Monday, March 17, 2008

About a few things and generally nothing

It was when I typed the name of my blog in the browser that I realized how long it had been since I had blogged. The fact that the history/auto-complete feature did not complete the name of this blog caused this realization.

This is probably my second post in all of 2008 so far, which is amazing considering that I had 57 posts in all of 2007, averaging a post a week. January 2008 signaled the beginning of a very hectic period at work and it looks like it will be like this for the rest of the year as well. Steeped in this work-well as I am, I wonder how I wrote so many posts last year at all! In fact, 57 posts in 2007 makes me feel guilty now!

Anyhow, it is a very pleasant March in Bangalore with the mercury still pegged down at a comfortable level.

My daily commute, unchanging everyday, cuts through Bangalore with a slightly irregular monotony. The leaves fell off the trees in Cubbon Park and are back heralding in a new season. Traffic jams still occur and my cursing my co-commuters has come down. When some one cuts across in front of me, I give them a sympathetic smile now. (Poor guy, must have an urgent meeting to attend!)

I managed to read a few books in this forced hiatus.

Bhyrappa's Bhitti was completed leaving me wondering if Bhyrappa is really free of human frailty as his book shows. He comes across as this struggler and fighter in the initial part and how he came to be a writer was also brought out quite well. But I did not see a single incident where he commits a gaffe or where somebody proved him wrong. I got to know from somebody else (who has interacted with Bhyrappa personally) that my thinking was on the right track. Very difficult struggles in the initial part of his life (something that nobody should have to go through, IMO) seem to have hardened him in a few ways. Of course, his sensitivity as a writer and artist have remained as responsive as ever. That also made me wonder that if not for his struggles, would Bhyrappa have been a run-of-the-mill professor in a suburban college of Karnataka instead of this path breaking, philosophical novelist?

And then, of course, Kanthapura. Raja Rao has woven a fascinating, albeit distressing tale about a town that is no more. I don't know where Raja Rao's political inclinations lay - but his writing shows a distinct distaste for political maneuvers of all kinds - be it the imperialistic British or the ahimsa of Gandhi. The idealist Shankar is mocked for all his wide-eyed optimism. All his satyagrahas were finally to what end? Raja Rao's English has a distinct fragrance of Malnad Kannada and it is wonderful that his narration comes quite believably from an old lady. That voice of innocence is spread through the novel and at the end it makes the reader quite sad. It is as if my grand mother is narrating a tale on a rainy overcast afternoon after serving me a tasty and heavy meal. I could hear the rain drops pattering when I turned the page.

"The Razor's Edge" by Somerset Maugham is set in the ten-fifteen year period around the Great Depression of 1929. This was my first Maugham novel and my main reason in picking up a second hand copy from Blossoms was a mention I had heard somewhere about Ramana Maharshi. A character very close to Sri Ramana makes its presence in a narrative by one of the principal characters towards almost the end of the novel. Maugham's characterization elicits sympathies for all its characters and you feel convinced that each character did what it would exactly do under the circumstances. Larry Darrell, Elliott Templeton and Isabel are the chief characters and their ways are all completely different. I felt more sorry for Elliott than the others. Somerset Maugham as the narrator and a minor character in the novel is an interesting way - as either the narrators usually are the protagonists in novels with first person narratives. It is interesting but I feel it could have been better without it. But of course, it just tells the reader what the author saw and leaves the reader to fill in the gaps. Apparently, this is not the author's best work. So, I would have to read a couple more of his books. An interesting read is what I would call this.

While each of the above took a while to take in, the fat "Prometheus Deception" by Robert Ludlum took me a few hours to run through. It had been a long time since I had indulged in any pulp-fiction and this was a refreshing roller coaster ride with all the usual masala - international intrigue, a formidable protagonist, espionage, gizmos and beautiful women thrown in for good measure. I enjoyed the change. While the others are more of nutritious food, this was more like fast food - something you enjoy eating anytime but should show moderation in.

I managed to barely enter a couple of other books - but slow paced as the readers need to be - they need to be given a nice cushion of time. bhoja's chaMpU-rAmAyaNam and kuveMpu's rAmAyaNa-darshanam. Both of them poetic works on the rAmAyaNa and yet they make you feel as if you are reading completely different things. I will contrast them later - but both are immensely enjoyable.

I will see if I can write more later - on several interesting things that have happened in the meanwhile - the IPL hungama, India's famous and notorious cricketing and non-cricketing exploits Down Under, elections in Karnataka that seem forever on the horizon, the looming threat of terrorism in normally peaceful South India, the interesting possibility of a US president of African-American heritage and on so on.

Till then, take care.