The Bookish Time Travel Tag

As is usual in my case, I had planned to post a blog about something totally and completely different and instead I am posting this! It’s the festival season in India and I have been quite late in catching up with all the blogs but I finally did catch up and I found myself wondering what I would have answered on a particular post; and lo! Behold, Jane had actually tagged me, hoping I would do a similar post! Now Jane is one of those friends of mine who has introduced me to a number of unknown authors and we share a lot of similar bookish tastes, including a love for Victorian-Edwardian Literature and Golden Age of British Crime. Therefore, when she thinks I will enjoy writing a post, you can be rest assured I will be! Thus, without much further ado, I present to you, The Bookish Time Travel Tag! Originally created, by The Library Lizard, I was introduced to it naturally by Jane’s Post!

  1. What is your favorite historical setting for a book?

This is a very difficult one since there are several periods of History that I love

  • The Gupta Dynasty (C.300 AD) in India – This is really going back in time but this was a defining moment in South Asian history – a time of great literature and arts. Kalidas wrote Abhijanashakuntalam and Meghduta. It was also an era in which one of the best commercial comedies and my personal favorite of Sanskrit was penned Mṛcchakaika by Sudraka.
  • King David’s Jerusalem – Don’t ask me for reasons, just that I have a double degree in Middle Eastern Politics and Israel has always fascinated me!
  • Elizabethan England – Amid the squalor and the dirt and the delicate balance of peace between Catholic and Protestants and discovery of new lands, there was brilliant works being penned by Shakespeare, Marlow and jaw breakers like Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (a book I struggleth with!)
  • Regency England, specifically the country side – I am devoted to Jane Austen and I love her portrayals of the rural country lives, divorced from the over the top Regency London and therefore the simple English countryside and plots around the manor born, is and will always remain my favorite!
  • Victorian England – How can I pass up an era of Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Elizabeth Gaskell, William Thackeray, Anthony Trollope, George Gissing, Lewis Carol, Robert Louis Stevenson, Author Conon Doyle, Elizabeth Barret Browning, Robert Browning, Christian Rosseti, Oscar Wilde, to name just a few! I think you get my drift!
  • Late British Raj in India (c. 1870s to 1940s) Also known as Bengal Renssiance, this period saw incredible development in making India a modern nation state and more especially in bringing women out of the “purdah”. The women started to get degrees in Literature, Science and medicine and began to take their rightful place in the world. Not all transition was easy nor was it completely smooth, but it was an epoch making time of Indian history. Some of the best of the Indian literature was penned during this era including Michael Madhusudan Dutta’s Meghnadh Bodh Kabyo (The Slaying of Meghnadh), Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s Durgeshnandini, Rassundari Devi authored the first full-fledged autobiography in modern Bengali literature and was one of the first female authors of modern India to do so. Most importantly, this was the era of Rabindranth Tagore as he wrote masterpieces after masterpeices including Geetanjali, The Home and The World, Gora etc.
  • The Bloombury London – I do not like most of authors and their views of this set, however I cannot deny that this era and this intellectual movement, was changing the way we view modern literature and economics etc. It also included in its group the very humane John Mynard Keynes and the very sensitive E.M. Forster as well as other laudable like Virginia Wolfe, Lytton Strachey, Vita-Sackville West etc.
  • The World Wars – Simply to better understand what madness drives men to kill their fellow brothers and how small misunderstandings lead to deaths of hundreds and thousands all across the world!

Now that, this is done, I promise to be more concise with my other answers!!

  1. What writer/s would you like to travel back in time to meet?

Again there are so many of them, but in keeping with my promise, I am limiting myself to three only –

  • I would love to meet Jane Austen and share a cup of tea with her as the country society meets and greets each other and hear her gentle satire and words of wisdom as one individual meets the other.
  • Rabindranth Tagore and travel with him through the streets of 1890s Calcutta and visit all those places which are now iconic but then just a places for the intellectuals to meet and discuss how to work better with the British Masters!
  • M.Kaye and walk with her through the streets of my city of Delhi in 1920s as we explore the old Delhi and Meherauli ruins, especially the latter before it became the current up market residential area. I would also love to visit the then summer capital of British India with her, Shimla and have lunch at the celebrated Wildflower Hall and visit the Governer’s House and do all the things the British did then , before it came back into fashion thanks to The Indian Summer!
  1. What book/s would you travel back in time and give to your younger self?

I have to hang my head in shame and say “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis when I was may be a 10-12 year old. I would have also loved to have read Margaret Kennedy in my 20s rather than waiting all these years. I also really wish I had started reading Emilie Zola a couple of years earlier, instead of waiting for so long to take up his books!

  1. What book/s would you travel forward in time and give to your older self?

This one is a tough one simply because I keep thinking, and I have every intention of re-reading all most all the books I have loved through the years. But if I have to pick one and since I cannot pick one, I would say it has to be a toss-up between The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling and The Discworld Series by Sir Terry Pratchet. I think both of these two incredibly talented authors manage to remind us of what is truly important, with a gritty plot and humor!

  1. What is your favourite futuristic setting from a book? E.g. Panem from The Hunger Game

I will have to skip this one! I am more of past/history person than a futuristic one!

  1. What is your favourite book that is set in a different time period(can be historical or futuristic)?

Oh!! How in the world can I keep this answer short?????!!!! Let me try

  • The Far Pavillions and The Shadow of the Moon by MM Kaye
  • The Book Thief by Mark Zukas
  • The Conquer Series by Conn Iggulden
  • The War of Roses Series by Conn Iggulden
  • The Source by James Mitchner
  • London by Edward Rutherford
  • New Forest by Edward Rutherford
  • The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Finnigan
  • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  • Mila 18 by Leon Uris
  1. Spoiler Time: Do you ever skip ahead to the end of a book just to see what happens?

No! Nix! Never!!

  1. If you had a Time Turner, where would you go and what would you do?

There is sooooooo much to cover, I would not know where to start and where to end – I would naturally do all the things I mentioned in #Q2.

  • I would also love to visit Rueil and see Edward Manet paint the House in Rueil and The Garden Path in Rueil.
  • I would lIke to follow Sir Author Conon Doyle across the busy Victorian London as he helped clear the injustices against George Edalji and Oscar Slator.
  • I would for sure want to take a voyage to Middle East with Mark Twain as he wrote The Innocents Aboard and visit Yuguslavia, poised on the edge of World War II with Barbra West as she wrote her seminal Black lamb and the Grey Falcon.
  • And of course, I would want to walk the streets of Calcutta and Delhi with Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay and Ahmed Ali respectively, as the last vestiges of a great Hindu-Muslim syncretic culture practically disappeared forever into the horizon!
  1. Favorite book (if you have one) that includes time travel or takes place in multiple time periods?
  • The Source by James Michener that cover the birth of Israel from 9831 BCE to 1963
  • London by Edward Rutherford that tells the story of the development of the city of London from the nascent beginning in 54 BCE to the current commercial hub of 2007
  1. What book/series do you wish you could go back and read again for the first time?

The Conquer Series by Conn Igulden

1500 words and I am finally done!

I do not wish to obligate anyone to do this and I know we all have very busy lives, but there are some people whose posts and thoughts I would love to read and add more on to my TBR  Stefanie @ https://somanybooksblog.com/

Cleo @ http://cleoclassical.blogspot.in/

Brona @ http://bronasbooks.blogspot.in/

Lauren @ https://wheretheresinktherespaper.wordpress.com/

Ruth @ http://greatbookstudy.blogspot.in/

This was a wonderful post and it brought back a lot of memories of books that I would love to revisit. Naturally, I also added quite a few from Jane’s post to my TBR, but that’s what bookish blogs are about! J

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Discovering the Abbey

I finished reading, actually re-reading,  Jane Austen’s “Northanger Abbey” as part of my Goodreads Women’s Classic Literature Enthusiasts January Reading Event, a couple of days back. “Northanger Abbey” has always been really low on Austen charter and was saved from my personal ignominy by the more morbid “Mansfield Park”. Naturally, it took me a while to get around to finishing this book and the fact that I at all participated in this event was attributed to two factors – 1. It was a Austen novel and for a dedicated devotee of Austen world, one cannot pass up a chance of re-reading her work, even if it’s one of your least favorites. 2. I have since my last reading of “Northanger Abbey”, read a lot of “Gothic Romances” including quite a few Ann Radcliffe books, and therefore was interested in now rediscovering the actual parody and thus I set off!

Northanger Abbey opens with a rather non-romantic description of our heroine Catherine Moreland, who unlike the heroines of Gothic romances has had a normal, happy childhood with well-to-do generous parents and now at the age of 17 has been invited by the Allens, their wealthy neighbors to accompany them to Bath. In Bath, Catherine soon discovers new alliances and friendships – the Thorpes and The Tilneys. The Thropes are a mother and daughter pair, the former being Mrs. Allen’s schoolmate, and flowing from this relationship; Catherine and Isabella Thorpe soon develop intimate friendship, especially considering their fondness for Mrs. Radcliffe’s works. This relation is further strengthened when it is discovered that Isabella is engaged to James Mooreland, elder brother to Catherine. The Tilney’s are the offspring’s of General Tilney, the present owner of Northanger Abbey. Catherine soon develops a friendship with Ms. Tilney and an increasing liking for Mr. Henry Tilney, the younger son of General Tilney. Her intimacy with the Tilney’s soon reaches an epoch when she is invited by them to join them at their residence at Northanger Abbey.  Finally, Catherine is all set to be happy, for here is chance to visit an actual Abbey like a true heroine of her favorite novels, and that too which is home of the one for whom her liking increases every day. However in the true spirit of Radcliffe heroines, Catherine’s faith has more in store and she will have to overcome her own folly and has to act with integrity and generosity before she can find her much wished ending.

I remember not liking “Northanger Abbey’ because of the protagonists – I found Catherine to lame and Henry Tilney lackluster, especially in comparison to a Mr. Darcy, or Captain Wentworth or even Colonel Brandon. But re-reading is such a blessing because it forces you to see things that you had previously missed and appreciate nuances you had been absolutely oblivious off! Catherine is no Elizabeth, or Emma or even an Eleanor or Marianne; but she is exactly what she is a young girl brought up in a sheltered but principled environment, who sees the big world , so to speak for the first time.  She is taken in, discovers her folly and acts with integrity and finds her happy ending. She is intelligent, without pretensions, perhaps a bit naïve and under confident, but she has enough sensitivity to know the principles of honor and honesty and is capable of much kindness. While she will never be one of the trail blazing heroines of Austen land, not all heroines are same, and yet have great value in being just what she is; just like real people. I am not sure why I felt Henry Tilney was such a flat character; may be because I saw everything through a Darcian prism. But Henry Tilney is a wonderful character, honorable, well –read, fond of his sister with a dry irreverent humor and a thorough understanding of the foibles of human nature that serves as a perfect foil to Catherine’s naïve nature.   The book is funny, Austenian funny – witty, sarcastic and impertinent. From the heroine discovering a laundry bill in the secret chamber of the chest to the imagined Mrs. Tilney being kept a prisoner by her cruel husband, Jane Austen takes on her favorite author, Ann Radcliffe and her likes through a maze of all that is silly and incongruent. The novel is at the end of the day a brilliant hybrid of “Comedy of manner” and a parody at its best!

Brilliant, forever brilliant, Ms. Austen….even you’re what I always assumed to be a mediocre work turns into a a masterpiece! Viva Jane Austen!

Reading in January…

The much awaited vacation for which I went GA-GA for entire December is over!! Like all good things, this too came to an end and I go back to work tomorrow! (Sob! Sob! Noooooo) Well I sneaked in today as an extended leave and I really should not complain. I mean without a Monday hanging over the vacation, it’s not all that bad to start your work week again from a Tuesday! Anyway, my vacation was very very peaceful – I did exactly what I wanted to do – cooking, catching up with friends, going out for dinners and naturally reading and reading and some more reading! Therefore December turned out to be a brilliant reading month and flowing from that, has set high standards for January.

The reading plan for January is well electric to say the least! I am plodding through my Anthony Trollope’s The Palliser novels; his books are like a fine wine –dry, subtle and to be taken in measured doses. I am simply loving it and prolonging the reading as much as possible!! Also left over from my December reading list is Sarah Water’s “Affinity”. I just started it and I am still deciding about it! I have also gotten hold of “The Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr. I have heard some brilliant things about this book and I am really looking forward to reading it. Also in the reading plans are my two event reads – Goodread’s Women’s Classic Literature Enthusiasts is hosting the January read along and the book is “Northanger Abbey” by Jane Austen. This Austen rates kind of lower in my Austenlistoranking (Yes! I made that word up!) But it’s still Austen, so I will participate for the sheer joy of reading Austenion humor! Also as part of Reading England, I kick starting the event with “The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro. (I had initially listed a Du Maurier as part of this event, but since Jamaica Inn, I have sworn to stay away from all her works! At least for some time to come!)

Finally in a conscious effort to read more Non Fiction and other writing, I am reading “Heirs to Forgotten Kingdoms” by Gerard Russell. The book reviews the history and the current problems faced by the lesser known religions of Middle East including Mandaeans, Ezidis and the Copts. I have always been fascinated by this region and my Master’s thesis was on Middle Easters Religion based Politics. This book seemed like a good place to pick up something I left behind. As a companion reader to this or rather Heirs is the companion reader, I have finally dug up the tome written by John Norwich called “The Short History of Byzantium”  – this book is anything but short and is extremely well researched and detailed. I will need some months to finish it, but this month seemed like a good place to start the event!

That is my reading plan for January; I am sure there will be additions and deletions on this list, especially after I read reviews of some book or the other  posted by my bloggy mentors (I am directly hinting at at you two – Jane and Stefanie! 😉 ). But until then, this is the original premises!

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!!

Random Notes on Illness, Books and Love…

I have been so ill…for the last two weeks I have been confined to my bed with multiple disorders including a low blood cell count that has led to such weakness that standing on one’s own two feet for more than a minute is risky (On account my loosing balance and falling) I have not been this ill, ever in my adult life – never been this sick to be unable to stand, write or even read. Anything remotely difficult or challenging makes my head ache and eyes water…I mean Shakespearean Sonnets are not even difficult but there, cannot read it!

It is times like this one really misses one’s true blessings – never a very active child (I mean physically! I hated sports, though I was always active enough to run around the house doing all I want!)I was never weak and this past two weeks I am all namby pamby . Make me lift the serving spoon and my arms ache. Make me walk from my bedroom to the drawing-room and my head spins! I hate not having control over my body which in turn impacts how much I have control over my mind and me losing control over my mind – a very very bad thing! But now as I write this post, I miss the strength and the stamina to go on and on. In a brief spell of time, I seem to have become this wishy-washy person who is no longer in charge of her life and this makes feel worse because I never really appreciate good health and stamina as something that makes life better! Now of course, I know better and once I get back to my old self I am going to make sure I never go back down this road again!

What have I been doing these last two weeks – no prizes for guessing: reading? I read Conn Igulden’s War of Roses, I read Arnold Bennett’s The Grand Babylon Hotel,  I read Claire Benson’s Murder at Sissingham Hall, I re-read all the Harry Potters (Trust me there is no better antidote to bad humor or ill health) as well as all the feel good classics – Pride and Prejudice, Emma, Jane Eyre and Little Women. I also started on New Grub Street by George Gissing and am loving it. Somebody should do a study in sick room and reading patters – me thinks it will show a lot about the psychology of the person and may even give correct prognosis about by when the sick person will be healed (I know the last part is a very 19th century, but one never knows! These days I am trying to live with a mind over matter principle, because I would otherwise be unable to get through simple tasks of the day like taking a bath!)

The only upside of this illness is again to make me aware how blessed I am. As you can figure out, I am pretty ill and incapable of simple acts like cooking cleaning etc. My parents are very old and 2500km away from where I stay so dragging them so far is out of question. My sister is in teacher’s conference and out of the country….so who is taking care of me at home (I refuse to be admitted at the hospital; I am sure I will become more sick!!!) My flatmate/my best friend/my mentor all rolled into one. Very rarely does one come across in life a friend who puts his or her life on hold for your sake – well I am truly blessed to have her. She has taken care of my meals, ensures I eat the right stuff at the right time, cooking, cleaning and managing my ill humors when they raise their head! She has been an angle though she hates the comparison and would rather be called a mysterious la elegante damsel. Well damsel or not she was my knight in shining armour and I am so blessed to have her in my life. The doctor said that my body was reacting to some unpleaseant shock which may have happened months ago but to which I did not react properly then and its coming out now. I can think of what happened and now that I think back, I did bounce on my feet very early, perhaps a bit too early! However if betrayal and dishonesty were the root of my illness, surely the love and care of my flatmate, my friends and all my well-wishers (and trust me I have many for I was besieged during this illness with cards, flowers, calls and a genuine wish on everybody’s part to actually help me!!) should serve as the protective shield against any such damage.  May be it’s my illness that’s making me maudlin or too much of Dumbldore’s advice (When you read 7 Harry Potters in two days, Dumbledore is as real as it gets! Besides wisdom is wherever you want to see it) but love does make a person a whole lot better!!!

P.S. I will for sure go back to review of all the books I have read from next week – big time catch up needs to be done!!

At The Very Beginning…..

I have always argued that I am better writer/blogger and more discerning reader because of some of lovely, inspirational and absolutely marvelous blogs that I have the most rewarding bliss to read/follow. Flowing from this, I present to you this post, that had its germination in A Year in First Lines by Fleur, who in turn took the cue from The Indextrious Reader. The concept is wonderful and extremely unusual – “Take the first line of each month’s post over the past year and see what it tells you about your blogging year.”

If this is not fun, what is???? Thus, without any further ado, let’s plunge right in and kick-start the journey from January 2013!

January 2013

It’s the first of the brand new year again and someone sent me text with a quote that goes as follows – “Tomorrow, is the first blank page of a 365 page book. Write a good one.” ― Brad Paisley from Back to Where We Started From…..

February 2013

There are many things that comes to us a legacies – a house, jewelry, money, an old piano…..the list I guess could go on. At any case, legacies are of great importance, for they bind us to a past that is inherently our own and through which, in many cases, our identity derives from; from All Those Legacies….

March 2013

This blog is in response to the March Meme of The Classics Club. The subject is Jane Austen…now how can I ever pass out on opportunity to wax eloquently on my all-time favorite author – the very witty, the very talented and an acute observer of all the fallacies of human nature from Liking Jane

April 2013

It’s always difficult to start when you have come to a halting skating stop. But you have to start again, especially if it is important to you! From At-tempting Madame Bovary

May 2013

And now for The Baker’s Daughter from Baking Breads and Tales in Wartime Germany

June 2013

Is there anything called Happy Sad? From The Happy Sad Syndrome

July 2013

I know I have to still write about Charles Dicken’s Great Expectation and I promise I will do it this week for sure, but while I drown myself in my other life, aka, the Project Manager, this Meme, I just could not let go! So Classic Club’s 2013 July Meme is – What classic book has changed your view on life, social mores, political views, or religion? from The Most Inspiring Them of All…..

August 2013

So I did the disappearing act again but I was travelling on business for 4 whole weeks and the project implementation kind of sucked all life force out of me, leaving me with no time for anything I hold remotely close to my heart – eating, travelling, writing; the only indulgence I had been reading and that too with limited timeframes. From And for the August Path….

September 2013

So the Classic Club’s September Meme is contributed by Brona from Brona’s Books –Rereading a favorite classic at different stages of your life gives you different insights with each reading. Is there one classic you’ve read several times that also tells a story about you? From Once Upon a time and Everytime …

October 2013

I read this article on Huff Post where social psychologists David Kidd and Emanuele Castano argue that reading classics like Tolstoy,Chekhov etc enhances what they term as “theory of mind”. From Alleluia for Reading!

November 2013

I thought it was a good day to sit back and think just how many things I have gotten myself into for the month of November and muse over the fact about why do I take on more than I can manage and why do I keep making myself a guinea-pig for all Sadistic Gods who take great pleasure in laughing at me – considering there is no one else to blamed for the soup I get myself into except ME!! From Just a Bit More Than Usual

December 2013

Finally vacations here….I can’t believe it actually here and by the time I can actually believe it, it will be 6th January and back to work! From The Vacation Finally Commeth…

That’s the list and here are some conclusions I drew as I complete this – Some of these posts begin on one vein and end up on different tangent all together; (My MIND WANDERS is an understatement!!). It seems like I have derived a lot of my ideas from The Classic Club, so a big Thank You to the Club and all its members for making me read and think more. Most importantly, I need to work on sentence constructions; I mean did you see some of the opening sentences??? They are like 4 lines long….seems like I write the way I talk….Definitely a work on for 2014!

However this was fun and I think should you try it, you would quite enjoy it as well!

Liking Jane…..

This blog is in response to the March Meme of The Classics Club. The subject is Jane Austen…now how can I ever pass out on opportunity to wax eloquently on my all-time favorite author – the very witty, the very talented and an acute observer of all the fallacies of human nature.

While Jane Austen has always been at the very top of my ladder of veneration that I reserve for my most beloved writers, it is very surprising that I never wrote about her before. But then what can I say for Ms. Austen that has not been said before – what can I say that is original and not hackneyed or trite?  However let me attempt to spell out why I resort to Jane Austen, when I am happy, when I am sad, when I am confused, when I need distraction or simply when I need to attain a Zen state of mind!

By now, the very first question of The Classic Club for this subject should be answered by now – I do not love Jane Austen; I am obsessed with her!!!!!

Now to broach why I love Jane Austen – I love reading her because she is one of the original fountain of all wisdom pertaining to relationships, especially those between a man and a woman. All those of who had been nourished on a healthy and completely untrue diet of Prince Charming carry poor little Cinders away, despite strong objections against her background got of first taste of reality through Austen’s work. Whether it is Mrs. Bennett or her relations, there can be no denying that improper behavior by the family of the protagonist will always be a hindrance in the path of true love and will always make a lover hesitate in declaring his intentions. How many times in your adult life have you heard your boyfriend say that your mother/aunt/sister is too loud and an embarrassment in public which led to an eventual showdown between the two of you, regardless of the validity of criticism? I feel this keenly and therefore try as much as possible to shield my guy from my extended family.  She was one of the first writers to put forth that while filial respect is always important and should always be of greatest import, one cannot turn away from the obvious shortcoming of the parents, which at times may lead to disastrous effect on the child. Example of the same is Mrs. Dashwood who does not try and control the imprudence of Marianne in her relations to Willoughby leading to heartbreak for one and exposing another to the censure of the world. Sir Elliot’s vanity and pride deprives his daughter Ann Elliot from happiness for seven long years. These were revolutionary concepts, especially when we look at the era that Ms. Austen was writing from.

Many claim Jane Austen had written a 18th century Mills & Boone through Pride and Prejudice. But this  in itself is a very simplistic understanding of the novel – this was one of the first books where the heroine asserts not only her own self-respect but also forces the male protagonist to respect her family through sheer force of character. Ms. Eliza Bennett is not a milk and honey  miss, like her other fictional compatriots, who faint at anything remotely stressful; nor does she give away to hysteria when ill befalls her family – instead she faces them as a strong individual, sharing burdens with her sister and keeping her own repining in check and rarelyhas moments of self-indulgence. She does not go around being pedagogic to her suitor, but speaks to him on equal terms, in mixture of humor, angst or anger as dictated by natural human tendency.  Pride and Prejudice was also one of the first writings to throw an egalitarian twist – while Mr Darcy had 10000 a year and Pemberly, he is dismissed as a gentleman by Elizabeth, who claims equality as a gentleman’s daughter and is completely unapologetic about the comparative material inequities between the two.

Ms. Austen was one of the first writers to create a flawed heroine, whether it was Elizabeth Bennett’s initial liking for Mr Wickham or Emma Woodhouse’s meddling and sometimes rude conduct towards her friends and neighbors. She makes her heroine fall to only make them rise, realize their mistake and become better human beings, woman, wife, daughter etc.

Finally many critics have condemned Jane Austen as parochial and not addressing some of the pressing concerns of her time, like the Napoleonic Wars. She does refer to the Napoleanic Wars when there is a need – Persuasion is filled with allusion to peace after the war; but mostly she wrote about the country – the kind of place she grew up and spent most of her adult life. She wrote about things that she understood and had complete command over than attempt something for which she was dependent on second-hand sources and which may have a false bearing on the tale. After all, since Ms. Austen’s celebrated examples of writing about spheres understood by the author, more than 200 years later, the apparently modern and up-to-date social networks, work on her principle of writing locally!

Jane Austen is not out dated, she is not boring and she is not parochial – she is in fact very cool, with writings that can be handed down from one generation to another, because it addresses the really never-changing mores of human interactions!

To address the last part of The Classic Club Challenge – my favorites in order of 1 to 6 are (with 1 being the best!)

  1. Pride and Prejudice (No Surprise there!)
  2. Emma
  3. Sense and Sensibility and Persuasions (I know…I cannot decide between the two!)
  4. Northanger Abbey
  5. Lady Susan
  6. Mansfield Park (Only Austen that I consider tedious and didactic!)

Do let me know what you think about Ms. Austen as well!

200 years of Pride with a sprinkling of Prejudice….

So I have been really ill for the last couple of weeks – I mean really: high fever, fatigue and no rest. Whoever heard of getting a break from gulag???? Anyway, therefore I did the disappearing act on the blog – one can only do so much – manage the never-ending expectations of a Boss, take on extra work load especially since most of your team is out with …yup you guessed it: Flu and balance needs of a sister in a mid-life crisis, a best friend who has professional issues with her workplace and a non-existent love life, who only needs your attention, when you really do not have any to give; all the while one is running a 103*C temperature almost every alternate day for last two weeks. But do I complain???? Hell no – I just neglect blogging, one of the most relaxing and joyful things in my life!

Now after digressing for some 13 mins, (Yes! I am aware I am exaggerating, but after what I have described above, everyone should humor my indulgences, which in the greater scheme of things is really minor!) let me get to the point – what I was trying to say through all this muddle is – I could not let this day go by …..after all it is the bi-centennial celebration of the greatest feminist-turned mills and boons  – turned literature-turned comedy of manners-turned brilliant critique of society-turned a dam good story!

On 28th January 1813, T. Egerton, Whitehall, published a novel, that was “written by a lady” and English Literature would never be the same: The name of the book was Pride and Prejudice.

For over 200 years, this book has shaped the understanding of the power of women and the little control that a gentle woman brought up with education and morals has over her marriage in absence of fortune, as well as shaped and honed idealistic beliefs that marriage should not be made for economic reasons. My grandmother read it and swore she was Lizzy Bennett. Might have been true in her case – she left her relatively richer perspective groom on the eve of her wedding to marry my well to do but hardly rolling in wealth grandfather. My mother too swore by the book and she herself could have made much wealthier and glittering match, for she was the belle of the town, but she settled for my brilliant and kind, albeit low-key father. As for me, well, I am not sure of the brilliant match I could potentially make – all I can say is that he is very different from what I am – chalk and cheese, library and sports bar, subtle and flash and dash…..but would not change it for the world. So my family is a living proof of the incredible debt that we all owe to this publication, two centuries ago!

What can I say that has not been said before, how can I describe the immense joy I feel, even now reading that book for like 456,452 times. I know each phase, I know each character and I know exactly what will happen next – but never for a moment, does this lessen the joy of my reading. Never for a moment do I waver in declaring this book to be one of my all-time favorites, though I know it’s very fashionable anymore. And I am always surprised (rolling eyes smiley) when I get asked such innately dumb question – you reading this book again? How can you read the same book twice? Duh!! That’s why it’s called a classic!

I know there are celebrations world over, to mark this occasion – the New Yorker ran a special column, CBC is also running some special series and all Jane Austen societies are going into overtime to honor this day. But I tumbled across this cartoon version of Pride and Prejudice, by Jen Sorensen which made me think that Ms Austen herself, had she been alive would have approved.

Do check it out!

http://www.npr.org/2013/01/27/170253360/pride-and-prejudice-turns-200

In the end – Viva Jane Austen! Viva Pride and Prejudice!

Austenian Manner at the Manor

I have always been a creature of impulses – going mostly by what my heart dictates and not my head with inevitable disastrous results. But there are times when things turn out quite unexpectedly successful even when you have not used an iota of rationality – I think it’s the law of averages …I mean there can only be so many calamitous outcomes without some being extraordinarily successful. But as usual I am digressing from the core to the periphery!

An unexpected three day weekend came our way (My best friend and mine) late Thursday evening. A three-day weekend at any cost is a rarity in the gulag that we both work in…so it was far too tempting to let go of this opportunity and spend it in mundane tasks like – electrical fittings (Our bell as well some lights have gone bust requiring some serious electrical rewiring), going to the library (my books are a week overdue) and visiting the parlour ( I hate going the parlour…yes I know I am a weirdo and all women love to indulge themselves but I do not like it and consider it a task that needs to be performed so that I can fit into  the stereotypical idea of womanhood….said I was a weirdo)…Anyways this and grocery shopping (we are out of everything!) needed immediate attention and had I been a sane and rational creature, I would have gone ahead and completed my to dos. But instead my best friend and I quickly looked up weekend gateways and booked a room for two nights three days …all within 20 minutes of realising that we have a Friday off along with the weekend!

We left really early in the morning, making only one pit stop at McDonalds for a hurried breakfast and reached out destination in just under 7 hours of drive. Our destination was a 170 year old manor house nestled high up among the hills. (Read my earlier post – I LOVE MOUNTAINS!) The Manor built in very British colonial style is a huge affair of wood and red bricks with traditional and clichéd red tiled roofs, large French windows and fireplaces. It was owned by several illustrious personages who used it as a getaway before being turned into a private boutique hotel.  Our room is an affair of oak and teak wood with some lovely woodwork and a magnificent view of the mountains. I believe the first viewing of the room is important and I fell in love with this room as I opened the balcony door and the mist from the mountains wafted in the room and I could catch the very clouds in my hands. You can spend hours looking out of the balcony or the windows to the distant mountains with the mist floating in and out sometimes covering and sometimes when the mist clears, you can see distinctly the view across the ridge where stand the red roofs and the white ionic columns of the local Christ Church Cathedral. Fortunately for us, there were not too many guests at this time of the year and we had the place pretty much to ourselves.

After a quick shower and sumptuous lunch, both my friend and I agreed that we have earned our right to a siesta after the long drive. Post the siesta, in the spirit of the place, we had high tea, after which we indulged in some completely mindless and bizarre television watching.  I had previously mentioned that I do not own a television nor am I tempted to get one. When out on vacations I usually catch up with telly watching quota, but it just convinces me more and more that it’s a good thing that I do not have an idiot box!  After a light dinner, we turned in really early…I mean back home I would never sleep at 23:00 hrs…not here…oh! Well

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Naturally I was up at 5:00, all fresh and active. It’s funny how I always struggle to get up on time to go to work but on vacations, my body seems to program itself to get up on time and do all things in a regular logical manner. Anyhow, I wanted my coffee, but this being an exclusive but a small establishment; I was told that the kitchen will be open only after 8:00 am. But when you get so early, your body requires sustenance and so I made myself some coffee from the electronic kettle with the coffee/tea ingredients that come in as complementary. After that, they day turned into a day in the life and time of Jane Austen heroines. I got up and got dressed. I wanted to go for a walk but it has rained constantly since yesterday so I kind of dumped the idea and instead explored the manor with its old furniture and some absolutely marvellous photographs and paintings. Following this I indulged in a hearty breakfast – again very English: Toast, baked beans, bacon and Eggs, coffee and juice. I love long and leisurely breakfasts and this meal turned out to be a pure pleasure. After breakfast, we read by the hour in the Manor Library and then moved to the parlour for some writing. In the afternoon, after a light luncheon, we went downtown and spent some time exploring the local locales and finished our promenade with yet another high tea. Back in the manor, we spent the evening reading and playing Mahjong (I know Austen was for card games, but let’s allow for some evolution!) Dinner was a 4 course affair and again it was an early to bed and early to rise affair! We left for the city after breakfast, bidding adieu to our much-loved and tranquil Regency lifestyle and embrace the life and times of the millennia….Sigh!!!! The upside, the drive was magnificent as the mist came down over the mountains and we literally rove through the clouds!

Goodbye Manor House, we will miss you!

Photo Curtsey: Mentally Nailbitng

Urgent Help Required for the Inspirationaly Challenged

Inspiration has left me and for once mu hyper active brain is completely devoid of subjects to write about. This usually does not happen to me, but this lack of creativity could be stemming from the fact that I slept I think 18 hrs of the last 24 hrs which is highly unusual in someone who is an insomniac and then spent the rest of time in complete mundane tasks like laundry, grocery etc. I am not saying that these tasks are not essential but sometimes I feel that these necessary but absolutely mindlessly boring tasks actually blunt one’s minds!

Jane Austen observed as much in Emma, when Mrs Elton complained of her giving up music because a married woman has much to do, despite Emma pointing out ample opportunities for her to pursue her interest. In today’s world I feel the same holds true – we get so wrapped up in what’s petty and banal, that we lose sight of bigger and more important things. The problem is when you try to look at the bigger picture and let go of the smaller things, the other will think that he/she has an advantage over you and can exploit you for his/her own needs . And because you are looking at the bigger picture, you let the other win because in the wheel of life everything will balance out. Bollocks!!

I am rambling…..I need help!!!!!(Yes I am aware that for you have thought so for some time!)

Seriously, I am completely without an idea on what to write…. I thought I will write about the Conn Iggulden’s The Conqueror, but I have not finished the book and want to hold off until I reach the end! (So many books start with a promise and end up being a disaster, so I will not shoot off until I reach the end!) I thought I could share my thoughts on 50 Shades of Grey…but 1. I have not read the book…am not sure am liberal enough to read it either….(Yeah me a prude) 2. What can I possibly say that not already been said…I mean the book is selling because of the publicity and not because it’s a great work of literature and to write about I believe will inadvertently give it more attention than necessary. I thought inspired by Eggton, who I consider one of the bestest of best of HA HA bloggers, I would do a take on my journal….Unfortunately, my youth was anything but interesting….I just filled pages and pages of whining about how I never got any attention and wrote in a pedagogic fashion because all my friends were having fun while I took a high moral ground on how fate left me down …re-reading it made me want to throw up my dinner…me thinks me will burn the journal…I am surprised my parents did not murder me for being such a crybaby…They should have and no one would have blamed them, least of all the adult me!!! I Maybe my prudiness is a result of my whinny adulthood…I also  thought about writing on friendships which can be picked up from any point, but it’s such an exhaustive and poignant topic, that I was drained of my energy before I began… (Maybe I am so tired because I slept so much!!!!)

So, finally, I decided to ask all my wonderful patrons – What would you like me to ramble on? What is the first thing that I can talk about, which will in turn make you raise your eyebrows – tell me and the words will floweth…..name the book (if I have not read I will read it via kindle or in the good ol’ fashioned way!) you want more quirkiness from my flatmate and my life – name a subject and we will both dive in to give diverse versions of the same… maybe there is an old blog you want me to a blogquel on (Yes I invented that…it’s a sequel for blogs!!!! I am bored, but still a geniusJ) just name it!

Think of this as a charity project to prevent someone from growing absolutely prosaic…sob sob…HELP!!!!!!