Abachurina Post Office and Tabarana Kathe

At the very beginning, in a 3 page preface, KP Poornachandra Tejaswi starts with a methodical takedown of the Navya school of literature. Among the reasons, the main ones are that it has become stale, dominated by academicians and professors with no scope for others to enter, and that it has failed to address the life of the common man living in villages. With that, he starts off marking a separate territory that he calls ‘protest literature’ along the lines of Ram Manohar Lohia.

The ones I’ve read by him tend to be light, even while addressing critical environmental issues. I expected satire, dark humour. There is very little of that.

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Abachurina Post Office, the first story, starts off about Bobanna who’s a ‘temporary’ post master for a temporary post office. He doesn’t maintain much discretion with the mail, conducting open sit-togethers to write and read letters for the illiterate. Other posts are put in a kind of bulletin board where anyone can take a look and pass on the message to the intended. Things turn bad when he sneaks off a post card with a nude picture meant for his boss and he just can’t resist doing the wrong thing, read perverted thing, whenever the opportunity presents itself. Things turn really bad when a letter to someone about his daughter makes it to the ‘bulletin board’ and becomes the talk of the town. There’s so much to see here – Bobanna’s desperation, his mother-in-law’s control, the gradual breakdown of his family. This is almost RKN territory, but a lot darker, about how these innocent small town/village guys aren’t that innocent after all. Continue reading “Abachurina Post Office and Tabarana Kathe”

When Breath Becomes Air

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I had been avoiding reviews of this book, as they tend to go all hyperbolic. And it can do bad things to expectations. They probably had already when I picked this up.

Paul Kalanithi was a literature major, he was then a neurosurgeon, and then he contracted lung cancer and died in 2 years and wrote a book in the meanwhile. It felt almost miraculous, all these things coming together. And I use the word miraculous in a crass way. I refused to believe. I still expected a book about the grandioseness of life, meaning, a lot of philosophy, deep insights on mortality. I expected to be swept away by the sheer enlightenment and perspective it would give me. Continue reading “When Breath Becomes Air”

One hundred years of solitude

I won’t call this a book review, even though it will get categorized as one. There are some books which are beyond reviews, where all you can do is experience it and sit down and experience it more. Sometimes when you take a nap while reading it, it can play out in your dreams. More experiencing.

At some point I thought the book was about some Latin American politics and maybe I would not get it. Towards the end I kinda knew it was much more. It was all about humans and humankind itself. To say that the book is tragic would be an understatement. It’s built on the one word – solitude. Whether you are the kind who spends 3-20 days at a stretch celebrating and growing fat, or the kind that goes to war just for pride, or tours the world as a sailor tattooing every little inch of your body, there is one word that describes all – solitude, they either live through it or withdraw into it at the end.

The magical realism that he’s said to use in the novel adds that sense of mystique to the whole thing, somewhat like ‘Naayi Neralu’, just that here it is more of there for you, while in the latter you are not expected to have made up your mind on it, and can end up question it every few pages.

After those half a dozen generations, I felt myself plodding towards the end, weary and wondering when I’ll come to the end of it. It’s not the writing style, it’s the whole setting he creates right in your mind, of the village of Macondo that starts of as a tiny hamlet visited by gypsies, their only contact with the outside world, moving through generations, one with a war fought for pride, one with a banana boom, one with 4 years of non-stop rain after the boom. Towards the end when the times of the war and the gypsies seems like a long time ago (and it is!) the people in the town have no memory of those either, and the booming town starts resembling a desolate place waiting to be washed off. There are massacres which no one talks about, which makes you wonder how much of it was true or false, a rain that goes on 4 years playing with the minds of the people in the town. The Buendia residence itself, the house which starts off from a small one, expands, falls apart, falls lonely mirroring the family’s fortunes.

The parchments of a gypsy and their deciphering forms a constant background as someone or the other from each generation locks himself up in a room (which is mystical in its own way!) and tries to decipher them. The gypsy himself keeps coming back from the dead as a ghost to talk to the one working on them, slowly fading away until the whole set becomes clear when the 100 years of that family line he talks about is complete. The revelations form the last few paragraphs of the book.

This is not a book to be read, but to be experienced. No two characters are alike although the names keep repeating through the generations. Each one goes through life with a different set of experiences, but born alone, living alone (even through revelry or family), and dying alone, but the experiences seem circular as they mirror those from previous generations, as if they don’t learn from them.

P.S: Also, found this interesting discussion on the book, read it when you have read this book, not before!

P.P.S: This blog turns 7 today!! (Rather my blogging turns 7, this particular space is just around 2 years old, you know what I mean)