The other day, I attended a book launch, because I found out K. Srilata would be in conversation with Sharanya Manivannan. I felt like an impostor, in my straight-out-of-work clothes and the anxiety that comes from knowing I was going to meet a writer. I stood awkwardly and had in place nervous smiles for everyone whose eye I caught.
Turns out I had a great time after all. I got my copy signed, and I asked a question, even if I hated the way my voice came out, more high-pitched than normal. It seemed like everyone knew everyone else, but nobody knew me, which is really the best situation. I hate showing up and having to say Hi to at least three people I know from school, college and the neighbourhood, especially if I’ve been trying to avoid one or all of them for the better part of a decade.
“What do you do?” She’s a blogger, I heard from behind me, even as I started to say I’m an engineer. This was a pleasant surprise, because I tend to forget that I could have an alternate introduction for myself, if I so choose. I often wonder about the negative connotations that the word blogger carries, as though a blog was just a big cry for attention in the guise of poorly written diary entries. This is somewhat true, of course, and I will not deny I like the attention – I have not risen above cheap thrills just yet. I also keep hearing that blogs are losing their relevance, especially if they aren’t about something specific, like fashion or cooking or movies or parenting; but I’m not too sure about that. I shall give myself some more time to figure that out.
This past week, I finally finished reading all of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s books, the one I had left out being Half of a Yellow Sun. The titular yellow sun is the symbol of Biafra, which was the name of the country that broke away from Nigeria in the late 1960s and managed to stay afloat for only three years. Her novel focusses on how war affects the lives of civilians and changes them in unrecognizable ways.
I remember when I was in primary school, there used to be a chart in our science textbook that listed out the various diseases we would contract if we suffered from any deficiencies. Vitamin D, the teacher would call out, and we would sing back Rickets. Protein, she would say next, and we would say Kwashiorkor. So finally, I learnt of the deprivations of war through this book, what Kwashiorkor means to a country, and the stories behind starvation and malnutrition that we flippantly associate with the African continent.
The war is at the centre of this novel, but the author takes time to help us get to know her characters. We observe how they behave with each other, how they react to the world at large, their ideologies and emotions. There are any number of beautiful observations – about grief, love, relationships, post-colonial toxicity and the futility of war, all written in prose that is never pretentious. We also find out how a situation such as this specifically impacts women, who are more vulnerable for they are often seen as spoils of war, how they find within themselves an impossible courage and resilience that allows them to continue trying to live.
This is a difficult book to get through, because the images it brings to mind aren’t comforting, they demand you acknowledge the atrocities that once happened.
In other news, I started the year right watching Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which I thought was an enjoyable take on the magical universe created by J.K. Rowling, without the need for any of the usual suspects. The 1920s New York city setting was interesting too – there were many little details, like the American word for Muggle is No-Maj (short for Non-Magic), and all the fantastical powers that magical creatures have. There’s an adorable creature that picks locks! Yes, the movie is in 3D, which is the norm these days. To paraphrase Amy from The Big Bang Theory, it probably goes to show the studio has faith in the movie.
After what seems like a long long time, I happened to watch a Tamil movie in the theatre. I think I missed hearing Tamil on the big screen. I was glad to have picked Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru, which I chose after reading the headline to the review on Baradwaj Rangan’s blog (in keeping with my policy to not read about the movie until after I watch it, if I plan to watch it). I wouldn’t have known otherwise there was a movie of this name playing in theatres. I am a bit out of the loop.
Dhuruvangal Pathinaaru is fantastic, and one would use words like solid and craftsmanship to describe it. To think the director is only twenty-two…and no, I’d rather not think of what I was doing at twenty-two.
I acknowledge this is an uninspired post, and I resorted to giving you generic updates because I felt practice was important; and if an idea doesn’t strike me, I might as well resort to verbal diarrhea. Worry not, your patience has been recognized.