Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Stranger by Albert Camus – A book review

Are we to fear God or love him?

This novella is about Meursault, a person indifferent to everything and everyone around him. Having murdered a person, he faces a trial and is convicted for the homicide. Though the story builds onto the indifference that the protagonist shows towards society in general, the essence of the book lies in the last few thought provoking pages, in his conversation with the priest – his obstinate and unyielding non-acceptance of God.

The book has raised a lot of questions in my mind and the inexorable ramblings that it has created strive to find answers.

Indifference – is it dangerous? Could be! But is it necessarily so? Could I force you to like me, like anyone, anything? Am I right in doing so – obviously not! What changes in me if you are indifferent? Is Meursault’s sending away his mother to an old age home, an act of indifference, couldn’t it be plainly an act of being practical? The lack of sadness at the loss of his mother, his inability to mourn her absence isn’t normal, yes. I would personally abhor such a being, but what’s he to do if he actually doesn’t feel it? Should he enact the perfect mourning? My mind does say that that’s being less human, as I said earlier not normal, but maybe he likes to live in the present rather than in the past or the future like most of us. Am I trying to empathise here or am I holding a mirror to my feelings, my thoughts with Meursault’s torso in an attempt to comprehend him?

The killing – was that an act of fear or ruthlessness? Was it the fear of being killed if not kill? He said the sun was in his eyes and he was tired. Why did he shoot again and again the motionless body once life had escaped it? Hmmm! That again could have been fear, right, or was it the sudden impulsive thrill from having pulled the trigger for the first time? For one, Meursalt for whatever else he was, wasn't a liar, rather he was a truthful person. His inability to express his thoughts exaggerated each of his shortcomings. The lack of pity, repentance, tears, his calmness, his irritating ability to let go is what makes it so hateful. But, aren’t we all, when we do something wrong, repeatedly asked by our dear ones to get out of it, to forget it – doesn’t that make Meursault a winner then?

If he was so grotesque a character, why was he madly loved by Marie or was she insane too?

Does God exist? For me, yes, for you, I don’t know, but the fact is, if He exists, He exists, whether your answer is a yes or no. Are we supposed to fear Him or love Him? Why then, like our parents, like our elders, the priest too forces Meursault to believe in something he doesn’t. Doesn’t that question the priest’s faith in the first place? His frustration at not being able to convince Meursault of God’s power, his presence, his benevolence, his forgiveness is derisive. Does he, the priest have all the answers just because he’s draped in a cassock and lives in the supposed house of God? His belief – isn’t it trying if he realizes that Meursault is created by the same power that created him. Can you, should you force someone to love a piece of poetry if he or she doesn’t appreciate it? Isn’t it beautiful by itself or does its essence fade away with the lack of appreciation of a few?

“I had only a little time left and I didn’t want to waste it on God”

Am I defending him? No, definitely not! Does Meursault seem even a bit moral? No. He seems almost a stranger to himself, to humanity. Then what’s disturbing me? I guess the fact that I, we expect him to be normal, his acts, his thoughts to be acts of textbook normalcy is what has irritated me as I advanced to dislike him. Normalcy, now what’s that?
My rating: * * * * * * * * * * - 8/10

Albert Camus

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene – A book review

Nothing’s ever enough for anyone! Not even goodness; time and again it needs to be proven; a thankless virtue that’s ostentatiously expected to lay bare, naked for others to see. Seeing is believing, isn’t it; mere feeling is not!

There have been very few books that I’ve liked from the very first pages, very few characters that have struck so strongly, a chord – the right one, for me to shake hands with and smile at them instantaneously the moment they were introduced.

“Innocence must die young if it isn’t to kill the souls of men”

            Scobie, a God fearing man as one can possibly be; not as God fearing as much as God loving, is an honest policeman in an African state in the times of World War II. His honesty, like always is seen as a banality to be pitied by others. He’s been passed over for promotion in the middle of a war. Scobie is content with the banal life that he lives, the place that he is in but; and there’s always a but! His wife Louise, who he loved immensely once, cared for, still cares, has gradually turned out to be, rather a responsibility than the love that once existed. Her inability to make friends, her happiness is of immediate concern to him more than anything else. She wants to get away; she terms him as selfish for not being able to arrange the money to send her away.

            Torn in a turmoil of justness and responsibility, Scobie readily falls into the trap of Yusef, a smuggler, a crook, a local businessman when he borrows money from him to send her wife away. And the trap only widens; but anything for the happiness of his wife.

“It was a relief to be on board and no longer alone together.”

As Scobie’s wife is away, he falls hopelessly and sympathetically in love with a dying ship wrecked patient Helen, much younger to him. What starts as a friendship, soon gets entangled into the grip of a painful, pitiful love affair.

 “What they had both thought was safety proved to have been the camouflage of an enemy who works in terms of friendship, trust and pity.”
“Oh”, she said, “why do you always tell me the truth? I don’t want the truth all the time.” – Helen

Scobie, now torn between his wife and an indignant lover, has a bigger concern – the answers that he has to give to the supreme. Very few, have I experienced to possess a soul so pure, such clarity in thoughts, so determined and conscious in actions, so strong willed. It’s so difficult to keep sanity intact in the midst of these inexorable, interminable thoughts that plague the mind; but it’s his heart that wins each time, a heart I term to be so pure.

Scobie now has to make a choice, never an easy one, between God and love, loyalty and sin. He is now derided by his lover as much as he is tested by his despairing wife. He’s responsible for one and immensely loves the other.

“We were happy. Doesn’t it seem odd? – we were happy,”
“Why do we go on like this – being unhappy?”
“It’s a mistake to mix up the ideas of happiness and love,” Scobie said
“How often he thought, lack of faith helps one to see more clearly than faith.”
“Well then,” she said triumphantly, “be hung for a sheep. You are in – what do you call it – mortal sin? Now. What difference does it make?”
He thought: pious people, I suppose would call this the devil speaking, but he knew that evil never spoke in these crude answerable terms: this was innocence. He said, “There is a difference – a big difference. It’s not easy to explain. Now I’m just putting out love above – well, my safety. But the other – the other’s really evil. It’s like the Black Mass, the man who steals the sacrament to desecrate it. It’s striking God when he’s down – in my power.”

And he, finally in an act of contrition chooses love over God; he finds God in love. What doesn’t exist won’t hurt the ones he loves, would it and like the Lord, he sacrifices himself at the altar of love.

“Despair is the price one pays for setting oneself an impossible aim. It is, one is told, the unforgivable sin, but it is a sin the corrupt or evil man never practises. He always has hope. He never reaches the freezing-point of knowing absolute failure. Only the man of goodwill carries always in his heart this capacity for damnation.”

And because I love you so much Scobie, I detest your wife even more. She calls you selfish; her resentment seems so shallow when she’s the one who deserted you and came back only to chain you to responsibility, to gather safety because you were happy with someone else. You did all that you could and more for her but it didn’t take her much time to give herself to another when you were gone.

Many would indict Scobie for what he did, call his damnation, his act of complete contrition as cowardice. I don’t support it of course but that’s who he was; who am I to stand between him and God. I envy you Scobie for being able to love so purely.

Like the doctor in ‘Anil’s Ghost’, like Estha in ‘The God of Small Things’, Scobie stays with me and will forever. I have closed these books but they stay with me, these great souls; they for me are men of God. When I sit beside the serene waters of a lake, I’ll think of you Scobie, the calm that you possessed, the inner turmoil that you kept hidden from everyone, the sacrifice that you made.

“Why he wondered, does one ever begin this humiliating process: why does one imagine that one is in love? He had read somewhere that love had been invented in the eleventh century by the troubadours. Why had they not left us with lust? He said with hopeless venom, “I love you.” He thought: It’s a lie, the word means nothing off the printed page.

“When he was young, he had thought love had something to do with understanding, but with age he knew that no human being understood another. Love was the wish to understand, and presently with constant failure the wish died, and love died too perhaps or changed into this painful affection, loyalty, pity...”

Thank you Graham Greene for taking me through this journey with Scobie, for miraculously expressing and passing on each of your, his thoughts to me.

This book was recommended by a friend, Giedre and I thank her immensely for introducing me to Graham Greene; he’s at the top of my favourite’s list now!
My rating: * * * * * * * * * * - 10/10
Images copyright:
Graham Greene


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

City of Djinns by William Dalrymple – A Book Review

          William Dalrymple, in one of his interviews says, “If I had five more lives, I would have lived all of them in India.”

I have travelled to Delhi many a times. If you ask a non-Delhiite about the city, though they would awe at the roads and structures, complain about the filth and crowd in some parts of the city, one common thing that they would say is ‘it’s a city of snobs’ and so would I.

Delhi – a city like any other city in the world; what’s the fascination attached to it? History, I would say and so says WD; a beguiling city built from a scratch and then destroyed, reduced to a scratch. And built again only to be destroyed again, and again, and again; like a potter’s creation at the wheel, marvelled at for some time and then thrown again to the hearth by the vagarious potter who doesn’t want anyone else to see its beauty.

Conquered by the mightiest of conquerors the world has ever seen, Delhi, apart from being their capital of power, was like a beautiful princess that every king or emperor vied for. It held a certain enigmatic love for them; a love, a masculine, salacious consummation that these monarchs couldn’t possibly find in their harems.

            WD’s research of the city is absolute. His travelogue extends from the epidermal surface of the current unconcerned multitude of the Delhi people, and excavates to scour layer upon layer of treachery, annihilation, love and power; an era long buried in the city’s abyss. WD talks of the mammoth structures the city hosts, their comparison to facades in the west, their historical bearing and the neglected state that they are in today. The ‘Red Fort’ receives a special mention and righty so; the throne from where was ruled most of India, all of Pakistan and great chunks of Afghanistan during the time of the celebrated Moghul Emperor Shah Jehan. WD writes, it was the apex of Moghul power, the golden age of unparalleled prosperity.

            The story of Delhi is incomplete without the mention of three important entities; the Moghuls, the Britishers and the bloody partition. Powerful and obstinate rulers like Timur the lame, Muhammed –bin-Tughlaq, Nadir Shah, Shah Alam, Shah Jehan and Aurangzeb, WD says, had their own doctrines, their own laws to abide by, each so different from the other. Some respected the saints, the others abhorred and beheaded them. The city’s story is replete with acts of deceit, treachery, barbarity and incest too. How many people would believe that the great emperor Shah Jehan, who built the Taj Mahal in memory of his wife Mumtaz was salaciously close to his eldest daughter Jahanara Begum. Needless to say, each king had his own harem, decorated and filigreed with the choicest of women.

            “As you sow, so shall you reap”, probably was quoted of Shah Jehan, an emperor who, though liberal than the others, conquered his place to the throne by killing his brothers and their children and capturing his father. Not surprisingly the barbarous Aurangzeb, one of his neglected sons imprisoned him, killed his own kin  and presented to him on the dining table, the lifeless head of his favourite son and successor to the throne Dara Shukoh.

WD meets historians, researchers, knowledgeable people, old members or their descendants from that time in history. With the changes in the throne, the language of Delhi has come a long way though the transformation isn’t a pleasant one. From Persian to Urdu, an immaculate language delivering and demanding respect, the language of the poets, the city now has to do with Hindi. Delhi, once was the land of poets like Mir, Jalal-ud-din Rumi, Ghalib and the likes, and the greatest gift to a king would be the latest verses from the great Mir than any jewel or tapestry.

While meandering around the streets of Delhi, WD meets some interesting multitude like the eunuchs, the masters of the pigeon fights, the leftover Britishers and their families, now called Anglo Indians, the survivors of partition like his landlady and the driver. The eunuchs, though in the present time are rebuked, they had a stronghold in the days of the emperor; they were a part of the courts, caretakers of the harems. At the Nizam-ud-din mosque, a place thronged by both the rich and the poor, the saints tell WD about the Djinns, their existence since God created man, how they can be captured and used.

Delhi, as WD rightly points out, post the India-Pakistan partition is itself divided into two conspicuous parts; old Delhi sporting the remnants of the Moghul era in bits and pieces and New Delhi, a facade of Lutyens’s brilliant architecture and now a house to the Punjabis. India, always has been an easy country to be besieged because of its religious differences. The bloodbath of partition is a horrific tale where entire villages were annihilated, people burnt alive, women raped – a crowd has no face, or rather has the face of a terror. As Dr. Jaffery, a historian tells WD, “In this city, culture and civilization have always been very thin dresses. It doesn’t take much for that dress to be torn off and for what lies beneath to be revealed.”

            WD’s research is excellent; he presents facets of the city which a tourist would normally miss. If you ever happen to visit the city, sitting on the ramparts of a fort or marvelling the intricate designs of a palace, or being blessed by the saints in one of the mosques, the djinns will most definitely bring to life snippets from this book. And as you relive the glorious incidents of that era, you would shudder at the thought of living under the rule of a monarch.

The worst part about reading history is that it’s almost always a biased, colourful story written by sycophants; WD’s travelogue isn’t that, it is unbiased, written without any obligation or pressure.
My rating: * * * * * * * * * * - 7/10
Image copyright:
William Dalyrympe


Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Children’s Book by A.S.Byatt – A book review


Only if life were a story....

But life is a story, isn’t it; every moment lived, of everyone’s life, some glorious, some plain, some recounted by grandparents, some cherished, some not so cherished. Some events make it to the history books, almost often quoted to the best of imperfection; others exist as individual or collective memories.
A historical fiction, Byatt’s story is a mammoth one, a tapestry upon which are woven intricately, colourfully and carefully, a design, a pattern that appeals to the readers for its individual portraits as much as for the entire landscape it creates. It’s a universe where the worlds of fairies, gnomes, sylphs and spirits have as much importance as the flesh and bone of myriad visible humans.
Olive Wellwood is a story teller, a writer rather; a writer of children’s books, a respected and admired one. She writes imaginary stories for each of her children, publishes them to the world; she hunts for her characters in museums, in vases and historical portraits, in puppet shows, in her children. Tom, her favourite son seems to be trapped in his story, hers and can’t get out. Like the prince who lost and can’t find his shadow, Tom seems to be lost and can’t find himself, can’t place himself in the word like everyone else so easily does, or so it seems.
It’s a difficult life for adults, but more so for children, especially the ones getting out of their cocoons of infanthood to find a place in the world. Unlike fawns and calves, we can’t start walking a few minutes after being pushed out of the womb; fortunately or unfortunately, we are humans. We need to be nurtured to get a grip. Who should they imitate, what’s good and what’s not, is it okay to be themselves – a plethora of unguided, often misguided, at times unanswered questions haunt the teenager as every single day proves to be a different one as they saunter towards the path of adulthood. It’s bad to have no options, but worse to have enough of them.
Though at the Wellwood household and the entangled families of their near ones, the children are treated as growing adults and their choices are honoured, the children find themselves at most times in a midden of deception. And in the midst of this treachery, they fall, grope, struggle, rebel to get away. They discover, things that should have been best left to the slothful beast of ignorance; but they do, they discover the frightful things they shouldn’t, that others shouldn’t about them.
Like the vagarious genius of Benedict Fludd and his apprentice Philip, Byatt creates them and her other characters from clay and like their beautifully carved, intricate and meticulous vases and pots, she moulds and shapes them. But the pots don’t be themselves without going through the hearth of the furnace and so does Byatt, put her characters, children and adults alike through the conflagration of life and relationships. Some are broken, some shine like a gilded blaze – a delight to the senses.
At times, it feels like you are reading newspaper excerpts of a bygone era. The Fabians, the Quakers, the Socialists and the Anarchists, the Nihilists, their thoughts, their ideologies and idealism run like veins through the story. Byatt’s canvas is replete with the arts and crafts, puppeteers and their wooden dolls, music and festivals, museums and extravagances, the rustic beauty of the countryside, the wilderness, cultures and their nuances, the dangling sword of war and then the war itself. As is the sagacious disposition of geniuses, in this labyrinth too, the author, like a master puppeteer pulls and loosens the strings of her marionettes to perfection and woos her audience, who keep their hands glued to the page, refrain from letting their eyes to wander and yet let their heart and mind to. The era is one where heterosexuality isn’t abhorred, where age is no barrier, where a single episode of intimate, salacious closeness is forgotten as easily as it happened, though it results in the placement of a seed in a womb; doubtful parentage isn’t disturbing. A girl you treated as your friend, a sister, is asked to be called your mother the next day!
The story also deals with the plight of women of that time, of all times, their fight to their entitlement to suffrage, to individualism, to find their feet in the land of men. As the frustrated Florence says,
“The truth is that the women we are (readying to be doctors, researchers, educated) – have become – are not fit to do without men, or to live with them, in the world as it was. And if we change, and they don’t, there will be no help for us. We shall be poor monsters.”
“A woman has to be extraordinary; she can’t just do things as though she had a right.”

A delightful read, Byatt’s characters, their rawness, their eccentricity, their plight, their vagaries, their love, their disgust will stay with you for a long time after you’ve turned the last page. At times, one might feel lost, frustrated with the neglect of a character (there are many), but Byatt ensures that her marionettes are not hanging from the stand for too long – she brings them to life when you think you are on the brink of letting go and moving on, asking, begging for more!
My rating: * * * * * * * * * * - 8/10
A. S. Byatt


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan – A Book Review

Questions about conscience, about rights and wrongs never have easy answers; do they have any answers at all? But anything that makes the reader uncomfortable, forces him to dive into the recesses of his thoughts, makes him struggle with his thoughts and that of the characters is remarkably good, an achievement for the writer.
Amsterdam revolves around some strong characters, Clive – an established musician, Vernon – an editor of a struggling newspaper called the Judge, Garmony – the foreign secretary and Molly Lane. Vernon and Clive, former lovers of the dead Molly are close friends, maybe the best. Molly, she lived an eventful life, a colourful one but death sucked and paled each shade and rendered her colourless in the end. Married to her husband George at the time of her death, she found it nearly impossible to recognize anyone as she laid suffering.
The others carry on in their establishments till some scandalous photographs find their way in the hands of Vernon. With these, Vernon feels elevated on the pedestal of power; the power to destroy the foreign secretary. But why would he do that, make a personal incident a public episode? Is it because he personally hates Garmony or is it because he is a good journalist and wants the world to know. Or maybe he thinks Garmony is the wrong person and doesn’t belong to the responsibility he bears. Should it matter if the end result, even though for a contemplated societal favour is borne out of a biased hateful mind. Does the end justify the means no matter how personal, how individualistic, no matter how odious the means are?
What would I do if I were in his skin? Grab the opportunity, convincing myself that I’m right, acting against my conscience or let my morals shove me out of this personal campaign? How easily these soulful words like conscience, morals and values, like the enlightening flame of a lit candle, escape skilfully like smoke with the mere blow of air in the presence of an opportunity. The strength of our character, I believe is how easily we can convince ourselves for or against our own values in the event of an opportunity. Clive too faces a similar dilemma, though in a different situation, where he could have made a difference had he chosen to, but doesn’t; only to be loathed by Vernon.
But somehow, as it always happens between McEwan and me; as I was pleasured on the decks of his titanic book, a disastrous iceberg lay ahead. Just when I thought this was the Ian McEwan book I will finally like, the end left me devastated; completely let down! Not because it was devastating in thought, but because it was so predictably horrendous; so ludicrous. I feel cheated by McEwan, by his hurried incapacity towards the end of the book; more so I feel being stabbed in the back by the Booker committee. Why, I wonder, how?
My Rating : * * * * * * * * * * - 5/10
Ian McEwan

Picture copyrights:
Amsterdam book cover - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Amsterdam-Ian-McEwan/dp/0099272776
Ian McEwan - http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/the-children-act-by-ian-mcewan-9691662.html

Monday, March 14, 2016

Every Man for Himself by Beryl Bainbridge – A Book Review

          I wish I had read this book before I had watched the film Titanic. Not because this book is much better than the movie or the other way round, but for the fact that my thoughts wouldn’t have been clouded by scenes from the movie while reading the last chapters describing the catastrophe of the sinking ship.

“Every man for himself”, how true regardless of whether you’re on board an elite ship or otherwise. The story is narrated by Morgan, an orphaned lad of 19. Orphaned but raised by a wealthy aunt, Morgan is a thinker and that’s what renders him different from the multitude of friends; so say some. He’s in love with the beautiful yet cold Wallis only to have his heart broken by the person who he personally looked up to, than her.

                As the mammoth cruise sails on its maiden voyage to New York, little do its passengers, millionaires know its and their fates are going to be tested by a greater power. Through Morgan’s eyes, the reader meets the denizens of the ship; the philosophical and heartless Scurra who claims to have seen life and lived it too, Rosenfelder, an obsessive couturier, irascible Ginsberg, the suicidal chanteuse Adele amongst others.

                As destiny changes in the wink of an eye, as it always does, what will finally matter?

                Can one exist to be as one is, as one has been when one hears death sing a lullaby, a sweet enchantment one wants to shut ones’ ears to? Would one be kinder, gentler, feel the need to reform when one knows there is no waking up from this sleep? Would one still harbour hatred, feel the urge to slaughter an enemy in the final hours? Would one still be a gentleman to hold the door for the pretty lady, or rather push her to get ahead in these times of chaos? Would I help you if I could, knowing you would never do the same? Does humanity resurface in these trying times or does it sink? Would the dandy still be obsessed with the faint stain on his exclusive jacket when the ocean rises to swallow him? Will the pleasure of kicking a cat, years ago be the paramount subject of repentance when I pray to the Lord?

Do we finally find ourselves, do we? Does our ordinariness float like a shattered plank in the gigantic ocean? Does the stupendous importance we give ourselves matter anymore, contrary to how miniscule we really are to the world we live in. Hopefully, the unfortunates got their answers before they perished; hopefully the survivors breathe every single breath knowing them.

Lucid and thoughtful with some intelligent life’s reflections from Beryl’s characters, ‘Every man for himself’ is an enjoyable read, though it doesn’t prod you to the edge of your seat. Again, I wish I had read it before watching the movie, maybe my thoughts would have been different and I would have liked it more.
Beryl Bainbridge
Pic copyright:
Book cover - Every man for himself - http://www.ebay.ie/sch/sis.html?_nkw=Every%20Man%20For%20Himself%20by%20Beryl%20Bainbridge%20V

Beryl Bainbridge picture - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/biographyandmemoirreviews/8498392/Beryl-Bainbridges-1960s-

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Life & Times of Michael K by J.M.Coetzee – A Book Review

        This happened a few years back. I was staying in a hostel then. We had students from all parts of the country staying in the hostel.

My roommate just walked in as I winked at him pointing to the guy leaving the room and smirking.

“What?” He asked.

“Such a chutiya (slang for stupid) this guy is”, I said.

“Oh, so that’s the term for them here, is it?” he asked. “Just because he asks strange questions and smiles all the time? Only because he is a bit different? He hasn’t harmed you in any way, has he?”

Before I could think of an answer for my otherwise not so philosophical friend, he walked out answering his phone. The room suddenly felt strange with his question suspended like a released arrow, in mid air, ready to strike and pierce; but it had, it already had!
Michael K with a hare lip was externally scarred and he was a gardener.

“Who are you Michael?” they asked and he replied “I’m a gardener.”

When he was a child, Michael’s mother Anna tried and kept him away from people because she thought he didn’t fit in; he was slow. Years later, fatigued from working at people’s houses, when she fell sick and the hospital corridor wasn’t of much help for her swollen body, Michael was called to take her home. He quit his gardening job. But what is home? A small windowless room below the staircase at her owners’ place?

Anna K doesn’t want to die here; she wants to live where she once lived, as a kid. As the civil war lurches everywhere, a license to travel is needed and Michael knows somehow he shouldn’t wait for it because there might never be one. As he builds a cart to carry his mother on the road, he knows now why he has been brought into this world – to take care of his mother.

            The mother dies on the way, in a hospital, and she’s burnt and the ashes are handed over to Michael. What should he do with them? He’s on his way where his mother wanted to be, carrying her ashes. He is captured and lands up in rehabilitation camps. But he doesn’t belong there! He can’t understand why he’s being kept there. He didn’t ask to be here. He doesn’t want to work for them or to eat their food. Why should he listen to them, he fails to understand. He doesn’t like being watched and guarded. They will shoot him if he jumps the wires, they say.

He escapes!

He stays in the mountains, hides there; he makes a home and a garden. He nurtures his plants, waters them, protects them. He stays awake at night, watching and covers himself at day to not be found. The ground, the water, the sunlight brings life, he believes. He eats when he feels it’s necessary, he sleeps at will; there is no routine. He is content and happy. The water melons are looking good now, the pumpkins are ready.


I was sitting by a pond, reading a book. Except for the ripples caused by the warm breeze, the water was still and serene. A couple came and sat on the other side. Holding hands, they chatted. After some time, the guy got up and started throwing pebbles in the pond; the girl followed. Why, I thought? I had done the same on many occasions before but why, I thought. Why this sudden impulse to disturb things, to not let things, people alone? Not for long can we let things be as they are, can we; we feel the need to meddle in our own way. So used to action and events happening around us all the time that the stillness disturbs us.


So they caught him. They found him lazing and they caught him, thin and frail. How could he be nobody, he had to be somebody; it irritated them, this man living by himself in the mountain. Was he feeding the terrorists, they poked and slapped him. “Who are you?” they asked. “I’m a gardener”, he said and they laughed. They destroyed his farm, planted mines and sent him to a hospital, another rehabilitation centre

Michael stops eating. The doctor at the rehabilitation centre tries in vain to understand him. And the more he tries, the more he gets attracted to this strange dying man who refuses to eat and carries pumpkin seeds in his pocket. He cares for Michael but Michael doesn’t heed to his caring.  As he delves deep, he sees Michael as a free spirit, who refuses to be confined, to be institutionalized. He refuses to eat and grow strong so that he can jump when the soldiers ask him to, can run and sit and raise his hands and carry a weapon as they ask him to. They are not his god. His god is the ground that gave him his pumpkins, the seeds he carries carry life. He isn’t stupid, thinks the doctor; it’s us! War or no war, he knows Michael isn’t meant for this world, he isn’t different, they are; we are. “Michael, take me with you my friend”, he cries.

Michael yet again escapes. A walking skeleton, he is puzzled – when he had food, they took it away, when he didn’t have any, they wanted to feed him; they said he was free within the barbed fences.

They need me for their amusement, don’t they?

Another brilliant piece of storytelling, J.M.Coetzee brings another incredible character to life. Michael K is a gift. Coetzee’s pen is as sharp as a sword; it cuts through our beliefs and draws blood that is pure and warm. The wound hopefully will remind us, time and again to respect people for what they are and not treat them as mirrors to see ourselves in them. Sometimes, just let be; you are not needed, nobody is needed. Just let the flower bloom on its’ own!