Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

babies

Never let me Go – Kazuo Ishiguro

 

 

Kazuo Ishiguro was my discovery of 2017 .No wonder, his  inimitable style of writing has catapulted him to his present stature .As I mentioned in my past blogs that Kazuo Ishiguro is an author of Japanese descent and is currently based in the UK .He has won many literary awards including the Nobel Prize of literature in 2017 .

This was his second book that I read after “The Remains of the Day “.This book had also been made into a motion picture .

The story is based in England , in a residential school , Hailsham .Initially though it appears to be an usual residential school but after the initial pages one knows that a lot is amiss .The characters of the story do not have a last name . Their parents or their families  are never mentioned and they are being taken care by their guardians.

As you start to wonder whether it is an upper class orphanage , you gradually realize that the author is introducing the concept of donations . Then it suddenly dawns that this is a futuristic story about human cloning .

Author has based his story in the 70’s and here he has taken literary liberty , as in 1966 , the idea of human cloning was merely being entertained and the first cloned sheep Dolly happened in 1996

Since then there has been a lot of debates in the scientific world about the concept of human cloning .Science has always been   a double edged sword and some  times it can cause more harm than good . But science is also a necessary evil for the mankind .Its only the scientific inventions that has brought wealth and conveniences to our society .

In the medical world , physicians and patients are always struggling with the scarcity of organ donors. With the medical advancements though transplant medicine has improved a lot, but healthy donors are always scarce .

In the book  “Never  let me go ” ,as the “students” of the school are being raised as potential donors , they are being given the best possible education and training in art .They have all the emotions of a regular human being . They know how to love, hate ,betray and appreciate music and art .

As they all grow up and are ready to leave their school to serve the purpose , then the tale of poignancy begins .They realize that their  destiny has been decided .They are allowed to behave as close as possible to human beings but with a limited shelf life .They would be leading their adult lives in two groups as”Carers or Donors”. They are initially trained as” Carers” but later they have to submit themselves as” Donors” .After their fourth donation , they are considered “complete” and allowed to fade away  As readers we do not have to go through the details of medical part of donations but  we do share the emotional journey of the characters .

In this back drop , author weaves a beautiful love story where Kathy and Tommy , two “students” of  “Hailsham ” go through their journey of life . It is  a fascinating description of their trials and tribulations and opens in front of us the Pandora’s Box of difficult emotional implications .

The book has been written in his usual style of being  “deceptively simple “. One can call it  a science fiction sans the usual technicalities . In the medical world , physicians and patients are always struggling with the scarcity of organ donors. With the medical advancements though transplant medicine has improved a lot, but healthy donors are always scarce

Retail production of human beings for organ harvesting is a tyrannical option for scientists .Countries around the world are struggling with the moral and ethical implications of it .Should such human clones have the usual rights as  of the citizens of a country? Till what level of development should the clones be allowed to develop ?Would we be treating them well ?

As of now , we do not like to integrate our societies as much as we like to segregate . We love to segregate by Walls , color , race , religion, gender economic class, sexual identity .What would happen when we would create one more group to segregate them ?

As part of human nature we love power  and I wonder under the garb of science ,would we be raising our ugly head of greed and unscrupulousness  one more time .

Thoughts to ponder on !

Wishing you all a very happy New Year 2018

 

 

 

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The Kabul Beauty School -Author -Deborah Rodriguez

The Kabul Beauty School -Author -Deborah Rodriguez

 

Cosmetology-Poster-version-1-695x530

I  have been happily digressing since my second stint at blogging . I was earlier restricting myself to Indian authors who were writing in English Language .Kazuo Ishiguro is a talent house and I would definitely be reading more of his works but the book I would be sharing with you all today is definitely worth a read .

Not too long ago , when I was on a short trip to India , I visited my usual  Bookshop in the Southern part  of New Delhi .I always carry my own list of books as time is always short and it is definitely not easy to discern the kind of books you want to buy .But the owner of the shop always has a bigger pile than mine .He  recommended me this book , rather, a couple of her books and I had no regrets .

” The Kabul Beauty  School ”  is authored by Deborah Rodriguez .This is her memoir when she was in Afghanistan for few years . She is an American author ,who had decided to volunteer as a member of a small NGO, during the times , when Taliban had just been driven away from mainstream Afghanistan politics .Though physically the Talibs were not present , but their  unwritten rules pretty much dominated the country During those times , lots of well meaning people and organizations had gone to the country to help  it  being rebuilt .

Deborah [Debbie] ,in those days  was trying to come to terms with her second divorce She decided to  train herself in disaster management and took the plane to Afghanistan  She found out that she was the odd one out of the group as most of the other members were  related to health care  . She was a beautician by profession .But surprisingly , she was welcomed with open arms as most of the Beauty salons had been destroyed by the religious fanatics .Whatever threadbare services were available ,It was being  practiced with antique tools .

Her one time visit to the country  changed her life forever .Besides the rampant destruction and  poverty , what moved her the most was the plight of women .Subjugation and disempowerment of women was to its extreme .Women were not allowed any education . They had to follow a strict dress code and were not allowed to travel anywhere without a male member . They were not allowed to sit in the front of the car, leave aside driving .Moral degradation was abysmal as young girls were bartered by the family due  for money , security or other favors .

In this hostile terrain , Debbie , dared to think about  empowering women with whatever talent or resources she had ,so that,  at least a few women of the country could live  a life of dignity .She knew what she was getting into but that did not deter her .She coordinated with all the big names in the Beauty World of the US  and garnered for their support .

Philanthropy is  a  part of US culture and  she could get more than what she expected from various quarters and she could start her “Beauty without Borders ”  the training school and Salon .During her five years stay , it was always  two steps backward and one step forward .Love and marriage happened to her in Afghanistan  but initially , that too , more so keeping in mind , the  extra local help, she would need to keep her school and Salon running .

It was living on a daily basis but what kept her going was, the  indomitable spirit of Afghan women, who were surmounting all the obstacles of their life to carve out a better life for their family and themselves .Not to mention the lack of basic amenities ,intimate partner violence ,ludicrous laws of the state …the list was very long

The book is an easy read and it keeps you glued to it .Her sense of humor resurfaces again and again as we go through the book .Its appeal is that where we ordinary mortals do not dare to venture ,we get a first  hand account of the happenings .

As we read the book , we appreciate her courage and strength of character .She has a very spontaneous attitude and listens to her heart more than her head and that’s what makes her so  special. She took the call and  risked her everything ,even life, at lots of instances, so that the poor women could have a better life .Her only reward was that by the time she left,  she had trained  enough teachers, so that the skill could be disseminated even in her absence .The women who were trained by her were earning more than 400 percent of what their family earning was before .

I would not call it an eye opener but definitely it jolts you from your slumber that  still there are lots of places in the world where women are living a sub human life . By  being mute spectators or by just doing donations  ,we are not definitely doing  enough .We need more voices , more platforms and more courage .

Wishing you all a Merry Christmas .

 

 

The Remains of the Day

The Remains of the Day – A literary treasure

 

It’s been  almost seven months that  I am posting something new  on my blog site .I  was not being lazy .My professional duties kept me away. In the process , reading took a back seat .But in my hearts of heart , I knew something was amiss.

I  have never had a chance to read Kazuo Ishiguro before and it was my loss .He is this year’s Nobel Prize Winner for literature .He is of Japanese descent based in the UK .I  had mostly confined myself to the books written by Indian authors who were writing in English Language . But once I read his  book , I realized  I  what  I  was  missing out .I have ordered some of his books online and along the line I hope to share them with you .

Lately my blogs have been about books written by authors of critical acclaim .I neither have the capacity nor intention to review those books .But when I read something worthwhile ,I feel more people  with similar interests should experience the same inner bliss.

History always attracts me and in the book “The Remains of the Day ” the backdrop is of the period of  during the World Wars .We get to read a lot of literature of those times as European Continent was undergoing upheavals and newer equations were being visualized between the countries of the Continent .UK was one of the key players in the Wars which changed the path of the history .

The Story teller of this book is an English Butler , Stevens, who is an older gentleman who is currently being employed by an American Master .Stevens   embodies all the qualities of a true gentleman and  a perfect butler .In the past , he  was employed by a British Lord , Lord Darlington . Lord Darlington had a significant political influence in his country and had  association with great political figures of the time . Their abode was called Darlington Hall and they held meetings of great importance there . He had a staff under him to manage the household and the great events that took place there .He took great pride in his profession and would continually try to excel himself . He would also follow the Hand book of the great butlers to be the best of the best

Stevens never allowed himself any other privileges in life . His only aim in his life was to be of complete assistance to his Lord  and in the process there could be his small contribution in shaping the history of his country and the World .His dedication was so complete that anything that proved a hindrance was never allowed by him to happen .

As his ailing father lays in the death bed in the same house ,he did not deem it appropriate to be at his bedside as it would have caused inconvenience to his Lord and his great mission .A  house keeper who worked under him and both of them were interested in each other but he never encouraged her or himself to go forward on that path .

But there is no force in this world that  can stop the changing times .Darlington  Hall changed hands and he gets his employment with the new Master . His American master is very generous and offers him his car and gas money to take a break and visit the country side which he had never done before .There is another interest as he would be meeting the same house keeper at the end of the journey .

Author takes us on  this journey as Steven introspects about his life revisits his convictions .What seemed right and true in his younger days did not seem now. His perfect life had some big voids that was impossible to fill now .

Author  is brilliant in his art form and has used very simple English .We get a glimpse of the  Britain’s country side and the rural life of those days . The higher standard that people held themselves accountable to  in those days  are getting rarer and rarer day by day .Author reiterates that as we approach our twilight years we realize that loved ones are the  most treasured possessions of our life and they should be chased with the same intensity as other goals of life .

It’s  a book which will be in your memory forever and I am looking forward to reading and sharing other books by the same author .

Happy Holidays .

 

 

 

 

The Joy Plant

The  Joy Plant

sea of poppies

Addiction menace is an ongoing issue world over  .Opiates  had always been the center piece of it .Millions have been poured  to eradicate this malady but it is still thriving world over . Now gradually , rules are being bent to accommodate this problem by making it legal but the devastation caused by it is real .

Opiates had  been used in ancient cultures .It was in prominence not only because of its medicinal values but it was an equally potent recreational tool .Neolithic man was growing poppy 30,000 years ago and there is a historical documentation of Sumerian culture growing it about 6,000 years ago .

” ibis” trilogy  written by Author, Amitava Ghosh, is a historical fiction set in the nineteenth century ,where the back drop is opium trade .Trilogy comprises of  three books ,Sea of Poppies [2008] [ Man Booker Prize Finalist of the year ], River of Smoke and Flood Of Fire .Author who  was an anthropologist in his earlier life , had taken up this ambitious project, where he painstakingly built up his characters from meager facts of those times .Plantation workers from rural India were transported to work in sugar cane fields to the countries like Mauritius , Fiji and Trinidad . The surge was seen  when the opium trade was at its peak .They were indentured workers who were escaping their home country from Societal pressures or their present living conditions.These workers paid by their labor the cost of their passage and eventually settled in those countries .We do not know much about those times or places as most of these workers were unlettered ,hence there is very little documentations available .

In the book , Sea Of Poppies , his characters begin their journey from  the Eastern part of India, Ghazipur ,in a ship called “Ibis”.In the story ,this ship was a former slave ship which was reconstructed to function as a trade ship .Interestingly ,Ghazipur, is the oldest opium factory, which was established by British East India Company in 1820 in eastern India  and is still the biggest legal opium factory in the world producing the drug for Global pharmaceutical industry .

The picture of rural India painted in the book , of so many years back ,is surprisingly the same as of Modern India .The trials and tribulations faced by a widowed rural illiterate woman would not be very different even in today’s India .In the story ,to escape it all she takes the help of a lower caste man and decides to go an unknown land for a better future .

They are joined by  other very interesting characters during their journey .A Landowner, a moneyed person , who was cheated of his dues,  because of his being a native in British India .An unscrupulous British merchant , a young french woman whose dad was a Botanist and a hypnotized Bengali agent to name a few .

Author has recreated a splendid language, spoken by his characters ,which is  a mixture of Indian languages , pidgin and creole .If we visit these island countries today , they are pretty much the same languages used by the population there .

India was the largest exporter of opium for centuries in British India .Opium was one of the commodities which was financing the Empire . After the Opium trade crashed ,it is said that the subcontinent was more of a liability .

Opium has  always wreaked havoc on human kind but sheen of money seems to have overpowered human values from times immemorial till today

 

Mirror of our World

Mirror of our World

god of small

One of my favorite authors ,Arundhuti Roy , has once more ventured into the fiction world .Her upcoming novel  “Ministry of Utmost Happiness ” is eagerly awaited .Her last fiction ” The God of small things “was published more than two decades ago .It had won   “The Man Booker Prize” in 1997 and I feel , it is still one of the masterpieces in the world of English literature .It still enthralls me when I re read it after so many years .

In “God Of small things “, the story weaves around a set of twins ,aged seven , Astha and Rahel , who had to be displaced from their own home to their maternal grandparent’s home as their mother had to break away from her abusive and alcoholic  husband .The back drop is a small town of one of the southern states of Kerala .

They are happy and adjusted in their own world and have accepted the quirks of adults around them but every thing changes with the visit of their beautiful young cousin , Sophie .They grudgingly admit her to their own circle but life changes forever for them .

We get a sad glimpse into the world of  children .Their dependent and fragile world is always hanging by a delicate thread from the adult world on which they have no control whatsoever .Life makes them do somersaults  when their surrounding adult world succumbs to circumstances , greed , ambition ,lust or any other wrong choices of life .They just hold on to their own being as best as they can and wait for the storm to pass.

We also witness the struggle of a single woman who made unconventional choices and faced its failures .She belonged to the higher echelon of the society but that made no difference to her not being accepted and facing its aftermath .The family support system which is Indian society’s stronghold can abandon you when you need them the most .Superiority and priority of family value system takes precedence and you are ready to sacrifice your most near and dear ones on its altar .

Her book gave us a vivid picture of the cast system and its role .Cast system is another societal blight   which still holds relevance in today’s  world .Destiny plays its unwanted hand and one has to bear the cross all their life .Politicians in India rely heavily on cast system as their vote bank is dependent on them .Rather than enlightening and educating the masses about redundancy of  cast system they thrive on fueling the divisiveness .

Author Roy’s brilliant and multilayered interpretation of each character , each situation and each turn of events is par excellence .She has worn many hats and has many non fictions to her credit .This book , though written many years ago , still ,sadly mirrors even our today’s society .

 

The Raj Times – A Revisit

The Raj  Times – A Revisit

RAJ

Author ,Shashi Tharoor’s  latest addition to his list of publications ,An Era of Darkness :The British Empire in India, is a collection of an eye opening analysis of how in the garb of up lifting  an  inferior and incapable race [Indians], a multinational company [East India Company ] systematically leached a vulnerable country .

Author Shashi Tharoor needs no introduction .He is an acclaimed writer and a charismatic speaker .

Colonial history of India  is well known but the book tries to bring forth the facts that contradicts the prevalent notions associated with the history of Raj.

Author mentions that India had known unification under various rulers in the past .At the beginning of the times of Empire , India had one of the highest GDP s in the world.It had its own industry ,trade and rule of law . India was an ancient land with its own brilliant history of science ,art and culture .

But at some point ,what it lacked ,was a total loss of perspective .No wonder a handful of foreigners with a promise of improved weaponry could subjugate the continent to such a pathetic state.

Author argues  that infighting and apathy of the local rulers was cited as a cause for the downfall but its also important to remember that indigenous rulers always had a more humane approach to the ruled class.The inhuman brutality of the superior race towards the Indians for so long a time is still unmatched in history .

The modernization and industrialization that was offered to India by the foreign rulers only hastened  dis empowerment and  deindustrialization  of the economy .By the end of the British era ,the subcontinent was predominantly agrarian and eventually high taxation ,natural calamities and British apathy robbed them of their lands too.

Author mentions that its not that the British media or the conscientious of the Empire saw no wrong in the whole process but the gains were so immense that each wrong was justified for its end .

Equally surprising was that it took two hundred years for  a vision of political unity ,patriotism and nationalism to take shape as somewhere down the road with the economic depression India must have experienced a moral decompensation

Its almost 70 years since India gained Independence but we are still struggling with the degradation of our moral fabric.

Its a must read for our millennials as freedom is not something that can be frittered away

History always has relevance if we decide to pay heed to it .When we loose sight of common goals and common good ,the decay sets in .Complacency and silence paves way for a conditioning and  we take our first step towards the shackles.

“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high …………….Let my country awake”  Rabindra Nath Tagore .

 

Love , in its Diversity

Love , in its Diversity

equal-music
Last week was Valentine’s day week .Commercialization has brought this day more  into our awareness.There are various versions in the history of this day but the most popular version being that Saint Valentine was a martyr, who was beheaded by the then Roman Emperor in around 4th century BC,for getting Christian couples married .

Love, as an emotion , has multitude of definitions .As per science , there are definitely some chemical interactions going on in the brain that brings about this constant state of elation, when one is in love.

Parental love is unconditional as parents accept their offspring holistically .This is the highest and purest form of love which can be compared to divine love .

But true and equal love between two adult people sometimes become all consuming .

In the same context , I would like to recommend a book , ” An Equal Music ” by author Vikram Seth .Though the first edition was published almost twenty years ago , it is an evergreen read .I read it for the second time and I would not mind reading it again .Author Vikram Seth has many best sellers to his credit and this is surely one .

In the novel , author weaves his story around two music students in Vienna , where they t are training themselves in Western Classical music .They find true love in each other but on account of some rash and unwise decision , he decides to leave Vienna and her .

For the next ten years , he tries to find her but always reaches a wall .Eventually , he traces her in London ,but some life changing events had  happened  to her by then .They reignite their love but she cannot handle the guilt that accompanies with the changed circumstances.

Author Vikram Seth is beautiful in his art , as always .In the novel , we not only appreciate beautiful vistas of Europe but also the intricate realms of Western classical music world.Like all artists , musicians have a sensitive and fragile world of their own .Our real world is incongruous and unfathomable to them .However , hard they try to ens con  themselves from it , it subsequently over powers them .

Similarly , in love , people have their own beautiful world away from every thing else .Love is one of the strongest emotion and it can make or break a person .Not every body in this world is lucky enough to experience it and one is doubly lucky if it is reciprocated .

Love also faces the most restrictions , some self inflicted and some societal .For love to be ongoing , it needs to happen at the right time  and a right place and preferably with a right person .

In Love , joy of togetherness is immense and mundanity of  life can be overcome .If right chords are struck then wisdom says try to continue  the music for as long as it lasts .