Jul 2, 2019

From: Great House by Nicole Krauss

I'm embarrassed to say that my eyes actually filled with tears, Your Honour, though as is so often the case, the tears sprang from older, more obscure regrets i had delayed thinking about, which the gift, or loan, of of a stranger's furniture had somehow unsettled.

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Our kiss was anticlimactic. It wasn't that the kiss was bad, but it was just a note of punctuation in our long conversation, a parenthetical remark made in order to assure each other of a deeply felt agreement, a mutual offer of companionship, which is much more rare than sexual passion or even love.

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There is a fallacy that the powerful emotion of youth mellows with time. Not true. One learns to control and suppress it. But it doesn't lessen. It simply hides and concentrates itself in more discreet places. When one accidentally stumbles into one of these abysses, the pain is spectacular. I find these little abysses everywhere now.

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I knew that to find and to feel Yoav again would be terribly painful, because of what had become of him, and because of what I knew he could ignite in me, a vitality that was excruciating because like a flare it lit up the emptiness inside me and exposed what i already secretly knew about myself : how much time I'd spent being only partly alive, and how easily I'd accepted a lesser life................................................................................................................................................................................................................He awakened a hunger in me - not just for him, but also for the magnitude of life, for the extremes of all it has given to us to feel. A hunger and also courage.

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In life we sit at the table and refuse to eat, and in death we are eternally hungry.

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There are time when the kindness of strangers only makes matters worse because one realises how badly one is in need of kindness and that the only source is a stranger.

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And the answer that comes to me, which is only part of the answer,  is that i wanted to punish her for her intolerable stoicism, which made it impossible for me to ever be truly needed by her in the most profound ways a person can need another, a need that often goes by the name of love.




Notes on 'Unapologetic Feminists'


In the wake of the #MeToo movement, I attended an event at the Andheri Social outlet titled ‘She Too’ where the agenda included several women activists and social champions (I don’t know if the term ‘social worker’ is politically correct any more) who were all fighting to make women’s voices heard and more relevant in a society that remains patriarchal. The speakers comprised brave warriors who were working for various worthy causes such as improving mobility options at railway stations for the disabled, encouraging transgenders to contest elections, fighting to eradicate FGM amongst Mumbai’s Bohri community, fighting to curb the practice of unwanted caesarean deliveries in India, etc. 

What confounded me abt these worthies was that each of them opened their talks by offering an gratuitous and redundant-in-that-context ‘I am an unapologetic feminist’ introduction to their self and work. Frankly, I’ve never understood the meaning of that phrase – are there people around who are apologetic about being vegetarian? Or smokers? Or gay? Or Hindu? What is the need for a tag that adds nothing to the noun? Anyway, the event made me realize a disturbing fact that had been taking root in my mind since 2013 when I worked in a large Indian pvt bank and was part of its Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) dealing with issues of gender discrimination and sexual harassment.
It is this, dear unapologetic feminists – you do a great disservice when you focus your narrative solely on instances of patriarchy and its exploitative impact on women; on the ways and means by which women are held back from realising their true potential. By doing that, you are as guilty of perpetrating gender bias as anybody who claims Girls should learn to adjust.
 
But let’s rewind a little to my bank days. One of the eye-popping revelations of that experience was the considerable number of sexual harassment cases the ICC heard which later turned out to be motivated by two broad instances – first, the age old jilted-lover syndrome where the male had promised marriage to the female employee; the second, the refusal of the male reporting manager to grant promotion to a female employee who had embarked on an affair on the promise of a promotion. This is not to say that there were no instances of genuine harassment. Unfortunately, most of them were resolved by transferring the offender to a remote branch rather than summarily dismissing him. In the rare instances where dismissal was suggested, the respective zonal authority often stepped in to stop the process, recommending a transfer instead as the offender was a star performer, with a great sales record. Yes, this is the unfortunate fact of corporate POSH policy implementation which not many people talk abt.

Hell ! I digress. Coming back to the Andheri #SheToo event, the sad fact of most such events is the way women come together and make a mockery of a very real, burning issue – gender inequality. In fact, Feminism for me is nothing but the continuous struggle to ensure gender equality; to sensitize people (not just men), even the ones who believe they are permissive and modern, that we are caught in a mesh of stereotypes and unfair expectations, too tangled to work our way out; that there can be no emancipation for either sex without breaking away from the unrealistic expectations that both sexes have dumped over the other; that equality means ‘sameness’ not difference, hence gender-based reservation is not the right answer.

If we were to look at Feminism from the above lens, one would see that it is not abt constantly bashing men or designing feminist-label line of clothing  (I kid you not !), or calling out men only for eve-teasing. It is as much abt these things as encouraging women to earn a livelihood and share their husband’s financial burden (Shadi ke baad kyun kaam karna; pehley to ghar var set karungi); it is abt listening to those husbands who are unprepared to become fathers (After all it is my body and I have decided that I want a child now!!); it is about supporting our spouses and brothers who wish to stay at home to pursue an unremunerative initiative (I am fed up supporting his mad passion for art and am moving back with my parents); it is about learning to drive (Papa uss party mein nahin janey denge kyun ki voh itni raat ko leney nahin aa sakte); to create assets so that there can be complete autonomy over its use (my husband does not allow me to send money to my parents); or expecting our boyfriends to look like Salman and behave like Robert Downey Jr’s Iron Man (Kya chomu hai yaar ! Ma ke saath album dekhkar, rota hai). You can add, your own line of instances.

Which brings me to my last point – that of choice. Most card-carrying Feminists define choice as the freedom to work, to attend college, to wear a bikini, to stop attending church, to have an abortion, etc. These are indeed valuable and must be guaranteed to all. However, for some it is abt the choice to wear a bindi, to take their husband’s names after marriage, to talk proudly abt their roles as mothers/daughters/wives without necessarily being made to feel like cave women who were slung over men’s shoulders and left to tend to the home fires.

In a PEN event early this year, award-winning author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie criticised Hillary Clinton’s then-Twitter bio (Clinton has since changed it) which read “Wife, Mom, grandma, women+kids advocate, senator, SecState, hair con, pantsuit aficionado, 2016 presidential candidate.” Adichie claimed that she felt just a little bit upset , more so after she went and checked Bill Clinton’s Twitter bio where the first word was not husband. In return, Clinton explained abt the internal conflict one faces when one is committed to relationships and also their own work and identity, and have to describe themselves. That Clinton subsequently changed her bio smacks of the tokenism that characterizes so much of current activism.

As a mother and a fiercely independent woman who is respected at work, doesn’t depend on her spouse financially, often sports the symbols of a Bengali married woman, goes for drinks with friends in the evenings, cannot cook to save her life or drive, depends on her spouse to invest her money, manages the grocery and taking the elders to the doctor, if you asked me for the truest and most unequivocal definition of myself, I’d reply – I am D’s mother. And I see nothing un-feminist or patriarchal abt this.

I cherish this definition as much as I groan abt D’s incessant demands sometimes; I celebrate this definition each time she confides her latest crisis to me; I am true to this definition when I teach her how important it is for her to work and learn to drive.

Where Are Our Stories of Defeat and Dust?


There was a time when I loved films and books that celebrated the ‘triumph of the human spirit’. This was before my cousin returned from Columbia after 7 years of struggle, suffering from a mental breakdown, overweight and dumped by her fiancĂ©. This was before my husband was handed the pink slip 3 weeks after being awarded the company’s Quarterly Star award. Then, I didn’t know that no heartbreak on earth compares to the one you suffer when your child suffers her 1st heartbreak; no shock as great as the one you encounter when your diseased heart refuses to beat according to a fixed rhythm.

Life as I’ve known it over the past decade has been a slowly accumulating debris of failures, thwarted hopes and faded dreams. About 4 years ago, a chance opportunity to relocate to the middle east seemed to be offering us a break from that monotonous run of disease, mediocrity and ordinariness dressed in fancy nurses, silver sedans and gated towers that characterizes middle-aged ennui and contentment. Several small and big changes were planned and for a fluttering 7-months or so, it all worked out beautifully. 

Till it didn’t one day. November 18, 2016.

Looking back on that morning, I am doubtless that it was a small catastrophe compared to the shit I’ve seen others stuck in. I acknowledge that it wasn’t anywhere close to the worst that can befall us. That came much before and taught us so much in its wake. What this did mark, however, was an irrevocable moment of defeat and its stolid acceptance by us.

Strive. Fail. Despair. Accept. Strive Again. Fail....

The sheer dichotomy that outlines what I see in the popular culture of my time and the reality of the lives of the people around me, is appalling. Suddenly, I’m left wondering -- where are the stories about the injured, the sick, the bipolar, the old, the 34-year old spinster who dreamed about being a bride since she first chanced upon her parents’ wedding album as a child, but is doomed to a life of loneliness and longing, writing mediocre rhymes that her friends Like on FB? Why aren’t there stories and posts about those whose lives aren’t a testament to the ‘triumph of the human spirit’? Sure, those tales will be morose, dark and scary. But wont they be authentic and closer to our shared humanity? Aren’t they worthy of being chronicled?

Why must we all Like and Comment on the endless fat-to-lean stories that proliferate social media? Who will write the story about that 32-year old girl whose eating disorder went out of control when she fell into a deep depression as her research funding was cancelled? Where is the story about the bright blind boy from Ajmer who was sent to a school for ‘special’ children and who slowly receded into a darkness far more potent than his visual impairment till he gradually stopped speaking? Ok, not so morose?

How about the homemaker from Jaipur who wanted to learn music all her life but was too busy to devote time for her hobby, and later found that when her son offered to enrol her for music classes on his visit home from Ontario, she had just lost interest.

You may say, I’m not a dreamer. You’d be right. I’m struggling to make sense and fit your shiny world where there is continuous adulation and celebration of the perfect, of victory, of shiny BMWs, 28-inch waists and lustrous hair, of IIT coaching and perfect 99% scores, of glass cabins, of the disabled who run marathons, and of the blind who write complex algorithms. I am protesting against the relentless Oprah-like glorification of the inexorable and commendable will to conquer obstacles. Because this relentlessness is based on a lie. The lie that hides the fact that the larger share of the pie belongs to those who have failed, whose scholarship didn’t work out, whose genius went unrecognized, whose weighing machine never reflected their efforts, who gave up.

Surely their stories matter, too?

Apr 21, 2018

Notes on October


Let me state at the onset that I liked Piku, Soojit Sircar (director) & Juhi Chuturvedi's (writer) last collaboration, much more than October, their latest. While the former flowed seamlessly, unencumbered by false notes or an at-times-sluggish pace, October is sometimes bogged down by the weight of what it wants to say. Having said this, it is an important and memorable film. How many films have you seen in the last 2 years about which you can say this?

The problem with October is its protagonist Dan (Varun Dhawan); it is too easy to dismiss him as petulant, selfish, arrogant, inconsiderate and annoying. He is all that and perhaps something more. That something more, no I'm not talking abt his capacity for unconditional love, is neither hinted nor painted with broad strokes. It is simply there if you care to see. Dan reminded me of those children that used to be classified as 'problem child' during my childhood. Today it is said that they 'lie on the spectrum'. Whether it is Autism or Asperger's or something less defined, these folks find it difficult to fit in and say or see most things the way others do. I have known many such kids who sorely lacked social skills and always stood out unfavourably. Not only do such kids come across but they often are indeed self centred and self contained in ways that can seem offensive. Once Dan has decided to take care of Shiuli, he shows no consideration for his parents or his close friends, or even his own welfare. While we applaud and cheer for him, it is obvious that his decision is neither grounded in reason nor practical.

Much more than the 2 young protagonists, i felt invested in the peripheral characters like Shilu's mom, Dan's two best friends, and his weary manager. In fact the scene with both Dan and Shiuli's mothers in it, wrenched a lot more out of me than anything else in the film. The former's appears only briefly but her weary hopelessness breaks your heart. She knows Dan better more than anyone and is aware that the boy has lost something precious forever and there is no going back. Shiuli's mother on the other hand is played by Gitanjali Rao with such calm and understated poignancy that you are pinned by the weight of her grief and loss. A person of science, her faith is answered in strange ways. In what is perhaps one of the film's most beautiful scenes, she sits besides Dan with a steaming mug of tea at dawn and says something that expresses why he is so precious to her. Dan is not the child every mother would have wished, but Dan is definitely the best friend every mother will wish for their child.

The parts that work wonderfully and elevate the film are Shantanu Moitra's stunning background score and Avik Mukhopadhay's cinematography. The soaring shots of Kullu seem almost like oxygen after the sterile indoor shots of the hospital.

In a time where gruesome rapes are being defended or being leveraged for ideological and personal gains, Sircar is one of the few directors who is brave enough to tackle the subject of difficult love. Whether it is for a cantankerous and selfish parent (Piku), or for a young girl whose vegetative state  makes unimaginable demands on others, or even a mother's boundless love for a problem child who is not like the others and keeps her awake at night. There is a beautifully wise line in Piku where referring to her father, Deepika Padukone tells Irfan Khan, "Ek umar ke baad, khud se zinda rehni ki icha khatam ho jaati hai. Unhey zinda rakhna padta hai." 

Both Piku and October explores why and how those who love unconditionally, dare to tread along paths that are not only arduous, but also hopeless. 

Jul 19, 2017

Some Thoughts On the FOP (First Day of Period) Leave Policy

So, the weekend was washed away in the deluge of arguments in favour of & against the First Day of Period (FOP) policy in the workplace. The starting point in this latest Twitter debate was when digital content agency Culture Machine announced the launch of its FOP policy in early June. This was followed by the company starting a Change.org petition to the Ministry of Child Development to introduce this policy across all organisations. Predictably, this was followed by arguments both lucid & banal in favour of and against the policy. While many have made the case that this is a step towards shaping the workplace in a way that accommodates women’s unique needs, others have argued that such a move will be construed as a sign of weakness, also inhibiting the cause of women’s recruitment even further.

I’m looking at this issue from the prism of a working woman and one who employs women in her team and household. 

As a woman employee, I’ve realised that we will always have ‘special needs’ and anybody who thinks those needs will taper off as the child grows up, is fooling herself. These needs are as much about our unique biological functions (menstruation, childbirth, breast-feeding, menopause) as our social roles (mother, home manager, daughter-in-law). I could shout myself hoarse asking why it is so, but the fact is it has largely been my responsibility to ensure my kid’s vaccinations were on time, that her diet meets certain standards, that her school work is up to date. Her teachers, coach, our neighbours and our maids, unfailingly contact me whenever there is an issue concerning the household or our daughter. I am not the exception – 8 out of 10 working women I know, lead similar lives.

My current workplace has fantastic HR policies which strive to offer employees excellent work-life balance. We have a work-from-home policy, we have remote access-enabled workstations, and my manager has never asked me ‘why’ whenever I’ve applied for leave. Nevertheless, there have been instances when a pressing requirement at home has clashed with a commitment at work, and the former has taken a backseat. Nobody forced me to, it simply had to be done. The reality today is that companies are hiring increasingly lean teams which means there really isn’t much scope to transfer or share your workload with another. In such a scenario, companies will prefer the more dependable, the safer bet, when it comes to hiring.

Speaking as a woman who has managed all-women teams and employs women at her home, I’d like to share an incident that took place in 2015. We were living in Abu Dhabi then where it’s fairly common to employ men for domestic chores. Frankly, the degree of professionalism I observed in those men was far better than any ‘maid’ I’ve ever had – no gossip, no demands for ‘extra clothes’ or ‘salary advance’, minimal fuss and far quicker service. When Rajendra, my domestic help, had to return to India as his visa had expired and I was looking for a replacement, I had a distinct preference for a male helper.

They just suited me better. Till I met Laxmi, who I learnt would be deported back to India if she couldn’t supplement her income to meet her basic visa requirements. I don’t think I chose Laxmi as much as I gave in to her brother’s entreaties. Was I very happy with my choice? No. 
Much later, after I’d returned to India and re-joined work, I realised that my mindset was a reflection of how HR works. It is about putting my money on the headcount that serves me best.

As a part of the Diversity & Inclusion CoE in my organisation, I know how difficult it is to get the ‘right’ women candidates for many of the senior-level recruitments we do. Added to this is the problem of a steep drop in women employees as they advance from the Assistant Manager to Manager roles – most of them get married and are either forced by circumstances or choose to quit.  Then comes maternity and the guilt associated with long hours, not being able to breast-feed your child, lack of a support system, is enormous. I am not sure introducing different kinds of leave policy for each of these situations which women tackle is the answer. Why then I’d argue, we must also introduce some sort of leave for employees whose children are appearing for their Board exams, or for those whose children qualify for school or state level sports competitions! I know of a female colleague whose son has to travel alone for his chess competitions as her manager has refused to grant her leave so frequently (3-4 days every few months.)


The answer in my view, doesn’t lie in Policy making, instead must be seen from the prism of Culture Building. Yes, I know that while the former is binding, the other is subjective and may not ensure a uniform employee experience. But Policy Making alone won’t suffice – make FOP mandatory and you will still have women swallowing pain killers and turning up at work because that’s what their role or manager demands. I’d much rather go with manager sensitization and a focused and continuous thrust on making the workplace as employee friendly as possible. Trust me, all it takes is an understanding manager. Replace and reward people, not policies, is what I’d stress on. 

Apr 18, 2017

Notes on The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

It cannot be a coincidence that 3 of the several award-winning novels published in the US in the last 2 years, all deal with the question of race and America’s unreconciled problem with it. While The Sellout is a comic satire about race, Between the World and Me explores the whole question of destiny and free-agency as evinced in a Black life, and The Underground Railway (TUR) is a fictional account of the appalling life on a Southern plantation and how similar it was to the one in the free world outside then.
There is much in TUR to make the reader angry even as we shudder in disgust at the description of the putrefying Black bodies that hang from trees along a path in North Carolina ironically called the Freedom Trail. However, it is not the graphic descriptions of the routine outrages of plantation life that are particularly revealing or poignant. After you’ve read pages full of descriptions of daily whippings, rape, assault, castrations, wounds being doused with pepper water, you reach a point when you wonder, “After such knowledge, what forgiveness?”. Whitehead knows this and it is to his credit that throughout the novel, he spends time focusing attention on the minor deprivations, the sense of helpless longing for freedom that chains every slave, the stink of fear that taints even the free slaves, the almost unbearable poignancy captured in the familiar, yet unimaginable luxury of a Black being the first recipient of a book and inhaling the scent of its unwrinkled pages. Such descriptions form the powerful engine that draws this tale of abomination and hope across the American deep South from Georgia, to North Carolina, Tennessee, and Indiana to the hope of a frontier far beyond the tentacles of slavery. 

The novel opens with Ajarry’s story which forms a kind of prologue to that of our heroine Cora, who is a slave on a Georgia plantation. Ajarry was kidnapped in Africa, shipped abroad a slaveship and bought and sold several times before she landed on the Randall plantation in Georgia where she gave birth to Cora’s mother Mabel. There is a matter-of-fact, unabashed tone to the hardships that accost Ajarry which act as a kind of prelude to the horrors that Cora’s story contains. Cora’s story is interspersed with those of the other major characters such as Caesar, Ridgeway, Mabel, and Sam. Cora’s nemesis in the novel is a relentless slave catcher Ridgeway whose code of personal honour does not allow him to return home empty handed.

Cora’s story begins on the Randall plantation which is ruled by the vicious Randall brothers and their foreman Marshall. While freedom may seem like am impossible dream here, we are told “Every slave thinks about it. In the morning and in the afternoon and in the night.” Cora’s mother, Mabel, escaped from the plantation, abandoning her 11-year-old daughter. Left a “stray”, Cora develops the unique ability to silently question and rail against the misfortunes that govern the lives of the plantation slaves. This is important since she is our protagonist who escapes from the plantation at 16 and the rest of the novel is the story of her flight across different American states, her experiences of brief moments of fulfilment and joy, the selfless support she receives from several white Abolitionists and free slaves on the run, the macabre public hangings she spies as she lies hidden, Ann-Frank-like, in a secret attic in North Carolina, and the duplicitous kindness of the white folks she encounters in North Carolina.

Colman skilfully reveals to us the less-than-pure motivations of the white folk who appear to be supportive of the Negro emancipation cause.  While the underground railway of the title refers to a secret railway carriage that runs deep in the tunnels of the South, working to ferry escaped slaves to the North, its historical counterpart is actually the network of white abolitionists and free slaves who created a secret system of safe houses, coded messages, safe passages, and tips that enabled escaped slaves to reach freedom. Whether it’s an actual railway car or a resistance movement, there is no doubting its role in offering a beacon of hope to so many impoverished, unfortunate lives.
What is unmistakable in the novel’s tone is Colman’s raging anger at the country of his birth and its legacy of bloodshed and oppression. This is beyond disgust or mere cringing or embarrassment and makes the read that much more compelling. Compare this, “The white race believes – believes with all its heart – that it is their right to take the land. To kill Indians. Make war. Enslave their brothers. This nation shouldn’t exist, if there is any justice in the world, for its foundations are murder, theft and cruelty.” with a line like, “Throughout 1990, Pandits are picked up selectively and put to death. They are killed because Kashmir needs to be cleansed of them.” (more on the 2nd novel hopefully in my next post later,) and you will know what I am talking about.

One of the things that struck me as I read was the truism of “The more things change, the more they remain the same.” In Cora’s world, slave patrollers “required no reason to stop a person apart from color.” Compare this with the spate of police brutality videos that have exploded across America in the past 2 years where white policemen routinely and with little cause, stop, harass and often shoot men of colour, coupled with the anti-immigrant rhetoric that runs through American politics and policy today. The novel achieves a precarious balance in its end, a note of faint hope that accompanies the realisation that centuries of death and oppression cannot be washed away by the faint promise of a better tomorrow. However, it is better than living without hope.



May 11, 2016

Notes on Child-44

Along with the award-winning fiction and classics that I dig, I’m also a huge fan of the paperback thriller. There’s quite nothing like a Lee Child or Jo Nesbo to forget abt your cares for a while and immerse yourself in the world of mutilated bodies, cryptic talismans and the brooding alcoholic detective. So, it is no wonder that I would love Child 44 – Tom Smith’s debut novel set in Stalin’s Russia. I must add that this is unlike any thriller I’ve read before as the tension here has as much to do with the chase of a dangerous psychopath who is murdering children around the western countryside and carving out their stomach, as it is abt the State machinery which is pursuing the protagonist Leo Demidov, a member of the State Police (MGB), for his efforts to catch the murderer. In case you are rightly puzzled, this is because in Stalinist Russia, crimes such as murder, burglary and prostitution cannot exist and therefore, the murders must be written off as accidents unless Leo can prove otheriwise and stop the murderer. Thus, the chase for the serial killer is intertwined by the State Police’s machinations, persecution, and eventual hunt of Leo & his beautiful wife Raisa.

The novel’s prologue describes the disappearance of a young boy Andrei who had gone hunting in the forest with his younger brother. Jumping several decades, the novel then brings us to the dead body of a young boy, Arkady, who may have committed suicide on the railway tracks. Parallel to this thread is introduced the thread abt Anatoly, a veterinarian, who is suspected by the MGB of being a spy and is pursued and eventually killed by them. The protagonist Leo Demidov is part of the team which investigates Arkady’s death & writes it off as suicide, as well as the team which finally captures Anatoly.


Leo is a part of the MGB whose task is to wipe out the faintest stench of any real or imagined dissent or disloyalty to the State through continuous spying, interrogation, torture, threats & lies. This is a world where Anatoly, a respectable veterinarian, is forced to flee from his home as he fears the net is closing around him, though he has committed no wrong & is simply ‘suspected’ of being a foreign spy. Leo is a part of the system that persecutes innocent citizens like Anatoly and believes that in doing so, he’s actually serving the country. Like most of his colleagues, he too initially rejects evidence that a murderer is committing the killings around the countryside. It is only when he becomes a pawn in bureaucratic politics and is framed for being disloyal to the State, does he slowly begin to reexamine the foundations on which his profession has rested. He realizes that he is the only one who can apprehend & stop the murderer since the actual State refuses to even accept that there have been any murders!

Alongside the story of Leo’s gradual awakening, Tom Smith also infuses the thriller with the slowly-raveling & unusual love story of Leo & his wife Raisa. It is a love that is neither rooted in the conventional framework of marital affection & respect, nor does it seek succor from some deep-seated passion. Raisa, a school teacher & free thinker, who is critical of the Soviet State’s politics and Leo’s role in furthering its atrocities, emerges as his equal and his true partner once Leo becomes a fugitive, being relentlessly punished for questioning the State’s decree. When love finally blossoms between the two, it is with the poignant acceptance that it is bound to be fleeting. 


The second half of the novel revolves around Leo’s demotion & exile where he continues to invstigate the murders with Raisa’s support. While the ending is a bit too pat for my liking, one also realizes that a tragic end, while more realistic, wouldn’t necessarily be more satisfying. Perhaps my only genuine crib is that the murderer is never fully fleshed out or terrifying, perhaps because the MGB and State policies are far more so.