Lateral Perspectives

The huge world inside a tiny head

Archive for the tag “snow”

Pamuk and Other Colours

13th June 2017, marks an important day in my life.

I finished reading Orhan Pamuk’s book titled “Other Colours”.  He is one of the very few authors, or author of the very few kind of books that I have read, who has made me reflect on life. While half way through the book, reading his reflection on Dostoyevsky, I suddenly realized that I have never seriously studied a novel before. Sure, I have drawn parallels and infused myself on thoughts on life in general, comparing the character’s circumstances and decisions made, about how the world is evil and not to be trusted, about how people are never what they mean and say, but do. But never in a studied manner. Never erudite, always a passive impassionate mode of thought. To think of it further, I almost never ventured to dig deep into books, or novels. I always assumed that they were pretentious at best, trying to please the audience.

I say almost because partly the blame lies on how literature is taught in schools.  Putting critic’s reviews in textbooks may not be the best idea. Since these existed and I read them, I grew up with the idea that whatever critic I would make would be a replica of theirs. A number of half-witted, self-promoted intellectuals try to dissect and vainly identify patterns, link or ideas even the writer may not have considered, for example, in goodreads or Quora. “The curtain is blue”  – the textbook would ask us what this could mean. It would try to impress on us that it depicts the writer’s depression, or whatever the critic decided to attest its meaning to.  Codswallop in my opinion.  I did not want myself to be associated with such people. In fact, I refrained from making any such assumptions and distanced myself from it as far as possible. In a way, it was good. The deeper meaning behind this book was not always something I concerned myself while reading. I read simply for the pleasure of enjoying the imagination of the writer, to visit new lands, to reflect ideas never discussed before, or to see them in a new light, a wondrous moment indeed.

Speaking of critics, one come across writers who write what they think, but these are rare, and I adore them dearly. The earliest one I have come across, is in my own native language, Malayalam. A critic of the acclaimed novel by Mohammed Basheer, Premalekhanam. The prose of the critic was incredibly hard, and fortunately, my teacher was extremely good. She made us think beyond the literary meaning of the critic’s word. This was my first true encounter with the critic. I harboured hatred for the critic for tearing down a wonderful novel – how dare he find meaning behind words! And a conflicting part of me developed admiration for him. I was seduced by how he painstakingly researched the time, condition and the mentality of the original writer and how all these influenced and lead to the novel, how it was received and affected the society, and how, the future generation of mine ought to read and think about it keeping all these things in mind. It was more like how they say Tolkien’s Mordor was inspired by the wastelands of the Word War.

Orhan Pamuk is such a writer/critic.  His thoughts are well formed, his conscious clear, and he tries to be polite and humble when it’s not. When reading Isaac Assimov’s robot series, I pondered very little on his take on the role of humans in a robotic world. I assumed these were natural consequences of such circumstances. I never realised the depth of his thoughts when he depicted the world and his characters. Moving forward in this digital and futuristic world, I can’t help but feel that more than fiction, he was a visionary, and his novels not mere science fiction, but predictions, of a future yet to come. It is not utopian or dystopian entirely. After all, much of science fiction has become commonplace these days. Except time travel and inter-galactic travel. I have my suspicions that space travel will find tremendous progress in the coming decades, and I would witness some historic moment with respect to it.  Time travel, unfortunately, is not something I think would be possible.

When reading Harry Potter, apart from falling in love with the magic world, I simply agreed with Rowling that power struggle is real and the magical world is no different world when it comes to basic human traits. Sure, there is a hero, a villain, anti-villains, traitors, but I still think the greatest character Rowling introduced is Umbridge. This, is what made me love the series even more. This separated Rowling to me from being a mere fantasy writer to an astonishing writer. You see, Umbridge is the kind of character I hate most in this world. Misusing and representing a position of power. A story of lies and deceptions, of their influence on unimaginative people, who in turn resented authentic ones. But these thoughts not occurred then, but a few years down the road. Until then, I always had thought Umbridge was simply a bad character. Only when I started working and witnessed true politics, did I appreciate what Umbridge truly represented.

In other words, it is high time to observe nature and society more. Even more essentially to me, to study books deeper. To read more classics and see what men and women, thought of people and society in general. It is not enough that I just read a good novel anymore. It is imperative that I understand more than the book, that I question the author’s circumstances, that I realize what the greater question is. I may not go to the extent of the critic, to break it down as finely as them, but would probably end up thinking a little bit more about the novel.

Some words on the actual novel itself. First of all a word on the title. An apt title, a breath of fresh air that also truly reflects on the content of the book, which is the authors breadth and width. I am quite happy to have witnessed the dear writer’s mind. Or whatever he chose to publish to the world. I was sort of surprised that he spoke little about philosophical ideas such as love, jealousy, ego, faith , pride and happiness, but greatly on turkey, childhood and the east-west conflicts. Perhaps this is what truly concerns his mind most of the time and the others, well he has written in his novels. Another part of me was partly happy because to be honest, I was bored by some of the articles because they were quite dry in nature.  Even a great writer like Pamuk can also write something that does not concern or interest me was surprising to say the least. There were two particular chapters that invoked an emotion that I was unable to identify or name. These are “When Ruya is Sad” and the final chapter, “My Father’s Suitcase”, which is his Nobel prize acceptance speech. Apart from these there was a particular article whose title might be “No Entry” which I think was quite clever and would like to leave it to the readers imagination to read and reflect on them. The former is a very short piece which touches lightly on melancholy. The speech which begins with a slow and dreary pace but soon picks up emotion and ends up in a spectacular paragraph on why he writes. I was so moved that tears welled up in my eyes. I choked and had to dry my eyes at the library. It would not be an understatement to say that the book has inspired me again after ten years, after reading a novel called Snow. That the same writer can have the same effect on you after such a long time, when you have undergone so much change is just purely incredible and to that Mr Pamuk, my favourite author, I owe you a lot.



Orhan Pamuk

Ever since I read “Snow” back in 2007,   the single most important book in my life, I always wanted to read another one by Pamuk. I did find his books in the library,  but for some unknown reason, I didn’t want to read them. Remember, I was 15 when I read Snow, and was enchanted,  but deep down in my heart, I knew,  I wasn’t mature enough to grasp his thoughts and similes.

Every time I went to the library,  this thought nagged me, and was somehow forgotten, yet still there,  like that object in your desk. You know its there, you are aware of it, but you dont glance at it often enough.

And now,  8 years after Snow, I laid my hands on “My Name is Red”.

Finally I can be at peace temporarily,  for   this is another book that will alwas be in that special drawer.

Orhan Pamuk, you are more than a  master storyteller. You are much above that, and deserves to be among the living legends.  I do not have enough words in me to describe my affection for you and your words, and I shall not attempt to do so either.

All I can say is,  Thank You Sir.

Snow and Compliment

Today, as I was lying on my bed lazily, toying with different ideas- about literature. Stuff I would probably write about, creating scenarios,plots, those small sentences that can create an impact ( writers pleasure) etc..

A sudden thought struck me. Where did all this actually start from? From when did I decide that I would write things occasionally?
Rewinding back to early teenage years, I don’t remember trying to write things with this vigour, being this feverish.

It was along the secondary school days (Saint Peters Senior Secondary School, Kadayiruppu). When I was in Class X.15 years of age at that point of time. I wasn’t much of a writer(still not am, but a lot more confident). I did scribble at times,
write a few bit here and there. I was a voracious reader. I devoured books- except text books. I read a lot. OK, you get it. But to me, it was an entire different world. Escaping into this wonderful words, where authors created characters humans and diverse. It was my way of getting high.

Anyway, one grant day,I strolled through the library, looking for a random book…

Oh wait.

Have I ever told I how I chose books from the library?

Maybe its just me, but in most cases, I don’t look up a book and go fetch it. You see, I had no computer at home.
I did not search in the internet for stuff like- What are the top science fiction books? What books would you recommend a 15 year old? There were no rule books, no one to recommend anything.

No. I chose books at random. Given the probabilities,and the books that were present in the school library, I loved it.

I walked around the library. I ran my fingers over the books. I touched. I felt. Some books would catch my attention. Usually its the title. Single titled books usually never caught my attention.

But,as I was saying, one fine December evening, strolling through the library, my eyes fell on a blue cover book. It was slightly thick. Some inner voice immediately said, grab it! grab it now!

I complied. I read the title. It was called Snow. Written by Orhan Pamuk.
Of course I didn’t know about this great author. I didn’t know he was Turkish,or that this was translated. I read the synopsis in the back. Something about a journalist investigating suicides in Turkey. What was so much to write about this? I thought. Also since it was December, the name snow sounded intriguing, decided to give it a try.

Went home, and started reading it the same day. Beginning was slow, but then, it started growing on me. Here was the story of some fictional guy, whose thoughts and actions, resembled that of mine. I was surprised, happy, ecstatic. After hundreds of book, I encountered something that I could personally identify with. Perhaps it was because
I had a crush on a beautiful girl, and I felt sympathy for the character. Whatever.

After I finished the book, I couldn’t sit still. Ideas were swirling in my head. I couldn’t point my finger on what was wrong. Something was amiss. Something needed to be done. And i grabbed a pen and started scribbling something. I became furious. The pen was not moving fast enough for my thoughts. I couldn’t get the correct word I was looking for.
I remember striking out long lines just because I couldn’t find a suitable word, or just because I wanted to use this cool word I’ve learned.I hated looking at the dictionary(Yes, peculiar for someone who wants to write). When I ended up putting my pen down, my fingers were shaking, but I was at peace. I knew, or had a glimpse of, what an artist felt like.

And there folks, blossomed what I will fondly remember, my first pieces of literature. Unfortunately, the books where I had written the stories were school note books. They were given away end of the year. Summer came, exams were over, and it was time for playing all round. Writing took a back step, and I didn’t think much of what I had written.

Come next year, class XI found myself giving name for the story writing contest as well as for poem. I was surprised that I actually had the courage! My friends were like, Of course!
You read all those damn thick books. You were prone to write at some point!

So I went and wrote all four- story and poem in English and Malayalam(my native language). And lo and behold, I won both story writing.

But the biggest surprise for me was a week later, when my previous Malayalam teacher, Mrs Bindhu, called upon me. I was strolling after lunch( not stalking my crush, I swear!)
She pulled me to one side, and said, Praveen, I read your story, and its absolutely stunning,well beyond my age.

It was a story about a drunk man who has an accident,and his last moments.My face must have been so red then!

I was pleased beyond myself. That was the first compliment I received that felt true, and it found a niche in my heart.
She said I had a great future, and that I should write more. But since I was in XI, she didn’t say too much.

I was on cloud nine the day. Beaming all around like a child who just got ice cream. A teacher, one who is on top of her subject, congratulates me on something I had written? Great Scott! I felt like the king of the world.

Ever since then, I swore to myself, I will never give up writing. Be it a line or two, I will always write something if I liked it. From then on, in all my books, papers, textbooks,along the pages and most definitely in the last page of the book, you will find something scribbled down. Please note that I didn’t had any method, any desire to be famous. I was content with my own words, with slight annoyance that some thoughts couldn’t  be expressed on paper.
Of all the things that has shaped me who I am, I can very clearly state that the two most important things that ever happened to me was

1. Reading Snow by Orhan Pamuk
2. Getting complimented by a teacher on something I wrote.

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