Tuesday, March 24, 2015

A Philosopher on the Wrong Side of 40!


Some books convince you on the unique nature of everything that constitutes you. Such books carve a very permanent niche in your heart and make you trust the author to an extent that you feel an acute urge to exhaust his/her entire literary corpus. The book I am referring to here is Fault In Our Stars written by the genius wordsmith, John Green. It wasn't a book which shook the earth for me - but it was definitely one which made me want to know more about the thought process of the writer. And yes, it lent me some very fascinating perspectives on this short life we lead.

I had jotted down my spontaneous reflections on the book about 5 months ago, and revisited them this morning while trying to positivise some persistent negativities. A very senior person called me a 'philosopher on the wrong side of 40' for those reflections, and when I remembered that, I caught myself smiling. And just like that, the day acquired a vibrant hue, along with the still persisting cynicism. Who says cynicism and vibrance can't coexist? Look at me and you'll know - I am wearing pink with a black-&-white top.

Here. My thoughts on Fault In Our Stars

"I have read the book and seen the movie, in that order. Quite obviously, I enjoyed the former more, since it left so much scope for me to think beyond the obvious tale of love between two protagonists whose love affair with life was about to end.

The Fault In Our Stars is so much more than the story of Hazel and Augustus - it is the tale of entire humanity struggling to come to terms with the nature of existence. Are we all tiny, ephemeral specks on the grandness that is the Universe, or are we all, in our own ways, altering the Universe in a manner that leaves a permanent impact?

By changing our perception on the disease called cancer, John Green succeeds in changing so much about the way we view struggles in life. Like cancer is a necessary evil on the road to evolution (arrived at through mutation of cells, few of which mutate to malignancy), struggles are a necessary force to makes us grow, to chisel us to perfection. In his lens, cancer is actually evolution, or progress/growth.

That our prism is biased towards pity is also brought out handsomely in the text. I will give away the plot if I say anymore here - read on to find out. But, we sympathise too easily to visible distresses. Not the best idea perhaps.

Let us live, breathe, and smile at the bounties which life gives us. Probably only he can live life unabashedly from whose existence the fear of death is eliminated. Iconic quotes are found by dozens in the book - I have a lot many scribbled in my journal.

The movie is good to the eyes, but fails the book completely in the sense of the sorrow it evokes in us, against a sense of triumph for having lived a life which NOONE else in the entire history of humanity is going to get an opportunity to live."

So, hmm. Life is a fair deal that God has given you. As John Green says "What makes life precious is that it ends."

P.S. - The next book I am picking up is An Abundance of Katherines. Do you want to tell me something about that one?

Thursday, March 19, 2015


A few days ago, a friend quoted a line out of an earlier blog post, which went like this - "Love should never begin at admiration." This set me thinking on what I must have been thinking when I wrote it. (If you must put it in context, the post is called Anamnesis, which investigates a past love with the prism of today) Was I sad, deluded, angry, moody, troubled - or simply pensive? Or passive? Or subtly aggressive? Well, love can lead you into any of those phases, seamlessly. The awesome surprising bit is, I feel none of the love which I did then. The love which was a living thing inside me is so dead, that death would itself be baffled. The point to take note of here is, whenever something inside you dies, it kills a little pretty part of you. And then, like they say, maturity happens.

My musings today are about where should love begin - if it begins in your life at all. At a younger time, I would have fervently wished that you feel love with all intensity, as early as possible in life. Now, I would be cautious. I have seen far too many hearts shrink in size while growing up in love. Your's did not? You lucky, umm, something! Share the trick, please?

PC - @Elenalanzart

Again, where should love begin? At the first sight, erupting in little tremors all over your skin? Or in tickles, at all the wrong places? Should love be a product of what you imagine your life to be with a certain person? Or should it be a gradual flow alongwith everything that happens in life? Should it be exciting or calming? Or both? Should it give you sleepless nights or dizzying intoxications? Should it be borne out of a habit or a break from habit? Should it be a hope of being empowered, or an urge to beautify someone else's life? Don't say both! We all know about power balances and stuff like that.

I am not seeking answers. If at all I am, it is not from people who have condescendingly satisfying love lives. I want it from people who have been broken by love into a million little pieces they somehow hope to carry along. You guys are brave. But do you know the problem with being brave? No one gives a shit. It's not a distressed statement. It is the absolute truth. Calm, calculated truth. How does it fit with the musings on love? It does, because I would like to know if it necessary to be vulnerable to feel love or evoke love? Or you could be hard as a rock and yet be loved, or be thought of as capable of being loved? Not too complicated, just thinking.

The answer lies in a chaos, perhaps. Our own, unique, concocted chaos. The only underlying solution I would vouch for is that love is a better, more desirable state of life. It is something which will add a sheen to the way the life is getting reflected in your mirror. If what you desire is a partner who can sweep you away, so be it. If you need someone who can make you firmer on your ground, I wish you all luck. I, personally think you need both. Will you get both? Two years back I would have said, 'yes'. Today, I'd say, 'it depends'. And I'll sleep off without a speck of disturbing scruples.

You see, I am waiting for my muse to appear drunk in my dream and kiss me. That.
PC - Neelkamal Pandey

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Weekend Review - Cafune by Archana Kumar

This is the first book I am reviewing this year, and generally in a long time. It goes without saying that the first book which compelled me to come out and resume writing reviews is a really special one. Why is it special has factors both, textual and contextual. However, let me assure you, that it is more because of textual wonders that I hold the current book in a very high stead. The fact that it is written by a dear friend, fellow poet and wonderful human being, named Archana Kumar, does not rob me off the objectivity that as a reader-reviewer I attach to each book.

So, the name of the book is 'Cafune'. Rather strange, isn't it? Well that is because this word has been drawn from Portuguese lexicon. The magic of the book begins at the meaning of the word 'cafune' - the repeated running of fingers through someone's hair in a delicate manner. Paints quite a picture, doesn't it?

Well, Cafune is a collection of poems by Archana Kumar, a poet based in Delhi, the depth and expanse of whose expression has genuinely stunned me. Her poems are wrapped under the aura of a very, may I say, romantic title - and they do carve out a story of love which one gets, begets, forgets, and probably regrets. Her verses, even thought profoundly drawn from the nuances of romance, are not limited to just this one theme. They are a very subtle, yet effective comment on the strange experiences of modern existence, the pervasive uncertainty which dots all our relationship experiences, the tussle between attachment and objectivity and the pining for the essence which makes life comprehensible. Heavy? No. Her verses make all these sound easy and reachable.

While having broadly talked of the theme, I find it extremely relevant to comment on her poetic grammar and syntax. Upon the reading of her third poem, I was keen to know if Archana had been inspired by the writings of the great 20th century poet - e e cummings. No, I have not forgotten my punctuations, but cummings preferred not adhering to any bit of lingual colonization of minds. He would break castles of grammar and punctuation routinely, thus being a fierce face of the avant garde art movement. Even more curious is the fact that cummings would mostly be writing in traditional styles, but his innovative syntax would completely stun you out of your comfort zone.

I located cummings in one of Archana's poems, and was glad to know I am not completely off-guard. Her poems are a visual delight, besides being rich in symbolism and in-between meanings. She has challenged the capitalization of 'I' in her verses, broken free from sentence grammar and even visually represented her poems to make words and images function in tandem. An example is her poem Cancer, which is shaped like an hourglass to portend the running out time/life. The endings of her poems are sometimes constructed to throw the reader off-guard. Modern-day slangs find elegant integration in her storified-poems. The collection has a mix of pleas, reminiscences, nostalgia, bitterness, equanimity, contradictions and even gratitude statements. You will also find some Haikus in the book, which are as effective as her other compositions. Most of the poems are short, but even the longer ones manage to hold a reader's attention with skill.

A great deal of editorial finesse has probably gone behind making this book so good. It was my metro companion for two days, which made me sigh, gasp and get transported to thought realms while jostling with huge volumes of crowd. It is not that the book is perfect, but close to it. My only problem with the verses was, perhaps, an element of repetition. This repetitiveness manifested in themes, and sometimes in metaphors as well. I also found pop-notional representation replete in her text. For example, her poem Hey There read like the famous song Hey Jude. And I am not saying it is good or bad. At the end of the day, it left me a satiated reader.

This is a four on five star book for me. And those who read my reviews would know that fours in my ratings are hard to come by.

Before closing the review, I would like to congratulate Archana on her fine debut effort. I would also like to point out my quintet of favourites from this anthology.

  1. Matter and Flesh
  2. Gods
  3. Dream
  4. Trigger
  5. Proximity
Contradiction and Intimacy of Distance form a close runners-up to my quintet. 

The Poet, in one of her finest candid avatars.