Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Lowland....The Story Which Moved Me!

Jhumpa Lahiri being awarded National Humanities Medal for her book, 'The Lowland'
I just finished reading this novel, 'The Lowland' by Jhumpa Lahiri and I have to mention that this is the first book I read in Kindle! I never expected to finish the book so fast, without turning pages....looking back and glancing at the later pages, sometimes the last page (!) too! I didn't even know how many pages the book had and on which page I was reading! It was a bit frustrating in the beginning.  Well, I got used to holding just one frame in my hand and reading, after sometime! All thanks to my son, who pushed me into it again and again!

As soon as I finished reading, I told my son that I liked the book a lot and he gave me the news about Obama reading the same book during his holiday break and Jhumpa being awarded the National Humanities Medal! I was thrilled.  I am reading a book after a long time! I used to be an avid reader long back, you know!

This book, published in 2013 was a nominee for the prestigious 'Man Booker Prize'.  She had won the 'Pulitzer prize for fiction' for her debut book, 'Interpreter of Maladies' in 1999.  She is an American whose parents came from West Bengal.  Her mother tries to be connected to her routes and takes her children to Kolkata often.  I have read her book 'Namesake', a few years back and liked it.  I saw the movie which was based on this novel too.  The characters in both the stories are from Kolkata, later migrated to America.  Their complexes, insecurities and basic intelligence...everything is explained beautifully in both the novels.  I am yet to read her short stories.

Now, to the story and how I felt about the characters.  Read the book first (it is worth reading!) and then read my views pl. SPOILER ALERT!

The main story revolves around 2 brothers, a wife, their daughter.  The happenings in their lives are narrated individually, in their own angle...going back and forth.  Takes sometime to know who is narrating the story in that chapter, at times!

The story starts from the early 60's in Calcutta, India, when the Naxalbari movement started.  The state of the parents who are typical middle class people and their 2 school going sons.  She details about their closeness, esp. the brothers' to each other.  The elder one is very straight forward, simple, a little introvert and the younger one always curious, an extrovert...the elder brother admires him. 

The seed for rebel is sown when the brothers go to the Tollygunge club (by jumping over the wall) for collecting used golf balls and selling them at cheap rates.  One day a policeman catches them and beats the elder brother, Subhash and admonishes him.  The younger brother, Udayan, never forgets it.   The author explains the day to day affairs of a middle class family in detail, their cooking, living style etc.  Bengalis are famous for cooking/consuming fish!

Later, Subhash finishes his college and shifts to the U.S. to study Oceanography.  The younger one becomes a rebel slowly and joins the Naxalite movement.  First he starts preparing and giving speeches and then changes to hardcore rebellion.  He teaches the children in slums, goes and stays there with them to know about their lives.  On normal days, he is a simple teacher.  He meets a girl Gauri who is intelligent and still in college.  He marries her later but uses her for his rebel activities and she goes along without the full knowledge of what she is doing.

Subhash is in Rhode Island which is near Boston (Juhmpa Lahiri grew up here and still teaches in a college here and this explains her giving minute details of the place in the story).  He has got very limited contact with his parents (no easy phone connections in those days i.e. 60's..) except letters from his brother.  He cooks for himself and is studious in his studies like all Indians are! He meets a single mother with a child and had a short fling with her.   He is settling down with the American way of life.  But sends money to his parents without fail.

Then slowly their lives change.  Udayan gets involved in his Naxal activities more and is killed by the local police.  Subhash comes home now and notices how badly Udayan's wife is treated by his parents.  And she is pregnant with Udayan's child. He feels sorry for her and asks her to come to the US as his wife and continue her studies. 

Then their life in the US and the story with their daughter, Bela starts.  How she becomes indifferent with Subhash and Bela is narrated in a detailed manner.  This is done via Subhash's angle and then Gauri's angle.  We come to know about the lifestyle of a child, her school, their neighbours, friends etc. also via Bela. 

When Subash's father dies, he returns to India with his daughter after nearly 7-8 years.  Gauri has already become a loner and refuses to join him to India.  His mother didn't approve of his marriage to Gauri and Bela has no knowledge of who her real father was. Bela is very close to Subhash than Gauri.  Bela comes to India for the first time and fascinated by the crowd and the lifestyle of her people. 

When he returned back, Gauri had already left home.  The shock changes the attitude of Bela.  She narrates about how she felt at this stage later in the story.  She drifts away from her father also slowly...their independent way of life continues...everything is detailed in their individual angle beautifully.  Slowly Bela also becomes closer to the downtrodden people, like her original father, Udayan without knowing about it.  She becomes more independent now.

Subhash goes back to India when his mother is very sick.  Feels guilty about not taking care of her properly all these years, he stays with her for sometime and returns after she dies. 

Now, the story is narrated in Gauri and then Bela's angle.  We come to know why Gauri's attitude changed towards her husband and daughter and how it affected the daughter. I was a bit slow in reading in the beginning because the plot was being laid for the main story, which naturally, was not very interesting.  Then, my reading became faster. 

I loved the way she narrated the individual characters' feelings in detail.  We relate to it, a lot...nowadays, many sons are going abroad for higher studies and settle down there, mostly in the U.S. The lifestyle over there and the climatic conditions doesn't allow the parents to go there and be with them.  Now, many groups have formed here of parents whose children are abroad.  They help each other in need.  So, the story, the details of the living style of the children, make the parents understand the children more and vice versa, I think. 

This is a 'must read' novel, I feel.  Start reading....!


Sunday, September 6, 2015

A Unique Music Director!

Ramesh Vinayakam! I had heard some of his songs in radio and knew he is good.  Hearing one of his songs in a reality show and noticing the tune, background music, I thought I should write about him.  I had seen him giving tips to new budding singers in a reality show and they were too good.   Now, hear some of his songs and you will notice his name when you hear a 'sara hatke - different' song hereafter!

Ramesh Vinayakam is the male singer.  Female singer? Soft, melodious song. This movie, 'Nala Damayanthi' was directed by Kamal Haasan.  His influence is there in Madhavan, you can notice in the video!

The next song also is sung by Ramesh Vinayakam...'Different' type:

I was looking out for Ramesh Vinyakam's songs and came across this gem, from the movie 'Ramanujan'. I am hearing this song for the first time. Vani Jayaram's voice is entirely different...unique. I like this voice of hers. Wiki has written this about the song:

'Being a film about a mathematician, the songs were related to mathematical terms as well. Poet Vaali had written a number, "Narayana Narayana", which was said to "incorporate the idea of infinity and nothingness'

This is another song from the same movie, Ramanujan.  I wonder 
why I hadn't noticed this song before! Hear this:

Ramesh Vinayakam and Vinaya (new voice I think and sounds lovely) are singing. Or is it Kaushiki Chakraborty's voice?  Please write in the comments section if you are familiar with this voice! The tune is good.  The background music is soft.  'Different' type of song.  The lyrics are too beautiful.  You can see/read them in the comments section too (in you tube)! Na.Muthukumar is superb here. My impression about the lyricist has gone up now!

Wiki says this about the songs of Ramanujan:

He said that he had to go classical for one part of the film and into European sounds for another segment. No modern instruments, but old world instruments were used in order to bring the period alive, while four orchestral pieces were recorded in Germany, where the composer worked with the Stuttgart-based GermanPops Orchestra that has worked on contemporary and classical styles. Being a film about a mathematician, the songs were related to mathematical terms as well. Poet Vaali had written a number, "Narayana Narayana", which was said to "incorporate the idea of infinity and nothingness", while another number, written by Thirumazhisai Azhwar thousands of years ago, "stresses that numbers are absolute".One of the instrumental tracks, "One to Zero" was described as a "musical metaphor" as it was based on the numbers, with Vinayakam explaining, "One is represented by one note, two by two notes and so on, while zero is represented by a rest.After the initial exposition, at any point of time, three of these layers criss-cross each other from a distance of one beat from each other".

Thirumazhisai Azhwar's song sung by Unnikrishnan is here. It describes about numbers and the music...listen!

This looks like western classical. From the movie, Ramanujan. I am ignorant of this music. But sounds important.  Click  and see! 

This is a fast number, sung by Vinayakam.  Background music is interesting!

He has done many devotional song albums.  He is proficient in Carnatic music, Western music and has a diploma from Trinity college of music, London.  

He is speaking about 'Ramanujan' here. 

Waiting to hear more music from him in the future.
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