Monday, 17 June 2019

Patna Blues

Kullo nafsin zaikatul maut
(Every living being has to taste mortality)

The blues of Patna  (Patna Blues by Abdullah Khan, Juggernaut 2018) come in various shades. Some are confessional, some on the verge of morbidity and some are tainted with clichés. The book takes one through a city in the grasp of a time which was very different from today. The time where 15 minutes of internet cost twenty rupees, and twenty rupees was a week’s travel for a middle-class Patna boy. Class becomes one of the focal points of the book and influences the protagonist’s every decision. The close nexus of class, caste and religion governs almost every Indian’s behaviour and Arif’s family is no stranger to this. The marriages are obstructed if the boy’s mother isn’t a Pathan but not if he’s asking for heavy dowry. All problems are infused within the everyday life. This is the most absorbing element of the book for many have covered the lives of the middle-class strata, but most usually take refuge in either showering pity or romanticising the problems, giving an otherworldliness to this common world.
The lives of a Bihar police officer, an IAS aspirant and a budding actor are complimented by the side roles of daughters, mothers and grandmothers who are secondary opinion makers. All the blessings that they earn are on account of their compliance. Even their biggest problems are normalised to the extent that greedy in-laws and halted studies are reduced to inevitable realities of these characters.
There are many stereotypes within the narrative of the book which rear their head especially through the protagonist’s opinions on women. They’re easily branded as shameless and whorish and evaluated on lines of their physicality. Arif’s love for a married lady starts off with cliched notions of long tresses, dimpled smiles and kohl filled eyes. But, through the long periods of longings and reunions, he comes to realise the practicality that his love lacks. It’s a passionate love which keeps both of them hanging. “Nobody does a cost-benefit analysis before falling in love.”, he tells himself early on. Yet the revaluation is inevitable towards the end as he realises that matters of heart cannot be governed by the heart alone.

While their love runs along the lines of Bollywood sequences, the conflict between desire and duty is portrayed accurately at various points. There’s a continuous struggle to not surrender to ‘Nafs-e-Ammarah.’ Their belonging to different religions entails conflicts which portray the religious division that lied, and continues to lie, at the heart of Indians. This aspect is quite elaborated by depicting small instances of communal disharmony to organised violent riots.
Another major narrative within the novel is of the protagonist’s brother who disappears during the police arrests that occur after a chain of bomb blasts in Delhi. This marks the common account of many Muslim youth in India – who are branded terrorists, become victims of fake encounters and long battles in court. The helplessness of the father son duo in the city, which loses their own flesh and blood, is bound to fill one with intense empathy. The grief and pain that engulfs the entire household is shown in all its incomprehensibility.

The book is a sincere account of the human condition. The frailty of human life which is stuck in a limbo as it loses a loved one in the most unexpected ways. Arif can’t help but witness his father struggle to make ends meet and try to survive within a structure where rearing dreams of a respectable career comes at the cost of being branded as an idler. The anxiety that marks Arif’s existence through the continuous failed attempts at becoming an IAS officer and seeing himself as a failed son and brother is portrayed with an intense clarity. For this Patna boy, even ending his own life is a privilege.
Patna Blues depicts human condition as it exists in contemporary North India. The India where streets were deserted to watch an over of Azhar vs McGrath. Where protests and processions put everyday lives on halt. Where bribes and recommendations are the basis of jobs. And where a young man’s idealism and high morals lose to the harsh realities of tragic yet common experiences.

- Asna Jamal                                                                                                      Visit our site 

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Book review: Love, Loss and Betrayal in Nineteenth - Century Delhi

Beneath the modern metropolitan Delhi that stands today, lie the remains of a royal Dehli which survived centuries. Rana Safvi, in her book, City of my Heart, digs up and translates some fragments of an era which could be attributed as magnanimous, more so, a golden period in the history of  the city and its surroundings. This book is an account of love, loss, and betrayal in the nineteenth-century Delhi. Safvi takes up four Urdu narratives to compile an English version which could have a broader audience at its disposal. The four pieces of work differ from each other in their tonality, yet a common royalty resonates among them, making this compilation a complete work in itself. The chronicles are placed perfectly in order, starting with descriptions of the Mughal lifestyle, proceeding with some first-hand experiences, only to end in a royal downfall. The work of Safvi has a grand narrative, retaining the essence of that period which speak throughout the pages. It is a magnificent depiction of events which would almost deceive you to believe it as fiction, yet it is reality- of the soul of a city that died in the mutiny of 1857. The lineage of Mughals might still go on, but surely not with the exact grandeur that it once exhibited.
The dilapidated sites of historic fascination that we witness today, bloomed with life and vigour at one point, illustrating the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb. Safvi has trapped this very spirit in her work, this originality and genuineness of people and culture that prevailed. It is hard to believe the contrast that Delhi has undergone in such a brief amount of time. The transition from Delhi to Dehli is what Safvi throws light upon. The first part of this book is a translation of ‘Dilli ka Aakhri Deedar’ (The Last Glimpse of Dilli) by Syed Wazir Hasan Dehlvi. This portion is a description of the simplicity and ease of life which existed during the nineteenth-century Dilli. There was a freshness in the aura which dispersed from the Qila to the common folks. Work was divided well and people were content with their lives. There was a respect for the leader rather than fear. Hasan Dehlvi also includes an account of life during the Mughal era as narrated by Nani Hajjan, a mughlani who lived in the Qila. She represents the few witnesses to have survived the mutiny and recounts tales of yore. Her words have an undertone of misogyny which could have been prevalent during those times. Thus, this part is layered and twice distanced in narration, which travelled from Nani Hajjan’s stories to Hasan Dehlvi’s writings, to be finally translated by Safvi.
‘Bazm-e-Aakhir’ (The Last Assembly), by Munshi Faizuddin is the second narrative to be included by Rana Safvi. Faizuddin spent a lot of time in the Qila as an attendant and was aware of the inner workings of the court, hence he was in a unique position to write a tribute to the Mughal court as it was. This is a chronological account of all the festivals that were celebrated during the era. The timeline of all the celebrations that were held is cited in detail. There are also depictions of the routine that was followed by the Badshah and others. Portrayals of a royal morning, afternoon, and night, with all the activities that revolved around them finds its mention here. The delicacies that were served in the royal court is also described greatly. The book places the Badshah as a religious man who is a great follower of traditions. These rituals and customs which descended down from the royal court can be traced in various Muslim households even today.

Mirza Ahmad Salim ‘Arsh’ Taimuri’s ‘Qila-e-Mu’alla ki Jhalkiya’n’ (Glimpses of the Exalted Fort) lines up next to find its place in this translation. Taimuri was himself a descendent of the last Mughal Badshah, Bahadur Shah Zafar- born in the fifth generation of his lineage. He was neither born nor brought up in Delhi and most of the historical accounts he presents are based on hearsay. Taimuri is grateful to his father Hazrat Labeeb who has recounted some unique events for him to pen down. This part unfolds itself in the definitions and brief descriptions of the royal court. Taimuri defines various customs that prevailed then, right from the food eaten to the punishment served. This part is further divided into eight sub-units, each dealing with a different aspect of life, to document the twilight years of the Mughal era. Taimuri includes small qissas (stories) of notable people which he felt were worth mentioning. The account also lists the names of sons and daughters of the Badshah and the fate they served. Thus, he establishes a lineage which was soon to be forgotten. It is in this part of City of my Heart where the Britishers intervene. In a very brief course of events, Taimuri describes the mutiny of 1857, the exile of Bahadur Shah Zafar, and the extinguishment of the Mughal dynasty.
City of my Heart’s final narrative is ‘Begamat ke Aansu’ (Tears of the Begums) by Khwaja Hasan Nizami. There could not be a more perfect ending to this compilation than this heart-wrenching account by the princess called Sultan Bano. This chronicle plucks the chords of our emotions to reveal the tragic story of a royalty in decline. It depicts the Mughals after the mutiny of 1857. The Mughal rulers who in a twist of fate were forced to turn into royal beggars- royal, since the aristocratic air of theirs would not perish even in such times of despair. This portion of the book depicts a strange irony that is life. It places you high on top only to make your downfall greater. The book has accounts of various descendants of the emperor, who would not even think in their wildest of dreams of such a decline. From velvet cushions to thatched beds, the lineage of the Badshah witnessed a full swing of highs and lows. It vividly documents stories of various princes and princesses after the fall of the empire. Their fate toppled over and what was left behind were just nostalgic reminiscences of a glory. 
In four volumes of narratives, City of my Heart captures nineteenth-century Delhi in its fullest. Rana Safvi has very particularly selected, placed, and translated these works to present a correct picture of that time. It depicts the rich cultural, social, and political milieu which is often defamed by historians. On a metaphorical level, the book is a reminder of the transient nature of life which spares none.

~ Nawa Fatima

Author: Rana Safvi (Translator)
Publisher: Hatchette India
Year : October 2018                                                                         

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Proud to be a Librocubicularist

“Are you a librocubicularist?”
“Err… What?” I mumbled.
“A librocubicularist.” She said.
Still with that baffled look and sleepy eyes, I gaped at my friend. Last night, she had come over to my place to stay. While she was about to leave in the morning, she came to bid me goodbye, and as she entered my room, she smiled and pointed at piles of books around me, one of the books laying turned open on my chest.
“A… what?” I asked again.
She answered, and that’s when I came to know that people who had ‘the habit of reading in bed’ had a term to themselves. It’s a pity I didn’t know about it till then, perhaps because it hasn’t been officially included in a dictionary yet. But even the thought of such a word actually existing in English language super excites me. Thanks to internet, now I can even expand my imagination to actually have a cosy bed built with lots and lots of books stacked in shelves at one of its corners, for there is nothing undeniably pleasurable than seeking refuge into the world of redolent yellow pages and immersing in a realm beyond those words inked on them. Curled up in a blanket beside a lamp on a wintery night with a huge mug of hot coffee resting on the side table, believe me, there’s nothing better than reading your favourite thriller for hours together amidst this setting.

So, before I added this word to my vocabulary, I thought of surfing a bit about this on the internet. It turned out the term ‘librocubicularist’ has been made up of two words in Latin: ‘liber’ meaning book and ‘cubiculum’ meaning chamber meant for sleeping. The word was used for the first time almost a century ago by Christopher Morley in his ‘Haunted Bookshop’; it’s a pity that despite being so relevant and relatable, this term is still striving to find its place in the pages of a Merriam-Webster and Collins.

It is said, one should start cultivating reading habits in children at a very young age and I think there can be no better way to do so than making it a habit to read story books to the children at bedtime. This can be one of the ways for the parents and even elder siblings to spend quality time with the young ones and strengthen the bond between them. This would even give the children some amazing bedtime memories to hold on to that they would cherish when they grow up.
In today’s era, it has become difficult for individuals to take out time from their busy schedules and find that mental space to sit back and read, due to which reading time has been shrunk to bed time, and often they devote themselves to reading during weekends and holidays. Nevertheless, the happiness and thrill that one gets to experience from bedtime reading is unmatched. I’d rather like to have my dreams around the characters of those novels I have recently read than to have actual human beings pester into my dreams and turning them into nightmares.
So, if you are a bedtime reader too, then be proud to be called a librocubicularist!

- Saloni Gaba                                                Visit our site

Tuesday, 2 April 2019


“English Majors!!
Oh that would be so easy!! You can literally write anything you feel like and get marks…….”

Well that's a major statement we, students of English Literature get to hear but we try to defend ourselves with the argument that Literature certainly broadens our vision. It enhances our sensibility and sensitivity. Literature allows us to live in worlds which perhaps cannot exist elsewhere, giving us the opportunity of understanding different roles, different people and their personalities and experiences. Most importantly, literature helps in knowing other people's perspectives.
This being put in simpler terms. Harper Lee penned down as “You never understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb into his skin and walk around in it” in To Kill a Mockingbird. A southern Gothic novel with its own elements of archetypes and double consciousness, To Kill a Mockingbird puts a strong message through Atticus, not just for his daughter, Scout, but for all of us. Scout is taught to try seeing other people's lives through their eyes. Scout struggles, with varying degrees of success, to put Atticus's advice into practice and to live with sympathy and understanding towards others. She is thus able to comprehend Boo Radley's perspective, who is further more a disturbed character to interpret .

 The quote isn't as simple as it appears to be in saying, when put into practice, it is certainly not easy to be first adopting someone else's shoes and then being comfortable in his skin. Experience certainly is the best teacher. But given, we cannot experience almost everything, what's probably best is a closer look at those situations, placing yourself in those critical moments and learning to believe in your actions.
It's easier to make comments when you are on the other side of picture, when you are at the far end but suddenly the very actions, you previously found stupid and idiotic, totally turn out to be justified when you put on the shoes of the character in the picture. Certainly this must not be mistaken for defending a particular side. It's simply considering things from a broader vision; for what use is our humanity, if we fail to absorb others’ dilemma and complexities. Besides, it is the lack of this experience that we fall prey to victimhood of oppression and negative criticism.
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How humane and beautiful it is when you are able to recognize a person as not a terrifying other, who is at fault but a victim of his own circumstances, when you seem to understand the person's internal conflict and actually know what it feels like to be in his position and then, probably you tend to know the reason behind his actions. This actually, allows us to gain insights into the person's life closely, rather than passing judgments by analyzing just one side of the story. This feeling of empathy and sensitivity towards others is the strongest weapon of humanity. Being sympathetic towards others, respecting their emotions, experiences and most importantly their personal interests and choices, people then begin to register each other with basic humility and kindness instead of challenging their set of decisions and actions; for the real fact that we do not know what a person is going through unless and until we share the experiences by living that catastrophic life.
Also this approach helps us to understand the person's motives and get along with him/her in a better way. Distancing oneself from habitual point of view and glancing inside other person's mind is the trick to reason out his behavioral action. It even serves as a means to predict the person's future actions and what can be expected of them.
It requires courage to try and put on the shoes of others, to try to walk around in their skin. It's difficult but important to listen to other people's voices across all sorts of barriers. However, it's easier said than done. It isn't that complicated, stepping into another person's shoes, imagining how they feel, and actually feeling it. Yet role - playing is a great activity to earn our long lost empathy. So let's play and tell - and feel and listen. That probably is the biggest heroic act when we are successful in seeking and finding the essential humanity of others.

Nida Zareen                                                      Visit our store

Monday, 18 March 2019

Reading is My Super Power

There can be nothing as enthralling as curling up with a book on a corner of your room for hours together munching hot pakoras. However, if you are still busy with your phones and play stations playing video games or spending your time switching between channels on the television, it must be because the reading bug hasn’t bitten you yet. Since childhood, the best way that I could find to get rid of my boredom and to make use of my precious time was by reading books, since it has been the ultimate source of my happiness till date. Reading Is My Super Power.

Sitting within the confines of my room, reading can make it possible for me to travel through moors and mountains, across seas and oceans, and even to the world beyond through wonderful narratives, poems and stories.

Sir Francis Bacon, a prominent thinker of English Renaissance in his well –known essay ‘Of Studies’ wittily suggests, “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.” Books come in all shapes and types. There are wide range of genres of books that you can choose from–thrillers, science fiction, non-fiction, adventure, classics, drama, anthology of poems, biographies, autobiographies, short stories, children’s literature and the list can go on and on. Even if the idea of picking up a book scares you to the core, you can always pick up magazines, newspaper articles and even comics, but one must never refrain from the habit of reading.
The ultimate aim of reading must not be to aggressively rebut other’s opinions or accept any writer’s ideas without questioning; rather one must read to enable oneself to absorb, question, analyze and engage  with those views rationally rather than tumbling oneself unreasonably into arguments.

Roald Dahl, the most loved author of children’s books, has rightly said, “If you are going to get anywhere in life you have to read a lot of books.” It’s not just the knowledge that reading instils within you that would ensure you success in life, but reading even helps you to avoid socially awkward situations and boosts up your confidence manifold so that you can participate in discussions that might pop up out of nowhere in such social gatherings. Reading has always remained my super power since apart from knowledge, reading has inculcated confidence within me, has given me that strength to tackle real-life situations that otherwise I might have faced it difficult to tackle, and has developed me into a more creative and innovative individual. Reading can help one to widen one’s horizons, improve vocabulary, language, imagination and thought-process. One can never deny the fact that a well-read person never fails to impress!
Today, reading books no longer mean rushing to the library and borrowing them or burning a hole in the pocket. If one considers it convenient, one can access or download several books online through websites. However, it’s true that the e-books can never match the smell of yellow redolent pages of the dust jacketed books.
Once you finish up reading a book, get ready to discuss it with your peers, friends, acquaintances and loved ones. Discussing the books with others actually fills you with a unique kind of elation. It is the exchange of ideas, opinions and anecdotes that can actually encourage you to even cook up your own tales. You can only improve upon your writing skills through the habit of reading and who knows someone might get impressed by your writing style and you might end up getting signed for a big contract or a writing project! Books are indeed uniquely portable magic, and I believe there’s almost nothing books can’t do. Indeed, reading builds a powerful mind and an influential personality. One must never forget what Sir Bacon said, “Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. Reading adds perfection to a man’s personality.”

- Saloni Gaba

Saturday, 2 March 2019

Majaz: Kuchh mujhe bhi kharab hona tha

When the pendulum of experience stretches so far as to sway on the extremities of emotions, it is then that a writer is born. Amidst the turbulent struggle for Indian independence, literature seemingly ceased the opportunity to rage a revolution of words which would encapsulate the mutual sentiment of millions. The late nineteenth and early twentieth century witnessed a particular bloom of revolutionary writings and a major spot among it is captured by the nazms, ghazals, and the satirical sher-0-shairi that the poets of Urdu literature weaved during the period. A great many names resurface when we leaf through the pages of history and Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Makhdoom, Jazbi, Ali Sardar Jafri, Fani Badayuni, Majaz Lakhnawi, etc. are to name only a few.
Majaz Lakhnawi was born as Asrar ul Haq Majaz (19 October, 1911) in Rudauli, Faizabad, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. He received his early education in Lucknow, and at St. John’s college, Agra; but it was Aligarh Muslim University which earned Majaz his bachelor’s degree. Regarded as the ‘Keats’ of Urdu poetry, Majaz began composing his verses while in Aligarh. He is credited for composing the “Nazr-e-Aligarh” or tarana (anthem) for Aligarh Muslim University-
‘Ye mera chaman, hai mera chaman,
Main apne chaman ka bulbul hun’
Post his graduation from Aligarh Muslim University, Majaz was offered a position as an assistant editor of Aawaz, the newly-established journal of the All India Radio. This shift from Aligarh to Delhi was a major change in the life of our poet. Aligarh gave Majaz an identity and space to grow and produce his work. He was in a place that gave him utmost respect and the young minds of universities relied upon him to voice their heart. This transference was a new path on which Majaz had to tread. His elegance of writing Urdu poetry became apparent when he befriended two poets, Fani Baduyani (whom he considered his mentor), and Jazbi.
A poet with an exemplary imagination, Majaz was dragged to realistic and revolutionary writing by the epoch he lived in. While reading Majaz, one can easily trace the balance that he strived to maintain between imagination and realism. A young poet of his time, he struck the chords of romance and revolution alike in the hearts of youth. The years in which he lived and wrote were pulsating with the spirit of nationalism. Apparent changes were witnessed in various spheres- political, social, as well as literary. The need of the hour demanded revolution and poets like Majaz and his contemporaries diverted their ink towards this rebellion. It was during this time that Majaz was magnetized towards the Taraqqi Pasand Tahreek (Progressive Writers’ Movement) and started blending his imagination with a touch of progression to fabricate works that are still irreplaceable.
‘Tere mathe pe ye anchal to bahut hi khub hai lekin
Tu is anchal se ik parcham bana leti to acha hota’
An astonishing feature that distinguished Majaz from his contemporaries was his striking memory. Certain chronicles based on his life claim that Majaz rarely inscribed his lines down. He was known for modifying his verses as and when he wished. Some famous works like Aahang faced this issue of alteration which was mostly carried out by Majaz himself, but at times by the publishers or composers. Thus, with this three-fold amendment, various editions of Aahang were published, each distinct from one another. This was a major criticism faced by the poet but this criticism again, rebounded in his favour to popularize him exponentially. At such a young age, Majaz was desired by publishers all over.
Majaz, whose popularity was at its zenith, could not escape the pangs of love and eventually lost his heart to a married woman in Delhi who happened to be his admirer. This love was unrequited and drew him into a hopelessness which he was unable to evade. The chaos which shrouded his love was unveiled through the couplets that ring of passion. There was a shadow of despair which flickered in his work. He wrote extensively about beauty, longing, love, and romance during this phase of his life. One of his most famous nazms written during this time was titled- “Husn ko be-hijaab hona tha”; a couplet of which still resonates within the hearts of lovers-

“Kuchh tumhari nigah kafir thi
Kuchh mujhe bhi kharab hona tha”

When critics think of Majaz in relation to his peers, they fall upon the conclusion that his poetic style was distinct and adorned with simplicity. He could be considered an old soul in terms of his usage of rhymes and meters in poetry, like the poets of older generation. His minimal experimentation places his poetry as melodious and effortless. While his contemporaries engaged in varying degrees of experiments with their work, (Faiz deployed classical metaphors to derive a sense of revolution, Firaq brought themes from Sanskrit poetry to Urdu, Noon Meem Rashed wrote about the mental anguish of colonized people, etc.), Majaz embraced his art of subtle, delicate themes; endowing us with some graceful works. He rained emotions in various tones to drench his readers with a multiplicity of feelings. His artistry and an effortless style had the power to envelope emotional states of mind which words usually fail to illustrate. A melancholy and poignancy which he inscribed through his ink produced his distinctive work, Aahang. This was his first diwan, dedicated to Faiz and Jazbi whom he calls his “dil-o-jigar”, and to Sardar Jafri and Makhdoom, who are “mere dast-o-bazu”.

Majaz’s unique style embodies the ease with which he swings between the echoes of nationalism and the subliminal desires of a lover. This fusion is astounding and reflects in the works of Majaz which includes- Aawara, Aahang, Shab-e-taab, Saaz-e-Nau, etc. Though Majaz reached the acme of his career at a young age, he suffered anxious breakdowns. Alcoholism ate him up from within, eventually leading to his end. Majaz died at a young age of 44 years in the winter of 1955 and left behind him mysteries and a pile of unanswered questions. But his mastery over emotions and an amalgamation of romance and revolution placed him on a pedestal which is unforgettable. In his relatively brief poetic career, he composed poems that still reverberate in the Urdu literary sphere.
-    Nawa Fatima                                 
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Sunday, 17 February 2019

“Books are the mirror of the soul”

 There are few things in life which can tell one about oneself as convincingly as books, if only one knows how to read correctly. When I read a book, I read more than the letters and the plots, I read a lot more about me. As I read, the words come together and form a narrative closely linked with the reality I was wishing to escape from or trying to grasp a clearer hold of. My apprehensions about my career, my fear of ending up doing nothing of value joins some hostess’s anxiety of being reduced to an organiser of an evening full of futile entertainment. Maybe she wanted to be more than a hostess, maybe she chose the flowers herself because that’s the only thing she can seek appreciation through. She wants to be more than that but how could she ever be, so she’ll be the best in what she can be. This is my review of a book I liked more than I understood. But my Mrs Dalloway is so different from the next reader that I should doubt my understanding. And I would. Had I not understood that what I see is what I wish to see. Woolf could’ve whispered in my ear that Dalloway can never be touched by my everyday anxieties and I still wouldn’t separate them. Because what’s a character that cannot tell me what I am and what I’m not? And what’s a book that doesn’t show me myself.
But do books show or tell? Or maybe Woolf is right in that books reflect, somewhat like mirrors. Mirrors are some of the most fascinating things for a child. The first sight of their own reflection is an absurd image because it moves with them, its eyes seem to be staring into the soul. The realisation slowly sets in that this image isn’t a trick of the mind but our own self. And we finally perceive what we are and how we’re seen by everyone around but us. This must be the strangest power an entity can hold – making us see our own possession. I believe books hold the same power. Like a fascinated child, we explore the lines and look for things to make sense of the absurdity someone once wrote down. Authors and their intentions stop holding meaning beyond an extent as these carefully constructed worlds are handed off to a reader who comes in either with naïve notions or high headed expectations. For people like me, reading books is usually a scavenger hunt because we locate the pieces that can fit together for our strangely preconceived interpretations to fall into place. I wonder how I know how to create this coherent meaning suitable to my worldview. Maybe Woolf is again right in pointing that the origin and source of these interpretations lie within one’s soul. Where else would that empathy come from which I felt for Lawrence’s Mrs Morel even when she suffocated her son with adulation. The never-ending battle between mother and son was inevitable but had no wrong sides for me. Sons and Lovers, for me, became the first book which showed humanity in its rawness. All characters were shades of grey and understandably so. For someone who resists absolutes and binaries with all their might, complexity is the ultimate refuge and books about Dalloways and Morels offer me just that.
But if books reflect then reflections are never perceived in the same way by two people. You may look at your face in the mirror and get fixated on that spot of skin which is still blotched from that time when you had carelessly popped the zits on your face. While your mother could stand behind you, look at the same reflection and see a child who grew up too soon to start worrying about zits. Books too are subject to similar inconsistencies of perception. There are times you can’t make yourself see what others are seeing, making you a part of unpopular opinion holders. The Kite Runner was a similar experience for me. I didn’t appreciate the book as intensely as those who suggested it to me. The book ended up teaching me that I’m a stickler for rawness and authenticity. The series of coincidences kept reminding me about the impracticality of the situations and prevented the book from becoming a favourite as I’d hoped it would be.
Just as one’s mirror image is flipped yet rooted in reality, I realise that this matter of the soul cannot always be beyond the expectations of one’s realism. But the soul isn’t ruled by the mind alone, the heart is equally compelling. And this is why books seem to exist in a plane where the yardsticks of realistic and unrealistic lose conventional meaning. Whatever hits home is realistic and whatever doesn’t fit into one’s pursuit of pleasure from reading is rejected. Books are the mirrors that reflect our souls both explicitly and from between the lines. The latter is deemed difficult, but what eludes us the most is reading what lies at the forefront. But once we learn to grasp the reflections from those pages, we end up with a knowledge which is at times inconceivable but always invaluable.

 - Asna Jamal
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