Before We Visit The Goddess

Before We Visit The Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni  spans through the lives of three generations depicting their personalities, actions, decisions and mistakes. The narrative shifts from the naive yet determined village girl Sabitri; to her daughter Bela who takes impulsive decisions blinded by the love of her life; to her daughter Tara, who after witnessing strained relationships between her parents sets out to discover the world on her own. Set across a timeline of around ten decades across continents and three generations, Divakaruni highlights how with changing time, every relationship changes in an individual’s life. Simple emotions and societal acceptance grows by accepting newer terms and making the society liberal in its own way.

Sabitri comes to Kolkata from a small village in order to pursue her education. She was funded by one of the wealthiest ladies of the town. However, she enters the scope of forbidden love for which she is vanquished and left all alone to settle down in a new life. Bela, on the other hand had bigger dreams. But in the process of achieving them, dreams became bigger than relationships to her. Thus, Bela reflects on the compromises that an individual makes in order to put their foot forward for an imagined utopian destiny. Tara is brought up in the United States, thus instilling in her an unwavering ability to carve out her own life; learning from her mistakes and moving forward with it.

Before We Visit The Goddess explore three very different relationships that exist between a mother and a daughter. While a mother dies awaiting the return of her daughter; another regrets decisions taken years ago and laments the strained relationship with her daughter.  The three leading ladies have an immense sense of loss of relationships in their lives. However, each one tries to cope up with it in their own way. Thus, Divakaruni tries to fit in the idea of changing relationships with time and a sense of loneliness through her beautifully worded novel, Before We Visit the Goddess.

Personally, I would like to add that though this is a good novel on its own; considering her past works like ‘The Palace of Illusions’ or even ‘One Amazing Thing’, this is not her best novel. The abrupt jumps between years and a shift between the first person narratives through each chapter at times confuse the reader. There are instances when, as a reader I would have liked to know a little more about a character but no further details are provided about him or her. Few lines now and then talk of hidden truths, but they are not expressed very clearly for the reader. Lastly, the novel ends on an open-ended note. As a reader, probably I would expect a definite end. Open ended sequences do work well for some novels, but however for this one I found it as a mismatch.

Nevertheless, I would recommend you all to read the book once as a stand-alone book and to not compare it with any of her previous literary works. Before We Visit The Goddess is available on Flipkart, Snapdeal, Amazon and at your nearest bookstores.

If you have not read it yet, grab your copy now!

The Red Sofa: Michele Lesbre

“ Even today, I sometimes think of the brief apparition of that stranger I caught in a private moment and of others who have mysteriously settled into my memory, like silent witnesses of my wanderings. “ – The Red Sofa

I believe, that you tend to learn a little more about yourself every time, you embark on a journey. This has been well reflected in the  novel, The Red Sofa by Michele Lesbre.  I read the English version of the novel translated by Nicole and David Ball. This book is available at any Seagull bookstore near you.

This is the journey of Anne, which has been described with sheer elegance and interspersed with episodic flashbacks; which reveals to the reader her personality, glimpses of her past lover and the bond which she shared with her friend Clemence.

Often in our overtly hectic schedules, we tend to neglect the little memories of our life which make it all the more precious. The story line follows the finer observations made by Anne and the deeper contemplation about life which she realizes throughout her quest to find her long-lost lover. From making a journey by train to an unknown land, to becoming habituated by the presence of her grim compartment partner; all these finer details reflect the beauty of the journey that she undertook.

A recurring theme which is common between Anne and her friend Clemence was the acceptance of lost love. Love is not only an emotion but also a moment to cherish for as long as one has it. It is difficult to find love and sustain it through the various ups and down; similarly it is equally difficult for people to cope- up with lost love at times. However, both the ladies have been portrayed as strong women, willing to live their lives with dignity and confidence. Though saddened momentarily on the mention of their unaccomplished relationships, the two women bonded over books and stories; over history, heroes and coffee. It is a symbol of strength possessed by women which is often overshadowed by the feeling of pity for their lost love by the onlookers.

Within the 110 pages of the book, The Red Sofa subtly teaches us some of the harshest truths of our lives and yet gives us hope to continue with it ; for life is short and must be lived with contentment rather than spending time grieving over the loss.

5 Reasons to Read The Serpent’s Revenge

The Last time I ventured to  the Starmarks in Quest Mall, I came across The Serpent’s Revenge by Sudha Murthy. I have recently started reading her books, and am in awe of her writing . Thus, this was a book that I had to pick up. It took me only two days to complete it . And Yes! I loved it. I loved it for more than one reason. Hence, here are 5 reasons why I liked the book and I am sure you would too, upon reading it.

  1. Its MAHABHARAT Time! 

If you are a Mahabharata freak like me, then this is the book to add to your collections. with over two dozens of stories, especially curated from the Great Epic, The Serpent’s Revenge brings to you an unseen and hidden version of this tale.

        2. The Tales are short and crisp.

Each story is hardly five pages long. The stories cover a wide range of themes like love, betrayal, sacrifice, courage, gratitude, intelligence and others. Beautifully put down, each story summarizes an important part of the biggest epic of India. Not only do the stories catch your attention , but it also leaves you with a food for thought.

      3. It Deals with the AFTERMATH of the War too. 

For most novels written on the Mahabharata, you do not find references on the aftermath, barring a few. But , The Serpent’s Revenge pays equal attention to both before and after the war. In fact, it is on a closer look at the names of the chapter, that you would find the book named after a chapter which takes place generations after the war.

      4. Beautiful Illustrations to Watch out for. 

No matter how much you say that a book helps in creating an image of the situation in your mind’s eye; a little illustrations can actually do a lot of good. Hence, Murthy’s illustrator Priyankar Gupta takes care of this aspect. Some incredibly detailed illustrations follow every tale in this book. Not only does it depict the situation but also hints on symbolism. At times, the illustration alone tells you about the scene and the tale. Indeed the saying- ‘A Picture is worth a thousand words ‘ is true!

#serpentsrevenge #bookreview #illustrations #blogpost coming up soon.

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      5. Your perfect On-The-Go Book Buddy

Comprising of short stories nestled between a hundred and eighty-two pages, The Serpent’s Revenge has surely been designed for those lazy days when you grab a book and a cup of coffee; or for those long unending journeys where it serves as your best companion.

The Serpent’s Revenge is available in all the leading bookstores near you. It can also be purchased online through Flipkart, Snapdeal and Amazon. If you have read this book , do let me know if you have liked it and why? If you have not , well then you know where to find it , if you want to read it sometime later on.

 

Books, Monsoon and Chai: The Booklovers Gathering

Books, Monsoon and Chai was a unique concept devised by Pradipta Mandal and Aniesha Brahma to get together all book lovers under the same roof. Held at The Chaiwala on the 2nd of July, this event was truly special for me. A small gathering of a few bookworms and a healthy discussion regarding their favourite books was an enchanting way to start the event.

After a brief introduction Aniesha Di, reiterated her love for the young adult genre. In fact, she even pointed out the reference many of them have to fairy tales. For me, fairy tales have been a part of my childhood like any other,  however, I had never given much thought to them after reading them once or twice. The idea of stirring a plot with reference to the fairy tales for the youth has already gained my attention.

Having worked in the field of art education , books on child psychology interests Pradipta Di to a great extent. I believe that child psychology books are of immense help to not only children but also to their parents. Books are a reflection of life and they show us how to deal with certain situations better. She spoke about John Holt, an author she enjoys reading.

Moments from Books, Monsoon and Chai

Subhro Da, gave me many new insights to the world of children’s books and their relevance in contemporary times. He spoke about his interest in the words of Roald Dahl and Sukumar Ray– both evergreen authors of their own time. He quoted from The BFG. – a quote so childishly written and yet so powerful in its versus that it connects with the fate of human beings in contemporary times. With Sukumar Ray, the world of gibberish has been fascinating to the young and the old. It has drawn readers to itself with nonsense-syllables only to emerge them completely into the pages of great classics like Abol Tabol.

Madhubanti Di , escalated the conversation from the different genres and our favourite books; to the emotional and imaginary level. She pointed out how they (the books) have always remained our constant companion in each of our moods. There is always a book to read when we are happy, sad, anxious, angry, disturbed and the like. These books have the strength to calm us down, a strength missing in the real world at that moment. She continued how books are a doorway to understand, relate and form different perspectives and interpretations of the common and uncommon situations. In fact, Madhubanti Di focussed on the fact that while reading a book, we often tend to consciously or unconsciously become a character in it. This is something that I personally believe in. After reading a lot of books throughout the years, I still contemplate at times, how I became the rejected Karna in the Mahabharat ; Mukesh from The Mother I Never Knew (Sudha Murthy) who journeyed to far lands in search of his mother; or Seema from The Teak Almirah (Jael Siliman) who saw the world change around her , a community disintegrate around her and yet held the fort refusing to part with the city she was born and brought up in , waiting only for a lost love.

Pradipta Di and Aniesha Di

The conversation then took an interesting turn with two varied but much debated topic. Everyone was more or less agreeing to the fact that the new authors in the horizon must be given a chance for their creative talent. In fact, it is always good to be updated with the current authors, for their writings are fast- paced, thrilling, action- oriented, bordering more on fantasy than real life; but definitely worth a read. Another interesting topic of discussion was how books were made into movies; and whether one prefers to read the book first and watch the movie later or vice –versa.

Paroma Di , discussed how Pride and Prejudice formed an inevitable part of her life . This timeless classic has always been her constant companion when it came to packing her travel bags. Having read and re-read the novel so many times, it has definitely left a profound impact on her. The second novel which had touched her and many other readers was The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. Personally, it is one of those books which I can never forget myself.

During my turn, I spoke about the fact that I preferred to enter into the field of world literature and hence have recently taken a liking towards translations. Having read the entire treasure trove of Bengali literature in translations, I had shifted the territory to Indonesia and Kabul for the moment. Though there are many who do not prefer to read translations but in the original language the book was written; it is not realistically achievable as one cannot know all the languages of the world. Hence, reading the translations would at least provide a gist of the story and I firmly believe that reading the gist would also help to understand the crux of a beautiful novel; rather than missing it out completely.

My biggest takeaway from the event was meeting like- minded people. Often there are many who love to read books but cannot write about their impressions of the book or articulate the impact the book left on them. But this discussion was definitely a high for me where everyone came together to share their love for literature. In fact, Subhro Da also informed me about the short stories by Edgar Karat and Peter Bexel from Germany, books that I have already added to my wish list.

I would like to thank Aniesha Di and Pradipta Di for arranging such an event and inviting me as well. It was a fruitful discussion and gave a platform for book lovers to gather around and interact with each other. I am certain that such events would continue and people would take part in it, in large numbers.

Another event for the bookworms is being planned on the 13th of August. If you love books, and want to be associated with this event or just join in for some fun , do come for the event (details will follow soon) and you know whom to contact as well!

P.S Cover Image Courtesy: Books, Monsoon and Chai