Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Great Gatsby

"I knew it was a great mistake for a man like me to fall in love"

In one of the heart breaking moments of the movie Jay Gatsby's character confides this to Nick Caraway, the narrator, and perhaps his only friend. Gatsby is a billionaire who dubiously acquires his wealth through bootlegging and is not a perfect likeable character, but when he says, and the way he says this : every sinew of your hearts feels out for him.

I had read the book in my college, gratefully borrowed from my college's Student Activity Center library, and till date I haven't come across another book which has more flawed and deliberately dislikable characters than this one. None of us are perfect, but even when imperfect characters are honest in their love, we feel for them, just like Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind. She is absolutely mean, materialistic, ruthless - yet we love her despite all her follies.

Gatsby is not even the least like her - at least that is what the narrator tries to convince us. Set in the golden decade of roaring twenties - the Jazz Age - known for its excesses and bloom which eventually ended into the doom and gloom of The Great Depression, Nick finds him as the only one worth his willow amongst the "rotten" and "careless" crowd including his own cousin Daisy Buchanan, the love interest of Jay Gatsby.

Looking at the sheer shallowness of the people around him, he gushes to Gatsby - "They’re a rotten crowd. You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together." His absolute admiration for his new neighbour-turned-friend can be seen in the very beginning of the book as he recounts : "It was one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life. It faced--or seemed to face--the whole eternal world for an instant, and then concentrated on you with an irresistible prejudice in your favor. It understood you just as far as you wanted to be understood, believed in you as you would like to believe in yourself, and assured you that it had precisely the impression of you that, at your best, you hoped to convey."

At one point one can't simply comprehend the amount of love and emotion Gatsby derived for the emotionally decapitated Daisy, but then you understand all when Nick eloquently articulates "There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams -- not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart."

Even Gatsby's ambition and lust to go after wealth is spurred less by his impoverished childhood but more by his indefatigable infatuation for Daisy which is explained when he abruptly fills in Nick "Her voice is full of money" during one of their conversations when latter is found searching for words while describing her cousin.

No one can be more lonely than man living alone in a luxurious mansion, but Gatsby's loneliness can be fathomed aptly in the words he describes his wild parties "You see I usually find myself among strangers because I drift here and there trying to forget the sad things that happened to me." The man is sad and desperate in love, but he is hopeful. Deep in his heart he knows about the futility and fatality of it, yet he is endlessly, hopelessly hopeful.

In one of the final moments of the book when he is waiting for the call from his lover, who had promised to call, who had promise to come to be with him forever and the phone rings, reader is just as hopeful as he is. But there is a difference between the newly found wealth of the impoverished class and that of the wealth bequeathed in blood and bones of the privileged class. Gatsby is an aspirant to a class which no amount of wealth and parties can buy and Daisy is a blue blood upper class damsel who can chose to stay with an egotistical, philandering ivy league husband but not for a person whom she claims she "always loved". This masterpiece faithfully depicts the shallow hypocrisy of the rich and futility of an earnest, selfless but undeserving love in the era where not having social strata was even bigger pyorrhea than now.

F. Scott Fitzgerald is a magician with words. His passages are descriptive with lyrical prose and many scenes stay with you long after you read them. Characters are well drawn out - so much so that reader believes, loves, hates, despises them but never dismisses them. Despite so many unlikable characters, Fitzgerald's himself falls short of condemning them ("Dishonesty in a woman is a thing you never blame deeply" or "Whenever you feel like criticizing any one, just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had"). Nick Caraway is the character through whose eyes we see the story unfolding and the characters colliding. Though he cannot be termed as an absolutely innocent bystander as he claims himself to be("Every one suspects himself of at least one of the cardinal virtues, and this is mine: I am one of the few honest people that I have ever known"), but the fact that he just observes others without really entering their world is the reason we believe his honest understandings and judgments.

Movie is less severe on the characters than the book. You actually feel little sorry for Daisy Buchanan. The wife beating, domineering, adulterous Tom is less of a snobbish bastard than he is actually in book. The other key characters like Myrtle - Tom's mistress and her cuckolded husband George Wilson are left as mere caricatures. The stress is more on Gatsby's absolute dream and efforts to get his love and his subsequent hope, angst, pain, melancholy and failure. Bryan Adam's "Everything I do, I do it for you" seemed to have been written for him.

F. Scott Fitzgerald is a hell of a writer. He describes the moments well. As tailpiece, I quote a masterpiece moment from his book which is filled with many such masterpieces for most of the other moments, and not a word is wasted. This book is a literary perfection.

"His heart beat faster and faster as Daisy’s white face came up to his own. He knew that when he kissed this girl, and forever wed his unutterable visions to her perishable breath, his mind would never romp again like the mind of God. So he waited, listening for a moment longer to the tuning fork that had been struck upon a star. Then he kissed her. At his lips’ touch she blossomed like a flower and the incarnation was complete."

Thursday, May 23, 2013

As Sick As They Come

I am not a psychologist even though I tried my hand on two psychology courses in my college. Psychologists insist that the sexual predators like Phaneesh Murthy do what they do because "harassing a woman at the workplace becomes a way of asserting masculinity" or they "suffer from feelings of insufficiency or inadequacy" and may "have deep-seated insecurities."

Earlier I used to ignore all these theories as technical mumbo-jumbo but over the period of time I have begun to realize that apart from these being cases of insatiable, indefatigable lust, there is definitely some sort of deep rooted psychosis involved as well.

I have seen many individuals - both in personal and professional life who suffer from this malaise where their mind becomes a slave of their libido and their power of reasoning takes a leave. If this is backed-up with power then they act with a sense of impunity.

There is a very senior guy I know who literally ogles at women, forces female subordinates to stay late, offers them late night lift - all this with rank impunity, yet he thrives. He is a living nightmare for the girls working under him.

Another one would insist on girls to have coffee breaks with him. If they ignore, he would forcibly join them in canteen or would try to disrupt their coffee time by scheduling a meeting. He would go and sit at their desktops every one hour explaining things which they don't want to learn from him. There was a virtual revolt against this guy, yet he managed to get even bigger and bolder using his newly found power to harass even more.

Another old wise man would impress young newcomers with flowery praise. Whether the girl was from his team or another - didn't matter. Some gullible girls would get initially flattered till they found about the similar stories with other ones. Then he would be ignored, but it doesn't matter to this shameless fellow. His game is on.

This other fellow would send the Facebook requests to the girls he didn't even know. When he couldn't find them on FB, he would send the request to their corporate email id. In the meeting room, during the meetings, he would check out the pics of the girls from the corporate diary.

Then there was this absolutely sick guy, who definitely needed help. He would brazenly stare at girls, and seeing their discomfort, he would give a smirk and even intimidate them by hovering around. It didn't matter if the girl was alone or accompanied. He didn't have any fear or shame of anyone whomsoever. He actually needs medical help.

There is one such person amongst my relatives who is known for his repeated misdemeanours. He has been even reprimanded and rebuked several time but doesn't learn. He is a shame for his immediately family but they bravely bear him.

Sadly, there is a never ending list of such sick people. Most of the time, these people are ignored, not punished for their deeds, and hence indirectly encouraged. I believe they should not be just punished but also ostracized. There should be no tolerance policy against such people - both by individuals and groups.

I twice tried to get one such fellow punished on two separate occasions but the girls backed out. I, for one, never talk with such people and if I do, I am decidedly rude.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tumhey Yaad Hi Ke Na Yaad Ho



What do you call when something of this sort happens repeatedly : You help a few destitue elderly people with money, they bless you and while returning back home - you are booked for not breaking the signal or you pitch in to provide food for a hungry child and later in the day you learn the clutch plate of your vehicle is a goner. You just wish that the money you paid as fine or costs should have directly gone to the needy and everyone would have been better off.

In the end, you still call it life.

Friday, May 17, 2013

An Accident Waiting To Happen

A few seasons back when Australia was touring India for a One Day series, after every ball of the over Sreesanth would walk towards the batsman and sledge something about which Gavaskar has always jovially maintained that it is something which wouldn't be appreciated much by the batsman's mother.

He did that even for a couple of no-balls to which he has been more susceptible than his other brethren (only R Ashwins beats him there) and after a few fulltossess which were duly guided to the boundary. And when he would, if at all, take a wicket - he would run across the pitch, squat just off the way of the walking batsman and animatedly thump the ground in celebration with his bare hands while giving a dirty look at the bemused batsman.

His theatrics were similar but fell way short of tantrums shown by Andre Nel in his hey days until he found his match.

Ian Chappell too was at the commentary box - and seeing Sreesanth's actions and reactions, he remarked- "He is an accident waiting to happen." As much respect I had for Chappell's Cricketing mind, I didn't agree with him because I thought Sreesanth wouldn't survive that much in Cricket but then the Grand Indian Tamasha of IPL happened and he survived with slaps, tears and all. What I did think about him later when I saw him praying before every ball during the World Cup that his real place is not Cricket field but some mental asylum.

Not in asylum, but he is in prison now. Andre Nel must be smiling with glee while Chappell senior must be solemnly nodding an i-told-you-so.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


 Sometime in mid-eighties Doordarshan used to telecast an intriguing detective series called Satyajit Ray Presents, though I myself could watch them only during later part of that decade when they were repeated. It had a haunting title music with the sound of a ticking clock making its main theme well followed-up by equally ominous background score.

I don't have much memory of the most of the episodes, but I do remember a longish story which was shown over many episodes called Kissa Kathmandu Ka. It featured Shashi Kapoor, Utpal Dutt, Mohan Agashe and Alankar Joshi (Pallavi Joshi's brother and previously known as Master Alankar) as the main leads and the adventure, as the name suggests was set in picturesque Kathmandu with a climax around the famous Pashupati Nath temple.

I quite liked the series - not just for the story and but also thrill element it brought due to its settings. They reminded me of the taut settings of Vijay Anand movies. At that time, I just assumed that they must have been episodes directed by great Satyajit Ray and that was that.

It was much later that I came to know that they were based on a famous character (and detective series) created by Satyajit Ray himself called Feluda aka Prodosh Chandra Mitra aka Pradosh C. Mitter. By Ray's own admission, the series was inspired by Sherlock Holmes of which Ray was a huge fan himself.This series' Watson and Feluda's trusted lieutenant is his intelligent teenaged cousin Tapesh Ranjan Mitra aka Topshe. He is also the delightful voice of narrative which brings the child back out of you while reading.

The story would get published every year in one of these magazine edited by Ray - Sandesh, Sharadiya Sandesh, or Sharadiya Desh from 1965 to 1995. The intended target audience was supposed to be children but its popularity swept across the generations and was eagerly awaited by people from all ages. But since they were written in Bangla, rest of India missed out the treat. Even the movies based on these stories, directed by Satyajit Ray and his son Sandip Ray, were in Bengali. The only non-Bangla movie based on Feluda was Kissa Kathmandu Ka (based on Joto Kando Kathmandutey and directed by Sandip Ray).

However, as they say - all days never remain same, the lady luck has smiled on non-bengali fans of detective fiction. Penguin India has started publishing the English translations of these books. They come in two volumes : The Complete Adventures of Feluda Vol. 1 & Vol.2 . What more, there are comic series as well under the collection Feluda Mysteries. Likewise there are Marathi translations as well.

While I was already a fan of Ray through his only Hindi movie Shataranj Ke Khiladi, but after going through these Feluda mysteries, I have become even greater fan of this genius personality. Not only these books are first rate adventure books, these also show us the knowledge in general this writer possessed. Almost each of his stories are based in a different city yet he captures the ethos, essence of each of them beautifully in the story. In fact, the place itself becomes an important character in itself - where its locations play valuable role as the story progresses. Reader is literally transformed to these places through his description and imagery.

One thing where I could relate with him was his love for trivia. Some interesting information would be thrown at the curious reader somewhere in the beginning of the story to chew upon and later it would play an important part in solving the mystery.

However, for a series to be successful, more than plots, it is the characters who should appeal more to the readers. The most endearing feature of this series is the delightful bond of love and respect which the two cousins possess making them appear friendly real life folks. This ensured a cult following. This is the reason these books are liked by all class and age of people.

CQ, CQ, this is W9GFO. Is anybody out there? CQ, this is W9GFO. CQ, this is W9GFO here. Come back !

The above quote is from the movie Contact (1997). It only means that I am back on blogspot and hope to see you all once again.