Grey by E. L. James

In June 2015, E. L. James released ‘Grey’, providing the much awaited Fifty Shades of Grey rendition from the PoV of Christian Grey. I personally had access to the book for a couple of months but only got around to reading it last week, and that to just out of curiosity of how the story was narrated.

When I had read the original Trilogy, I was far from impressed, and found it an average story not worth the hype. Apparently the hype followed this latest book as well. However, if I am being completely honest, I have to say, I fortunately/ unfortunately prefer this PoV to Anna’s!

Don’t get me wrong, the story obviously hasn’t changed, its just the understanding that this book has allowed into Grey’s character is much appreciated. I read some of the reviews of the book, and most of them were pretty scathing. If I remember correctly the book was criticized as being a narration of a sexual offender and James was criticized for giving Grey is a single minded focus, all he apparently can think of is sex.

I agree with these assessments, but what I am failing to understand is why this came as a shock to people. From the original trilogy its obvious that that is what Grey is !!!! someone who was abused sexually in his younger years and someone who has been conditioned to thing in a single minded manner. He doesn’t understand emotion and hasn’t been given an opportunity to develop the maturity of an adult to handle them! In this regard he is a child and the only way he knows how to engage in a relationship (barring his family) is in a sexual manner- ” This is the only way I know how”. All of this was already established in the original books, so why is it a problem now.

Grey’s introduction to adolescences and puberty was in the hands of Elena, and I agree with Anna’s assessment, she was a pedophile. Through her conditioning, Grey learned to harness his energy, focus, take out his frustrations in a particular manner. She didn’t teach him how to deal with emotions, she taught him how to control them, how to harness them, and when he couldn’t, how to let them out in a controlled manner, punish those who didn’t do as he wanted and sexually reward those who did, and in a situation where no-one could go running to the cops. She conditioned him to associate sexual satisfaction with the BDSM lifestyle and the BDSM lifestyle only. She conditioned him to associate relationship’s with sex, and not ‘more’.  If you look at it from one way, Grey remained her submissive, living the life she wanted him to, on numerous occasions having relationships with women she chose, until Ana. I also understand his need for control- its the only way  he knows how to ensure that the neither he or his loved ones get hurt and given his past, I will give him that. That’s how he shows affection. Those he doesn’t care about, he doesn’t bother with.

In keeping with this, I think James did a fantastic job of narrating the story from Grey’s perspective. She stayed true to the character she build. In the first book, that was his only mind-set! he worked, he flew, soared and fucked. His relation with women was only that- of a submissive, that’s all he cared about.

So  yes, I don’t agree with the assessment that James failed to write an accurate perception or a complex character. I will reserve that judgement for the next book, where the evolution of Grey actually happens. I think the problem lies more in the readership today, where we are stuck in the fanciful notions of a dark knight changing his ways for the princess (though it is arguable that that’s what happens in these books). Our romanticism for a seemingly dark character who is actually a gem of a person underneath it all. Girls falling for the bad guy, whether that be Edward Cullen of Christian Grey. I agree with the perception that if Grey wasn’t filthy rich this story wouldn’t be that romantic. That is true, because I don’t see it as a romance at all. No matter how you see it, fact remains, that Grey takes pleasure in the pain of others, he hits women who look like his mother, he is a controlling, stalking and intrusive man who doesn’t understand personal boundaries, he is someone who has not yet matured emotionally, doesn’t know how to handle his emotions without a whip in his hand. and this book remains faithful to that character.

So overall I will say this, the book is a good narration of the character, the story still remains weak, but that can’t be helped now and the problem lies not with the writer but in the present day perception of romance and the bad guys being actually good.

Mother Doesn’t want a dog

This is not an original poem, but I loved it so thought would share.

Mother doesn’t want a dog.

Mother says they smell,

And never sit when you say sit,

Or even when you yell.

And when you come home late at night

And there is ice and snow,

You have to go back out because The dumb dog has to go.

 

Mother doesn’t want a dog.

Mother says they shed,

And always let the strangers in

And bark at friends instead,

And do disgraceful things on rugs,

And track mud on the floor,

And flop upon your bed at night

And snore their doggy snore.

 

Mother doesn’t want a dog.

She’s making a mistake.

Because, more than a dog,

I think She will not want this snake

by- Judith Viorst

Expectations

Expectations, how crippling are you;

Giving me something to look forward to;

Making me chase dreams, only to bring them crashing down;

Am I a doll with whom you can just play around;

Raising hopes and probabilities;

Without ever mentioning the liabilities;

You won this game;

Albeit it wasn’t fair, what a shame;

So go ahead, enjoy your win;

Next time I will remember, you are a wolf in sheep’s skin.

by- Akshita Misra

 

Nepal: One Year Down the Line

Approximately one year ago a small country (approx. the size of Arkansas) witnessed one of its worst natural disasters, possibly the worlds worst natural disaster in recent history. This was followed by numerous after shocks (more than 5600 and 4312 recorded landslides till date) and finally another major earthquake a month later. For weeks the whole world rallied to help, every eye was on this small country and its people, with ‘help’ pouring in from all corners, in the shape of food, shelter, medicine, clothes and donations.

 

That was a year ago. As is usually the case, the world soon found more interesting stuff to focus on, NGOs found new target areas and objectives and slowly everyone exited the place. While last year there were more than 200-300 NGOs in a district in Nepal, now only 20-30 remain, of which not even half are actually doing work.

 

I had the privilege or fortune of being in Nepal last year in January and February and had been pained to hear that the place I had spent almost a month in was almost completely annihilated. This year I got a chance to go back again, and see first hand how everything is even after a year.

 

When we reached Kathmandu, I was apprehensive and then as the day passed on, impressed and shamefuly a little let down. Looking at Kathmandu you couldn’t say it had suffered so much. All that was visible were a few broken walls. But otherwise life seemed to have gone back on track. How I regret my thoughts now. Despite the fact that one of the primary aims of my visit was to understand how the earthquake had impacted a specific district (as usual no names or locations can be disclosed), it almost felt like nothing major had happened. As if the earthquake was no more than a bad memory.

 

How I wish I could take those thoughts back, for it is the interiors of the country that you truly see the devastation of the quakes. A year on, people are still living in shelters, their families dead, houses destroyed, livestock and livelihoods lost. while some camps are located on government land, most of the camps are established on private land, which has been procured by the local community themselves on rent. Everyone recounts with saddening clarity those first few days, where due to the nature of the terrain in the country and time taken to mobilise enough relief, they spend days on top of the mountains, injured, hungry and scared for their lives. While most injured were eventually evacuated by choppers, the healthy had to find their own way down the mountains, where no one was sure of when the next aftershock or landslide would hit. Those who passed away in this were crudely buried only to get a proper funeral weeks later when their family dared come back.

 

A year on, people are still residing in the relief shelters made, dependent on charity for food and basic supplies. While earlier most had a sustenance livelihood of agriculture and livestock, now most are dependent on a few days of wage labour for running their houses.
The people are ready to move on with their life’s, but also express apprehension over what that means. They don’t own any land in the camp areas, the land they do own may not be safe and is full of horrific memories. The government wasn’t able to help most set up their camps and now doesn’t have a clear stand on where the people should go, how they will be resettled. The INGOs working with them are ending their projects and withdrawing, the NGOs are running out of money and sponsorship.

 

Furthermore, the agreements for the land for the camps were only for a year. Thus it is possible that come June, these camps may have to be dismantled and the people forced to move to another location or worse, back to their villages. Even if that doesn’t happen, they will have to pay a higher rent, along with continued costs of electricity, food and medical bills. Add on top of this, the fact that disease, rising cost of living, human trafficking (especially of children), threats to women safety and overall vulnerability are rising, the picture isn’t pretty. And the world seems to have forgotten.

We Need a Revolution by Sachin Garg

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We need a revolution by Sachin Garg, is a book that I believe was released in February 2016, however since the book doesn’t have a publishing date I am not so sure. I came across this book while window shopping at a crossword store in the Bangalore airport in India. Let me be honest, I have not heard of this author or book before, but the title got me intrigued. Also, what interested me was that it was apparently a book on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which form one of the most secluded and southern tip of India. I have always been fascinated by the Islands as I like to call them and have them on my bucket list of places to visit in the country. I don’t know much about the islands, but have friends who have worked there as part of their doctorates and so I have heard a lot of stories. Of course, the islands also have a place in our colonial history, when they were primarily used as a place to exile anyone who caused too much trouble, what was called ‘Kaali Paani’.

To give a quick summary of the book, it is based in the Andaman Islands and charts the story of a young couple who come to Islands for a visit and leave with a different world view and empathy for the plight of the aboriginals residing in the Islands. Samar and Navya, are on their last leg of the journey when Samar gets arrested for disorderly conduct. That is where he meets the intriguing and mysterious Shubhrodeep Shyam Chaudhary  and gets exposed to a different world view and gets involved with a British activist, a Muslim lawyer (read the book to understand why his religion is important) and Shubhro himself, in their fight to protect the Jarawa tribes (one of the last, quickly dying, aboriginal tribes in the Islands, now number around 300-400 individuals in total). I won’t go into the details of the book or their struggle as that would spoil it for everyone who wants to read it. The book, in short is about how a revolution is needed for the Jarawas, as was said by a freedom fighter, Bhagat Singh, “you need an explosion to make the deaf hear you” (loosely translated from Hindi). The book attempts to highlight the plight of a section of citizens of the country, a section that most “mainstream population” don’t even know about, forget give equal rights to. Citizens, who are no more than tourist attractions or worse, hurdles in the land grab race.

I discussed this book with a friend who works in the Islands, and she rightly pointed out that the book does not do justice to the Islands or the people. If you want to develop an understanding of the Jarawas or the Islands, this book is not the way to go. I completely agree. While this book is set in the Islands and is focused on the Jarawas, it is definitely an outsider’s perspective. The Islands are this amazing  place, characterised by a unique ecology and way of life. However, the book sadly, fails to capture that. However, in the defence of the writer, I don’t think that the intent of the book was to provide such an insight, and if it was, then he failed splendidly.

The book serves better as a lesson in humanity, in the apathy that has set amongst all of us, especially us ‘civilized’ people and the need to end it now! It’s a story not about the Jarawas, but about five people who decided to do something about the injustice they were witness to. Each came with their own motivations, some because they had lost the purpose to live, some because it was their job, some because they saw a similarity in a past injustice done to them and some simply because they had to be with the one they loved. Each person’s motivation was different, but what kept them together was the simple desire to do something! In that sense, it’s definitely a thought-provoking book, a book that makes you reflect.

However, having said that, I have one major issue with this book, and I seem to have this with most of the works I read, it doesn’t sell the characters to me. The story is interesting and thought-provoking but not gripping! it doesn’t keep me at the edge of my seat. I am known to be an emotional person, and can cry at anything really, and if you manage to invoke my empathy; then beware of the waterworks. However, this book, I didn’t feel anything, not enough anger, not enough outrage, not enough joy, not enough pain and not enough triumph. I had no stake in the characters, I had no personal interest in them and most of the relationships didn’t make sense, simply because the author did not make an attempt to make them! Shubhro is an incredibly interesting character and had my interest peaked in his introduction, but that is where it ended. The book is narrated through another character, and thus does not provide enough insight into any of the other characters.

Overall, I felt one major problem with the story telling and that was that it was not very good story telling! It was more a loose narration of events, devoid of human emotions. Like I said before, this is something I feel is a problem with a lot of the writers today, the books don’t emote enough! Human connect and emotion is what gets people going, and some of the best writers are those who are able to tap into that, J. K. Rowling, J. R.R Tolkien, G. R. R Martin to name a few. Unfortunately this book doesn’t do that.

In my opinion, this book isn’t bad by any means, but it isn’t mind-blowing either, so overall a B!

An open letter to my Uncle

I lost my uncle (mom’s brother) about two weeks ago and have been trying to come to terms with it since then. There was so much I would have liked to say to him before he left, all the more now that he is not here. So this is my attempt at doing that, something I hope wherever he is, he hears.
Mama, 

I am angry, I am hurt and most importantly I am sad. Two weeks ago on Monday morning you made my mom, your elder sister call me and tell me something she should never have had to. You left! Without warning, without a word of goodbye, you left. Did you not think of what this would do to us? To your wife, to your son and daughter! It’s your son’s birthday today, he turns 14 today. Did you care that you were leaving them so young. Do you care that your kids will have to learn how to do something that stumps people even when they are much older, that they will have to learn how to live without you at such a young age! 

It hasn’t sunk in yet, every now and then I remember and can’t help feel cheated. You are supposed to be here. You are supposed to tell me off when I do something to radical, like braid my hair pink (aunts don’t do that). You are supposed to be there when I start looking at boys and do a thorough background check to make sure they are good enough for me. You are supposed to be there when I get married, running around and making sure my big day goes off without a hitch! You are supposed to be there when I have kids and be the cool Nana! You are supposed to be there when I lose my parents to old age (God forbid) and console me! You are supposed to be here……..but you are not. 

People are saying that you were such a good soul that you attained moksha! For some reason that makes me sadder! I am glad you found salvation but that also means that I will never see you again! 

I know you didn’t chose to leave, but I am gonna use the fact that I am the younger one here and be mad a little longer please. But no matter how mad I am at you, I will also take this moment to make you a promise. While I know your wife and your kids will always miss you and think of you, I promise we will always be there for them. They are my younger siblings and I will always look out for them. They will always have someone to lean on, advice them and generally be there. We will always miss you Mama but we will also strive to make you proud. Even if you have attained moksha, I know you will always look down on us from above and we will be the men and women you would be proud to call your kids and nieces and nephews. Same for your sisters, you were a loved brother and I know how difficult they will find to just keep going. I promise you, we kids will be there for our mothers and make sure they never feel alone. 

So go well Mama, be at peace and know we will always love you and think of you and that we will always be there for each other. Go well Mama. I love you soo much. 

A short story about love 

Kevin walked home….. All of eighteen years old, he felt for the first time like an adult. The slight burn on his bicep doing nothing to dim his pride and joy in what he had accomplished. He let the white bandage shine through this short sleeved t shirt just as he would let his feelings, now etched forever on his skin. He eagerly awaited the moment when he would be able to show his mother how he had used his birthday money. 

However, all those hopes were shattered when he reached home. His mother’s eyes lit up when they fell on him, like they always did. But dimmed when they fell on the white bandage. “What did you do?” She inquired, her voice reflecting her anger and also her fear. “Mom relax I just got a tattoo… You said I could use my birthday money for anything I wanted” he replied, not quite understanding what the big fuss was. “Just got a tattoo…..What in the world were you thinking…. Do you know how dangerous it is… Where did you get it done… Was it even sanitary… What if you get infected with HIV…. And what in the world did you get done… How can you permanently etch something on your skin like that… What of when you are older and you don’t like it hunh? ” she exclaimed not quite able to believe her son would be so irresponsible. “No mom it’s not like that, I would never want to remove this, if you just see what…..” ” no…. Nothing doing, I will find out about a specialist tomorrow and we will get this removed, do you understand. Now go up to your room”. 

Kevin trudged up to his room, heart sinking with every step he took. Why couldn’t his mom understand, he wasn’t a kid anymore, he was legally an adult damn it and he knew what he was doing. He stepped into the bathroom and pulled off the bandage, the words had been put there only a few hours ago but they were not new to him in anyway. He haughtily brushed away the tears threatening to spill and nodded to himself in the mirror. He did not regret his decision or what he had tattooed on his arm and as he stared at the clean words on his arm ” I Love My Mom” he decided, he would make his mother see just that. 

 Ok, this is a short story that was in my head for sometime now, would love to hear feedback on how it was.