Waiting for the Dust to Settle by Veio Pou

Waiting for the Dust to Settle by Veio Pou

They called it ‘Operation Bluebird’. On the fateful day of 9th July, 1987, the Underground Naga army attacked and raided the Assam Rifles outpost at Oinam Hill Village, a Poumai Naga Village in Senapati District, Manipur. Nine Assam Rifles soldiers were killed and the Naga Underground escaped with their looted arms and ammunitions. In an attempt to recover the stolen arms, the Assam Rifles launched the infamous “Operation Bluebird” in Oinam Hill village and it’s surrounding thirty villages for three months — where intense search and combing action was operated.

.

.

.

During Operation Bluebird the villagers were subjected to extreme torture. Innocent villagers were killed, women were raped, properties were damaged, two women were subjected to give birth in public in full view of the armies. In this span, the armed forces violated human rights like murder, arson, looting, desecration of church, sexual harassment, illegal evictions, arrests and forced labour. The peaceful village of Oinam Hill turned into a nightmare in a single day.

.

.

.

12 years old Rokovei had come to the village from Senapati district for Laonüh. But little did he know that he’d witness “Operation Bluebird”. Rokovei, the protagonist of the story loves the olive green camouflage suits and wish to join the army someday. But his dream of joining the army begins to shatter one by one as he begin to witness the way the armed forces exercise their power.

.

.

.

Through the voice of Rokovei, Veio Pou speaks for the underrepresented Naga community. The novels narrates the conflict between the armed forces and the Naga Underground; forming of Naga Underground factions; the intricacy of insurgency; the racism that people from the Northeast faces; Naga-Kuki conflict and living with insurgency as a whole.

.

.

.

Waiting for the Dust to Settle is a political novel or more so an autobiographical account. Pou’s narration, although fiction , lies more so on the non-fiction narrative. Written in simple language , Pou’s debut novel, loaded with history of the tribal community, is a must read.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

“And how long do you think we can keep up this goddamn coming and going? he asked.

.

.

.

Florentino Ariza has kept his answer ready for fifty-three years, seven months, and eleven days and nights.

.

.

.

“Forever,” he said.

.

.

.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Marquez is the love Story that you want to read or the romance movie that you want to watch. Set in an imaginary town called City of Viceroys, Love in the Time of Cholera tells the story of three people who are caught in a web of love triangle. Florentino fell in love with Fermina at the first sight. Their love blossomed. However , on finding about his daughter’s relationship, Fermina’s father sent her away on a long trip so that she could forget Florentino. The father’s plan eventually worked out and Florentino and Fermina got separated and lost touch. But Florentino continues to wait for Fermina.

.

.

.

.

But the human being that he is, he indulges himself in several relationships , all the while waiting for Fermina to come back to him. He considers all these affairs as infidelity although Fermina has forgotten him.

.

.

.

Fermina , on the other hand, by pressure from her father , marries a great physician called Dr. Juvenal Urbino. Their union, although arranged , is amicable and worthy. But at one point, Dr. Urbino cheated on Fermina but it’s set straight after Fermina confronts Urbino.

.

.

.

Love in the Time of Cholera , it’s literal meaning is like “love- an illness that spreads like Cholera”. Also, Marquez contextualises the title of his book to lovers love in the Time of calamity. He juxtaposes it to tumultuous times of plagues that ravaged the county and the violence of wars and unexplained massacres of plantation workers in the 20th Century Colombia.

.

.

.

The fate of true lovers always finds its destiny. Fermina’s husband Dr. Urbino passes giving one last chance to Florentino to profess his undying love for Fermina. As luck would have it or fate would have it or true love would have it, Fermina mad Florentino are united after fifty-three years, seven months and eleven days. You’d call it magic but it’s true love.

.

.

This book is alluring, romantic and profoundly imaginative.

The Thousand Faces of the Night by Githa Hariharan

The Thousand Faces of the Night by Githa Hariharan

So glad to have discovered this work. Githa Hariharan’s Thousand Faces of the Night unfolds the lives of three women in particular, and their struggles against a structured patriarchal society. Mayamma, Sita and Devi represents old, middle and modern. Hariharan, with references to Hindu myths and folktales, wove a narrative that opens a labyrinth of gender discrimination. Hariharan’s TFN is both educative and empowering. The silent sufferings of women, gender discrimination by social evils, male chauvinism etc are evident throughout the pages.

.

.

.

Devi returns from the US after breaking up with Dan , her black American boyfriend. Devi comes from an orthodox Brahmin family. Although. She’s freed by the American education that she acquired , part of her is always bogged down by her brahmanic upbringing. She likes Dan but her Brahmanic tradition and rituals denied her to accept him. So Sita, a dutiful mother that she is, starts looking for a husband for her daughter Devi. After many match makings , Devi is matched with Mahesh , a corporate manager. Devi’s married life is insipid. The husband travels most of the time and Devi is left alone most days. She wishes to find a job but the husband brushes off the idea saying that it’s useless for women to work. Most nights Devi finds herself wrapped in loneliness and oppression. The rebellious protagonist that she is, Devi eloped with an unsuitable lover to escape the solitude only to find that she had been running away from her own trials. At the end she finds her way back to her mother’s house, broken yet defined and discovered.

.

.

.

Sita , Devi’s mother, who is a keen Veena player abandons her dream to become a professional Veena player by choosing to become a virtuous and dutiful daughter-in-law and wife. Sita, governed by the rules of the society choose to suffer silently rather than rebel. Because , the society only accepts a submissive woman. She lived her whole live trying to please others. She is compared to Gandhari , the wife of the blond king of the Mahabharata. Sita is the epitome of a submissive wife who uplifts a husband. But after her husbands death she began to surpass the societal wall and goes back The playing the Veena- an act of rediscovering her own self.

.

.

.

Mayamma is the cook at Devi’s in-law’s house. Married to a crude elder man when she was only sixteen, Mayamma suffered abuse from her husband and mother-in-law. To make her fate worst , Mayamma bore no children. But after ten torturous years, she gave birth to a son. Mayamma, who grew up in a society where women are taught to be silent suffers in solitude. Her son , like the father abused her but she succumbed to a fever that caught him. Mayamma, as an act of discovering her own self , burnt down the house with her son’s body in it. She left her village never to come back again.

.

.

.

Through this work Hariharan portrays cultural and traditional turmoil of women in relation to gender discrimination, misery of marriage , man-woman relationship, conflict between modernity and tradition, social and cultura evils and enslavement to family duty.

.

.

.

This is a must read for lovers of feminist writing.

Red Sorghum by Mo Yan

Red Sorghum by Mo Yan

Mo Yan’s Red Sorghum is a masterpiece. It’s intricate detailing and labyrinth of description is what makes this book unique. Written in first person an in unchronological order, Red Sorghum accounts the story three generations. The setting of the novel is in the Northeast Gaomi township in the Shandong province of China. It is a place of extreme beauty, a land Sorghum which the locals use to make wine. Sorghum is their chief source of income as well as staple. Everyone in the Gaomi township drinks sorghum wine. The narrator’s grandfather Yu Zhan’ao is a bandit who managed to marry Dai Fenglin after killing her rich husband and father-in-law. Dai Fenglin’s husband is a leper whom her father married her off just to get a black mule in return.

.

.

.

There is blood, there is execution and there is excessive explosion. It is in one of these bloodsheds and explosions that Dai Fenglin died while supplying food to the troops. This was a fatal blow to the narrator and his grandfather Yu Zhan’ao. The scene where the narrator’s Uncle, Arhat is skinned alive is a chilling experience. Mo Yan describes this in delicate intricacy that the horror of this act still haunts me!

.

.

.

Narrates in flashbacks, Mo Yan recounts the staggering horror that took place in China during the China-Japan war. A story of great resistance and unyielding courage, Red Sorghum speaks of the brutal unrest of rural China in the 20’s and 30’s. After everything is over, the narrator returns to pay homage and respects to the family grave only to find that “red sorghum” has been replaced by hybrid “green sorghum”. The raging flood of revolution has seeped the original structure of the northeast Gaomi township. It’s has now turned into a foreign place, as the narrator thought.

.

.

.

Graphic scenes of violence fills the pages from time to time in the novel. But Mo Yan weaves his brutal tale with a powerfully expressive lyricism. This book won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2012.

.

.

.

.

#bookstagrammer #bookstagram

#bookart #bibliophile #redsorghum #moyan #nobelpeaceprize #sorghum #readersofinstagram #booksofinstagram

Love, Lust and Loyalty by Yuimi Vashum

Love, Lust and Loyalty

Love, Lust and Loyalty by Yuimi Vashum tells the truth about something not often said or something often hushed. Divided in two parts, Vashum speaks about sexual abuse in the first part. Love, relationship and heartbreak dominates the second part.

.

.

.

Love, Lust and Loyalty is far from what a superficial society would call, “conventional”. This collection of poems is powerful and unostentatious. These poems does not hold back nor do they put you on shackles. Rather these poems are liberating because sexual abuse is a thing we need to talk about right now…because relationship and heartbreak is nearly every person’s experience. Vashum’s poetry addresses sexual abuse, the issue of consent , misogyny , violence, sexism, relationship and love. But it’s beautiful things also , it’s pleasure , it’s sex, it’s falling in love. And these issues affect everyone as well.

.

.

.

.

As Vashum writes in The Survivors , “ I write for the battered souls like me

.

.

To forgive, forget , and only live;

.

.

That, what is done to us in the shadows

.

.

Shall not stop us from living life.

.

.

We are air

.

.

We don’t bend

.

.

We don’t break

.

.

We are unprecedented “

.

.

Love, Lust and Loyalty bares it all but then rises like a Phoenix— an ablution yet sheltered and secured with scars.

.

.

.

#lovelustandloyalty #yuimivashum #poetry #bookstagrammer #bookstagram #igreadsindia #instagood #instabook #poems #bibliophile #bookviews #booksofinstagram

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

Wide Sargasso Sea

I loved Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre but Wide Sargasso Sea made me reimagined Mr Rochester. In Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys tells the story of Antoinette Cosway or Bertha Mason, from her youth in Jamaica to her unhappy marriage to Jane Eyre’s Mr Rochester. I love Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre for what it is. When reading it, the character of Bertha Mason, the mad wife of Mr Rochester triggered me. So I have always been curious about how she went mad or why would Mr Rochester keep his wife locked away in an attic. Rhys tells the circumstances leading to the wretched life of Bertha Mason of Jane Eyre in Wide Sargasso Sea.

.

.

.

.

Wife Sargasso Sea is a prequel to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. Rhys gives a voice and identity to Mr Rochester’s first wife Antoinette Cosway or Bertha Mason , the madwoman in the attic. This novel becomes a gateway text to post-colonialism and feminist theory. Its has three parts where the first part is narrated by Antoinette in Jamaica as a child. Rhys points out the evils of slavery and post colonialism which leads to the wretched life of Antoinette. The narration of the part two alternates between Antoinette and her unnamed English husband during their honeymoon to Granbois, Dominica. Part three is narrated again by Antoinette, who is now renamed Bertha by her English husband. She is mostly confined to a big house in England.

.

.

.

Antoinette , a wealthy creole heiress is married off by his stepfather, Mr Mason to Mr Rochester of England. Mr Rochester is penniless and hence he accepts this marriage as a form of business deal for money. An ill-fated marriage emerged where Mr Rochester begins to hate and distant himself from his wife after listening to the evil machinations of Daniel who claims to be the illegitimate half-brother of Antoinette. Mr Rochester becomes unfaithful and emotionally abusive. These changes leads to Antoinette ‘s paranoia and the bitter disappointment of her marriage aggravated her mental health.

.

.

.

Rhys gives us a crueller Rochester in Wide Sargasso Sea. Brontë’s Rochester is depicted as dark and brooding. But in Wide Sargasso Sea, he changes from a romantic lead to a cruel villain, cowardly and bullying at the same time, a man who marries woman for money and uses women for sex and whose behaviour likely sends his wife mad. He stripped Antoinette of her name before taking her away from her home, keeping her money for himself and imprisoning her in his attic . Whereas in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë , Rochester’s unhappiness is the fault of Bertha or Antoinette.

.

.

.

.

Wide Sargasso Sea explores post-colonial themes like racism, slavery, displacement and assimilation. One needs to read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte before reading Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys.

.

.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe by Madeline Miller

I have always been enthralled by the ancient Greek mythology and this book comes as the icing on the cake. Circe by Madeline Miller brings alive the ancient mythology in a feminist perspective. Miller critically analyses the magnification of masculinity and heroism through the protagonist, Circe, of the novel.

.

.

.

.

A daughter is born to the Titan Sun god, Helios and nymph, Perse. But she’s a misfit for neither does she look like god nor does she sound divine. Circe grew up neglected and unloved. Her powers are weak, not like the other gods. As she grew, she discovered she’s more than who she is said to be. She found an unexpected talent in witchcraft and sorcery. She’s a witch —someone who’s very existence is a threat to the Titans’ realm. Witchcraft—a power forbidden to the gods, became Circe’s strength.

.

.

.

.

The wrathful Helios banishes Circe to a remote island of Aiaia for practicing witchcraft. Circe considers this banishment not as a punishment but as a catalyst for liberation. She learns to harness her occult craft. Many passes through Circe’s place of exile entwining their fates through her. Be it her casual lover Hermes, the messenger god or the great craftsman, Daedalus or the many pack of sailors who took shelter in her home which she turned everyone into swine or the brave Odysseus on his epic voyage home after fighting in the Trojan war.

.

.

.

.

There so many solid themes present in Circe. Taking control of one’s destiny, breaking away from the expectation of one’s lineage, love, parenthood, power, finding inner peace, drawing boundaries, and loving oneself. Circe is such a pleasurable read. A coming of age book where the protagonist, Circe, turns herself form an awkward, self doubting least loved child to a witch , goddess, mother and a woman of power who commands her own destiny.

Untold Night and Day by Bae Suah

Untold Night and Day

This book is, perhaps, one of the most complex and confusing books I have ever read. Also, this is my first time reading Bae Suah and I’d say it’s like reading Han Kang or Kafka in some form. I learnt that the translator of Han Kang and Bae Suah is one — Deborah Smith.

.

.

.

Untold Night and Day follows the last working day of Kim Ayami at an audio theatre in Seoul. This theatre plays audio recordings of dramas to blind people , and sometimes to high school students. The audio theatre closes down abruptly which leaves Ayami jobless and adrift. In conversation with her German teacher , Yeoni , Ayami is able to secure an opportunity for work. Yeoni, advices Ayami to work as an assistant for a German writer, Wolfi, who is arriving in Seoul shortly.

.

.

.

Far from a simple narrative , Untold Night and Day is metaphysical , complex and several dimensional. This novel is hypnotic and mysterious. Jobless Ayami walks down the busy street of Seoul and goes out for dinner with her former director. She also meets the German writer, Wolfi. Bae’s novel is recurring and poetic. It’s like you’re in a parallel universe where it’s somewhat like a dejavu yet it’s not.

.

.

.

In another part of Seoul, there is Buha, an ex-businessman who is roaming the busy streets of Seoul trying to search the face of a poet he had seen in a newspaper many years ago. Buha crosses paths with Ayami. To Buha, Ayami reminds of the poet. They look similar. Buha confronts her only to be denied by Ayami that she is not the one Buha is looking for.

.

.

.

This book is mind-twisting where the past and the present collide. The vagueness present in it is nearly chaotic. I think to understand this book, one needs to explore the other works of Bae Suah. A dreamlike story where parallel lives meets, Untold Night and Day tells a surreal and disorienting story of recurrence and mystery.

.

.

.

#untoldnightandday #baesuah #bookstagram #igreads #readabookday #surreal #bookstagrammer

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Men is the only real enemy we have. Remove man from the scene and, the root causes of hunger and overwork is abolished forever.

Old Major to the rest of the animals

Orwell’s Animal Farm is an allegory of the Russian Revolution of 1917. Under Tzar Nicholas’s II rule (1894-1917) the Russians underwent appalling destitution and upheaval in the economic system. This suffering was signalled by the Russian Revolution of 1905 which is also known as the First Russian Revolution or the Bloody Sunday Massacre of 1905. On this particular day , unarmed protestors especially peasants, workers and soldiers who had returned from the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905 protested for better social reforms against Nicholas II. But Nicholas’ savage decision led to the massacre of the protesters in cold blood. Millions of lives of Russians worsened during Nicholas’ reign.

When Russia took part in World War I, 1914, it lost many of its men than they’d ever lost in any previous war. The enraged citizens under the rule of Nicholas began a series of protests which led to the Russian Revolution of 1917( February and October Revolutions) This brought an end to the rule of Tsar Nicholas II or the overthrow of the Russian monarchy.

Four legs good, two legs bad

After Tsar Nicholas II abdicated the throne 1917, the Bolsheviks came to power under the leadership of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, a Russian Revolutionary Politician. Under Lenin’s administration Russia or the Soviet Union became a Marxist-Leninist state. Lenin is an ardent follower of Marxism (where workers own the means of production or classless society). In 1924 Lenin passed due to failing health . He was succeeded by Joseph Stalin.

Under Stalin’s administration the Russian Civil War broke out followed by getting in alliance with Adolf Hitler in 1939. Hitler later betrayed Stalin by waging war with Russia in 1941 where Russia emerged victorious. This battle is known as the battle of Stalingrad where Stalin forced defeated Hitler’s . This was the time when the Second World War was fought (1939- 1945) . In 1943, Stalin met Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt to discuss lasting peace. This meeting is known as the Tehran conference of 1943.

All animals are equal.

Mankind’s self-absorption and gluttony led the animals in Manor farm to rebel and drive out the owner , Mr Jones from his own farm. Under old Major’s leadership, the animals of manor farm started working towards a rebellion. Old major dies before he could see the rebellion. The rebellion was soon achieved with the supervision of two superior pigs, Napoleon and Snowball. They changed the name of the farm to Animal Farm from Manor Farm. They laid down seven commandments to go along with the newly adopted ‘animalism’. The pigs come out as superior than the rest of the animals. They became the leaders and supervisors with Napoleon and Snowball as leaders . But the nature of relationship between Napoleon and Snowball is such that they disagree on everything !

Snowball proposed for a construction of windmill to generate electricity. Electricity would make their labour less taxing. But Napoleon is against this plan claiming that they don’t have time to built a windmill. In a twist of fate, Napoleon success in driving out Snowball from the farm. Napoleon then claims that he is the actual mastermind of the windmill project.

Words began spreading about the comforts and achievements of the animal farm. Animals across England are inspired to start a rebellion . Mr Jones reattempted to take back the farm but in vain.

We pigs are brainworkers. The whole management and organization of this farm depend on us. Day and night we are watching over your welfare. It is for your sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples

As the story progresses, the pigs became more and more drunk in power . The very ideal that Napoleon fought for was reduced to ashes. Rather than achieving the freedom that they all longed for , the animals began to suffer under the administration of Napoleon. Envelopes by list for power , Napoleon started a totalitarian rule where he began to adopt ways of human . He began killing his fellow animals. Their commandment read “all animals are equal “. But now it was changed to “all animals are equal , but some animals are more equal “ to suit the best interest of the pigs.

Napoleon is always right

The animals toiled in sun and rain but their lives ran bleak. Soon , the pigs began walking on only two legs . They began trading with humans and started drinking . They occupied the farmhouse and started decorating their body with ribbons and badges ! The animal farm had turned into the exact system which they’d rebelled during Jones’ time. It had become the exact replica of Jones’ rule or more worse.

If she herself had had any picture of the future, it had been of a society of animals set free from hunger and the whip, all equal, each working according to his capacity, the strong protecting the weak… Instead -­‐ she did not know why -­‐ they had come to a time when no one dared speak his mind, when fierce, growling dogs roamed everywhere, and when you had to watch your comrades torn to pieces after confessing to shocking crimes.

If she herself had had any picture of the future, it had been of a society of animals set free from hunger and the whip, all equal, each working according to his capacity, the strong protecting the weak… Instead -­‐ she did not know why -­‐ they had come to a time when no one dared speak his mind, when fierce, growling dogs roamed everywhere, and when you had to watch your comrades torn to pieces after confessing to shocking crimes.

The animals could no longer differentiate pigs to man

Orwell’s Animal Farm is still relevant today. It could be paralleled with the rule of today’s politicians and leaders. A classic example where the weak are exploited for the benefit of the strong. Themes such as lust for power, violence , communism, socialism , power of language and hierarchical society runs prevalent throughout the book. Animal Farm is a must read as it enhances one’s social reform philosophy and gives a room for thought .

The Princess and the Political Agent by Binodini (translated from Manipuri by L Somi Roy )

The Princess and the Political Agent

Sanatombi is fierce, unruly, defiant and independent. Sanatombi is the eldest child and daughter of Maharaja Surchandra of Manipur. As a child , Sanatombi is favoured by her grand queen mother ,Maharani Kumudini. The grand queen mother recognised the boldness in Sanatombi and never stopped her from becoming who she wants to be. Sanatombi grew up how and who she wants to be — free-spirited and unrestrained.

Born in an era where women are silenced, Sanatombi is often wished by people around her that she’d been a son rather than a daughter. She spoke up for her place to succeed the throne. But that did not materialise because she’s a woman. She was given off in marriage to Manikchand of the Nongmaithem family as a royal arrangement. But there really was no love in the marriage.

After four years of Maharaja Surchandra’s reign in Manipur his half brothers started a rebellion which was led by Prince Koireng ( Bir Tekendrajit) to overthrow the ruling king. The rebellion was a success and Maharaja Surchandra (Princess Sanatombi’s father) was exiled to Calcutta. Maharaja Kulachandra becomes the new king. In an unknown circumstance Sanatombi’s father dies in Calcutta and she becomes traumatised by this incident.

During Maharaja Kulachandra’s reign Manipur is attacked by the British which leads to the Anglo- Manipuri War or the battle of Khongjom. The British emerged victorious leading to the execution of Prince Koireng and the imprisonment of Maharaja Kulachandra. The seven-year-old cousin of Princess Sanatombi , Churachand is installed as the Maharaja of Manipur by the British after the Anglo-Manipuri war.

The Princess and the Political Agent is a translated work of Binodini (Maharaj Kumari Binodini Devi , the youngest daughter of Maharaj Sir Churachand Singh of Manipur) by her son Somi Roy from Manipuri to English. This book is a historical fiction that entails the love story of Princess Sanatombi of Manipur and the British representative to Manipur , Lt Col Henry St P Maxwell. The book is written is flashback technique where Sanatombi’s younger days and older days dashes back to back. In what may seem a love story there exist the political and family feud in the backdrop of the story . The Manipur royal family where the sons started fighting for the throne after the death of their father Maharaj Chandrakirti and the eventual subjugation of Manipur Kingdom by the British leading to the downfall of Manipur

“What bothered Maxwell most was not being able to express all that he wanted to say, and not being able to understand all that Sanatombi was saying. He thought, ‘How difficult Meiteilon is!’”

In this turmoil was born a love that defies cultural norms— a member of the royal family falling in love with the enemy! Princess Sanatombi and Maxwell’s love was more of a vanquished than that of a defeated. People began to question the Princess’ integrity . The royal family is struck with an arrow but the madness between the two lovebirds could not be undone. The Princess left her husband Manikchand and went away with the Saheb (British man Maxwell). But Maxwell knew he cannot settle in Manipur forever. Someday he has to return to his land. True to her nature, a carefree soul, Sanatombi refuses to leave Manipur. She could never leave her beloved Father’s land. Did they truly love each other ? Was it really true love ? Well, read on and decide .

“But Sanatombi could now understand what he was saying. She had gotten used to the way he spoke. She was getting used to him.”

I have not read the Manipuri version of this book so I cannot tell how much justice is done to this translated book but the vocabularies used in this book is commendable. Themes such as gender disparity , family feud, love, political and historical accounts take the centre stage. I love how this book educated me immensely on the history of the royal family of Manipur. Binodini’s vocal quality is prominent in this book. She intricately weaves her rebellious aunt’s story in a manner that will remain a treasure in Manipur’s literary sphere.

This is a translated work of Binodini by L Somi Roy from Manipuri to English.

Publisher : Penguin Random House (2020)

Pages : 312

Price: Rs: 399

You can buy the book here https://amzn.to/3fKSmVN