It's so easy to delve deep into blog-world to the extent that one forgets that one's own little blog is languishing from want of attention. Yep, that's what happened to me. Susan Branch is one huge addiction nowadays. Rest easy, I've almost caught up with her archived pages and will soon be in real time!
Meanwhile I have not neglected my paperback friends either. One small thing that was preventing me from writing about them was the thought of photographing the covers and adding them to my posts. The procedure was enough to make me procrastinate - take digicamera, put in batteries, take pics, find connecting cable, connect, copy, paste etc. etc. Sheesh. So I took the easy route today. Took pics on my phone, transferred with bluetooth to my comp. Tada!!! So now don't go complaining the pics aren't very good or clear, I don't have an iPhone!
The first book was this: a thin volume that lasted me the length of a train journey from Thiruvananthapuram to Kottayam with lots of pauses between each essay to savor the flavors and think about a bit.
It has all the charm and wholesomeness of Sathyan's movies themselves. Each reminiscence is filled with truth, humor and candor. I couldn't help but relate to several things that this people's director has to say - especially about the lost art of letter writing. Yes, we can communicate with a wider audience within a teeny tiny fraction of the time now. But no email or social website can reproduce the qualities of a handwritten letter. I tried reviving my letter-writing habit a while ago, but was stumped when I couldn't find anyone to send them to! Now I can only thank the stars that I have had the lovely experience of sending and receiving letters in the past. If anyone's interested in writing letters just for the sake of writing and receiving them, please let me know! We'll indulge our craziness together and keep our postmen busy!
If you can read Malayalam, do get yourself a copy of Ormakalude Kudamaattam, savor it on a leisurely afternoon and share with your family and friends.
The second book was Monisha Rajesh's Around India in 80 Trains - a travelogue or rather a trainologue.
On a not-so-subtle take on Verne's book, Monisha even names her Norwegian photographer companion Passepartout. His real name as well as the photographs he took are missing from the book. Or were the photographs meant for some other project? I don't know. The book has some wit and some touching moments. But what stands out throughout the book is the author's confusion about her own identity and nationality - she says that she roots for the English cricket team when it plays against India, but she also feels the need to defend India against foreigners who would look down upon the country as a whole. This confusion makes for some tiring reading, but I guess Monisha was only being true to herself. To add some drama and continuity to the book instead of making it simply a string of train journeys connected by stations, the author introduces an acrimonious theological debate with Passepartout and a blustering Railway employee Anusha. Like any Westerner offended by pantheistic Hinduism, she storms out of Puri Jagannath Temple after her religious affliation was doubted and falls for Vipassana meditation. Her moments of "resentment release" reads like a chapter straight out of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love. In short, Monisha is not sure she wants to be labeled an Indian but is very angry when someone refuses to see her as Indian. Funny!
Personally I find writers like William Dalrymple much more in tune with the culture he is writing about, notwithstanding his enthusiastic comment splashed straight across the cover of Around India...
Good points: The lady has a wonderful power of observation and eye for detail that makes her word portraits truly marvelous, though they are mostly in a sarcastic and censorious vein. And her book is very informative and is never dull for a moment.
Certainly worth a read.