Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Why isn't it okay to NOT be angry?

Anger. More often than not, it isn't just anger. It is anger, sorrow, pride and frustration. Seasoned with deceit, and often, jealousy. But I'm afraid I'm not too good at expressing it.
For instance, there is the question of speech. Do you, or don't you, talk? Do you shut up and simmer, or do you shout? Do we stop talking to the person who angered us, or do we go on as if nothing had happened, letting the person be humiliated by our forgiveness? Only, it isn't forgiveness at all, because I intended to humiliate.
Do we resolve our issues, or do we plan retaliation? While the former seems like the normal thing to do, remember, revenge is an amazing high.
But most importantly, do I forget, or do I remember?

I forget. You probably don't, but I do. I would like to think of myself as a vengeful person, because vengeance, in some twisted way, rhymes with power. But I'm afraid I'm not. I can, if I try, plan a long drawn-out revenge, but I'll probably forget about it midway. But that isn't the problem. The problem is that the world expects me to be nasty and aggressive and vengeful. I wouldn't know half the time when someone made an ass out of me (supposedly), if someone else didn't point it out to me. I've gained in wariness, but I still fail to spot several such (alleged) slights. Actually, its too much of a bother to keep looking out for them.

So, my message to you is, let me be. I'm happy with my gawdawfully bad memory, and my propensity for forgiveness (by default). I'm happy not bothering anyone, and I'd be happy to think that no one was bothering me. So if you're paranoid, then stay away from my little illusion, pwetty please.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007


Long back, I read a book at the wrong age. I remember being fascinated, and baffled at my fascination with something I could barely understand. I caught the spirit, but not the flesh, I could catch the mood of the symphony, but couldn’t hum a single bar. I was much, much too young, just about thirteen, when I first read Jude the Obscure.
I remember the time when I was first fascinated by the gorgeous depression that Thomas Hardy’s works bring. Whenever I think of Hardy, and in particular, Jude the Obscure, I think of a richly carved sculpture, remniscient of Rodin’s Gates of Hell, with each individual carving evocative of some pain, sorrow or suffering. Jude, in particular, seems to draw and envelope you in its own mist of sorrow, a strange, dense mist, heavy, but not stifling, thin, but impenetrable.
The other thing that strikes me about Hardy is how his characters are always slightly larger than life. They are real, no doubt, with their fair share (and often, more than that) of human faults and failings. But Hardy takes a character rand elevates his or her suffering to a grand, almost orchestral level. Personal struggle takes the tone of universal crusade, enemies become adversaries, and lovers become soul mates. And characters, mere human characters, become demigods. Nowhere is this more prominent than in Jude.
But I was thirteen, and though I can understand the novel on the basis of the other works by Hardy that I have subsequently read, I am yet to comprehend Jude for itself, in it entirety. That is why I bought a second-hand copy of Jude the other day. I remember how I felt when I read it, now I want to figure out why.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

The Fatal Flaw

Literature, for me, is a reaffirmation of the fact that minds such as mine do exist. Lying as I am in the throes of adolescent confusion, I find it a solace to read about and identify with people like me. I am especially attracted to the conflicted characters, because they allow me to see myself in a less negative light. They become my role models, in a way. But I regret to say that most of these role models are quite unfortunately male. Be it Larry Underwood, or Hank Rearden, or Andrei Taganov. Why?

The fault lies with male and female writers both. Literature has always been written from the point of view of men. Even feminist writers tend to adopt a feminist approach, which is in direct negation of a masculine approach. For men, women embody a mysterious integrity, and in most books, there is a single, token female character representing in herself all aspects of feminity, while there is a male character for every shade of human attribute. Unfair. Because women have ideological conflicts and inconsistencies, just as men do and it is unfair that we should have to bear the cross of perfection, at least in literature, while men get away with being real and confused.

Now, I’m not talking about the token vamp. Because the token vamp too, has integrity in the sense that she is wholly evil. I am talking about the flawed character, the imperfect diamond, or the average, but not uninteresting, person. If men can have shades and nuances of character, why can’t women?
For a woman, her conflict becomes directly related to her feminity, and not, to her humanity. So you have a woman who is torn between domesticity and professional success, between her husband and her lover, but not, between ideals. Are women THAT one-dimensional?

Example- any of Ayn Rand’s central female characters. In all her novels, she has multiple male characters, hovering around centrality. In Atlas Shrugged, in fact, she has more than the usual two. However, in all her novels, she has one, and just one, central female character. She is beautiful, successful, feminine, and ultimately, secondary to the male central character (with the possible exception of Kira in We the Living, and even her life was shaped by her love for Leo). These characters are perfect in all respects. Even when they DO make mistakes, they are not mistakes born out of character flaws, but just mistakes in understanding, in perception.

There are examples to the contrary, but few and far in between. And more often than not, your token “strong” female characters are also, surprise surprise, heartbreakingly beautiful. Which is such a painful cliché. If she isn’t heartbreakingly beautiful, then she has a moustache, and is the ruthless CEO of some company, otherwise, she’s just virtuous, which is such a bore.

Literature, and its accompanying media, i.e., television and cinema, are very potent forces when it comes to socialization. Our ideas, principles, and self-expression (language, trends, habits, fashion, etc) are largely influenced by them. But if they portray only stereotypes, then we begin to think in those stereotypes. I am not a rabid bra-burning feminist, but I DO believe that true equality lies in diversity. Diversity of choices, diversity of personas, and diversity of mistakes. And for that, I believe that women should be treated in literature as human beings, pliable, versatile, flawed, confused human beings, and not as embodiments of perfection, positive or negative. I may be a woman, but I was born human to begin with.

The Runaway

Once when the snow of the year was beginning to fall,
We stopped by a mountain pasture to say 'Whose colt?'
A little Morgan had one forefoot on the wall,
The other curled at his breast. He dipped his head
And snorted at us. And then he had to bolt.
We heard the miniature thunder where he fled,
And we saw him, or thought we saw him, dim and grey,
Like a shadow against the curtain of falling flakes.
'I think the little fellow's afraid of the snow.
He isn't winter-broken. It isn't play
With the little fellow at all. He's running away.
I doubt if even his mother could tell him, "Sakes,
It's only weather". He'd think she didn't know !
Where is his mother? He can't be out alone.'
And now he comes again with a clatter of stone
And mounts the wall again with whited eyes
And all his tail that isn't hair up straight.
He shudders his coat as if to throw off flies.
'Whoever it is that leaves him out so late,
When other creatures have gone to stall and bin,
Ought to be told to come and take him in.'