On December

Oh! Glorious December! This is month I thrive in; I rejoice and I celebrate! As cold winter comes down on the plains of North India, suddenly everything looks beautiful in the afternoon sun, with all the roses in bloom. It is cold, very cold, but it brings with it a stark beauty of merry making and joy and smell of woodsmoke and delicious foods like Sarson ka Saag (a puree of mustard leaves), home made white butter and gajar ka halwa (a pudding made of Ghee, milk, jaggery, dry fruits and carrots) all served hot! This is a month of such wonder and here are some pieces that illustrate the unstinted beauty of the month!

May and October, the best-smelling months? I’ll make a case for December: evergreen, frost, wood smoke, cinnamon.

― Lisa Kleypas, Love in the Afternoon

Claude Monet, The Magpie, 1868; Source – Google Art Project

December is a bewitching month.
The grey of cold teases
to explode into something worthwhile,
into a dream of cold,
a starlight shower you can taste,
a cold that does not chill.

I’ve lost my memory
of my first snow–
did I gasp at a field of white?
Or scream at the freeze
untill my cheeks reddened?

The crunch underfoot is satisfying
and the thrill of virgin snow
near leaves
.”

― Joseph Coelho, A Year of Nature Poem

 Alfred Sisley, A Village Street in Winter, 1893 ; Source – The Creative Business.com

In December ring Every day the chimes; Loud the gleemen sing In the streets their merry rhymes. Let us by the fire Ever higher Sing them till the night expire!     

―Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Of all the months of the year there is not a month one half so welcome to the young, or so full of happy associations, as the last month of the year.

– Charles Dickens

And finally, one of my personal favorites, originally shared with me by the wonderful people at Daak (they are treasure trove of sub continent’s culture, art and literature. You must check their website or Instagram handle for some hidden gems) describing the beauty and the daily life of winter in Kashmir with lyricism, simplicity and great humor. This was penned by Mulla Muhammad Tahir Ghani, known as Ghani Kashmiri, who lived in Srinagar, around 17th century,

Masnavi Shita’iyah 

In this season where the water is frozen

Every bubble has become a glasshouse.

The stream flowing across the garden

Looks like a line drawn on the page.

The minstrel’s hand is without a drum.

It seems the dewy song has frozen too. 

Cold has turned water into ice.

Etching it is like etching a stone.

In all this, the duck in the water croons

‘Lucky the bird that’s become a kebab.’

The spark too has been struck by the chill

And has hid itself back in the flint. 

The spark and flame are together no more.

The chilly drought has torn them apart.

No sooner does a spark rise from the fire

Than it turns into a hailstone.

Such is the nip in the biting air

That the moist eye resembles a stony glass. 

Scared to their bones now men are of water

Like the mirror they hide it under the earth.

The means of living are in the hands of Chinar

Which in autumn has provided for fire.

The fish offers itself to the hook

In the hope that it might see fire

So cold has the oven of the sky become

No longer visible is the bread-like sun

Can a stream flow on the face of the earth

When the sun’s eye itself is frozen?

Release from the stinging cold does the fish find

When it slits itself with the icicle’s sword

No fear of water does the snow show.

It floats on its surface like foam.

The ember glowing in the brazier

Looks like a gem in the casket.

He who relaxes his hold on the chair

Finds himself skating on the ice.

And he who breaks his leg on the ice

Is plastered there on the wooden plank.

His joy knows no bounds if a sad soul

Gets hold of a few flint stones.

How could one walk on the murky earth

If it were not covered with planks of ice?

Agonized such is the fish by the chill

It seeks to flee from all that is wet.

Every sigh that soars up to the sky

Becomes a snowflake and falls to the ground.

Behold the game that the winter plays

Fashioning myriad mirrors from water plain.

Though a flame hides within its breast

The leaf of chinar breathes no warmth.

And he whose life leaves him in this chill

Prefers hell to escape the cold.

As children make their way to school

They practice skating on the planks of ice 

He is wise who in this season

Clings to the stove like a madman.

Narrating this, my tongue is coated with ice.

My breath, it seems, has frozen to make another tongue.

And when the chill turns chillier still

Like the ear, even the mouth turns still.

The tear which drops from the crying eye

Freezes like the wax dripping down the candle.

All this is known to the wise ant

Which entombs itself when alive.

This winter’s tale I can no longer narrate 

For the tongue is now an icicle in my mouth. 

I leave you with some beautiful illustrations from Kashmir, Sir Francis Edward Younghusband, Illustrated by E. Molyneux, which captured the beauty of this land in some wonderful watercolor imagery. Circa 1887.

Painting 1 – Lotus Lilies at Dal Lake

Painting 2 – Shalimar Gardens

Painting 3 – The Temple, Chenar Bagh

Painting 4 – Sunset on Jhelum

Source – http://www.hellenicaworld.com/India/Literature/FEdwardYounghusband/en/Kashmir.html

December, Reading & More…..

I know I have been away, but this time it was a good away. I was on road trip with bunch of friends visiting one of the most underrated ruins of medieval world, Vijaynagar. I will post up a bunch of pictures about this wonderful city in ruins soon with a bit of history (dependent on when my flatmate downloads the pictures from her camera!) In the meanwhile, December is here; my favorite month ….the birthday month, the holiday season month, the off with old and one with the new month! I celebrate it, naturally with books and more books.

To begin with, as part of my Women’s Classic Literature Reading Event as well as my Reading England Project, I have started reading Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh. Jane had blogged about it way back and since then it has been on my TBR forever. I am LOVING the poem so far! I have also decided to join Sarah Emsley and Dolce Bellze’s Emma Readlong, celebrating the 200 years of publication of Emma by Jane Austen.  Being December, I have naturally overloaded myself with more books than I can possibly read – I am almost done with third Cormoran Strike Novel; this volume is just something else and there is too much of harsh reality to absorb, but I just cannot seem to stop. I have also began Kazuo Ishiguro’sThe Buried Giant, and, well I will review it pretty soon. I also have Azar Nafisi’s Republic of Imagination lined up, but I am not sure if I will be able to finish it this year.  I also bought Anita Desai’s Baumgartner’s Bombay on a whim and I plan to finish this volume soon. Finally, I realized that while I was reading extensively in English, I have not read much, especially in recent years in my native languages of Hindi and Bengali. There is a vast pool of literature that is available in both the languages and some of most beautiful prose ever written is in Bengali. Therefore, it is but natural that I begin re-reading some works in this language and towards this end, I also started reading “Kitne Pakistan” (literally meaning How many Pakistans) by Kamaleshwar – it is a courtroom drama where historical figures are bought in to be tried to understand why  was India partitioned in 1947. It’s quite a gripping read so far.

Now if this reading was not exciting enough, Classic Club is doing Spin#11 and how could I possibly give this up? The Rules are as always simple enough –

  • Pick twenty books that you’ve got left to read from your Classics Club List.
  • Try to challenge yourself: list five you are dreading/hesitant to read, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favorite author, rereads, ancients — whatever you choose.)
  • Post that list, numbered 1-20, on your blog by next Monday.
  • Monday morning, they will announce a number from 1-20. Go to the list of twenty books you posted, and select the book that corresponds to the number we announce.
  • The challenge is to read that book by December/January, even if it’s an icky one you dread reading!

Here goes my list –

  1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
  2. A Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  3. The Clan Of The Cave Bear by Jean M Auel
  4. The Wings of a Dove by Henry James
  5. Crime And Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  6. Love in the Times of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  7. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
  8. Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  9. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  10. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee
  11. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
  12. Doll’s House by Henrick Ibsen
  13. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
  14. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
  15. The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope
  16. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
  17. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  18. Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare
  19. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  20. Queen Lucia by E F Benson

Now I wait with bated breath for Monday to arrive!

To end, as you can all see, I have changed my blog pages a bit as some things were really not working out, while I was racing in others. I thought, it best to go with the flow and therefore took off The Poetry Project and the A Century of Books and instead replaced them with Reading England and Women’s Classic Literature Event. In the near future sometime, I hope to get back to both these abandoned projects and then may re-open these pages.

That all for tonight folks! Happy Reading!

Ideas on December, Holidays and Reading…

Ahh…December is finally here!! My favorite month of the year…the holiday season, the hopeful season (for the New Year is about to start and you can make all your plans here and now!!) and of course my birthday month! Undoubtedly the best month of the year!

Naturally this month being so awesome as is deserves an awesome reading plan, especially with a two-week long and lazy winter vacation! Therefore as I mentioned before, I have dubbed this month this month as I-Will-not-finish-the-year-without-finishing-these-books-self-event. It means that I will read all those books I have planned to read through the year but did not due to work, Reading events or because another book came up, I could not get around to them!

Kickstarting this month are two books which I think I have mentioned in my TBR for at least 4 month running but not gotten around to reading them – Michelle Lovric’s “The True and Splendid History of the Harrington Sisters” as well as Susan Howatch’s “Penamrric”. Finally I have started reading them!! Yay!! Also inspired by Stefanie’s re-read, I began reading “Emma” by Jane Austen and the book has such a Christmassy flavor to it with snow, fires and wonderful dinner parties that it seems like a great book to read now. I also have to finish Henry James’s “The American” and Mark Twain’s “Innocent Abroad” as a study in contrasting genres with similar subject written during same period. I am absolutely devoted to Anthony Trollope and Jane has posted such wonderful things about the Palliser Series that I have decided to read “Can You Forgive Her?” and “Phineas Finn”. Jane brilliant review on L.G. Montgomery’s “The Blue Castle” made me add it to the holiday season reading pile. Also in for indulgence of my Historical Fiction obsession a little more I have plans to read Sarah Water’s “Affinity”. Finally I have not read any plays for some time, so December is a good time to dig in and read G.B. Shaw’s “Selected Short Plays”.

As part of reading events, I am readingMy Antoniaby Willa Cather both as my Classic Club Spin #8 and Ali’s Willa Cather Reading week. Also reading (Sigh!) and I cannot believe it is Daphane Du Maurier’s “Jamaica Inn” as part of Goodreads Women’s Classic Literature Enthusiasts.

That’s my plan for December….considering it’s the holiday time, I am sure I will read a whole lot more but because it is my I-Will-not-finish-the-year-without-finishing-these-books-self-event, I keep myself open to reading whatever comes along!!