Month: November 2006

Murakami’s Wonderland

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami

[Some spoiler here]

I was born by the sea. I’d go to the beach the morning after a typhoon and find all sorts of things that the waves had tossed up. There’d be bottles and the wooden geta and hats and cases of glasses, tables and chairs, things from nowhere near the water. I liked going near the water. I liked combing through the stuff, so i was always waiting for the next typhoon.

The strange thing is, everything washed up from the sea was purified. Useless junk, but absolutely clean. There wasn’t a dirty thing. The sea is special in that way. When i look back over my life so far, i see all that junk on the beach. Its how my life has always been. Gathering up the junk, sorting through it, and then casting it off somewhere else. All for no purpose, leaving it to wash away again.

This is all my life. I merely go from one beach to another. Sure i remember the things that happen in between, but that’s all. I never tie them together. They’re so many things clean but useless.

We live our lives seeing and understanding things as they come. We all seek them out. We make our choices, develop our tastes, believe things as we understand them, define our own paths and stroll on them. In all we build a world of our own inside our mind. And that world inhibits everything we cherish. We always wish to live in such a world. Not only we wish but try also.
While we picked the elements of our dream world we also brushed across a plethora of other things. Things we hated. Things we discarded. Things we were not sure about. Things we were sure about but somehow they never fitted in. Things that appealed initially but waned as we moved on. Things that were imposed on us. All those things were everything that one can consider as lumen possibilities of human existence. Murakami called all these things shadows. And these are the things that marred the existence of our dream world. These shadows[1] are the junk in the quoted passage above.

Inability to encompass the inexhaustible variety of life it all leads to bewilderment and exasperation. Then we strive and struggle for more and more knowledge and understanding to chunk out inconsistencies and to bridge the gaps of our mind. Because that’s where we put the blame, our knowledge and understanding, and try to better it. Though our knowledge keeps on increasing but understanding suffers at times as shadows never leave us. Either consciously or subconsciously they stay and their existence always keeps us pushing and striving for more.
This is the thought on which Murakami draws the book towards the end.

The protagonist of the story is a Calcutec who loves to cook, read and drink(though he’s not as a drunkard) . He is a sharp observer but is quite indifferent to the world around him and is satisfied in his solitude.

The story is a science fiction blended with the philosophy of how we understand our understanding of mind. The novel is divided into two storylines which move parallel to each other in alternating chapters. Though both the stories are entirely different but one instinctively knows that they will merge in the end. As the name suggest one story is about a wonderland and other that proceeds towards the end of the world. While ‘End of the world ’ story is a science fiction embedded with concepts like double consciousness, human data encryption methods with human subconsciousness as an encryption key, sound-suppressing devices, history talking bones etc, it inevitably leads towards the end of world for the narrator which, though not explicitly stated, is the ‘Hard boiled wonderland’.

‘Hard Boiled Wonderland’ on the surface is a very subtly narrated dream like story. One is simply awestruck by the depth and imagination of it. It presents thought on the self inflicted struggle of a thinking man, though it never touches it explicitly and i guess that’s the best part of the story. A strive for knowledge and understanding which becomes a life long drive, never halting to enjoy the secrets one may have unearthed along the way. Though this drive is the lifeline of a man but it does contains a pain, a struggle , a strive in it which is the ‘Shadow’ that Murakami points out.

As he says :

There’s no reason why everyone has to listen to records in hi-fi. Having violin on the left and bass on the right doesn’t make the music more profound. Its just a more complicated way of simulating a bored imagination

No, the story is not just abt the Shadow but is whole lot more than it. Apart from the philosophy of working of the mind, the “Wonderland Story” is also a satire on the world of today and the irony is too much profound because of the calm way of the narration and the setting of the story.
There are characters like the Colonel, a Gatekeeper, Dreamreaders and there’s a Wall, a River, The Woods and the golden haired Beasts. And they all reside idiosyncratically in a town enclosed inside the Wall. The town and the things inside are actually a simple, calm yet crude deep layered caricature of the world we inhibit.

A meandering tangentiality encompasses the whole story giving it a surreal quality. It all looks lull, only that we are not sure if the storm has passed or is on its way.
I completed the book about a week back but am still awed by its conception.
Go read it and don’t forget to thank me for it.

[1] The cover of the book shows a man coiled inside with a shadow below him. The shadow is shown lying on the floor (or we can say The World). And the World (floor) is shown cutting through the man. The inward coiling of the man can be seen as the alienation of his from the world. In the coiled stance of his body his head is also curled inside as if he’s shunning himself from any view of the travesty the world presents.

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GRin & sUK

A psychological tip

Whenever you’re called on to make up your mind
and you’re hampered by not having any,
the best way to solve the dilemma, you’ll find
is simply by spinning a penny.No – not so that chance shall decide the affair
while you’re passively standing there moping;
but the moment the penny is up in the air
you suddenly know what you’re hoping.

Lest Fools Should Fail

True wisdom knows
it must comprise
some nonsense
as a compromise,
lest fools shouls fail
to find it wise.

Grook or Gruk(in Danish) is said to be an abbreviation of GRin and sUK (laughter and sigh) invented and made famous by Danish poet Piet Hein. Grooks are short aphoristic poems characterized by irony, paradox, brevity, sophisticated rhymes and satire.

Enjoy them here, here and here.

Half a day

22 Sep, 17:49

As he stepped out of the office his mobile beeped. It was a reminder for his meeting with the doctor. He dismissed the reminder and hurried onto the car. He waited for a few minutes in his car as the little disturbance of people getting their cars out of the parking died out. He hates the restlessness that keeps cropping up while one is in the middle of something and has to wait for something else so at times he knowingly delays but then this also has its repercussions.

Reverse gear…first gear…2nd…wroom…and he was out of the parking lot turning left without even glancing at the right.

Driving always used to ease him up but it had its limits too. An overtly empty road or a crowded one was just not a place for him. A moderated traffic where he could drive between 80-100+ taking slight turns and twists, overtaking anything and everything along his way used to give him a calm and soothing sense of engagement.

Today was one of his best days and he was effortlessly enjoying his flight.

“Just the next turn”- a voice from his left.

Astonished, he glanced left to take a view of the person sitting on the adjacent seat. The sense of surprise suddenly turned into one of amusement, as he realized how bored he would have been had he not lost sense of his companion.

He smiled and said, “Yeah, sure”. But now he was struggling to recollect his name.

He shrugged and carried on driving.

After 15 minutes he was at his home.

22 Sep, 18:32

He was now struggling to open his door. The lock had been in its present idiosyncratic state for quite some time but he had got used to opening it anyway and never bothered to change it. But today with his bandaged index finger he was finding it difficult to open it. He remembered how he had opened it till now but somehow his left hand was not complying.

His frustration was growing leaps and bounds. Slowly he tried to open the lock with his right hand but was not able to exert the necessary force after twisting the key in some particular way.

“Damn”, he shouted and kicked the door and withdrew back.

Leaning on the wall opposite to the door he waited for a few seconds. He moved forward and slowly put the key inside again and waited again. And the suddenly he turned the key.

“Ouch”, he screamed and the door was open.

22 Sep, 18:48

22 Sep, 23:22

He closed his book went to the balcony. Stretching his arms he closed his eyes. As he closed his eyes a deep sense of satisfaction seeped into his body. As if whole body was enjoying the comfort of his eyes. A mild wind was blowing, bringing along with it the long familiar aromatic essence of the vast sea that lied in front. As he opened his eyes he looked at faint light flickering at the longest possible distance on the left of the lone coconut tree on the right.

‘Ah, it must be Tuesday then’, he thought.

As he was about to move inside a piercing loud voice came up. He turned and lowered his head so as to take a view of the source.

“bhelpuridahipuripanipuridahivadapapdichaatsevpurisaaretypekachataamirkeliye

bhiaurgaribkeliyebhisabkeliyesevpuripapdichaatdahi….vadapanipuridahipuribhelpuri”, he ended with a breathy smile, though a fraction of the second later the voice from the down.

“Sahib. Aaj to sirf 90 persant”, came the loud voice from down.

He laughed and waved his hand towards him. Slowly he went towards the entrance door and opened it. A small boy emerged from the left, where the lift is, carrying his Tuesday spl Bhel puri.

22 Sep, 23:55

23 Sep, 02:02

He closed his book and moved his head inside the sheet, and went to sleep, without bothering to turn the lights off.

The Departed

Truth and Honesty are not synonymous with each other.

This is what the Irish Gangster Costello says to Colin Sullivan and this is what Scorsese unfortunately lives up to. Scorsese gives us a decent played potboiler which may claim to pocket the truth of the Film maker’s caliber but sadly leaves honesty behind.

What we have here is a star-studded cast of Nicholson, Dicaprio, Matt Damon, Mark Walhberg and Alec Baldwin with a tightly scripted gangster saga where good and bad flirt equally with each other without bothering for a line to be drawn between each other. A line holds anything when you are on either of the sides but when viewed from above it’s just a point of focus where all the action sits. But somehow Scorsese does nothing, while desiring to showcase both sides he forgets to rise. Nevertheless Costello says the cliche:

When I was your age they used to say you could become cops or criminals. What I’m saying to you is this… When you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?

The movie’s named The Departed and the only reference to it comes when someone says in the end to pay homage to the departed i.e dead. I don’t know why Scorsese went for such a name. ‘The Rats’ or ‘Pied Pipers of Massachusetts’ would have been apt titles as that’s what the movie is about. Yeah, rats i.e moles on the both sides. Rats, as Costello loved to call them.
Costigan(DiCapario) and Sllivan(Damon) are both rats on opposite turfs but are unaware of each others identity. And as the movie moves both try to find out the identity of the other leading to a interesting and intense drama towards the end.
Movie is good and is nicely made but somehow lacks the soul. It lacks the intense feeling that just oozes out of the Scorsese’s other works like ‘The Taxi’ or ‘The Goodfellas’ or the recent one ‘The Aviator’.
Jack Nicholson is at his usually best doing everything with ease and flair, be it giving his HoHO kinda laugh or his attempts to mimic rats. Though DiCapario looked overdone but he neverthless pulled up a great performance whereas Matt Damon acted as if any other actor could have replaced him for better. The stellar performance of the movie was from Mark Wahlberg who showed a lot of verve in the first half but sadly went underutilized later.

Well, it looks am blabbering way too much. Its just that am paying the brunt of my over expectations.
Go watch it and come back to throw tomatoes at me.

Doomed to dirt

Mr Kumar was returning to his home after an over trying day in the office. As he neared his place, a filthy pavement by the side of his right window reminded him of a painful development that took place few days back.

He hasn’t still not come to terms thought that he would be living in what would look like a prison camp, with each successive floor looking like a mountain. A look of a scooped up chicken shelter came up in his mind.
He wondered how would it feel with the feeling that whole of the world’s dirt and filth has moved half way more closer to him. Disgusted he shook his head.

He imagined how it would look if his whole family would have to spend almost double the time washing their bodies. He imagined the wry look his neighborhood grocery shopkeeper will give him on seeing him buy double his quota of soaps. May be he will shift to some cheap soap, he thought.

As the bus was moving he caught a glimpse of an old filthy poster of movie ‘The Aviator’. A smile appeared on his face. Amused and disgusted he cursed his luck.
Lost in his thoughts he didn’t even realize stepping out of the bus and there he was now in front of his house looking at the municipality notice responsible for his entire mental trauma.
The notice read: ‘As per the MCD directives the road will be widened to double its present width. All troubles are deeply regretted.’

The Plague

The PlagueAlbert Camus

How should a man confront death when it stares him in his eyes? Should the character of the calamity be responsible for human action or should it be the human character that should define the calamity? Can a man be scared to death for something when that same thing is giving a person the time for his life? Can individual destiny turn into a collective Destiny or is it the other way round?

Such (and a lot more) is the scope of possibilities that Camus sets to explore in the backdrop of an all-threatening Plague.

The plague is a masterly crafted compelling tale of human survival and resilience in the face of a brutal adversity. The unrelenting nature of the novel is self-apparent from the cold look of the book cover itself. One is immediately taken to the onset of Plague as the novel begins. The novel catches human spirit in its most basic of forms and shows its existential nature imbued in all realms of life.
Oran is the town where the story is set roughly in 1940’s. It’s a town like any other town busy with its usual trivialities without over indulging on them. Plague shows its face just as the story begins with the introduction of the town and a few characters. The story revolves around those few characters and the town as whole whereby telling how each one came to terms with the plague.

An immensely rewarding read which i guess i will remember for a long time.