Happy New Year

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As I waited for the muse to smite me, I wondered what persona to take on while writing my first blog for 2019… Should I be a mother and shout out my kids achievements, or a poet and sing a paean to the beauty of the first dawn in the New Year, or a writer and do a story around the season, maybe something like Gift of the Magi, or should I just write what flows through my veins?

Two thousand and eighteen has been a year of learning for me.

I learnt to let my sons have more freedom to move around. I stopped trying to drop and pick up my teenager from all places. And believe me, to give children that independence; it takes effort, patience and trust on part of the parent, a tough thing for me to let go emotionally too. I let go my elder son much earlier because I had my baby to take care of. Now, my elder son is a confident young man who can sally forth anywhere in the world. It was more difficult letting go of my baby boy who now hates to be reminded he had a childhood. He is now a travelling teen who explores the world on his own terms, a difficult thing for an over-protective mother to accept.

To palliate my sense of anxiety, I have thrown myself more into writing. The resultant effect is this year six of my  pieces were fortunate to be among the top picks of a website I write for (https://kitaab.org/2018/12/30/blog-the-best-of-kitaab-2018/). It was a lovely surprise!

Other than that my first translation to English from Bengali of well-known Bollywood scriptwriter and writer, Nabendu Ghosh, was published as part of a collection of short stories in May this year (That Bird Called Happiness, https://www.amazon.com/That-Bird-Called-Happiness-Stories/dp/9387693619). I translated the story, Full Circle. Now I am translating a novella about thugees, by the same author. It is a unique experience as one discovers what poverty can do to people, how cults can create a culture that can annihilate morals and alter humanitarian values, how religion can be misinterpreted to justify violence and murder. To me, it is sometimes a microcosmic depiction of the world exposed by the media, especially in India. I did enjoy doing a spoof on issues highlighted by the media in my blog (https://432m.wordpress.com/2018/02/15/and-the-cow-jumped-over-the-moon/). I can never get enough done on cows, which despite being prominent in the Indian political scenario, never cease to terrify me! If you have not yet been chased by a cow munching meditatively at a garbage dump in Delhi or ambling through the streets, you will merely laugh and mock at me! Perhaps, I should put a halt on the cow front and steer to more serious subjects.

I learnt to try to steer clear of controversies. While some friends supported the Me Too movement, others threw brickbats at it! A mentor suggested I do a spoof on Me Too. Terrified that I would be ostracised by the Me Too fans, I squirmed my way out of it. A friend, threatened by ostracism, was forced to put a post in support in the Face Book. Though I must say, that the women who spoke against the movement had a point too. Why were all the takers for the movement well-known, rich and educated? I saw a post where a Devdasi (young women who serve in temples, officially married to Gods and commanded by the almighty to service his male devotees) wanted to be a part of the movement too. I wonder if she made it… A friend asked me how much did the movement do to address the menace of street side Romeos who make a practice of toying with the honor of women in the open streets of India? Did it shake up their moms who brought them up to insult women and womanhood? Oops, what a faux pas in our thought process, moms are women and, therefore, not to be held responsible for their macho sons actions.

Yuval Noah Harari’s Sapiens, A Brief History of Humankind (2014), shook me out of my microcosmic confusion, complacency and candor, to a larger world inhabited by the race of mankind. A book that is written to have people think of the future of the race of mankind at a macro-cosmic level is indeed unusual and unique. It has raised controversies which could give a run for their money to dystopian writers and Hollywood/ Bollywood junta, including his observations on the breakdown of families, religion and tribal behavior of Madonna fans, Vegans and Carnivores. There is much to be learnt from a book that asks you to redefine your perspectives for a future of your choosing.

As for earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunami, refugees, Rohingyas, Trump, Brexit May, minority groups and cows, they continue to be erratic factors in our day-to-day existence. They give a microscopic view of our future that contrasts with the macroscopic view mooted by Harari. I wonder if anyone could compare refugees to the nomadic herders of yore. They moved in quest of a home as do refugees, except during early migration of man, the countries had no borders as they do now and no angry citizens built walls to keep them out…

With its magic sprinkle, I hope the New Year will heal all breaches, bring us all brilliant luck and happiness and may we all soar into brilliant blue skies.

 

 

 

 

Book of the Week

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Title: The Scarlet Pimpernel
Author: Baroness Orczy

The Scarlet Pimpernel appeared at the turn of the century. It is a lucid, well written, fictitious adventure set in the course of the French revolution, 1792 to be exact…when Robespierre reigned and the guillotine ruled.

It is the story of a brave, debonair Briton and his friends who rescued French aristocrats hounded out of their lives by their countrymen if they remained where they were born. The leader of the group is nicknamed Scarlet Pimpernel as he always signs his notes with the red star shaped flower. He himself composes a funny doggerel  on his elusiveness, which he recites to the amusement of his countrymen.

“We seek him here, we seek him there,

Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.

Is he in heaven?–Is he in hell?

The demmed, elusive Pimpernel?”

The hero poses as an empty-headed fop and eludes the French spies in pursuit of him with his quick wit. It is a novel filled with suspense,  romance and adventure. Set between France and England, it tells of a group of brave men who out of humanitarian concerns rescued the innocent from the guillotine.

What makes the novel remarkable in today’s context is that countries collaborate to find homes for refugees driven out by mob violence. In the book, help and shelter was given freely to the emigres, individuals displaced from their country, home and hearth and driven to extremes by violence and hatred of others. Orczy makes us think…could masses driven by envy, greed, hunger, outrage and anger ever mete out justice to anyone? Could the uneducated who just wanted a good life and more wealth even understand the concept of Liberte- Egalite-Fraternite the famous motto of the revolution? Here is how Orczy describes France when her French heroine, the actress Marguerite, lands on the shores of her country.

She was back in that country where at this very moment men slaughtered their fellow-creatures by the hundreds, and sent innocent women and children in thousands to the block…The men all wore red caps–in various stages of cleanliness–but all with the tricolor cockade pinned on the left-hand side. Marguerite noticed with a shudder that, instead of laughing, merry countenance habitual to her own countrymen,their faces invariably wore a look of sly distrust.
Every man nowadays was a spy on fellows…

Has this not been the story of revolutions and freedom movements worldwide? Do common people really profit by changes in the form of governance ? I remember reading similar things in Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre famed Freedom at Midnight. Neighbours and friends fought for differences they had lived with amicably for hundreds of years for satisfying the political need of having borders. Every person is depicted as interpreting Indian independence in their own terms, the beggar dreams of food and home and politicians dream of a socialist democracy…were any of them fully satisfied? Can the millions killed in the name of borders of religion and countries ever be justified? Or, in China, could the Red Army violence against a social system (as depicted in Ping Pong Diplomacy) be justified? Similarly, could the hate-filled mobs during the reign of terror be condoned as decent, educated perpetrators of justice?

I absolutely think reading this book is a must in context of the world developments of today. Perhaps, we need a number of Scarlet Pimpernels to rescue those in need and to instill a feeling of bon homie among the different races created by borders drawn by mankind.