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Posts Tagged ‘marriage’

UNACCUSTOMED EARTH” is my first brush with Jhumpa Lahiri’s work and as expected I was not disappointed at all. Whenever I heard people talking about her writings, I always thought that I had missed out on some interesting reading, but only ,till few days back, when a friend gifted me “UNACCUSTOMED EARTH”, Ms Lahiri’s latest venture. And today as I finish the last page of this collection of short stories I  am engulfed with two thoughts!!
The first being of sheer admiration for this brilliant writer for penning down something so authentic and secondly of deep regret as in, why on earth I have not read her previous works….!!! So, before I go on with my review on “Unaccustomed Earth”, I have to promise myself to grab copies of “Interpreter of Maladies” and “The Namesake” as soon as possible !!!
“Unaccustomed Earth” is a stunningly beautiful collection of short stories about expatriate Bengali families.In this set of eight stories, Jhumpa Lahiri have very maturely dealt with common yet complicated issues faced by the parents and their children who are Americans in more ways than one. The gulf between the Indians living in America and their next generation, along with other relationships on the whole, is the predominant theme of this book .To begin with, in the title story “Unaccustomed earth”, there is Ruma who finds it an obligation  when her father arrives at her place to spend time with her and Akash (Ruma’s son) only to discover later how comfortable she was in her father’s presence that she wanted him to stay back forever . Followed by “Hell- heaven” a beautifully woven story about  relationship and dependence. “
Choice of Accommodation” tale about Amit and Megan who in their own ways find their lost love in the dorm of Amit’s school when they actually thought their marriage has crumbled. Then comes “Only Goodness”, story about Sudha and her brother Rahul who struggles with alcoholism and Sudha’s disappointment and bewilderment for his plight as she is the one who introduced him to alcohol. And lastly “Nobody’s Business” is about Sang who loved an Egyptian man only to realise that she was being ditched and cheated for another woman. The part one ends with five mesmerising stories. All about different facets of human life and relationship in different situations and connotation. A poignant portrayal of the ups and downs of life on the lines of expectations and emotions, these stories by Jhumpa Lahiri make you feel as if they are “our own” !!!
The second half of the collection, the trio of stories is what touched me the most. Hema and Kushik’s life intersect each others,first in 1974 when Hema was six and Kaushik was nine; then a few years later, at 13, she drools at the now-handsome 16-year-old teen’s reappearance; and again in Italy, when she was a 37-year-old academic , and he was a 40-year-old photojournalist. They meet at a juncture of their life when Hema is all set to get married and Kaushik still finding a companion. Interestingly, among all the stories this is the only one where the narration ends in the present day unlike the others which are set in the backdrop of 80s making, it very identifiable and realistic.Right from a compelling  narration, to well crafted characterization, exquisite location and amazing story telling with a touch of loss and sadness at the end, ” Once in a lifetime”, Year’s End ” and “Going Ashore” are indeed worth a read.
Jhumpa Lahiri’s take on Bengali- American is very interesting. Her characters are complex and are tangled with lot of emotions, yet I found it easy to sympathise and empathise with them, even though my world is far from theirs.  Ms.Lahiri has literally brought the Bengali culture alive with her realistic depictions in all her stories and her mention of the little nuances of the daily life in a Bengali household has actually left me speechless.  Interestingly, some fiction involving immigrants has been hard for me to connect with in the past,but this time I had a very clear idea of who Ms.Lahiri’s characters were as well as their struggles.Like many children of immigrants Ms. Lahiri’s characters are well aware of their parents’ expectations. Ms. Lahiri distinctly shows how some of these children learn to sidestep, even defy their parents’ wishes knowing fully their parents’ repercussions.. But she also shows how perplexed and haunted they remain by the burden of their families’ dreams and their awareness of their role in the process of Americanization. Ms. Lahiri’s emotions are not demonstrations but a definite showcase of her emotional arithmetic. Specially in the last part of the book, I  sensed the author’s elegant and haunting power of tragedy….a testimony to her brilliance as a writer.
What remains the highlight of this book is Ms.Lahiri’s penetrating eyes on the experiences of the immigrants, their life, marriage, work, and love. The stories are perfect, thanks to Lahiri’s keen sense of life’s abrupt and painful changes, and her avid eye for detailing. This collection of powerful stories about the fates of  Bengali families in America , dramatizes the divide between immigrant parents and their America-raised children in the most realistic and genuine way.

Before I close I have to say that this novel is certainly a revelation to me. A brilliantly put together prose with immaculate precision in terms of people, places and thoughts, “Unaccustomed Earth” is definitely a must read for all those who love short stories.Perhaps…what remains unquestionable throughout is Ms.Lahiri’s intentions…..she surely wants us to get accustomed with her books…and she manages that very well indeed 🙂  !!!!

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The Zahir by Paulo Coelho
A beautifully woven story, gorgeously blended with Paulo’s trademark philosophy and spirituality, The Zahir is yet another delightful piece for all those who are trying to find out what love and relationship is all about. A story about an author and his journey for self discovery, The Zahir with its semi autobiographical narration gives the much needed insight to his readers on love and understanding  in the per view of  married life.
The narrator, a best selling author himself is happily married to a war correspondent, Esther, until one day his wife disappears from their Paris home without a word of explanation. The author is at a fix…what went wrong? Was she kidnapped or she ran away with another man or she fled away from her married life? A host of logical and illogical questions begins to linger around him, which not only requires contemplation about the status of their marriage but also his own life.The much needed answers to pacify the unrest in his soul. The author decides to find out his wife and through out the journey is forced to reexamine all the different facets of his life, his profession, love, marriage and infidelity. In this quest of self discovery the author writes books and eventually becomes famous but fails to understand the emptiness in his life. He always believed that his wife loved him  and now that myth has been shattered with his inexplicable disappearance, the author goes into this mode of transformation. Although Esther is physically and emotionally lost to him, but he finds her in The Zahir. According to the book, The Zahir in Arabic means “present”, or “incapable of being unnoticed”. It is something that grabs our thought, mind and spirit and demands our full attention. It lingers around us all the time.It is believed to lead to either Holiness or madness. In this book, the Zahir is a woman, Esther, the Zahir. As Paulo explains ” she fills everything.She is the only reason I am alive. I look around, I prepare myself for the talk I am to give, and I understand why I braved the snow, the traffic jams and the ice on the road: in order to be reminded that  everyday I need to rebuild myself and to accept – for the first time in the entire existence- that I love another human being more than I love myself.”
The author realises that even though Esther is not with him physically but her presence is mounting and there is no way he could  escape it ………” I am pleased that she exists; she has shown me that I am capable of a love of which I myself knew nothing and this leaves me in a state of grace“. During these days, he meets Mikhail, the man suspected to be behind Esther’s disappearance, but through his strange and mysterious way he creates a deep impact on the author and makes him understand that in order to find Esther, he need  to ‘find himself’ first. Mikhail introduces the author to a  “tribe” of spiritual seekers who resist, somewhat vaguely, conventional ways of living. And through the author’s journey from Paris to Kazakhstan till he finds Esther, he explores various meanings of love, understanding, marriage, sex and life on the whole. The author finally finds Esther in the steppes of Kazakhstan. And more than that finds the all important missing threads of their lives.
This story is stunningly beautiful. Each page has a gem which will simply make you smile, think, and then move ahead to find the next. . For me this book is a source of enlightenment. I simple loved Coelho’s take on love. He says ” Love was also a synonym for tenderness, security, prestige, comfort, success.Love could be translated into smiled, into words like ‘I love you…” Beautiful lines indeed !!!  The novel has taught me to leave the past behind in order to move on. Something which I feel is undoubtedly  the best way to move ahead in life. As I always said I vehemently rooted for  the characters in Coelho’s novel. But in The Zahir, it is his profound thoughts and his takes on few very essential things in life along with a mesmerizing narration,  that steals the show and makes this book  wroth a read. It is hard to read Coelho’ works without being touched and The Zahir is no exception.
Finally, as Paulo says, ” ….to me that suffering occurs when we want other people to love us in the way we imagine we want to be loved, and not in the way love should manifest itself – free and untrammelled, guiding us with its force and driving us on,” I wish I had read these lines before !!!

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