Sputnik Sweetheart: Of mirror worlds and split souls

To my companion in all things Murakami (and many others),

You are a storyteller yourself. So tell me,have you ever just picked up your pen and written down something, seemingly normal,  and begun to realize its depths only much later?

A little under two years ago, I penned down a story called ‘The boy and the mirror’. It was written within an hour, reflected some of the very conventional romantic turmoil in my life at that moment and it was a concept that just flowed, without much thought being attached to it. It is fascinating how much your own mind can conceal from you. I see that story now in ways I hadn’t even thought about earlier.

Sputnik Sweetheart refuses to leave my brain, and this is, in particular, because of one specific incident that ties in to these other thoughts. One of the women, Miu, is trapped in a Ferris Wheel at night, and she happens to have a pair of binoculars. With nothing much to do except wait, she trains her binoculars on her bedroom window visible in the distance. And then she sees herself inside her bedroom. I won’t give you details lest it ruin the book for you. But to cut a long story short, it is as if her consciousness is split into two. She is in two places at the same time, if you know what I mean. And no, it isn’t a time-turner story.

Which brings me to, Horcruxes. I know it isn’t quite the same idea. But I have always wondered if there are other ways to create horcruxes, accidentally perhaps. Is it only murder that can tear one’s soul? Perhaps love can as well. This is a good question to research- does love in facts rip the soul, and if so, is the rupture permanent or temporary? But that is for another time.  (By the way, it is interesting how Riddle’s diary would have had fifty percent of his soul, and it was created with the murder that is perhaps the most justifiable out of all that he committed- that of the man who abandoned his mother.)

Moving on from that detour into Harry Potter,  I don’t know if you’ve felt this way- torn, between parts of yourself. I have, on occasion. It is interesting because of late, I have been reading some bits of spiritual philosophy that are focused on considering oneself whole, as an integrated being. You aren’t torn, or split, or divided, it claims- it is a construct of your mind. Well, of course, it is. But I do need to live with my mind. I cannot arrive at a certain destination in my mind-map before it is time.Perhaps the process can be accelerated, but honestly, I have a feeling that conflict leads to the best stories.

So coming back to you, the storyteller, would you keep the peace or the stories?

Sputnik Sweetheart-Of dogs, women and writers’ block

This is not a review of Sputnik Sweetheart

I read Haruki Murakami’s Sputnik Sweetheart in three and a half hours today. Not my personal best, but hey, it’s over two hundred pages and I have had, of late, a chronic inability to finish anything. (So well done me!)

It is a book about a woman. Two, in fact, and a man. Except it is not what you are imagining it to be. If you are indeed imagining anything- if you aren’t, well done you, you haven’t given in to certain stereotypes, mostly accurate though they might be.

This is not a review. I hate reviewing books. Perhaps hate is too strong a word because I do not hate anything. But reviewing a book, while a necessary, practical thing seems to me to be a crime in some ways.

Before I explain why I think so, I must point out that I had not intended for this piece to be written in sets of three lines. Now that it has happened, it doesn’t seem a bad way of doing this, which basically means that I shall do it this way until I get bored.

Moving on to book reviews. I think somehow, that no matter how rational you are, a review tends to colour your perspective of that book, even if it is to a really infinitesimal extent. Try loving a book if a person you absolutely hate recommended it.

Well, this might also turn around the entire premise and make you not hate the person ever again. That has been known to happen- books recommend people nicely, don’t you think? But basically, here I am trying to say- this is not a review.

laika
Dog credits: Yours truly Rest of the picture credits: http://www.dreamstime.com

This is a ramble. This is the fourth Murakami I’ve read. Like all the others, he picks the oddest of things to make one sad. For example, for years, I have known that the dog, Laika was the first animal in space.

What I didn’t stop to wonder was if she ever made it back. Well, as things turn out, she didn’t. The Russians left a dog out there all alone in space. I wonder why. Seriously, I’d possibly be okay if it were a cat or a goldfish. But a dog?

One thing I like about Murakami is that his women aren’t what you’d call normal. Sometimes, they’re a bit too esoteric but most of the time they’re real, confused women. The girl in this book, Sumire, reminds me of me.

I do not know if the above fact makes me happy or sad. That is possibly why I chose a Murakami book to finish in three and a half hours. It doesn’t decide for you what you need to be. The characters are too busy dealing with their mess to pay any attention to you.

One thing does irk me though. Amidst all the discussions of people who’re only half  of themselves in the book, one never gets to find out the male character’s name (he’s called K). Given what a fascinating man he is, it is rather a shame to know his innermost fears and not his name. I believe I shall name him after my friend. They do resemble each other after all. I don’t think Mr. Murakami would mind.

Why I will say a Hi to ‘Dear Zindagi’

images-8*Don’t read if you are spoiler-averse*

I’m not a person who posts reviews on Facebook for every movie that I go and watch. I have a simple rule- people do not need to know what I’m doing, where I’m doing, how I’m feeling, etc at all times.

And having watched Dear Zindagi a week ago, I was planning to continue this streak. Until I happened to refresh my newsfeed on that omniscient social app, Facebook and came across several people writing about how this particular movie was atrocious in indescribable ways. I know it possibly doesn’t matter, but I beg to differ.

I went to watch this movie with an open mind and zero expectations, despite hearing things such as “it talks about mental health” and “the director is the same lady who made English Vinglish“.  Deviating for a moment here, the latter movie, Director Gauri Shinde’s debut, revolved around a phenomenon that seems simple but is deeply entrenched in our society, what one could call a mix of ‘language shaming’ and ‘housewife shaming’. Shashi wasn’t abused, or molested, or cheated on- she possibly didn’t have any so-called ‘major problems’, but the character struck a chord with the audiences.

Moving on to Dear Zindagi, Alia’s Kaira doesn’t have ‘major problems’ either. She is not schizophrenic or bipolar, she doesn’t have a medical condition per se, she hasn’t been sexually abused as a child. She has a job. She has a family and friends. She has several attractive men in her life. So much so, that it might have you screaming, there is nothing wrong with her at all! She even has a dimpled therapist, played by SRK, who gives her weird stories and analogies by the second, that make her feel enlightened in life.

Why then am I saying that this movie deserves a “Hi”and not a “Bye”to quote a particularly inane song from the movie (which by the way is amazing if you want to walk/jog) ?

  1. It highlights something we often forget- every one of us is insane. Never apologize for your particular brand of it. (If it gets out of hand, please go to a qualified (not SRK) therapist though)
  2. It shows you that there are a lot of things adults can do to children that is not abuse but messes them up nonetheless. Please have children at your own risk.
  3.  It tells you that when you’re listening to someone, you must listen to them, without blabbering suggestions and delivering judgements by the minute.
  4. The most honest thing that the therapist says in the entire movie (albeit in a rather SRK fashion)- You need to take care of yourself. Everyone else can only help you along.
  5. Last but not the least, it talks about things. Normal ordinary things. Like parents thinking you’re homosexual if you don’t want to get married. Like you yourself, gazing into the mirror, defiantly saying “I’m a slut, and proud of it”. Like that childhood doll they didn’t keep safely- it seems stupid to get annoyed about that 20 years later but you still do.

Yes, it doesn’t reflect the depths of mental health issues or the realities of therapy. It makes typical Bollywood style jokes at times (that I am not excusing at all). But you can’t ignore the fact that from movies where the only task of the actress was to wait for the hero to dance around a tree with her, we’ve come a long way. Middle-class people, people who still think being lesbian is a “phase” and that seeing a therapist means you’re “mad”, people who think “parents know best”, people like that are going to see a movie like this.And amidst all the song and dance, and a simplistic two hour resolution of a problem, if amidst all of that, Shah Rukh Khan and Alia Bhatt tell people that it is okay to be single, poly-amorous, straight, lesbian or anything at all, and even if 50% of the people think about it for a while, well I’m okay with that.

If people go and see this movie and if they come back and spend an hour with their kids instead of an hour on their smartphones or talking about work, I’m okay with that. Among other things, cinema exists to reflect the dimensions of reality, yes, but it also exists to communicate to the masses. And if this is the language the masses understand, I’m okay with that, as long as they get the message.

From the pen of an “Upper-Caste” woman

My thoughts on caste

The Blue Dipper

They teach you in middle school that traditionally, there were four broad divisions in Indian society, based on different occupations, created to preserve the social order. They also teach you which box you are supposed to tick on various kinds of forms. I have always known which “category” I belong to. But having grown up in the 21st century, where I change my mind every two days about what career I wish to pursue, I’ve never paid much attention to what that one word- General- means. Like many others of my generation, I thought the only thing it meant was I’d have to do extra well in board exams and admission entrances, while some other people could get away with scoring significantly lower. I didn’t quite resent “them”, those who seemed somewhat unfairly favoured, but I remember feeling proud that I got by on sheer merit, and I also…

View original post 433 more words

Full Stop.

Until a few years ago, I used to be very judgemental towards suicide. I think most of us are, at some point. No, I’m not insinuating a lack of sympathy for the victims- all I’m saying is that we tend to think, “I could never do that! It’s cowardly, escapist, not a solution”. Well, the “I could never do that” part is true for quite a number of people, because they’re made that way. It is equally true that some people are not made that way. As with most things, I stopped sneering at suicide the day it hit me that I wanted to end my own life- I hate judging myself, don’t you?

What I’m trying to focus on is the interpretation of events in light of the recent suicide of a student in my country. This isn’t the first time such a thing has happened. I’m still struggling to fully understand the intricate dynamics of caste issues in India- it is evident that there is a problem, a serious one at that, one that has existed for generations and needs to be acknowledged and dealt with. It is very important to impartially examine the circumstances of this death and charge the real culprits who instigated such an occurrence. However, what I’m somewhat apprehensive about is the way the incident is being tinged with the caste flavour, in an unhealthy way.

It seems that the agenda is dominated by what caste the deceased belonged to, rather than the fact that a promising young student was compelled to take his own life. Would we not have risen in protest had the victim not belonged to a socially disadvantaged group? A young mind and spirit has been lost forever, one of the thousands who are supposed to nurture India.  Forgive me for the use of the adjective ‘beautiful’ but there is no other way to describe Rohit’s last words, where it is made amply clear that this is beyond religion, caste and region. This is about us as individuals, rational, thinking minds, who dream of stardust and the Universe. This is about people who still believe in the goodness of human effort, and are trying their best not to lose faith in a civilization that has let them down far too often. It is about those who are trying to convince others not to divide themselves over boundaries created by some men. And those who have admitted defeat and joined forces with the blindness, in a bid to survive.

To those who will tell me that I really don’t understand, maybe I don’t. But then,  perhaps you don’t either. The discrimination you go through every moment is ugly, and I stand with you against it. But I implore you to realize that for every day that you hold on to an “us against them” attitude, there will be more deaths. On both ‘sides’. On only one side. Humanity.

 

 

 

 

To my little cousin

I know you’ll protest that you’re not quite so little . Yes, it is true, that. Had you been in the USA, you would’ve been old enough to drive a car. You’re setting out to do new things in life, you’ve fallen in love- yes, not so young any more. Forgive me, I still see the baby boy who’d tag along after me with a picture book about a parrot,begging me to tell him the story. The chubby kid grinning toothily as he pushed his toy car with his feet- I still remember the day you learnt to pedal.

It is amazing to see the wonderful young man you’ve become- and I do realize that is a very sappy, grown up thing to say. I am a sappy grown-up now, perhaps. It is a bitter-sweet feeling to see you in love- to hear you write and talk about your dreams.  Your love is brilliant. You love with a confidence I can never hope to regain.

Somewhere within me there are two sides at war. There is a person who wants you to have every experience, good or bad, because every day is a gear in the machine of life,making it move. She knows that you need to fall, she knows it will only take you higher.

And then there is your older sister, and that part would do anything to shield you from anything that can break you. That part would trade her already fragmented soul to keep your fairy tale intact. Just so you never have to know pain. Yes, there is always pain, even in the happiest of times. Especially in the happiest of times.

All of me wants you to win. All of me wants you to prove the world wrong. To survive unscathed through the pain. To write as pure a love poem as you do now even when you are scorched. Things will break, you know, they always do. But there is a light in you and that light will always shine through.

And even if this makes no sense now, some day you’ll know exactly why I wrote to you.

Letter to my thirteen-year-old self

Dear Amrita,

Remember that time last week you beamed with pride when someone said you are practically an adult? That’s great,but there’ll be enough time to be an adult later, be a teen now(Being an adult is over-rated anyway).

Did you throw away that poem you wrote yesterday- the one Mom laughed at, the “carrot-parrot” rhyme? Go get it from the bin, smooth out the paper and save it- there’ll be a day when a whole lot of people will tell you that your latest poem touched their hearts. Save it, so you can see that silly poems aren’t such a bad place to begin.

Let me tell you a secret. Parents aren’t really parents, they’re people like you and me. The next time you have a fight with them, sulk a while, then go make up with them- the way you would with your best friend or cousin. There’s another person in Mom and in Dad, one that’ll always be as old as you are- find that one, and you’ll be friends forever.

Don’t hide those tears next time they threaten to spill. Don’t run to the bathroom. One of the most difficult things you’ll need to learn is how to cry. And the sooner you learn the better. It won’t give away your weaknesses- it is the bravest thing you’ll ever do.

Don’t keep friends because everyone says you need to have a few. Get to know people. You’ll find them, the special ones, sometimes in the likely places and sometimes in the unlikely ones.

Don’t worry if you don’t know what your “thing” is- the one thing you’re meant for. Chances are, you won’t know that even when you’re an adult. Life’s about the journey- not just the destination. The places you stop at, the people whose lives you touch, that will matter more.

When it seems like things are bad- that fight in school, your weight, someone’s boyfriend, your lack of one- just remember. It’ll get worse. 😀 Okay, that was too pessimistic. Yes it’ll get worse, it’ll also get better. You’ll find battles worth fighting, and you’ll find your comrades.

Sometimes the worst enemy is your own mind. Know when your mind is playing games with you. Start making your own moves, and win.

You’ll be alright .

Love,

Amrita