South Asian Writers Challenge: Gently Falls the Bakula by Sudha Murthy

I’m so happy to have started off with my reading for the South Asian Writers Challenge hosted by S.Krishna’s Books. Before I get to the book here’s a bit about the author.

Sudha Murthy

Sudha Murty was born in 1950 in Shiggaon in north Karnataka. She did her MTech in computer science, and is now the chairperson of theInfosys Foundation. A prolific writer in English and Kannada, she has written nine novels, four technical books, three travelogues, one collection of short stories, three collections of non-fiction pieces and two books for children.
Her books have been translated into all the major Indian languages and have sold over three lakh copies around the country. She was the recipient of the R.K. Narayan’s Award for Literature and the Padma Shri in 2006.

SOURCE: PENGUIN INDIA

The book is a short read but a very impactful one. It’s simple in tone and took me very less time to get into its core though the settings are quite unkown to me. The story parodies the life of a couple, both of who are talented and ambitious in their own ways. It starts off with their early conflicts in schools and flows through the subsequent years where Shrikanth and Shrimathi, the hero and heroine, fall in love and feel they are entangled for life. The domestic disputes between their families, which had lasted for years as far as they remembered, shadows their relationship throughout passively. Though their differences don’t enter directly into their combined happiness, it still penetrates into their personal peace. Life and strife gets the better of them as years progress and Shrimathi feels the pinch of the sacrifices she blindly made for the man she loved. Despite the advice of her mentor, an old Professor from the United States, to pursue her passion for history she goes on to give up all her personal goals for the good of her husband. But even after ten years of unfaltering devotion to her family she finds all her sacrifices being neglected and even worthless. The pain unrequited love is felt clearly through the lens of Shrimathi’s character.

The book deals with a heavy, multi-layered topic of complicated family matters very typical of the Indian society almost thirty years ago. It shows in

crystalclear terms the impact of the IT boom in a conventional gild. A strong feminist voice speaks throughout which is the aspect I most loved about the book. Thetenderness and sensibility of a woman, her sacrifices, her fortitiude, her aspirations and her suppression is all set on a platter for the reader to assimilate. Over and above everything is the beautiful metaphorical allusion to the fragrant Bakula flowers, from a variety of ornamental tree that grows in India.

Shrikant was restless . . . Holding a bakula flower in his palm, he was wondering why he was fascinated by this tiny flower, that was neither as beautiful as a rose nor had the fragrance of a jasmine or a champaka. And yet, it was very special to him. It held an inexplicable attraction for him.’

The book is also pretty informative for a short novel that it is. There’s plenty of love professed generously for the poignant Indian king Ashoka the Great , even more admiration for the artistic ancient cities and marvellous monuments of Western and South India. In tiny little bits in between the flow of the story there’s much beauty to discover in the form of facts and little characters.

I completed the reading in about four hours but the story left me with a considerable impact. As a self-professed student of Hemingway in matters of writing and reading, I say the book was a good one because it ‘hurt‘ me. It left me thinking way after I was done reading about women and life.

Jane Austen January: A tale to relish

Via Google

“The family of Dashwood had been long settled in Sussex”

These are the opening lines of one of my favourite novels of all time. At first when I read I thought it a very unassuming starting and that elusiveness is what I like most about it now. It was indeed a very happy excuse for me to read Sense and Sensibility so slowly, allowing for other hum drum things to get in the way, while I thoroughly took in the tale one bit at a time, once again. But nevertheless it was fresh as ever. I never stop being amazed with the little astonishing dialogues and other tit bits that I missed last time.

I love stories where there’s less crowd and more action. This is exactly one such story. Though I’m easily provoked to declare every one of Austen’s novels as my favourite, I completely reserve my total love to Sense and Sensibility. Elinor and Marianne, are just the two sisters who can capture my interest- one all composure, the other all passion. I’ve always admired how much their characters do justice to the title, the words- Sense and Sensibility. I suppose that’s the beauty of a classic- you love it through and through from its title to the font of the print in various versions.

But this isn’t just about the superfluous beauty for the story is well entrenched into the ways and workings of the society which makes it a perfect mirror to project love and despair in all its intricacies. Elinor and her sister, poles apart in their personas eventually set their hearts upon men who are equally different from one another. But strangely their hearts are broken in an arguably similar manner- in that they both have other women who are in the way, for quite dissimilar reasons though. While Elinor secretly suffers her losses, Marianne, whose love for Mr.Willouby, was openly known to the world, is mortified to know that he was to marry another lady Miss Gray. A typical heartbreaking twist yet the reasons for the betrayal that unfold and the way in which they are introduced to the reader sets its mark as a work of Jane Austen. Elinor’s disappointment in Mr. Edward Ferrars’ secret engagement to Miss Lucy, her short time companion, is borne by her with so much of natural virtue.

Of course the sisters meet with happy endings in the end, as all of Austen’s lucky heroines. But the intermediary trials and lessons of Elinor and Marianne are certainly endearing. Marianne’s notions of love and wild passion are subdued by her shockingly disappointing relationship with Willouby and she learns to love sensibly in the end and finds happiness in her long time admirer and well wisher, Colonel Brandon. For Elinor it’s more of a test of her fortitude and constancy that she triumphs to be rewarded with a happy life with Edward Ferrars.

I love the book for three others reasons apart from the beauty of the tale. Firstly it is the ironies that are aplenty and very humourous to note, as always. The most important one bring that Edward who couldn’t read with feeling for the entire world, wished to take orders. I constantly kept imagining the annoying Mrs. Palmers saying, “Oh! How droll Mr. Ferrars sermons are!” Secondly, the characters with whom I instantly got used to than I usually do interested me. Thirdly, the beautiful parks and walks that Marianne so enjoys earnestly made me yearn, once again, to live in that fanciful era.

I must also admit that I have myself learnt a few vital lessons for Elinor represents the kind of person I certainly wish to be and Marianne’s character is nearly what I am.  If I have to recommend a great read now with delightful people, well plotted story with romance too, one that you would want to read over and over, it should be this.

Admirable Women

I am a people person who loves to know what the other person’s life is like and their desires, dreams, struggles, passions, dislikes intrigue me. My inquisitiveness will see no end and this drives the sympathiser in me. Every now and then I find myself in depths of some person’s story, hoping and hating with them. Wikipedia is my constant companion that I turn to during my leisurely hours and read on endlessly about people who I’ve heard and not. Biographies are like friends to me. The people in them seem more like one of my own and I treasure the experience.

Women who veer off the conventional margins of life are the one’s who most amaze me. And every time I hear or see them I feel invigorated to strive for more. The reason these woman evoke such reverence is because they have transcended their personal and social limitations and combats and have dared to look beyond. More often than not we find people who say a lot about them and some are even cynical about these achievers. But then again these women have shown that only look straight ahead of them.

Oprah Winfrey

In my list of favourites, Opera Winfrey figures surely at the top. The hardships she faced in her early years are shocking and sad. For someone who was abused at the age of nine she has really showed the world, this chauvinistic one, the power of a woman. We all love her show and have been following it very dearly. It is her courage and empathizing nature that has brought her where she is today. She has been a great inspiration for me ever since I stopped watching Blue’s Clues. Even her voice has something very genial and genuine about it that one can listen to her for hours. And combined with stories she brings to light it’s just one amazing ride. Another thing for a book lover like me is her book club and its recommendations. I have sincerely read most of her recommendations. The acclaimed book, The road by Cormac McCarthy, The Heart is a lonely hunter by Carson McCullers, Freedom by Jonathan Franzen are some of my favourites from her recommendations. Yet another aspect that I really admire in Oprah is her spirituality. The spiritual journey of an individual is often fleeting and inconsistent and I take every opportunity to nourish my spiritual hunger from every source I can get. Her web posts are very convenient to get to and read and ponder about. Oprah is one amazing woman who I shall always love and admire. Ironically I haven’t got to her autobiography as yet and I sincerely hope to read it very soon.

Samantha Brown

Then the other woman who comes to my mind when I think of the admirable sort is Samantha Brown. At her age I wonder if I’ll be able to do my groceries decently! Though many like to term her life as ‘lucky’ I refrain from it. I believe that she is truly blessed by God Almighty for getting to travel the world like that only happens to one in a million. It requires extreme physique, mental stamina for a woman to hop about from continent to another. I wouldn’t be surprised if Travel Channel aired a new series, “Passport to Pluto” with Samantha gleefully going on about it “icy surface”. Again her voice is magnetic and is my absolute favourite too. I just realised that I seem to love women with great voices. Or maybe it’s a coincidence, But whatever it is Samantha is simply admirable. I do not think I have watched any other show as many times as I have watched, Great Hotels, Passport to Europe and Girl meets Hawaii. I love her language which is as exotic as the places she visits and of course her dressing style. Her sense of humour which is perfect in timing and meaning as well sets her apart from the rest of the clan. Most of all its her courage that truly exhorts me. For a to-be journalist this is the first thing that I take from her.

Barkha Dutt, the super-charged, intrepid Indian journalist is another one in my list. She has every high honour to her name that a woman can possibly be garnered. Her passion for journalism purely has taken her from her humble beginnings to national fame. Fear is something Barkha I assume has never seen for where have you heard of a young woman from a conventional society report from a war live. This commendable feat brought her a lot of acclaim and popularity. She has a clever way with words and a compassionate way with people. These are the two foremost qualities that I see in her and wish to imbibe. In an era where journalists are scorned as being political and corrupt Barkha sets an example for clean news making and reporting.