Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

‘The shame of it all is: there is a plot here’.

December 12, 2014

http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/reviews/index.php?title=The_Royal_Enigma_by_Krishna_Bhatt

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I really struggled with this book from start to finish.

December 5, 2014

http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/reviews/index.php?title=The_Royal_Enigma_by_Krishna_Bhatt

Terminated Abortion

October 4, 2014

 

When his wife gave birth to a second daughter within two years of his first, Sohan and his wife became worried. They knew that Sohan’s parents wanted to see the face of a grandson, before – as they said it – they died, to open the gates of heaven for them and to continue the name of their family. The latter a girl could not do, as she had to take up the name of the family she is married-off into. No one could confirm however, about opening of the gates of heaven, on account of the birth of a boy in a family, for his departed grand-parents.

These days, however, some of the women retain the family name of their parents as well, along with that of their husband’s, after their marriage. They typically have two second names after their first, like Sumita ‘Pradhan’ ‘Manandhar’, or Rasika ‘Joshi’ ‘Adhikari’, or Mira ‘Pandey’ ‘Tripathi’. It happens more often if the marriage is not arranged, and instead is a ‘love-marriage’ – where the boy and the girl themselves select their life partner, with or without the approval of their parents.

Such marriages are noticeable and become a matter of discussion among the people, as they may cross the limits of caste or even community, at times, and are considered an act of rebellion against the practices in the society. Obviously, they may not entail a ritual donation of a ‘kanya’ (a virgin girl) as in an arranged marriage, to a groom, selected after gathering enough information about him second-hand; along with a dowry. The parents painstakingly collect dowry to marry-off their daughter to a good boy–who is educated, employed, and pliant enough to submit to the wishes of his elders in the family, to accept an arranged marriage; begrudgingly: because they have to make sacrifice of many of their comforts and hobbies, to do so, all their lives. Someone with a son instead of a daughter has a life free of the worry about collecting a dowry. Finding a suitable boy or girl for a marriage is an industry that employs many people, and sustains a few newspapers, those that publish thousands of such advertisements seeking suitable marriages, in a special supplement every week-end. Those newspapers and jobs could disappear, if most of the people here went for a ‘love-marriage’.

As if the element of ‘love’ remains absent in an arranged marriage and choosing one’s mate, as in a ‘love- marriage’ amounts to taking the final leap into freedom and finding an ever-lasting love in a marriage. Some ‘love-marrying’ couples elope at times, saving everybody in the society the rituals of kanya-donation, to later return to the family of the boy, where they are generally accepted back with a little remorse. But in some societies, both the elopers are killed for dishonoring the name of their families. The newspapers, including the ones that survive on arranging marriages, term such murders as “honor-killing”, in which often no one is convicted, for the lack of a witness or evidence.

The women having two family names after their first name are considered modern and emancipated. Yet, there are people, not fully convinced of this type of women’s-lib, expressed in their double second-names, like Sohan’s parents, who prefer to have at least one grandson, to continue their family’s name, after them.

Within a few years after the birth of their second daughter, Sohan’s wife, Pragya, was pregnant again. Though she looked emaciated due to the frequent pregnancies and the stress of child-rearing, she was unable to resist the pressure of her in-laws, and the other elderly relations – mostly the women – to bear a son. Everybody in the family dropped hints to her in this regard, to which Sohan tried to protest, at times. Pragya always restrained her husband, whenever he did so, saying this is how the society is. She was amazed to find that the women in the society were the most concerned or critical of her, for not mothering a son; as they were of another woman also, who did not become pregnant, soon after her marriage. Proving a barren was even more feared, than bearing multiple daughters, by the married women.

Now, since she was pregnant again, the pressure on Pragya was immense to bear a male child. To release it she used to scold her two daughters, who have started to go to the school by now, for being unlucky, and asserted to them that this time it finally would be a son – who would bring her luck. Such episodes of arguments her elder daughter ignored, as she had begun to understand the matters a little; while the younger daughter appeared more concerned for her mother’s well-being.

Pragya was properly, ritually-donated by her parents to her husband with an adequate dowry, through an arranged marriage. She thought she would live happily ever-after, as Sohan worked as a clerk in a department of the government – a job for life, with a pension at the end of it. His wife was expected to fit into the role of a traditional housewife for life, never mind the university degree she had earned. In most cases such degrees for women were an additional qualification to get married-off into a putative and well-to-do family, like a good dowry. Joining the workforce to earn a living was still considered not very reputable for the daughter-in-law of such a family. After giving birth to two daughters, things turned out very differently than Pragya had expected.

In her heart however, she was very worried if it was once again a daughter, developing in her womb. Sohan found out that, in the neighbouring town, on the other side of the border – which was next to the Pragya’s parents’ village – a private hospital was there, where, by the ‘video X-ray’, the doctors  could tell early in the pregnancy, if it was a boy or a girl. Abortion services were also available in that hospital, which was still illegal on this side of the border. Also, no questions were asked there, about the legitimacy or otherwise of the fetus, which was being aborted. So, most of the unwanted pregnancies were terminated there. If a couple from this side of the border were seen at that hospital, everyone knew what was going on. Through rumours, people guessed which woman of their neighbourhood had recently received an abortion.

In fact, Sohan has read in the papers that most of the women in jails of the country were convicted for receiving an abortion and were mostly from poor families. Not a single man was ever reported to have been booked for causing a pregnancy that needed such termination – or a doctor who performed it – as if becoming pregnant was the sole mistake of a woman from a poor family in this country; and the affluent people never had unwanted pregnancies in their marriages. Some people in Sohan’s village offered abortion services clandestinely. They were not well-trained however, and often landed their patients into problems.

Sohan remembered it well that, one of his neighbour’s young wife died a few years ago, a few days after receiving an abortion in the village, during her third pregnancy, by one such practitioner called Sudeni – leaving her two young daughters motherless. That incident attracted the attention of the authorities as well. Somehow, Sohan’s neighbour managed to avoid any serious inquest. People said it did cost him dearly, to bribe the police and the health department officials, and rendered him a destitute, later. Also, the loss of his wife was too much for him to bear, and he could never get on with his life, afterwards. He even declined a few proposals he received for his second marriage. These days, one hears that his daughters have turned to prostitution, while he went insane and found a refuge in a mental asylum in the capital.

Sohan finally decided that they should find out the sex of their expected baby beforehand, even if they would decide about the abortion later. He took his wife to the hospital in the town. The doctor, after the ‘video X-ray’, confirmed that it was once again a girl, and, if at all, they would have to undertake an abortion immediately. Sohan and Pragya felt very dejected at this news. They decided that they should abort the birth of yet another girl. Sohan asked the doctor to admit his wife in the hospital for terminating her pregnancy the next day, before he went alone to the hotel they were staying in.

During the night, the thoughts of his neighbour’s wife, who had died after receiving the abortion, came to Sohan repeatedly. He loved his wife very much, and now he became worried for her, in case the abortion went wrong. After all, she was physically weak due to the frequent pregnancies and the emotional burden of bearing two girls. He could not sleep the whole night. By the morning he had made his decision. He went early to the hospital and told the doctor that his wife will not undergo the abortion. The doctor and the other staff at the hospital were surprised and tried to convince him to let the abortion take place, as earlier planned. They even agreed to reduce the fees. They reminded him that if he came later, for the abortion, it would be late and will be more expensive. Sohan remained adamant on his decision, however; overruling the protests of a confused Pragya. He was very angry with his parents for keeping him under pressure to father a son, though he already had two daughters, which had endangered the life of his wife now.

He and his wife returned to a home where Sohan’s parents were totally unhappy at the turn of events. They scolded Sohan for not allowing the abortion to take place. Sohan was not in a mood of reconciliation with his parents on this matter anymore. He told his parents that his wife would not risk undergoing an abortion, even if it was a third girl. He also told them that, she would not bear a child anymore. Also, if they were so interested in having a grandson, they could have their second son get married. Maybe, his wife will give them their grandson.

Sohan remained indifferent, when his parents told him that people marry many times in the society, if they do not have a son. He thought himself a modern man, and was happy with his daughters. He wondered why he remained so much under pressure to have a son, earlier, from his parents or other relations.

His parents stopped persuading him anymore, to get his wife receive the abortion, and instead started accusing Sohan’s wife of bewitching their son, and for taking him away from their control, apart from blaming their Karma. The days passed slowly. No one now talked about the pregnancy of Pragya in the family anymore. The undercurrents of the disagreement in the family were palpable however, even to the casual visitors. Sohan’s parents discussed in length the issue of their expected third granddaughter with almost everyone, at the slightest provocation. They lamented if they would be denied the entry into the heaven after their death, if they did not see the face of a grandson in their lives. Some visitors empathized with Sohan’s parents, while others privately congratulated Sohan and his wife for sticking to their resolution. Every day was an emotional high and low–for everyone in the family.

Pragya lost her cool at times, as her inwardly festering hysteria broke. She cursed her karma for making her bear yet another unwelcome daughter. In her heart, however, she was grateful to Sohan, for supporting her, and did not care much about the rest. At times, in presence of her parents-in-law, she needlessly beat her daughters – as if they were guilty for being born as girls – and then wept alone in repentance. Secretly, she and Sohan had made plans to go to a distant city, and build their lives separately, after the birth of their third girl.

Finally, she had the labour pain and was taken to the health-post in the neighbouring village, where a trained nurse delivered the babies. The nurse was an expert and had a record of delivering upside down or obliquely placed babies successfully. Pragya’s delivery occurred without any complication; but there was a surprise for everyone: She delivered a boy.

Sohan’s father was exhilarated by this news. He asked one of his neighbours, the one who kept a double-barrelled gun, to fire his (licensed) gun into the air for five times, to celebrate the occasion – assuring him that he will pay for the cartridges later. The wife of Sohan suddenly became a more desirable and respectable lady, for everyone, for delivering a son. Her daughters were surprised at the reception their brother received on his arrival.

Sohan, however, was shocked at the turn of events. He was dismayed to recall that they had nearly aborted the son his wife has now delivered; that everyone felt so proud of, in his family. He guessed that, in that private hospital, on the other side of the border, probably most of the pregnancies got terminated, to make the money. Since abortion was illegal here, no one could complain about it later. He thanked god that, even unknowingly, he made the correct decision and saved his son.

(From Delhi-return)

(From De

My writer.

June 7, 2013

I claimed my writer. Then dropped him.

Narrative of the day.

August 23, 2012

Isn’t worth my while. I need to create my own.

Delhi-Return

June 4, 2011

Delhi-return

I am fascinated by the power of fiction. It is among the most enduring of the various art forms. It is history and the future, as you see it. Finding a writer that you tend to agree with is rare but a remarkable discovery. Once it happens the life begins to change.

Your most memorable moments of life may include the time you spent reading the work of your favourite author. Which could remain with you when you are lonely, apart from a few other memories.

It is about thoughts, ideas, emotions and a vision. Remembering, relating and so much else. All these need very little instruments that are visible. The mystery begins to deepen.

Krishna Bhatt

The new release at Amazon Kindle

http://www.amazon.com/Delhi-return-ebook/dp/B004EYUD00/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1307460553&sr=8-2

The Tin Drum: A novel by Gunter Grass; Coming to terms with history through fiction

May 1, 2010

It is heartening that this book is available in English. The author has already been rewarded with a nobel prize and lives a secluded life apparently, only giving an occasional interview in English to BBC- beyond the German. The writer also attracted a lot of controversy when he admitted a few years back of his Nazi connection. So, like all great writers he remains an enigma to all.
The book is phenomenal and brilliant, for it tries to capture through fiction the life in Germany just before and after the war broke out. This Gunter does through a character Oskar who is about to reach his teens but has decided not to grow beyond three years. He is dwarfish or gmomish and shatters his drums when he is angry by beating; or glasses around him through his screams: sometimes to steal from a shop, with the help of an accomplice, at others to just express his anguish. He, apparently grown up, narrates the story of his younger age, from a mental asylum where he has found the refuge. So it is mostly through symbols, that the author builds a powerful character.
Oskar is a product of a bad mothering by a promiscuous and glutonous woman, who indulges him by never stopping his destructive drum-shattering or glass-breaking. Oskar often leaves her behind to her lover, whom he suspects of being his father, to go out beating his drum in anguish, at their secret hide in a hotel. She pays for the glasses or the drums Oskar destroys. She kills herself by over eating when she is pregnant for the second time, leaving the Oskar, the drummer boy, almost orphaned. A spoilt child he is, he is anguished more at the loss of his mother. There is no one to indulge him anymore, while he apparently resents the mere sympathy he receives from some of the people for becoming a motherless young boy. Both: his suspected and presumptuous fathers, a Polish and a German, offer him almost no help. His legal or presumptive father though, mostly tried earlier to entertain his mother by cooking food for her and tolerating the presence of her Polish lover, when she was alive. His suspected father, Jan Bronski, later got excecuted while he was out only to help Oskar repair his drum, as he and thirty other people were founnd defending the Polish post office from a Nazi attack, where he worked, and France did not come to defend the Poland, author notes, in spite of the treaty. Oskar keeps the guilt secret while he recoves from a sickness in the aftermath of this incident.
A few friends Oskar made become victims of different tragidies. One of them, Herbert, dies while trying to make love to a statue in a museum, while another, a jewish Toy-shop owner, who supplies him drums, disappears in the hands of Nazis. A mutual friend of Oskar and Herbert, ..’Meyn, who is an SA man, who drank gin all day and played trumpet too beautifully for words’, before he joined the SA and was seen burning a synagogue of the town, comes to mourn the death of Herbert and reaches for the gin bottle after a long time and played the trumpet too beautifully for words. But being a Nazi he was denied sympathies at the funnerel and he returns to his apartment to kill his four pet cats. He was expelled for this cruelty against animals by the Nazi party. Oskar is truly alarmed at the loss of his toy-seller friend and worries if the world is going to remain toyless in future. These poignant discription crisply sum up the situation the writer tries to depict. There is very little of the literature available in English, by a German author, which tried to deal with the genesis of the rise of Nazism and the consequent world war. This book is a very brave attempt by Gunter Grass, to deal with this subject, which still creates strong reactions within Germany and beyond. He has done it with remarkable style which does not get lost even in the translation. Though the details in the books are at times tiresome and alien, particularly when a reader is not aware that the author is talking about a town that German occupied during the war and currently is in Poland; but they are authentic and deserve the attention of the people who are interested in the authors like Gunter Grass. He is a very celebrted author but less read than he merits, perhaps.
A mental asylum is the safest place to be, when the society is collapsing around you and a war is going on. Seeing the world theough an eye of a three year old is another security. Growing up is precarious. More so, with the sexual awakening of Oskar through a slightly older girl Maria, a sister of his late friend Herbert, who assists his presumptive father Matzerath at his shop; which the author has described using symbols like respberries, fizz powder, mashrooms and growing up an eleventh finger. The eleventh finger that could not read or write but signs for him. This pleasure does not last long, as Oskar discovers Maria actively copulating with Matzerath, unlike as with him, as she prtended to be asleep when Oskar sleeps with her. But there is a consolation for him, that he has beaten Matzerath once again, in impregnating Maria just by more than a week. Oskar takes satisfaction in the fact that Matzerath could not impregnate his mother either, and he is a son of Jan Bronski, the charming Polish man executed by the firing squad. The pregnancy of Maria made Matzerath marry him and she becomes his step mother. This comes as a shock to the reader lulled by symbolic erotic details, that flow in a poetic language, of the Oskar’s sexual awakening. Once again Oskar has been wronged totally.
When Maria comes to visit him at the mental asylum, Oskar puts the fizz powder in her left hand and puts his saliva on it and urges her to lick it, like she used to do earlier. Maria looks genuinely shocked and hastily leaves in tears. The death of Stalin is hinted at, in the meanwhile, in their conversation.
Before Oskar had unsuccessfully tried to abort the child of him Maria was bearing by once causing her fall and then by trying to stab her protruding belly. Oskar has an affair with a woman in his neighborhood, in order to forget the venella smell of Maria, whose husband was a gay as per Oskar, who later commits suicide. He describes the faminine smells of different women with symbols and passion. Without any remorse, Oskar goes on living a life that is as blighted emotionally as it was physically; giving the world what it has given him. In a way his life is a story of survival and continuation of his beliefs in spite of others. He does not end up looking a considerate and kindly person. But there is not enough reasons to blame him for what he made of himself, if one thinks that Oskar was not particularly a decent man.
As a literature this book may remain a masterpiece for a long time to come, and an inspiration for the people who think a good work of art is the medicine of the troubled souls.

Nik Korpon Review

May 22, 2009

www.nikkorpon.com

The Work of Nik is available at www.outsiderwriters.org , a remarkable literary web site organised by a few vosionary  editors and contributors; among others.

City Women and the Ghost Writer

I have to keep reminding myself that I’ve never been to Nepal or India. I’ve never trekked through the mountains or eaten curry for a few rupees or bathed in the small river behind my house. Damn you, Krishna Bhatt, for confusing my already easily distracted and malleable mind!

City Women and the Ghost Writer collects observations and idiosyncrasies of Nepalese and Indian culture like an entomologist collects exoskeletons. Like a bug doctor, it examines these cultures with a neutral, sometimes detached, affect, but its fondness for the subject is evident. It floats through six-hut villages, over rivers crisscrossed with cattle, through the alleys of cities packed with village ex-pats scraping for a better life, and occasionally peeks its head up in a foreign country, a smug smile etched across its face.

Krishna Bhatt oscillates between nostalgic spectator, societal psychologist, and purveyor of scathing rants. For most of the book, an assortment of vignettes, (fictional?) short stories and musings, he relays everything with such an evenhanded, unexpressive tone that’s so voyeuristic, you almost feel guilty for intruding.

In Desires, a father toils for years in order to start a hotel, hoping to pass the business along to his sons. He begins: ‘I never thought my son would dump me into this hotel at my age, when I have broken my leg[…] I thought he was expanding the business, when he started building this hotel, but like other works he does, this too he left incomplete.’ Which pretty much sets the tone.

In Terminated Abortion, a pregnant woman is given an ultimatum by her family to kill the child or be excommunicated. She’s already has too many daughters, and the ultrasound is, well, less than promising. Her husband teeters between his unborn child and the security of her wealthy family. Then the story takes an unexpected turn…

Bhatt mixes rants and musings with the vignettes, to a surprising effect. While the stories remain neutral, there’s still a subtle hopefulness there, just barely. Or maybe it depends on your mood while reading. But these other pieces lend such a frustrated tint to the overall book that it causes you to reevaluate your entire perception of the book.

At times, they’re humorous, as if he has enough time and/or money to get so worked up over people underlining passages in the Hornsby-esque Underlining Borrorwed Books Overruled! (when only a few pages previous, the couple contemplates abortion.) Other times, he’s contemplative, ruminating on the relationship between reader and author. Sometimes he’s sarcastic, wondering why English has become the lingua franca, then relaying an incident with a friend who ‘does not purchase the [English language] newspaper to read, but to put it on the seat of his bike’ when it rains. The friend suggests that Bhatt do the same. He becomes outright furious as well, railing against the biased media and fellow countrymen whose concept of success is being able to move to another country.

Bhatt never resorts to yellow journalism. Even when angry and offended, he writes in measured sentences that are more or less objective. It draws the reader into his world and allows them to mix alongside the farmers, the scammers, the prostitutes, Brahmans, entrepreneurs, beggars and vendors. It’s the secure voice an accomplished author uses to pull you along, and you never realize he’s done it until you’re already in the heart of Kathmandu.