Happy new year 2017

I can’t believe a new year already! That too this futuristic number – 2017. Happy new year to each of my readers, old and new! Thank you for coming by to read my posts even though my writing is so sporadic. Much love and luck to you this year! *hugs*

Everyone I know has asked me about my new year resolutions. Now, I don’t do resolutions. I do something called intentions. Which works for me. A resolution is a decision. An intention is an aim or plan. (Which is kind of ironic because I am terrible at planning but it’s working. Why split hairs?)

In the first post of 2016, I had written that I had a feeling it would be huge. I am happy to say it was and more. It was humongous, gigantic and gargantuan. There are quite a few things I did in 2016 that I never thought I would do. I pushed myself out of my comfort zone. (You might want the details, I know. Please hold on. I will definitely announce on the blog.) I lost some things and gained some others. As is with everyone else I am sure. So I have another feeling (here it comes) 2017 is going to be so huge that it’ll make 2016 look like kindergarten.  *Drum roll please*

Wish you, my dear reader, a wonderful super fantastic 2017!

Best Reads of 2015

Following yet another tradition and on the request of Rita, I have put down the five best reads of 2015. Technically, that’s seven best reads rather than the usual five that Rita asked. However, I am throwing in two more because I have always had a problem sticking to rules. Here they are in the order I have read them but in no particular order of preference.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (fiction)

When reading Americanah I quickly got into the ‘good book zone’ mostly because it was a love story but such a political one. The long forays into African hair obviously was quite political by itself. I didn’t like central female character Ifemelu as much as I loved Obinze. Seriously, it’s like Adichie put all the ideal qualities into Obinze because I am sure no one like him exists in fiction. The one place he falters is when he marries the ‘well-fed houseplant’ (Adichie’s words, not mine) of a wife for no reason than the fact that he was dazed by his new wealth. Through the story of the two lovers (Ifemelu and Obinze), Adichie explores the vastly different post-colonial experiences in the UK and America. Finally though the houseplant and sapling are gently let go and the lovers come together to start their long awaited and much deserved life together in Nigeria.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (fiction)

I read Half of a Yellow Sun after Americanah. Does it matter that it was not chronological? There was a certain levity in Americanah that there was no space for in Half of a Yellow Sun. First of all, Half of a Yellow Sun is a historical novel set in Nigeria of the 60s at a time when the Biafran War was on. The Nigerian intellectuals wanted to create Biafra (pronounced Bee-ahfrah) and secede from Nigeria. This led to a civil war and unrest which claimed casualties on both sides. Many countries recognised Biafra but it couldn’t stand up to the military might of Nigeria.

Adichie mined the war part of the story from her own personal family history. The narrator is an outsider, a servant called Ugwu who tells the story of Olanna and Odenigbo. Both are intellectuals and are excited by the creation of this new country. Olanna’s twin sister Kainene and her boyfriend, Richard, chart another kind of journey before, during and after the war. In using twins to tell the story, perhaps Adichie is trying to say that Nigeria and Biafra are twin sisters who might not like each other but are still family. So they must tolerate each other and maybe over time even come to some sort of peace with the other.

To be honest, this book was quite adamant till around page 250 after which it started to yield its secrets and exploded. Half of a Yellow Sun is both a human story as a historical document. A must read if you want to understand politics through literature.

How To Be Both by Ali Smith (fiction)

This is the first novel that left me breathless in 2015. What a brave and audacious write is Ali Smith! The story spans two different centuries and countries – 15th Century Italy and 21st Century England. The concerns are quite contemporary about the fluidity of gender, art and life. The story is narrated by two narrators: in 15th Century Italy, it is Francescho and in 21st Century George who seem to pass through both male and female identities quite easily. The most riveting part of the book is the arrangement. Half the number of copies printed by the publisher Hamish Hamilton has George’s story first and the other half has Francescho’s story first. So it’s a lottery whose story you get to read first. It’s fascinating what this means. Your perception of the novel is going to be driven by what you read first. I read George’s story first. So many levels of duality are explored through this novel. The book made me think so much that I didn’t finally write about it as I would have liked. (The same thing happened to me with Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller the year before last.)

Out of It by Selma Dabbagh (fiction)

Out of It has the distinction of getting me interested in the Palestine issue. I have struggled with understanding such an old and all pervasive issue but it has helped me a lot. You already know what I think of this novel. I am now constantly looking out for more Palestinian writers. I have started reading Raja Shehadeh’s Language of War, Language of Peace (non fiction) and Suhair Hammad’s Born Palestinian Born Black (poetry) thanks to this book.

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma (fiction)

I have already discussed this in a lot of detail in a separate post. Suffice it to say that it made a deep impression on me. I look forward to more books from this writer.

The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith (fiction series)

What can I have to say more than what I have already put down here? I have continued to read McCall Smith after writing that post and I stand by what I wrote. I do dread what would happen if I run out of this series but since I am some distance away from such an emergency, I don’t have to worry about it right now. This series is by far the ‘lightest’ set of books I have read the past year. Light in tone that is but not light in seriousness.

Technically these books are classified as ‘crime fiction’ but that is a bit misleading. Yes, there are crimes in the book but it’s the mundane everyday kind: Think stolen office supplies rather than bank robberies. It’s more about human goodness, kindness and generosity and a certain way of life in a country in the middle of Africa.

One could argue of course that the mysteries of the human spirit does need a detective for them to be discovered. And that detective is Mma Ramotswe.

Burn My Heart by Beverly Naidoo (YA fiction)

I have been hearing about Beverly Naidoo about the same time as I was reading Philip Pullman and J.K Rowling. So that’s quite a while back. However, getting my hands on her books did not happen. Where would I find South African YA lit so many years back? Luckily, after so many years I found a book of hers at the British Council library.

The time is 1951 to 53. Mathew and Mugo, two kids on either side of the colonial divide, forge a tenuous friendship by being thrown by circumstances to spend time together. It’s a difficult time. Not just because of complexities of race and colonialism, it’s also because this is the time of the Mau Mau revolution, the violent uprising before Keyan independence which left so many Kikuyus dead, whether innocent and not.

This is the story of an accident that involves Mathew or bwana kidogo (little master in Swahili) and Mugo the son of Kamau, the man who worked at Mathew’s Dad Grayson’s farm and stables. A small incident burns through the lives of both the boys affecting them in different ways and tearing them up within and apart from each other.

The book made a huge impression on me. I cried at the injustice of Mugo’s life. I cried for most of the second part of the book. How much injustice is there in this world! I am enraged and outraged that so many Mugos and Kamaus have had to endure the wrath of the greedy White Man. Colonialism has so much to answer for. No amount of reparations – if ever considered – can ever amend the lives scattered, lost and warped because of it.

This is my first Beverly Naidoo and she is a formidable writer. This is how YA lit should be – no easy answers, no happy ever afters, just the raw story.

Books Read in 2015

Following the tradition of listing books read in 2014, here is what I read all of last year. The list with the book covers is available on my Goodreads page. There seems to be a pattern and I was swinging wildly between two extremes – children’s/YA fiction and serious literary fiction – all year. There is no middle ground. I have neglected poetry a lot so I will make that up this year. Fiction – serious literary TLS kind of books – seems to have dominated my list. I pushed myself to finish 50 books because of the Goodreads Reading Challenge. The last book was finished on the afternoon of December 31st. I might not have read so many books had it not been for it. In 2013 I aimed for 100 and fell short at 77. I learned how many I can manage in a year. So, in reverse order of my reading, here is the list of books read in 2015. What did you read in 2015?

Burn my Heart by Beverly Naidoo (YA fiction)

Eating Air by Pauline Melville (Fiction)

How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson (Memoir in verse)

The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith (Fiction)

The Good Husband of Zebra Drive by Alexander McCall Smith (Fiction)

The Full Cupboard of Life by Alexander McCall Smith (Fiction)

Blue Shoes and Happiness by Alexander McCall Smith (Fiction)

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith (Fiction)

The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith (Fiction)

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith (Fiction)

The Fishermen by Chigozie Obioma (Fiction)

Ghana Must Go by Taiye Selasi (Fiction)

The Saturday Night School of Beauty by Marsha Mehran (Fiction)

Under the Weather edited by Tony Bradman (YA short stories)

Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula (YA fiction)

Miranda Road by Heather Reyes (Fiction)

The Beaten Track by Sarah Menkedick (Travelogue)

Gangsta Granny by David Walliams (YA fiction)

Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore (Fiction)

Miyoko & Other Stories by Michelle Tudor (Short stories)

The Girl with the Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier (Fiction)

Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren (Children’s fiction)

The White Giraffe/Dolphin Song by Lauren St.John (YA fiction)

The Amazing Racist by Chhimi Tenduf-La (Fiction)

The French Confection by Anthony Horowitz (Children’s fiction)

The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Levin (Fiction)

The Boy Who Swam with Piranhas by David Almond (YA fiction)

From Somalia with Love by Na’ima B.Robert (YA fiction)

Murder Most Unladylike (Wells & Won, #1) by Robin Stevens (YA fiction)

The Rumbling Island edited by Zai Whitaker (YA nonfiction)

La’s Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith (Fiction)

Someone Else’s Life by Kapka Kassabova (Poetry)

Out of It by Selma Dabbagh (Fiction)

A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Hope Larson (Graphic novel)

The Heavy-Petting Zoo by Claire Pollard (Poetry)

Mr. Fox by Helen Oyeyemi (Fiction)

Out of the Way! Out of the Way! by Uma Krishnswami (Picture book)

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Fiction)

The Talking Bird by Swati Sengupta (Picture book)

Stone Eggs: A Story of Indian Dinosaurs by Helen Rundgren (Picture book)

Tsomo and Momo by Niveditha Subamaniam (Picture book)

Excuse me, Is this India? by Anushka Ravishankar (Picture book)

Hambreelmai’s Loom by Mamang Dai (Picture book)

The Bubblegum Tree by Alexander McCall Smith (YA fiction)

Mr. Bliss by J.R.R Tolkien (Children’s fiction)

How To Be Both by Ali Smith (Fiction)

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond (Fiction)

The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Short stories)

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Fiction)

The Hotel at the End of the World by Parismita Singh (Graphic novel)

¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

That’s Happy New Year in Spanish. (I am so out of touch so I thought I can practice a bit here.) So, wish you all a very happy new year 2016! I have a feeling this year will be huge. Now, I don’t know how or why. It’s just a feeling.

A big thank you to those readers who have stayed with me in 2015 and a big, warm and happy welcome to new readers!

Muchos abrazos y besos (many hugs and kisses),

Mo

The selected words of a year

I have been tagged by Atul Sabnis. I have not been blogging as frequently as I used to and I haven’t tagged or followed a tag in a long while. So Atul, this is for you.   

Rules: Select one sentence from a post that sets the tone for the month. This is not a compulsion but if you want to please follow the tag.

Note: The number in brackets indicates the number of posts written in that month.

January (5) From Pondicherry and the Blues: Some sentences catch you unawares like a fishing hook and don’t let you go.

February (1) From Phrases Stocked and Killed:  Can we risk going over the edge metaphorically?

March (7) From Writing in a Café: What I am aware of is that I am an oddity sitting in a café in the middle of a summer work day, trying to read a book, write a few sensible words, watch the blue froth collect at the bottom of a glass like something the Dead Sea would throw up and catch my dose of calm before I am ready to face the world again.

April (2) From Underground: If you stay underground too long/ I’ll send poems to seek you out

May (1) From Serendipity: Ah, the connections we perceive and weave.  

June (6) From Restless: Today, I am gripped by a restlessness that I cannot explain.

July (5) From How do you exorcise your grief: I write long-winded poems / meant for unseeing eyes.

August (0) No entry.

September (1) From Taramandal – a study of characters:  The play tells us that even the most unlikely people are actors…

October (1) No textual entry.

November (4) From The things people don’t want: “Oh, you have kept all things that people don’t want!”

December (8) From Capturing the future: The more I think about it the more it appears that photography is an art of capturing a moment that belongs to the future.

Pondicherry and the Blues

“Pondy has the soul of an old blues man.”

Some sentences catch you unawares like a fishing hook and don’t let you go. This was one of them. My niece and I were discussing how refreshing our last holiday during the New Year weekend was. And somehow the conversation turned to Goa and our mutual dislike for it. We agreed on how it has lost its soul when compared to Pondy. That’s when she made this perceptive remark. Of course, the bottom line was that we both loved Pondy. The soft French sensibility that permeates every product made here or the strong tropical sun that brushes off the dust of your regular life or the delightful food available either at the corner café or a luxury hotel or the sound of the high-tide waves that seem like background music or the cheap roadside clothes with fantastic cuts. There is something to be enjoyed every moment in Pondy. Sometimes, all I wanted to do was sit and gaze at the sea. I went there for three days only but it felt like a different universe.  

Pondy, indeed, has the soul of an old blues man.

Happy New Year 2008!

On this new year’s day, I travelled the world. Definitely, a beautiful start to the new year. Though on 31st night, I didn’t go out anywhere, (A friend of mine was surprised that I was not wildly partying the night away.) I just saw a movie – X Men III, and went to bed in the wee hours of the morning.

January 1st 2008, AquaM woke me up at an unearthly hour 10 AM! It was the middle of the night for me! Anyway, I met her at a temple and we exchanged gifts! Let me explain. She was going to the temple and I decided to meet her there. She got me a gift from Singapore, where she was holidaying. The next friend, I met was N, who had just returned from her holiday in Bahrain, and she got me a little piece of Bahrain. Literally, because her gift included seven types of Bahrain’s desert soil! And the third friend I met was the one I had first planned to meet: A. M and I had got her something from our Goa trip, which I had to hand over. And she gives me somethings from London! I am so thrilled! If the new year starts on this note, I am sure all I have is good times ahead! So, in the space of 12 hours, I had on the desk in my room, little bits of Singapore, Bahrain, and London. I felt like I had travelled the world in a day!