Saturday, September 12, 2015


This link showed up on the google home page recently and I clicked it out of curiosity. It is a well made documentary of real human emotions. Well worth watching. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Ottayadipatha By Madhavikutty മാധവികുട്ടിയുടെ ഒറ്റയടിപാത

This was one of the books I bought at Kochi Airport on the way back after visiting India in April to see my ailing mom. I didn't get to it until I had to go back so abruptly. I grabbed this book to help me hold it together on the lonely flight there and back. It did help me a bit and made me think a lot. I tried my best to hang on to my rosary and Madhavikutty's thoughts instead of my own thoughts. My mom loved to see anyone reading and she always had a twinkle in her eye even when ostentatiously scolding me for reading while eating at the table. The book seems to be a collection of Madhavikutty's regular columns that came out in a newspaper or magazine. This is not mentioned anywhere on the cover or inside but the writer pretty much indicates this in most of the articles/chapters in the book.

Madhavikutty is better known and respected as poet Kamala Das in the outside world. Her writing was way ahead of the existing societal norms in Kerala/India and so instead of unconditional respect for her fresh writing style and forthrightness, she was much maligned and gained inadvertent notoriety in the beginning of her writing career. Luckily for her and her readers, the quite strength and quality of her writings just couldn't be held back. It looks like the one person who needed to understand her, got her better than even she understood herself. Her husband Madhav Das who worked as a bank officer. She is from the famous Nalappat family, being the grand niece of Nalappat Narayanamenon who reigns large in her childhood memoirs and the daughter of illustrious poet Balamani Amma. In her memoirs we see that Madhavikutty does not talk much of her mother and talks nostalgically of the time she spent with her grand mother in their ancestral home along with all the simple people of the larger household. Her Malayalam is written in very easy style. The very simplicity makes you feel like she is talking to you directly. I have not read her controversial autobiography but I feel that in order to understand this great writer you must also read 'Ottayadipatha'. She writes each article in it with clairvoyance and an alluring frankness.  I read more than half one way and the rest on the way back. Because of the special circumstance under which I read it, the book will always remain with me. This is a great book that discloses many truths that are gradually revealed to each of us as we continue to live this long life on earth. She is able to put each of her precious thoughts down in a way that is easy to decipher and with humility. This gifted writer passed away in 2009 but her books will never lose their relevance as they speak of basic human nature and every day truths. Let us hope Madhavikutty's little granddaughter Nayanthara will carry her gift forward into the next generation. Google searches will tell you that director Kamal is set to make a movie out of her life sometime this year with Vidya Balan as Madhavikutty. I hope it will be a movie that will do full justice to this consummate writer.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Books, Books, Books

No matter how busy I am, I always find time for books. Especially since this is the main form of relaxation for me. So even if I haven't written much in this space, I have read many a book. It is best to write about a book as soon as you have read it. So once a few days pass by, I am reluctant to write about it and the cycle repeats. I will put down some things on the ones that I remember.

Beginning with the latest that I read on our flight to the east cost.

Colm Toibin's The Blackwater Lightship

If Jodi Picoult is your source for light reading on deeper subjects, then Tóibín  is your ultimate source for a full dose on such subjects. Almost Dostoeveskian, Tóibín is in full control of his prose, characters and story. Each page reminds us of a movie director making a vision come to life with masterful orchestration of every object, every movement. The intensity of each of these scenes are paced and never lost to us, the reader. I have read Tóibín before and this was as great as expected. It is mainly told through Helen, a young school principal who is dealing with her brother's fight with AIDS as well as her complex relationships with her mother and grandmother placed in and around Dublin, Ireland. Only Tóibín can present us with so many characters, each complete for us to understand yet not giving away anything in the process. Every single book by this author is a find in itself.

I Know This Much Is True By Wally Lamb

Wow, Wally Lamb and Colm Tóibín in the same post! Talk about larger-than-life, stalwarts etc., I am reading Wally Lamb for the first time and what a loss it would have been if I had never come across this author. He is a modern day Dostoevsky who completely inhabits his characters and brings to light every possible emotion they have with ease. Be it real magic or magical realism, he writes with such authority that we are just putty in his hands. He credits having grown up with four sisters as an only brother for his intuitive understanding of the female mind. After I read this book, I went on to get his first novel 'She's Come Undone'. It is a great first novel but I feel nothing and no one else can beat 'I Know This Much Is True'. 

Told by Dominick, the non-schizophrenic twin, this tale takes us through their lives with their mother, stepfather and other array of characters that shape their lives. The larger than life presence is that of their maternal grandfather Dominico Tempesta whom they never saw. He passed away while their unwed mother was expecting them. They grew up in his imaginary presence made real by their mother's reverence for him.  Dominick is more like this grandfather and Thomas, the other twin is a lot more like their sweet, shy mother. Only Wally Lamb can tell you the complexities of their lives with such clarity. A wealthy but hard and absent grandfather, unknown father, strict stepfather, mouse of a mother made more shy with a harelip, Thomas being favored by their mother for his sweet nature, Dominick being favored by their stepfather for being the stronger one, living in the shadow of racial superiority as well as witnessing and sometimes being subjected to all kinds of prejudices, all of this just shines forth from Lamb's book in perfect harmony. Lamb deftly portrays an Indian psychiatrist who helps Dominick to unravel the pent up feelings about himself and his twin. The amount of knowledge he displays of India through this character is purely amazing. Olive Kittreridge, Conrad Richter and many others come together effortlessly in this blessed author's hands. That he weaves magical realism unobtrusively to the absorbent reader is nothing beyond magic! Wally Lamb has earned his place in world literature, period.

Many other books have passed through my hands. The ones I want to write about  now deserve more attention than I can give today. So I will post on those at a later time.