(Almost) being inside a dystopian novel: A non-review

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   I read Atwood’s The Heart Goes Last as soon as it came out last year. This is how Goodreads describes it:

Living in their car, surviving on tips, Charmaine and Stan are in a desperate state. So, when they see an advertisement for Consilience, a ‘social experiment’ offering stable jobs and a home of their own, they sign up immediately. All they have to do in return for suburban paradise is give up their freedom every second month – swapping their home for a prison cell. At first, all is well. But then, unknown to each other, Stan and Charmaine develop passionate obsessions with their ‘Alternates,’ the couple that occupy their house when they are in prison. Soon the pressures of conformity, mistrust, guilt and sexual desire begin to take over.

For someone who lives on dystopian fiction and cannot do without Atwood’s writings, this was good book. When I read it, I was confused: Why would an accomplished writer like her write about soo much sex? Don’t get me wrong, I am not being judgmental – characters in coitus is not really my thing, but I don’t mind it if the plot calls for it.

I obviously did not get the point of the novel when I read it. During the LitFest, Atwood spoke about the layers in the story – dystopia, the idea of prisons as safe-shelters in a post-apocalyptical world, the concept of depravation and love and betrayal… I’ve been meaning to re-read this book – perhaps this time in paperback (whenever it comes out); I am too dependent on my Kindle nowadays (Is that a bad thing, folks?)!

Anyhow, this past LOONG weekend, my boyfriend and I got our own taste of being Charmaine and Stan. For the past three days, we have had no water, fluctuating electricity, and barely anything to eat; also, we’ve been in the car a lot – traveling to friends’ houses for showers, for the AC and the like. You might think that Bangalore is a tech-city but clearly that’s only the view on the surface. The city administration is corrupt and has eluded financial accountability for the past five years. Bangalore proper remains untouched by corrupt harakiri. These areas are near my workplace – it’s (almost) sparsely populated, more green, very residential. You know, areas that will more likely survive if there’s an apocalypse! The area where we live is the hub of start-ups. Overpopulated and dense with Indian eateries and the over-enthusiastic student crowd. During summer (the state of Karnataka has seen drought during the last two years…) there are are a lot of power cuts, consuming full days, there’s no water and people turn on each other. This area will be one of the first to implode in a catastrophic end-of-the-world event.

Throughout the weekend, I imagined A and I in one of these catastrophic events. Bangalore at the brink of destruction. The city, fastened tight in a gridlock (this is not uncommon in Bangalore, dear Reader) and we are escaping this rundown rented apartment, stocking up on food supplies, sleeping in the car. We are united at first, mellow but happy to be alive and with each other despite all odds and then, one fine day… we begin to turn on each other… A is Stan – he keeps a watch at night, at the helm of the car, always on guard; and I, losing it day by day, always in need of protection, always pretending to be someone I am not…

… until one day, we walk into a dilapidated restaurant and find an advertisement for a prison that provides shelter every alternate month…

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Meeting Margaret (Atwood)

 

2016 started off on a great note. I attended the Jaipur Lit Fest and saw Margaret Atwood up close. If I could describe the feeling of meeting my favourite author, I would. All I know is that the next few months will have me gush about this one event. Atwood’s poetry and prose, punctuated by my resolve to be a feminist, has literally made my life what it is.

I read The Handmaid’s Tale when I was in the throes of deciding my future career plans, and I cannot help but speculate that Atwood had something to do with it. In another post, I will describe my experiences at the Lit Fest. For now, I leave you with some pictures.

P.S. – I also got to hear Stephen Fry talk and met Mona Eltahawy briefly.

Of Books – Bought, Read, Abandoned.

I read Code Name Verity because my best friend from college recommended it, and I’m glad because I really loved it. If you have a friend whom you trust, adore and admire, keep her/him in mind when you read the book and I tell you – you just won’t regret picking this up. Elizabeth Wein has done justice to the characters, the backdrop of the First World War and her love for aeroplanes. There are about 440 odd pages – a little more than the average page-turner but it is an amazing read! I have no idea why this doesn’t feature in any of the bookstores I visit.

Which reminds me – I visited a bookstore twice in the past two days. Today I had a maddening day running around for my university documents and things haven’t been falling into place. I was upset, almost in tears and I went to this quaint bookshop at the mall (noone visits; a-mother-of-two came and asked if they have “colouring books” and the keeper of books (?) threw a mad fit) and touched the spines, with tenderness and stared at them and was marvelled at the prices (I didn’t have money) and mostly, just sat there and breathed in the fragrance of the pages. And I was healed! Yesterday I met a couple of friends and while they were shopping for clothes, I walked in nonchalantly into the hugeass bookstore, telling myself constantly that I shouldn’t buy any books. But I went and sat next to a girl who was reading a McEwan and I touched the spines, all the while hearing her next to me sighing heavily at On Chesil Beach and telling myself that I shouldn’t be spending anymore money on paperbacks, especially now that I have the Kindle. But I lose control when I see books. I don’t remember when I picked up the book and went to the counter and bought it but when I came out I was holding Cloud Atlas! *gasp*

Anyhow, I was reading The Interpreter of Maladies earlier today and I only have a couple of stories left. So tomorrow I will start another book. The Interpreter of Maladies was a bestseller when I was growing up – I saw the book everywhere. My friends were borrowing it from the school library, a teacher was reading it while invigilating during a biology test back in school. My Chhotomama (maternal uncle) and my Dida (maternal grandmother) discussed the nuances of  the book, I remember, one summer night while having a bowl full of mangoes for supper and I had shrugged from under my comicbook. But Lahiri’s book was a rebound book for me. I began reading it in school and I was disappointed because the first short story had not concluded the way I wanted it to. I had abandoned the book for The Third Reich. However now, eight years later, the book strikes a chord. The first story, A Temporary Matter, couldn’t have had a more apt ending. Also, the short story The Interpreter of Maladies is in itself a masterpiece. I cannot believe I waited this long to read it.

Ten Things I’m Afraid Of

I’m reading Code Name Verity right now – I’m about 36% done, as per the Kindle, so I have a pretty long way to go. But the narrator just updated her list of her fears and in commiseration, I will put down a list of mine here. After that I will get back to the book and boy, will I finish it! There’s just so much to read!

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  1. I’m afraid of dying without reading all the books I want to read. Alternatively, I’m afraid of reading all the books I’ve ever wanted; that would be terrible, too.
  2. Growing up (not growing old, mind you). Growing up comes with a price; I’m not sure if I’m grown up enough to understand that. I have the Peter Pan syndrome and I’m quite delighted about it.
  3. Too many people.
  4. This aforementioned fear has evolved into never having any time to myself. With facebook, whatsapp, gmail, texting – I can’t stay away from people, even when I want to. And that is frustrating.
  5. Not being able to travel.
  6. Losing my parents
  7. Someone messing up my bookshelf/cupboard/drawers (this is mostly OCD, I know)
  8. Dropping/scratching/breaking my Kindle
  9. Lizards. How could I forget these guys? These vile vermins. Ughh.
  10. The friendship between the Boy and me changing – this is my number one fear right now. We’ve been apart for a long while now.

I will update this list, of course. 🙂

I will get back to my book now. Have happy Sunday, people!

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