What Have I been Up to? April – May End Notes

It seems odd to write about April and May end notes when July is only 10 days away. But that means at the very least I will make an effort to put another post for June. So for now its April and June. Needless to say I have been supremely busy, work finally became crazy work and long hours again has become a norm. I am more than ever at it on my Cancer Advocacy page on Instagram. There are mentorships that I have been doing and writing some pieces on the side, include this one. Family has also been visiting as well as friends. And of course, it does not help that I keep getting sick ( overall well; chemo side effects continue ) and that takes away a lot of time in what is already a short pool of time. Even reading was limited for a while and blogging non existent. But I have been close to the edge of the other side and I must say that while I do regret blogging not enough and resolve to manage time better, I am very glad and supremely grateful to be living again and living a full life!

Now about reading, like I said, it has been slow and May was horrible. I seemed to have spent May being in the middle of many books and never finishing anything. And almost nothing seemed to hold my interest.

But I did immensely enjoy The Nectar in the Sieve about which I posted here; and I was absolutely enthralled by The Sentence by Louise Erdrich. The plot could have been a bit more cohesive and the character evolution was patchy in places, but the prose and the writing integrated the Native Indian history and inheritance was brilliant. It is a book I want to go back to and read again and soon!

April was the month when the Bengali ( Eastern India ) new year is celebrated, so instead of cooking, the family, my uncle, aunt, sister and moi, we went out for a grand dinner. The food was magnificent, as was the company and of course, new outfits for the occasion never harms!

And of course despite much promise and self discipline on spending, there were outings to the book store and some coffee shops.

Most importantly after much heartburns and anxiety and several days of dealing with self esteem issues, I finally have hair on my head. While it is short, it is still real and I cannot wait for it to grow long again!!!!

That was then my two months, spent in books, food and family, besides work and more! I end this post with two short poems for April and May!

The moon comes up o'er the deeps of the woods,
And the long, low dingles that hide in the hills,
Where the ancient beeches are moist with buds
Over the pools and the whimpering rills;

And with her the mists, like dryads that creep
From their oaks, or the spirits of pine-hid springs,
Who hold, while the eyes of the world are asleep,
With the wind on the hills their gay revellings.

Down on the marshlands with flicker and glow
Wanders Will-o'-the-Wisp through the night,
Seeking for witch-gold lost long ago
By the glimmer of goblin lantern-light.

The night is a sorceress, dusk-eyed and dear,
Akin to all eerie and elfin things,
Who weaves about us in meadow and mere
The spell of a hundred vanished Springs.
                         
                          An April Night by LM Montgomery 

There is May in books forever;
May will part from Spenser never;
May’s in Milton, May’s in Prior,
May’s in Chaucer, Thomson, Dyer;
May’s in all the Italian books:—
She has old and modern nooks,
Where she sleeps with nymphs and elves,
In happy places they call shelves,
And will rise and dress your rooms
With a drapery thick with blooms.
Come, ye rains, then if ye will,
May’s at home, and with me still;
But come rather, thou, good weather,
And find us in the fields together.

               May and the Poets by Leigh Hunt

And that is about it! What all have you all been up to, while I was away?

About Chevron

As everyone is aware, I am very very susceptible to temptation, especially of the bookish variety! I read a good review, and then I want to read that book as soon as possible. Fortunately for me, in all my bookish adventures, I have had excellent guides and I have in last 5 years (i.e. number of years I have had the blog) read many books which I would have never touched with a 6 ft barge, had it not been for these guides turned friends! Jane is one of those guides and with her I discovered some brilliant authors including Margaret Kennedy and Margery Sharp. It was therefore only natural that after reading her excellent review on The Edwardians by Vita Sackville-West, I would begin to wonder in earnest about reading this novel, which had been in lying in my TBR forever! This also happened to be one of my Grandmother’s favorite go-to books and she always said, that I would enjoy it once I get started. However, work these days is a serious impediment to my reading life and it was not until this weekend, I was actually able to make any headway into this work!

The novel opens at Chevron, the seat of Duke of Chevron, 19 year old Sebastian and there is a house party, his mother, the Duchess is hosting. It is 1905 and the Duchess, Lucy and her set, considered “fast” by many of the older members of the English society, are infact the cream who interact socially with the King and help him stave off boredom. They are fun loving, gossipy bunch, who are part of the illusive circle by virtue of their birth or their riches, leading a frivolous, hedonistic life with no depth and little understanding of greater matters of mankind! Sebastian is torn between the worlds that he seems to exist in – on one side, as the Squire Sebastian, he loves  Chevron and all its dependent details and taking care of his tenants and the land and its associated work, that makes him truly and genuinely happy. However he is in constant conflict with the “social” Sebastian; he does not like interacting with “Society” though he goes along for the appearance of it. He feels the duplicity and lack of honesty in those relations and thinks himself confined by them. His sister Viola is 16, intelligent and sensitive, sees through all the hypocrasy of the society and scorns the inheritance of “Lady Viola”.  It is at this house party, they meet, Anquetil, an explorer who is the current hero on England, which is the reason why he is invited to the party. Born to poor parents, who made his life through his intelligence and education, he finds the “society” at once amusing and pitiable and despite his rough manners, he is humane enough to understand how things stand in places like this. It is Anquetil who open Sebastian and Viola to another world and shows them how different life can be if they chose to make it, but it is the beginning of coming of age for both Sebastian and Viola as they discover what really means to live!

Now that I have read the book, I keep wondering, why did I not read this sooner! I absolutely loved it! The narrative is an easy and flowing prose, and plot, despite some jumps in the time, moves along well and keeps the reader engaged. I did feel the last chapter was a bit hurried, lying Ms. Sackville West had a lot to say and not enough pages or time to say it, but it does not impact the narrative and takes nothing away from the plot. However it is the characters that the author has sketched that brings this novel to life! In the character of Sebastian and Viola we see the first generations of 20th century who are realizing that the days of feudal landholding and Squiredom are over and life and people ought to be treated with equality.  Both brother and sister come to their realization in their own unique way and though I cannot say I really warmed upto  Sebastian’s methods, and therefore could not like him completely, it did bring an interesting perspective of the many means of reaching self realization. The supporting cast from Therese to the Dowger Duchess to Lady Roehampton provide a very interesting insight into the variety of belief and mores that existed in Edwardian England and how despite social and economic divides, the belief that appearances need to be kept up triumphed above all. I really wanted to read more about Viola, in whom the author had created a wonderful, likable rebel and Anquetil, the true man of the world, instead of brief tantalizing appereance through the life of the narrative!

To end, it is a great read and while it is perhaps not one of the “classics”, it is nevertheless an wonderful sojourn into a world long gone by and a complete entertainment!

Defining Style – An Alternative Perspective….

Now my regular readers know that I have NEVER ever blogged about clothes/fashion etc. That’s not me and besides, when there are so many books to read, why spend time on clothes. We all know that my maxim is what the brilliant Diderius Erasmus enunciated more than 500 years ago “When I have a little money, I buy books; and if I have any left, I buy food and clothes”  and in exactly that order! Clothes are to be worn and yes one did attempt to look neat and maybe nice; but that’s just about it. It has an importance but there are more important things to talk about! That is until, my all in one best friend/roommate/wisdom tree convinced me to write a blog on Style as a part of defining one’s sense of style in ‘A Style Of My Own’ blogger contest by Women’s Web and Trishla emart. I was as usual not particularly keen about it, but then this was about style and from someone who has gone from a zero to a hero and still battles preconceived notions of fat and dowdy in one sentence, this was as good as any opportunity to break some myths and re-define style, especially for those of us horizontally challenged.

I don’t want to go back in time, but to really understand what my idea of style is, I have to re-visit my childhood and adolescence. Born as a fat chubby baby, my parents could have easily made a fortune by making me model for baby food. Fair, fat with head full of black hair, when I look at myself aged 5 month, I must admit at the cost of sounding pompous, I was ADORABLE! However one realizes as one gets older that fat chubby Johnson’s baby model does not necessarily translate to equally adorable “Fat, Chubby Adult”. I spent practically all my teenage years in a miasma of insecurity and discomfort, always feeling out of place, with all the honor of a wallflower! As years went by, I became more scholarly, primarily because I loved books and studying; but also because books increasingly became a substitute for dressing up; a way of being superior to the generic “others” as well the route to escapism. Besides growing up in late 1990s, we still lived in a society where brains and looks were incompatible and if you had one of two, you could not possibly have another, and because by then I had understood every nuances of intellectual delight, I was happy to sacrifice style for academia!

Life however was set on teaching me an excellent lesson wrapped up in a surprise package. Graduate studies took me to at a bohemian university, where for the first time I began to realize it was ok to be me – eccentric, intelligent and fun! I met gorgeous women with brains of a genius who cared for their appearance but were no less brilliant! I met men and women, who looked ordinary until they spoke and became the most attractive people in the room. Most importantly, I became best friends with my flatmate and my style mentor who told me to look inside and beyond the 5ft 7 inches 120 kgs heavy girl and bring forth the funny, intelligent and confident kid! She asked me for the first time “Who says fat is not stylish??!!!”

Thus began my transformation with some very basic changes that would eventually became my mantra for style –

  • To begin with get rid of specs and let the eyes show – In today’s world of advance contact lens technology, it’s a shame to hide behind spectacles, especially if you have big eyes. Eyes are the reflection of one’s soul and heart and if you are a what you see what you get person’s, your facial asset will always be eyes. Bring out the luster of those eyes with natural color but do not overdo them. Highlight but not EMPHASISE!
  • Beautiful skin is the best make up – Trust me, no regulated beauty treatment is required for this one. I don’t do face packs or facial regimes. I try and eat well (preferably with some fruits in the diet) and get enough sleep. Meditation for 10 mins before the mad rush of the day does not only wonder for your inner soul, but also reflects in your skin! Add a bit of bright lip gloss and your are all set for the day!
  • Earrings make it happen – If you are going discreet, uncluttered look and that too with a round chubby face, then earrings are your thing. Long danglers with chic cuts, gives an illusion of having cheek bones on face with a long neck and taking focus away from potential double chins. (If you are chubby/fat/obese/horizontally challenged, you will know the importance of “the neck”!)
  • Get those colors – Black may be slimming color but it’s boring and it’s the pattern and not colors that bring attention to the weight. If you are even remotely plump, you should say no to stripes, circles, and bubbles and all kinds of geometric patterns. Simple elegant cuts with minimalist embroidery or print on bright colors take attention away from the body circles and hide the tires, giving an appearance of gracefulness and chic!
  • Saree is “The” thing – I wear sarees to work atleast 3 days a week – Saree is THE garment that highlights all that’s best in the Indian woman’s body structure and drapes away all those bulges. Come on, you all you South Asian ladies, our mum’s used to wear sarees to work, catch buses, do shopping and manage homes! One generation later, we feel they are cumbersome! Give it try and you will realize, nothing makes you feel as beautiful as nine yards of gorgeous cloth!
  • Feel the style inside you –Physically, I am still the fat adult weighing 120 kgs but I believe I am the superstar of my show. It’s not because people tell me that (and trust me! They doooooooo!) But it’s because I feel it deep down inside! 🙂