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Our predictions and hopes for 2013

Breaking Bad: Skyler jumps off a cliff and or Walt puts a gun to her head and pulls the trigger out of sheer frustration. Walt and Hank Shreader become cohorts or better, Hank shoots Walt and takes over as Heisenberg. Jesse finds love and settles down. He buys a house that’s filled floor to ceiling with magnets. Yeah, magnets bitches. (Although, we demand at least one scene of him crying this season). Breaking Bad goes down in history as one of the best shows ever.

Mad men: The show takes a leaf out of Ekta Kapoor’s book and takes a generation leap. Joan’s baby and Sally now run their own advertising agency. Or Roger and Joan hook up. Betty gets fatter. Sally gets smarter. Peggy decides she’s into girls. Megan poisons Don. Or Don dies in an unexplained way and continues to be an unpredictable enigma even in his death.

After being nominated and losing the Emmy for five consecutive years, Jon Hamm stabs Damien Lewis and Bryan Cranston on the red carpet.

Homeland: Dana dies in a tragic car accident; Saul becomes head of the CIA (because clearly there are just 2 people left in the entire CIA). Carrie continues to be a wine-gulping maniac and she makes it her life’s mission to clear Brody’s name…then something else blows up. (Side note: it would be lovely if she attended some classes and actually learned to play the trumpet. Our ears would be eternally gratefully)

Arrested development comes back and gives meaning to our lives again.

Carries Diaries either becomes our greatest guilty pleasure or humanity’s doom from an overdose of all things SATC.

Community:  Season 4 completely sucks or kicks ass. Either way, we can’t wait for some more of Troy and Abed on our T-V!

How I met you….oh who cares?

The Golden Globes kick so much ass that Hollywood decided to give up. It cannot possibly get better hosts than Amy Pohler and Tina Fey and from here on out, actors pick up the awards in a Baltimore back alley while a homeless guy plays the guitar.

Arnab Goswami invites Jerry Pinto for a debate. It’s a screaming match like no other.

Sachin Tendulkar joins Jhalak Dikhla Jaa. It’s seems like a real possibility.

The makers of Sherlock take pity on us addicts and decide to give us season three this year instead of 2014.

Kimye’s new little bundle of blinged up, swagged out style gets his own little reality TVshow. Where he squabbles with his blankie, has a fall out with his teddy bear and plans little tea parties in his room where dad gets the tunes and mommy runs around looking important.

Shah Rukh Khan retires. Well we can hope, can’t we?

When this interview was taken in 2009 the tentative release date for sequel to A suitable boy was 2013. Huzzah! The novel, titled A suitable girl is the story of finding a match for Lata’s grandson. The only thing is: deadlines mean nothing to Seth. He’s a literary version of George RR Martin, so readers may just find themselves dealing with the crushing disappointment of having to wait another whole year for the book to be released.

Ranbir Kapoor has an existential crisis. Could it be that he’s gone through every woman in Bollywood in the span of two years? He wants to drink himself to death but then thinks that would be a waste of pretty. He starts dating himself.

People realise they actually can eat food without instagramming it first.

Kittens get ousted and cute little lemurs take over the internet.

Firsts

Firsts

I’m about to devour From Heaven Lake, Travels through Sinkiang and Tibet, the first book Vikram Seth ever wrote. I’ve only gotten through the foreword as of now, a foreword Seth wrote for the 1990 edition to put the contents into perspective. This is going to be an important book for me, because in the past one month or so, my reading has gone for a toss. You can probably blame it on being homeless. I have several books that I intend to read and haven’t gotten around to. I’ve chosen From Heaven Lake, for two reasons – first, I’ve never read a travel book before, second this is Seth’s first ever published book and I have a certain soft spot for the first books of great authors.

Every book is a labour of love, but surely there’s a special spot reserved for the first. Especially when you consider the space, both physical and mental, from where they came. From heaven lake came from the pen of a much younger Seth, not the spry old guy we know now, but a wandering college student who was growing his hair and not really doing what he was supposed to do. Seth was being a typical 20 something – questioning his decisions, his path, buying time, writing, struggling and thinking. The book came out of a road trip and it’s interesting to note that Seth who has a profound insight into human character, and an astounding knowledge base about everything under the sun, started out by publishing a frikking journal he wrote while on a road trip.

On the other hand, take The Bluest Eye, which in my mind set the tone for whatever fiction Morrison was to write in the coming years. I don’t like to put writers in boxes, but there’s a strong activism in everything she writes. It’s kind of fitting that she started out by exploring the wrongness of what America believed with the whole black is beautiful phenomenon. In every book that followed The bluest eye, there was a theme that was at odds with the nice things people were saying, or the judgements people were casting.

Whenever I daydream about my first published book, I wonder what it will say about me. Will it come out of pain? Will I be in a space in my life where I’m happy, or restless or content? Will I write as a woman, a lover, an orphan? (That sounded scarily Alaniss Morrissette, but you know what I mean.)

Just as Art can’t be viewed in a vacuum, the artist can never be totally divorced from his work. There is a lot of weight attached to a created work. For starters, it means you’ll forever be referred to as so and so of so and so fame. It also means that for all eternity (that is if you produce something good enough to last for all eternity) no one will read your book, listen to your song or look at your painting and not wonder what you were thinking at the time of its creation. Art can make you vulnerable and your first may end up defining you forever. And if that’s not pressure, then The Wire is not the greatest show on earth.

The story of a people

The story of a people

This is a thought I had and I’m putting it out there. The Anglo-Indian community has been for the most part absent in mainstream Indian Literature in English, especially literature set in the post-independence era. Anglo-Indian characters have little space in books that have pages breathe with Nehruvian Socialism, or stoically bear the pain of partition. When she does come to the surface, she’s spared a few telling lines – In A suitable boy, we learn that Arun Mehra’s secretary resented working for a brown sahib and Laila’s college classmate in Attia Hossain’s Sunlight on a broken column, calls England “home.” Having established these truths, the novel goes on to bigger and brighter things and the character is not heard from again, ironically, much like it was with the real community – a small section of people sidelined by history and ignored by art.

Of course, not entirely. I’m speaking of John Masters’ Bhowani Junction, a dense but simply laid out novel that revolves around three characters and their struggle with identity. The novel relies heavily on plot and while it’s not particularly gripping stuff, it’s definitely insightful in that it makes a strong case for the very human decision of what now? I can’t even imagine what it’s like to live in a country that’s brand new; still finding its feet. To be alive and having the choice of clinging to what you are or striving for what you want to be. There’s something to be said for a novel that satisfyingly explores that kind of uncertainty and fear. Jaysinh Birjepatil’s Chinnery’s Hotel also delves into loss and displacement among a few characters of Eurasian lineage, but this fiction is a little more subtle thematically. Maybe I should give it another chance

Clearly I’m not the only one thinking of this.  And though non-fiction is informative, I want me some of those stories.

I’ve always liked novels that have the story of a people, of a community behind it. Think Alex Haley’s Roots or Toni Morrison for that matter. Or Meave Binchy, Rohintan Mistry and Amitav Ghosh. I wish I knew about more books which told the Anglo-Indian story from within. If you know of any, let me know.

“The best writer of his generation”- The Times : A tribute to Vikram Seth

“The best writer of his generation”- The Times : A tribute to Vikram Seth

It was the 4th of November 2011 and I was hopping onto a south-bound Mumbai Local clutching all 1,349 pages of my copy of A suitable boy. Somewhere else in Bombay, the writer of the tome in my hands, was making his way to the same destination- the National Centre for Performing Arts( NCPA) where he was going to talk about his latest release – The Rivered Earth. I highly doubt that he was as excited as I was. If you’re a Vikram Seth fan, occasions such as these, where you can breathe the same air as a legend, are excuse enough to behave like a fevered bunny on good quality cocaine.

How much do I love Vikram Seth? Let me count the ways.

He’s a genius, for one. It’s not everyone who can learn German from scratch in six months flat. I moved to India at the malleable age of eight. I’m twenty four now and friends still laugh openly (and rather cruelly) at my Hindi and Gujarati. He’s well-read and knowledgeable. Which other Economics Major speaks with such ease and familiarity of the poet George Herbert? He’s also a man of wide interests, Schubertian Music, of all things, being one of them.

Braininess aside, he’s ridiculously brisk and lovely in demeanour and bearing. When he strode out from the wings at the NCPA that day, he looked more enthusiastic maths professor less writer and I mean that in a good way, which says a lot, considering I hate math. Through his address, he made himself more endearing with every word. He wagged his finger at the audience; he read out loud in a terrific booming voice, he sprang up from his seat more than once to point things out on the projector, his bald head shone with intelligence. He used delightfully English-sounding phrases like “you lot,” and “oh dear” and my desi soul, reared on a steadfast diet of Enid Blyton revelled in it.

Next, (here, I reference A Suitable Boy) he can flesh out characters from four family trees plus some, cover three Indian cities and countless towns, weave a narrative that is as easy as the circumstances it describes are not and still write a novel that doesn’t lose pace for a single second. It’s testimony to the genius of the book that I cry bitterly all through Mrs Mahesh Kapoors funeral just after I’ve laughed out loud at the antics of the Chatterjee clan. His other work has moved me too. When pangs of homesickness came to my hostel bed at the age of 19, I’d call on from memory, All you who sleep tonight to stop me from missing my mother.

But the reason du jour? As a writer, he doesn’t take the easy way out. It took me a summer holiday to finish A suitable boy which is a ridiculously short time compared to the seven years it took to get written. And why?

“I wanted, of course to tell a good story, but I also wanted to get things right. No matter how well a novel is received by readers and critics in general, if it does not ring true with those people who knew from the inside the world it describes, it is in the final analysis, an artistic failure.”- Vikram Seth, Two Lives.

And so it was that everything in A suitable boy was researched to death, from whether St. Stephens, Delhi had female students in the 1940s to how the credit market for a small shoemaker in Agra would work. All this for fiction.

I stood in line to get my book signed at the NCPA that day and I watched as Seth handled everything like a boss. With the energy of a very young man, he smiled at cameras, talked to the press, made small jokes and signed books all in a blur. My A suitable boy now has an inscription on the front page. “To Sheena, Vikram Seth.” And he meant every word.

–       Sheena

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