Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The 7 Secrets series by Devdutt Pattanaik: Impressions

I was gifted the 7 Secrets series by a dear friend recently, and I read the 7 Secrets of Vishnu and the 7 Secrets of Shiva back to back. They are both structured in the same way with the author explaining the myth and symbolism of many a Vishnu and Shiva lore. The Vishnu book takes the avataars and forms of the Preserver God (Matsya, Kurma, Mohini, Krishna, Ram, Kalki, etc.) and explains why the incarnation was taken, what it represents, and the common stories associated with it. The Shiva book, on the other hand, picks the Destroyer God's many roopas or forms (Kala Bhairava, Ardhanarishava, Nataraja, Shankara, etc.) and tells the story behind each of them.

The books are half full of pictures and serve as helpful cases in point. There are images of temples, paintings and statues on every other page that help a reader understand the symbols associated with a certain God. With the help of these pictures, the author also demonstrates the regional variations in a single lore thus reaffirming the complexity of mythology. Our epics are not a linear stories, but an intricate web of stories which have God-knows-from-where branches.

The modern reader of mythology will find many insights in the books. My favourites include the reason why Brahma, or the Creator God, is not worshipped among Hindus, the function and meanings of the Adi-Shesh-Anant Nag, the significance of the Shiva Linga, the Deva-Asura symbology, and the nature of Goddess Lakshmi.  
What I like about Pattnaik's style of writing is that he treads with perfect balance on this treacherous ground. In a country full of religious fanatics and self-proclaimed mythology experts, he writes with confidence and caution, taking care to not sound like a blind believer or like an insensitive rationalist. He sometimes proffers logical explanations, but mostly sticks to storytelling and tries to be free of bias. The author is also a gifted illustrator, and I missed seeing his wonderful illustrations in this book.

However, I find that I'm beginning to get bored of reading Devdutt Pattanaik's books. While the author's admirable style of  writing remains the same, it is the content that is getting repetitive. Not the author's fault, of course. He cannot change mythology. He may write about different things, but the common interlinking stories, which are necessary for explanation's sake, appear over and over. The profusion of books on Indian mythology in the market are also to blame, for I tend to pick and read them all. How Ram goes to vanvaas and Krishna kills Kamsa must remain unchanged.

I am going to take a little break from books on Indian mythology, but I wholeheartedly recommend Pattanaik's books to a more eager student.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

This is love (LOL)

(Image source: Deviant Art by Yoda13)

The summary of all I'll ever have to say to you is I love you.
A love that breaks shore over and over at your stone feet, 
hoping you will feel something; anything.
Step into my skin for a day, and know how I bleed for you.
It's hard on days when the voice of my love will not be tamed.
That helpless, shameless kind of love that I can lay at no one else's altar.
My songs are orphaned without you.
My heart, a lost child in a fair.
My life, an endless spin down a black vortex.
When love is on the other side of the thick red line of morality.
But I've chosen to be blind to all else but you.
It's harder still when I almost believe that my love will be returned.
Kill me, if that's what it takes to make you lay your eyes on me.
Let me peel away all that is not about you. You were made for worship.
'Love me' I beg, you walk away, we start again.
I resign everyday to a life without your love, and the damn thing just grows stronger.
This is love. (Laugh out loud.) Exit.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Maid in Singapore by Kishore Modak: Impressions

Despite telling a complex grey tale, Kishore Modak's is one of the coldest voices I've ever read. A lot happens in the 239 pages of this short novel, yet the author remains impassive, failing to draw the reader in. It's more like reading a newspaper than a novel with no emotions evoked, and no connect made. I read the book in a day; not exactly sucked into the vortex of the tale, but like a rooted bystander observing its morbid goings on.

But 'Maid in Singapore' has a plot that one will not forget in a hurry. Kishore Modak writes about a modern nuclear family with an Indian wife Rashmi, a British husband, David, and their adolescent son of mixed ethnicity, Jay. When they are forced to move from London to Singapore, their life takes an unexpected turn. The presence of their new Filipino maid, Mary, triggers off a chain of events stemming from infidelity. The lead up is rather complex but it will be safe to mention that the plot has a lot of meat in it involving kinky sex, bastard children, cancer, homosexuality and even a gender change operation thrown in for good measure.

The story is apparently based on true events (gulp), and it chills one to think this is more than fiction. Like I've mentioned above, despite the intrigue of the plot, Modak's style of writing is strangely sterile. It is difficult to put a finger on what exactly is lacking in the style, but it's somehow clinical. Despite the shame, anger, blame, resignation and acceptance the protagonists go through, they fail to touch you. Here you're reading about a  man-wife relationship gone bad, a terminal illness, even sexual deviations, but you never once feel anything on the left side of your chest, or the corner of your eye.

And then there are times, when the author gets into a philosophical mood and leaves you with a mouthful of words and little else. Sample these lines:

Time, it simply moves away from us, leaving us in a rut of petty, personal tangles, forcing us to look down, down where there is nothing but the mundane to toy with, while on top things move steadily away on the waves of time, reaching the horizon before moving out of sight, forever, never once waiting for us to look up. 


Isn't marriage supposed to enliven our sexual fantasies, keeping us physically contented in its holy circle, nuptial gravity ensuring that we don't waver outwards, tangentially away from the circumference into the realm of infidelity?

You feel like slapping the editor at these points, but then the next murky turn distracts you. So, Maid in Singapore is a twisty story of human frailties - convincing, well-told even, but one with no heart in it.


Friday, February 08, 2013

50 Shades of Grey by E L James: Impressions

I'm very late for the global kinky party, but I finally read 50 Shades of Gray by E L James. And no, I'm not going to act like a literary elitist a-hole and say things like oh, this book is such a load of bull. Because it isn't, and I, ahem, lapped it up while it lasted. That, however, doesn't mean I'm rooting for it to get a Booker. I read it like millions of women (and men) in the world because hey, everyone needs a trashy break. That, and everyone has secret voyeuristic needs to satisfy. Oh, admit it already.

So 50 Shades of Gray is apparently, a what they call, a mommy porn book. I don't know about the mommy bit, but it is definitely like porn - exciting and boring, if you know what I mean. Actually, it's like an advanced M&B that struck gold. After the first three times of reading about Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele's kinky sexcapades, you're like 'yeah, okay, get on with it already'. Exciting, boring.

For the 30 people left in this world who still haven't read the book, it is the story of super successful-rich-handsome young industrialist, Christian Grey and nubile little Anastasia Steele, who get into this kinky dom-sub (dominant-submissive) agreement, resulting in a stormy relationship, BDSM sex, emotional turmoil, yada, yada. I was reminded very much of 'Pretty Woman' while reading the book - obscenely wealthy guy meet charming regular whore girl, except Christian Grey is young, has a dark past, and twisted in the head, and Anastasia Steele is a student and not a whore.

James writing is nice and pacy, and she tries hard to let the reader know how much she has researched wine, obscure music and the ways of the filthy rich. But the same cannot be said of her vocabulary, because by the end of the book, all you seem to have read are the words 'flush', 'dark', 'orgasm' and 'oh my'. Her use of  dialogue using Anastasia Steele's 'inner goddess' and 'subconscious, though' irritating at times, is mostly amusing. Her characterization is also good, making Christian Grey very believable and oh-so-desirable. And yes, Anastasia too.

I'll remember 50 Shades of Grey mostly because of the *cough* new things I've learnt from it, but will I read the remaining books of the trilogy? No. I'd much rather wait for Hollywood to make a movie and dish it out to me, and perhaps do the following. :D