Book of the Week #34: [Guest Post]

Yashas:

Led by this dauntless young lady, we continue this month of literary heavyweights with what is probably the very first Pulitzer Prize winner of our list.

Let us all strap in, shall we?


Shruti:

Interpreter of Maladies,

by Jhumpa Lahiri

Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination.

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, Interpreter of Maladies is one of the most recognised works of its London-born American author of Indian descent, Jhumpa Lahiri.

A collection of nine short stories, the book is heralded as an impeccable narrative of the immigrant experience. After having read a short story from the same book—that goes by the same name—for an English course, I was not entirely sure how I felt about it. But I was eager to read more from the book. I recently did, and let’s say, I am not disappointed! Continue reading Book of the Week #34: [Guest Post]

Word of the Week #64:

Fortuitous

 

People who know me would probably know how the very prospect of getting a haircut fills my mouth with burning vitriol.

The reaction is almost incomparable, with the possibility of having to clean my room being a major, albeit rare, exception.

Nonetheless, as one grows older, one comes to realise that maintaining these long, glossy, bouncy, wavy hair, which have now come to be a significant part of your identity, is growing more and more untenable every passing day.

“Time erodes us all.”
― Meg Rosoff

With a heavy heart, I decided to pay a visit to the barbers’, and shear off my lustrous mane, lest I ruin whatever still remained of it.

However, as it would turn out, my wallet was completely empty, and a visit was all I could afford to pay.

And, as the gods above would have it, my mane survives another day.

Book of the Week #33: [Guest Post]

Shruti:

Siddhartha,

by Hermann Hesse
Translated by Hilda Rosner

“I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”

Siddhartha, written by the German writer and painter Hermann Hesse, was written in 1922. Originally written in German, it was first published in English in the United States in 1951.

The book remains, till date, one of the most influential novels, based in India, by a Western author. I came to know of the book a few years ago. Having a deep interest in spirituality and philosophy, it was only natural that I was drawn to this book.

If you know nothing about this book, it is easy to assume, just by looking at the book cover, that it is about the life of Siddhartha Gautam Buddha. But, surprise! It’s not. Although that does become clear in the first few paragraphs itself, I think this note is quite essential so that a few among you readers don’t get over-enthusiastic about this book just going by the title!

However, I do believe that this book is worth getting enthusiastic about…

SPOILER: The book does feature Buddha, albeit for a small, yet important, part.

“Wisdom cannot be imparted. Wisdom that a wise man attempts to impart always sounds like foolishness to someone else… Knowledge can be communicated, but not wisdom. One can find it, live it, do wonders through it, but one cannot communicate and teach it.”

The story is based in India in the same era as of the Buddha, about a young Brahmin named Siddhartha who, dissatisfied with his existence, sets out to seek enlightenment. How, you ask? Well, he can think. He can wait. He can fast. Over the course of his life journey, he comes across myriad kinds of people and has different kinds of experiences.

SPOILER: He meets the Buddha, moves on and meets a beautiful courtesan, learns the art of lust from her. In the meanwhile, he also works for a merchant. Yes, kind of stuff you’d not expect to see a man on a spiritual journey to indulge in. Later on, he drinks, gambles and meets and lives with a ferryman.  The story does not end there. But well, read the book for more.

“I have had to experience so much stupidity, so many vices, so much error, so much nausea, disillusionment and sorrow, just in order to become a child again and begin anew. I had to experience despair, I had to sink to the greatest mental depths, to thoughts of suicide, in order to experience grace.”

Siddhartha’s quest for enlightenment goes on to demonstrate the importance of every kind of experience and every person one comes across in their lifetime. It was through each of those experiences that Siddhartha is able to achieve enlightenment at the end.

“What you search is not necessarily the same as what you find. When you let go of the searching, you start finding.”

It is heartening to know that a book set in the East, written in the 1920s, talking about spirituality and enlightenment, has amassed such a huge popularity across the world. It’s quite evident that even Western audience is able to identify with it. We all are humans, after all.

Hermann Hesse did not preach us to give up material possessions and go to the woods to meditate and seek truth, but if a narrative talking about something similar is able to connect to people across the world, even today, or especially today, it most probably does offer something of value.

Siddhartha is a short novella, spanning around 150 pages. It has a simple language—or say, the translated version that I read, by Hilda Rosner—although I should be honest and say that I found some of the repetitive phrases uttered by the main character and his friend towards the beginning, a little irritating.

Speaking of personal experience, I would not put this book in the ‘unputdownable’ category. It is possible to find it boring at times, but the message and philosophy of the book makes me glad that I stuck to it till the end.


Yashas:

So, she has basically taken over, at this point, and I could not be more glad to let go of the reins…

Now, you can start reading the book right here:

Of course, there are other translations available, and the readers are encouraged to seek them out and let us know what you think.

Well, that is all for tonight. We will be back, next week.

Thank you.

Word of the Week #63:

Inclement

So, after getting thoroughly drenched earlier today, I can say that the summer is officially over, and monsoon has arrived, and with quite a bang, if I may say so.

Congratulations to the guys over at IMD, who forecast monsoon to hit us between 10th and 15th of this month.

While many might be overjoyed with that news, I happen to have rather mixed feelings about the rains, and not just because I am grumpy after getting soaked to the skin. Continue reading Word of the Week #63:

Word of the Week #62:

Canter

Okay, so this post is in response to the post I made last week

It feels really odd when I say something that seems to contradict what I said exactly one week ago, but I guess it does need to be said.

You see, anyone who knows me well enough will agree that there are times when I immerse myself so deep into my work that I just cannot stop drowning. Of course, that is still prime fodder for artistic creativity, but the artist himself must pay a hefty price. Lives of artists like Sylvia Plath and, in more recent history, Amy Winehouse should serve as a reminder.

As often debated by a particularly incandescent, albeit fictional, pair of contemporary artists, is true art a flash of beauty burning bright and then vanishing in a moment, or is it something eternal that contains our soul and is passed down to our descendants? That is the question always on our minds.

Do I dare say I have the answer? Not in the slightest.

All I do know is that a horse can only gallop so much, before its legs and its heart gives way. And I still have miles to go.

So, in conclusion, we do have an update. Book Two might take longer than I earlier expected, but that may be for the best.

Word of the Week #61:

Mania

Have you ever worked so hard that others thought you were going insane?
Have you ever worked so hard that you too thought you were going insane?
Have you ever worked so hard that you actually did go insane?

No? On all three counts? Sounds quite like the verdict on a cop who allegedly killed an unarmed black guy… Anyway, where was I?

Yeah, if you have never felt that way, you probably will not understand this. Continue reading Word of the Week #61:

Word of the Week #60:

Morbid

No, we are not talking about obesity. People can be so touchy, you know.

Instead, let us talk about people on the opposite end of the scale; people who actually need more of our attention than they currently do. So, obviously, we are not talking about fashion models either…

Today, as we speak, over 20 million people lie at risk at death from starvation. This comes after it was concluded well over a hundred years ago that distribution of food is more to blame for famines than its actual scarcity.
Continue reading Word of the Week #60: