Jun 28, 2009

Friends and Lovers

When i started this blog, i'd thought i'd keep writing about the countless people who inspire me in passing, who give me reason to celebrate & hope, not always rant. sadly, it hasn't happened as planned. which is why sandhya and amit are indeed a special story that needs to be told. there's not too many people who read my blog, but for once i am hoping many many folks come & tune in to the story of this wonderful couple.

i first heard of sandhya via my colleague jayant. he told me of them and i remember telling A about them over ISD. jayant's cousin is married to amit's elder brother. the 2 brothers live with their spouses and parents in gurgaon & have been featured on CNN-IBN.

sandhya is a qualified software engineer who met with a terrible road accident a few months after the families had formalized her engagement to amit. after all the two were seeing ecah other for the past 4 years. onlookers said there was almost nothing left of sandhya's maruti 800 after it'd been hit by the truck. how they managed to extricate her out of the wreck is anybody's guess.

when many many arduous months in the hospital & three surgeries later, a 45-kg, shaven headed, pale, quadraplegic sandhya emerged from the hospital, most of the people present silently wished that the gruesome accident hadnt spared her. sandhya told me yesterday that even her parents didnt wish otherwise; they merely put up a brave front for her sake.

from fighting bed sores, to learning the use of breathing techniques to minimise the risk of pneumonia, to learning to eat with her own hands and ease into the wheelchair, she did it all. amit continued to visit and help her as much as she permitted. he confessed quite frankly that at that point he didnt know what the future held for them, for everyday held its own immediacy and urgency that had to be conquered. he didn't entertain any thoughts regarding marriage; all he knew was that she was in terrible pain and he had to help her as much as he could.

almost a year after her release from the hospital, sandhya & amit got married. sandhya weighed a mere 46 kg & the sticthes on her neck still glowed angry.

today sandhya works from home as a software developer and amit in an AMC. they have a full-time maid to help sandhya, plus undiluted love and support from other members of amit's family. by the time she was telling me about amit's dad who insists on learning java from his daughter-in-law, we were both crying like the morons we women are.

i am one of the most cynical people i know and have scant respect for sentimentality.thats the single most reason why i deride myself more often than not. in sandhya's place would i have been able to trust amit with my dependency? in amit's shoes, would i have dared take a plunge that had all the markings of disaster? i think not. i dont think i have changed markedly after my encounter with them. i am just so awfully grateful that i got to meet this wonderful couple, that their generosity allowed them to accomodate me in their lives and share it with a complete stranger. i am touched that jayant remembers me from delhi where he's now relocated and knew how touched i'd been when he'd first told me about them. i am sad that no matter what, sandhya cant wipe the darness in her eyes; i am happy that amit treats her weight gain post marraige with the teasing banter most men do.

i think these are guys i am gonna love interacting with.

Jun 7, 2009

Thoughts on The Alchemy of Desire

If you really think about it - what is that single notion or idea or fact that we can conclusively define as ‘real’ in a world ruled by mirrors, illusions & make belief – it is only kindness & creativity. Both are immeasurably priceless & achingly rare. To read tarun tejpal’s debut novel The Alchemy of Desire (TAOD) is to be reminded of this.

It is powerfully creative & has passages of such beauty & poignancy that one is reminded that indeed, more than beauty or brilliance, it is kindness that makes people or incidents memorable. Take for instance the foll passage where the narrator describes his mood after 2 truck drivers who had hitherto never ventured beyond gethia, a small town near nainital, are completely disoriented at their 1st visit to delhi’s chaotic wonder & decide to escape home in the middle of the night:
“But now I wanted to sit down in the street & cry.
It had to do with the thought of the two of them hurtling back home in the night, furtive & alone. The fineness of their spirit & the meanness of the world. I know how large-hearted they were; and how easily they could be overwhelmed. It was the story of the rural & the tribal everywhere. The tale of all-who-will- be-swiftly-dispossessed. They approach the new world armed with a generosity of spirit – as can only be reaped from working the land. but the modern world has no value for it. They are stranded on the crossroads of history; quickly overrun by the surging traffic of development & growth; stopped by the red light of new fangled laws & economic thesis; impounded by the gendarmes of corporate kings………………………….they are left to play a game the did not choose. With rules they do not know. The world survives by those who have generosity of spirit. But is owned by those who have none.”

In another place, he writes of his mother:
“I could sit & talk to her for hours about her childhood, her college years. The kind of stuff that breaks the heart of most sons if they only stop to listen……Even now, as I write this with everything long over I just have to think of her in pigtails, laughing, flashing her bangles, & a wilderness fills my mind. I have to get up from my desk & go for a walk. Climb up to the waterpoint , gaze at the valley, let the calm seep back into me. I have trained myself to not think of her. Sorrow must not be cultivated. It is a poor lifestyle choice.”

Nowhere else is the reader more aware of the narrators essential humanity, his capacity for unbridled compassion, than in these passages & perhaps that’s why it leaves an indelible impression on us.

This rich, layered & colourful novel was released in 2005, won some funny French award (prix millepages) & most notably was endorsed by Naipul as “ new and brilliantly original novel”. Coming from someone who barely acknowledges half the work being done in the English literary scene today, this is high praise indeed. Now, a little digression regarding my thoughts about the book before I embarked upon it. The past few years have been extremely distressing for me as a reader with me not quite enjoying a huge variety of celebrated & original authors like pamukh, rushdie, murakami, anne enright, to name a few. For someone whose lust for books is as endless as the tejpal’s narrator’s for his effervescent wife Fizz, this spells serious trouble. Just as TAOD begins with the deterioration & gradual demise of a once-upon-a-time passionate, life giving & defining relationship, I have also been beset by doubts, a vague undefined sadness & occasional bouts of self directed anger at my inability to appreciate such wonderful book which everyone else seems to be raving about. I had actually begun to imagine that I’d no longer come across a book that would make me want to mark passages, read out sections to someone close, stroke its spine lovingly like one would a lover’s back, or simply keep it close under the pillow as I slept. Don’t imagine this is neurotic for I have felt thus about umpteen books in the past. I don’t know how to explain this but there’s a gradual feeling of dilution, of being washed away, when one of the most defining loves of your life doesn’t grant u complete satisfaction. It casts doubts on ur selfhood, period. This is exactly what was happening to me as I trudged, over the years, from rushdie to pamukh to murakami & failed to scale the previous highs that I’d known in my affairs with mistry, roth, hardy, greene, updike, ishiguro, among others. And then, I discovered tejpal’s Alchemy.

It’s been a fortnight since I have read the novel & I keep longing to start it afresh knowing fully well I won’t. Nothing can measure up to the thrill of discovering an author novel (u will go on to enjoy immensely) for the first time. Any true bibliophile will tell you how disappointing it always is when u tackle the same book again, imagining in your mind the sudden discovery of several bits of treasure that u missed out the first time. Even when u do discover those treasures, they seem tawdry & trinket-like in the face of the original sea-chest u uncovered the 1st time u read the book. Such is the power of a great book.