It is march madness again. The combination of march, America and spring break means that I get affected by the ” I-want-to-be-alone” bug.
The first symptoms were on Thursday, when I came back after class, and immediately went to sleep (at around 11 in the morning). By the time I woke up, I just wanted to be all alone and be by myself. I woke up late in the evening, and stared out through the window. I saw the muted streets below, a car coming out of the driveway, a few cars waiting for the signal, a few pedestrians and ta few runners. The late evening sky was blue, and the sun was preparing to set. But what stuck me was the muteness through the window. And the unfamiliarity. It has been nearly two years in the US, but still, there are days in which I wake up to an unfamiliar country.
Realizing that my dreams were much better, I dozed off again. I somehow managed to talk myself out of Watchmen in the evening, and I started reading “My name is Red” in earnest. Friday was pretty much the same. I wiggled out of dinner at Noodles and company, but could not get out of the late night pub visit. By this time, My name is Red had become really really interesting. I came back at 3, and was up till 5 finishing the book.
My name is Red is a good book. It takes a little time getting used to the book. Each chapter is narrated by a different character and sometimes scenes continue across chapters, bringing in a change in narrator and perspective to the same situation. It took me about 40-50 pages to get the feel of the continuity in the story with the narrators constantly changing. Once you get used to that, you get sucked into Istanbul of the middle ages. It is about the murder investigation of a miniature painter Elegant Effindi. But the story runs much deeper. The Sultan (The Refuge of the World) has commissioned a new book, and Black’s (the main protagonist, the person who investigates the murder) uncle is making it the European style, which is not only new to Istanbul, but is also considered blasphemous. Years and years of miniature art has survived by painting from the so-called top of the minaret view, or God’s view. Painting anything real is considered idol worshipping in Islam, and thus, miniaturists painted the God’s view, or how God saw things. They spent their lives painting in the hope of becoming blind, because becoming blind for a miniaturist was proof that God was not angry with him. Black’s uncle, was a forward thinking man, quite in love with the European (Frankish) style of painting in perspective. A portrait of a man is the focus of the painting, and things farther away are small, and there is the horizon. The story is the inner struggles of the artists, Black, his uncle and Master Osman, the master painter, who is against the Frankish style, to grapple with and tackle the question of change versus tradition. There is an amazing sequence in the Sultans Treasure house, when Master Osman grapples with these issues, and Orhan Pamuk (who got the Nobel prize), writes page after page about important miniature paintings, and the stories the paintings conveyed, bringing to life, not only Master Osman, through whose eyes we “see” the paintings, but years and years of Islamic history. Also thrown is, much like our “sri ram-sene” is a heretic who instigates people to revolt against the tarnishing of Islam culture and a beautifully rendered story of love and unrequited love, and the story races towards its climax. Orhan Pamuk, then slows things down as he slowly unveils the thoughts of all the painters (one of whom is the murderer), and you almost sympathise with the murderer, who believes that change of style is in accordance with the time. He releases time, and in a beautiful sequence of events, ties up all the lose ends of the story, much like a beautifully choreographed dance sequence.
The lonely bug was wearing off and by Saturday evening, I was nearly back to being me again. My room-mate and I cooked and invited friends over, and we watched “Remember the Titans” late into the night. On Sunday, I got to starting the book that I have been wanting to read since the India trip, R.K. Narayanan’s “The Guide”. Halfway through reading the introduction to the book, I found out that the Hindi movie classic, Dev Anand’s Guide is a movie adaptation of the novel. I hadn’t seen the movie but have heard people telling that it is one of the greatest Bollywood movies. So, I started streaming the movie in parallel.
Much of Sunday evening was spent in reading the first two chapters of the book, and immediately, the genius of RKN affected me. The simple life, the easy writing style and the characters would mean that I saw a pyol floating in mid-air in front of my eyes, with the shop just round the corner, little Raju, shouting his lessons out, his father strictly following every word little Raju says with a stick in his hand, his mother ferreting over the oven, blowing air into the coal, the construction workers, forming a human chain passing the raw materials around…
On Monday evening, I saw a horribly made chick-flick, “Just Friends”, about which less said the better, and followed it up with “Kill-Bill-1”, which just has one word for it -Style. Later in the evening, I was drowned in the world of Rosie and Raju and Marco and the swami, and was transported back to the rustic, muddy Indian hinterland.
I slowly dazed of, trying to decipher the characters inside my head, trying to understand Raju the guide, from Raju the swami-ji. All the three characters in the story were selfish. Marco, selfish to his needs, neglecting that of his wife. Raju, selfish in the love for Rosie, trying to be everything that her husband could not be, to gain Rosie’s love, and Rosie, selfish to her dance, selecting, finally, the path of least resistance to live her dreams. Rosie and Raju address the issue of pursuit of happiness that lay below the selfish goals in their lives. Rosie, wanted to dance just for herself, as a hobby, and dislikes her avtar as Ms Nalini, and yearns for a middle life to the two she has had, wife to a rich man and a dance artist. Likewise, Raju yearns for those early days of his courtship with Rosie, when he was the shoulder for her to cry on, and probably, loving the time when he was the bread-winner. Ironically, Raju’s second life, as the swami, was also fueled by the selfish needs, that of food and shelter, but slowly, he grew bigger than the character that he created, and truly became the selfless swami.
The movie too was brilliant. I actually loved the poetic dialogues, every sentence peppered with metaphors. Just goes to show that a movie with a sound and interesting story can not go wrong!
All this, and I am still just halfway through the spring break!