Saturday, August 25, 2007


Another year, and yet another birthday.. This time, I had almost forgotten that it was coming up, before being reminded my the ones most dear. Somehow, they manage to reach out to you well in advance; to call you and feel happy for your presence, which somehow validates your existence.

I remember the birthdays of long ago, looming with the anticipation of wearing a colorful dress to school . A couple of days before the birthday, I would go shopping with my mom to choose a box and fill it with the candy that everyone loved. (In India, you had to treat your friends on your birthday, not the other way around. It still puzzles me.). Compliments accepted graciously, I would distribute the candy to eager classmates after they sang the most popular song in the whole world. Closest ones would get two pieces, of course. Then there would be the birthday party, with the homemade egg less cake and favors.

As school days mutated into college days, the scene changed a bit. No more candy boxes. Surprise parties hosted by friends who somehow felt that the birthday cake was not a thing to eat, but rather a buttery face cream for the birthday girl. Sweet presents and good times. You had to treat your fiends to a birthday feast at a good restaurant though.

Birthdays here were not very different, except that the "treats" dwindled but the celebrations persisted. Wishes flew across the internet, doubling the total messages on my scrapbook or wall in a day. A myriad of wishes, sometimes a simple "happy birthday", sometimes a personal email, or a call from a close one at midnight, they made me feel happy, loved & wanted, especially when I was not too exited (it's not the twenty first one, you know)

I was also able to catch a Broadway show this time with a good friend. "Les Miserables". We were both taken in & mesmerized by the beautiful art direction which cleverly reflected the Paris of the Nineteenth century.

Overall, it was a wonderful day, making me feel nostalgic, happy and loved all at once. Thanks to all the wishes from everyone near and dear.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Book reviews

So here I am back again, with perhaps a ton of things to say after my long hiatus. I have done so many things over the past few weekends, read quite a few good books, watched my share of movies and worked hard as well, that this would promise to be a loong entry if I do not filter through what I have to say.. so here goes.

Let me go over the few books I read; the one similarity between most of them being their Asian origins. I thank the five hour long journeys across three states over the course of two weekends for introducing me to them; The first was "The Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahiri.

I do not need to introduce this Pulitzer prizewinning artiste, but for some reason the plight of Gogol and his unfortunate name made for a much more pleasant and intriguing read than her "the Interpreter of Maladies". I loved the shattering of the stereotypes, the longing for a loved home back in a familiar country, tacitly expressed over chaat made from rice puffs. I could relate to the Gangulis in more ways than one, Ashokes' happiness over new opportunities, the start of a new life in a new home so far from home, Ashimas' initial apprehension which ebbs so much over the course of time that her old home becomes a stranger, all the ones she knew being gone a long time ago. She cries over the home she loves in a land that was once alien but is no more. Certainly the things we miss the most over the course of life are usually the ones we take for granted. Gogol resonated with me long after I put the book down. Of all the characters in the book, the protagonist was the least expressive, but managed to convey the most.

The second book was a comic strip novel called Persepolis; the author Marjane Satrapi had described Iran and the revolution so beautifully through her childhood eyes. What was it like to be at war, lose loved ones & live through it? What was it like to live in a country that did not support a free mind?

Iam now reading "The House of Blue Mangoes" by David Davidar, A book I have fallen in love with even over the first hundred pages, for it describes to my the very villages I grew up in, the very same traditions & customs, long tucked back in a corner of my mind, slowly emerging through the magnificent Imagery. I recollect the festivals of my youth, the temple fairs & my anxiety to get there before they sold out, Chitra pournamis (full moon day celebration) on the river banks, swimming against the current & ex foliating with the soft river sand, drining fizzy rosewater and sweet coconut water, running through the irrigated rice fields in a shiny silk skirt and so many such little memories, smells, tastes made during times I faintly recall. My mind wanders so much that I pause for a whole fifteen minutes between chapters sometimes; slowly churning up those childhood days and perhaps unique experiences. It makes me quietly wish for a pensieve to store all our most cherished memories to revisit when we wanted to, but then I realize not too soon that the pensieve does already exist in our minds & hearts, and it's what brings back the small bits of joy into our minds to ruminate over..Memories do sweeten as we revisit them...