Scribble

Stories & storytellers I grew up with

The first & undoubtedly the best storyteller I’ve known is my mother.

Her tales of her parents, herself, her husband & her kids is how I’ve come to define my world. Since childhood I’ve seeked escape from boredom & homework in her stories. I’ve heard the story of how her father(my Nanaji) had to choose between getting married as a teenager or his father’s(my mother’s Dadaji) second marraige and how he chose the later option for a chance at walking 40 kms daily to study. I know how her mother(my Nani) was raised by her mother(my mother’s Nani) because her father (my mother’s Nana)- an affluent moneylender was killed by the same people he had lended money to on a remote road in the jungle while he was on his horse. My mother’s nani had cooked sevaiyan that day & that’s why they never cooked sevaiyain at my Nani‘s place anymore. I avoid an argument on the logic here because firstly, I don’t think any logical argument will be crushed down by the strong emotions in this case, & secondly because I’ve always had this aversion to sweet milky flavor.

However, when I needed a stronger dose of escapism, I used to steer her into talking about her own life, her childhood & her youth. How she grew up in this huge house where they had cows, a private kitchen garden on a hillock situated on the outskirts of the village where the villagers used to gift them extra produce, milk products. How they had a servant who used to give amazing head massages when he used to be high on bhaang. She tells me of the time when her family finally moved to Udaipur. How she used to go for ice-cream & movie every week on Wednesdays with her 2 best friends during college, because Wednesdays meant no uniform. How she took a bus to Bicchiwada- her Dadaji’s village & also her destination wedding venue- from Udaipur, straight from her last graduation exam. How mischievous kids from the village had sprinkled khujli powder on the reception chairs because they were awestruck by the chairs & the wedding overall.

She becomes happier when she tells me about the adventure, that living with my father in an altogether new city was. To this day & date, her willingness to agree to that without having a common past or passionate love; is something that I’ve not been able to understand. But the way she tells her story has made me open to the idea & the possibility. The way her story intersects with Daddy’s story is something which makes me believe in the randomness of story plots to keep on unearthing interesting developments. It’s a story  which made ‘me’ possible after all. It’s a story which neither of them ever tire of retelling on anniversaries- marriage, engagement & the first time they met each other.

It’s amazing listening to both of their versions of meeting each other & the seemingly old-school romantic courtship that they had. I’ve spent many conversations deciphering what made them say yes to each other, each time being more convinced that- you can only connect the dots looking back.

My mother’s stories about my early childhood are so detailed that I no longer know what my first memory is. Because even the incidents that she has narrated & re-narrated seem clear as a memory. I could tell you of the time I was born & how my Nani & Nani‘s sister were worried that the doctors would change me with some other kid because they thought I was so cute! When I was 2 years old, I was standing near a door & it banged shut on my finger. My mama(mother’s brother) , to take my mind off the injury told me that I’ll have to search for the chopped part so that the doctor could sew it back. To this day I don’t know whether it is an actual memory of mine or is it reconstructed memory from the subsequent stories.

If my mother’s story is how I identify myself, people & other things, my father’s stories are how I know him and also the fact that our experiences, how we look at them, or how we tell those stories- is what defines us.

From his stories of mornings spent diving in the village pond, I know that he was not always this cautious. His responsibilities have made him that. From his school & college stories, I know that he has never been the one with a huge friend circle, but almost everyone who he’s crossed paths with, has fond memories of him. I also know that this is something he’s proud of. From his first experience of coming to Ahmedabad for schooling from his village, being awestruck by the vastness of the city & then renting a bicycle to explore the city on weekends I know that he’s a happily unsatisfied explorer. I know that he’ll always be so.

I know that he’s a dreamer & works patiently to achieve them because he’s told me about the time he first heard the almost silent engine of the Hero Honda CD100 & how he told his friend that this is the bike he was going to buy. I remember my mummy telling me that she has only seen him ‘almost dance’ on very few occasions- when I was born, when my sisters were born & when he bought that bike. I remember him telling me about the first time he went to a readymade garment shop in the city. How he promised himself that once he started earning, he’d buy a new shirt for himself every month. I had a similar plan too myself, but the difference is that he tells the story while laughing off his naivety whereas I as initial signs of failure.

Within these stories I’ve tried to find similarities between the 2 of them & have only found I- honesty. No matter how a story would make themselves look, or their loved ones look; the stories have been true. And here is probably where one of my most fundamental inner conflict & guilt stems from.

Personally, what fascinates me about stories is how they make the listener feel. How the reactions can be manipulated by slight changes to the story. I for one do not believe in honest storytelling, but in being inspired by reality to create a sellable & a memorable version of it. I am gradually coming to terms with the fact that just like them I also love telling stories, but unlike them accepting my dishonesty is all the honesty I’ve got to offer.

 

 

 

Scribble

You’re your best teacher!

Tired of searching here, there & everywhere.

For that perfect teacher to help me escape these everyday dilemmas; I decided to take a break, catch my breath & ask for directions again. But I failed to recollect the name of the destination I was looking for, the particular arrangement of syllables & words through which I could explain fellow travellers what exactly I was looking for.

I panicked & asked myself to try out what is probably the simplest yet most effective advice I’ve ever received- to calm the fuck down & focus. As I drew a deep breath & took a stroll through the routine paths in my head I came across a path which led to the section of my mind which had long since been deemed as impractical & immature. But I’d looked everywhere else & this was the only place where I could find some clue to help me escape this unexplainable ordeal. As I take the first few steps through this labyrinth which once used to be home I was hit by a strong wave of nostalgia. You know the kind which you get when you revisit old places which have remained unchanged, but you realise that you haven’t. And the nostalgia that you feel is not for the time that is past but for the you which is past.

Imagine what would happen if you ran into the old self in the middle of this nostalgic moment. What would you do? I don’t need to imagine because I did. As I saw you lounging there in middle of ‘useless’ childish thoughts I just knew that my long search was over. You, or to be precise – the old I, didn’t know of the answers or where to find them but with him on my side I could definitely figure out the wheres & the hows. Lost in the forest of my own mind I realised that the old I, the uninhibited I; was probably the most important friend, philosopher & guide I needed.

2 Many Voices · Scribble

Square 1

“Life is a journey. Of self discovery.

Away from our imagined identities. Towards the truth. Or sometimes its the other way around. Depends on your perspective. But its dynamic. Continuous change.

Everything keeps on changing and exploding exponentially. The to-do lists. And the unanswered questions. Sometimes it becomes difficult to understand the changes and the resulting new version of myself. So how can anybody else understand me!

And that is the root of all the problems.”

“Did you know that there is a simple solution to all the world’s problems?”

” And what is it?”

“What is the one thing that keeps all living things alive?”

“Water?”

“No…Oxygen!”

“Neither. It’s an idea. A belief.”

“Which one is it? An idea or belief?”

“What’s the difference?”

“Ideas are universal. But beliefs are personal. ”

“Either way. But what is it?”

There must be a better life somewhere.”

“But where?”

But there was no point pondering over that question. Sometimes, the promise of that wonderland, or rather the wonderworld is all that matters. They looked at him with hope as though he would take them there or at least give them proper directions.

He continued “All the greatest explorers, inventors, adventurers were haunted by this idea. That’s why the hunger to find something new.”

“But people like us wouldn’t know what to do with that. We would still be haunted by the idea of ‘better”.

“Exactly. It’s a process.”

“Na. Routine.”

“Call it whatever you want. But what other reason can you have to wake up in the morning?”

“To enjoy the better life you already have.”

 

“There must be a better conversation somewhere…”

 

Book Reviews

Book Review: Haroun And The Sea Of Stories

Haroun And The Sea Of StoriesHaroun And The Sea Of Stories by Salman Rushdie

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

 

 

 

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“What starts with stories ends with spying ,” says Khattam-Shud. ” Stories make trouble.”

Haroun and the Sea of stories is a children’s book by Salman Rushdie. It was preceded by The Satanic Verses. Like all his other works, Salman Rushdie use magic realism and real events & persons to create his characters and weave this wonderful story. The only difference here is that Rushdie uses the incidents that were taking place in his own life to create the story or at least the moral of the story.

Haroun & the sea of stories was published in 1990, 2 years after the publication & subsequent controversy of The Satanic Verses.

Even after growing up I’ve often enjoyed reading children’s books & watching children’s films. They’re so concise & have a beautiful & simple good vs bad theme. But after reading this book, I remembered the main reason I’ve loved works primarily created for kids even after becoming an adult. It’s the metaphors. As adults we try to find logic & meaning in everything, even in whimsy. The protagonist, the antagonist, every action, every situation in a story becomes something else. And this book definitely is a proof of that.

The story is about a boy named Haroun Khalifa, the son of Rashid Khailfa, a story-teller who lives in the city of Alif Bay; a city so sad that it has forgotten its own name. Rashid is also known as the Shah of Blah and the Ocean of Notions for his ability to create fascinating stories impromptu. One day Haroun returns home and discovers that his mother, Soraya has run off with their upstairs neighbour, Mr. Sengupta; who was always critical of Rashid’s profession. Haroun is crushed by this and in his anger, asks his father “Whats the point of stories if they aren’t even real ?”

These words crush Rashid & he discovers that he has lost his talent of storytelling. Rashid is hired by a political party to tell a story at their campaign. He opens his mouth, but no words come out. Rashid is then to appear at the next campaign at the valley of K. Haroun and Rashid board a bus to the alley. But, Haroun is worried about his father, whether he will be able to tell stories again? He becomes more worried when they arrive in the Valley of K and meet the politician, Mr. Buttoo.

At night, Haroun is woken up by a sound & discovers a creature with an onion shaped head in the bathroom who’s come to turn off Rashid’s Story supply. Haroun protests & the creature reluctantly agrees to take him to meet his boss.  And thus, the journey begins; to a world as bizarre as Alice’s Wonderland, as magical as Dorothy’s Oz. Haroun embarks upon a journey to the Gup city, Kahani. The city ruled by King Chattergy. The city of Prince BoloPrincess Batcheat. The city of General Kitab, the commander of the Guppee Army, called the Library which consists of may soldiers who’re called Pages. The city where our hero meets Blabbermouth. Most of the names in this book for characters & places are derived from hindustani & a glossary is provided at the end of the book.

Our hero also encounters an evil ruler Khattam-Shud “Prince of Silence and the Foe of Speech”, the ruler of Chup, who has founded a religion whose fundamental principle is abstinence from speech.

“But why do you hate stories so much?” Haroun asks when he finally confronts the tyrant. “Stories are fun.”

“The world, however, is not for Fun. . . . The world is for Controlling,” replies Khattam-Shud (who, though he will not allow anyone else to speak, talks continually in a flat, monotonous voice.) “And inside every single story, inside every Stream in the Ocean, there lies a world, a story-world, that I cannot Rule at all.”

The book is a tale which showcases the enormous power of stories-a power that scares dictators. I believe that this story is the silver lining of the whole Satanic Verses controversy. And it is our good fortune that “Khattam-Shud” or any of his followers have been successful in silencing Mr. Rushdie, our own “Sea of Notions”.

I hope Salman Rushdie’s story-water supply keeps on flowing for a long time.