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A list of the lovey dovey stuff

A list of the lovey dovey stuff

It’s valentine week (We don’t care. So commercial. Stupid Archies. Whatever. Rolls eyes) so we sat down and picked 8 things that made us blush and gush and some that simply reinforced our belief in love (This is nothing like Madhuri Dixit buying flowers and heart-shaped candy for herself in Dil Toh Pagal Hai).

Louie and Pamela. I know it’s television and it’s scripted but this is probably one of the most beautiful declarations of love I have ever seen on television.

Real love moves freely in both directions. Don’t waste your time on anything else.” From this Sugar Says column.

This letter from U.S President Ronald Reagon to his 26 year old son.

Hema and kaushik. It’s not the greatest love story ever written, in fact I’m sure there are far better ones but this has stuck to the sides of my brain for some strange reason. It’s when loves mixes with loss and emptiness; the kind that makes you jump about and smile but leaves your eyes hollow. Jhumpa lahiri’s short stories from Unaccustomed Earth tell the story of Hema and Kaushik. It keeps changing perspective and talks about cultural similarity and the similarity of a meaningless existence that the two characters face. It’s one of those beautiful stories.

In the language of love, there’s love and then there’s The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams. My favourite passage is the conversation that the Rabbit and Skin Horse have early on in the story, when Rabbit wants to know what being real is. “It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” Here, just read the whole story.

The closing of credits of Grease can either be incredibly ridiculous or incredibly sincere. Maybe it’s because I love nonsense words, or because I love Travolta in that film, or that I love the whole film, but to my mind, real romance is when the two of you go together like rama lama lama ke ding-a-de-dinga-dong.

Deeti and Kalua. There are some books that come to you when you need them the most; when you feel like nothing will ever make things better. And then they do. I’m a terribly huge fan of Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy and especially of Deeti and Kalua’s story from the Sea of Poppies. He saves her from having to jump into her husband’s funeral pyre and then run away to start a life together. It’s love unlike we know or see because it’s pure and complicated but still sweet like teenage love. At the end of the book, Kalua leaves the Ibis to save his life and for the past four years, I have been waiting for Ghosh to finish the trilogy so I can finally know what happened to them.

I’m an Emily Dickinson fan. My favourites have always been the shorter ones with strong imagery and since in college my life was all about the unrequited, part of me clings to Wild nights! Wild nights!, as a symbol of joyousness and hope one needs in matters of the heart. WOW, that was a long sentence.

Wild nights! Wild nights!
Wild nights! Wild nights!

Were I with thee,

Wild nights should be

Our luxury!

Futile the winds

To a heart in port,—

Done with the compass,

Done with the chart.

Rowing in Eden!

Ah! the sea!

Might I but moor

To-night in thee!

The greatest storyteller: A tribute to Amitav Ghosh

The greatest storyteller: A tribute to Amitav Ghosh

“You cannot force your character to do something that isn’t them. They simply won’t let you”

I sat in the back, at the book launch of Amitav Ghosh’s River of Smoke, amazed. Mostly because I was in the same vicinity as Amitav Ghosh but also because it dawned on me again, how brilliantly he had crafted his characters. I thought of Deeti and Fokir and Rajkumar and Tridib and Zachary. Characters that I feel I have met and know very well, Characters who stopped being characters and became breathing, living, walking bags of flesh and meat and bones.

The Hungry Tide, a book I had borrowed, introduced me to Amitav Ghosh. While I loved that book, it left me with an incomplete feeling. You know that feeling you get when you snap a book shut and process what just happened from outside because you aren’t a part of the story anymore? Didn’t happen. I read The Glass palace, Shadow Lines, Circle of reason; they were beautiful stories but I was uneasy. Usually, when I like something, I can tell you in great detail and with many examples, why. This time I couldn’t.  But there was still a solid somethingness about Ghosh’s writing that appealed to me.

And then I read Sea of Poppies and suddenly, as the song goes, I saw.

The first of his Ibis trilogy, the book is set is 1838 during the opium war. His stories exist in that wonderful space where history meets fiction, where real events meet fictional people and run about through decades and centuries, changing as time changes. All the characters, big or small, and there are so many of them, have a story, they bring with them their past, through their accents and language or their behaviour. They characters do and speak (whether you understand pidgin and laskari or not) as they must, and Ghosh won’t so much as put in a footnote. Every description, including the women’s saree, the cityscape or the food served is extremely detailed.

In River of Smoke, Ghosh describes life in Canton, the way it was in 1856, using the information he gleaned from mad levels of research. You think you want to write a book and you reckon a year or two of back reading in libraries should do it? NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Ghosh pored over the menus from the banquets described in the memoirs of people who went to them. He read back issues of the Canton Register, the newspaper of the time, to find what the weather was like on any given day. The weather. The damn weather!

He studied anthropology from St Edmund Hall, Oxford but he grew up in Calcutta, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and you can see why displacement, despair and determination set the tone for most of his stories. They leave you feeling that way too. Things won’t be tied up in a little bow at the end; they’ll be as they are.

For two hours at that book launch, Amitav Ghosh answered questions (even stupid ones) in his mild-mannered, unassuming way and then it was finally time for the book signing. I reached the front of the line, I told (stammered at) him about how I was worried because I had read 200 pages and there was no mention of Kalua. He looked up and smiled and said, “You might have to wait a little more time, unfortunately.” And then told me I had a beautiful name. AMITAV GHOSH SAID MY NAME IS BEAUTIFUL.

I still don’t know what happened to Kalua. But I can’t wait for the next book.


– Sharanya

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