Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Wrong Time Mending

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An old storyteller lived in the mountains in the eastern part of Malabar. His wife often complained about the lack of any human companion to their solitary dwelling. There was always a reason the storyteller told his woman; “I learn my stories from this solitude, my dear Chakky.”

Silence was the only option the old woman had, since she knew that the family survived on the money the folks in the market place offered for the tales the old man told. And it was into this region of sulking silence the young aspiring storyteller came, one day. He was there to learn the art from the master. The old woman celebrated his presence by cooking various delicacies for the student and the master.

One day the student went to town and came back with a cloud of disappointment over his face. His eyes were red as if he had cried a lot of sorry hours out. “Now, would you ever ask him what happened?” the old woman forced the storyteller. The heart of the woman perhaps had taken the young man with a maternal affection.

Understanding her desperate need, the master asked the young man what happened. The young man seemed agitated at this question. He said, “I don’t think I need to tell you this, but I understand your concerns. I was telling a story in the town and suddenly without me foreseeing; I deviated from my tale, and started telling something else. I was aware of this, but it happened as if I had a different person inside me and he was freeing himself from my control.”

The master thought for a moment. Then he smiled and said, “I can see why you are upset. Let me tell you, you should not worry about what happened. That was a sign; a sign that told you how much close you are to the universe of stories. It has started flowing through you, like a brook. Sometimes we have to submit ourselves to the mouth of the universe; it speaks through us. Let it be.”

Image Courtesy: Google
The young student looked at the old man. He also saw the wife of the master standing beside him curious. “I did not ask you for any advice this time, did I?” he asked with a thunder of frustration on his face. “Master, don’t take me wrong; what do you say of the disgrace I had in the market and the bad impression I registered today in the hearts of those people?”

Once delivered this question, he walked away from the master and the old woman, into the plains and disappeared. The wife of the storyteller slowly approached her husband, “I never thought there would it would turn out to be acidic.”
“That is all right, Chakky. Understand that he is deeply disturbed,” the master said. “Think of yourself in his terms. You will understand.”

Her arms held the old man’s right arm as if supporting herself in the hurt the mother in her had just endured. The father figure being disgraced, the mother felt a deep burning pain in her mind. “But you told him the best things I ever heard in my life,” she said.

The master said with a smile, “Yes, I did, but at the wrong time.”

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

“Judge us not equally, Abraham. We may all deserve hell, but some of us deserve it sooner than others.” 
 Seth Grahame-Smith, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Coming soon:
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Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Book Review

They are the undead. Their energy levels parallel nothing a human can match. They are on prowl to keep their thirst satiated. There should be a hunter to hunt them all down. Here is one in history—Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

THE INDIAN COMMENTATOR reviews the latest book sensation by Seth Grahame-Smith.

Make sure you do not miss a drop of it. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Teller of Bad Tales

“There is a crack in everything that is how the light gets in”—Leonard Cohen.
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When a story is born angels smile. They rejoice with God, for a story is the writer’s resurrection under the shade of words, calling for spaces so close to the signs with endless meaning, the young writer thought. He was sitting alone nearby a river, which was deep enough to swallow even a huge mountain. He was about to make the most crucial decision in his life; suicide.

The sun shone brightly in the sky. Tears dried up on his cheek. He stood up and moved, closer to the river. His feet crushed the gravel on the edge of the cliff, where he stood listening to the thunder of the roaring waves that leapt up to devour the shadows the mountains around caste. Then he heard a voice—human voice.

It could be an animal too. He had decided how the end of his life must look like. Therefore whatever came across was nothing worth bothering about. It was a sin, according to his tradition. He knew he was making the angels sad, and God unhappy. But he knew this well, too that no angels smiled at him yet, and God hadn’t yet had shown signs of joy over his existence; he could not become a successful writer. The young man repeated to himself: “I am right, this time.”

He did not see any animal. He waited with a pounding heart. Then he heard the voice again. Now it was a whisper…. “Once upon a time..,” it said.

The voice grew bolder. He recognized the voice. It was the voice of the storyteller who lived in the mountains. No one in his place was much interested in his stories, but still every one found him at the market place each day, where people gathered in the early evening. He told them his stories there. This was almost a ritual, and would go on till late night. The young writer too, never went to listen to his stories.

Who in his sane mind would?

Most of the days it were the thieves and lonely beggars who would listen to him late after the sun set.

The young writer wondered how the voice of the storyteller could get to so far a distance, to the river shore. The mountain was kilometers away from the river. It might be the wind that brought his booming voice covered in its cloak. Insane wind, thought the young man.

Suddenly he had a new idea; even though everything was decided, why not take a turn in the path and come back after giving a visit to the old man, the unpopular storyteller, in the mountain.

He took his bicycle and drove towards the mountains. After reaching the foot of the mountain he had to abandon his vehicle, for it could not take him over the hazardous twists and turns of the mountain path.

It did not take him long to reach the house, situated on the slope of the mountain. An old man was sitting in the verandah frowning over a white paper, writing something. The storyteller looked up from his work as he heard the footsteps of someone approaching.

The young man halted politely nearby. “Who are you?” The old man asked.
“I am a failure.” The young man replied, irritated upon his own decision now to visit the old storyteller.

“Ah, my fate hasn’t given up yet! All failures first visit my door step, before entering the world.” The storyteller looked frustrated, too. “Why are you disturbing me? Can’t you see I am at work?”

“What are you working at?” The youngster asked, curious.

“Why, I am working at my new story.” The old man retorted without looking at the youngster anymore.

The young writer felt a huge lighting bolt striking his heart. Questions welled up in his mind. Will it be rude, if he asked them? After all, the old man was a harmless person, who always tried to entertain the people of the town. He never heard the old man harbouring any ill will against any of the town’s people.  That doesn’t matter anymore, for everything was decided, absolutely, undeniably. He was going to die and even if he hurt the old man, after his death he would not remember the guilt.

Image Courtesy: Google
“Do you know something old man; nobody in the town likes your stories. Then why are you working on new ones? Why don’t you stop betraying yourself?” The young writer blurted out.

As the storyteller looked at him again in his eyes, the young man noticed a drop of tear. The youngster suddenly regretted his question.

When the old man spoke, his lips fluttered and his long beard played in the slow breeze. “I have a reason for what I am doing.” He said. “I believe that when the bad stories are all consumed the good ones will surface. And then I can harvest them, unstopping. So I never stop creating new stories, because you never know when you step upon a priceless gem, for which you had spent a lifetime, searching.”  

The young writer returned without a word more. He knew absolutely that he had found his path, this time not of death, but of an eternal life, full of possibilities.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Godlove's Duty-III

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I did not know if my story would be comprehensible for this little kid who was just going to have his first days in school. He might not understand what doing a job actually meant. Perhaps he was just looking at the gold coins Godlove had received, in which case my story failed. But there was something I learned from Rekha, just ten minutes before when she mentioned reading a few chapters of my memoir: that whatever one does in the quest for personal wisdom, affects the cosmos profoundly. If the personal attempt is truthful enough, it can have the capacity to bring infinite change.  

“God bless you Rahul!” I said. He smiled at me once again and holding his mother’s arm stepped into the drizzle. Rekha thanked me and said, “Your words are blessed, Lal sir.”

If only she knows how the story came to me, I thought.
“Thank you!”


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Godlove’s Duty-II

I always felt father-like when a kid touches my hands. I could not see Rahul’s hands, although I did feel his touch on my right arm. He was holding it. I could not see his face properly. Everything around me was a blur.

No one talked. I could hear someone sniffling. It was Rekha. I could not see her, either. I blinked away some watery membrane that calloused over my eyes and made my vision fuzzy.

Then, I told the story:
Image Courtesy: Google
When the prime minister of One’thumbria woke up that day, he found a messenger from the king on his doorstep. He knew something would be wrong. That was unusual—a messenger from the most powerful person in the kingdom. Usually he would wake up at about 6 in the morning and after all his morning chores went to the palace with a bag in his hand.

Once the Minister was told what to do, the messenger went back. A heat of anxiety rose inside the minister. He was told to do one of the most difficult jobs he had ever faced. 

“Find out the best servant in the palace. The award was one million gold coins.”—the message said.

His wife came by right at that time. Her name was Chakky. She asked, “What caused this gloom on your face my lord?”
“The king wants to find out the best servants in the palace. How can I? I have no way in front of me to find the best one,” the minister said.
“But why not my lord?” asked the woman.
“Because there are many people who does their duty well. It’s not easy to find a single person. And doing one’s duty well doesn’t mean one is happy with what one is doing. It could be out of the king’s fear that they are doing what they do.”

After listening to her husband intently, Chakky said, “Don’t worry, I have a way out of this situation.” She mumbled something secretly into her husband’s ear.

The minister got up, though confused he smiled and got ready to go to palace.

He walked through the alleys and verandas in the palace. He kept his face down as if deep in some thought, but focused on each and every person he could observe. He held a list secretly inside his long robe, from which he could pick each servant from his name and work. He stopped by each employee and asked two questions.

At last he reached at the end of the list. There was only one person left—the gardener. His name was Godlove. He was a young man.

He could have become a soldier, the prime minister thought.  The prime minister was an aged person and he looked like a thin post dug on the ground. The young man looked well built and strong like a thick growth of teakwood.

The minister went near him and decided to ask him the same two questions he had asked others. The young man seeing the minister coming towards him stopped his work among the vegetables and stood up.   

“Why do you work here?” the minister asked. To this question all the others had said somewhat like ‘I didn’t get the job I liked, that is the reason,’ or ‘everyone does it, don’t’ they?’ and the minister remembered what his wife had whispered into his ear.
“One must love his job to be able to do it better.”

Godlove looked puzzled at first at the sudden question of the minister. He smiled quickly and politely and said; “My father taught me the best thing in life is to serve others. It gives happiness. When I thought about it, I found plants and vegetables give better result when served. That is why I serve them. I am their servant.” He looked down, afraid of being punished for not saying ‘I am the king’s servant’, as he saw the minister’s face changing.

The minister shot his second question, “What would you do if you were expelled from your job right now?” From others he had received answers such as; ‘I work so well, the king will never consider sacking me ’or‘ I will die for sure of starving.’ The minister’s wife had warned him of such answers.

The young gardener had no confusion this time. He said; “I would be happy still, because the fixed work schedules in the palace and the interference of other weak skilled workers ruin my garden, mostly. I am sorry, but that is the truth. I will keep serving plants better outside. I love them. I know they will help me survive.”

After answering the question, Godlove’s face turned red and he looked down. He said to the minister, “I know I have spoken against the king and I will be punished. I beg you please do not humiliate me in front of others. I will go away at once. Do not harm me…” his eyes welled up and hands were folded together.

Image Courtesy: Google
The prime minister spoke up, holding Godlove’s shoulder, “The king wanted me to find out the best worker in the palace. I didn’t know how to, so I asked my wife. And she told me one thing, “Those who love their job never depend on others, they will find a way to keep on doing their work, at one place or another.” And dear Godlove I am proud that I found out the best employee in this palace—it’s you.”

“But…sir…” Godlove fumbled; his eyes all watery.
“Yes, you are. For you, your love is your duty.” And Godlove had a sack full of gold with him in a guarded chariot when he went back home that evening.

I looked at Rahul as I stopped the narration. He was staring at me intently. 

[To be continued...]

Monday, June 18, 2012

Godlove’s Duty

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The calling bell rang and I opened the front door. It was drizzling outside. There was a chilled breeze that kept the hairs on my hand and neck upright.

A middle aged woman stood there with the hand of a little boy on her left hand. She smiled. I had to smile and invite her inside. My family came out too. “I will take coffee, you sit, make yourself comfortable,” my mother offered.

The woman, with the little boy sat on the chairs I gestured them to. I was in my daily work; I must bang in a couple thousand words each day. I am a writer, by design, desire and the divine.

“This year my Rahul is joining school, first standard,” the woman’s voice rang up as I was returning to my den. I turned towards her to be a polite neighbour, intended in listening to a guest.
“Great!” I said.
The woman was looking at me. “That’s wonderful news Rekha!” I heard my mother from kitchen in her top voice. “How old is he?”
“Now five,” Rekha said. “I was just expecting Lal sir to bless my Rahul and advice him something.”
I saw the look of earnest admiration in the eyes of Rekha. Sometimes, there are moments that cross us, which bring a whole new feeling through puzzling experiences and we realize ourselves being part of the cosmic cycle. That was one such moment. I was asked to bless and advice a kid going to school for the first time!

“I read your blog posts. I always do,” she said, “your memoir was very impressive. We need people like you who keep the gut to change the world, save it from corruption and evil.”
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Writing my memoir was an attempt to make sense of the senselessness that took place in my life and around. I never thought myself capable of changing my very life, let alone the course of the world!

The little boy stood up and came towards me. He stooped down and touched my feet. I wanted to run. But I prayed and put my hands on his head. A story blinked to life in my mind. This is his story, or must be, I thought. I decided to tell it. So I sat down in a sofa nearby and motioned Rahul to sit beside me.

Rekha’s husband is a high ranking police officer in Kerala Police. I knew what the answer of the kid would be like. But still, the question mattered and I asked, “What do you want to be in your life?”

In front of me was a five year old, going school for the first time. The question would have seemed stupid if I had asked it with adult seriousness. Though the truth ran reverse, I attempted a full smile close to a laugh, pretending the question to be an adult’s curiosity on the naivety of the child. The question would definitely have intimated already, his mother and my mother—who was distributing steaming coffee now—about my naivety on different stages of human life.

That was the only word Rahul said in answer.   

[To be continued...]

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Devotion of Suspect X: A Book Review

The Devotion of Suspect X begins with the literary subtlety, maturity of scenes and simplicity that are peculiar to Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A writer of many novels and short stories, Keigo Higashino has an inclination towards mystery fiction. He is also the current president of the Mystery Writers of Japan. The engineer turned writer won the Edogawa Rampo Award for the unpublished finest mystery work. There is no denying that he weaves effective plots and riveting chapters from available, easy to connect situations and ordinary humans.  
Keigo Higashino Image Courtesy: Google

The translation in English has been done by Alexander O. Smith with Elye J. Alexander. Whether it is the kotastu table or the Shinozaki station, the elements of Japanese cultural and social life emerges tangible and with inevitable certainty. The fiction in the book absorbs the cultural reality and holds firm to it, making the culture a part of its fictional landscape. In that sense The Devotion of Suspect X takes an often prioritized ground of cultural transaction in times of globalization. The translation, unlike the translated works published in India from regional languages, hold a quality unmatched.

 The Devotion of Suspect X is the third book in Detective Galileo series of crime fiction novels by Higashino. The story happens in the suburbs of Tokyo, Japan. Two people, Yasuko Hanaoka and Tetsuya Ishigami, a high school math’s teacher, get involved with an irrevocable situation with Yasuko’s ex-husband. That is where the story takes its first turn; into the crime fiction the labels of the book proclaim to provide. Yasuko is a single mother and works in a lunch shop. She lives with her daughter Misato in the same apartment where Ishigami lives. Ishigami is infatuated towards Yasuko and lives in expectation of a time when he could make his first move towards expressing his real feelings for Yasuko.

Even though the series is titled Detective Galileo who is a physicist named Manabu Yukawa, the plot revolves around Yasuko and Ishigami. The mysterious Affair at Styles or The Hound of Baskervilles might not have a connecting character ridden as a second character, contrary to the approach by Keigo Higashino. In fact Yukawa’s character appears to be delineated in contrast to Ishigami’s, who is a former classmate of Yukawa and an exceptionally skilled mathematician.

The Devotion of Suspect X also provides a conspicuous space for its woman protagonist, Yasuko. For Yasuko, after the murder of her ex-husband it’s Ishigami who becomes an invisible controlling force. Yasuko is clearly inclined towards the desire for freedom and happiness. After the intervention of Ishigami into her life, she realizes it’s not freedom from her ex-husband but subjugation under another man.
“She was just dealing with a different man now, and this time, there truly was no escape,” she feels. (289)

Yasuko is sketched genuine, unlike many woman protagonists who appear to be so but are just flourishes of their author’s indiscriminate affinity towards the market models—like in James Patterson’s Women’s Murder Club series. In what could be termed as ‘Barbie doll literature’, James Patterson can be often seen maneuvering within areas of a feminine space, which is built as superfluous models of a mainstream cultural kitsch, inevitably failing to wedge the doors open into national prohibitions that need a little probing.

The high school system of Japan and the general academic hollowness too find authentic spaces in The Devotion of Suspect X. As a matter of fact any one reading the novel can find it strikingly similar to the situation in academics in any other part of the world. Ishigami, the math’s teacher finds it hard to go forward with his work at the school. One of the instances appears to be a sudden torch light to sleeping eyes.

“He [Ishigami] found it impossible to carry on with his own work at the new school. Most of the professors there were consumed with vying for power and protecting their positions, and not one cared the least bit about nurturing young scholars or doing groundbreaking research.”

The Devotion of Suspect X is published in Japanese in the year 2005 and the translation in English came in 2011, through Abacus publishers for Hachette India. The novel costs Rs: 350 only and has an intriguing cover design. It seems all the international news papers filled their pages with raving comments about the novel, which sold 2 million copies in Japan alone.

The thread of the mystery is kept straight from the beginning as the readers are aware of what horrible thing happened in Yasuko’s life. Ishigami helps her to hide her crime; however at the end Detective Galileo, Manabu Yukawa crosses his path and brings about an unexpected “killer twist” to the story. Even though the writer successfully executes the final twist by keeping the middle part of the novel relatively slow and sagging, the final conclusion Yukawa reaches are his mere conjectures. He is unable to outwit the mathematician; he just poses the mirror of morality in front of his former classmate and friend, Ishigami, the X factor.

After the surprising twist in the story, you will find Ishigami taking all the applause, not Yasuko or Manabu Yukawa. Yasuko’s feminine self is pitted against the moral codes of the social system and of course, the ethical suggestions imposed by the same culture that run through the nerves of the society.

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The Devotion of Suspect X is narrated in third person singular. The language is simple and straight, just like a mathematical equation. Character sketch and the plot inevitably supply the feeling of an engineers’ precision. Literature can be engineered, and engineering can be written with words and metaphors, however, in the first case, even though the publicists call a book “million copies sold”, it remains stale. Still, The Devotion of Suspect X saves itself from such demise, though narrowly.
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Wednesday, June 13, 2012


I have been informed by some of my friends and readers that there is a misunderstanding about some references made in the series of blog posts titled: Life Scrap, The memories from an accident. This is my memoir in which I intended to portray the day when a horrible bus accident occurred and I was narrowly saved from death.

I would like to make it clear that this blog or any of the posts made in it are never meant to be disgraceful to person(s) or places. If any such misunderstanding occurred, and anyone directly or indirectly involved with any of the references are hurt, I regret it truthfully and register my unconditional apologies on the matter.

It is therefore notified to all readers that all the posts in the memoir titled, Life Scrap will be removed until I analyze them for references or areas, direct or indirect—if any—that could have been taken as a harmful remark on any individual(s) or places.

With heartfelt regret and apologies,
The Indian Commentator
Anu Lal