Tuesday, November 22, 2005

One post @ the risk of sounding like the fox

"A hungry fox passed below a fine bunch of grapes hanging high from a vine. After trying in vain to jump and reach for them he gave up, saying to himself as he walked off, 'the grapes looked ripe, but i see now they are quite sour."

This morning my sister sent me the link to a review for a 'popular' author's new Bestseller. She unfortunately received a copy of this 'best seller' from a well- meaning relative who knows she likes to 'read'. Ha. Did i say
unfortunately, her expression, not mine, i would like to hastily clarify.

Another book by the same
popular author was published sometime ago. Yet another well-meaning relative bought the book and gave it to B as a birthday present. The hapless soul thought he was giving B a relevant book, after all it featured his engineering school!

I have to confess i was excited when i heard about the 1st book. Seemed like the desi answer to Snapshots from Hell was finally here. Needless to say, i was getting a bit carried away. About 50 pages on, i was convinced, what's good sauce for goose is not always good sauce for the gander. Or vice versa. Bad editing not withstanding, I did attempt to labour on, but work and all that got in the way, so the book remained unfinished.

Once I attempted to discuss the pros and cons of the book with a friend, she responded with ' My husband who doesn't like to read, says this is a great book'! My point exactly!

Many months followed, as did a brilliant pr job by the author/his publishers. Suddenly this was the stuff dreams are made of! Not literary dreams, but marketing dreams certainly. Every now and then i heard people discuss this book, the intellectuals from their high horse, peeved with the quality of his writing. A former class of the author's, sorely referred to him as 'Vernie' (snobbish public school speak for those who don't speak English quite correctly, with plenty of unforced grammatical errors etc.
) Who would read this, he agonised.

But someone obviously did! Also, no matter how critical the reader / non-reader, everyone, just everyone, grudgingly admitting that the marketing plan was immaculate.

I have to admit though, for some time now i have been grappling with a basic dilemma. It probably started bothering me 5 years ago, when after attending a book reading with VS Naipaul at the Boston Public Library. In the q&a, he said that 'The study of English was becoming common and bastardized' A strong remark there, he was referring to the 'dumbing down' of literary courses in the UK, even in the hallowed portals of Oxbridge to make them more inclusive. Or relevant perhaps?

The reviewer echoes this in her article in Business Standard, 'He (the popular author) writes for a generation that sees very few reflections of its aims, heartbreaks and language in contemporary literature.'

So lower the bar, let others in, and stop being pretentious. Or does it mean, stop attempting to understand things that are difficult, let's play to the lowest common denominator? Let's sell instant novels - ' Bas, Do minute, aur chatpata swadisht kitab ' ? Another take - be more egalitarian, move over Hoi Oligoi, the Polloi are here!

As one fan of the popular author delightfully proclaims on yet another website (appropriately named mouthshut.com!) about his latest book, ON@TCC , ' His language is not heavy duty, story is filmy, and i read in 5 hours flat , man'.

See what i mean? Is it fair that my sister, larger groups of highbrow friends, and caustic, cerebral critics clip the poor popular author's wings in this manner?

I mean, that last comment there, isn't it just the stuff your literary dreams are made of?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Great Indian Kadhai or Dutch Oven ?

Ok. So am almost borrowing the title of A’s TV show. But there really is no better way to describe this.

It probably all started many moons ago when i took the plunge. Went one early june night to meet the Cookie Baking company. Or Bon Bon Babes Inc. Or the Desperate Housewives, always desperate, not necessarily House wives. Took my friend M's advice, ignored the highbrow intellectual advise from well meaning Men-tors, dementors whatever.

There I was, breaking bread in Den Bosch. Be it souped up dinners, pretentious picnics, wild pub nights, I had a life again! It was fun to be the new flavour in this melting pot. To amuse and entertain, and change perceptions about the little Indian girl! Not so much fun trying to clarify for the nth time, no my partner is not Dutch, not American, not English, and definitely not Norwegian. And agreeing heartily, oh yes, he has an unpronounceable name; you know what they say about for bet...or worse and for worse. Just call him U Haul!

In this newfound vacuous existence i actually found myself living, and letting others too! I used the V word because one afternoon as i chattered away excitedly to my sister about a particularly insane, inane girl’s night out, she reminded me ' who has a vacuous existence now? ' I'll bet revenge was sweet. For not so long ago I had dismissed her evening coffee meetings with her numerous friends as 'such a vacuous existence, what trite conversations', while i laboured on in endless and such meaningful meetings!

Yeah. Whatever. There have been weeks when my most pressing concern has been ' oh dear, what shall i wear to J's cocktail do'. Or times when i have have found myself concocting exotic Indian recipes - as a food ambassador. Imagine my delight when in this crowd of English, American, Danish, Dutch, Russian, Swiss etc. girls - i found someone not very different from me! An Indian girl from South Africa, who incidentally has never been to India, but looks, breathes, cooks and eats Indian!

There was the beginning of a Grand Diwali Dinner. No efforts spared. Everything imaginable was on the table. While the Brits claimed to be stakeholders for the Saag Aloo, the Americans insisted with great fervour - Josh Rogan, Rogan Josh was theirs (It even sounds like the son of an ex President!).

But if you think dinner is all this melting pot is about - you are absolutely wrong. There are wheels within wheels. There is the Book club (with plenty of intellectual pretensions) featuring the Smarties. The Fashionistas. The mums’ n tots. The Hate mums n tots. Most importantly - the Critici van het Nederlandse. Aka - what you don't like about the Dutch!

And so it goes. Every time you are at a party, and have stopped tearing to tatters a pretty girl's green disaster (a short, shiny green dress the men are eyeing), and are running short of conversation, it's pretty easy. Just switch to the topic of typical Dutch toilets. Why they are designed the way they are. Know what i mean? If not, you will have to visit!

Yep, this is the new life. The pot. Melting pot. The women's club. The house elf's hermitage. Aha, yes, also the Vacuous Life. A good life?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Pros and Cons of being a House Elf

Me Dobbie. I became attached to my master 5.5 years ago. And enslaved sometime ago, around the time that me completed 3 elf decades. My entry to the house - elf world was not necessarily the best one. Master enslaved me, brought me to an alien country far far away, filled with mutants, giants and other creepy kreachers. My office elf days vanished, to be replaced by a new timid house elf.

I bet i already told you the event that finally signified the beginning of house elf days. When master filled his oft repeated promise of a dog biscuit and glass of water for me, only to replace it with 2 carrot stubs and a half chewed stroop waffel. (i do know how to spell, the mutants however, don't). There i sat at home , locked in, with the fabulous feast i just mentioned.

Such is the story of the house elf. Once Master had 15 of his evil hobbit friends over, and me cooked and cleaned as a house elf should. Before i could say - Master, what are those drum rolls? I found them to be Master's snores instead!

At times master forgets to call home, so i make tons of dinner and eat by myself (am quite a well fed house elf, thank you). Master says am not really a house elf. the one who comes tuesdays to clean is. Well, anyone who must stay at home and follow master's orders, must be one.

I have other house elves i am friendly with. Some of them like me follow their master's bidding. Sometimes we elves go shopping to spend our Masters' money. If it's a very nice pair of party elf boots, we get them quietly, on a Master card, invisible to most. The we drink some elfacinno, or earl fey tea, or at times, just whine.

Sometimes Master looks like he might not need such a tiny house elf after all. I have caught him fancying a rather large, hippograffe in disguise as house elf. Though Master very smart, and doesn't reveal his thoughts.

Today i discovered from a former house elf that our story with Harry is being shown right here, in what the mutants call the 'bioscopen'. Master said it wasn't of any importance. Perhaps he is right, being a house elf and all , one must know one's place.

Did i say something about the pros of being an elf? tgfg vjijg ... drfgag g...
Master says too much time on the laptop. Must go now before master erase this.

May the force (of the House Elf) be with you!