresent. He knows everything. Hes not mortal. He doesnt need wooing. Rather her experiences said that everytime she had tried bribing him with mannats and special poojas and stuff, her wishes had necessarily not come true.
So why is it bothering her now? Because she just noticed something. Her misery levels had reached newer lows in the last 6 months. She had destroyed almost everything she had worked for. Some of it was unavoidable, most of it was her own doing. She had decided to do this very familiar, extremely secular trip through temple-church-mosque-gurudwara to find some peace of mind, some stability in thinking. But she came back more disturbed than before.
So was it God's way fo rejecting her prayers? His way of asking her to stop this selfish show of respect take her requests elsewhere? Or maybe his way of reminding her how entrenched in sins she was? Seven cardinal sins and which could she say she hadn't commited.
Avarice, Sloth, Envy, Pride, Gluttony, Anger, Lust. They had all creeped into her at one point or the other. She was human after all. Should she be punished for that? Shouldn't she be allowed to ask for forgiveness and then move on? WTF has a woman got to do to find some peace of mind in this world. Somebody better have an answer.