Rain falls in memoriam

Rain falls in memoriam

I watched on as the dark grey clouds gathered over the horizon and rolled in, with it came the cold winds that smelled of old friendship. The clouds brimming, the onerous cacophony of birds rushing home, lightning that tear open the heavens and a brief lull that before the heavy sky gave way.

Rain brings with it a lot of memories, memories of friendship, melancholic love, poignant nostalgia of home. So much of my past smells like petrichor, is punctuated by thunder and sounds like the sweet whisper of the falling rain. Having lived in Kerala all of my childhood, rain is a not a choice, you either end up loving it or hating it, either way so much of your life happens in the background of the heavy downpour.

The rain has always carried with it the tender smell of friendship, rather than having blossomed under the insistent monsoon, many of my friendships grew due to a shared romance of it and in my recent years as we grew separated by vast oceans and great mountains ranges; a shared nostalgia for it. As I sit here in my balcony, with the rain beating insistently against the rusted tin sheets that sag and creaks as it barely manages to hold off the onslaught, with the sound of dripping water piercing through the deafening barrage of monsoon, the windows trembling audibly at the behest of every thunder and my eyes blinded by each lightning, I can feel my friends near me watching alongside with awe in one hearts as the calamitous violence tore apart the heavens tonight.

To say we liked rain is an understatement, we loved it, we adored it, reminisced about it composed endless poetry in its stead. We talk often of our days of lore and in those melancholic conversations our poignant memories of rain often come up. I had always liked to write but I learned to truly love it as I looked to it to describe the rains that fell around us and the emotions that rained in my heart.

My best friend and I, whom of course I married (what a loss it would otherwise have been) had a singular non-breakable rule when we were looking for an abode, that it should have a place where we could in our lazy evening siestas watch the rainfall around us, and sip hot tea as we watch and the winds sprayed it playfully around. We have done it many a time since we met in our college days. Each time reminding we of that sensual evening, as the day gave way and the twilight bloomed, as her fragile warm body pressed against mine, an elixir to the soul as the cold wind blew all around. How many of my fine memories do I owe these rains I know not. I suppose it is only fitting that as we got married the heavenly showered us with a heavy downpour, complete with lightning and thunder. It is no wonder I feel at home when the rain washes the world around me and I can see all too clearly.

So we beat onboats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

As I sit here watching the rainfall, sometimes reminiscing, sometimes wallowing, sometimes both remembering those beautiful closing lines by Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby. I hear the sweetest sound I have heard in my life, I turn around to see the sweetest face smiling at me, her eyes bearing a striking similarity to her mother’s, tracing those all too familiar lines. Barely a year old, perched on her mother, smiling at her dear father as the rain falls all around, I can only wonder how many more beautiful friendships will bloom in the backdrop of my beloved rain.

Pink Blossoms

Pink Blossoms

Lime swallowtail

Lime swallowtail

The beautiful thing about this unfortunate lockdown is that it forces you to really look around yourself and see things that were always there but you somehow never saw.

I always knew there were many beautiful little butterflies around my old house, but j=never really bothered to think of them as having names and many many people dedicating their lives work in understanding them.

A visitor in lockdown

A visitor in lockdown

Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami

Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Norwegian wood is the story of a much older Toru Watanabe reminiscing about his youth and his experience with love, death and depression. Surrounded by flawed people trying their best to come in term with their own flaws or giving up along the way and lives they left behind in their wake. Be it his best and only friend Kizuki, first first love Naoko or Midori the girl he falls in love along the way. Ultimately this is a distasteful book talking about distasteful things with a kind of distasteful honesty, the very worst kind indeed.

It was deep beyond measuring, and crammed full of darkness, as if all the world’s darknesses had been boiled down to their ultimate density.

Haruki Murakami

Toru moves to Tokyo, shortly after his friend’s suicide; coming to tokyo to study was his way of dealing with the death of his friend. Here he meets Naoko his dead friends girlfriend, they take about many things often avoiding mentioning his dead friend. Seeking company among themselves, people who faced the same pains. A seething insight into the lives of people affected deeply by a death and their descend into depression is what follows. Murakami takes his time slowly describing this descend and its devastating consequences. Stories that repeat itself over and over.

The second act introduces Midori, someone who had to endure similar tragedies, with the death of her mother and a father who takes it too hard. They slowly form a stoic friendship, slowly developing into the only thing that keeps our protagonist from falling into the abyss all around him. Yet the very thing that unites them threaten their friendships just as much. Toru often find himself torn between all this. Murakami’s mastery of words are what makes the lows of Toru’s life heart wrenching and his highs elating.

The dead will always be dead, but we have to go on living.

Haruki Murakami

What makes this book truly great for me was the very last paragraph, The kind of open ended ending that leaves you fuming, yet in this case its hardly ambiguous, Whether a certain someone came to help Toru or not can be left to the imagination, nevertheless we know 20 years later Toru is not an emotional wreck of a man but someone who occasionally thinks of his past when Norwegian Woods by Beatles are played.

I know why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

I know why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

All great books are great not by virtue of some random review but because they invoke something deep within oneself that otherwise would not have been discovered, be it your inner child, the hopeless romantic or a fearless crusader of justice. I know why the caged bird sings is one such book, one that invokes many deep emotions in you. Let’s face facts, Maya Angelou’s “I know why the caged bird sings” is a seminal work not least because of the omnipresence of Maya in the American history during her time, but because of the courage the work shows in exposing the truths of its times.

It takes the human voice to infuse them with the shades of deeper meaning.

Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

The book chronicles the formative years of her life, from childhood through her teens, it explores her life as she transcends her childhood in every meaning of the phrase. Her’s was no typical childhood, it was a confluence of unfortunate events, from her parents abandoning her and sending her to live with her grandmother, to being taken back again by her mother only to be returned after her new boyfriend rapes and threatens her. She faces mutilation, murder, street justice and teenage pregnancy from a one night stand. Hers is a life of unimaginable tragedy.

Maya survived it all, She was a black women, who survived domestic abuse, teen pregnancy and being a single unmarried mother, any one of this would have been a challenge during this period in American history; Imagine having to survive it all, together at the same time. Many would not have survived and none would have blamed her, user she not only survived but she flourished. She became a symbol of all that was right and true in this world, a true torch bearer for the human condition.

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

All is not gloom and doom here, this is not the depressing tale of a black women’s suffering, it is on the contrary the opposite. It is a book about childhood, a the real childhood of a black girl named Marguerite and get incredible resolve and strength of character. There are her many victories and triumphs, her enduring love for her brother, her discovery of great literature an herself through. More than anything this book is a hopeful story that at the same time provides a realistic look at the segregated life in Stamps, Arkansas.

If this masterpiece tries to tell anything it is to persevere in the face of insurmountable obstacles, to go forward when going forward appears anything but possible. It teaches us just that. She could very well have gave anywhere along the way and any one of us would have understood, but she did not and that is all this book is about.

Last Train to Istanbul – by Ayşe Kulin

Last Train to Istanbul – by Ayşe Kulin

                                             Train to Istanbul is the story of the daughters of Fazıl Reşat Paşa, Selva and Sabiha; members of a prominent Muslim Turkish aristocracy. Set in the Second World War, it simultaneously explores the transformation of the Turkish society to a modern one and the descent of humanity to its very basic animalistic else where. Here selva is the rebel, marrying a Jew, Sabina the conformist living the high socialite life, Paşa the father caught between his prejudices and his modern preaching, and as in all stories of the Second World War, Nazi’s are the villains.

                                             The book starts off with a brisk pace, setting stages, characters and their motivations; in short there is so much promise and potential in the first several chapters, it’s almost reminiscent of the great classics. But unfortunately the author shies away at the first sign of a conflict, almost glossing over the very core principles that motivates it’s characters. This pretty much deflates the story, either the author deliberately chose to restrict herself or an editor got it out with a chain saw .

                                             What I found most disappointing in the book is not the story,  but the authors unwillingness to delve deeper into the emotions and motivations of her characters; ofter rendering them to be flat, delusional and plain unreasonable at times. It is quite clear that the author was in some sense in a hurry, especially in the later chapters she rams through the story, wrecking its very basic elements, even to the extend of causing a dramatic escape from the nazi occupied France to feel like like a fun joy ride.

                                             In short, its a good read, light and hearty, but its not the best of Turkish literature, Ayşe Kulin has much promise but the Last Train to Istanbul is not her seminal work by any measure. In Verdict; I give Last Train to Istanbul by Ayşe Kulin a 2 out 5, there are better books out there to spend you time with.

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