Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Winter Like No Other

It's the last day of February, for crying out loud! If I were in Delhi, I'd have put away my warm clothing almost a month ago. Those who know me well would know that I generally dress less warmly than those around me. But now I'm surrounded by people who are used to the -5 F weather that we had around here for a while, and who are now roaming about with very light jackets in 40 F weather. These women will wear mini skirts, Capri pants and open sandals in this weather. And it's still snowing. Well, not today, but it was snowing yesterday. So I'm still wearing boots (Boots! I never wore anything other than open toed sandals in India, except in the gym or on trekking trips. I would never even wear socks. I didn't even own a pair of socks!) most of the time, and fairly warm jackets which protect from the wind.

And here's the worst part. It rains the day after it snows. The snow melts. So I don't see the pretty, white, Christmassy scene outside my window. I see dull, brown, withered grass and trees. When will spring come?

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Inheritance of Loss

It had been a while since I'd read anything by an Indian author and I happened to pick up The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. To say that I was disappointed would be putting it mildly.

I don't know how or why I managed to read the whole thing. It was a huge waste of my time. The book does not entertain, it does not grip the reader's attention, it does not have any life lessons for me to learn from it.

It's set amidst the Gorkha movement for an independent state for the Indian Nepalis (or Nepali Indians, whatever). I've read and liked stuff set amidst riots, like Lajja, and also, Mr and Mrs Iyer is still one of my all time favourite movies, but this one just did not speak to me. It has a narrative that keeps jumping back and forth between three or four different times and places in a way that just fails to grip the reader's attention or keep the pages turning. I mean, The God of Small Things also jumps about, but Arundhati Roy has her own way of keeping you glued to the book and making you want to read it again the instant you finish reading it. Kiran Desai doesn't. In various parts of the narrative, she's not sure whether she's addressing an Indian audience or an international one. Her characters are very difficult to relate to. She doesn't develop them well enough. It's hard to believe that a group of Indians living in a small town at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga in the 1980s, even those who have returned from foreign countries, would be eating tuna fish and bacon and pudding and scones all the time and would be celebrating Christmas properly, complete with the exchange of Christmas presents.

Then there are certain episodes in the story which do not add to the plot development and are just plain gross. Only a perverted mind would add such episodes to a novel when there was no apparent reason for them to be there. Disgusting.

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Special Evening

So yesterday my husband and I were celebrating Valentine's Day and also the anniversary of the day we first met. It's hard to believe that it's already been a year. One whole year of loving each other, annoying each other, of just being with each other.

We went out for this spectacular Boston Harbour Dinner Cruise to celebrate the occasion. Dinner on a cruise ship, champagne, roses, chocolate dipped strawberries (those were so yummy!), live music (Great music. Nothing like the cheap sounding live music you hear at Indian weddings sometimes.). And amazing views of the Boston coastline. We went upstairs all the way to the observation deck, which was open from all sides. We were chilled to the bone, obviously, given the 26 F weather, the 20 mph wind, and the fact that it's always colder at sea than on land. But the view was worth it. And so was everything else.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Very Indian

Why are Indians so overly eager to deem things to be Indian or to classify them to be made by Indians? I just read something on one of the Indian news websites about how Couples Retreat is a movie with a soundtrack by A. R. Rahman. Really? Two songs out of fifteen make it his soundtrack, do they? Much as I like his music, this is just not true.

I'm sure everybody recalls how Slumdog Millionaire was plastered all over the Indian press as an Indian movie that got recognized internationally. The producers, screenplay writer, and director were all English. True, they did have an Indian assistant director, and a number of Indians in the cast, but you know, that doesn't make it Indian?

Being a country that's well on its way to becoming the most populous nation in the world, don't we have enough things that are actually ours? And if we don't, what does that say for the country?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd is the story of a girl who lost her mother at a very young age and later, in her teen years, sets out on a quest to find out more about her. Set in the 1960s in South Carolina, a time when the Civil Rights Act had been passed but not yet actually enforced, it speaks of a time dotted with incidents of black-white discrimination. The protagonist, Lily, has a governess, Rosaleen, who is black, and a father who is often mean and even cruel to her. Lily and Rosaleen, through a series of events, end up in the house of three black sisters, the eldest of whom knew Lily's mother quite well. The sisters agree to house, feed and clothe Lily and Rosaleen and teach Lily about beekeeping, which is their own little business.

A beautifully written, powerful, compelling story about mothers and daughters, about the idea of family, about breaking through the barriers of race and colour. Although ridden with grammatical errors here and there, (It's hard to break that habit. I do notice them and they do bother me sometimes.) it's a story that will appeal to women of all ages and ethnic groups, to mothers and daughters everywhere. The writer takes us on a journey through her protagonist's mind and her thoughts, showing us how messed up her life is, how flawed and human she is, just like the rest of us, and also, how much she needs to be loved and to live a life of dignity. The narrative has the mark of a good book, which is to make the readers feel the characters' pain and joy as they go along, and this is a quality that makes the book hard to put down.