Midnight’s Children

Padma – our plump Padma – is sulking magnificently. (She can’t read and, like all fish-lovers, dislikes other people knowing anything she doesn’t. Padma: strong, jolly, a consolation for my last days. But definitely a bitch-in-the-manger.) She attempts to cajole me from my desk: ‘Eat, na, food is spoiling.’ I remain stubbornly hunched over paper. ‘But what is so precious,’

Padma demands, her right hand slicing the air updownup in exasperation, ‘to need all this writing-shiting?’ I reply: now that I’ve let out the details of my birth, now that the perforated sheet stands between doctor and patient, there’s no going back. Padma snorts. Wrist smacks against forehead. ‘Okay, starve starve, who cares two pice?’ Another louder, conclusive snort… but I take no exception to her attitude. She stirs a bubbling vat all day for a living; something hot and vinegary has steamed her up tonight. Thick of waist, somewhat hairy of forearm, she flounces, gesticulates, exits. Poor Padma. Things are always getting her goat. Perhaps even her name: understandably enough, since her mother told her, when she was only small, that she had been named after the lotus goddess, whose most common appellation amongst village folk is ‘The One Who Possesses Dung’.

Appreciating Indian literature isn’t taught in India. Our classics are Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. Drama is Shakespeare and Bernard Shaw. Poetry is Wordsworth and Lord Tennyson, though there is the occasional sprinkling of Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Funnily enough, even the translated works are of Anton Chekov or Guy de Maupassant.

That’s ridiculous. Not the least because I feel like I grew up with the notion that Literature-with-a-capital-L must be pre-19th century Europe to count. Everything else was tosh. American literature was an acquired taste (A pity, since The Great Gatsby and To Kill A Mockingbird are books I will cherish forever). And Indian literature… As Rushdie says in the introduction to his Booker of Bookers winner, Midnight’s Children, an Indian came up to him and said that he could have written this book.

I laugh, but I understand that smug stranger. Midnight’s Children is unabashedly unapologetically unmistakeably India, as no doubt it was meant to be. Padma is instantly recognizable! Of course we know her! When I read the excerpt out loud, I know exactly the tone, the inflection, the exasperation, and so does my (Indian) audience – we laugh and snort and tut as though we’ve rehearsed the scene a million times – and that’s how many all most scenes from Midnight’s Children play out.

Most surprising to me is why Midnight’s Children won the international accolades that it did and why it continues to garner love across borders today. It’s both completely obvious (well-written, compelling characters, funny historical magical) and completely baffling (but it’s so Indian). It’s frightening how ingrained the idea that “our stories” are for “us” is. If a year of reading books from around the world has taught me anything, it’s that “our story” is The Human Story and that “our” experiences are the emotions felt by billions of people around the world! It’s just taken a while for that message to hit home – that my story could be a story that other people could connect with as well; it’s not a one-way street.

So why Midnight’s Children?

I think Midnight’s Children should be taught at schools. Not at the expense of the British classics (or really, Indian classics by British authors); I would be loath to give up Dickens or Wordsworth, but to be studied alongside. The writing is superb. It’s familiar and engaging. The story is told in the same meandering, convoluted and distracted style as grandmother’s tales usually are. The historical context of Independence to Emergency is chilling and a relevant reminder of where we started (with the optimism disease) to what happened (just the disease) to where we are today (is history repeating itself?). And most important, the intentional message that yes, our stories are Literature too.

It reminds me of Adichie’s all-too-familiar experience of how her first stories were “foreign” and her impression that books had to be “foreign” with characters whose experiences she could not personally identify with, to be worth reading or writing about.

My father read my first Rushdie to me as a child. It was Haroun and the Sea of Stories. I remember being very amused that the story began with a country with a very ordinary name: “Alifbay”. Amusing because it squished the first two letters of the Urdu alphabet together to create a word. Since the only other thing I remember about the book are the duo “Iff” and “Butt”, it seemed well within character to my little self. Today, it feels like a stroke of genius. If it’s all so ordinary and common, why doesn’t anyone else crack the same bilingual in-jokes as Rushdie? “The Rani of Cooch Naheen” tickles me to no end. If you didn’t know Hindi (or Urdu), a lack of knowledge doesn’t hinder understanding the story, but if you did, “The Queen of Nothing” suddenly popping up in the tale is hilarious!

Midnight’s Children isn’t a breeze to read by any measure. It demands an attentive audience. A novel that weaves such an ornate tapestery of the tale of many lives must be savoured, inhaled, ingested, lived through. It is a web of generations of stories within stories, with Saleem as Scheherazade – the narrator of the tale and also a character in the story being read. In the pickle factory where he lives and writes, he records the various events of his life as different flavours of pickles and chutneys. The novel luxuriates in the myriad fascinating settings of Kashmir, Bombay, Delhi, Pakistan and Bangladesh, packing in an impossible amount of detail, description and story into about five hundred pages. The pickling metaphor makes complete sense. The Children of Midnight are the one thousand and one (another reference to the Arabian Nights!) children born at the same instant as the birth of India and so are irrevocably tied to its fate, or is it the other way around? Blessed (or cursed?) with special abilities (“like the X-men!” exclaimed a friend enthusiastically) of reading minds, controlling destinies, travelling through time, the children’s lives, mainly Saleem’s, are the direct consequence of the happenings in India (or is it India affected by Saleem’s life?). Rich with references to gods old and new, from blue Jesus reminiscent of Krishna to a clever twists in the tale with Shiva-Parvati and interesting observations of the Indian Muslim experience, Midnight’s Children is beautifully wrought by a master storyteller and feels strangely very personal.

Books · World

Books 2017 – Pages From History

Last year I tried reading books from countries around the world – The World in Books. It made me realize how little I knew of the world; most importantly how similar our human stories were. L.P. Hartley said, “The past is like a foreign country: they do things differently there”. Douglas Adams describing time travel in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy emphasizes the notion with:

The Campaigners for Real Time claim that just as easy travel eroded the differences between one country and another, and between one world and another, so time travel is now eroding the differences between one age and another. “The past,” they say, “is now truly like a foreign country. They do things exactly the same there.”

I’m inclined to agree whole-heartedly with Adams. In the past couple of years of reading and travelling, I have realized that the differences that I drew between countries and their inhabitants are really rather superficial boundaries, though after reading Sapiens I understand why it is necessary to buy into the fiction of nations and patriotism. It’s how we survive and swear allegiance to millions of strangers who we have never and shall never meet.

This year was meant to be a continuation of the quest for the human story, but instead of continuing my journey through (mostly) world fiction, my instincts seemed to have veered towards a specific kind of fiction: history.

The lesson for 2017?

History doesn’t provide answers. It provides context. – John Green

If I had to trace the beginning of this year’s journey, it probably began with Partitioned Histories. It is a book that juxtaposes Indian and Pakistani narratives of our shared history, and it is breathtaking when realization dawns at how the same incidents are viewed so differently to further the political agenda on either side of the border. Worse, when I met Pakistanis to discuss the book, I couldn’t tell them apart from Indians. Even when we cracked bilingual jokes, we understood one another perfectly, without the need to explain cultural context.

In the quest to further my adventures in anarchy, here are my favourite books from last year:

Honourable Mention: The Palace of Illusions

The Mahabharata told from the point of view of Draupadi, maybe the most memorable female character of the epic, unfortunately memorable for being gambled away by Yudhishtra and being stripped in the royal assembly by the “winner” Duryodhana. The Palace of Illusions greatly expands Draupadi’s narrative by collecting her mentions from various versions of the Mahabharata and filling in the gaps. It’s interesting to read about the great battle from a woman’s point of view and Banerjee spins an amusing yarn of historical-mythological-fiction.

15. Dreams From My Father

Barack Obama’s autobiography, much like the man himself, is thoughtful, intimate and surprising. I wish I had followed him more closely in the time before The Election. For the immense respect that I have for him, and especially, perhaps more, Michelle Obama, this book was revelatory in exactly what odds Obama was up against when he became the President.

14. The Mahabharata, R. K. Narayan

A retelling of a classic. It’s impossible to grow up in India without growing up with the epics: The Mahabharata, the Ramayana, Layla Majnu, Heer Ranjha, Panchatantra, the Shahnama, Jataka Tales, The Arabian Nights… R. K. Narayan is one of my favourite authors as the writer of Malgudi Schooldays. His writing is simple and succinct with clever twists of language to elicit frequent laughs. He narrates an old tale in his distinctive style, illustrated by his brother, the equally famous R. K. Laxman, creator of The Common Man.


13. Dear Ijeawele, Or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

Later in the list is my love letter to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Here is her talk on “We Should All Be Feminists” instead. It’s a book too.

12. The Elephant, The Tiger and the Cellphone

Shashi Tharoor is my favourite author-politician. He’s erudite and eloquent and he writes for public consumption (unlike many Indian historians) and understands the ethos of India (unlike many Western historians). Also, he quit his awesome job at the UN to make a difference to his country.


I’ll put the translation here.

11. No God But God

“La ilaha illallah” – No God But God. As the name suggests, it’s a book about Islam by Reza Aslan. As preconceived notions might not suggest, as they didn’t for me, this is a book about the history of Muhammad’s message, and that’s it. I downloaded the Kindle sample on a whim, not intending to ever read it but mildly curious about the title since I had seen another book by Aslan at a bookstore (“God: A Human History”). On perhaps a non-wifi-enabled-stalled-subway-ride, I don’t exactly remember, I started reading the sample and was quite astonished to find myself waiting to be connected to the internet again so I could buy the book. Muhammad’s story is truly compelling, the history is exciting and as a lover of stories bred from a childhood of the chaotic intertwining tales that is The Mahabharata, I found myself quite drawn to this journey of a man, just a man, and his very real, very human struggle. It also gave me greater ammunition to counter whatever nonsense one finds the Protectors of the Purity of Islam spouting (not to mention the Racist Haters of Islam also echoing). As John Green so succinctly puts it, much of the hadis really reads like “middle school gossip”. I’m glad I read this book if for nothing else but the next time someone dares to annoy me with misguided notions of sanctity, segregation and intolerance.

10. I, Robot

Isaac Asimov. For a child who grew up on fantasy and science fiction, it took me a long time to come around to this luminary of the field. I’m usually quite wary of classical science fiction because so much of it is so sexist and distasteful. And Asimov is a startling, pleasant surprise. Brilliant, engaging, polished short stories that give us the legendary Three Laws of Robotics:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

9. Born a Crime

I love Trevor Noah on The Daily Show. I never watched the show when Jon Stewart was the host, so I don’t have that point of reference, though I know his replacement is why several people resisted and perhaps still resist Noah’s charms. He brings a refreshing often non-mainstream-American and sometimes non-American perspective to the news and one might not expect his personal story to be so interesting! While Adichie’s middle class Nigerian background is very similar to an Indian middle class background, Trevor Noah’s poor, apartheid-fraught upbringing is not and yet, again, I find a human story and a shared history and empathy and laughter in his work that very easily overcomes the distances of continents and cultures.

8. In Spite of the Gods

I really can’t honestly say that I place “In Spite of the Gods” higher than “The Elephant, the Tiger and the Cellphone” for content. In content, Tharoor has a far greater fundamental understanding of India. But the book, which a collection of Tharoor’s essays, is often repetitive. Luce’s “In Spite of the Gods” is much narrower in scope: it doesn’t talk about either cricket or Bollywood, without which a modern Indian narrative is woefully incomplete, nor does he talk about the West (Bombay), South, East or North-East regions of India as much, choosing instead to focus on the seat of political power – Delhi and the culture of North India. This again paints an incomplete picture of India, because the many of non-North parts of India are the more literate, less corrupt, and often it’s people from these regions that find themselves in seats of power, even in and especially Delhi (Tharoor is an example).

That said, what Luce does focus on is superb. Tharoor, as much as I do admire him, has a mild case of the common Indian affliction of brushing its most unsavoury bits under the carpet or making them seem not-so-bad-after-all. Edward Luce has no such qualms. As the South Asian bureau chief of the Financial Times at the time and married to an Indian, his is not a typical outsider’s view. His book is well-structured and unabashedly political. He interviews several interesting characters, and some of them are truly “antique pieces” as one would say. He talks about Hindu nationalism, the plight of India’s Muslims, India’s place in the world and how the 21st century is India’s to lose. His perspicacity is biting and brilliant. Though he does sometimes take the traditional British (or American or Pakistani) view sometimes of seeing this part of the world as a clash of civilizations, when it is much more a melting pot, it does not invalidate his opinions. Also, I do like the tongue-in-cheek title of the book. This is a Tharoor recommendation by the way.

7. Indian Summer

In the beginning, there were two nations. One was a vast, mighty and magnificent empire, brilliantly organized and culturally unified, which dominated a massive swathe of the earth. The other was an underdeveloped, semi-feudal realm, riven by religious factionalism and barely able to feed its illiterate, diseased and stinking masses.
The first nation was India. The second was England.

I cannot praise Alex von Tunzelmann enough. And it isn’t just because of her stellar opening to the book. Her book is about the British Raj, Indian Independence and Partition, and I loved it because she does something that too few historians do: she puts the people first. The book, which is very firmly history and not historical fiction, reads like a novel. The characters are everyone from Gandhi to Nehru, Jinnah to Mountbatten and Churchill. And even better, she sheds light on Edwina Mountbatten, Betty and Nan Nehru, Ruttie Jinnah, Kasturba Gandhi, Kamala Nehru and Indira Gandhi. I like that Tunzelmann devotes equal screen-time, if you will, to the women and men of the drama playing out on the Indian stage and that she doesn’t make gods or demons of any of the characters. They were all human, well-rounded and fallible, and leave you feeling ultimately conflicted about your views of these “great men” and women. If all history could feel this realistic and interconnected and human, it would be truly incredible. Amazingly, this is her debut work.


6. Americanah

Life in America would not be the same without Americanah. This book by the immensely talented and wonderful Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is fantastic and insightful, though I would not be exaggerating if I said that it’s a mere shadow of the intelligent, compassionate, independent and articulate author.

It’s the story of an African in the US, and what it means to be black and what it feels like if you look like an African-American but do not share the legacy of the history as an African, until you realize that you do and we do. The story of some people is really the story of all people, and skin colour cannot divide us as completely as it often does. This book also inadvertently set the stage for Dreams From My Father and put into context the magnitude of his victory, success and humanity.

5. The Shadow Of the Wind

Carlos Ruiz Zafón is a Spanish author. His book is set in Barcelona. After reading this book, I wanted to travel to Barcelona immediately but I’m afraid that I will break the spell if I do so.

The book begins at “The Cemetery of Forgotten Books”. As a book-lover, merely the title of the first chapter sends shivers down my spine. And the book does not disappoint. It is a magical tale of mystery and romance. Not Taylor Swift’s Love Story romance, but Capital-R the headiness of the Romance languages, the symphony of a deep culture, the exhilarating beauty of well-crafted prose and of course, twisted and fatal love Romance. Spellbinding, breathtaking, tear-jerking and please-read-it-already.

4. The Reluctant Fundamentalist

What if a book was written to you, the reader? You are having a conversation with a character, the protagonist of this novella, and he takes you on a journey. From historic Lahore to the hallowed halls of Princeton, from working at a bank to being ostracized when buildings collapse. Do you believe the narrator? Who are you and why are you having this conversation in the first place?

I loved the book. It’s short, but it has stayed with me. The dramatic monologue, identifying with the protagonist’s cultural background, the theme of the persecution at the wake of 9/11. It left me feeling melancholic, thoughtful and hopeful. Needless to say, my optimism assumes Changez’s best intentions. It reminded me of My Name Is Khan, which is a movie that I loved the first and only time that I watched it.

3. The Twentieth Wife (The Taj Trilogy #1)

Noor Jahan was a badass woman. I love her and she’s amazing and I wish that I had understood how truly exceptional she was when studying history. A Mughal Queen who fought and ruled and was the first Indian woman to have coinage made in her name. Wow. Indu Sundaresan stays mostly true to historical events and notes her deviances in the epilogue. The trilogy brought history to life for me and is such a thrilling adventure that I blazed through all three books, loved the historical context and makes me giddy to think about these being the people and moments in history that brought us to where we are today!

2. Exit West

I was at the launch of Exit West at the Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn. Mohsin Hamid read out “In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, a young man met a young woman in a classroom and did not speak to her.”

I wish I could describe this gorgeous book, but the words flow so effortlessly through the pages, that I fear mine cannot compare. A story about leaving home, of a world beset by war and migration, of refugees desperately trying to find a place in the world and in places that are not-home. A more timely and exquisitely crafted book there cannot be.

1. The Great Gatsby

I couldn’t decide how to rank the top five books that I read last year because they were all so compelling and fabulous that I finally settled on arranging them in order of how deeply they affected me. It’s not a great benchmark because the order changes based on my mood, the time of day, and frequently. However, it would be a travesty to rank The Great Gatsby any lower. I’m surprised that I read it only last year because I feel like I read this book ages and ages ago and it has been with me ever since.

I read the classic alongside annotations from Genius, which helped me a great deal in understanding the context of the book and in my connecting with it very deeply. It also opened up awareness into a deep love for New York that I seemed to have imbibed somewhere along the way. It’s a city that grows on you, creeps under your skin and stays in your heart, quite like this book and quite like the country that I still call “back home”.

The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.


Books · Luminaries

Notorious RBG

“When will there be enough women on the Supreme Court?”
“When there are nine.”

There are nine Supreme Court Justices.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn’t set out to become a feminist icon, all she wanted to excel at her job and have a wonderful life with her college sweetheart and husband looking after their children together.

She had the audacity of expecting equality, a radical notion in the sixties and often today.

I dissent.

From the hallowed halls of Harvard where she and her eight compatriots were asked why they took a seat from more qualified men (in a class of five hundred) and was not allowed into the Law Review library because she was a woman though she had made the cut, to graduating at the top of her class from Columbia but not getting a job as a woman, a Jew and a mother, to becoming the second female Supreme Court Justice, RBG’s life is inspirational.

She fought hard for men to be the primary caregivers of their children (why must only women have the right?) which open the floodgates to not discriminating against primary caregivers (usually women).

“Feminism … I think the simplest explanation, and one that captures the idea, is a song that Marlo Thomas sang, ‘Free to be You and Me.’ Free to be, if you were a girl—doctor, lawyer, Indian chief. Anything you want to be. And if you’re a boy, and you like teaching, you like nursing, you would like to have a doll, that’s OK too. That notion that we should each be free to develop our own talents, whatever they may be, and not be held back by artificial barriers—manmade barriers, certainly not heaven sent.”

RBG’s brand of feminism is very simple: it’s equality for women and men. By fighting cases for men in a society that is strict about the definition of masculinity, RBG could argue that laws should not be based on gender and this allowed her to also point out cases where women were discriminated against only because they were women and not because of ability. This she knew from her own experience. Marty, her husband, was her biggest cheerleader and also the cook of the house. As a couple, they embodied the world view popularized by RBG, that they built together. A partnership of equals where both partners support their better halves in achieving personal and professional success, without allowing social norms to dictate personal choices.

“Someone who used whatever talent she had to do her work to the very best of her ability. And to help repair tears in her society, to make things a little better through the use of whatever ability she has.” – On how she would like to be remembered.


Aditi Mittal “Things They Wouldn’t Let Me Say” Review

I am thirty. I am single. And I am an Indian woman.

And I’ve realized that being thirty and single and an Indian woman is like being that Tupperware container at the back of the fridge where you’re like, “Is this still good?”

Aditi Mittal’s standup comedy show on Netflix mostly generated interest because Amazon signed 14 male standup comedians, several of them new faces, and not a single one of India’s established funny ladies. This is when Netflix swooped in to stand up for “feminism”.

The unfortunate problem with that narrative is that Aditi was immediately judged for every word, every sound, every gesture, rather than being enjoyed for her hilarious bilingual (sometimes trilingual) act with ample Bollywood references and relatable everyday jokes. Her show so far seems to have received rather lukewarm reviews with comments usually ranging from, “I’ve heard this before” (oh) to “she’s too shrill” (what?!). Luckily for me, I live under a rock, so Aditi’s jokes were completely novel compared to the other Indian and international comics that I have watched. I loved it.

Aditi’s comedy is contextual. She speaks from the perspective of an urban, anglicized, filmy, modern, independent, bratty Indian woman. I relate. Clearly.

I love her larger-than-life delivery and her daft facial expressions. I laughed out loud for most of her performance. The laughter unfortunately did peter out towards the middle when Aditi reentered the stage as Dr Lutchuke. Sure, her old lady act was impressive for about a minute, but this was the first time that her performance devolved into hackneyed sex jokes. For some reason, standup comedians seem to be incapable of coming up with funny material without alluding to, or smacking you over the head with, references to sex. And this is exclusively the reason that I think Kenny Sebastian wins hands down. He’s funny because he doesn’t go for the easy laughs, his material is always unexpected!

For instance, one of the best comic performances that I’ve seen recently is by new kid on the block Urooj Ashfaq:

Aditi saves the final moments of her show with some mildly funny jokes on the Delhi party scene, a surprisingly laugh-out-loud arc on sanitary napkins and an unfortunate fizzle with digs at Miss India that honestly fell flat.

For the first half, Aditi’s expressions are priceless and her take on Punjabi-Sindhi families, eve-teasing, airports, kids with unpronounceable names keep one in splits with loud guffaws all around. Like any Hindi movies, the performance flags in the second half with the highlight being the denouement surrounded by below-par material. Overall, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable hour, if watched to laugh, rather than to judge.



The Great Gatsby

In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that  I’ve been turning over in my head ever since.

I have been fortunate in the recent past to have read books of such magnificent literary quality that I am still grappling with a sensation akin to breathlessness long after the moment has passed, the last page turned. It may be a “mere” hundred and eighty pages, but the Great Gatsby is almost poetic in its prose. Quite unlike other American novels that I have read and curiously similar to Mahfouz, Shafak and Hamid.

Not a word seems out of place, the actions are meticulously crafted to reveal character more than words or descriptions and each symbol, from Gatsby’s ‘circus wagon’ to T.J. Eckleburg’s ominous bespectacled eyes glowering down on the Valley of Ashes, leaves a lasting impression on the reader. It reminds me of R. K. Narayan and his delicious description of “the fire-eyed Vedanayagam”  in Malgudi Schooldays, though of course the symbolism isn’t quite as psychologically thrilling as Gatsby. There is a haunting quality to them much like the green light on Daisy’s dock.

And as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Perhaps what I enjoyed about the novel is New York. For a city that is so fascinating and rewarding, it was a pleasure to read about how it came to be what it is today. And that description of the first sight of it from the Queensboro bridge is probably one of my most favourite quotes in all of literature.

The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and beauty in the world.

It’s true. Every time I see the rise of the buildings, the Empire State, Chrysler, Freedom Tower, the glow of the tip of the Statue of Liberty – the lights, the magic of New York: it’s in the air and especially, especially, on that bridge where the entire vista reveals itself all at once.

And then there is the man himself, Jay Gatsby, and for all his incredible antics shrouded in mystery, he was but human, swept up by the hopeless optimism of falling in love. Through the novel, Nick’s ambivalence bordering on suspicion, Gatsby’s melodramatic flair and half-truths, even outright lies, make you wonder whether he deserves the appellation of greatness presumed by the book’s title. And yet, by the end of the novel, I understand why this selfish, affected rich man with questionable morals  is “great”. It’s undefinable, like something that you can’t quite put a finger on, but true nonetheless. Clearly, Nick has the same dilemma.

When I came back from the East last autumn I wanted no more riotous excursions with privileged glimpses into the human heart. Only Gatsby, the man who gives his name to this book, was exempt from my reaction — Gatsby, who represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn. If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promises of life — it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again. No — Gatsby turned out all right at the end; it is what preyed on Gatsby, what foul dust floated in the wake of his dreams that temporarily closed out my interest in the abortive sorrows and short-winded elations of men.

The end is as beautiful as the beginning, and perhaps even more so. It speaks of the hope for unbounded happiness that we strive towards with unrelenting optimism, often not realizing that the moment we seek is long past. If we did realize it, would we then still be brimming with the starry-eyed longing with which we chase down our dreams?

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter – to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther…and one fine morning–



Thoughts While Watching WONDER WOMAN

    1. My friend is freaking out about us not getting to the theatre on time even though AMC famously starts the show after TWENTY WHOLE MINUTES of advertisements and trailers. Double whammy of shameless capitalism inside and outside in the popcorn queue. THIS IS WHY YOU NEED AN INTERMISSION, AMERICA! But I’m grateful for the buffer. Thanks AMC.
    2. Gah, the dude at the door forgot to give us our 3D glasses. Minutes before the start of the film I’m running down the escalator to the ground floor. But that’s OK because trusty ol’ AMC also devotes three hundred seconds to turning off cellphones. And really driving the point “we’re awesome” home.
    3. And so it begins! I have goosebumps.
    4. The wide angle camera shot of what looks like the Great Wall of China. Oh it’s Themababababa. OK island. You are cool because your name is complicated.
    5. THE AMAZONS! Such a time-waster this back story is. WHERE IS CHRIS PINE?
    6. There he is.
    7. “We are the good guys, the Germans are the bad guys”
      Heh heh heh.
      *slowly sinks into popcorn and avoids making eye contact with German friend*
    8. The Amazon warriors kicking some major dude ass is oddly satisfying. I was concerned about Wonder Woman wearing a skirt-armour but looks like the frock-uniform was all the rage in the early 20th century.
    9. Ah, 20th century Britain. You are beautiful.
      Must. Remember. Not. Think. Of. The. Indian. Blood. Spilt. Building. It.
      Is that treachery? Nah, probably just sedition.
    10. This woman is breathtaking. Come on Chris Pine, GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER.
    11. I’m told that Chris Pine has an actual name in this movie that is not Chris Pine.
    12. Wonder Woman, Amazon with no knowledge of the human world, bedecked in American colours and symbols. Uncanny.
    13. Wonder Woman’s dress is very very distracting because her derrière, protected by three tenuous pieces of fabric, is constantly threatening to moon the audience.
      Side Note: A quick search says that the radical idea of Wonder Woman wearing pants was tossed around and then tossed out. I think it was to ensure that I spent at least part of this movie in equal parts cold sweat and amazement that neither the (strapless!) top slips nor the bottom slips up. She really is magical, isn’t she?
    14. THE LASSO OF TRUTH!! And the special effects are brilliant.
    15. I love the moment where he’s all, “Come damsel, let me protect you”. Then Wonder Woman beats up everyone and his expression changes to an astonished, “Please damsel goddess, protect me!”
    16. The actress is amazing, so I shudder to say this, but in some scenes she looks so demure and dainty rather than powerful. I wish they had done a little less getup and a little more Geeta.
    17. They stop at a village along the way to find Ares and take The Most Convenient Photograph in DC History. It means someone, most likely Chris Pine or everyone, is going to die. He does.
    18. Why is Remus Lupin bothering to reveal himself as Ares when he knows that Wonder Woman is the God Killer? She’s going to beat you, dude!
    19. And she does.
    20. What does Batman have to do with Wonder Woman? Should I have watched Batman v. Superman?
    21. Update: I watched Everything Wrong With Batman v. Superman instead.
Art · Language

Light of My Soul

प्यार में जुनून है पर दोस्ती में सुकून है ।

Love is passion but friendship is peace.

Farewell, remember me in your dua as I depart,
Savour the taste of my name on your tongue,
Treasure our moments in the vaults of your heart,
Cherish my salam in every missive that is sprung.

Your darkest nights: my burden to bear
My Shining Star I leave in your care,
My beloved, my beloved.

My absence in your mehfil
Isn’t cause for sadness–
For to the brim it’s filled,
With paeans of our closeness.

How many of my morning suns
Basking in the warmth of your angan,
Did sink below the horizons?

Your darkest nights: my burden to bear
My Shining Star I leave in your care,
Oh my darling, oh my beloved!

From your beautiful face away
My twisted path wends
Many miles must I stray
For now, for us, The End.

Sandal am I,
A fragrance in my wake.
My dearest possessions are last
A lifetime of dreams amassed,
Left under your pillow; your keepsake.

It is time.
I take the cloth.
And leave you behind
My heart, my soul, my beloved.


“Unrequited love is different.
It’s a love that isn’t shared.
It is mine. Only mine.”