Saturday, July 21, 2007

Favorite Indian Writing

Tagged by Swati and Mystic Margarita. Thanks Sawti and MM.
Here are a few of my favorite Indian books...

Small remedies – Sashi Deshpande.

It is a brilliant novel that delves into the lives of two women, Savitribai, a musician and Leela, a communist active in public service, both rebels in their own way. Madhu, Leela’s niece travels to Bai’s home to write her biography. Madhu, who has lost her only son Adit, tries to make sense of her own life by exploring Bai’s life. It has some brilliant lines that are powerful and moving.
Without mentioning the context I will write a couple of lines from the book.

“Not fair to Adit? How can anything be fair to him now? Why do we speak of the dead as if they have any connection with us, our lives, with life itself? It’s all over for them. The finality of death makes nonsense of any idea of their responses”.

The Bachelor of Arts – R.K.Narayanan

I simply love RKN’s writing style. This book is one of my RKN favorites. It is the story of Chandran, a young man who graduates with a Bachelor of Arts and steps into the real world. In typical elegant RKN style, he brings out the charm of simple south Indian life especially in the context of marriage. Chandran falls in love with Malathi and his eagerness to marry her is brought about with such sweet humor, you will become so involved in Chandran’s emotions yourself.
Chandran waits for Malathi’s horoscope to be delivered to his parents but there is more of a delay than Chandran or his parents expected. Chandran offers to actually go and ask the girl’s side for a copy of the horoscope. His mother is afraid he might actually do it and embarrass them. Some of my favorite scenes from the novel:

Father laughed and told it to Mother who became scared and said, “Chandra, please don’t do it. It would be a very curious procedure. They will send the horoscope themselves.”
Father said to Chandran, “Look here, you will never be qualified to marry unless you cultivate a lot of patience. It is the only power that you will be allowed to exercise when you are married”.
Mother looked at Father suspiciously and said, “Will you kindly make your meaning clearer?”

M.S : A life in music – T.J.S George

This is a must read for anyone who is a fan of M.S.Subbulakshmi or for that matter anyone who loves music. The biography of the legendary modern day musical saint – M.S.Subbulakshmi, by T.J.S George reads like a novel.
M.S.Subbulakshmi, the innocent, talented and beautiful girl from Madurai escapes being paired off with a rich chettiar as per the norms of the “Devadasi” traditions and boards a train to Madras and takes refuge in the home of Sadasivam. This marks the birth of the protagonist, Mr. Sadasivam, who weds M.S in a rush, to ward off the handsome and talented musician GNB for whom MSS had developed a soft spot, reading almost unbelievably like the traditional love triangle script from modern day Tamil cinema. Sadasivam transforms the simple girl from who fled home into a film actress and then to a saintly figure of carnatic music accepted and appreciated world over. Mr. George summarizes the relationship between M.S.S and Sadasivam into an unforgettable epiphany “ If M.S made melody, Sadasivam made M.S”.
Like an onion peel, the saintly image of MSS is peeled layer by layer to reveal her human quality and yet her absolute and unflinching dedication to music, her guileless demeanor and humility, her divine voice, natural talent, perfect diction and “Shruthi Suddham”, her life long service to innumerable charitable causes all at once wrap her back into an image of a Bhakti saint. Icons are sometimes best kept cloaked in enigma. Knowing their personal stories often tarnishes and strips away the aura around that image. Mr.T.J.S George however skillfully keeps the balance by revealing the human side of the image yet eliciting a sense of wonder and respect from the reader towards M.S.S. He does this in an erudite fashion from having researched the time and history of events and characters that shaped the world of carnatic music at the time MSS emerged in the scene. His biography of MS stands out as unique because it is not a mere recording of events in her life and career. It is placed in the context of social and cultural history of the times in which her musical career developed.

A fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

I don’t often cry for novels or movies. I do get moved but this book really left me crying at the end. I finished reading this novel at 2.00 am one morning and I called my husband (we were on opposite coasts then) and bawled on the phone! It may be sleep deprivation that made me that* emotional but it will no doubt move you to tears.
It is an amazing novel really.
Set in 1975, during a state of emergency declared by the government, this novel revolves around the lives of four people, a widow, a student and two tailors who have fled their native town to the city. It is a brilliant narrative and has so much intensity to it that you will actually not mind reading through some 600 pages (I find it hard to get through such long novels unless they are really good and engaging) of it.

Some of my favorite lines:
“I have sad news” he said. “Chachaji had an accident and passed away”.
The tailors were too distraught, however to be able to mourn the loss or fully comprehend it. Yesterday’s events in the market square had merged with all other tragedies in their lives. “Thank you for coming to inform us,” Ishvar kept saying mechanically. “I must attend the funeral and Om will also come, yes he will be better tomorrow”.
When you read this line in the context of the lives of these characters, you will understand how when tragedy strikes again and again, emotions can be numbed out. It is a beautiful novel worth a read.


Harvest – Manjula Padmanabhan

This is probably the only English play I have read by an Indian author. I can’t think of any others that I have read. It reminded me of Samuel Beckett’s play, “Waiting for Godot” in how it made me feel after I read the play.
Harvest is basically a play about the harvesting of human organs from poor people. It revolves around a family of four – Om, his brother, his mother and his wife. It is futuristic and has a vein of dark humor running through it. It leaves you feeling disturbed and anxious about society in general. I don’t enjoy that feeling. Nevertheless, it is a brilliant play that I am glad to have read.

Arangam – Sujatha Vijayaraghavan

This is not a well-known book but it surprises me that it is so because it is an amazing Tamil novel in my opinion. Note, this is not a novel by the famous Tamil novelist Sujatha (who is also one of my favorites). This is by Mrs.Sujatha Vijayaraghavan who is a talented writer, choreographer and musician. She hails from a family of musicians and it shows in the ease and flair with which she has written this novel about an aspiring vocalist in the world of carnatic music. It has enough drama in it to keep your attention and make it “unputdownable”. She describes the emotions of the main character in eloquent Tamil – the language itself flows like music in some of her passages. I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Unfortunately I don’t have the book with me now – one of those “borrowed and may take long long time to come back” book. If not I could have quoted some lines from the book to give an idea.

It looks like most of the bloggers I know have been tagged for this already. In anycase, will ask SS, Terri, Rbdans, UTBT, Agelessbonding, Cantaloupes Amma - please if you don't mind - would be nice to read about your favorite Indian books...

19 comments:

SS said...

Hey there :) will take up your tag for sure .. but give me a week or 2 ok ?? I enjoyed this post. Makes me wanna read a couple of these.

Moppet's Mom said...

Wow, noon - and to remember the lines and all! I cried too when I read A Fine Balance. And cried again when I re-read it...

Lovely list.

Mystic Margarita said...

Great selection, noon! Have to catch up on a couple from your list - don't know how I missed adding A Fine Balance to mine though! I, too, loved the book.

noon said...

SS, No problem...take your time...

Moppet's mom - Thanks...
Are you kidding me - I took those books out of my shelf and quoted these lines because I have my favorite lines marked in many of my books. I have not dared to read A Fine Balance again.

Mystic Margarita - Thanks..yeah am sure a lot of people have read A Fine Balance and I can't imagine anyone not liking it! Even if they found it depressing...

SS said...

Btw,Noon, I've tagged you too. On something else. Do get to it if you feel like and when time permits :)

Poppins said...

Very well written tag and such a nice selection too ! And here I thought you were too busy, so I had stopped tagging you !

DotMom said...

What a nice post. Have never read Manjula Padmanabhan before. A fine balance has been on my list for so long. Need to open it now :)

noon said...

SS - I went and saw that you've tagged me...will post on those sometime - those are harder ones! :)

noon said...

Poppins - Thanks so much. yeah it is incredibly busy - but I gave up on sleep here and there - I don't have time or the concentration now to read novels - been trying to read "The kite runner" for so long now - have not made much progress - I only read newspaper and magazine articles/blog posts - that's it - so when I saw this tag it was a pleasure to at least revisit the ones I have read...hey - since you know Tamil and you sing I hope you can get hold of the book Arangam - you will really enjoy it. I assume you know to read Tamil - which may not be the case even though you are Tamilian - my husband can speak Tamil well but cannot read it.

noon said...

dotmom - thanks for visiting. Yeah - she is very good. She is a multi talented woman...I didn't know about her at all - a friend told me about this book and I bought it. Very powerful play.
A Fine Balance - well from your profile looks like you are a very busy working mom - you will need to make time for reading this big mamma novel!

The Inquisitive Akka said...

Yup, I bawled my way through "A fine balance too". Did you read "Family Matters"?

The Inquisitive Akka said...

Oh and did you read Khaled Hosseini's "A thousand splendid sons"? That was really touching.

Cantaloupes.Amma (CA) said...

Hey Noon ... taken up your tag ... don't be surprised with my picks though !

noon said...

CA - thanks - will check it out soon.

noon said...

IA - I have not read it - will hopefully read it in the coming year!

Swati said...

Truly Amazed by the selection of books and the effort and time you invested to complete the tag..Hats off.Quoting the lines was way too much. Thanks a lot.

Usha said...

done. I liked the fine balance and M.S too but did not mention them in my post to avoid duplication.

Vinay said...

I also love Indian writers some of my FAVORITE INDIAN BOOKS are one night @call center, my three mistakes and some other books. Your blog is nice having some great information

Blogger said...

Not using an Horoscope mobile app? Download The Best HOROSCOPE App (Works on Android & iOS)