Sunday, October 28, 2007

In Search of Stereotypes

This is inspired by an earlier entry on male stereotypes in literature . I decided to make an attempt in unearthing female stereotypes in literature. I was particularly struck by the common thread of suffering borne by most women in classical literature.Here are some of the usual suspects.

The plain and poor sufferer who lands the jackpot: You can find her in the likes of 'Jane Eyre'. It seems almost necessary that such women should be orphans with cruel aunts.Fortunately a simple twist of fate(and tonnes of good karma) is enough to turn a penurious plain Jane into a wealthy benefactress with a rich husband.

The pretty sufferer who continues to suffer: It seems cruel that classic writers should make all the pretty ones suffer but it happens all the time. 'The Beautiful and the Damned' don't belong to any economic class in particular. I found several of this kind in the typical Thomas Hardy novel.Catherine from 'Wuthering Heights' falls safely into this stereotype and so does Daisy from 'The Great Gatsby'.Classic writers have a tendency to make beautiful rebels the epitome of suffering.As though to imply,'all who rebel must suffer'.

The naive neophyte: You can find her in almost any piece of Victorian or post-Victorian satire. She is a young socialite with plenty of misplaced wit and an equal amount of charm to make up for it.She is not well read but is educated enough to make intelligent sounding conversation.She is talented enough to sing,play the piano,embroider and give the most charming tea parties. She usually has impeccable taste in clothes, accessories and men. The naive neophyte is however a threat to the general mental well being of society. Her little social experiments tend to create more of a stir than necessary. She learns, in more embarrassing ways than one, to exercise some restraint on her creativity.

The haughty socialite: Another regular like the previous stereotype. She comes with a rather vulgar inheritance, has all the dandies trailing behind her, is uncommonly beautiful and above all things a Victorian snob. Victorian literature can be quite unyielding to all its lovely suffering ladies. Several of them tend to lose their lovers to the claws of the haughty socialite.

The courtesan aka the mistress: Ever so often, men like to keep mistresses. Men of royal descent tend to satisfy themselves with courtesans while lesser royals and others alike have the pleasure of keeping mistresses. The 'other woman' also suffers in silence as she makes up for the 'deficiencies of the wife'. She is showered with dresses, trinkets and an enviable allowance but never a wedding ring. In most cases such women end up as retired recluses who train other unfortunate women to do exactly the same.

Whoever said it was easy being a woman?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

When Divas Meditate

There came a fine fateful day,
The air was fresh and light.
There was a diva ,looking over the sunny bay,
Feeling overly righteous and upright.

How calm, how blissful,she wondered aloud
The saint in her conscience scaling new heights.
How vile,she thought,it is to cloud
One's divinity with earthly delights.

Then there came a tidal wave;
Splashing,raging without remorse.
Her silken stockings the diva couldn't save
And all benevolence lost its momentary recourse.

Woe of woes to them, who forfeit reason
So they may live to be unreasonable.
Woe of woes to the diva who revels in treason
So she may appear fashionable.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Clingy Rant

When I consider my past,
I see old time as I'd recall reverie,
The fading shadow of an old flag mast.
I try to embrace time;
Till it is entwined,never to be free
From the dreary swing of clock chime.
I wander with my life's silhouette,
Trailing behind all that is left of me
In a melancholy duet.
I deny that I am deprived
The luxury of longevity,
And that, all these years,only time has survived.

For the sake of Posterity

You Should Be A Poet

You craft words well, in creative and unexpected ways.
And you have a great talent for evoking beautiful imagery...
Or describing the most intense heartbreak ever.
You're already naturally a poet, even if you've never written a poem.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Moral of the Story

I remember my good old kindergarten days when the teacher would narrate one of Aesop's fables and ask us to figure out the 'moral of the story'. At present, I object most passionately to the use of the word 'moral' in the context of literature. In my opinion some of the best literature, irrespective of language, thrives on several instances of immorality. Nevertheless, for the sake of nostalgia, I shall write about things we can learn from the following books.

Name of the book: 'Three Men in a Boat(to say nothing of the dog)'
Moral: It is never a bad idea for a hypochondriac to go on an 'idyllic' vacation along the river Thames(with his dog) to discover that he is actually fit as a fiddle.

Name of the book: 'Love in the time of Cholera'
Moral: No matter how many 'flings' a man may choose to have over a period of four decades, he can never get enough of his now married childhood sweetheart.

Name of the book: 'Jane Eyre'
Moral: Calamity forces opposites to attract. The almost penniless,kind hearted and plain looking heroine will always end up with the wealthy but bestial protagonist.

Name of the book:'Lady Chatterley's Lover'
Moral: Aristocratic ladies unhappily married to crippled war veterans are likely to elope with rustic but 'hunky' game keepers.

Name of the book: 'The Good Earth'
Moral: The younger generation will gladly dump the one thing that the older generation strives to protect.

Name of the book: 'The Great Gatsby'
Moral: Never admit to a crime your former lover committed, whatever is left of the affair is destined for doom.

That's all for now little ones. A moral a day keeps the censor board at bay.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Closer to Death: An Old Obsession

There was a time when I tried very hard,with little success, to be an angst ridden teenager. My sense of rebellion sprung out of nowhere; completely lacking impetus and purpose. At thirteen, I avoided school activities as a part of my 'Rebel Without a Cause' agenda. I would come back home,while a lot of other kids stayed back at school, and attempt to write 'dark' (to be swallowed with a pinch of salt) poetry (the kind that rhymed badly).

I read a lot of articles on psychology, philosophy and spirituality. I claimed at the the time to have understood all that I read (a tall claim that my twenty-something self will gladly contest). At fourteen, I joined the school choir; the 'darkness' subsided and the rhythm was less offensive. The angst mellowed and I felt 'empty' as I didn't have a worthy source of motivation.

Come sweet sixteen, and yours truly was a high school musical actress with a brand new obsession; death! Emily Dickenson personified a gentleman with great 'civility' in her poem 'Because I Could Not Stop for Death'. 'Death be not Proud' proclaimed John Donne in his sonnet to death. 'Do not go gentle..' said Dylan Thomas in a poem dedicated to his father. It is interesting to know that the stead of the Hindu God of Death, Yama, is a dog (my favourite mammal). I was quite taken by idea of two distinct possibilities; one of immortality and the other of temporary uncertainty(better known as mortality).I pondered and bickered, I personified and glorified, I wrote and scribbled till the day I had enough.

I never have and probably never will write a verse on death. (There is a catch; I am too fickle minded to make assertive statements.) I prefer life and I love being a diva!

P.S. : If my readers wish, I can post corrected and less embarrassing versions of some of the 'dark' poetry (if I am able to locate the manuscripts stashed away in shame).

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

A Vacation in Divaland : Why it never Happens

Jerome K. Jerome has inspired many a soul in Divaland to attempt a vacation of the 'Three Men in a Boat' type. Except that the people in Divaland are more conscientious of the choices they make being the control freaks that they are. Since Divaland exists in my head and so do all its citizens, I take sole responsibility for this fictitious piece of not-so-wishful thinking.

The proposed vacation will be taken on the banks of a secluded lake. Since I don't own a boat, I will drive to the spot.

List of things(and creatures) to be taken(assuming that the car has enough room for all of them)

Two dogs(at least)
A waterproof tent
A novel
A portable gas stove
A portable oven
A bag of pasta
A bag of vegetables
A chunk of cheese
Crockery and cutlery
A sketchbook
A decent supply of pencils,erasers and pencil sharpeners
A box of watercolours and brushes of all sizes
The new eau de toilet collection
A blanket and mattress
Insect repellent and a rat trap
A supply of dog food and toys

Fatalism: why it always fails

The dogs tend to get sick of eating dog food after a day or two.They start to realize that 'human food' and the human way of living is far more gratifying than anything characteristically canine. The dogs will go on an indefinite hunger strike till restored to their original state with a dose of macaroni and cheese. Cooking on a portable stove is not that pleasant. One can only cook a small bit at a time. The kitchen equipment tends to get a little tedious and the diva can hardly show off her prowess as a star chef.

The portable oven is never of any use as there isn't enough battery supply to bake anything.(One must never risk using the car battery for one's culinary needs.)The eau de toilet, the novel and the sketchbook are probably the only things that offer comfort to a diva stranded by a lake with two uncooperative dogs. As if that weren't enough;I haven't mentioned the perils of transporting the dogs and all the equipment to the vacation site.

At the end of all this consideration one realizes that pure bliss can be found in the comfort of one's own backyard on any day of the week and at any time of the day. Even the dogs seem to agree!

Moral of the story- No wonder people in Divaland have such nice backyards!

Updates From the Reading Room

It all happened the day after my birthday. I was out with a close friend and happened to stumble upon one of my favourite book stores(entirely on purpose). I was elated to see a clearance sale going on, so I marched in after having convinced my friend that it would be a great way to relax. I narrowed my choices down to 'The Diaries' of Kafka and 'Three Men in a Boat' by Jerome K. Jerome. I picked the latter(it is the appropriate choice for a girl who just got older).

'Three Men in a Boat' is about three dysfunctional men who decide to go on a trip to relieve themselves of the many tribulations of life. They take along a dog named 'Montmorency' and a lot of other paraphernalia on a boat for an idyllic week along the Thames. The book chronicles the entire 'vacation' from its conception to every last glitch and disaster. The author claims that it is based on incidents that actually took place. 'Three Men in a Boat,by the author's own admission, isn't endowed with literary brilliance or excessive verbosity. It scores because of the writer's excellent sense of satire and fatalism. The book is timeless in its appeal and is here to leave yet another generation of readers in splits.

Reading statistics:
pages read-122
pages left-101

Instances of inspiration: The book inspires people in Divaland to go on idyllic vacations with their dogs.