In the flesh we have never met
She’s in a veil but yet
She’s always in my mind and heart
Which distance veil age society can not part
A vision of her in the morn
Quite makes my day. I am lovelorn
Category Archives: FANTASY
In the flesh we have never met
Light, Chapter 9 of Memory, a novella
Written for Nanowrimo
We had left Boy, struggling to make sentences, lost in the labyrinth of the Queens tongue, and suddenly in the last chapter he is hunting through the classics for salacious passages. The awakening of libido can have extraordinary effects, but not quite to such miraculous levels. A curious reader who is patiently following the saga may be justifiably miffed at this bungling.
Actually it is the fault of memory, which leaps around through time and space like a performing flea, and skipped years at random. We will now try to drag him back and make him fill what gaps he can.
It all started with a birthday present in the form of a book, called the Mystery of the Invisible Thief. It was written by someone called Gnid Blyton, or so Boy thought. Struggling through it Boy was completely captivated. Little kids solving crimes that baffled adults, the banter among the children, the yummy sounding food they kept having, in all a new exciting world opened before his eyes. Solving mysteries through clues where the reader can participate in the problem was wonderful.
He soon exhausted the books by this writer in his class library, which to his disappointment was about weird toys and similar silly stuff, but Boy’s father bought him more, and got him more from a rental shop, when Boy seemed to go through them very fast. He discovered by now that the writer was a lady called Enid, and had many more stories about other kids, their pets, exciting adventures where the children got into serious trouble but escaped on their own, bringing villains to justice, exploring islands, tunnels, ruins, getting lost, having picnics, and generally having fun. The boarding school stories made him want to go to one.
This also gave him access to other books like Biggles, Billy Bunter, Jennings, Three Investigators, Hardy Boys, and others of varying merit. Boy wasn’t choosy, he devoured all. The racism of Bunter or Biggles or Sexism of Blyton didn’t bother him. In fact, he was in love with George, the tomboy.
Boy was in a peculiar situation. He could read English but could not speak it as it wasn’t the language at home. He could speak Bangla but couldn’t read it. This was the fate of most children of his circumstances. Soon, however, second language was introduced to his anglicised school. He was forced to go through a crash course in Bangla. This opened another magical world of the vast treasure house of children’s and young adult literature available in his mother tongue. Boy’s mother, a passionate reader herself, subscribed to all the children’s magazines and bequeathed her own childhood library to Boy. Sibram, Sukumar, Tenida and Ghanada became his daily companions. They had a major advantage over the English characters, as they lived in familiar circumstances and lived recognisable lives.
The other wonderful source of reading material came from the beautifully produced and extremely well written Russian children’s literature, and folk tales from around the world. His love for these stories, and familiarity with Russian names containing most of the alphabet, helped him plod through the Great Russian novelists when older. A wag claimed that other than Tolstoy himself and his proof reader, Boy was the only person to have attempted War and Peace.
Always a precocious kid, he soon started exploring his parents’ libraries. Boy’s father, seeing his obsession, had bought him a classics collection and a ten volume encyclopaedia, which kept him engrossed for hours.
Thus he was simultaneously reading Blyton and Dickens; Swift, Defoe and Perry Mason; Sukumar, Sibram and Saratchandra, Saradindu. Half understood, misunderstood, just devouring the printed word. It ruined his eyesight, his posture, his social life, and his report cards; basically did what any addiction does. But it opened a window in his life that lit it up and let in a gust of wind that blew out his blues, his fears, his loneliness, and gave him a fascinating new world.
Boy never recovered from this addiction, and paid the price for it, but it helped him recover from other worse addictions that had entrapped him while experimenting with consciousness in college.
Years later, a senior colleague once warned Boy
“You must not waste your life reading all this rubbish. You are a bright young man. Reading so much dulls the mind, and makes you sluggish.”
The cunning developed earlier in youth while hiding other even less socially accepted addictions stood him in good stead now, and he was careful to hide this embarrassing habit from his colleagues till such time as he himself reached a senior management position, and could set his own examples.
In his preteens, another lightning struck Boy. He discovered a book called Something Fresh. It hooked him from the first passage. It made him snort with laughter and caused major embarrassment. It was unputdownable.
He discovered a new magical world to escape to. This world was as fantastic as Tolkien’s, but much pleasanter. Wodehouse became his chief addiction now. He got thrown out of class for laughing out loud, while sneakily reading during lessons. It altered his language, and expanded his vocabulary to such an extent that years later, he could max the language part of CAT without trying.
He also discovered erotica. When his parents noticed that he was reading everything on the shelves, they did not apply any bans. Instead, they discreetly removed certain titles from the shelves. On noticing, Boy went on a hunt and found them nestling in the clothes cupboards. Intrigued, he investigated, and found a treasure trove of forbidden stuff.
The other source of such searing material was hiding in plain sight, in the form of translations from Sanskrit and Persian texts, Omar Khayyam, Kalidasa, Jaydev, Chandidas, and the great epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. Quite by accident, in his insatiable search for stories, Boy stumbled upon these hidden gems. What was more, it was done in exquisite style. Thus it was that his emerging libido helped Boy get a thorough grounding in the classics, as well as earn him a reputation as a devout boy who read religious literature for fun.
This quest for stories took Boy to the next logical step, that of attempting to write some himself. But that we shall save for another day, for the patient and persistent reader.
Copyright(c) soumya mukherjee
Sex. Chapter 8 of Memory, a Novella
Written for Nanowrimo
As my favourite sociologist, George Mikas once said, the continentals have sex; the British have the hot water bottle.
I do not know if this is true, but young boys in Boy’s socio cultural milieu, at least in those days, did not have sex, often did not know about it, or had very dubious notions about it.
Boy’s situation was no better. And a little understood childhood trauma added to the confusion. Having spent a considerable time in the company of the help, he probably picked up some colourful language, and the vernacular terminology for certain parts of the anatomy. He learnt that these words elicit furtive giggles, and, being soft in the head no doubt, had repeated them in company. The reaction was not funny. His mother cried, and then reported the matter to his father. His father, with a grim face, enquired about the source of his remarkable general knowledge. The little tattles tale promptly spilt the beans, and witnessed a scene that shook him.
His normally serious and gentle father looked like the pictures of demons in his illustrated Ramayana.
“I will cut you to pieces and bury you here!”he roared at the unfortunate domestic worker.
It was not supposed to be in Boy’s presence, but as his curious mom was peeping to see, so was he. These transformations of his dad shook him, and it was hard wired to his brain that use of certain words have disastrous consequences. As a result, he could not utter profanities in the vernacular ever again.
Years later, during his teen days, this quirk in his character quite naturally was considered the hallmark of a wimp by his fellow adolescents, who expressed their machismo through frequent reference to genitalia, and punctuating their language with obscenities.
Boy was studying in an eminent catholic boys’ school known for great academic successes, and iron discipline. Therefore, Boy was exposed to a collection of highly imaginative and prurient minds. He vaguely followed the smutty discussions, but clearly understood the furtive sniggering.
They were yet to reach puberty, but his cronies seemed to have a vast storehouse of what seemed to him highly improbable facts of life. There was no where he could countercheck this information. Books he could access were equally vague on the subject. Asking anyone at home was too outlandish an idea even to occur to his mind.
Finally a classmate whose parents were doctors and who accordingly claimed authentic information on this taboo subject; smuggled in an elder sibling’s biology textbook, revealing the horrific facts about procreation. Boy’s reaction was of revulsion, then shock at the idea that even he came into being through such sordid mechanics. But then he consoled himself,
“This must be the artificial way that evil people use, and can’t be the only way. There must be a good way, where you can perhaps pray for a child, which respectable people like my parents used”
The junior section had lady teachers, many of them very young, and quite pretty. Boy, like most of his classmates, had many strong crushes, and gazed at them with rapt attention. But now, with this horrific knowledge weighing down on his mind, was wracked with guilt, and could hardly look at them without getting warm under the collar.
Smutty jokes he had heard earlier and laughed along with everybody without understanding, suddenly became clearer and filled him with revulsion.
Puberty struck, with its army of raging hormones. Revulsion and curiosity battled within him.
Boy’s school had a ‘sister’ school, who shared their auditorium. When the young ladies visited his school, the boys were confined to classrooms, caged like wild animals, probably with good justification. The boys hung out of the window and howled like beasts, the only way these hormone crazed frustrated souls could express their admiration. Earlier, Boy kept himself aloof, feeling disgusted. Nowadays, he would sometimes try to sneak a look.
Finally, Boy went for solutions to the one source that he had complete faith in, books. Ever since learning to read, Boy had been voraciously and indiscriminately devouring anything available in print.
But the literature on this taboo subject was not available either at home or school library, and although his book for hire shop had such matter in brown covers, he neither had the money or the nerve to ask for them.
These books were in circulation amongst the students, and the tattered crumpled and stained copies were in great demand, especially the ones with pictures. That the language was Scandinavian or Malayalam did not matter, the pictures did. What little Boy could glance from his furtive peeping over shoulders, disgusted him.
This prudery, so uncharacteristic of his age group, remained with him throughout his life. The institution of ragging in college had diluted it considerably, but vestiges of this remained, earning him a reputation as a gentleman among ladies, and a pansy among guys.
The print versions he did sample, as he tried every genre of literature without discrimination, but even the immensely popular ‘Anonymous’ although rich in imagery, had grammar and style that wounded his sensitive literary soul.
Then he hit pay dirt in his home and school library. The classics had erotic passages, the books that had been removed from the open shelves by his parents when they discovered his appetite for books had explosive chapters; and all paid great dividends on patient perusal. Harold Robbins, Samaresh Bose, Kalidasa and Valmiki, all whetted his appetite for erotica.
When elders were impressed by his immersion in the Ramayana, he was reading the description of Sita, which would have earned a ban if used in modern literature. Likewise Kalidasa provided titillation with taste, the way poor Anonymous could not dream of.
The only down side was that the relief sought in onanism prostrated him with fear. His misguided teachers in the so called sex education cum moral science class had threatened the inevitable weakness, blindness, loss of sanity and even life if one indulged themselves in such unnatural sinful pleasures. Unable to resist, he waited with dread for the just desserts of his crimes.
Fortunately, when I last heard, Boy continued to enjoy reasonable heath, corrected eyesight, and although considered eccentric, was not certifiably insane.
So Boy, unlike the Englishman, did not have the hot water bottle as a substitute for sex; he had fiction and imagination instead.
Copyright (c) soumya mukherjee
Bhima A review
There is a proverb in Bengali which says that there is nothing going on in the world that has not been spoken of in the Mahabharata. This truly all encompassing epic with its many versions, both ancient and modern continue to fascinate. We have had the story retold from Draupadi’s perspective, Krishna’s view, Karna’s eyes, and even Karna’s wives version. We have had philosophical interpretation, rational ones, even a subaltern version. The author, in his acknowledgements, has mentioned some of them. But I was missing one prom the point of view of my childhood hero, Bhima. Vikash Sing has finally and brilliantly filled this gap.
The book has already received rave reviews from the ruling tsars of the fantasy mythology genre, and quite deservingly.
As the subtitle of the book puts it, Bhima was the man in the shadows. The strongest Pandav, often the brunt of protecting his family and risking his life for them fell on his broad shoulders. The glory was hogged by his glamorous brother Arjun, the power by his wimpy brother Yudhistir, while he remained in the shadows.
The book focuses on those incidents of the Mahabharata where Bhima plays starring role, the poisoning, the slaying of Bakasura , Hidimba , Jarasandh, and Kichak, rescuing Draupadi from Jayadrath, the encounter with Hanuman, the quest for the celestial flowers, and later, in the war, the keeping of his vow by destroying the Kaurava brothers, with particularly gory end of Dushasan and the literally below the belt finish to the duel with Duryodan.
Thus it was he who avenged Draupadi’s humiliation and single handed eliminated all possible rivals to the throne, mostly in single hand to hand combat. Yet his role in keeping the family alive and winning the war is lost in the paeans sung to the duplicitous Krishna, or the vacillating Arjun.
His tragedy was particularly poignant in that he was the one who truly loved Draupadi, and protected and cared for her always. He was the only one among her five husbands not to take other wives , and who avenged Draupadi’s personal insults in the war and earlier during their exile. His fight was not to recover their kingdom or serve any noble person, but to help the woman he loved. And all along, this woman loves his brother.
In the end too, he eschews heaven to keep Draupadi company till the very end when she falls by the wayside during their trek to heaven.
The author has played around with the more traditional versions for the sake of the plot, but that is justified literary licence.
He also attempts to rationalise on the Devas, surrogate dads and Daivi Ashtras or WMDs by using Erik Danikens theory that the Devas are extra terrestrials.
I recommend that fans of mythology, fantasy or fanfics must give this a try, and those not into this genre, to try something new, and this may be a good introduction.