The Guy On The Sidewalk : Book review

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Book:                The Guy On The Sidewalk
Author:              Bharath Krishna
Published by:    CinnamonTeal Publications, 2016
Genre`:              Contemporary
Book Cover:     Excellent!

The book opens with the protagonist rising up to a bright sunrise, sipping hot coffee and smoking his favourite Marlboro Lights soaking up the warm American sun in a friend's backyard. He is moving back to Chennai after six years in The US. His name is Jaywardhan 'Red' ,the book is his story and, I liked his story.

 It's the story of every youth from an educated Indian middle class/working background.
A story of That every youth of India, who does not want just to have a respectable job but, want his choice of job to be respected! More so, by himself.
Wishes to work as per his natural inclinations and, yet, to make it big.

From relationships to patriotism, from that Indianised-US culture to the big IT wave, the book covers the doubts and predicaments of that any average Indian youth who possesses a normal size brain with a capacity to think on its own and is not bogged down by the 'career wave' or, is guided by the IT craze or the quick money churning USwalla jobs.

This is the way I would like to describe the book in a er.. slightly bigger size Nutshell and as per me, it is sufficient to entice anyone to read it.

The Story: The story in itself is common, the protagonist's dilemma, his aspirations and his experiences are common. Normal. But, his reactions, his learning from those situations, his choices, are different and that's what make him, Jaywardhan 'Red', a different shade of Red.
 A roasted, baked, glowing Red, with that deep lava like sheen coming from inside. And not that dull, boring red which eventually fizzles out and turns into a muddy-brown.

Characterization : The characters are well etched and not just the typical 'withIndia' or 'againstIndia' version caricatures. Characters who are unapologetic for their stay outside India. Who don't mask their choices with varied 'needs', who miss the American cordiality and mouth gems about Indians like-
" We have a proud cultural legacy but not a culture in practice."  and
"Virginity in India is more out of deprivation than dedication." 

The protagonist, Red has a rare and very attractive quality of honesty.. its brutal, omnipresent and very charming. :)
The fringe characters Venkat, Jhansi, Amy, Siri .. are also drawn with that beautiful simplicity which seems to be the natural style of  Mr. Krishna.

What I like the most, is the transparency and honesty distinctively evident in every word of the author. I feel the story as if it is His story and though I have never faced the IT dilemma, still felt, as if it's My story!
Those turbulent times of dilemma, that stupid stubbornness for excellence, the way I doggedly used to listen to my heart and consciously steered away from every IN thing, that refusal to be a part of a herd of sheep and NOT to dream an American dream simply for its earning potential... was so relatable, that I cried while reading.
In author's own words, the way IT turned every hard earned University certificate into dirt and every dumbass into an overnight success minting dollars, many, without even knowing that IT stands for Information Technology, the barbs stuck home.

Writing Style -  The writing is simple, easy on mind yet, mercifully NOT colloquial. It has that fluidity which makes the reader read more then he had originally intended to and, at times, solely due to that conversational and casual way of writing down the inner turmoil of the character and their feelings with much ease and natural flair, the book is prone to be finished earlier which happened with me despite a huge time constraint!

 Some casual lines showing the effect of unadorned words.-

"Finally, the dinner party last night ended like all other parties. No one in the group was devastated because I was leaving them the next day." 

"Talking to Siri was an ongoing thing for me, either I talked to her on phone or I talked to her within myself."

Only Grouse: My only grouse was the occasional mistake overlooked at the editing table and the way it ended.
I don't have ANY issues with the end as THIS type of end made Red a fighter, a man true to himself. Following and standing firm with his instincts. Whatever they were/are. But I feel, readers DO expect a kind of concrete ending depicting what exactly he did after returning to India to justify this step. Perhaps a second part is in waiting, which will be a welcome. :)

Personally, being the conscience driven person I am, am okay with Red's decision of moving back despite his clear liking to the American way of life. The clean weather way, the way which offers competitive education, quality healthcare, progressive work culture, public civility, equal laws...
I feel, he wanted his people, the fellow Indians to experience the same. To have that type of stress free daily life. But, knowing well that he alone can't bring that change in his vast, divided, politically rotten, corrupt, over populated judgmental nation, he came back. Laced with that experience. May be doing his bit, simply by living in his own nation.

Book Cover :  It shows vivid oriental colours and Indian motifs with the bleak grays of American skyscrapers, and like the protagonist, both are accepted but not merged. This makes the cover a beautiful one. Kudos to the designer.

I had received the book from the writer for an honest review. I am thankful for him not only for the book but for showing a legendary patience which many boast of but only a few possess.. 

Mute : Haiku

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                                                                           mute anguish of love
                                                                           has silenced forever... that                                                                                                                                                   blithe chime of my heart

 Image source:here  

वो रुपहली सांझ आये

                                                                  वो रुपहली सांझ आये  

                                                                   स्वप्न वन में झूलने को 
                                                                   मन की व्यथाएं भूलने को, 
                                                                   स्नेह का मधुमास छाए 
                                                                   वो रुपहली  .... 

                                                                   मन-धरा के भाव उर्वर  
                                                                   कृतित्व के उन्नत शिखर पर, 
                                                                   यश-विधु फिर मुस्कुराये  
                                                                   वो रुपहली   ...... 

                                                                   निर्दोष कौतुक के वसन  में 
                                                                   मन के सूने  प्रांगण में 
                                                                   प्रणय दीपक जगमगाए 

                                                                   वो रुपहली सांझ आये 

रुपहली सांझ -  the argent, silvery dusk                                                                मधुमास - the honeysweet time 
उर्वर -  prolific                                                                                                     कृतित्व  - creativity, vision 
निर्दोष - innocent, naive                                                                                       कौतुक - childlike wonder
वसन  - cloth. here attire                                                                                      यश-विधु - the moon of glory                                             सूने  - empty, lonely                                                                                           प्रणय - romance, love 

Wishing for this argent dusk to descend and liquidate the sorrows into its silver depths. Wishing the dark night to fall to embrace the ugliness of life and switch on the twinkling stars of hope. 
Wishing the earthen lamp of love to be kindled, so what, if by a transient spark ? 
Wishing the innocent childlike wonder to stay, the faith to take a deep hold, make the night earth glow under the lambent moon. 

Harsh unmasking sunrays are still a dream or two away.
 Wishes.. for life:)

Image (Summer Dreaming) : HERE

देहरी : The Threshold (A Haiku and a Tanka )

                                                                     कलिका प्यारी 
                                                                     तुषार कणों मध्य
                                                                     भी स्नेह मग्न

                                                                      मृदुल तन
                                                                      शिशु सा भोलापन
                                                                      द्वैत में मन ... 
                                                                      देहरी पे अटका,
                                                                      अल्हड बचपन !

The Haiku and the Tanka are written for the audio prompt given by dear friend Ravish Mani who created the prompt on my special request .. ahem-ahem :) 

I chose to portray the bridal joy and anticipation, as the audio gave me the ambivalent feeling of happiness and nervousness at the same time. 
Irrespective of her age and education, a bride is essentially a girl going to become a responsible person, an epitome of grace, dignity and maturity just in that distance from her maternal abode to her in-law's home.
Half aware of it, the hurt childhood hesitates but refuses to budge, while the dreams of ensuing future spur her towards that image of rosy bliss.
And there she wonders at the Threshold....  a sweet dilemma!

कलिका  - a bud                                                                                                                                     तुषार कणों  - Frost                           स्नेह - affection                                                                                                                                         मग्न- lost, absorbed           
मृदुल - soft                                                                                                                                               भोलापन - innocence                       द्वैत  - duality, dilemma                                                                                                                               देहरी  - threshold                       अटका - hitched                                                                                                                                           अल्हड -  carefree, jaunty 

Image Courtesy : Here 

Aloha! Women's Day :)

Ahalyā draupadī sītā tārā mandodarī tathā ।

pancakanyah smaren nityaṃ mahāpātakanāśakam ॥

Early in my life, I heard this shloka of the 'Pratah Smarneeya Panch Kanya' which says that Draupadi, Ahilya, Tara, Seeta and Kunti/Mandodari  are the five holy virgins and by chanting their names first thing in the morning our sins are abated.

It made me realize the futility of adornments. The hollowness of words.
Those who were mauled and molested to be called eternal virgins! 

Somewhat like the Nirbhaya Act of our times.Where we fail on all grounds of humanity and morality, when we found ourselves worse than barbaric animals, we try to heal (?) and replenish by making the victims sit on a pedestal, converting them into saints, angels, Devis and martyrs.

There are innumerable examples of female stereotyping, but for me, it goes deeper than that. The basic reason for it seems to be the ability to give life which a woman possesses and a man does not. Perhaps this deep rooted insecurity of this power of her goaded him to create rules and traditions.This deep-set insecurity is in the psyche, as well as in the genes. 

So, she is either a Goddess, the pious and the giving one, benign, smiling benevolently, patient and forgiving OR a witch, the bloodthirsty one, selfish, conniving, sly and scheming. A Total terror. 
 Nowhere is she accepted as Manvi .. the Human. A person.
A person having small dreams and moderate aspirations. Lakhs of men can survive a dull life of daily drudgery with aplomb, but for a woman to be happy being just a teller is looked down upon! She needs to prove herself by being nothing less than a Kiran Mazumdar Shaw or an Indira Nooyi. Otherwise, her education is a waste! 

She is not accepted as a person with human weaknesses and human follies. Not allowed to falter in speech, dressing and behaviour!

It made me wary of being good or bad actually, of being labelled.
I was determined to be happy.
To take responsibility for my mistakes and credits of my heroic deeds which I seem to perform left, right and centre! (Yeah yeah, I am still pretty good there.)
I also felt most males as a bundle of clueless energy, not knowing in which direction they ought to run but I never felt them being better or lesser than females. They were just different..well, slightly. 

Hence, I faced the discrimination , the mindset, the stereotyping simply as a human and not as a female. I have actually taught myself that. Not to mind such comments/questions like,  You are a late riser? Don't you like cooking? You like wandering aimlessly?  yak-yak ..
Yes. I am an owl who likes to burn the midnight oil and why don't you take charge of the morning chores if YOU are an early riser? I enjoy cooking but I don't feel an adrenalin rush to realize that I have to be in the kitchen five times a day daily, like Forever! 

Munshi Premchand once  said, 

"If some traits of a male come in a female she becomes demonic and if the female traits enter in a male, he attains godliness."

Do not misinterpret it as he simply meant that The Perfect Raymond's Man, The Ideal Suitable Boy, when imbibes only a few of the feminine traits like of compassion, unending affection and patience, he becomes God!
Urvashi, our very own celestial nymph has said that to Pururva, her heroic and valiant lover, who was so smitten with her that in order to invoke her soft feelings he went on for days singing about his own heroic deeds! To which she simply replied -

 *देवालय में देव नहीं केवल मैं हूँ 
मेरी प्रतिमा को घेर उठ रही अगरु गंध 
बज रहा अर्चना में मेरी, मेरा नूपुर  

Meaning it's the masculine energy adorned with the feminine nature which makes him complete - a God from a warrior. Without her, he is just a doer, an achiever ..with 'her' he becomes a creator.
The feminine energy is that elixir which is said to be dripping from the hood of the deadliest venomous pythons and snakes, protecting them from their own poison. 

So I give two pence to dress up according to the in-thing and not even one paisa to be considered as an 'in-sync' person. I simply can not afford to care! 

I am the only sari-clad bahu in my entire family including the extended khandan.. simply because as a child I used to see my mother get ready for college in smooth shiny silks, pastel chiffons and crisp cottons with peacocks sauntering on her hems and creepers dangling coyly on the pallav! No one, including my strict and ultra-modern mum-in-law, could put me off from getting decked up in sarees! I would drape the whole six yard (anyhow) and emerge confidently to face the world rather dazedly pass through the world, as I used to be too engrossed in adoring the softness of the saree, the colours which make me feel as if I had draped myself in a piece of sky or am in Eden with flowers blooming shyly all over me!  

And for a full one year, I have teamed-up my sarees with a pair of powder blue running shoes! Don't ask why as that was the need of the hour..err.. year. They were cute as a blue bunny but for some reasons unknown, the neighbourhood aunties at my in-law's home felt otherwise and found them to be hideous! *rolling eyes*
Obviously, I did not pay heed.
 I was and still am too busy living this one life to the fullest. 

It does not matter to me if the world knows about Tandava only, as I know the Lasya.
The extremely soft dance of Parvati, the dance of grace and beauty,  which she performs in response to Shiva's roudra Tandava - the dance of destruction. It's through Lasya that she harbours the seeds of life, protects the fauna, nourishes it with her tears of love and  caress the scorched black earth back to life. I firmly believe in that part of the balance and no one can stereotype me for it. Unless of course, I am willing to be.

* In the temple it's not the Lord, but I
The incense fragrance encircles  my idol,  
The bell of my anklet tinkles in the worship of I

The Post is written as my views on Being Woman for my dear friend  and fellow blogger Dr. Kiran Acharya.  To read her wonderful post talking about gender stereotyping vist HERE. 

Her post is studded with nuggets of  wisdom from some of us women bloggers, which we have experienced, gathered or wilfully lost !. 

I am indebted to Kiran for this beautiful initiative :)

Image Courtesy: Here  

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