Wednesday, July 20, 2011

‘The Gift’ is very well appreciated and recommended!

I had heard a lot about Cecilia Ahern and her extraordinary debut novel, 'P.S - I Love you', which narrates the story of a husband who deeply loves his wife. However, he suffers from a terminal illness and knowing he would die soon, he decides to write a set of 10 letters, all addressed to his wife and which is revealed to her, only after he has passed away. He does this to encourage her cope with a life without him, rediscover herself and move on in life happily. After several references, I decided to note it down in my mental list of ‘MUST READS.’
But somehow when I went to the nearest crossword store to pick up  books for myself – which were actually meant as a birthday gift from a dear friend, one of the books that I picked up was ‘THE GIFT’ instead of the title noted down by me from the same author. And my writing about it here is a testimonial to the fact that I have not 'missed' not reading ‘P.S. – I love you.’ (On probing a little deeper I found– I did not pick it up maybe because I knew the ending - a huge spoiler for me).
Anyways, what is so enchanting and touching about 'The Gift' is that most of us can relate to the story whole heartedly and agree with the author completely. We can identify the character of Lou Suffren as someone we know or interact with, in our own lives. The main protagonist, Lou Suffren is an extremely successful man, He has everything one could wish for in this world. But he has not had enough and continuously keeps wishing to be at two places at the same time in order to be able to reach higher than he already is. He is thus constantly battling with time.
Lou is willing to sacrifice anything for his work - even spoil his father’s 70th birthday party that the family has been looking forward to and planning for elaborately, just because he has an official Christmas dinner party on the same day that he absolutely must attend and show his face around. His family suffers silently. And then one day, walks in Gabe into Lou’s life, a homeless man, who Lou thinks can be useful around his office for him. But soon he realizes that Gabe is actually an impediment to his growth. And in fact, he is even quite mysterious. He always manages to beat Lou at his own ‘race against the clock’ run. Also, unlike him, every one seems to adore him. And then starts the actual game with Lou determining to beat the clock and Gabe both. The author manages to keep the cards tightly close to her chest till the last few pages.
Finally, she discloses that the story is not so much about Lou Suffren as it is about each one of us. It is about the tick tocking of the clock that we see but neither feel nor give it, the due importance it should be given. Time comes and time goes. We move on. From one moment to next without realizing that the moment that has left us can never be bought or recovered ever or by any means.
It is time we never have enough. It is time that is the most precious. More precious than any riches of the world. Once the time is up, no matter what you do….you have to bid adieu to the world, to your loved ones and most of all to your own life. And so to just ignore time or spend it on running from one important meeting to another profitable business deal at the cost of ignoring one's own life is a pity.
The beautiful author has also managed to keep the readers wondering and alternating between their own theories of ‘this –might- happen next or ‘she is aiming for that’, till the very end. Of course, we are proved wrong by her each time. Her style of storytelling (or rather writing), reminded me of my own childhood, when we (my cousins, my brother and I), would listen to my maternal uncle with rapt attention, without batting an eyelid, holding our breath as to what would happen next. And whatever came next managed to keep us irritatingly restless, doubly intrigued, and undoubtedly feeling incomplete. All we wanted was for him to just go on and on till he could show us the light at the end of the dark mysterious tunnel. Celia Ahern, I must thank you for this ‘Gift’ you shared with us.
 I conclude with the beautiful quote with which the author ended her book –
‘Time can’t be given. But it can be shared.’

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Why I wrote ‘In pursuit of Infidelity’ and other related questions?

This is an oft asked question by readers, friends, acquaintances and even strangers claiming to be avid readers.  But more often than not, the above question is posed by people who either found the 'title' of the book too strong for their taste or  found themselves feeling upset, confused, alarmed by the 'story line' to an extent to brand it as ‘Not -the- kind - of -book- they would- like- to - read.’ 

'Then why pick it up in the first place, my dear?' I would have liked to ask them. The blurb gives out more than a fair idea about its content.
Anyway, I obviously cannot do that without getting into an argument or a heated discussion. So mostly I give them a tolerant smile and say, 'I felt like writing about the topic.' Period.  

Why I wrote ‘In pursuit of Infidelity’ and other related questions?

The main reason I chose to write my first book about the hush - hush and ‘under the carpet topic’ of Infidelity was simple beause I wanted to explore the subject. The topic intrigued me. As a reader who loves the romance/relationships genre I found it being explored in the writings of some very popular and admired Indian writers like Vikram Seth’s, ‘A Suitable Boy,’ Manju Kapur’s, ‘Difficult Daughters’ and many more. As a woman and a social activist I was surrounded by real life stories on the subject. All these factors egged me enough to choose ‘Infidelity’ as the theme for my first novel. 
The story was written from a modern woman’s perspective for obvious reasons.

 I wanted to explore and attempt to get answers to questions like –
Why do extra marital affairs happen?
Who is responsible for it – the wife, the husband, both, their lifestyle choices or something else?
If a woman strays, is it for the same reasons as that of a man?
Can a person be branded as bad just because he has committed infidelity? (The character of Gaurav was that of a good husband and yet he had a one night stand… actually a mini affair?!)
Should a woman be blamed and called names if she after several attempts of trying to show her neglected feelings to her husband and yet not finding an appropriate response from her ‘ever busy’ partner gives in to her emotional needs? In my story I deliberately showed both partners cheating on each other. This was to get the reactions in each of their cases. Most readers who got back to me felt that Gaurav had been short handed. Just because Sheena did not divulge her truth to him. But did not both commit the same misdemeanor? For the sake of a marriage that was already shaken and almost destroyed by the discovery of Gaurav’s infidelity, was it not wise of Sheena to keep her painful truth to herself? (And maybe she really loved Nikhil. Nikhil on his part made a sacrifice because he loved Sheena). He had got a chance and could have destroyed her life. But he did not. Human relationships are complicated. Things are not always either white or black. One has to walk the grey line sometimes). In real life though, especially in our society it is mostly the woman who has to live with the knowledge that her partner has betrayed her trust. And yet she endures that pain just to save her marriage. So what if a man has to do the same? Will the society be able to digest it? I believe, a person who loves his family, a person with broader outlook towards life, a person who understands his own mistakes that might have lead to the crack in the relationship will not only be able to accept but also cope very well when faced with such a situation.

But the most important questions that I wanted answers to were, what happens after infidelity is discovered? Does life end?  Everyone make mistakes and then everyone has choices. People are responsible for the choices they make. The choices may be good or bad for them. It is not necessary that an individual choice a person makes has to be coloured by what the Society thinks as the best. The affected couple must know and make the best choice. If the straying partners were blinded for a moment and committed a mistake they deserve a second chance. But if the marriage is really marred beyond repair – It is better to end the unhappy marriage and move on. And I believe such marriages end much before the actual act of infidelity is committed and brought to light. But for others there is a new life that begins after both partners have gone through the painful experience of love and loss either individually or together. It teaches them to respect and value each other. It teaches them to not take everything for granted. It makes them understand that what is important is not that you have committed a mistake but how you have learnt and grown from that mistake.

Having given my thoughts on the subject and my novel as above, I also wish to put on record that I am not justifying ‘infidelity’. In fact it clearly comes out from the story that the misdemeanor has the potential to destroy and irreparably damage several lives at one go. Also, for those who are still wondering, my story was a fiction. A figment of my imagination. Of course, some of the characters and certain incidents in the story were inspired from real life experiences.

Friday, July 1, 2011

THE RACE - Sujata Parashar

In this mad RACE to satiate her ego,
and pamper the material mind,
She runs to win.
‘Beware girl, winning is an addiction’,
shares the wise old man.
He learnt it the hard way.
 Does not want the one he loves,
 to repeat the same mistakes.
She hardly cares.
For her, the world is a stage.

She- an artist. Par excellence!
Demanding only the best from herself.
And so each day, she is happy running.
Distractions distract her. They anger her.
If halted she gets anxious to start again.
‘Get – set – go’ and keep going is her motto!
Her fatigue comes from resting a while,
from normal hum drum of life,
and looking at the other artists on the stage,
or even being innocent and naïve.

With ‘the win’ on her mind,
each day, she loses….,
Loses on her soothing sleep,
attractive smile, and  young life!
I wish I could tell her -
Calm down, relax a while,
enjoy and experience the journey.
Walk it. Stroll. Do run too, if you really need to.
 But just don’t rush through.
‘Coz there is really nothing at the finishing line.