Recently I started reading Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. Each book is well written, and the characters strong and memorable, the tales themselves grand. The series itself vies with the Mahabharata, considered by most Indians to be the greatest epic. One thing I noticed time and again is the number of similarities, echoes, as it were, of tales from elsewhere, books and movies. By itself, it might seem like a weakness, but no! It is a strength, for each echo strengthens the feeling that the tale is your own experience long forgotten, from a different life perhaps, for it is familiar and yet strange. Perhaps like the feeling Birgitte Silverbow has for the memories of each of her adventures with Gaidal Cain.
We saw a recent lecture series on club loyalty. I believe that those fans who abandon their club when they are down don’t understand the core point of football, or any team game, or any game, for that matter. I admire Barca, not for their style of play, but for the sheer talent and skill some of their players have. I admire Royal Madrid, because of the impunity with which they play Fantasy Football. I admire Manchester United, because they have grit. I admire Tottenham Hotspur, because they fought to grow out of the shadow of their neighbours and succeeded.
Over time, I have changed my position regarding the existence of god(s). From apathy (‘Don’t know, don’t care’), to disbelief (atheism) to doubt (agnosticism). I have heard many accounts of god(s), from the ‘universe, then god’ (like the ancient Greeks’) to ‘god, then universe’ (most other accounts), from single god (Christianity, Judaism, Islam) to many gods (Hinduism, the Egyptian pantheon). The problem exists, in my opinion, specifically in the proof (or lack thereof) of the existence of gods. For the purposes of this article, let us consider a few things as given:
It has been a long time since I first read the novels which affected me the most strongly: Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, Crime and Punishment, War and Peace, Great Expectations, David Copperfield, One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Ivanhoe and Gone with the Wind. The first two I read when I was ten years old, or thereabouts; the last, Gone with the Wind, three or four years ago. Since then, I’ve read a few books, but none which created impressions as deep as they have. So much so, that I’d come to doubt whether I would meet anybody as kind and as good as Melanie Wilkes, or anyone as terrible as Dorian Gray. I felt that I wouldn’t meet any love as strong as the love between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, or the love for Scarlet that Rhett had. Women like Jane Eyre, or Countess Natasha Rostova, or Agnes Wickfield, or Scarlet O’Hara are rarely met with. But a lot of things changed when I decided to correct a mistake that I had made, since I had never got a chance to read Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables, having read The Hunchback of Notre-Dame years ago as an abridged version (curse those monstrosities, they rob us of a great deal!). So when I chanced upon a Penguin Classics edition of Les Misérables, a 1976 translation by Norman Denny, I seized it without a second thought.
In my days at IITG, I have often been asked where I hail from. Somehow, I never am sure how to answer it. Consider: I was born in Kerala, I stay in a town called Kalyan, in Maharashtra, and am studying here in Guwahati, Assam. Should I say, I am from Kalyan, where I stay, and which no one will recognise, or should I say I am from Bombay (or Mumbai), which people will recognise? Or should I say that I am from Kerala, where I was, in fact, born? Each answer means different things, and I would often be in a quandary as to which meaning I should choose.