Saturday, 27 January 2018

Review: The Yellow Wallpaper

The Yellow Wallpaper The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The story is written around 1890. The awareness about depression must not be there at that time. It is a short story of a new mother who is battling Postpartum depression.
Wikipedia defines it as such:

"Postpartum depression (PPD), also called postnatal depression, is a type of mood disorder associated with childbirth, which can affect both sexes. Symptoms may include extreme sadness, low energy, anxiety, crying episodes, irritability, and changes in sleeping or eating patterns. Onset is typically between one week and one month following childbirth. PPD can also negatively affect the person's child."

The couple shifts to an abandoned country house for three weeks after birth of their daughter. The man of house is a physician and have some understanding of depression. The story is told in first person. The woman is depressed but as it happens she doesn't know it. I can totally relate to story and found it a very accurate description of depression.

Instead of describing it, I find it apt to reproduce para showing various features of depression. I will also try to decipher the metaphors used (as per my understanding which maybe wrong).

Three most common symptoms of depression are: Insomnia in the night, felling bad and not hungry in morning and thirdly the situation and appetite improves slightly in the evening. See it beautifully described:

"I'm feeling ever so much better! I don't sleep much at night, for it is so interesting to watch developments; but I sleep a good deal in the daytime."

In extreme cases there is paranoia and hallucinations. You have irrational fears who have no basis in reality and you see or hear things which are not there. You feel ever so weak, helpless and try to fight it off with assuming different identities. See the passage below:

"I don't like to LOOK out of the windows even—there are so many of those creeping women, and they creep so fast. I wonder if they all come out of that wall-paper as I did?"

The yellow wallpaper is a metaphor for depression and dread and green is of happiness and normalcy. Once you are depressed you are even afraid of feeling good and you feel guilty to feel happy. See below:

"For outside you have to creep on the ground, and everything is green instead of yellow."

The final stage is complete breakdown and detachment from reality. You lose hold on reality completely and do all the outlandish things which is frightening even to your care givers.

"Sometimes I think there are a great many women behind, and sometimes only one, and she crawls around fast, and her crawling shakes it all over.
Then in the very bright spots she keeps still, and in the very shady spots she just takes hold of the bars and shakes them hard.
And she is all the time trying to climb through. But nobody could climb through that pattern—it strangles so; I think that is why it has so many heads."

She become so paranoid that she locks herself in a room away from her baby. The description is very accurate and heart wrenching. People who have no knowledge about depression might find it outlandish or horror story. But it is not. Depression is hell and only those who have gone through it and survived to tell the tell like Charlotte know the truth.

PS: Thanks Jenny for suggesting this beautiful short story.

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Friday, 26 January 2018

Review: Rani Padmavati: The Burning Queen

Rani Padmavati: The Burning Queen Rani Padmavati: The Burning Queen by Anuja Chandramouli
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death.”
― Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things

Padmavati aka Padmini is not a historical figure. There is no historical account which proves that any such queen existed. This is a part of popular folklore of Rajasthan though. The name of Padmavati is found in the book called “Padmavat” written by a Muslim poet Malik Mohammed Jayasi. But myth or reality doesn’t matter when the issue is of faith. Sometimes myths are more powerful than reality. Because they give us courage and hope. Padamavati is a symbol of resistance against barbaric Muslims and devotion to religion and husbands.

Alauddin kills his father in law and uncle in cold blood. His wife Malika Jahan (Daughter of Jalaluddin Khilji) is equally cruel and is beaten by Khilji. Khilji is ambitious and want to expand his empire in Rajasthan and Gujarat. Rajputs know the ambition of Alauddin and try to put up a united front. Ratan Sen of Chittor is married to Nagmati. Padmavati is married to him in second marriage. She is like an incarnation of Laxmi and they both love each other deeply. Nagmati doesn’t like it naturally and she nurse a grudge against Padma. What happens afterwards is the story.

The book is a huge deviation from Padmavat and the pre conceived notions. Rajputs are not as smart as folk tales and Allauddin is not a lustful looter. He is ambitious and wants to be monarch. He has no intention of raping Padmavati.

Language of book is simpler than Anuja’s previous mythical books. That makes it a quick read and it can be finished in one sitting. The story is well paced and romantic scene between Ratan and Padmini are very well told.

That is the good part. But there are some glaring mistakes logically as well as historically. Religion was a rallying point in medieval period and Delhi sultans have clear agenda of expanding Islam by hook or crook. Allauddin was a cruel looter who was a religious fanatic. He broke many temples and plundered every city he invaded and conquered. He killed Jalaluddin after looting Devgiri and it shows how ruthless he was. Rajputs were no better either and they were a divided house. Treachery was common and it helped Islam to spread. But it was a Hindu-Muslim conflict. They broke, looted temples and converted Hindus by force. They raped Hindu women and took them in their harem. In fact the Purdah came after Islamic invasion. In the book it is shown that the conflict was only because of power lust and had no religious or lust angle which is totally wrong as per my understanding of history. We cannot wish away the horrible things done by these plunderers only to buy peace. If we want to have peace between Hindus and Muslims the right way is to admit the differences and atrocities carried out in the past. As for Padmini and her Jauhar all I have to say that there is no evidence of Padmini in history. But Jauhar was practiced. The book shows that Nagmati is the prime culprit and both Padmini and Ratan knew that Alauddin has no intention of raping her. That makes the logic of Jauhar untenable. There are logical fallacies in the book and in the end I found out it a confused book. Maybe Anuja was in two minds in trying to balance the rift between two communities and then showing Jauhar of women. This is a paradox.

3/ 5 stars.

P.S: A brief mention of Sanjay Leela Bhansali magnum opus “Padmavati”. The movie is since then renamed “Padmavat” (Jayasi book). Karni sena, a Rajput army has waged a war against the movie. They has done most reprehensible act of attacking a school bus. Though their method of brute force is wrong, this shows the power of myths. Maybe we should not try to rewrite history to suit present day reality. We should accept the historical wrongs and take it forward from there rather than to wish away the things.

Holocaust never happened I guess.

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Review: Mysterious 4:30 a.m.

Mysterious 4:30 a.m. Mysterious 4:30 a.m. by Nitin Sharma
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am not telling that love is life but without LOVE there is no life…..
It is a true story of two lovers, Shilpi Sanghi and Harshvardhan Singhania as told by Nitin Sharma in the introduction. Romance is the staple diet of novels and movies. This book is no different.

Harsh is very rich but wants to make big on his own. He is a loner and hates the lustful behaviour of his fellow students. He believes that true love is pure and dedicated. Then he goes to college and meets Shilpi. Shilpi is from a very traditional, rich and backward looking family who don’t believe in giving freedom to girls. They come close and what happens next…

The book is simple and predictable. There is no novelty and the same love story is repeated (though there is not much scope in love stories). There is a rape scene also which is very grotesque. The book is a onetime read for romance lovers. 3/ 5 stars. ‘

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Saturday, 13 January 2018

Review: The Uchallambi Icons

A good thriller should keep you guessing and on the edge. Like a James Bond movie it should be international. Praveena Bhaduri keeps doing that throughout and much more is in store. She describes the locales, situations and emotions beautifully.

There are three best friends – Anushka, Pia and Deepti. And one mysterious fellow who calls him ‘MAndravad’ (actually Bikrama Singhe A Govt servant) who also deals in antiques. Three idols called the Uchallambi icons (hence the name of novel) are stolen which are priceless. But the thieves don’t know their true value and takes them to Kenya and sell them to Pia and dirt price. The three friends come back to Bombay and decide that these seem precious so each girl keeps one idol. Then begins a cat and mouse game between these girls and the goons. And meanwhile there is romance also.

The book works very well for a thriller and Praveena describes the locales and situations in vivid details. The editing and choice of words is top class (only margins near the binding were less). Pace is decent but it could have been better. The girls earlier were free birds with no romantic relationships. They were content with the friendship of each other and their respective careers.

The disaster struck and men star coming into their lives. Rehan, Amit and Sarin enter and though it adds romantic angle it slows down the pace. I would have preferred that this would have been a girl power novel but that was not to be. The expectation was partly due to the fact that they were shown as intelligent, independent & headstrong girls and partly due to the cover. The romance and vivid descriptions slowed the pace a bit but that is not a big impediment to enjoy the novel.

4/ 5 stars.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Review: The Blue Jinx

The Blue Jinx The Blue Jinx by Nisha B. Thakur
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Are ghosts real? Or for that matter gemology or astrology? Do the Ghosts try to avenge themselves if something bad happened to them? It may be psychological issue or may be real ghost (if there is such a thing).

Nikhil is a loser in the eyes of his family. He is an interior consultant and wants to make it big. He gets an opportunity to refurbish Hemant’s Bungalow, far away from Mumbai. He always claimed that he is not cut out for love and wants to focus only on career. But as happens in stories he falls head over heels for Samara, Hemant’s beautiful daughter. Bhima, the Chowkidar tells him that the Ghost of Shanipriya (Samara mother) is there, in the same room where he is staying. Then strange things start happening with him and he loses control over reality.

The story is good initially and builds the suspense and atmosphere beautifully. It is fast paced book and can be finished in one or two sitting. But later on it becomes clich├ęd and defied logic. Say for instance why Hemant disposed of Shanipriya body without trying to find out her killer. The explanation given is most flimsy. If he loved her so much he should have avenged her. The identity of killer is totally fabricated as there is no mention of him till fag end and the climax is very insipid. The behaviour of supporting characters is erratic. Editing and choice of words could have been better.

Keeping in view the pros and cons I give the book 3/ 5 stars.

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