Saturday, January 27, 2007

Slow Man

I have been wanting to note down a few things for myself, for the sake of my own memory--by saying this, what I mean is I don't want to bore you dear reader.

Call me a slow man if you will because I have been very slow in updating my blog--in fact, this is my first entry in the new year. Not just that, I did not even have time to read some of my favourite blogs. Life has been quite hectic in the new year. Most of it is related with work, and apart from work, all my time goes in attending to my daughter who demands, and rightly so, my company when I am home. The cat-loving Naipaul has famously said that every child born is a book killed. The equation, for me, is heavier on the side of the child.

At work I am learning new things (Please don't get wrong ideas by the look of the accompanying image--it relates to the next para on a Tv show). It gives me some satisfaction, and sort of balances off what I am missing otherwise.

Once I come home from office, around midnight, I have my supper, which goes well with watching programmes on BBC, CNN or the Big Boss reality show on Sony TV (that's an Indian channel, and Big Boss is the Indian version of UK's Big Brother show). I have been following the show since day 1 and have seen people come and go. It could all be contrived but it shows you various dimensions of human emotions.

Last night I also saw Kaun Banega Crorepati, hosted by Shahrukh Khan who has replaced Mr Amitabh Bachchan. Much ink has been spilled over the rivalry between these two showbiz people but I guess Mr Bachchan bowed out because of ill health and there is no rivalry between them as far as KBC is concerned. Most of it is media fluff.

Not much happening on the reading front too. Enjoyed reading, quite slowly though, J M Coetzee's Slow Man. It is a beautifully told story of an Australian photographer who becomes an amputee after an accident and develops feelings for his European (immigrant) nurse. Everything goes on fine in the story, until Elizabeth Costello, a novelist, barges into the life of the amputee with the aim to use his life story as her next novel's material. The intrusion is at first irritating but then you learn to live with her, just as the hero of the novel does, and she keeps company until the very end, making the hero ponderous on various aspects of life (the human condition, Arjun?).

The novel has some interesting discussions on issues of immigration, old age, nostalgia, history and culture. At one point, the nurse's son steals a rare historical photograph of early Australian miners from the protagonist's collection (which has immense heritage value) and superimposes his father's face on one of the ancient miners: an act of giving one's family (a newly immigrant people) an old history or inventing a past in a new place to reclaim a non-existent ancestry, something that would justify the new immigrant's existence in the new land, among the natives. This is just the kind of novel I love.

Also finished the last few pages of Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal's Tourism. I had started reading it several months ago and could not endure Bhupi's unending chase for Sarupa after reading the first 8 or 9 chapters. Turns out that I was quite close to the climax, so thankfully I did not miss it. Bhupi not only gets to sleep with the sizzling Sarupa but also fathers her child. Well done Bhupi! I'd say the novel is not that bad as some critics judged it when it had come out--it fulfills its promise, fulfills the mission it sets out to achieve. Bhupi gets to mate Sarupa and that's it--mission accomplished! What more do you want from a novel like this? There are some interesting gems strewn around but I am not in a mood to quote them here.

Now I'm reading Kiran Desai's The Inheritance of Loss. The narrative's chunkiness may be an innovation but it posed a problem for me. So I'm reading it randomly from here and there--not a great way to read a novel. Whatever I have read so far is brilliant, and deserves every bit of the hype. It is straight from the gut, written with a feel from the ground.

On the cinema front, could catch a few good films. While Lage Raho Munnabhai did not appear as refreshing as its first part, I was bowled over by Blood Diamond and Apocalypto. While Blood Diamond was a fine piece of journalism meeting acting and action in Africa, Apocalypto took me to a different world, in the 16th century America. It makes a very clear point that makes immense sense to me: Fear is a disease and a community would perish if it allows fear enter its soul. This is, on the other hand, a great adventure film, sans the ILM kind of computer graphics. Good fun.

Meanwhile my friend and fellow blogger Deepika travelled to Sri Lanka to be a part of the Galle Lit Fest, and she has come back with some interesting stories and reflections, including a brilliant piece on Kiran Desai. Here is her report and here is the interview.

In India, another friend and fellow blogger Jai Arjun Singh travelled to Jaipur to hobnob with some celebrated Indian writers. Here are his insightful reports.