J.J: Some Jottings

J.J: Some Jottings by Sundara Ramaswamy (ஜே.ஜே: சில குறிப்புகள்- சுந்தர ராமசாமி)

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J.J : Some Jottings is a novel written by Sundara Ramaswamy fondly known as Su.Ra. It is a paradigmatic text of modern Indian fiction in many ways. It remains and will remain an unrepeatable masterpiece in Tamil fiction. Even after decades into existence, this novel is often used to represent the best of Tamil writing even today. This is a more an ‘anti-novel’ than a novel, say in the conventional sense. It doesn’t start where it should have started and end where it must have ended. This novel is an unique and successful attempt in the post-modernist Tamil literature. Though this is a novel of ideas engaged with burning questions of existentialism, it also acts as a parody that critiqued the Tamil society, culture and age-old literary traditions in Tamil.

“When the public well is poisoned, people see it clear as daylight. The intestines betrayed the poison. It’s not as easy to identify the mind’s enemies as it is with the body’s. Lying on a coir bed, reading a pulp book in English, Thoma complains about the bedbugs. He is least bothered about the invisible bugs from the book’s pages draining his blood.”

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J.J: Some jottings is a novel which explores the writer-reader relationship and the effect of one on the other. This novel is sprinkled with many philosophical questions and theories that will excite the reader in one moment while in the next line or page it’ll refute its own theories with feigned innocence. This is a novel of ideologies! This novel wrestles with the pressing philosophical questions of all times. It provides insight into ideas, institutions, individuals and the souring of idealism. This novel’s eschewed narration, brought in a tone of intense meditation on the quality of human life and the problem of remaining human in life. This is a significant feat in the serious Tamil literature.

“Making decisions without wavering; pursuing them fully, right or wrong, unperturbed by contending propositions; not caring about the outcome, good or bad: these give peace. Peace of mind always winks at lethargy, it seems.”

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The first half revolves the author’s admiration of the writer JJ while the second half of the book flows as diary entries of the fabled writer JJ. It is structured as a ‘posthumous fictional biography’ of a Malayalam writer authored by a Tamil writer. I was damned to know in the end that the Malayalam writer, whom the entire book is about, is a fictional character. This element simply made me go speechless. Because the author has provided as much details about the malayalam writer as he can. At first I’m greatly amazed by the humongous level of research he put to write the memoir of his favourite author. But to the contrary I was shocked and delighted as well to know that the writer’s character, dates, places, events and every single thing in this book is the writer’s imagination. The author takes the pain even to give elaborate footnotes of fictitious writers and has three pages of appendices to make this ‘biography-like novel’ seem authentic. Also Su. Ra. mentions Borges, Gorky and Albert Camus to a great extent in many places throughout the book and their influences on the Indian modernist writing
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“The term he employed is ‘Nihilist’. Hereafter, he’ll keep hurling this word. It has nothing to do with Turgenev. Probably picked it up from some Sunday magazine of a news daily. What did it originally mean? In what context, for what purpose, was it coined? He’s not in the least bothered. Haystacks are tipped over needles. And then it becomes the task of a suffering soul to locate the needle.”

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Sundara Ramasamy was one of the pioneers and exponents of modernism in Tamil literature. He was the founder of ‘Kalachuvadu’ publications. He began his literary career by translating Thagazhi Sivasankaran Pillai’s ‘Thotiyude Magan’ (Scavenger’s Son) from Malayalam to Tamil. And he wrote poems under the pen name ‘Pasuvayya’. His other novels are ‘Oru Puliyamarathin Kadhai’ (Tale of a Tamarind Tree) and ‘Kulandhaigal, Pengal, Aangal’ (Children, Women, Men). His works are translated into many languages including Hindi, Malayalam, English and even Hebrew. He died on October 5, 2005 at the age of 74. One can arguably say that Su.Ra.’s language usage has set new directions and possibilities in Tamil literature. Reading Su.Ra. is like negotiating with a minefield!

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“ Diary entries written by JJ are a topiary of ideas, confessions, confusions and contradictions. JJ lays himself bare, and inside the quarry of his existential vagaries we find a man empowered and emasculated by his own genius to the extent that he comes across as incontrovertibly grounded despite his ability to leap most others. Perhaps, Ramaswamy’s greatest accomplishment in writing a book of this nature is the fact that by the end, JJ becomes more an obsession of the mind, a wishful precedence takes over and you are left holding a void that Ramaswamy has conjured out of sheer imagination, the modernism from all of which is justification enough to read, re-read and read more of this wonderful writer.”
– The First Post.

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‘Shabdangal’ (Voices) by Vaikom Muhammad Basheer.

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“There is no one to love me, but that doesn’t bother me. What matters the most to me is that there is no one even to hate me. I’m alone. All alone. Silence, Silence everywhere. The endless voices of silence. The unclear voices of the world.”

I beg your pardon, if you think my translation of this quote has not done justice to the master’s poetic prose. I’m just another amateur. ‘Voices’ (Shabdangal) is a novel written by our ‘Beypore Sultan’, Vaikom Muhammed Basheer. This novel was originally written in Malayalam. I read the Tamil translation done by Kulachal M Yousuf and published by Kalachuvadu publications. This is the first serious work of Basheer I’ve read. This book is divided into twelve chapters and the story flows in the form of questions and answers.

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This novel is a series of conversation between the author and an ex-soldier, who is the protagonist. The ex-soldier is a reader of Basheer’s previous works and he comes to visit him at his place. He approaches Basheer and tells him the story of his life. Basheer take notes of everything the soldier tells and asks him questions while giving answers to the soldier’s questions in the meantime. While reading one can feel the anger towards the society and affinity towards nature in the writing at the same time. The best thing about the novel is that, it flows in the form of questions and answers. The novel touches upon many topics ranging from war, famine, hunger, orphanhood, beggars, thieves, killers, the cruelties happening in the name of religion and god, mental disorientation, suicide, sexually transmitted diseases and prostitution very vividly. It is hard even for renowned novelists to touch upon so many topics and social occurrences in a single work, that too in very few pages. There is so much anger in the writing. This novel faced lot of criticisms during its time due to its violence and vulgarity. There is an existentialist touch in the conversations.

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There are incidents in the novel which speaks about the hardships faced by an army soldier and the mindset of the soldiers during the war and how war transforms the perspectives of a human being thereby inflicting it. The protagonist expresses war as an event in which an individual human being kills another human being without an actual cause or enmity, let alone to fulfil the desires and ambitions of the rulers. The author through the voice of the protagonist claims that waging war is absurd and meaningless. There is a situation where the protagonist is forced to mercy-kill his best friend, who is almost in a dead-pan condition and suffers very much due to the bloody wounds in the battle field. The protagonist mentions that he don’t bath because he is afraid of blood and water seems to him like blood of the earth. This shows how much he is haunted by the horrors of the battle field. He confesses heavy heartedly to the author that he had never done anything meaningful in his life rather than killing people. The novel is written in a post-war era.

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The novel also speaks about LGBT issues, prostitution, the vigorous lives of STD affected people and how the society treats them. There is an incident when a mother of an infant child sells her body to somebody in order to buy food to her child. This scene happens in an old church-like monument which is crowded with the homeless people in the night. This part of the book is considered by Kesari A.Balakrishnapillai as “one of the most unforgettable scenes in world literature” and in fact he compared this scene with the hospital scene in “All quite on the western front” by legendary writer Erich Maria Remarque.

Sometimes due to the mental disorientation, the protagonist speaks out of context while narrating his story to the author and babbles about the beauty of nature, the author drags him deliberately to the context. The author uses the insanity of the protagonist to demonstrate that the physical questions about eradicating poverty and curing diseases are more important than metaphysical questions about the stars and cosmos. Even after suffering so much in his life, the protagonist enjoys the view of sunrise on a seashore and the description of this scene will make the reader feel like a fallen leaf floating in water. The last chapter of this novel is titled as ‘at the end of infinity’.

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The is the first novel in the Indian literature to speak about homosexual intercourse (Correct me if I’m wrong!). This novel of Basheer is somewhat comparable with Thakazhi SivaSankaran Pillai’s ‘Thottiyude Makan’ (Scavenger’s Son) since both the novels speak about a profession considered unclean for the literature to deal with, thereby paving a new way for the post-modern transgressive literature.

The novel is named ‘Shabdangal’ (literal meaning : sounds) and translated into ‘Voices’, because for most of the time in the novel reader doesn’t get to see what’s actually happening but hears the narration of events or confession during conversation between two people, more like a overhearer or eavesdropper. One can say that reading this novel is an aural experience. There is more than once instance in the novel where blind beggar’s voice says,

“What is there to see in this world? I can hear everything.”

It is hard to believe that, this novel is written in 1947. The novel is non-linear and transgressive. This book is adapted into play numerous times. The writer touches upon so many topics within few pages, which in turn makes the book chaotic and congested. Also this book lacks Basheer’s flagship black humour, which makes this an exception from his other works. Most of the Basheer’s books fall under the category of auto-fiction, this book is an exception to that even though it has a touch of realism. Also this is one of the few books that Basheer wrote in a standard literary language since most of his works follows the colloquial malabar muslim language.

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Basheer takes up the role of social reformer in this novel. Basheer speaks out against the evils he witnessed in the society and raises voice against the pretences of modernity. He is straight forward and uncompromising. He doesn’t care about whom or what he is speaking against, be it religion or god or degraded social set up disguised as moral living. As a matter of fact, I would like to mention that this novel was once banned due to its echo that cyclonized a once feudalistic society. Basheer followed a path-breaking, disarmingly down-to-earth style of writing, which made him a legend among writers. Basheer got Sahitiya Academy award in 1970,Central Sahitya Academy Award and Padma Shri in 1982, Doctor of letters by University of Calicut in 1987, State film award for best story (Mathilukal) in 1989, Lalithambika Antharjan Award in 1992, Muttathu Varkey Award in 1993 and Vallathol Award in 1993. 

The meaninglessness of war, the horror witnessed on the fields of battle, the beastliness of domestic squabbles in the name of religion and caste, the degradation hidden beneath the cloak of ‘respectability’, the dignity in the lives of people condemned as engaged in ‘unrespectable’ professions, questions on fidelity and prostitution, the irrationality of belonging to a religion one happens to be born into— all find space in this work of art.

–  Kesari A.Balakrishnapillai about ‘Shabdangal'(Voices)

My grandad had an elephant

‘Ntuppuppakkoranendarnnu’ (My granddad had an elephant) by Vaikom Muhammed Basheer
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 ‘My granddad had an elephant’ is a novel written by Vaikom Muhammed Basheer in malayalam as ‘Ntuppuppakkoranendarnnu’.
‘My granddad had an elephant’ tells us the story of a conservative malabar muslim family. The plot surrounds a girl named Kunjuppathumma who has been forced to form her views about the world that she lives in, through the opinions of others around her. The novel also follows a pleasant love story between Kunjuppathumma, who is brought up in the atmosphere of conservatism and  shallow mindedness and the  educated, forward-looking writer Nizar Ahmed. Even though the daughter of the family, Kunjuppathumma is the lead protagonist and the events in the story happens around her, her mother dominates the plot very much. Her mother’s characterized as a person who used to boast a lot about herself and her family line. Basheer handles this in-style with his characteristic wry-humor and satirical sarcasm. Even the title of the book refers to the boasting of their past familial glories as their ‘grandfather had an elephant’, to hide their present shortcomings. The central theme of the story is the conflict between the superstitional beliefs and the conservative values one upholds versus the modern and liberal thoughts. The work itself is a harsh criticism to the dogmas and irrationality of the conservative society, thereby mentioning their uselessness in reality.
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Like the goat in ‘Pathumma’s Goat’ is a metaphor for the poverty of the family, here the ‘Beypore Sultan’ uses the elephant as a metaphor to symbolise the long past familial glories of a conservative muslim family. As the conservatism mentioned here is not always the rational adversary but also an absurd dream of past splendour. It is metaphorised by an elephant which pops in and out of conversation long after it has been dead for decades. And the obscurantism is gradually undone through a few crisp collapses. I found this to be somewhat different from his other novels, since it has no anger in writing as in ‘Shabdangal’ (Echoes) and no imprisonment as in ‘Mathilukal’ (Walls). As said, he pared the language to its skeleton, taken the bones apart,  and broken them into pieces and then honed the pieces into insane beauty. One cannot simply use absurdity and sarcasm in his literature to bring about a societal change and imposing reforms, unless he is Basheer!
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Basheer discusses without any compromises about the pros and cons of a community which he himself is a part of. He uses simple and innocent incidents to portray how the conservative beliefs hold the life of people in insecurity. In certain places, I had to reread the sentences for better understanding, since the book follows an islamic narration and the conversations in the book flows in a natural malabar muslim slang. The story has a lot of anecdotes from the muslim religious lore. And there are silent sarcasm and black humour throughout the book. It is intriguing to know that our malabar muslims have created a very vibrant sub-culture. And that I can’t resist myself in comparing their raw and marvellous language with that of the black American English.
‘Ntuppuppakkoranendarnnu’ was first published in 1951 in a malayalam weekly. It is one of the most famous works of Basheer. The book comes with a long foreword by the author, in which he mentioned this as his personal favourite among his works. This work faced many criticisms during its time. Many religious organisations and political parties opposed the book and the author publicly. Later on contrary this was included in the school syllabus in Kerala. This book inspired a social change. This novel was translated into many languages (Many thanks to the translators!)  and adapted into play multiple times.
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Vaikom Muhammed Basheer is an Indian nationalist, a humanist and a reformist Muslim and one of the prominent literary figures ever existed in India. He is one of the outspoken figures who revolutionised malayalam literature and thereby Indian literature as well.He is also regarded as the translators nightmare. This is due to the colloquial touch he added to his writings, which ethnically speaking would lose its humour and meaning when translated to other languages.The translation for this edition from malayalam to Tamil is done by Kulachal M Yousuf for Kalachuvadu publications. I don’t think much has been lost in translation. The translation is crisp and on-point. The work of the translator deserves a proper recognition and appreciation.

Pathumma’s Goat

‘Pathummayude Aadu'(Pathumavin Aadu) by Vaikom Muhammed Basheer

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‘Pathummayude Aadu’ is a novel written by one of the most influential malayalam writers of all time, Vaikom Muhammed Basheer fondly known as ‘Sultan of Beypore’. I’ve heard a lot about his works, but I haven’t read anything by him before. So here I am. The translation for this edition from Malayalam to Tamil is done by Kulachal M Yoosuf. The most interesting thing about this book is that, Basheer was mentally ill while writing this story and the story was published unedited. He was institutionalised in a lunatic asylum while writing this novel. And this book is considered to be his masterpiece by both critics and the public.

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This is a humorous novel and a cult-example of realistic fiction. The characters of this book are Basheer’s family members and he himself is the protagonist of the novel. And he narrates the story from his perspective. The goat is a metaphor for the all-consuming hunger of a family living in poverty and it is beautifully handled throughout the novel with Basheer’s characteristic wry-humour. The story takes place in his home in Thalayolaparambu, Kerala. The goat belongs to his sister Pathumma (which eventually become the title of the book!). The goat in the story is characterised by a voracious appetite. It eats anything and everything, it feels like eating. Once it eats Basheer’s lunch along with the banana leaf on which the lunch is served. It even eats some of his novels and other books. And once it tries to eat his blanket!

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There is an event in the book where Basheer’s little nephew comes crying to him, because the goat has eaten his trouser’s pocket along with a 25-paise coin inside it and also that his father will beat him if he comes to know of it. The kind-hearted novelist gives him money from his savings, then catches and ties up the goat and patiently waits for it to defecate, so that he can get his 25 paise back. Even though Basheer uses his humour to describe these events, this clearly shows us the poverty of the family and the scarcity of the money. The use of black comedy is perfect and on-point. This book has a long foreword written by the author himself in which he tells us the circumstances under which the story has been written. This is the only major Basheer work that was published from the original manuscript. There is a statue (pictured above) commemorated in memory of the goat from this novel. Commemorating a statue for a fictional character is very rare in a country like India!

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Basheer wrote this book in 1954. Actually there is no great plot in this story. This novel is a mere collection of various events happening in his home. But he used this to express his views towards family, relations, the importance of money, poverty, philosophy and hooks the reader till the end just with his writing style and the description of events. This novel attacks serious existential issues. This is a fictionalised account of the time he spent  with his family. But as with most of his works, we cannot separate the truth from the fiction. This makes the novel his trademark. There are no plastic situations and over romanticised dialogues in this book. The language is simple and flows with a natural slang. The simplicity and absurdity of the book is what makes it unique. While many writers veil up the sufferings of the islamic people due to strict religious rules and laws, Basheer boldly portrayed the malabar muslim life without any compromises. There is humour invisibly tied to all the lines in the book. This will make you laugh and think in the same time!

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Basheer is one of the pioneers of malayalam literature or we can say Indian literature. He and his contemporaries wrote realistic fiction even before modernism. Basheer was born in Thalayolaparambu, Kerala in 1954. He was a freedom fighter and participated in salt satyagraha. He spent many years in Chennai, Kottayam, Kollam, Travancore and Trivandrum prisons. Then he started a terrorist movement fighting for Indian freedom and expressed his revolutionary ideas in a newspaper named ‘Ujjeevanam’. He travelled all over India and lived in various places under various names and did many different jobs such as loom fitter, fortune teller, cook, newspaper seller, painter, fruit seller, sports goods agent, accountant, watchman, shepherd, vessels cleaner, hotel manager etc. He lived as a hindu sadhu in the banks of Ganga and valleys of Himalayas and also as a sufi saint for many years. He travelled as a nomad throughout the African continent and also spent years in Arabia.

He then became a full-time malayalam fiction writer. He became insane twice during his life time and got treatment in a lunatic asylum. He got the plot idea for his stories from his real life incidents. He wrote many novels, short stories, essays and won many awards. He is noted for his path-breaking, disarmingly down-to-earth style of writing that made him popular among literary critics as well as the common man. He is regarded as one of the most successful and outstanding writers from India. He was a humanist. Even animals, birds, trees, fruits and flowers became the characters in Basheer’s works. He passed away in 1994 at the age of 86.

Vedikkai Parpavan

வேடிக்கைப் பார்ப்பவன் – நா.முத்துக்குமார் (Vedikkai Parpavan by Na.Muthukumar)

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‘Vedikkai Parpavan’ is the autobiography of the Tamil writer and lyricist Na.Muthukumar. He narrates various events in his life from his birth upto writing the first song lyrics for a movie. He divides the story into various chapters and each chapter starts of with a relatable quote. The book is non-linear yet the story comes of as a clearly interwoven thread. The use of magical realism and surrealism in telling an autobiographical story is really mesmerising!

The most interesting thing about this book is that, Muthukumar narrates his own story from a third person’s perspective! Though this is unusual in the autobiographical literature, it comes of as a successful experiment. This makes the book stand unique among other autobiographies. In this work, he speaks loudly about the value of relations and the importance of friendship. He points out various personalities who come across his life and left an impact on him. Also, he tells us about numerous experiments he did, the choices he made, the freedom he enjoyed, the problems he had, the poems he wrote, the books he read, the people he met etc. He emphasises all the stages of his life such as childhood, boyhood, adulthood and fatherhood with equal importance.

The chapters where he struggles to answer his son’s questions about life are poetic and philosophical at the same time. His poems are throughout the book, nevertheless to say they are outstandingly beautiful even though they involve only the use of simple language. As I mentioned above, the use and discussions of various -isms in his autobiography tell us his exposure and awareness towards the world literature. There are many author and book references (added them automatically to TBR list!) all over the book.

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Many thanks to his father, who himself is an ardent reader. It is said that his father had a library with more than one lakh books even before Muthukumar had started reading, which influenced him to read more and more. And thanks to all the good souls, who brought him up and patted him on the back. The simple and poetical titling of each chapters show the amount of research and hard work he put to pen down his own story. The structure, strategy and the flow of this book is impressive. I’ve never read another autobiography which keeps its pace as much as this one. This is a real page turner.

At first, ‘Vedikkai Parpavan’ was written as an article series for the bimonthly magazine ‘Ananda Vikatan’ under the same title. Due to the massive response from the readers, Vikatan publications published this collection of autobiographical essays as a book. This is one of the unique autobiographies ever written! I will seriously recommend this book to everyone.

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Na.Muthukumar was born in July 12, 1975 and brought up in a village called Kannikapuram near Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu. His mother died when he was 4. He was brought up by his father, who was a Tamil teacher and a Bibliophile. Muthukumar wrote poems from a very young age and published his first book named ‘Thoosigal’ when he was just 16 years old.  He holds a B.Sc  degree in Physics and M.A, M.Phil, and Ph.D in Tamil literature. His research work was about the ‘Tamil movie songs of the past hundred years’. He worked as an assistant director for director Balu Mahendra and later switched over his profession to a full-time lyricist. He was the busiest lyricist of his time and worked in numerous films. As a major achievement to his career, he wrote nearly 103 songs in 2012, not even the legendary writers have written as many songs in a single year. He received the most number of ‘Filmfare Awards for the Best Lyricist in Tamil’ and was a two-time recipient of the ‘National Film Award for the Best Lyrics’ for his works in Thanga Meenkal (2013) and Saivam (2014). He wrote 12 books which are as follows:

  • Thoosigal (Poems)
  • Pattampoochi Virpavan (Poems)
  • Newtonin Moondram Vidhi (Poems)
  • Graamam Nagaram Maanagaram (Essays)
  • AAna AAvanna (Poems)
  • Pachaiappanil irunthu Oru Tamil Vanakkam (Poems)
  • Ennai Sandhikka Kanavil Varathe (Poems)
  • Silk City (Novel)
  • Bala Kandam (Essays)
  • Anilaadum Mundril (essays about the relations)
  • Kuzhandhaigal Niraindha Veedu (Haiku)
  • Vedikkai Paarpavan (autobiography)

His books have1 been translated into many languages such as English, French, German and Malayalam. And his poems are included in the syllabus of Loyola College, Kamrajar University, Bharathiyar University, Bharatidasan University and IGNOU. He was married to Jeeva Lakshmi and the couple have 2 children. Unfortunately he passed away this year at the age of 41 creating an irreplaceable vacancy in the worlds of Tamil poetry, cinema and literature.

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The Kite Runner

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

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There is this following quote in the middle of the book ‘The Kite Runner’

“Sad stories make good books.”

If this was true then ‘The Kite Runner’ would be one of the best books ever written. It is devastating, heartbreaking and unforgettable. I don’t know why I’m reading this book too late. Basically It must be because of the hype surrounding this book. Whenever I read a much hyped book, not all but most of the times it doesn’t work out well, at least for me. Later on I will end up convincing myself that the work is good and the problem is with me. But the case is not same with this book, beyond the hype ‘The Kite Runner’ is really a must-read book. The Daily Telegraph, Guardian and The Times magazine named ‘The Kite Runner’ as ‘A Book of the Decade’, not without a reason.

“I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975. I remember the precise moment, crouching behind a crumbling mud wall, peeking into the alley near the frozen creek. That was a long time ago, but it’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out. Looking back now, I realize I have been peeking into that deserted alley for the last twenty-six years.”

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‘The Kite Runner’ is an historical fiction-drama which tells us the story of Amir, as a twelve year old boy in Kabul, Afghanistan and  later as a refugee living in the United States. Amir is the son of a rich Afghan merchant longing for his father’s love and recognition and his closest friend is Hassan, the son of their Hazara servant. It covers a multigenerational period and focuses on the relationship between the parent and children. Hosseini considers this novel as a ‘father-son story’.

“And that’s the thing about people who mean everything they say. They think everyone else does too.”

“There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft. When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness… there is no act more wretched than stealing.”

“It always hurts more to have and lose than to not have in the first place.”

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This book tells in detail about the pain of common people especially children during the Afghan war. Actually we can say that this book is ones search for a lost childhood.

“There are a lot of children in Afghanistan, but little childhood.”

It speaks loudly about the racial discrimination and communal problems between the Pashtuns and the Hazaras in Afghanistan. Even with a very few characters, this novel manages to grab all our attention while reading and holds it dear till the vey end. This book has a number of heart breaking scenes in its quiet intensity. The unforgettable and heartbreaking narration of the unlikely friendship between a wealthy boy and the son of his father’s servant and the great amount of emphasise given for the kite-running festival is what makes the book, sad yet beautiful!

“Not a word passes between us, not because we have nothing to say, but because we don’t have to say anything”

“Quiet is peace. Tranquility. Quiet is turning down the volume knob on life. Silence is pushing the off button. Shutting it down. All of it.”

“I want to tear myself from this place, from this reality, rise up like a cloud and float away, melt into this humid summer night and dissolve somewhere far, over the hills. But I am here, my legs blocks of concrete, my lungs empty of air, my throat burning. There will be no floating away.”

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This unusual and powerful story is set against the backdrop of tumultuous events from,

  • the fall of Afghanistan’s monarchy,
  • Soviet Russian military intervention,
  • the exodus of Afghan refugees to other parts of the world and
  • the rise of Taliban regime and their cruel rule.

“That same night, I wrote my first short story. It took me thirty minutes. It was a dark little tale about a man who found a magic cup and learned that if he wept into the cup, his tears turned into pearls. But even though he had always been poor, he was a happy man and rarely shed a tear. So he found ways to make himself sad so that his tears could make him rich. As the pearls piled up, so did his greed grow. The story ended with the man sitting on a mountain of pearls, knife in hand, weeping helplessly into the cup with his beloved wife’s slain body in his arms.”

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This book surrounds the theme of friendship, betrayal, guilt, cowardice, redemption and longing for atonement. Not forgetting to say that there are many disturbing situations in the book, such as rape, child abuse and public executions but they are inevitable for the plot and in a sense they make the work more stronger.It would be true to say that this beloved book has become a one-of-a-kind-classic. And it is very clear that it will stand through the test of time.

“War doesn’t negate decency. It demands it, even more than in times of peace.”

“People say that eyes are windows to the soul.”

“Time can be a greedy thing-sometimes it steals the details for itself.”

“It’s wrong what they say about the past, I’ve learned, about how you can bury it. Because the past claws its way out.”

“A man who has no conscience, no goodness, does not suffer.”

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‘The Kite Runner’ is the debut novel (seriously!) of Khaled Hosseini. Khaled Hosseini was a physician before becoming a full-time writer. He was born in Kabul, Afghanistan and later moved to United States in 1980. Currently he lives in Northern California. His other novels are ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ (which he calls as a ‘mother-daughter story), and ‘And The Mountains Echoed’. All his novels are written against an Afghan backdrop. He was the founder of ‘The Khaled Hosseini Foundation’ which aims in helping in the Afghan-Refugee crisis and other philanthropic causes. He was named the US Goodwill Envoy to the United Nations Refugee Agency in 2006.

“In the end, the world always wins. That’s just the way of things.”

“I wondered if that was how forgiveness budded; not with the fanfare of epiphany, but with pain gathering its things, packing up, and slipping away unannounced in the middle of the night.”

“It was only a smile, nothing more. It didn’t make everything all right. It didn’t make ANYTHING all right. Only a smile. A tiny thing. A leaf in the woods, shaking in the wake of a startled bird’s flight. But I’ll take it. With open arms. Because when spring comes, it melts the snow one flake at a time, and maybe I just witnessed the first flake melting.”

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‘The Kite Runner’ is a beautifully crafted novel set in a country that is in the process of being destroyed. It was translated in 42 languages and published in 38 countries. It is published as a graphic novel in 2011.

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“Better to get hurt by the truth than comforted with a lie.”

“The desert weed lives on, but the flower of spring blooms and wilts.”

“Yes, hope is a strange thing. Peace at last. But at what price?”

“Some stories don’t need telling.”

This book is later adapted into an motion picture with the same name in 2007 and achieved a critical success!

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“I loved him in that moment, loved him more than I’d ever loved anyone, and I wanted to to tell them all that I was the snake in the grass, the monster in the lake. I wasn’t worthy of this sacrifice; I was a liar, a cheat, a thief. And I would have told, except that a part of me was glad. Glad that this would all be over with soon. Baba would dismiss them, there would be some pain, but life would move on. I wanted that, to move on, to forget, to start with a clean slate. I wanted to be able to breathe again.”

“You’ve always been a tourist here, you just didn’t know it.”

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Kurathi Mudukku

குறத்தி முடுக்கு ― நாகராஜன்  (Kurathi Mudukku by G.Nagarajan)

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This book is about PROSTITUTION. Yeah, you read that right. Prostitution. Kurathi Mudukku is a short fiction about the life of a sex worker. The story is set in a fictional street called Kurathi Mudukku, which is an exact resemblance of Mumbai’s Kamathipura, Kolkata’s Sonarkanchi or any other red light district in any part of the world. This is not a book which gives us some scandalous stuff like those served up by the tabloid journalism. Actually this is a kind of book which no one ever wants to read, for it reveals an indigestible truth and the darker side of the same society we live in.

universal_prostitution_by_the_surreal_arts.jpgKurathi Mudukku is a non-linear, deliberate and steady presentation on the dark and the shameful side of the psyche that we had ignored. This story is a clash between sex, love and marriage. Keeping in mind the fact that I’m a slow-reader, this is one of the very few books that I read in a single-stretch. The narration is very crisp, compelling and on-point. The author never really tells us what he has to tell rather he makes us feel what he want us to feel. There are many weird things about this book, one of such is that the lead protagonist doesn’t have a name. This book mock, ridicule and shake even the very basic pillars of humanity from which the entire life is built upon.

G.Nagarajan was one of the very few most independent writers in Tamil. His works are very much transgressive and hence they are criticised more and more often. Sexuality is nothing but ‘just-another-part’ in his works (Maybe that’s the reason he didn’t get hyped up). This novel became a sensation in its day. Yeah! I almost forget to say that this novel was written and published in 1963. Yes, he was quite ahead his times. The author started his own publishing house called ‘Pithan Pattarai’ (which translates into ‘The Madman’s Workshop’) to publish his works without any adjustments. His other works are G.Nagarajan’s Short Stories, ‘Naalai Matroru Naaley’, the English translation of which named ‘Tomorrow is One More Day’  is published by Penguin.

nagarajangI never expected such an independent stuff from an author who wrote 50+ years ago. Hats off to him! Also I should mention that I was stunned by his economy of words. Whenever one word would suffice, he never uses two. That’s the thing I liked the most about him. As the proverb goes, Brevity is wit!

Actually I want to add up more on human trafficking, sex slavery and forced prostitution in this post :

These are the worst forms of human rights violation and they account for the modern day slavery. It is one of the most cruel organised crimes in the world and also it is a ten-billion dollar industry. Every year tens of thousands of children are being trafficked for sex slavery. Statistics say that, every thirty seconds one another person becomes a victim of human trafficking. As of now more than 5.5 million children are victims of trafficking and forced into sexual exploitation. In India, 76% of the trafficked are minor girls, below the age of  18. You wouldn’t believe that the average age of a trafficking victim is 12 years old.

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“These women sell sex because they have to; not because they want to.”

They are deceived and forced into prostitution. Almost all of them resist being indoctrinated into prostitution. They are further tortured to do as commanded and some face irreversible consequences like being acidified and subjected to other inhuman tortures. And the ones who resist even further are killed gruesomely.Who-is-being-trafficked-2-.png

The rest are intimidated and enslaved. They undergo everyday torture. We think prostitution is easy-money, like it’s some sort of shortcut or something. But IT IS NOT!  Every trafficked person subjected to a routine daily tortures undergo a period of normalisation. They begin to think that this exploitation as normal, which is more cruel than any pain we can ever imagine. We must stand together as one to end this inhuman activity, because No human being deserves to go through, what these children have gone through!

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Sunitha Krishnan, being a victim and survivor of a brutal gang-rape herself is now a saviour of the trafficked children. She saved over 3500 girls from sex slavery. She devoted her life for this cause.

quote-the-sense-that-thousands-and-millions-of-children-and-young-people-are-being-sexually-sunitha-krishnan-88-17-14.jpgThe following are her talks in TED convention. A must watch !