Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Eat Pray Love - Elizabeth Gilbert

The first I ever heard of Eat Pray Love was when the Julia Roberts movie came out back in 2010. Though I generally like romcom movies, the trailers weren't particularly appealing, and I didn't watch the movie. I knew that the movie was based on a book, but I had no intention of reading it. When it comes to books, the whole romcom genre is something I can't handle.

But sometime last year, I read an interview with the author, Elizabeth Gilbert. The interview was part of the promotion campaign for her latest book, The Signature of All Things and it made her seem fairly intelligent and common-sensical. So I thought that maybe I'd been mistaken in dismissing Eat Pray Love as a mere romcom. And I decided to try the book. 

The result in three short words? Biggest. Mistake. Ever. I should've just stuck to my original snap judgement.

Eat Pray Love describes a year in Gilbert's life. Some time after a divorce in her early thirties, she decides to take a year off from normal life and spend four months each in three different countries around the world. She spends the first four months in Italy, learning Italian and eating a lot of pasta. The next four months are spent in an ashram in India, meditating and whining about how depressed she is. The final four months are spent in Bali, where she ends up falling in love with a Brazilian guy. Does the book cover make sense now?

Why did I dislike the book so much? Well, mostly because of her sheer whining. 

Her divorce has made her SO depressed. Yeah, because SHE didn't leave HIM. And because it HASN'T been two years since the divorce, during which she's had another relationship as well.

She'll NEVER find another man. Nobody loves her. Yeah, because she's not a pretty white woman with a successful writing career and enough money to spend a year traveling around the world. 

I'm usually sympathetic to fellow women in distress, but reading this book, all I could think was, "Get over it already!" The heavy dose of pop spirituality in the India section of the book didn't help either. She goes on and on about meditation and kundalini shakti and what not. It was so terrible it was funny. And then later it stopped being even that. (Here's an interesting article on Gilbert's spiritual guru.)

The only parts of the book I enjoyed were the later chapters in the Italy section (where she finally decides to get off her ass and explore Italy), and her initial explorations in Bali (before the Brazilian guy comes into the picture).

And now comes the contradictory bit. Despite not liking this book, I'm in two minds on whether to try her next book. The thing is - Gilbert can write well. The good writing is visible in bits and pieces amidst all the whining and the crying. And the second book (Committed) sounds promising - an investigation into how the whole concept of marriage is seen around the world, inspired by her imminent marriage to the Brazilian guy.

Maybe she'll be tolerable if she whines less? Watch this space to find out.
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Monday, May 05, 2014

Nilanjana Roy's The Wildlings

I picked up The Wildlings quite by chance at the library the other day. I'd heard about it and read Jai Arjun Singh's review, so when I saw it on the 'Just Returned' shelf, I picked it up immediately.

When I got home, I sampled the book to decide which of my two library books I should read first. Before I knew it, I'd read fifty pages. Yes, it's THAT engrossing.

The Wildlings is about a world that exists in and around our own - the world of the cats in our neighbourhoods. The Wildlings is a clan of cats that lives in Nizamuddin in Delhi. Each cat in the clan has its own distinct personality - there's Katar the leader, Baraal the fierce queen, Miao the wise Siamese, Hulo the warrior tom, Southpaw the kitten and - the latest entrant - Mara the Sender. 

The book starts with Mara's arrival in Nizamuddin. She's a Sender, which means she can broadcast her thoughts to other cats across large distances. The arrival of a Sender generally means troubled times ahead for the clan, and it's no different this time. 

Though Mara is the Sender, she is by no means the main protagonist. Every cat in the clan gets its own stage time and its own role. My favourite was Southpaw the kitten, who just can't seem to keep himself out of trouble. Other small animals are also introduced - a mongoose named Kirri, a tiger family named Ozzy and Rani and Rudra, a cheel named Tooth.  

Simple language and sheer imagination make this book a great read. Adding to the atmosphere are the wonderful illustrations of the cats. Roy also seems to have had fun with the animal names. My favourites were the Supreme Court cats named Affit and Davit, a mouse named Jethro Tail, squirrels named Ao and Jao. 

By the way, lest the cats make you think that this is a book for children, be warned - it's most definitely not, at least for younger children. There's plenty of violence and death in it, especially towards the end. 

The book ends on a note that indicates that there's a sequel coming - I fervently hope that's true, because I can't wait to read more about these cats.
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Sunday, May 04, 2014

Z is for Zipping it all Together

This post is part of the AtoZChallenge, which I'm doing on my recent trip to Siem Reap in Cambodia.

I've written the twenty-five posts of the AtoZChallenge in no particular order. This post aims to put them all together in chronological order so that it makes sense to anybody who's planning to visit Cambodia.

Day 0:

Day 1:

We visited Angkor Wat first - getting up early to catch the sunrise there. After 3-4 hours there, we moved on to Angkor Thom and were greeted by its majestic gates. Inside Angkor Thom, the first temple we visited was Bayon, right in the center of the city. Next up was Baphuon temple, followed by the Royal Palace Group (the Royal Palace itself, the Elephant Terrace, the Leper King's Terrace, Preah Paliley, etc). After a bite of lunch, we left Angkor Thom by the East Gate and visited two smaller temples - Chao Say Tevada and Thommanon. Next up was Ta Keo, followed by the awe-inspiring Ta Prohm. After Ta Prohm, we moved on to the beautiful Banteah Kdei. Outside the eastern gopura of Banteah Kdei, we rested for a while on the shores of Srah Srang. We ended the day with a visit to Prasat Kravan and then drove back to Siem Reap.

Day 2:

The first temple on our route was the sandstone temple Pre Rup. After that, we drove almost 45 minutes to the beautiful miniature temple of Banteay Srei. It was there that we discovered which Hindu God guards which direction. On our return journey from Banteay Srei, we made a rewarding stop at the Landmine Museum. East Mabon was the next temple on the list, followed by the small Ta Som (a smaller version of Ta Prohm). Next was the eerie Neak Pean, followed by the astoundingly large erstwhile Buddhist University, Preah Khan

Day 3: 

We visited the Ruolous group of temples in the morning. From there, we went off to the Floating Village of Kompong Pluk and Lake Tonle Sap. After the energy-sapping visit, we went shopping at the Old Market

During those three days, the book Ancient Angkors was our tour guide. We got around by tuk-tuk, and had an interesting variety of food. We met hardly any Indians. We suffered under the punishing heat, but got through by buying a lot of water with our USD. We might have made a few bloopers along the way, but we survived. 
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