Literary Review – The Doodler of Dimashq

Have you ever felt grief hitting you under the belt? The blow that hits you like a sledgehammer, making you immobile and numb to pain because of an overdose of pain! This feeling would’ve been experienced by people waking up after a troubled sleep a day or two after the loss of a beloved person. The real feeling of the seeming unreal becoming reality! That’s the feeling that one feels and undergoes while reading The Doodler of Dimashq.

The sickening news of destruction, inhumanity and chaos remains just news from a faraway land. A land that has no connection with us. A land that we read about and share posts on Facebook and Twitter – not to mention the factions we divide ourselves into, attacking vociferously one while defending doggedly the other and becoming experts on World Politics. What Kirthi Jayakumar has done is, give a face to Syria and personalize the demons pulverizing the ancient human establishment. This comes at a cost – that of our emotions.

Ameenah is a normal girl of Dimashq, like the Elizabeths, Claires, Meenas and Valerias of other parts of the world. She is fourteen when her world changes topsy-turvy. Her school education is put on a pause as the war inches towards Dimashq, and she is married to Fathi, of Haleb. Fathi proves to be a doting husband and respects the feelings and emotions of Ameenah. Soon enough Ameenah continues her education in a school in Haleb. All through her life Ameenah takes comfort and interest in one thing – her doodles. She doodles whenever she gets free time.

Ameenah doubles up as a household helper to Fathi’s parents during the evenings and early mornings while her daytime is spent in school. In her spare time, she smuggles herself and her little bag with all her doodles to a quiet place and starts doodling. Everything that she sees and experiences becomes the theme of her drawings. And she guards them religiously. The doodles are her world.

The pains that Ameenah’s family members undertake to send her to safety are enormous, though mentioned only in undertones. Kirthi has skillfully played it subtly to be heard loudly. The scene in which Ameenah’s parents bid farewell to their daughter as she goes with her husband to his house is heart-wrenching, forcing the reader to close the book and stem the tears threatening to run down one’s face. Visuals form in the head seeing a tiny and frightened Ameenah sitting in the car with Fathi, as her parents, standing side-by-side, watch their daughter leave to a far-off land, with a stranger. The entire scene blasts one message through the air – the helplessness of the Syrian parents.

Life never seems to be fair to Ameenah. She has just settled in the Fathi household and becomes used to her loving husband and school when comes news of her parents’ demise. She becomes an orphan at sixteen. Seeing her parents’ bodies laid side by side – making her remember their farewell to her, she comes close to madness losing track of all things around her. The author Kirthi Jayakumar writes as follows,

“No. I didn’t cry. I just died inside.”

No stronger words could’ve been written. The actions of Fathi turn out to be a strong moral support to Ameenah who flounders on a miry quicksand of anxiety and melancholy. The way in which he recites poetry to her and brings solace to her is maddeningly sweet in an otherwise turbulent world of Ameenah. Bereft of family members, Ameenah draws closer to Fathi and all that he has to offer. When the last stronghold of Ameenah crumbles, with Fathi and his family being blown to smithereens, Ameenah changes. The hope that she brings into thousands of people through her drawings are wrought beautifully by the author. There are incidents that make one long to shout out while some incidents make one cry. A myriad of emotions cocktailing and frothing between two covers – that is The Doodler of Dimashq for you!

The best part of the novel is the theme conveyed through the story. A story of hope amidst depression, the light of life shining through the grim dark world and the message that humanity does and will continue to prosper through one act or the other. It could be as small or seemingly insignificant as a doodle. Remember that a drop of water is a life line for one who is parched. So is The Doodler of Dimashq, spreading joy and hope in spite of its background. Kirthi Jayakumar scores yet again. Not to be forgotten is the smooth and easy play of words in English by the author. Excellent language skills! The publishing house, Readomania, shares the glory in this domain.

Readomania has proved its quality and its determination to be away from the milling crowd of publication by bringing out this spectacular novel of hope. Kirthi Jayakumar churns out words that are sharper than the shrapnel ricocheting through the dusty streets of Haleb, either making hearts beat faster than is usual or making hearts stop doing their regular job. She always manages to change the rhythm of the heartbeats. Ameenah becomes us and we become Ameenah. We can empathize with the people of Syria. Their grief becomes ours. We stop living in other places. We enter the warzone, dodging bullets and diving into tunnels from barrel bombs. As for the cacophony of falling buildings, low flying planes, thundering helicopters and raining bombs, it is always present. For we are in Haleb. We just passed Dimashq. Didn’t we cry and lament over the ghost towns that lie wasted and in ruins? For us, Syria is no more a news. For we are part of the country and of the world. We are humans. We care.

Shadow in the Mirror – Literary Review

When was the last time you had goosebumps due to a moment of trepidation? The first glance at the cover of Shadow in the Mirror gives one the shivers. The foreboding face staring menacingly from the darkish blue front cover of the novel is enough to make a still mind quake, and stop with a screeching halt, the wavering mind. The title doesn’t help either. It adds to the eerie feeling. Not to mention the malevolence behind the eyes… those eyes.

The first chapter doesn’t disappoint… not one bit. The plunge into the abyss is horrific and heart-wrenching. Nita, a pregnant girl, falls from the balcony of her apartment in Bangalore. This is the background of the novel, and the stage couldn’t have been set better.

The novel is set mainly amidst the bustling city of Bangalore and yet travels along the sleepy hamlets of Kerala, allowing a whiff of coconut trees on a rainy day. The move to Kerala is a welcome one, as it takes the reader away from the gruesome death and its evil-eyed aura hovering just above the surface, waiting to overpower the reader any moment.

Shadow in the Mirror takes readers across a whirlwind of emotions, as the novel starts shaping itself through threads of small stories of different people. The main characters etch themselves firmly in the minds of the readers, baring their very souls. The difference in characterization among the leading people of the novel is by a good margin and there are no similarities leading to awkward misunderstandings.

The relationship between Krish and Nita is overwhelmingly innocent and dripping with love and affection for each other. Deepti Menon has intricately weaved a bond here that delves deep into the psychology of a Man and a Woman, their understanding of each other and their sacrifice for each other in their career and everyday affairs.

Kavitha is a character drawn from the waters of a torrential stream. The Dr. Jekyll and Hyde – sort of characterization is not a joke. Deepti Menon has pulled it off with elan! One moment the reader sympathizes with Kavitha, whereas the next moment fingers twitch, desirous of strangling her.

Eshwar and Sudha would never be forgotten by any reader, for the sheer ferocity of the husband and wife love that melts the reader. Eshwar is the epitome of a doting husband and a responsible father, as Sudha stands by him in every possible way. Sudha’s character is like that of an immovable mountain. Sorrow assails her unawares. She stands tall – breaking asunder the traditional hold that the society expects.

The novel is pleasantly guilty of sub-plots that the author has tastefully reworked from her life and that of her acquaintances. This has given a personal touch to the novel, making it a hybrography (Pardon the licence).

Deepti Menon’s mastery of the Language is evident from the first chapter. The reader is forced to stop reading the novel at times and give a wistful smile, giving way to reminiscences. Literary flavor abounds in the novel, the syntax of the Language exploited to the maximum by the author. The choice of words, the exclamatory endings, the casual reference to other literary works of art, the use of metaphors… all point to one thing – the ‘well-read’ personality of Deepti Menon. Each chapter has a point of delight for a connoisseur of the English Language. A rare phenomenon or should one call it PenOhMenon!

Verdict

Readomania has added a feather to its cap by publishing Shadow in the Mirror. The novel gives importance to women, gives credence to the independence of women and at the same time brings out the infallibility of women. The author has tastefully polished the novel from a maze of small stories which invariably find their way into the mainstream, delighting and scaring the reader alternately along the way. Emotions warring in the minds of the readers can’t but wonder what’s next in offing from Deepti Menon.

Human mind

Human mind is strange and hasn’t been explored beyond a certain point. Trying to understand the human mind completely would be futile, as it is not possible. What satiates a person? He who is happy with the happenings of a particular system isn’t happy anymore. The settings have not changed, the people have not changed, the climate has not changed, the financial condition has not changed and yet, there is no productivity. When asked, the person comes up with umpteen number of reasons – ones that would shame a five year kid resorting to outmaneuver himself out of a perilous situation. What then is the primary reason for the person’s irresponsible behavior? Not that he is not capable of doing so. He has delivered in the past and the man has been observed in action to be of an excellent quality, not seen commonly. The things that worked for him before do not work for him, or so he says.Why is this so? Was he judged wrong? Was he not good enough in his work in the past? Was he impersonated? Lots of questions hammer one’s mind when encountering such personalities.

How does one handle people who oscillate between extremities? Eccentric hotheads, if you might call them so. The reason they cannot be eliminated from the system is that they are extremely valuable and enviably hard-working when they want to be so. It takes a lot, quite a lot of effort to replace them. But when things get into their heads to the level of making them inebriated with their own glories, well… sad to say, they’ve gotta go.That would be good for the system, family and more so for the individuals. The furlough they get will help them realize where they stand and give them a better perspective of themselves. They can’t be blowing their own trumpets for their whole lives and they need a wake-up call, rude though it might be.

Let’s see when this jackass thinking of himself as a smart – aleck comes to his senses.Let’s hope for his sake he gets back his senses soon, for time is of the essence. He sits at home enjoying the rustic charms and pretends nothing has happened when he must be climbing the ladder of success and tasting its fruit along the travel by cruising along, with the breeze rustling his shirt cuffs. It was after all he who paved the way for the system and was a pioneer. He deserves a cut surely. But man, the extent to which he goes to make people loathe him is quite large. He is eccentric, hotheaded, extremely moody but not incorrigible. And that my folks is what I am counting on, next to God. Let’s wait and see how events shape up. Let’s see when he wakes up. If he comes around to his senses, it would be good for the system and for his family… HIS family, and he ought to get that into his head. But he being thick-headed, it might take time. But I am willing to wait and watch, for I am interested in the working of the human mind and would like to take note of this scenario and make baby-steps into the exploration of the human mind myself. And the guinea- pig here… is him.

Grumbling employees???

Grumbling employees

Why do employees grumble? Is it the lack of monetary benefit? If you give them a huge salary, does the grumbling stop? Does the murmur end? Do the employees breathe easy when they get a huge sum as payment for their work? There are disgruntled workers even in institutions that offer a hefty package. What then is it that makes workers happy? May be, it is in the way that the workers are treated. May be, it is in the method used to communicate things to them. When the employees know for sure that they are recognized and that their efforts really matter in the institution that they work in, well… that makes all the difference. There is a spring in the steps of the employees as they come beaming out of a meeting after having been patted on the shoulder in an appreciative manner. There is in their outlook, a vision and the determination to accomplish missions in order to achieve that vision. Such visionaries are not born. They are made. They are ordinary men made extra-ordinary by the kindness and magnanimity of the institution’s leaders. People rise to great heights because of the immense faith and trust the authorities place in them. May be, that is why some institutions soar high whereas many flounder and are grounded because of the wrong kinds of missions employed to try to reach their vision.

The Driving Force

Driving Force

What is it that drives you? Are you driven by the thirst for power? Do you lust after anything that gives you the authority to mow down people with your actions and words? How do people treat you when you are not present in a room? What do they talk about you when you leave a room? What gives you the energy to come for work everyday? Is it the financial monster threatening to gulp you and your family? If so, is that the only thing that makes you creep into an institution and drag your body to merely ‘work’? Are you a cadaver or a vibrant and dynamic leader at work? Or perhaps it is the unavailability of job elsewhere that makes you to join the many millions around the world who opt for an easy job with many perks, one of them being vacation for a month or two every year. If this is the case, then there would be no driving force behind the individual. This is one sorry case that can be rectified. Edification of the person concerned is still a possibility, though it requires the presence of a facilitator who can do the job required efficiently. The most hopeless situation is where people come to a work spot without a care, and care two hoots about their improvement and the development of their institution. They do not change when they are told, reminded and coaxed. They pretend to change when they are threatened. They are incorrigible. Well… that sums up everything. They have no driving force and they dare to demotivate those who breeze into an institution and scatter them away in a whirlwind out of proportion. So… what is YOUR DRIVING FORCE?

Fortune never comes single

Fortune

Misfortune never comes single, so they say… what of fortune? I for once had an overdose of fortune for a day. I got up late for college, missed the college bus and was in a predicament – to use the city bus to reach college, bunk college or to use one of my bikes to reach college. If I used the city bus (I had to use three buses), which I obviously detested and still loathe, I would yet be late for college anyways losing almost 500 bucks as loss of pay. If I bunked college, I would lose almost 1000 rupees as loss of pay, which naturally was and is not to my liking at all. What of my motorcycles then, one might as well as ask… Well… one of my motorcycles had not cleared the FC inspection and had no papers certifying it to be used on road. I did not want to take any risks with the law enforcers by using that. The other motorcycle was the mighty Yamaha RD350, which munches miles like it is made to do only that and drinks petrol like a Viking consuming ale. If I used that beast I would have to shell out 500 rupees at the least, for the mileage it offered was around fourteen kilometres per litre. Such was my situation. I finally rolled the mammoth out, perched upon it forlornly and rode it like the devil was after me. Boy! Did it fly! It set the road on fire. Thirty minutes to cover forty kilometres in mediocre traffic. Not bad for the leviathan!!! I reached on time. Fortune number one. I got a call from one of my brothers asking me to pick him up from the airport at five. He did not want to take a taxi and waste money. The luggage he had, required the assistance of two people, courtesy my youngest bro and I. I had the beast with me. The other motorcycle, the one we call the pooch, the one without papers, was at home with the youngest brother. He was a rookie. The bike was mighty powerful. Did not want him to feed the filth on the way to ride that motorcycle, because a lot were standing to collect whatever they might find to fill their uniformed garbage cans from unwary motorists and poor truck drivers, bringing defamy to the glorious image of India. I had no other option. The rookie was asked to come – slow and careful. I reached on time, followed by the kid, grinning like a Cheshire cat because he had come unscathed. We reached home safe. Fortune number two. The beast had actually softened and given a mileage of around 20 kmpl!!!A miracle. Fortune number three.

India

India

India has made great strides in the fields of Information Technology, Science, Education, Military etc… no doubt about it. Multi National Companies and Call Centres in India mint money. In the process, one cannot deny the fact that millions run their families because of the employment offered by those companies. Where would the families be if not for those MNCs? Breakthroughs in the field of Medicine and Technology are a tribute to the growth of Science in India. Foreign nationals swooping down on Indian Universities is a sure sign of the quality of Indian Education. One cannot say that Indian Education is the best there is, yet, the improvement seen in the field of Education in the recent years cannot be ignored. The military prowess of India is something definitely not to be taken lightly, and the entire world knows the fact.

Yet, India – the land of tradition, sunshine and hospitality flounders on certain areas; critical areas – fields where the pioneering country should’ve cloaked itself with the mantle of leadership and led majestically from the front, as a living example. Had it been so! Alas! Even the streets of the country are packed with dust baked Audis, BMWs and quite recently – Jaguars. This too is a proof of the wealth of India. When one takes pride in the growth of India, there are spotted sights and signs that disturb one and make one wonder if India would ever reform itself or at the least, learn from other countries. The plight of India is evident to any who might care to observe. Beggars still compete with street dogs for scraps of leftovers at the corporation dustbins whereas uniformed beggars annoy and rob the public on all possible lanes, streets and highways with a convoy of a Toyota Innova or a Mahindra Bolero and a couple of motorcycles, the framework of the vehicles flashing blue and red lights! What is India transforming into? Where is the decency and honesty that we taught the world?

Laborers in India
Laborers in India

In this era of modern science and advancement, workmen risk their lives to go into man holes to clear the dirt out. Why do the men go in? Why is technology not used here? Aren’t we scientifically high enough to have cultivated the thought of not sending humans – fellow brothers, inside dark holes that could possibly turn into murderous graves? Why does no one care if such a scene is witnessed on a roadside? There travel the rich, the poor, the young, the old, the literate and the illiterate, where out of an open hole on the pavement emerges a man clearing scum and throwing it out. No one gives a second thought or even a glance at the man. Who will take care of the man’s family if he were to die there? All these things happen on a busy road in the heart of the city. Still, we do not bother. Why? Have we lost heart? Where then, is the glory of India and its ancestry? We do so many things to change the face of India. What needs to be changed is not the face of India, but the heart. What is or would be our contribution towards that?

 

Spirit VS Flesh

Spirit VS Flesh

The Spirit is willing, but the body is weak. It is true on many occasions. Be it a place of study, or a work-spot, or even a place of entertainment, try doing the same thing for six days a week tirelessly, faithfully, sincerely and honestly by travelling around one hundred kilometres per day, you will know what weakness is. It will come on you slowly, like a needle being inserted into a banana… You will not feel it initially… almost painless… almost natural… always disguised… by words of encouragement from a mentor, a fellow colleague, a friend, a religious leader…the list goes on… when the realization comes on you, Alas!!! It will be too late – for the weakness would have eaten into your very soul. The physical sense of the weakness would have majored and crept into your mental faculties, occupying and corroding the core of what you need for work – The Spirit…What then of the ‘The Spirit is willing, but the body is weak’? It is true indeed that the flesh gets tired soon. Should the condition persist and be maintained, it is natural – though many might not accept, that the Spirit also would follow suit, resulting in collateral damage – and that Sirs, is not something to my liking… So, I gotta do what I gotta do, for it is tiring for my flesh right now… I do feel it. I want my Spirit to be fresh, unadulterated and free of the corrosion that is fast approaching and trying to sneak in unawares… So, I ask myself… Is the Flesh weak or is it the Spirit that is weak? ? ?

Courtesy: jannekerlawrence

2015 for Authors

2015 for Authors and Writers

quill-and-parchment

Life, for lovers of English residing in India has been nothing less than exciting, with the launch of many exemplary short stories and novels that thrill, enthrall and energize the reader into pursuing heroic deeds unheard and untold of in various forms and lands forming in the mind of the reader. Although 2014 saw the release of some books not done with a literary flavour making big waves in the Indian book markets commercially, there were also some quality books that failed to garner the interest of readers because of the lack of marketing techniques. However, one can be sure that this would not deter upcoming talented writers to lose enthusiasm. We would like to remind authors around the world, and especially in India, that 2015 would have bigger surprises and hidden springs of creativity than 2014 had for them. So creators, for that’s who you all are, gear up for the New Year with thanksgiving for the current year and continue to amaze us and transport us into your world with the power of your pens. Do not ever lose hope and never ever think of giving up writing-for that is one of the purposes for which God has created you. Winding off now to give you room for creativity. Let us welcome 2015!

English Language Teachers

English, English, English… English everywhere!

There are countless numbers of meaningful meetings and conferences that have become meaningless because of the lack of commonsense and foresight. Sometimes, the necessity to prove one’s worth to others or to the world makes one to take adverse steps by not heeding the warning signs and making one vulnerable to mistakes and sometimes blunders. I remember an incident that so rightly pops into my mind. It was a national level conference for English Teachers and Professors. Faculty members had come from all parts of the country. The event started on a positive note, with a couple of native speakers contributing to the richness and purpose of the meeting. Then came the time for paper presentations by the participants. They all talked about the necessity of changing the pattern of education followed in colleges in India. One must’ve heard them talk to believe that they really talked so. Such was the quality of their language that Shakespeare would have become Othello himself and Dr. Johnson would never have compiled his great initiative work. One cringed as one listened to the meaningless chatter that emanated from the mouth of the people who presented. To think that they were English Teachers was something incomprehensible. It would be a miracle if students could learn The Language from them. Aren’t teachers of English supposed to be grammatically correct while conversing in English? Isn’t that a common requirement? Where has the Quality of English Teachers gone? Isn’t it a crying shame that there are many teachers of the English Language who cannot speak in the same language confidently without mistakes? They then become the butt of all jokes inside and outside the college campus and end up blaming the Management or the Quality of students and finally retire from their respectable positions in colleges and universities signalling a grinding halt to their miserable, fruitless life. There was a workshop given by an Associate Professor of English. God only knows how she became one, and of all surprises how she was chosen to be the resource person on that day, fateful for lovers of English. The Associate Professor did not know proper English, had no clue as to the use of a microphone and to top it all, she thought that she was doing a wonderful job as a speaker. The last point was evident from the manner in which she strutted around. Where, I ask, is the quality that is required now? Can’t colleges and universities recruit candidates who know how to talk in English? Can’t they take in someone who can deliver more than what the students need? Are there not people who can make a crowd swoon by their language skills? Why can’t they be employed? Pay them well, I say, and retain them.Where did we go wrong? Where are we going wrong now? It is not the educational system. It is the lack of fire inside individuals. It is the case of people going to a job just for the sake of working. There is no heart in the subject, no love for the subject and practically no interest whatsoever. The change that needs to be implemented is the one that needs to happen within the teachers, not with some system that everyone blames. The Teacher must change, lead from the front and make the students fall in love with the subject and inspire them to follow him/her. Till that happens, many more farce presentations and conferences will continue to happen and I too will be lingering around, hoping to catch glimpse of one or two people talking in a way that would make English Language Teachers proud.

Courtesy: jannekerlawrence.blogspot.in