Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Book Review

By Sunaina Patnaik at Tuesday, August 26, 2014 3 comments

“All this, all of this love we're talking about, it would just be a memory. Maybe not even a memory. Am I wrong? Am I way off base? Because I want you to set me straight if you think I'm wrong. I want to know. I mean, I don't know anything, and I'm the first one to admit it.” 

― Raymond Carver

I am really fed up. Fed up of these moronic hundred something fiction books, and the self-proclaimed Mythology books that butcher Mythology in many million ways. 

You might call me a mean person, but I had a tough time rummaging through book stores for decent Literature. (Of course, you always have the Classics and the Austen, but I was craving for a new writer.)

Like a spot of sunshine in dramatic moments, my brother sent me Raymond Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love for my birthday. 

I have always wanted to read Raymond Carver but never got around to reading his books. Now that I have read two of his books, I absolutely love his work. 

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is a collection of short stories. There is something utterly mysterious about these stories - stories that are poignant yet surreal. This collection is all about people without any education, logic or imagination whose lives revolve around depression, hatred, tender emotions, alcoholism, and love. 

And love is love, isn't it? Educated or not, imaginative or all, we all are intoxicated by that emotion that makes or breaks our world. 

The stories that were stuck in my head after reading are:

1. Everything Stuck to Him: Our parents always have a version of stories of our childhood. In this story, a father tells her young daughter how life was for everyone when she was a child.

2. Popular Mechanics: I could not stop imagining this story in my head. Bits and pieces, shreds and patches, this story left a huge impact on me for a day or two.

A couple has a conflict; the man packs his suitcase to leave; the woman swears and yells at him; and their baby is crying. They both want the baby and enter into a tug-of-war but the story ends with an ambiguity. The couple end up staying together.

It is a beautiful story and as you read it, you can vividly picture every scene in your mind.

But it is the final story that takes the hot cake. What We Talk About When We Talk About Love is the final story that talks about four friends who sit with around a bucket of ice with a bottle of gin inside it. They talk about love, and who doesn't want to know what we talk about when we talk about love?

This story (and the book) ends with these lovely lines that struck a chord with me:

"I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone's heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making, not one of us moving, not even when the room went dark."

It is strange how some books become an integral part of your life, the characters that haunt you, the stories that make you curious about the writer. This book will always remain as one of the best books I have read because I met this book as a dear friend when I was looking for a relief.

You can buy the book here:

  • ISBN-10: 0679723056
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679723059
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Vintage Books ed edition (18 June 1989)
  • Buy it here: http://www.amazon.in/What-Talk-About-When-Love/dp/0679723056

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Great Indian Wedding Drama!

By Sunaina Patnaik at Thursday, August 21, 2014 2 comments

“Weddings are never about the bride and groom, weddings are public platforms for dysfunctional families.” 
― Lisa KleypasBlue-Eyed Devil

The wedding season is here - the warning sign for all the singles and the unmarried.

I have dreaded weddings ever since I was a child. The noise, the food served in the weddings (most of the times, it is bad), the nonsensical banter, the never-ending process of getting hitched, the sleepless nights, and the nights I suffer with sinusitis- things that I have always loathed.

As I grew older, my threshold for weddings and its noise has increased, I have started accepting the dire straits of attending one, but I admit, I only attend the weddings that mean a lot to me. I do not put on grumpy faces anymore, and much to my chagrin, I socialize without a frown. 

I am not that moody child anymore. I am a woman with terrible mood swings now. Yes, it does not help much with my family anyway.

It was my brother's wedding this week, and it was one of the much awaited weddings for all of us. And no, shopping is not the only reason for it. This boy was practically an important part of my childhood who suffered my evil schemes without complaining; pelting stones at him was fun and he put up with it; biting him and making him carry my shopping bags was one of the privileges he exercised. He was also my first cycling partner, and morning walk mate, and I looked forward to my summer vacations to meet my youngest uncle, my brother, and our dog. Gradually, we grew apart owing to our education and career choices.

I reckon, separation is a sign of growing up!

Like I said, this wedding was one of the much coveted ones. I met my cousins after three painful years, I spent some quality time with my grandparents, I looked forward to meet my whole family who were ignored in my quite rebellious times, and during holidays that I spent overloading myself with writing assignments. 

Ah, the joy of eating the food back home, and walking through the streets that were spent cycling in my childhood, the familiar smell of the mango trees in my grandparents' orchard!

All good things come along with bad things. When we talk about weddings, the bad things are always the distant relatives who pretend to shower SO much love on you that you actually want to faint.

It is that time of your life when you will face awkward situations like, "When do you intend to get married?" "We'll search a good boy for you", "My only remaining wish is to see you get married."

I mean, seriously, when will we ever stop doing this?

You wanted the man to get married, and finally, when he does, you ignore him throughout his wedding and focus on the unmarried ones.

No, you do not have to look for a good boy. (Define good boy. I beg to differ.) 

And no, some of us have a life. We live a life doing things for ourselves and not by craving a big fat wedding. 

Some of us are wired differently. But no surprises there, all the Indian weddings are just the same - a fleeting moment of blithe emotions for the reunion with your cousins, nonsensical banter, and random women (I cannot even recall them) who want you to see a good boy. And get married. Just get married. Without any second thoughts.

Sweet life!

Picture Courtesy: Indian wedding site.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Thank You For Stopping By: A Short Story

By Sunaina Patnaik at Sunday, August 10, 2014 5 comments

“There are moments when I wish I could roll back the clock and take all the sadness away, but I have the feeling that if I did, the joy would be gone as well.” 

― Nicholas SparksA Walk to Remember

It was really my fault. I have read too many fairy-tales to actually live and accept the realistic world anymore.

I could still picture that night in my head. I could feel it. Like it was happening in front of my very eyes, over and over again, tearing me apart.

He smelled of strong beer and his signature cologne--my favourite scent in the whole wide world.

As he stormed into our house, the gust of wind and heavy rain entered the house along with him. I rushed to sort the scattered papers and things in place. The wind was wild.

I looked up at him to notice that he was drenched. He did not move an inch, while I was having a tough time battling the papers against the wind. His bloodshot eyes showed no absolute hint of affection for me. I stood, looking at him, wondering what went wrong. Maybe, he is a little too drunk, I said to myself.

"We cannot do this anymore," he said, "I will move out this weekend." It was strange how he uttered those words without even looking at me, and without any iota of guilt in his voice. 

I did not see it coming. 

My three years of wedding fell apart. Life gave me a merciless surprise - a sucker punch that gave me miserable nights and dreadful mornings the following years.

It was that time in my life when I joined school again and was surviving on the funds I've saved earlier. I could not afford the rent had he left. I had loans to pay, and school fee had to be taken care of. I understood it was a wise option for me to walk out of our house, and go back to my parents'. But at that point of time, all I could think of was him! 

I could still imagine the number of questions that were playing a dirty game in my head. 

I could manage a feeble why. 

It was a mistake, he said. I cannot say anything else but sorry, he said.

"How could you do this to me?" I asked as I wept profusely.

"I love you, but we cannot do this," saying, he walked into the bedroom closing the door behind him. That night, he closed every door. He ended everything.

I never found a reason. I never got my closure. 

The weekend arrived with an endless promise of the seasonal torrential rains, and blocked roads. But I knew I had to leave. I packed my essentials, coffee maker, course books, and a box of photographs that were taken over several vacations, and of course, my wedding photographs where he and I were gushing over each other like mere teenagers.

What I left there weren't just memories, I left a part of myself there as I walked out of the apartment that day. I walked in along with him, but I left alone with perpetual distress.

Yet, I made him his favourite breakfast, had my last cup of coffee in the kitchen I loved, and left him a note that read:

Thank you for stopping by!

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