Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Book Review: And the Mountains Echoed

Title:          And the Mountains Echoed
Author:       Khaled Hosseini
Publisher:    Bloomsbury India
ISBN:          978-9-3829-5100-1
MRP:           Rs 599
Pages:         402

Finally, I finished reading this book! Ever since I got to know that Khaled Hosseini’s third book is on stands, I was way too excited. His earlier novel, ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ is one of my favorite books and I was expecting magic this time as well. However, I was left disappointed, rather irritated. Let me get to the point quickly. The book is about many people and their personal lives described in fine details.

In a nutshell, this is the story of two poor siblings, Abdullah and Pari from a small Village in Afghanistan, who get separated in their childhood. Pari is adopted by Nila Wahdati, a rich but depressed half Afghan-half French poet. Her driver Nabi (Pari’s step uncle), plans and arranges all this because of his silent crush on her, for he cannot tolerate the sadness of a childless Nila. She later leaves both, her paralyzed husband and Nabi, to settle in Paris with Pari. Then after many decades, the siblings do meet but by then Abdullah suffers from senile dementia and Pari from rheumatism. The main theme of the book, the union of siblings, has been described in the last part that too in an insipid way.  

No single character can be called a protagonist. It is more like a complex potpourri of their lives and emotions, somewhat like diary entries. Author’s experiment with the time lines only leads to a greater confusion. The story keeps jumping from 1950s to early and late 2000s and every chapter is set in a different year, in a different country. He describes the lives of people living in various continents and countries, joined only by a hair thin relation and sometimes none at all. Various tracks like that of Thalia, Amara, Bashir cousins, Baba Jan, Masooma, etc seem to be superfluous. The author goes on to describe minute details like the colour and specifications of a music system, decor of eateries and so on. Abdullah’s character remains unexplored till the end while that of Pari has been given more than tolerable importance. The portrayal of Thalia’s childhood, her stepfather, her delinquent mother, to Baba Jan, his son Adel etc just adds more pages to the novel. They have nothing much to do with the main plot, (if you find one). Had these not been there, the novel would have been simpler and thinner by at least 100 pages. Many times I felt like leaving the book midway as some parts can really test your patience!

The descriptions of real Afghan life are missing (which is another shortcoming) for most of the time the author keeps shifting time lines and describes the urban lives of developed countries like America, Greece and France. This time, Hosseini has strayed from his typical old school storytelling into a new style that seems to spill only chaos. Also, the narrative is in third person but all of a sudden, last two chapters begin in the first person narrative leaving the readers perplexed.
This plot could have been developed really well. It is an example of a great idea poorly executed. I hope in his next novel, Hosseini sticks to what he does best- weaving stories having an old world charm reflecting the real life and culture of Afghanistan. I would give this book 4/10. 

PS: I like the cover page but wonder how the name (And the Mountains Echoed) is related to the plot???  


Sunday, July 14, 2013

The 'Bhasmasur' Syndrome

Once upon a time, Lord Shiva was pleased with the prayer of a demon (asur) who asked for a boon that he may be able to burn anyone to ashes (bhasm) mere by placing his hand on enemy’s head. As promised, Shiva had to grant it to him. That demon then came to be called as ‘Bhasmasur.’ He later became a threat for he tried to burn Shiva himself.  However, Lord Vishnu rescued Shiva by enticing the demon, posing as the dancer ‘Mohini’. ‘Bhasmasur’ got the taste of his own medicine and was reduced to ashes. We all are quite familiar with the story. Although it is a mythological tale, in history it does repeat itself. There are many such ‘Bhasmasuras’ and we have instances in politics, where creation became life-threatening for the creator itself. Here are a few such examples.

Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and Congress: The urge to rule the land of Punjab led Congress to fuel Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a self proclaimed religious leader to fight the Akalis. Congress used him as a pawn that later became a threat to their throne. Sant Bhindranwale grew too big for the Congress and even dominated the Akalis. Congress now had had to fight a bigger demon of its own making and paid for its folly with the life of Indira Gandhi (then PM) and the blots of Operation Bluestar and anti-Sikh riots on its face. 

HAMAS and PLO: A Palestinian organization, HAMAS, is understood to have been raised and promoted by the Israeli secret agency, MOSSAD to counter PLO (Palestenian Liberation Organisation). However, later HAMAS sided with PLO and turned on Israel itself, creating more troubles for MOSSAD. 

USA and Taliban: We all are aware that Afghanistan was caught in the tussle between the two superpowers, Russia and America. To counter the Russian influence, America and Pakistan covertly promoted Al-Qaida and Taliban, which not only wrought vast destruction in Afghanistan but later went out of hands and turned upon USA. The result was the 9/11 attack on Twin Towers in the USA, and now Pakistan too, on whose land these organizations flourished, is facing the music. 

India and LTTE: Indian Government secretly supported LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) an extremist body of Tamils in Srilanka, against Srilankan Govt. The fight continued till one day Srilanka requested India to come and help them control LTTE. Indians went there proudly thinking their own protégé would readily listen to them. Reality was rather exactly opposite. India lost more than 2000 army men and retracted red-faced. There is no answer for this political blunder. However, LTTE avenged India’s interference by killing Rajiv Gandhi.

What is unique in human race that has taken it so far ahead of other creatures? Intellect, we say. Thinking, analyzing an experience and learning from it, we say. True for all sciences and arts and skills; with that we have attained this present stage of technology. But, does that happen when we take some of the most important decisions of our lives that concern us, or sometimes thousands of others or even full nation’s future? To fight one demon, we often create a bigger one who turns upon us like a boomerang. Leave international matters, in our daily lives too, we create many such long term troubles by behaving irresponsibly and sometimes unethically. 

Every addiction and bad habit will sooner or later assume the form of a ‘Bhasmasur’ and we may not get a ‘Mohini’ to rescue us. We feed the devil and then blame our fate. Hence, a little thought and a small long term planning can save us from many a trouble. 

 Those who forget history are condemned to repeat it

(All the images have been taken from the Internet)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Art I

I know you must be wondering about the confusion above! It is my attempt in painting what I actually feel like. The girl shown is a teen (all young girls) who wants to see and feel her sun (aim/goal) but the society prevents her from doing so and tries to molest her. Like serpents, it hisses around her with malicious intentions, while many more predators eye her. On the other hand, she is compared with moon (beauty), stars and sun and is idolized by our hypocrite society.  

Medium: Water Colour

Friday, July 5, 2013

Scenery (CP)

The principle of 'Colour Perspective' (CP) was given by the great Leonardo Da Vinci. According to this, objects look more vibrant and sharp when near to the eye and hence the far away ones look blurred.

Medium: Water Colour