Monday, February 25, 2013

We need to talk about Kevin - Lionel Shriver

This was quite un-put-down-able. It had been on my waiting list for many years.. the premise had seemed interesting when I first read of it.

A mother reminisces about her life and her teenage son Kevin, who is now in prison for having killed a whole bunch of his classmates at school. Written as a series of letters to her husband, the chronicle traces through the time before they chose parenthood, and the years of Kevin's difference, and her own ambivalence. The many 'talks' she and her husband had about Kevin, each in their own coccoon.

Was Kevin born different? Was Eva a 'bad' mother? Why don't fathers pick any of the tab? What constitutes bad ? Was it the endless news of the mass-murderers in america which gave him this particular idea? What could have been done differently anyway? Isn't it inevitable that our perception will color what we see? We never can know about Shrodingers cat after all..

This book is perhaps a perfect example of something that you will interpret in your own way, based on your own world-view. Although the prose at times felt turgid, but the content was enough to keep you wondering. What Lionel meant to say , is perhaps immaterial. The book is poised with enough open-ends and counter - poised with enough certainties to tell you quite a lot about your own self.

Me, personally I found myself identifying a lot more with Eva, than anything else. Quite in complete disagreement with cover jacket blurbs and reviews, and even interviews with the author herself. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Auroville Half Marathon

Was very very pleasantly surprised to say the least!

I've been almost completely out of practice, having given up both yoga and running practice in the past 3 months out of sheer laziness. Added to that was a lot of travelling in the last month and a half, many nights in trains, buses, different hotels and houses, new food everywhere, not to mention a fair amount of drinking. The body was creaking, and the throat had been grumbling off and on for a month.

I'd been toying with the idea of dropping out of the run altogether, and things came to a head the night before the travel to pondicherry, when I had a major meltdown in the train on way back from goa, with absolutely the rock bottom of cramps. I remember crying at 2 am , unable to sleep, and telling myself, this is it, I can't go.

Good thing though that I decided to go after all!

As I started out , I remember thinking I'll probably be walking most of it. But luckily the body had some hidden reserves ( or as a said, perhaps it was all the feni I'd consumed in goa!). I managed to run a fair bit, and I actually had to slow myself down in the first half, consciously telling myself that I was out of both flexibility and stamina, and needed to take it easy. Probably that made all the difference, because it was a lovely run till the end, no cramps or unexpected pains, and the trail was pretty nice, auroville trees all around, and none of the crazy city traffic. Managed to finish strong, overtaking a few people in the last 3 kms, unlike the ultra where I had been quite miserable at the finish.

The timing was a few minutes over the previous bests, but overall the feeling was just great. Nice run, nice trip, and overall a very nice experience.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Poetry for the day.

We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. 

-- T S Eliot

“You who never arrived 
in my arms, Beloved, who were lost 
from the start, 
I don't even know what songs 
would please you. I have given up trying 
to recognize you in the surging wave of
the next moment. All the immense
images in me -- the far-off, deeply-felt landscape,
cities, towers, and bridges, and un-
suspected turns in the path,
and those powerful lands that were once
pulsing with the life of the gods--
all rise within me to mean
you, who forever elude me.

You, Beloved, who are all
the gardens I have ever gazed at,
longing. An open window
in a country house-- , and you almost
stepped out, pensive, to meet me. Streets that I chanced
you had just walked down them and vanished.
And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors
were still dizzy with your presence and, startled, gave back
my too-sudden image. Who knows? Perhaps the same
bird echoed through both of us
yesterday, separate, in the evening... ”

--Rainer Maria Rilke

Becoming Indian - Pavan Verma

Quite an interesting read.

What are the long term impacts of colonialism on the colonised? At some level we do know our rather irrational need to for foreign approval, our obsession with english, with fairness, the subtle feeling of inferiority, of the abdication of our own culture in favor of the other.

It does not of course mean that the counter to that is a militant or misguided 'nationalism' which appropriates a greatness and superiority in everything 'ours' as opposed to 'theirs'. The case that the author makes here is more of a more balanced approach, of the essential taking pride in one's own culture, before one can truly become Indian.

Good read overall.

Summertime - J M Coetzee

Picked this on a's reco, and quite liked it.

A biographer is writing a book about a famous author, and is covering a period of time where the author was  living in obscurity. Summertime is written like the draft notes for the biography. The first section has notes from the famous authors old diaries. Then there are interviews with women who knew him during that time.

How do we make our conclusions about a person? How do our views of him change as we move from one narrative to another? Does our view of him change as we read his diary, and then hear from his lover who is rather dismissive of him ? Are we then forced to reconsider as we hear from someone who almost accuses him of stalking her and her daughter? Is the vehemence of her narrative countered by the more tender account from his cousin, whose affection for him, is nevertheless at odds with the instances she narrates.

It gets even more interesting, since the author in question here is also named Coetzee and the lines between a an autobiography and fiction blur. That part makes it even more fascinating.

Loved it overall.