Tagged: Excerpts

A Belated Post for Independence Day

“I am convinced that everything has come down to us from the banks of the Ganges, – astronomy, astrology, metempsychosis, etc. It is very important to note that some 2,500 years ago at the least Pythagoras went from Samos to the Ganges to learn geometry…But he would certainly not have undertaken such a strange journey had the reputation of the Brahmins’ science not been long established in Europe.”
Voltaire

For a country which had a united, glorious and flourishing civilization for several millennia before it was enslaved for eight hundred years, seventy years of independence is not so much an anniversary of nationhood as a time to reflect on how far we have recovered from the many wounds inflicted on the nation by the invaders who not only enslaved its people and looted its treasures but also disfigured its historical places and distorted its history. Seventy years after independence, it is wonderful to see my country shining, prospering, and marching towards the place it once held at the helm of the world’s economy, culture, and education.

Glimpses of India in the Bard’s work portray the country as a prosperous land of gold and precious stones and pearls and sunshine, of proud people who worship the sun and beautiful veiled women, impressions that echo in the work of other writers and travellers to India through millennia…aberrations like Burnett’s racist slur in literature started only about a century ago, and now the pseudo-liberals continue their work, trying to portray the country in a poor light in both literature and the mass media.

Someone mentioned during a dinner conversation a while ago about how they thought that the concept of patriotism was outdated in present times. But I like the quiet pride that shines in my English, Irish, Kenyan and Canadian friends’ eyes as they talk about their countries. It mirrors my love for my own nation, coming as I do from a family of freedom fighters, with a great Uncle who once fought the British with his poetry. I wished I could tell the person who called patriotism outdated that everyone should have the freedom to love their country and to say so. It is only when we feel secure in the love of our own family that we tend to accept and respect others more easily, and adapt better to a united society. Breathes there the man with soul so dead, etc. as a good Scot once wrote.
Jai Hind!

A short related excerpt from The Reengineers.

Arun’s lecture on the last working day of class ten had revolved around his favourite topic: India.

‘How many of you respect the Indian national flag? The national anthem? How many of you actually stand up when it is sung?’

I raised my hand automatically, so did Sabi. Hearing furtive giggles, I turned around and found to my horror that in a class of forty students, only the two of us had our hands up. Anu was frantically gesturing to me to drop my hand. I did so, puzzled and hurt.
Arun did not look surprised. He continued, ‘Now this question would have evoked a totally different reaction in classrooms in countries such as the UK or Japan. They have an intrinsic sense of national pride that is lacking in India. Not surprising, as it has only been forty-four years since we got our independence.’
I looked down into my book, wishing I could hide within its pages. My love for my country had turned me into a bigger freak than I already was in the classroom.

What did it mean to love one’s country anyway?
Much like the farmers who enthusiastically cheered for Mother India when Jawaharlal Nehru addressed them but were dumbstruck when he asked them who exactly they thought Mother India was, I had no answer. To me, patriotism was the joy I experienced while reading the poems of Subramaniya Bharati, Uncle RK, and Rabindranath Tagore. It was my pride in singing the national anthem and saluting the tricolour unfurled in the school assembly on Monday mornings. It was the lump in my throat when I watched songs like ‘The fertile earth of my country that brings forth gold, diamonds and pearls’ and ‘I am a little soldier of the nation. Say with me, Jai Hind’ on TV. It was the anger and resentment I felt when my mother told me not to get too friendly with Anu as he was not a Brahmin or with Sabi as she was not ‘one of us’ but a north Indian.

Excerpt with permission from HarperCollins Publishers India from The Reengineers by Indu Muralidharan

On Independence Day

Happy Independence Day to all my fellow Indians. Someone told me recently that they thought the concept of patriotism was outdated in present times, when almost everyone is part of a global community in some way. I disagreed politely. I like the quiet pride that shines in my English, Irish, Canadian or Italian friends’ eyes as they talk about their respective countries, which mirrors my love for my own nation. For it is only when we feel secure in the love of our own family that we tend to accept and respect others more easily, and adapt better to society, whether it is the immediate society around us or the wider, global community. Everyone should have the freedom to love their own country, and to say that they do. Breathes there the man with soul so dead, etc. as a good Scot once wrote.

In The Reengineers, young Chinmay wonders about patriotism and what it meant to him, among other things. There is a scene in which he watches this song on television, which portrays the optimism that prevailed in the country in the decades that immediately followed independence.

Here is a short excerpt from The Reengineers in which Chinmay and friends discuss what patriotism meant to them, teenagers of the nineties.

Excerpt with permission from HarperCollins Publishers India from The Reengineers by Indu Muralidharan

Arun’s lecture on the last working day of class ten had revolved around his favourite topic: India.
‘How many of you respect the Indian national flag? The national anthem? How many of you actually stand up when it is sung?’
I raised my hand in a reflex action. Sabi did the same. Hearing furtive giggles, I turned around and found, to my horror, that in a class of forty students only the two of us had our hands up. Anu was frantically gesturing to me to drop my hand. I did so, puzzled and hurt.
Arun did not look surprised. He continued, ‘Now this question would have evoked a totally different reaction in classrooms in countries such as the UK or Japan. They have an intrinsic sense of national pride that is lacking in India. Not surprising, as it has only been forty-four years since we got independence.’

I looked down into my book, wishing I could hide within its pages. My love for my country had turned me into a bigger freak than I already was in the classroom.
What did it mean to love one’s country anyway? Much like the farmers who cheered enthusiastically for Mother India when Jawaharlal Nehru addressed them but were dumbstruck when he asked them who exactly they thought Mother India was, I had no answer. To me, patriotism was the joy I experienced while reading the poems of Subramaniya Bharati, Uncle RK and Rabindranath Tagore. It was my pride in singing the national anthem and saluting the tricolour unfurled in the school assembly on Monday mornings. It was the lump in my throat when I watched songs like ‘The fertile earth of my country that brings forth gold, diamonds and pearls’ and ‘I am a little soldier of the nation. Say with me, Jai Hind’ on TV. It was the anger and resentment I felt when my mother told me not to get too friendly with Anu as he was not a Brahmin or with Sabi as she was not ‘one of us’ but a north Indian.

Sabi’s question brought back the forgotten incident and with it, the embarrassment and hurt.
‘Remember Arun’s question about respecting our national flag? Why didn’t you raise your hand?’ I asked Anu.
‘I didn’t want to be the odd one out.’
‘Why did Arun say that we have no national pride? What about the ancient verses that laud the glorious Bharat Varsha? What about our freedom fighters from various corners of the country who fought for the nation as a whole? What about Bharati and Tagore?’ I asked.
Anu raised his hands in a non-committal gesture.
‘Do we really have freedom? I would like some, please,’ Sabi said.
She got up and walked to the far end of the library. Leaning against the door, she looked at us pensively.

Excerpt with permission from HarperCollins Publishers India from The Reengineers by Indu Muralidharan

If you like literary fiction, you will love The Reengineers:
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On Writing Romance, An Excerpt and A Song

In a recent interview for a blog tour, I was asked if there was were any love scenes in The Reengineers, and if any of my forthcoming books had romance in them.

The premise of The Reengineers is the realisation that one has the freedom to live on one’s own terms. This awareness of freedom, the feeling of being in control of your life, is the foremost need of any human being. Everything else, including love, comes only next to it. However, this being the coming of age story of a fifteen-year-old boy, there are references to love and romance. Here is a short excerpt.

Excerpt with permission from HarperCollins Publishers India from the book The Reengineers by Indu Muralidharan

Something strange and sweet was stirring in the air. Raji had drawn the window shades and the overhead lamps cast a muted golden glow around the room. On the screen, Joy Mukherjee was singing to Helen in the rain: ‘Raat nikhri huyi, zulf bhikri huyi …’

A song about a date with a girl who was as charming as a flowering tree in bloom, on a night so beautiful that it appeared to blush. About how he wished that the night would go on and on. Joy was shirtless, purely out of chivalry. Helen wore his shirt with a grace that made her unrecognizable as the vamp of so many sizzling dances. With wet hair hanging in curls about her face, she exuded the innocence of the girl-next-door who looked up trustingly at the handsome hero. There was no trace of lust on Joy’s face. He was the decent young man who sang tenderly to his girl that the night should never make way for the dawn. And then escorted her safely home afterwards. They hardly came within two feet of each other, but from the way they looked and smiled and sang to each other, first love flowed out of the TV and swirled about, bringing spring into Aunt Kalyani’s living room.

It continued to permeate the room even after the song was over and Joy had presumably dropped Helen home. But, this time, the sweetness arose from Kailash and Charu. Even without looking at them, one could sense how aware they were of each other’s presence even as they talked to other people. A rude voice in my head started chiding me, telling me I wasn’t old enough to think of such things. I ignored it and it shut up immediately.

How would it feel to be married, I wondered. What if I got married to—I stopped my thoughts there. I had many exams to pass before that. Besides, I wanted to sing a few songs to a girl first, a real girl with whom I would have a real relationship. At that moment, I became aware of the nature of my feelings for Sonia. It was her boldness that had fascinated me and now that I could stand up and speak for myself, the halo around her vanished. What remained was a mild attraction that I saw for what it was: a simple teenage crush.

I thought of the summer that lay ahead, of the farewell party for the seniors. We would present them with a giant card with tearful bears holding up a banner that said, ‘Missing you guys will be too hard to bear’. On that day, when the festive confetti flying around made little chinks in the invisible walls that separated the seniors from the juniors, I would talk to Sonia. I knew that nothing would come out of it, but I would still talk to her. I might tell her that throw ball matches would never be the same again. I might get her autograph. I might never contact her. I might forget her. I might remember her. I might meet her after many years. But I would talk to her on one of those long, summer afternoons before she left school.

The thought made me smile.

Excerpt with permission from HarperCollins Publishers India from the book The Reengineers by Indu Muralidharan

Here is a link to the song that is referred to in the excerpt.The comfort level between the lovers is endearing, especially as the film implies that the intimacy in their relationship is limited to holding hands and innocent dates like the ones shown in the song.  The gentleness of the interactions between them is not something one gets to see in the movies anymore.

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An Ideal Boy

I was delighted to come across this hilarious vintage poster of ‘An Ideal Boy’ which was shared by the facebook page ‘You Know You Grew Up in India in the 90s When…’. I love dipping occasionally into the nostagic photographs and memories of India in the eighties and nineties that are shared on this page. I have great affection for that lost period of time during which we did not have internet or mobile phones or even cable TV but life was inexplicably more richer and had a magical quality to it.

The Author and The Hero unfolds over a period of a day and an hour that begins and ends in Madras as Chennai was known then, in March 1991, in those days ‘when life was lucidly defined in glorious shades of black and white, when the world was a relatively simpler place where time flowed at a slower, gentle pace’. Though the novel begins and ends in that time and place in a beloved old library in a poet’s house in a Madras suburb, the rest of the story is set in more recent times in the fictional town of Conchpore.

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Image Courtesy: Facebook Group https://www.facebook.com/pages/You-Know-You-Grew-Up-in-India-in-the-90s-When/111238285575528

This poster along with similar collages that showed scientists and their inventions, places of historic interest and the unity in diversity of the people of India, all of which were labelled in both English and Hindi formed the main wall decor of our primary school classrooms.

I have mentioned this ideal boy poster in The Author and The Hero. As a teenager growing up in a closed, old fashioned environment, Chinmay is confused about why his parents expect him to be an ‘ideal boy’, especially when they are far from being ideal parents.

Here are two short excerpts from the novel in this context:

“The red mosaic covered steps along the long corridor outside the school library held some of the most memorable moments of the first fourteen years of my life. It was there that Sonia Shastri broke the handle of my water bottle. Those steps stretched across a passage screened from the playground by a thick curtain of scarlet Bougainvillea through which the sunlight fell in flower shaped patterns on the pastel pink, blue and yellow charts illustrating the uses of petroleum, the greenhouse effect, food chains and ugly posters in fluorescent colours depicting ‘First Aid Measures’ and the characteristics of ‘An Ideal Boy’. The passage led to the Chemistry lab and smelt strongly of ammonia.”

“While the universe was comprehensible at least to the scientists, why was life so difficult to comprehend? Ideal gases existed only in Chemistry textbooks, while real gases were the only kind that were. If deviating from perfection was the law of nature, why were children expected to follow all the rules? Besides, few parents follow the rules that they set for their children. Atticus Finch was an exception, perhaps the only one of his kind.”
From The Author and The Hero. (HarperCollins, December 2013)

On 1 July, I had set an optimistic target of writing a post per day throughout July. Since I missed posting through last week (once again, sickness and the day job, it happens), I have revised the target to a total of 31 posts in July.