Friday, November 10, 2017

#593 : My Tryst With Murakami - A Review Of Men Without Women by HarukiMurakami

I've been evading reading Murakami for a long time now. My bibliophile friends have tried their best to coax Murakami upon me with little success though. It is a popular opinion that his writing is simple yet complex and soulful. That wouldn't have made sense if you aren't a voracious reader.

What exactly quantifies as good writing? The grammar might be all correct and would please a grammar Nazi, but would that suffice as sole parameter to quantify a literary piece as well written? The very definition of good writing is an individual perception. While the whole world seemed to like Arvind Adiga's - 'The White Tiger', but I found it rather mediocre. JK Rowling's Harry Potter series, in spite of being immensely successful and selling tonnes of copies, has a lot haters. I wrote off Murakami's work as one such case where the whole world went gaga and I simply didn't like it. I had attempted to read his  immensely popular work - Norwegian Wood ages ago. I had crossed just a couple of pages and I found his writing simply boring. I ditched the book and forgot all about it, until a conversation with a fellow bibliophile sparked my curiosity again. I scoured Google for his best works to start. I realized, there was no such thing as a best work. On an impulse, I decided to pick - Men Without Women. I've always loved reading short stories. I connect well with a small story with crisp characters and a compact story line. This book changed my perception of a typical short story.

The scope for elaborate characterization is practically limited when you wanted to write a 5000 word short story. The reader would end up feeling crammed and overloaded when the character is elaborate. Or so I thought would be the normal case, until I read this book.

This writer solved that problem with ease. He simply built the story around characterization and not the other way around as done typically. The central theme of the stories, as the title suggests, is about men without a women in their life. What happens when that feminine touch is lost? Does he become desolate? Is his balance thrown off? The writer brings out various possible line of thoughts when a man is left without a woman in his life. There are 7 stories, each depicting one line of thought. The characters, all of them, were just regular people, whose vulnerabilities were crux of each story's plot.

Picking a favorite is next to impossible, but one story that stood out was "Samsa in Love". The story is set in Prague, Gregor Samsa wakes up with no recollection whatsoever of his life or life in general. A girl who repairs locks visits him, upon the request of his parents who aren't found in the house that Samsa lives. The setting is mildly dystopian, though the protagonist doesn't realize this. The story was so unsettling that it rattled me thoroughly. Most of the stories were like that - the kind which would pique your curiosity and you would end up devouring it, but it would rattle you to no end when you are done.

What was more surprising was that this book is a translation from Japanese. I cannot phantom how powerful and emotional his original writing would have been.

I rarely highlight lines when I read. It annoys me to no end when you have to mark something on a beautiful paperback or for that matter color the screen of your kindle. It it were worth remembering, I would remember it. This book was the only exception. There were too many beautiful phrases which I was afraid of forgetting. I ended up highlighting a lot. Below are extracts from the book I loved.

"Just thinking about her made him warm inside. No longer did he wish to be a
fish or a sunflower—or anything else, for that matter. For sure, it was a great
inconvenience to have to walk on two legs and wear clothes and eat with a knife
and fork. There were so many things he didn’t know. Yet had he been a fish or a
sunflower, and not a human being, he might never have experienced this emotion.
So he felt." - Samsa In love.

"And once you’ve become Men Without Women, loneliness seeps deep
down inside your body, like a red-wine stain on a pastel carpet. No matter how
many home ec books you study, getting rid of that stain isn’t easy. The stain might
fade a bit over time, but it will still remain, as a stain, until the day you draw your
final breath. It has the right to be a stain, the right to make the occasional, public,
stain-like pronouncement. And you are left to live the rest of your life with the
gradual spread of that color, with that ambiguous outline." - Men Without Women

Is two days before tomorrow,
The day after two days ago." -  Yesterday

" If nothing else, you should feel grateful for
having been able to spend twenty years of your life with such a person. But the
proposition that we can look into another person’s heart with perfect clarity strikes
me as a fool’s game. I don’t care how well we think we should understand them, or
how much we love them. All it can do is cause us pain. Examining your own heart,
however, is another matter. I think it’s possible to see what’s in there if you work
hard enough at it. So in the end maybe that’s the challenge: to look inside your own
heart as perceptively and seriously as you can, and to make peace with what you
find there. If we hope to truly see another person, we have to start by looking
within ourselves " - Drive My Car

You can read more about the book (and buy it too) from Goodreads

Monday, November 6, 2017

#592 : To my long lost Best friend - A letter

Dear Best Friend,

I'm not sure if I can call you that any more - It degraded from being a best friend to friend to a nobody now. You were the one person I reached out to, in times of happiness or melancholy or peril. You were my rock solid pillar who stood by me and put me together when I lost faith in myself. Together, we enjoyed reading, writing and talking about food. We achieved new heights in whatever we did as a single unit, until one day it all came tumbling down like a set of dominoes. I choose to believe that the chips were pushed by a mutual ill-wisher. It took me ages to realize that the force wasn't external. That realization shattered my heart to pieces. The shards kept picking and wrecking my brain until I decided to sit down and work backward. Working backward has always been my strength. It didn't come tumbling down in a day. In fact, I realized it was a grand illusion I was trapped in.

When I reached the first important milestone in my life, I really needed your support. I was anxious, you decoded my anxiousness as show off and almost quit talking to me. You shut me out completely and I felt lost. Then some how we patched up and went about as if nothing happened. Life went on, we both found love and got jobs. Life turned serious all of a sudden. That's when I decided to escape reality for a while by doing what I always did. I wanted you to be the partner in crime just like old times. Things moved in a break neck pace. That's when the second misunderstanding happened. We fell apart. This time it hurt me more. I missed those endless conversations we had. I missed being us. What happened next shattered me totally. Social media interactions aggravated my depression. Snide remarks, indirect statuses, stream of people asking me what was wrong with me and our relationship in general. Worst of it all, a lot people simply moved away from my life without notice. I never understood why, nor did I bother to find out. We again some how patched up. Or so I kept cheating myself. Little did I realize, it was jealousy that crept in. Right from the start it was jealousy. The snide remarks never died down. The indirect taunting never went away. I felt boxed and suffocated. You always picked me up at my lowest, but sadly you were the cause this time. I was such an idiot that I didn't even realize that. To me, you were incapable of causing me any grief. Yet, I was still depressed and our relationship was still bitter, sugar coated bitter though. How long would this last? Too many things were a reminder of the good times we had. I gave up on activities I loved doing the most because it was a bitter reminder of what I lost.

I had other people who picked me up from my misery and tried their best to put me together. I'm truly lucky to have found them. However, all of them were of a consensus that I am the only person who can pick up myself and get going. As a matter of fact, they made me realize that every time life gave me lemons, it was me who managed to make a lemonade out of it. I am the only person who can find my own happiness. I can either choose to move out completely ignoring all the taunting and mind games or confront sit down and talk it out. What would the latter yield? A broken mirror can never bit put back. At the risk of this sounding cliched, our relationship is like that mirror. A relationship built on a myriad of lies would never last. The lies had finally manifested. I choose to move on and come out of the delusion that I was in.

If you decode this letter to be my attempt in salvaging my name and garnering sympathy, think again. You've  always complemented me for my thick head. I am thick headed. The name or the sympathy never mattered to me and it will remain to be so. I needed to get that toxicity out of system. That's just about it.

I have to thank you for teaching me the most valuable lesson of my life and making me a better person.

Hope you find all the happiness you've ever wanted. I bow out.


A person who once believed was your friend

Note : Is this a work of fiction? If this my life story? Is this the story of someone whom I know? Some things are best left unsaid. This is one such thing. For all you know, this might have been your story too.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

#591 : Glam Ego Box - A Review

Beauty and me, we share a hate love relationship. My teens virtually passed with me being nose deep into books and nothing else.  In sense, I spent a good part of my teenage years looking like a bumpkin - a loosely worn shirt, fit jeans, artificial ear rings and a mop of unruly hair sans any kind of makeup. My mother never used cosmetics much back then and didn't encourage us to use them as well. The max we used were lipsticks when we went out for special social gatherings. Skin care meant gram flour and herbs. Coconut was the moisturizer and vaseline was the lip balm.

Stepping in college opened up a new world for me. My friends educated me about the basics of makeup and skin care - The kind of skin care I wasn't used to. Moisturizers, face-washes, skin care serums, face packs and what not! Using all that meant I had to either spend time at home or hit the parlor. Not that there was something wrong with my regular routine, just that all this seemed effective and excited me initially. I realized that I was no good with applying make up. Make up literally confused me for a long time and still does some times. What shade of foundation do I pick? what's the right way to apply it? The behind this state was simple - I didn't care about appearances much. I don't bother much now also, but I learnt the importance of raising up the occasion.

Fast Forward to adult hood - I had gained enough knowledge and experience. On an impulse (Thanks to tempting Instagram ads) I decided to order a beauty box. I had that sudden urge to be surprised and pampered. The box landed in a couple of days.


The box contained the following products

  1. Bella Voste  Ulti-Matte Lip Crayon

  2. Aroma Magic White Tea and Chamomile Face wash

  3. The Nature's co - Vanilla Lip Butter

  4. Neemli Green Tea Lip Scrub

  5. Bio Bloom - Hand & Body Lotion.

The packing was perfect barring the Lip Scrub's lid which seemed to have come off. No damage by it really. The lip crayon was sent randomly as I hadn't responded to their choice mail. However, no complaints there as I liked that color and don't own such a color.

Bella Voste Ulti-Matte Lip Crayon - I got the Whipped Caviar Shade. It had a satin-ish matte finish and not the typical matte which I prefer. The shade lasted for about 6 hours sold before I went on to gorge on delicious food! Given that it is in the crayon form, I found it very easy to apply. I normally struggle with regular lipstick application as I don't really use a lip liner.

Aroma Magic White Tea and Chamomile Face wash - My skin is oily around the T-zone and a bit dry in the rest of the face. I used this face wash just after I came back from office with all the pollution on my face. Post wash, my face felt soft and hydrated and also looked fresh.

Neemli Green Tea Lip Scrub - I didn't really know of the existence of something called as the lip scrub until I saw the ad for this box. With hesitation, I rubbed a tiny bit of it over my lips and massaged gently. It was obviously granulated. I washed it off and my lips felt smooth. After an hour or so, it was completely soft and felt moist.

The Nature's co - Vanilla Lip Butter -  The cover over this product looked a bit shady. Not the best lip balm I have used.

Bio Bloom - Hand & Body Lotion - Again, the packaging looks a bit shady and the lotion felt like that of what you would find in a 3 star hotel. Not the best body lotion I've used.

There were also a couple of discount cards in the box.

Verdict - The lip crayon, the face wash and the scrub was certainly worth the money I paid!

The box was priced at INR 399 (For one month subscription). You can order yours here - Glam Ego.