"It is difficult to square up the frail man in loosely fitting blue trousers held up by braces and living in virtual seclusion in Turkey with the generals who once commanded Mughal armies hundreds of the strong." - John Zubrzycki, The Last Nizam
This nonfiction book tells a story more bizarre than anything a fiction writer could dream up. "Though he had lived in villas, palaces and expensive hotel suites for most of his life, Jah cared little for the discomfort. He was outdoors most of the time, driving his dozers into the desert." And at times, from the bizarre, it descends into the ridiculous. "In the Protocol Department Jah learned about seating arrangements at state banquets, the procedures to be followed in welcoming foreign dignitaries and how to secretly serve scotch in tea cups to Muslim heads of state. He counts among his greatest achievements crawling behind a dais to refasten a safety pin onto the lungyi of Burmese Prime Minister, U Nu, while he was giving a speech, without the audience noticing." - John Zubrzycki, The Last Nizam.
It's nearly two in the morning and it's finally quiet in the yellow room of the Emergency here at NYGH. The gentleman who was puking earlier is now asleep, and the baby who was crying, is already inside, and hopefully being taken care of. My baby is dozing with her head on my shoulder.
I hate hospitals, but this one, as terrible a place as it is, feels familiar to me because of all the time spent here over the past twenty two years of living in Toronto. I have been to this Emergency unit so many times, mostly accompanying others, but sometimes for myself as well. While the rest of the hospital is almost welcoming in appearance, the Emergency unit looks bare, efficient. The gray linoleum floor, the bizarrely coloured walls. I wonder who picks the colour scheme for this place.
The yellow waiting room is now almost empty. Lots of people have disappeared within the bowels of the beast. Another one has been called in, the nurse asking loudly if the lady has provided the urine sample. In hospital, the inner, private working of our body becomes public business.
But sitting in this room tonight, I have seen love. The affection with which a husband patted and kissed his wife, the way a man wrapped a blanket around the lady he had brought in, the concern with which an elderly gentleman jumps up each time his partner as much as moves.
Also though in the same room, is loneliness. The elderly lady brought in by paramedics wiping away her own tears. The mom who is here with her crying baby girl, her partner in the room, but seemingly miles away from the entire scene.
I wonder at how much life passes through this room every single day. I wonder at how much life will continue to pass through this room even after the three of us leave this morning. I wonder at how many other parents will sit on these chairs waiting beside their child and how many men and women will attend to their partners within these walls, and how many people will be brought in by paramedics and left alone to wipe away their own tears. I wonder if that old person will be me.
@unwildrumpus , this one is mainly for you, and one that I have wanted to ask you for a while now: Who are your most beloved writers? This could be a current affliction or a past affair, I would be happy to hear either.
I suspect you being you, are already aware of the names of my list, but here, they are again, and in no particular order of preference.
Philip Michael Ondaatje
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The common thread linking all these names, and I am certain that others will come to me after I have already posted this, is the writing. I should probably do individual posts for each of these names, except I know I have spoken of many of them here already and therefore, don't see the point of repeating myself.
@a.book.caravan, Anu, I would love to know yours as well. Which writers hold your heart?
"The first Nizam was six years old when Aurangzeb took him under his wing. Jah, the eighth and last Nizam, was even younger when his grandfather began grooming him to be his successor. But after three centuries a kingdom once the size of France has been reduced to a few hundred acres of land and handful of palaces. Slums have sprung up in the pleasure gardens where the Nizams once flaunted their wealth." - John Zubrzycki, The Last Nizam
This is my current read. My Nana's family was from Hyderabad Deccan. My maternal grandparents spent a year and a half following partition in Hyderabad, looking for my Nana's younger sister who was abducted from a train in September 1947. Their parents were killed on that train and their younger brothers survived by hiding under their bodies.
I am reading these books because I am writing about that time and place.
Photo credit: @zara_k__ Thank you!
"The failure of the subconscious was the border. The line of control did not run through 576 kilometers of militarized mountains. It ran through our souls, our hearts, and our minds. It ran through everything a Kashmiri, an Indian, and a Pakistani said, wrote, and did. It ran through the fingers of editors writing newspaper and magazine editorials, it ran through the eyes of reporters, it ran through the reels of Bollywood coming to life in dark theatres, it ran through conversations in coffee shops and on television screens showing cricket matches, it ran through families and dinner talk, it ran through whispers of lovers. And it ran through our grief, our anger, our tears, and our silence." - Basharat Peer, Curfewed Night.
Thanks @mominareads for this brilliant recommendation. I just finished reading it a minute back, but I know it will remain with me for a long, long time.
I am waiting on The Tree with a Thousand Apples by Sanchit Gupta and The Collaborator by Mirza Waheed to arrive in my mailbox.
I went a bit nuts this weekend and also ordered The Days of the Beloved by H.R. Lynton & M. Rajan, The Indian Army and the End of the Taj by Daniel Marston, and the Farthest Field by Raghu Karnad.
I am not really sure what all these books are going to do to my state of mind. Hoping that they don't all send me reeling the way this one did. But then again, that is what any good book should do to a person, so I will just brace myself for impact.
"Grandfather fixed his watery green eyes on me. 'How do you think this old man can deal with your death?' he said. His words hit me like rain on a winter morning." - Basharat Peer, Curfewed Night
It's well past midnight, and I decided to read because I couldn't sleep, and now, I can't sleep because of what I have read.
The doctor who treated a sixteen-year-old boy
Recently released from an interrogation centre asked,
"Why didn't the fortune tellers predict
The lines in his palms would be cut by a knife?"- Agha Shahid Ali
A World of Love by Elizabeth Bowen is a short book, but packed with so much; a marriage struggling under the shadow of a lover long dead, the effect that man has on both the women who loved him, and how his love letters discovered in the attic years later by the daughter of one those women throws an already troubled marriage into further turmoil. I liked this book. I enjoyed Bowen's language, her attention to detail, and the wonderfully distinct characters she created.
Thanks @a.book.caravan for gifting this one to me.
I am writing a novel inspired by my Nani (maternal grandmother's life). I have been writing and rewriting this book since 2016. I have one complete manuscript which I decided that I do not like and therefore discarded a while back. I have a half- completed version of the same book, but written from a completely different perspective, and now I am starting again.
This time is different. This time, I have started with a story board and a timeline. All of this week was spent mapping out the history of the Subcontinent from 1940 to 1996, the period covered by my book.
The timeline is complete and I am mentally drained, not by the hours spent mapping out the history of India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, but by how depressing this history is. I wish I could wave a wand and change the strange and twisted stories of these three separate but completely entwined countries.
The books on my beside this afternoon are different from the ones that were there this morning. I have to reread Midnight's Children. But I must also read John Zubrzycki's The Last Nizam, William Dalrymple's White Mughals, and Basharat Peer's Curfewed Night.
In addition to these books, I am desperately looking for Mir Laik Ali's Tragedy of Hyderabad and I just ordered H.R. Lynton and Mohini Rajan's The Days of the Beloved.
How I wish there were extra hours in a day just reserved for reading.
The god of all things bookish please send me the Tragedy of Hyderabad and I promise to worship you for the rest of my days. Fine. Maybe not all of my days. Just Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Thrillers are not my usual fare. The last time, I read a thriller was a number of years ago when I devoured The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo series. Those books were completely different from my usual reads and I loved them.
Some of my favourite people here read thrillers, and so I decided it was time to venture into that realm once again, and I picked out The Tokyo Zodiac Murders by Soji Shamida after seeing the book on someone's Instagram story.
I won't lie. I hated it, initially. I read for the writing, never for the plot. Nothing in this book inspired me untill I got past the halfway point, and then the mystery seized me. I had to know who did it. I am usually very disciplined about working every single day, but I will confess that today I have done nothing beyond my usual housework and reading this book.
Thankfully, the book has finished, and I can now devote a few hours to mapping out the history of East Pakistan.
My next thriller will be The Lightkeepers by Abby Geni recommended by @between.bookends. Thanks, Varsha.
Also, am I the only having problems with Instagram refreshing, uploading, and messaging?
I thought I was done with my thoughts on Lolita, but this morning, while chatting with @unwildrumpus I realized that I am not done at all.
Lolita fascinated and repulsed me, both in equal measure. Why? Because I have always wondered what lies on the other side of that adult male gaze focused obsessively on a young child. I never understood that pull. All I know is what it feels to be on the receiving end of that type of sexual deviation. I know, how helpless, ashamed, and lonely a young child feels when taxed with dealing with this very adult preoccupation.
To stare into the mind of a pedophile was very disconcerting, even if the account was a fictional one. I look like a raccoon these days because inhibiting that mind space was deeply disturbing.
Above all else though, I applaud Nabokov for writing a story where both main characters are so totally unlikable. I applaud the man for writing a story most would not want to read. Who the hell wants to venture into that dark space all alone?
Writing can be a dangerous, subversive activity. More so when you write the way this man does. "As for writing, it was dangerous, said the Adams and the Eves, because your enemies could trace you through it, and hunt you down, and use your words to condemn you." The Year of the Flood, Margaret Atwood