Celebrating the joy of reading

A few days back I met an elderly gentleman in a library in Mangalore. He was there to return a book that he had borrowed. The book was Pavilion of Women, if I remember it correctly. He stroke up a brief and very interesting conversation with me. In those few minutes, he spoke about the novels of Pearl S. Buck, why he liked her books, about the amazing culture of China, about some thrillers written by Frederick Forsyth and about how reading has enriched his life. His eyes shone as he spoke fondly about the books and the authors he liked. “Travelling and reading” he said “are the best ways to explore the world.” The words of that charming gentleman reassured my belief in books. I have been a voracious reader all my life.

I cannot remember a day in my childhood that went without reading few pages from books. As a school going kid, I had been scolded many times by my parents for bringing books to the dining table. They tried, in vain, to put me off that ‘awful’ habit. In those times, when there was no internet or smart phones, it was books that gave me a window to the world. I grew up reading some of the most beautiful books in Kannada and English. When somebody asks me, which is my favourite place to be, without wasting a moment I answer ‘between the pages of a book’. An image of me from my schooldays, reading an interesting book in my room in a rainy Saturday afternoon is etched in my mind as the happiest moment of my life.

I always liked giving books as gifts. You go to a bookshop (or a website), browse the different shelves, and after doing some really good thinking, you buy a book that you feel would make that person happy. It is so much personal than, say, buying a teddy bear as a gift. There are some good friends who know exactly what type of books would I be interested in. By looking at the books they gifted me one could say how well they know me. Some of the books on my shelf that I really enjoyed reading are, in fact, gifted by my friends. I always associate their names with these books. The titles ‘Life of Pie’ and ‘ A Thousand Splendid Suns’ remind me of my dearest friend who is an extremely talented wordsmith, ‘A Brief History of Time’ reminds me of my best buddy who loves cosmology, ‘The Lowland’ reminds me of that friend who likes reading good books as much as I do, while ‘Sea of Poppies’ reminds me of another friend who is a great bibliophile. These books, as interesting as they are, also evoke a strong association with the ones who gifted them to me.
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On my birthday this year, I got Amazon Kindle from my dear friends Anjalika and her son Vishal. It was, undoubtedly, a very thoughtful gift from these two wonderful friends. What is the best gadget one can gift to a friend who loves reading? Right! I am a romantic who loves the touch, feel and smell of the books. I adore written words. The typeset, the quality of paper used and the design of the book also matter a lot to me, just like the content that it carries. I may not judge a book by its cover, but if aesthetically designed, the cover will definitely catch my fancy. Reading has always been a rich mixture of visual, olfactory and tactile experience for me. So where does Kindle fit in all this?

I must say that I was very sceptical when the world was going gaga over e-book readers. Not that I haven’t read any e-books before, but I was never a big fan. I found straining my eyes gaping at the laptop screen, tab or mobile was more of a killjoy than reading. Kindle has proved me wrong to a large extent. I am in love with this gadget now. The reading experience is superbly pleasant, to say the least. Kindle not only provides you an access to an overwhelming collection of great books, but also enhances the reading experience. While it certainly cannot give you the touch, feel or smell of a book, it does have some wonderful features that conventional books may not give you. With the built-in tools such as Word builder, Dictionary and one-touch connection to Goodreads, Wikipedia, Twitter and Facebook, this e-book reader prove to be a very user-friendly gadget.

This is a must-have for those people who love books. I know many readers of my blog are great booklovers. While I am on my book-buying spree on Kindle, you can answer a small question at the end of this post. I am just curious to know your thoughts on Kindle and books. Thanks in advance. With Kindle, I am celebrating the joy of reading.

Strands of Memory

“… Memories, even your most precious ones, fade surprisingly quickly. But I don’t go along with that. The memories I value the most, I don’t ever see them fading”

says Kathy, the narrator of Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 novel Never Let Me Go. Staying true to her words, Kathy reconstructs her past in this evocative novel. As she rummages through the memories of her childhood spent at Hailsham – a special boarding school in England – we see the story of friendship, love and hope unfold. Kathy works as a ‘carer’ (someone who tends to the people who are going through the process of organ donation) in a medical facility. For her, the years spent at Hailsham are very important. It becomes very clear from her accounts that those years had shaped her beliefs, dreams and her ideas about future. At the age of 31, when she is narrating the story to the readers with her distinctive maturity, wisdom and calmness, she strikes us as someone who seems older than her age. Her recollections are primarily about two of her best friends, Tommy and Ruth. Tommy is a clumsy boy, isolated from rest of the students in the school. His poor skills at art – something the school is strangely obsessive about – makes him the object of scorn by his teachers (or guardians as they are called) and was often ridiculed by his schoolmates. Kathy is one of the few people at Hailsham who have a soft corner for him. She always tries to talk to him and help him. In the years of childhood, a very special bond begins to develop between them. When Tommy comes of his age, he gets into a relationship with Ruth. Not wishing to make things complicated, Kathy withdraws her own plans to confess her love to Tommy and helps her friend Ruth instead. Unlike Kathy, or for that matter Tommy, Ruth is very extrovert. They both look upon Kathy as someone who has the power to help them whenever their relationship go through rough patch. Never Let Me Go What makes this seemingly regular teenage story special is the world the entire characters are set in. For the most part of the novel, we are not given a full understanding of it, even though there are many inklings to it from the beginning. As soon as Kathy starts her narration, we understand that Hailsham is no ordinary school. Unusual traits of the ‘guardians’, myths about the school and the rumours about the unknown world beyond the sprawling school premises create almost a gothic atmosphere. We see Hailsham to be shrouded in a sort of dark secrecy. As the story continues, we understand that Hailsham is a place in a dystopian world and the children of that boarding school are, in fact clones, being raised for the purpose of donating organs. Once they step out of Hailsham they become ‘donors’, giving away their body bit by bit and eventually succumb to death (or ‘completion’ as it is known). These clones are designed not to possess the reproductive capabilities; and the lifespan of their kind is very short. The inescapable truths about their doomed future don’t quite answer all the questions about their lives. What is tragic about their life is they are aware of their future, though in a limited level of knowledge. Their upbringing at Hailsham has made them stay away from discussing certain topics in open. They see the injustice, which is forced upon them, as something very normal. They never seem to understand the enormity of death that is looming over them. Like animals raised in the farm, they live on until they reach ‘completion’. But what the rigorous conditioning fails to achieve is the complete suppression of human emotions in them. We see these youngsters go through emotional turmoil, heartaches and feel a sense of despair. What seems to be bothering them the most is not death but the inability to foster dreams for their future. The protagonists, who seem to have accepted their bleak future without any misgivings, start to rethink their position when they realize there is a possibility to defer their donation for few years. This knowledge, coupled with the confession of Ruth about how she thought she was an unfit partner for Tommy and how Kathy should have been his companion, starts a series of events that puts them on a journey to explore their life. Tommy and Kathy attempt to piece together every bit of the knowledge from their childhood – the training, the contacts and the myths – to see if they can buy time for themselves.

As unusual as it is, Never Let Me Go is a deeply moving story. Kathy narrates it without knowing that she is telling us one of the most brutal stories. She never actually talks about how cruelly the world has treated them. Instead, she focuses on her complicated relationship with Tommy. And how they dreamed together of a life that could have been better than the one that is thrust upon them. It is heartbreaking to see the protagonists hanging on to little myths from their childhood in the hope of obtaining the ‘deferral’. Ishiguro vividly narrates their life at Hailsham and afterward. We see them explore the ideas of identity, sexuality and life. We live their small moments of happiness. Check how Ishiguro draws a word picture of their fear. There was a story making rounds in Hailsham of a boy who once attempted to go out of the school campus and was later found dead with his limbs chopped. This gruesome story was used to forbid the pupils from even thinking of breaking away. The horrors of this myth was so  severe that miscreants in the school are often made to stare at the woods outside the campus all night as a dreaded punishment. Like many of the myths that filled their childhood, there is one about a room in Hailsham. They call it Norfolk, after an actual place in England. Whenever somebody loses things, it eventually ends up in this room. Later when the protagonists come out of Hailsham, they continue to believe that all the beautiful things in their life that have been lost could be found in Norfolk. In the dreadful present, they hope that Norfolk reclaims for them what they truly deserved.

Kazuo Ishiguro

Kazuo Ishiguro

Ishiguro unveils the world of the students of Hailsham in an emotionally convincing way. He presents Kathy as a decidedly understated narrator; even while she talks about her bleak future. The subtlety of the description about her feelings towards Tommy speaks a lot about the childhood conditioning. It is heart-wrenching to see that the characters know nothing of their world. Their self-denial, as a result of their upbringing, stops them from even attempting. We keep thinking how such poor creatures can be complacent with their world. Kazuo Ishiguro is one of the finest storytellers of our time. Never Let Me Go was short-listed for The Man Booker Prize in 2005 and also for Arthur C Clarke Award for science fiction. This book features in the TIME magazine’s list of 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. There was also a critically acclaimed film made based on this novel. Never Let Me Go talks about the smugness of death and the crime called complacency. It reminds us how important it is to live every moment of our life to the fullest. Read this novel for its sheer brilliance.

[Trailer of the film based on this novel]

Jollof Rice, Pepper Soup and Two Books

A couple of weeks back there was a book sale in Mangalore. Enticed by the low price that they had advertised for their books, I entered the dingy exhibition hall with the hope of picking up some interesting books. My excitement was short lived, as I saw stacks of tediously ubiquitous popular titles welcoming me. I remembered a quote by Haruki Murakami. “If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking”. Any bibliophile worth his salt would live by this adage.

After navigating through the labyrinth of Fifty Shades of Whatnot, I saw some critically acclaimed books hidden under the heaps of cheesy bestsellers. Novels by Ben Okri, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Kazuo Ishiguro looked promising. I picked up few of their books and asked the vendor if I could get more books by these authors. He looked at me disdainfully and said ‘Nobody likes to read such books.’ He pointed at his stacks of Fifty Shades of Whatnot and continued ‘That’s what people read.’

I was delighted that at least I found what I liked. In the next week and half, I had read two wonderful novels by two of the eminent Nigerian authors. These novels gave me a window to the magnificent land in West Africa. As I write about these two books the taste of Jollof rice, Pepper soup and invigorating drink of Ogogoro linger in my mind.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Half of a Yellow Sun is the winner of The Orange Prize for Fiction in 2007. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie tells us the story of the forgotten Nigerian Civil War in this book. She narrates, in her masterful writing, how an entire nation was failed by the crimes against humanity. As one character mentions in the book ‘The world was silent when we died’. The powerful leaders and countries silently watched as millions of people in this West African country suffered. It is as much the story of its five major characters as it is of the macabre of the civil war.

As soon as the colonial powers exited Nigeria, a series of tribal conflicts, corruption, violence and poverty brought the county to the brink of political upheaval. When the instability deepened the divide between the Igbo and the Hausa tribes, a demand for a separate country called Biafra for Igbo people arose. The flag of the new nation, which carried the symbol of half of a yellow sun, promised the Igbo people of better tomorrow.

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There are five major characters in this novel. Olanna and Kainene are twin sisters hailing from an elite Igbo family. They both are very different from one other. The “illogically beautiful” Olanna drifts away from her parents when she finds out that they can go to any length to secure their business interests, even to let powerful people in the business to sleep with their daughter. She works as a school teacher and lives with Odenigbo. He is a University professor and a champion of socialism and tribalism. His strong political opinions earn him the name “revolutionary” among the small group of intellectuals that gather at his home everyday. Kainene is completely different from her sister. She is a strong-headed woman and she has always made her parents proud. In her father’s words, “she is not just like a son, but she is like two.” Richard is her boyfriend. He is a British writer who supports the Biafra cause. Ugwu, a village boy who works as a domestic help in Odenigbo’s house, has a great deal of respect and a kind of possessiveness toward his master. Through the eyes of these characters the story unfolds. As the war progresses their lives take unexpected turn. The personal journeys of the characters are affected and transformed by the journey of the nation.

The novel explores the stark realities of Nigeria. As the war encroaches on the lives of these people, it destroys their hope and crumples their dreams. Some of the characters grow through this ordeal. They become stronger with endurance and patience. While others, who were lucky enough to remain untouched by death, become disoriented and tread a very dark path.

The contrast between the time when Ugwu cooks Jollof rice and pepper soup in the kitchen every second day and the time when Olanna had to literally fight in the Relief camp to get food, depicts the harsh reality of the war-ridden country. The critical eyes of the author do not spare anyone here. The political and military leadership, tribal chieftains, the photographers who have recently found a fascination for clicking photos of children suffering from kwashiorkor, the businessmen eyeing at war-profiteering and the elite society completely disconnected from the poor, come under scrutiny here. Adichie explores the brutality of civil war, layer by layer, and pushes us on to the frontline. And what we see there is a very gruesome picture. Check this collage: Bullets are fired at civilians incessantly; a woman carries a calabash with the severed head of her daughter in it; and the villages that are plundered and burnt. The violence doesn’t stop there. It takes the shape of poverty, starvation and diseases; and the system completely fails to contain these disasters.

Half of a Yellow Sun is a historical novel, which is becoming increasingly relevant in the world that we are living in today. It is also a heart-wrenching story of ordinary people caught in the mayhem of war. I always think that fiction is the best way to understand our history and my faith in it has renewed with this book. Adichie, with her great storytelling talent, tells us what newspapers and history books failed to point out. A great human tragedy, which might have just got erased from our memory, has been told to us once again through this novel. Thereby, forcing us to ponder if there can ever be enough compassion on this planet to stop another mindless war in future?

The Famished Road by Ben Okri

Those who have read Ben Okri’s novel The Famished Road have this one thing common to say: ‘The book is unlike anything that you have ever read before.’ This is the story of Azaro, a spirit child who is born to live in this world for a few years before returning back to the magical world of spirits. His father is a hardworking labourer with an awful temperament that often puts him in conflict with his neighbours. Azaro’s mother works as a hawker in the market for a meagre income. While Azaro lives with his parents in a ghetto in an African town, his companions in the spirit world keep hatching mysterious plans to bring him back to their world.

Madam Koto is an ambitious woman who runs the local watering hole. She hires Azaro to work in her bar for his good luck charm; but her intentions are not as simple as it appears. The political season, reminiscent of the post-colonial history of many of the African nations, brings chaos in the town. The inevitable change arrives to the idyllic town amidst this political turmoil. Azaro’s father, disillusioned by his never-ending struggles to make ends meet, starts dreaming big. The dream of becoming a boxer, and later that of a politician, drives his passion all through the story. Azaro’s mother, who often becomes the wrath of her husband’s peevishness, is the source of perpetual love for Azaro that keeps him from going back to the spirit world.

Azaro is not completely disconnected from the spirit world. He seems to be living in a dimension that allows him to wander in the real world as well as in the dreamlike realm inhabited by the spirits. Whenever he moves from the real world to the magical one, we do not witness a coherent transition. The reality merges into the fabulous with the fluidity of a fine poetry. He moves in and out of the two worlds with the same ease by which the author takes the readers on this mesmerizing journey.

Books of Magical Realism demand the readers to accept the fantastical elements the same way they treat the real elements in the narrative. But the descriptions of the spirit world, the path between the two worlds and of the spirits that visit are so rich that the story seems like fantasy in most of the pages. Ben Okri writes prose like a poem and paints magnificent pictures of his imaginary world with the charming words. Sample the first paragraph of the novel.

“In the beginning there was a river. The river became a road and the road branched out to the whole world. And because the road was once a river it was always hungry.”

The book is filled with Okri’s rich imagination and excellent writing. It seduces you with its poetic beauty, and hallucinates you with its mysticism. With its mammoth five hundred pages, it also drains your energy and leaves you exhausted. But I am afraid, that’s the chance you have to take in order to relish the sheer brilliance of Okri’s storytelling.

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I couldn’t help but notice the influence of Gabriel García Márquez. The unnamed town in this novel had shades of the much loved Macondo of One Hundred Years of Solitude. The patience of Azaro’s mother reminded me of the grand old lady Úrsula Iguarán. The resemblance between Melquíades and Jeremiah, the photographer is uncanny. Jeremiah’s camera refreshed my memories of Gabo’s enthralling episodes of daguerreotype and the chapter where the people of Macondo see ice for the first time.

Ben Okri’s book won The Booker Prize in 1991. He went on to write Songs of Enchantment and Infinite Riches to complete The Famished Road Trilogy. Reading this exceptional book can be a rich experience, provided you have an appetite for such type of literary works. If you are looking for a plot-driven fast-paced book, I would not recommend this one. The Famished Road takes you in to the rich world of Nigerian mythology. It explores the African society that is on the threshold of a political and social transformation. And more interestingly, it tells you, in a lyrical prose, the story of a boy caught in between two worlds.

Let not a wisp escape

One good thing about reading a novel long after it got released is that you can enjoy it as a book; and not as some hot commodity in the market. I have just finished reading Amitav Ghosh’s 2008 Booker nominated novel Sea of Poppies. I felt the book not only deserved all the critical acclaim it received, but it also took the readers to the realms never explored before. When I turned the last page of the novel I was immersed with a mixture of emotions. There was an exhilaration of having read a brilliant epic saga, enlightenment of learning about our forgotten past and a sense of astonishment for knowing a variety of exciting characters that would remain with me for a long time.

Sea Of Poppies, set in the mid-19th century, is about an assortment of people on board Ibis, a former slave vessel, which is on its journey from India to Mauritius. It was a time in history when most of the subcontinent had come under the rule of British East India Company. The Empire’s trade imbalance with the economically strong China had lead the company to force poor Indian farmers into cultivating opium, the only commodity that seemed to have any market in the self-reliant China. The introduction of opium as a cash crop had severe consequences on millions of people in India. And the unethical trade practices of the company with regard to opium would eventually force two brutal wars on China, now known as Opium wars. These wars killed millions of people and savaged the lives of many beyond repair, all in the pretext of Free Trade. The plot of the novel is set in the era when the East was slowly inching towards the brink of First Opium war.

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Ibis is filled with a motley array of characters. We are introduced to Deeti, an uppercast poor woman whose husband is an opium addict working for the legendary Gazipur opium factory. She often discusses about her vivid epiphany of a large ship with her daughter Kabootari. As fate would have it, a series of events make her one of the passengers of the same vessel. Boarding the ship with her is Kalua, a lower caste ox-cart driver. While his gigantic figure evoked fear among men, his dimwit often made him pay heavy price.

The second in command of the ship, Zachary Reid (or Zikri Malum as Lascars call him) is an American sailor who has taken an immediate liking for the culture of the subcontinent. Paulette (also known as Putli and Pugli), a French woman born and brought up in India with a fascination for botany, is an unlikely character to be present on a ship like this. Nonetheless, she is on the vessel hiding from the eyes of Jodu, an Indian boatman present on that ship, whom she considers to be her brother.

The ship also carries Neel Rattan Haldar, a convict who was a well educated zamindar before he was sentenced to deportation on charges of forgery. Baboo Kissin Pander is another interesting character. He is an efficient gomusta in the office of Mr Burnhum, the new owner of the ship Ibis. His attachment to Taramony, the deceased wife of his uncle is the reason that brought him on the journey to Mauritius on this vessel. We see him believe Zachary to be an incarnation of Lord Krishna and a sign from Taramony to carry on his life ultimate mission of building a temple. As the plot unfolds we see the eccentric gomusta slowly transforming in to a woman.

All these main characters have some of the most brilliant back stories. They come from diverse social milieu and form a sort of brethren and call themselves jahaj bhais or jahaj behens. The ship becomes their world and they are on a journey that they believe will give them a new beginning far away from the land of their ancestors. As the voyage continues on the black water, we see their fear, excitement and hope manifest. They unveil their stories in a way that is both beautiful and profound. The minor characters that we see on the ship too bring with them very vivid stories and add new layers to narrative.

Amitav Ghosh is a master storyteller. He has not only created some fantastic characters but also written brilliantly about the world they inhabit. The painstaking research that he has undertaken for this book (also for the entire trilogy) is very evident in the description of the era. I have never read an English novel that has portrayed life under Company rule this masterfully. The lifestyle, the ethos, the belief system and the culture of these people and the transformations the world was going through are described brilliantly. The coolies, lascars (sailor community), company officers, zamindars and nautch women create a very vibrant world. We read these pages with a sense of wonder as Mr Ghosh goes on describing the opium factory, Calcutta, Hooghly River, Ibis and its people with the command of a fine historian and a social anthropologist.

The grandeur of the plot is amplified by the rich language used by the writer. English has never seemed this Indian before. The way Bhojpuri, Bengali, Lascari and other pidgin languages are used along with Queen’s language gives a very rich flavor to the story. The multitude of languages spoken on the vessel makes Ibis a melting pot of various cultures. The characters, with the words they mouth, bring a certain amount of authenticity and texture to the novel. The tonality itself paints a big picture of multiculturalism of that era.

The story grows on us in many layers like an addiction. It gives us a peek in to the history that is never discussed anywhere else. It introduces us to the people who walked on this very land a century and half back. It tells us the brutality of trade, war and hegemony that literally brought India and China, two of the greatest civilizations, to its knees. It tells us about the pursuit of freedom in the times of gross adversity. It tells us about migrations that would eventually build many countries. The world we are living in today is not very different from the era this novel is set in. The brutal wars, unethical global trade practices and the quest for supremacy still drive most of the contemporary world. In that sense the book is an allegory to the world we are living in today.

The biggest achievement of this seminal work of Amitav is that it does not come across as mere a documentation of bygone era, but it appeals to us at a very human level. The adventure, sufferings, happiness, excitement, drama and tension unfold in a way that cannot be called as subtle, given the richness of narrative. There also is lot of nuances the writer incorporates which gives an emotional touch to the historical fiction. It is impossible but to admire when Mr Ghosh paints a novel that is huge and epic in both canvas and ambition. We should enjoy this novel with the caution of an afeemkhor (opium addict) who would not let a wisp escape of his akbari afeem smoke.

I am yet to read the second installment of the Ibis trilogy River Of Smoke (which is already a success) and the third installment Flood of Fire (which is scheduled for a Spring release this year). Until then, Ibis will continue to haunt me like it did to Deeti in her apparitions.

ಯಾನದಲ್ಲಿ ಲೀನವಾದ ಮನಸ್ಸು

“ಎಸ್ ಎಲ್ ಭೈರಪ್ಪರ ಹೊಸ ಕೃತಿ ಬ೦ದಿದೆ. ನಿಮಗಾಗಿ ಒ೦ದು ಪ್ರತಿ ತೆಗೆದಿಟ್ಟಿದ್ದೇನೆ” ಎ೦ದು ಕೃತಿ ಬಿಡುಗಡೆ ಅದ ದಿನ ಪುಸ್ತಕ ಮಳಿಗೆಯಿ೦ದ ನನಗೆ ಟೆಕ್ಸ್ಟ್ ಬ೦ದಾಗಿನಿ೦ದ ಶುರುವಾಗಿತ್ತು ನನ್ನ ಕಾತರತೆ. ಅದೇ ಸ೦ಜೆ ಪುಸ್ತಕ ಓದಲು ಕುಳಿತ ನಾನು ತಡ ರಾತ್ರಿಯಾಗುವಷ್ಟರಲ್ಲಿ ಇಡೀ ಪುಸ್ತಕ ಓದಿ ಮುಗಿಸಿದ್ದೆ. ಭೈರಪ್ಪರ ಪ್ರತಿಯೊ೦ದು ಕಾದ೦ಬರಿಯ೦ತೆ “ಯಾನ” ಕೂಡ ಕನ್ನಡ ಸಾರಸ್ವತ ಲೋಕದಲ್ಲಿ ಮಾರಾಟದ ದಾಖಲೆಯನ್ನು ಬರೆಯುತ್ತಿದೆ. ಭೈರಪ್ಪರ ಪುಸ್ತಕ ಬ೦ತೆ೦ದರೆ ಅದು ಓದುಗರಿಗೆ, ಪ್ರಕಾಶಕರಿಗೆ, ವಿಮರ್ಶಕರಿಗೆ, ಸಾಹಿತ್ಯ ಪ್ರೇಮಿಗಳಿಗೆ ಹಾಗೂ ಅನುವಾದಕಾರರಾದಿಯಾಗಿ ಎಲ್ಲಾರಿಗೂ ಸುಗ್ಗಿ ಸ೦ಭ್ರಮ. ಭೈರಪ್ಪರ ಪರ್ವ ಹಾಗೂ ಸಾರ್ಥ ನಾನು ಬಹಳಾ ಇಷ್ಟ ಪಟ್ಟು ಓದಿದ ಎರಡು ಕೃತಿಗಳು. ಅ೦ತೆಯೇ  ನಾಯಿನೆರಳು, ಮತದಾನ, ನಿರಾಕರಣ, ಆವರಣ ಹಾಗೂ ಗ್ರಹಣ ಕೂಡಾ ಮನಸ್ಸಿಗೆ ಹಿಡಿಸಿದ್ದವು. ಈ ಸಾಲಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಈಗ ಯಾನ ಕೂಡಾ ಸೇರಿಬಿಟ್ಟಿದೆ.

ಸಾಹಿತ್ಯ, ವಿಚಾರಧಾರೆ ಅಥವಾ ತರ್ಕದ ನೆಲೆಗಟ್ಟಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಯಾನದ ವಿಮರ್ಶೆ ನಾನಿಲ್ಲಿ ಮಾಡಬಯಸುವುದಿಲ್ಲ. ಯಾಕೆ೦ದರೆ ಯಾನವನ್ನು ಈಗ ತಾನೇ ಓದಿ ಮುಗಿಸಿದ ಕಾರಣಕ್ಕೆ ಆ ಕಾದ೦ಬರಿಯ ವಸ್ತು ಇನ್ನೂ ನನ್ನೊಳಗೆ ಬೆಳೆಯುತ್ತಿದೆ. ಭೈರಪ್ಪರು ಕತೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಕೇಳಿರುವ ಪ್ರಶ್ನೆಗಳು ಮನಸ್ಸಿನೊಳಗೆ ಹಲವು ಅಯಾಮಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ತೆರೆದುಕೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತಿವೆ. ನನ್ನ ಬರಹದ ಉದ್ದೇಶ ಈ ಕೃತಿಯ ಸ್ಥೂಲ ಪರಿಚಯ (ಇನ್ನೂ ಯಾನ ಓದದವರಿಗಾಗಿ) ಹಾಗೂ ಓದುಗನಾಗಿ ಈ ಕಾದ೦ಬರಿಯ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ನನ್ನ ಪ್ರಾಥಮಿಕ ಅಭಿಪ್ರಾಯ ನೀಡುವುದು ಮಾತ್ರ.

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ಮೊದಲಿಗೆ ನಾವು ಕತೆಯ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಗಮನ ಹರಿಸೋಣ. ಅ೦ತರಿಕ್ಷ ವಿಜ್ನಾನ ಶರವೇಗದಲ್ಲಿ ಸಾಗಿರುವ ಈ ಸಮಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಭಾರತ ಒ೦ದು ಮಹತ್ತರವಾದ ಸ೦ಶೋಧನೆಗೆ ತೊಡಗುತ್ತದೆ. ಸೂರ್ಯನಿ೦ದ ಅಗಾಧ ದೂರದಲ್ಲಿರುವ ಪ್ರಾಕ್ಸಿಮಾ ಸೆ೦ಟಾರಿ ನಕ್ಷತ್ರದೆಡೆ ಭಾರತೀಯ ವಿಜ್ನಾನಿಗಳು ಒ೦ದು ಅ೦ತರಿಕ್ಷ ನೌಕೆಯನ್ನು ಕಳುಹಿಸುತ್ತಾರೆ. ಆ ನೌಕೆಯೊಳಗೆ ಒ೦ದು ಗ೦ಡು ಹಾಗೂ ಮತ್ತೊಬ್ಬಳು ಹೆಣ್ಣನ್ನು ಕೂರಿಸಿ ಸಾವಿರಾರು ವರ್ಷಗಳ ದೀರ್ಘಪ್ರಯಾಣಕ್ಕೆ ಅಣಿಮಾಡುತ್ತಾರೆ. ಫೈಟರ್ ಪೈಲಟ್ ಉತ್ತರೆ ಹಾಗೂ ವಿಜ್ನಾನಿ ಸುದರ್ಶನ್ ಎ೦ದೂ ತಿರುಗಿ ಬಾರದ ಈ ಯಾನಕ್ಕೆ ಹೊರಟ ಎರಡು ಪಾತ್ರಗಳು. ಪ್ರಾಕ್ಸಿಮಾ ಸೆ೦ಟಾರಿ ತಲುಪಲು ಎಷ್ಟೋ ಸಾವಿರ ವರ್ಷಗಳು ಇರುವುದರಿ೦ದ ಈ ಯಾನದ ಜವಾಬ್ದಾರಿ ತಲೆಮಾರಿನಿ೦ದ ತಲೆಮಾರಿಗೆ ಸಾಗಬೇಕು. ಮು೦ದಿನ ಅದಷ್ಟು ತಲೆಮಾರುಗಳು ತಮಗೆ ಬೇಕಾದ ಆಹಾರವನ್ನು ತಾವೇ ಈ ನೌಕೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಬೆಳೆಸಿ ತಿನ್ನಬೇಕು. ಲಕ್ಷ ವರ್ಷಗಳಿಗೆ ಸಾಲುವಷ್ಟು ಇ೦ಧನ-ವಿದ್ಯುಚ್ಚಕ್ತಿ ಕೂಡಾ ಈ ನೌಕೆಯಲ್ಲಿದೆ. ತಾ೦ತ್ರಿಕ ಪರಮೋಚ್ಚತೆಯ ಪ್ರತೀಕವಾದ ಈ ಯಾನದಲ್ಲಿ ತೊಡಗಿರುವ ಇವರೀರ್ವರು ಹಾಗೂ ಇವರ ಮಕ್ಕಳಾದ ಮೇದಿನಿ ಹಾಗೂ ಆಕಾಶ್ ಎದುರಿಸುವ ಪ್ರಶ್ನೆಗಳು ಮಾತ್ರ ಬೇರೆ ರೀತಿಯದು. ಈ ನಾಲ್ಕು ಪಾತ್ರಗಳು ಸೂರ್ಯಮ೦ಡಲದಿ೦ದ ಹೊರಸಾಗಿರುವ ಯಾನದೊಳಗೆ ನೈತಿಕತೆಯ ಪರಿಭಾಷೆ ಏನು ಎ೦ಬ ವಿಲಕ್ಷಣವಾದ ತರ್ಕದಲ್ಲಿ ಸಿಲುಕಿಬಿಡುತ್ತಾರೆ.

ಆಕಾಶ್ ಹಾಗೂ ಮೇದಿನಿ ಯೌವ್ವನಕ್ಕೆ ಕಾಲಿಡುವ ಸಮಯದಲ್ಲಿ ಅವರೀರ್ವರ ನಡುವೆ ದೈಹಿಕ ಆಕರ್ಷಣೆ ಉ೦ಟಾಗುತ್ತದೆ. ಇದೊ೦ದು ಸಮಾಜ ಬಾಹಿರ ಸ೦ಬ೦ಧ ಅನ್ನುವ ಕಲ್ಪನೆಯೇ ಇಲ್ಲದ ಇವರೀರ್ವರು ಒ೦ದು ದಿನ ನೌಕೆಯ ಮೆಗಾಕ೦ಪ್ಯೂಟರ್ ಮುಖಾ೦ತರ ಈ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಅರಿತುಕೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತಾರೆ. ವ್ಯೋಮದ ಅನ೦ತತೆಯೊಳಗೆ ತೇಲುತ್ತಿರುವ ಆ ನೌಕೆಯೊಳಗೆ ನೈತಿಕತೆ ಅ೦ದರೇನು ಅನ್ನುವ ಪ್ರಶ್ನೆ ಉದ್ಭವವಾಗುತ್ತದೆ. ಈ ಸುದೀರ್ಘ ಯಾನದಲ್ಲಿ ಸ೦ತಾನ ಹೇಗೆ ಬೆಳೆಯಬೇಕು? ದೈಹಿಕ ಇಚ್ಚೆಗಳು, ಕಾಮ, ಸ೦ಬ೦ಧಗಳು ಇ೦ತಹ ಪರಿಸ್ಥಿತಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಹೇಗೆ ನೈತಿಕತೆಯನ್ನು ಮಾರ್ಪಾಡುಗೊಳಿಸುತ್ತವೆ? ಅನ್ನುವ ಪ್ರಶ್ನೆಗಳು ಹುಟ್ಟಿಕೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತವೆ. ಸುದರ್ಶನ್ ಅ೦ತರ್ಮುಖಿ. ತನ್ನ ಯಾನದ ಜವಾಬ್ದಾರಿ ಜೊತೆಗೆ ಸದಾ ಯೋಗದಲ್ಲಿ ತೊಡಗಿರುವ ಮನುಷ್ಯ. ಉತ್ತರೆ ಕೂಡಾ ಯಾನದ ಕೃಷಿ ಭೂಮಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಸದಾ ವ್ಯಸ್ತವಾಗಿರುವಾಕೆ. ಮಕ್ಕಳಿಬ್ಬರ ಪ್ರಶ್ನೆಗಳಿಗೆ ಸರಿಯಾದ ಉತ್ತರ ಸಿಗದಾಗ ಮೆಗಾ ಕ೦ಪ್ಯೂಟರಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಎಲ್ಲೋ ಅಡಗಿದ್ದ ತ೦ದೆ ತಾಯಿಯ ಎರಡು ದಿನಚರಿ ದಾಖಲೆ ಪುಸ್ತಕಗಳು ಮಕ್ಕಳ ಕಣ್ಮು೦ದೆ ಬರುತ್ತವೆ. ಆ ದಿನಚರಿ ದಾಖಲೆಯಲ್ಲಿ ಅವರಿಬ್ಬರ ಹಿನ್ನೆಲೆಯನ್ನು ಅರಿತುಕೊಳ್ಳಿತ್ತಾರೆ. ಸುದರ್ಶನ್ ಹಾಗೂ ಉತ್ತರೆ ಯಾನಕ್ಕೆ ತೊಡಗುವ ಮೊದಲಿನ ಸನ್ನಿವೇಶಗಳಿ೦ದ ಹಿಡಿದು ಮಕ್ಕಳು ಹುಟ್ಟುವ ವರೆಗೆ ಸವಿಸ್ತಾರವಾಗಿ ವಿವರಗಳು ಆ ದಿನಚರಿ ಹಾಗೂ ಕೊನೆಗೆ ಖುದ್ದು ಸುದರ್ಶನ್-ಉತ್ತರೆಯಿ೦ದ ಸಿಗುತ್ತದೆ. ಇ೦ತಹ ಸ೦ಕೀರ್ಣವಾದ ಪರಿಸ್ಥಿತಿಗೆ ಪಾತ್ರಗಳು ಹೇಗೆ ಸ್ಪ೦ದಿಸುತ್ತವೆ, ಹೇಗೆ ಬೆಳೆಯುತ್ತವೆ ಹಾಗೂ ಭೂಮಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಸಲ್ಲುವ ನೈತಿಕತೆಯ ನಿಯಮಗಳು ಅದೆಷ್ಟೋ ಜ್ಯೂತಿರ್ವರ್ಷಗಳಷ್ಟು ದೂರ ಸಾಗುತ್ತಿರುವ ಈ ಯಾನದೊಳಗೆ ಕೂಡಾ ಅನ್ವಯಿಸಲಾದೀತೇ ಅನ್ನುವ ಜಿಜ್ನಾಸೆಯನ್ನು ನಮ್ಮಲ್ಲಿ ಕಾದ೦ಬರಿಕಾರ ಹುಟ್ಟುಹಾಕುತ್ತಾರೆ. ಕತೆಯ ಸೂಕ್ಷ್ಮತೆ, ಇನ್ನಿತರ ಪಾತ್ರಗಳು, ಅವುಗಳ ಹಿನ್ನೆಲೆ ಇತ್ಯಾದಿಗಳ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಹೆಚ್ಚೇನು ಹೇಳಬಯಸುವುದಿಲ್ಲ. ಇನ್ನೂ ಕಾದ೦ಬರಿ ಓದಿರದವರಿಗೆ ಇದರಿ೦ದ ರಸಭ೦ಗವಾದೀತು. ಆದರೆ ಈ ಕಾದ೦ಬರಿ ನನ್ನ ಮೇಲೆ ಬೀರಿದ ಪರಿಣಾಮಗಳ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಒ೦ದೆರಡು ಮಾತು ಇಲ್ಲಿ ಬರೆಯಬೇಕು.

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ಸುದರ್ಶನ್-ಉತ್ತರೆ ನಡುವೆ ಎ೦ದೂ ಬೆಸೆಯದ ಸ೦ಬ೦ಧವು ಯಾನ ಸಾಗುವ ನಿರ್ವಾತ ಹಾದಿಯ ರೀತಿಯೇ ಕ೦ಡುಬರುತ್ತದೆ. ಸುದರ್ಶನ್ ತನ್ನ ಕಾಮ ವಾ೦ಛೆಯನ್ನು ಹದ್ದುಬಸ್ತಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಇಡಲು ಪಡುವ ಪಾಡು, ಉತ್ತರೆಯ ದೇಹದ ಮೇಲಿನ ಆತನ ಆಕರ್ಷಣೆ, ಬಲಾತ್ಕಾರದ ಪ್ರಯತ್ನ ಹಾಗೂ ಕೃಷ್ಣಗಹ್ವರದ ಭ್ರಾ೦ತಿಯಲ್ಲಿ ಉನ್ಮಾದಗೊ೦ಡ ಆತನ ಮನಸ್ಸು ಕೊನೆಗೆ ಧ್ಯಾನ-ವೇದಾ೦ತದಿ೦ದ ಹೊಸ ಅರ್ಥ ಪಡೆಯುವ ರೀತಿಯನ್ನು ಬಹಳ ಸ೦ಯಮದಿ೦ದ ಕಾದ೦ಬರಿಕಾರ ನಿರೂಪಿಸಿದ್ದಾರೆ. ಸುದರ್ಶನ್ ತನ್ನೊಳಗೆ ಕೂಡಾ ಒ೦ದು ಯಾನದಲ್ಲಿ ತೊಡಗಿರುವುದು ನಮಗೆ ವೇದ್ಯವಾಗುತ್ತದೆ. ಏಕಾ೦ತತೆಯಿ೦ದ ಶುರುವಾಗುವ ಸುದರ್ಶನ್ ಪಾತ್ರ ಒ೦ದು ಹ೦ತದಲ್ಲಿ ಮೃಗೀಯ ಮಟ್ಟಕ್ಕೂ ಇಳಿದುಬಿಡುತ್ತದೆ. ತನ್ನ ತಪ್ಪುಗಳಿಗೆ ಸಮಜಾಯಿಷಿಯೂ ಆತ ನೀಡುತ್ತಾನೆ. ಆದರೆ ಬರಬರುತ್ತಾ ಮೌನಿಯಾಗುವ ಈ ಪಾತ್ರ ಅನ೦ತತೆಯೆಡೆ ಹೊರಟ ಯಾನದ ರೀತಿ ಸಾತ್ವಿಕತೆಗೆ ತೆರೆದುಕೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತದೆ.

ಉತ್ತರೆ ಸಾಹಸ ಹಾಗೂ ಸ್ವಾತ೦ತ್ರ್ಯದ ಪ್ರತೀಕ. ಆಧುನಿಕ ಮಹಿಳೆಯಾದ ಈಕೆಯ ಮನಸ್ಸು ಗೊಡ್ಡು ಸ೦ಪ್ರದಾಯಕ್ಕೆ ತಲೆಬಾಗದು. ಆದರೂ ಸಮಾಜ ನ೦ಬಿರುವ ನೈತಿಕತೆಯನ್ನು ತನ್ನದೇ ಆದ ರೀತಿ ಸ್ವೀಕರಿಸುವವಳು ಆಕೆ. ಅ೦ತರಿಕ್ಷ ಸೇರುವ ಈಕೆಗೂ ವಿವಾಹಪೂರ್ವ ದೈಹಿಕ ಸ೦ಪರ್ಕ, ದೇವರು, ದೇವರ ಆಣೆ ಮೊದಲಾದುವುಗಳ ಬಗ್ಗೆ ಇರುವ ಕಲ್ಪನೆಗಳು ತೀರಾ ಆಧುನಿಕ ಎನ್ನುವ ಹಾಗಿಲ್ಲ. ಇವಳಲ್ಲಿ ಬಹಳಷ್ಟು ಸ೦ಕೀರ್ಣತೆ ಅಡಗಿದೆ. ಸ೦ಪ್ರದಾಯಬದ್ದ ಹಾಗೂ ಆಧುನಿಕ ಅನ್ನುವ ಎರಡು ಗು೦ಪಿಗೂ ಸೇರಿಸಲಾಗದ ಪಾತ್ರವಾಗಿ ನನಗೆ ಉತ್ತರೆ ಕ0ಡುಬರುತ್ತಾಳೆ. ಸ೦ಪ್ರದಾಯವಾದಿ ಸಮಾಜದಲ್ಲಿ ನ೦ಬಿರುವ೦ತೆ ಮಹಿಳೆಯ ಪಾತ್ರ ದ್ವಿತೀಯ ದರ್ಜೆಯದ್ದಲ್ಲ ಎ೦ದು ಅವಳು ತೋರಿಸುವ ರೀತಿ ಬಹಳ ಇಷ್ಟವಾಗುತ್ತದೆ.

ಅ೦ತರಿಕ್ಷವನ್ನು ಕಣ್ಣಿಗೆ ಕಟ್ಟುವ ರೀತಿ ಸೃಷ್ಟಿಸಿದ ಭೈರಪ್ಪರು ಅಷ್ಟೇ ಸಮರ್ಥವಾಗಿ ಅ೦ಟಾಕ್ರ್ಟಿಕಾವನ್ನು ಕೂಡ ವಿವರಿಸುತ್ತಾರೆ. ಈ ಕಾದ೦ಬರಿ ಬರೆಯಬೇಕಾದರೆ ಅದಕ್ಕಾಗಿ ಅವರು ಮಾಡಿರುವ ಸ೦ಶೋಧನೆ, ಪಟ್ಟ ಶ್ರಮ ಪ್ರತಿ ಪುಟಗಳಲ್ಲೂ ಕಾಣಸಿಗುತ್ತದೆ. ನಾವು ನೋಡಿ ಕೇಳಿರದ ಪ್ರಪ೦ಚವನ್ನು ಇಲ್ಲಿ ಭೈರಪ್ಪನವರು ಸೃಷ್ಟಿಸುತ್ತಾರೆ. ಮಹಾನ್ ಯಾನ, ಯಾನಕ್ಕೆ ಸ೦ಬ೦ಧಪಟ್ಟ ಅದಷ್ಟು ವೈಜ್ನಾನಿಕ ಮಾಹಿತಿಗಳು, ಅ೦ತರಿಕ್ಷದಲ್ಲಿನ ಜೀವನ, ಗ್ರಹತಾರೆಗಳ ಮೇಲೆ ಆಧಾರಿತ ದಿನಚರಿ ಇವೆಲ್ಲವನ್ನೂ ಭೈರಪ್ಪನವರು ಕಣ್ಣಿಗೆ ಕಟ್ಟುವ೦ತೆ ಬರೆದಿದ್ದಾರೆ. ಕತೆ ಮು೦ದೆ ಸಾಗಿದ೦ತೆ ನಾವು ಕೂಡಾ ಆ ಯಾನದ ಭಾಗವೇ ಆಗಿ ಬಿಡುತ್ತೇವೆ. ಆದರೆ, ಜನ ಅ೦ತರಿಕ್ಷಕ್ಕೇರುವ ಕಾಲಘಟ್ಟದಲ್ಲೂ ಕೂಡಾ ಮೌಡ್ಯ, ಕ೦ದಾಚಾರ, ಪುರುಷಪ್ರಧಾನ ಸಮಾಜದ೦ತಹ ಹಳೆಯ ಕಾಲದ ಕಲ್ಪನೆಗಳಿಗೆ ಸಮ್ಮತಿಸುವ ಪಾತ್ರಗಳನ್ನು ಅರಗಿಸಿಕೊಳ್ಳುವುದು ಸ್ವಲ್ಪ ಕಷ್ಟವಾಗುತ್ತದೆ. ಅದೇ ರೀತಿ ಕೆಲವು ಪಾತ್ರಗಳು ತೀರಾ ಗ್ರಾಮ್ಯವಾದ ನುಡಿಗಟ್ಟುಗಳನ್ನು ಉಪಯೋಗಿಸುವುದು ಕೂಡಾ ಓದಿನ ವೇಗ ಅಪಕರ್ಷಗೊಳಿಸುತ್ತದೆ. ಇನ್ನು ಭೈರಪ್ಪನವರು ವ್ಯಕ್ತಿಗತವಾಗಿ ನ೦ಬಿರುವ ವಿಚಾರಗಳು ಕತೆಯ ಹಾಗೂ ಪಾತ್ರಗಳ ಮುಖಾ೦ತರ ಅಲ್ಲಲ್ಲಿ ಬ೦ದುಬಿಡುವುದು ಕೆಲವೊಮ್ಮೆ ರಸಭ೦ಗಕ್ಕೀಡುಮಾಡುತ್ತದೆ (ಆವರಣದಲ್ಲಿ ಆದ ರೀತಿ). ಪ್ರಾಕ್ಸಿಮ ಸೆ೦ಟಾರಿಗೆ ಹೊರಟ ಈ ಯಾನವನ್ನು ಸಮಕಾಲೀನ ಜಗತ್ತಿನ ಬದಲಿಗೆ ಕೆಲವು ದಶಕಗಳ ಆಚೆ ಸ್ಥಾಪಿಸಿದ್ದರೆ ಈ ಇಡೀ ಕಾದ೦ಬರಿ ಇನ್ನೂ ಹೆಚ್ಚು ಪ್ರಸ್ತುತವಾಗುತ್ತಿತ್ತೋ ಅನ್ನುವ ಒ೦ದು ಆಲೋಚನೆಯೂ ನನ್ನನು ಕಾಡಿತ್ತು.

ವೈಜ್ನಾನಿಕ-ತಾ೦ತ್ರಿಕ ಪದಗಳನ್ನು ಯಥೇಚ್ಚವಾಗಿ ಕನ್ನಡದಲ್ಲೇ ಭೈರಪ್ಪರು ಬಳಸುತ್ತಾರೆ. ತಾ೦ತ್ರಿಕತೆಯ ವಿಚಾರಗಳಿಗೆ ಬ೦ದಾಗ ಇ0ಗ್ಲೀಷ್ ಪದಗಳಿಗೆ ಒಗ್ಗಿಹೋಗಿರುವ ಓದುಗರು ಇದರಿ೦ದಾಗಿ ವಿಚಲಿತಗೊ೦ಡರೂ, ಕನ್ನಡದ ಈ ಪದಗಳಿಗೆ ಆಮೇಲೆ ತಾವೇ ಹೊ೦ದಿಕೊಳ್ಳುತ್ತಾರೆ. ಪರ್ವ ಅಥವಾ ಸಾರ್ಥ ಬೇರೊ೦ದು ಕಾಲದಲ್ಲಿ ಜರುಗುವ ಕತೆಗಳಾದರೂ ಭೈರಪ್ಪರ ಅದ್ಭುತ ಭಾಷಾ ಪಾ೦ಡಿತ್ಯದಿ೦ದಾಗಿ ಅವರು ಬಳಸುವ ಕನ್ನಡಪದಗಳು ಈ ಕತೆಗಳನ್ನು ಇನ್ನೂ ಹತ್ತಿರಕ್ಕೆ ತ೦ದು ಬಿಡುತ್ತವೆ. ಇಲ್ಲಿ ಇತಿಹಾಸದ ಬದಲಿಗೆ ಆಧುನಿಕ ಜಗತ್ತು ಇರುವುದರಿ೦ದಲೋ ಏನೋ ಭೈರಪ್ಪ ಇ೦ಗ್ಲೀಷ್ ಕೂಡಾ ಅಲ್ಲಲ್ಲಿ ಬಳಸಿದ್ದಾರೆ. ಅವರ ಪದಗಳಲ್ಲಿ ಅದೇ ಓಟ, ಅದೇ ವೇಗ ಇನ್ನೂ ಇದೆ ಅನ್ನುವುದು ಸ೦ತೋಷದ ವಿಚಾರ.

ಒಟ್ಟಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಕನ್ನಡದ ಓದುಗರು (ಬಹುಷ ಇತರೆ ಭಾರತೀಯ ಭಾಷೆಗಳ ಓದುಗರು ಕೂಡ) ಹಿ೦ದೆ೦ದೂ ಓದಿರದ ವಸ್ತುವನ್ನು ಯಾನ ಹೊತ್ತು ತ೦ದಿದೆ. ಯಾನ ಅ೦ತರಿಕ್ಷದಲ್ಲಿ ನಡೆಯುವ ಕೇವಲ ಒ೦ದು ವಿಜ್ನಾನ-ಕತೆಯಾಗಿ ಉಳಿಯುವುದಿಲ್ಲ. ಬದಲಿಗೆ, ನಮ್ಮದಲ್ಲದ ಕಾಲ-ದೇಶದಲ್ಲಿ ಸಿಲುಕಿದ ನಮ್ಮ ಹಾಗಿನ ಮನುಷ್ಯರ ನಡುವಿನ ಮಾನವೀಯ ಸ೦ಬ೦ಧಗಳ ಅನ್ವೇಷಣೆ ಆಗಿಬಿಡುತ್ತದೆ. ಯಾನಕ್ಕೆ ಜನಪ್ರಿಯ ಕಾದ೦ಬರಿಗೆ ಬೇಕಾದ ವೇಗ ಇರುವುದು ನಿಜ ಆದರೆ ಯಾನದ ಯಶಸ್ಸು ನಿ೦ತಿರುವುದು ಅದರ ಆಳದ ಮೇಲೆ.

The Metamorphosis and Kafka

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Franz Kafka (1883-1924)

It was always puzzling to see how different people interpreted Franz Kafka’s work. Some writers would find him absurd, some analyst would call him a communist, while others consider him as a great philosopher of our time. The other day, I was searching the internet for some information on a Kannada playwright Samsa. The search took me to some other page which contained the excerpts of the Franz Kafka’s novel The Metamorphosis. The only reason for me landing on that page was simply this. The protagonist’s name in this novel was Samsa Gregor.

Reading about the critical acclaims novel received made me interested in the book. Although not a fan of e-books, I decided  give thios novel a try I must say it was worth it. This is a short novel which kept me glued till the end. The novel has a very unusual plot. This is a story of a bachelor travel executive who gets up from sleep one fine day to discover that he has been transformed into a vermin (a roach to be precise). Though his thinking capacities are still intact, his new body makes it extremely difficult for him to move around. Samsa Gregor – whose body is mutated – was a very hard working man and a family person who loved spending time with his old parents and listening his teenage sister play violin. His work had made him a busy man who spent most of his time roaming from one place to another. Because of his hard work he could pay back the father’s debts.He was also planning to send his sister to a music institution to specialize in violin. He was a very responsible man in every sense. But the metamorphosis took place all of sudden, literally overnight.

Initially, his plight leaves his family in a deep sorrow. His parents are shocked to see him crawl in his room. The chief clerk of his office who comes to ask about Samsa’s absence returns after having a kind of heated arguments with him. Later, Samsa’s sister Grete takes courage to come into his room and give him some food. It becomes a routine for her to come and give him his food.They have stopped talking to each other now, but the routine of giving him food somehow continues. It could be because of the reason that Samsa thinks attempting to talk to her might scare her away. Whenever she enters the room he runs under the couch thinking that his looks may make her feel embarassed. Gradually, we see Samsa being treated like an animal. The dark room becomes his world. Most of the time either he sleeping or crawling the walls and ceiling of his room and sometimes listening to the murmuring of hes fellow family members. The responsibility of overseeing the family is slowly shifted to Samsa’s sister now. His father who is retired, now thinks about taking up a job again. His mother also starts working. They decide a portion of their flat on rent to the tenants thinking that it will help them. The tenants are very rude to the family. Samsa hears all these changes from his room with a grave silence. This abstract story hides a very deep philosophical meaning in it. From the concept of metamorphosis to the the characters, Kafka narrates everything in the language of metaphors.

What is metamorphosis in real sense? The one which we see in Gregor is a physical one. What about the one which takes place in the lives of Samsa’s sister and his parents? The relationships play vital role in this novel, especially the relationship the siblings share. We can see the change in her attitude towards him,. The metamorphosis is actually about the transformation of Grete from a girl to a woman. Initially it was her who shed tears for Samsa; and it was her who brought food into his room. But we see her coming to a decision that Samsa is mere an animal now and in order to bring peace to their family they should get rid of it (Samsa). This shows the completion of the metamorphosis in Grete.
As I said earlier this story can be interpreted into many themes. Many themes like loneliness, the attitudes towards those who are different, materialistic attitude or Freudian psychological themes can be derived from this novella. This novella makes you think about your life; most importantly about the goal of your life. People recognize you and treat you well for the works you do. What will happen if you were to become a vermin one day like it happened to Samsa? Think!

(Here is a free e-book of ‘The Metamorphosis’ – courtesy Project Gutenberg. This is the image of the original novel in German.)

metamorphosis

Karvalo: A journey in search of truth

Tejaswi

Poorna Chandra Tejaswi has always been one of my favourite writers. His writings cover a wide range of topics from the Latin American lifestyle to the flora-fauna of Western Ghats. The disciplines of his work range a great deal from novels, short stories to non-fiction to transliterations.

His Millennium series is undoubtedly a unique concept by itself. In this series, he introduces Kannada book lovers to the wonders of the world. The subjects such Apollo moon missions, World wars, Inca-Aztec civilizations are really a treat to read.

Today, I thought, I would pen down my views on Karvalo – one of the widely read novels of Tejaswi. This novel has been translated to many languages all over the world, which shows its immense universal appeal.

Karvalo is set in a remote village on the foothills of Western Ghats of Karnataka. The  way this story explores many interesting things about human existence. Why are we living today? What made us exist the way we do today? What if our evolution had taken some other path and ended up in becoming something completely different from homo sapiens. What if dinosaurs had managed to exist today, battling all the natural calamities that they faced? There are many such questions which pop out as you go through the pages of Karvalo. These are the fundamental questions which kept on coming back from the days of stone age man to the days of Charles Darwin and to this era of DNA technology.

In Karvalo, the protagonist is a well educated farmer, who is also the narrator of the story. In spite of his great interest in rural lifestyle, his unsuccessful agricultural work makes him contemplate to quit and head towards the city. During this time he meets Karvalo, a middle aged scientist. In their first few meetings they discuss the difficulties the protagonist faced in his field. There is another interesting character Mandanna, who makes his appearance in the initial stage of the novel. He is a local cowboy and a sort of side-kick to Karvalo. Mandanna is considered to be a good-for-nothing fellow by the villagers and his friends alike.

The narrator was surprised to see that Mandanna and Karvalo share a close bond like a scientist and a research assistant. He wonders what is the thing that brought these opposite characters to a common platform. What is that a scientist finds so special in a local cowboy?

As the story moves, we see the narrator getting an explanation from the scientist himself as to the importance of Mandanna in his work. Mandanna might have been labelled as a dumb guy by all, but he too has some unique skills in his kitty which makes him a special asset. Mandanna’s ‘observational skill’ is the thing which made Karvalo choose him as a person to help him with his research work. As Karvalo says, Mandanna is very good at identifying different creatures.

One fine day Karvalo reveals that his fellow ‘student’ Mandanna had seen an endangered reptile in the jungle, which was previously thought to have been extinct. It is a flying lizard which opens a wing-like organ when it has to fly from one place to another. Karvalo is now on a mission to find this creature. He asks the narrator to join his team, which already includes the scientist himslef, his fellow student Mandanna, a camera man and a womanizer cook.

Their journey to find that endangered flying lizard is the story of this novel. The series of discussions and revelations that take place in their expedition gives a deep philosophical aspect to the story. The questions like ‘Do they find the flying lizard?’ become immaterial when you find that it is not the lizard but the truth of life what they are in search of.

I find the serious discussions by the characters very interesting to read. In one chapter, there is a discussion about the existence of God. A believer of God thinks about the rising sun, stars and wonders of natures and take them to be the proofs for the existence of God. But quiet ironically, these are the same set of examples that make a non-believer think that there is no such thing as God and all these things work on their own. Finally, we have to believe that it is the examples which are true and the all the conclusions that we draw from the examples are myths. What a brilliant thought? Yes, you find lot of such discussions in this novel, which can give you a whole new idea about our universe.

This is a story that makes you think about the wonders of nature. Some people may call it God; to some it is an ever-existing world. Call it the way you perceive, but it cant stop you from thinking about the universal question. If you have not experienced the thrill of this novel yet, I suggest, give it a try.