Posts by hitherkusum

As a writer, I strive hard to not deviate from the path of presenting discriminations, prejudices and real-life experiences, which often take backseat, especially in today’s assembly-line production system of the publishing industry. Moreover, I strongly believe that a writer owes responsibility towards the society and its people; hence, s/he must use words for bringing forth some of the thought-provoking realities and experiences of the society, which cannot be ruled out and demand immediate attention. Stories, particularly those based on real-life experiences, can assist a society in critically engaging with culture and religion of the present time and can enable its readers in transforming themselves into catalysts of changes. In South Asian countries, writers, especially native writers, have and are playing a crucial role as pressure groups, who through their writings have drawn attention of readers located worldwide to till now deliberately ignored issues and debates. Hence, as a reader and writer, who grew up in one of the tribal-majority areas, I have been immensely inspired by the writings of our native writers. Simple, yet deeply contemplative, stories of Mahasweta Devi, Sadat Hasan Manto, Amrita Pritam, Mahadevi Verma etc have assisted me in intricately examining our society and its divisive forces. Moreover, writings pertaining to some of the new issues related to ‘identity politics’ have drawn my attention too. At the same time, I also grew up reading popular pulp fictions and fascinating stories related to ‘magical realism’, as it transported me into an almost unimaginable realm of the Universe. As a child, I earnestly believed in fairies, mermaids, knolls and dwarfs; but as an adult, lost in the ups and downs of a metropolitan life, I yearn for these endearing characters more than ever. Also, I have been immensely inspired by Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allen Poe, Kamala Das, Pablo Neruda, Orhan Pamuk, etc. Like any other writer, I am not just smitten by words but also by theater and cinema. From the direction of cinema, Piero Paolo Passolini and his works have given a new meaning to my works. Well, the crux is that I love reading and I am literally married to words. Among many things, I love leafing through books and magazines, fragrance of an old novel, big and bold letters of a story, sketching the characters in my mind while reading, books of all sizes and shapes disarranged in a row etc. And, I believe we can never satisfy our ever-dissatisfied souls; therefore, the only right way to control its restlessness is by keep on writing – good, bad, short, long – till the end. Hither Kusum

Get a Kick Out of Reading “Fools Die”

I recently picked up a romance novel to satisfy the writer as well as reader in me. On the contrary, I felt sick because of its excessively decorative language and repulsed by the entire concept of love that leads to idolization and dependence rather than liberating two people in love. I guess my ideas about love have drastically changed with age and time.  It’s now more about spending my precious time with a man who respects me and my thoughts. I find super heroes boring and utterly disappointing, instead find men with conviction and knowledge more endearing. Frankly, I am so much done with fairy tales and neck deep into the realities of life. So, I naturally started looking for novels that are more rustic and closer to reality.  People say reading a book is like traveling the world and experiencing the life. And, there’s no doubt that I absolutely buy this idea. They have molded each and every aspect of my personality. However, I still feel incomplete as I am yet to feel that I have read enough and know sufficient to lead my life. The daily grinds of life no more scare me; I rather get a kick when I come across people who deliberately came out of their comfort zones to do what they yearned for long despite all hardships and hurdles.

fools-die

Sometime back I happened to purchase the novel “Fools Die’ written by Mario Puzo from a local flea market. I had no idea about the novel, except the fact that it was penned by the author of the classic novel “The Godfather”.  I gleefully bought it and unconsciously pushed it in one of the corners of my book shelf. A few days back when heat and loneliness started hitting me hard, I thought of reading this novel. And, trust me, I have loved it so far. As I quoted before, the novel is rustic and extraordinary as it portrays the reality as it exists. The protagonist, Merlyn, is not a super hero, though he loves calling himself a magician. It gives a detailed picture of the world of gambling thriving in the city of Las Vegas and the travails of a writer born orphan. The world of gambling is a world in itself, far beyond the law-abiding life that we lead. It’s a world outside the purview of law and more powerful and fascinating than imagined. There are fixed denizens of this flashy and dangerous world, including rich tycoons ready to splurge money over women and gambling, prostitutes who are commonly known as sleeping pills, losers, people with a broken heart and family trying to forget their personal tragedies, men who control the pit and manage casinos, among all. In this world, it’s not easy to cheat and far difficult to escape after cheating. The person who cheats the casino of its money is more likely to be buried in a desert than left alive, as simple as that.

As I said before, since the characters are vulnerable and imperfect, it becomes far easier to accept them while reading the novel. There are women who are trading their body for money and that’s the reality of life. The novel gives a glimpse into the life of filthy rich people and their world of infidelity, greed, power and control over the system. It’s quite eye opening to read about the personal lives of the capitalists controlling the major portion of the wealth across the world. It also throws light upon the entire business of corruption and how it is conducted. The protagonist of the novel, who aims to earn his living through his writings, though hesitant before does not mind later to indulge in small bribery in his own Robinhood style. Rather than despising himself, he feels more powerful and happy in earning by bribing others for enlisting their children in a short-term military programme to escape from the long-term active duty. Unlike before, he is able to fulfill the desires and feelings of his family, purchase a house in a safer locality, enhance the lifestyle of his family, etc.

casino

There’s so much to talk about this novel that I will have to post one more article to describe its other key themes. I am still reading the novel and am in the midst of discovering the beautiful relationship between the protagonist and his brother, Artie. Despite being different, they are far more connected with each other and understand each other very well. The novel is incomplete without talking about the relationship between Merlyn and Artie and other beautiful connections. The friendship between Merlyn and Cully, who rises to become the kingpin of the world of gambling, can also melt down the hearts of readers. In the next post, I will try to cover the remaining elements of the novel in detail.

Make Me Invisible

Take me away before the scorching heat kills me,

Hold me until drops of rain calms the restless land,

Hide me beneath the canopy of a tree,

Make me invisible through your soothing love

I have been hiding in the darkness of my soul,

To escape the noise of mindless living,

I even picked up flowers of love and happiness,

Before I became immune to all emotions

They tried to reduce me into nothing,

Even crushed my self-esteem and dreams,

But I fought like anything to walk tall like a warrior,

Though winds have changed yet I fear of being in control,

Sometimes by a foe and sometimes by friends

Hither Kusum

It’s 2 am…

It’s 2 am and I am unable to sleep. For the first time in my life, I have just pretended to be asleep when in reality I have been wide awake. Am I suffering from insomnia like millions addicted to Internet, Youtube, NetFlix, etc? If this is true, then I need to look into my life and contemplate hard upon the changes my life has gone through. Or is this merely my delusion? I tried talking to my close friends, my secret crush, my beloved, my brother, among all, but nothing helped till the time that dream breezed into my mind like fresh air. I love silence of the night, I love coolness of the night which is so drastically different from the scorching heat burning the entire city in the daytime, I love water, I love the sweet smell of the mud after rain, I love the sound of birds, I love taking a sweet nap in daytime away from all worries, I love strolling in night in between trees of my hometown; but here I am, running like a clock in the same unchanged pattern. I feel like burying my head into pillows and crying. I dream of turning into a woman Buddhist monk and spending my time in between the nature and simple people. I am sure many would have thought of relinquishing everything and turning into a monk to achieve peace and happiness. And, I earnestly admire people who have succeeded in turning this dream into a reality.

I dream of hills and nights….maybe dawn

I simply don’t know what I am doing is what I love. I guess, the answer is definitely “No”. I fear turning into a cold woman whose heart won’t ache over anything. I detest becoming mean and selfish. But, do I have an option? I look around myself and find myself alone—totally alone. I am repulsed by the idea that I have to change myself so much to become qualified for becoming successful. The idea of success is so empty and vacuous. The child in me has definitely exhausted of looking for happiness in this adult’s world. I know I am aging and that’s why I respect elderly more than ever, as I can comprehend their fear of rejection, embarrassment, humiliation, dependence on others, etc. Maybe I should just forget everything and live in the present. Maybe? I fall asleep when I start reading an interesting story. So, I started reading “Fools Die” by Mario Puzo. Though the novel talks about gambling and Las Vegas, it revolves around the complications and realities of life that some or the other ways are witnessed by everyone. It made me realize that the perfect world is made up of imperfections. At this moment, I feel like standing in my balcony and observing the silent sky and trees standing like sentinels. I even yearn to write a poem. Oh God, it has been ages, I haven’t written anything.

I close my eyes and find myself traveling through those snake-like roads

I close my eyes and see myself travelling in a bus through a snake like road wound up around a hill. I feel the air in my face and feel happy. I am happy and I smile.  I see myself silently watching the world. I also see few books around me and my feelings turning into a poem. Some of the words that make my poem are silence, happiness, solitude, sanity, love, passion, simplicity, nature and so on. There’s just the sound of the fan above me and nothing else. I want to read my mind and heart. They have been ignored in this mundane life. I want to pen their ideas, emotions and desires. And, then my inner sub-consciousness will be at peace.

Hither Kusum

Vagabond – A story of a woman who eliminated her fears

A scene from the film Vagabond directed by Agnes Varda

The dichotomy of public and private space seemed just a jargon until I realized how far a woman remains controlled, especially in the public space.  Unlike men, women are supposed to be more coy and mindful in the public space. It is really difficult to conduct a debate over a topic focusing on the division of behavioral pattern on the basis of gender that has been normalized by the society. Raising an eyebrow against such a societal pattern is like creating a storm. When I started growing up, I was exposed to classic cinema and literature unlike many girls of my age. They made me realize that women are not mere agent to pacify others’ wishes and longings. In fact, they like any man long to have her own time and fun. Unlike what many men wrongly believe, every woman has a restless soul and critical mind until unless her intellect has been purposefully subdued to such an extent that she remains ignorant and unaware about her own inner desires and feelings.

When Mona spends time with a goat farmer

Women tend to define and limit their idea of adventure to just fit in the common framework of the society. The society loves to control their mind and body by categorically mentioning the appropriate and inappropriate indulgences for women. There are judgmental eyes roving all around to label a woman as a slut, whore, sinful, goddess, etc. by merely scrutinizing her from head to toe and not paying any damn attention to her thinking mind and perturbed heart.  Many readers after reading this might say, “Well, you are not saying anything new. So, why don’t you stop blabbering and speak something new.”

There have been times when I have looked out through my window in the darkness and dreamt of walking in the empty streets of my city. I have also dreamt of sitting under a tree and watching the sky turning from crimson red to pitch black to the shades of yellow and red. I also yearned to travel alone in a train running past beautiful landscapes dotted with trees and huts, getting down any random station to sip a cup of coffee, start a conversation with a stranger, among others. However, it is difficult to be absolutely free to indulge in our dreams, especially when one is born as a woman. She needs to take steps toward her dreams by ensuring safety. If she has no money, she cannot dare to live her dreams. If she has to exercise total freedom, she must be ready to witness disruptions and hurdles that may range from molestation, assault to characterization as a whore.  In sum, a woman with desires is seen as nothing more than a willful woman. This  has been well presented by none other than the renowned French woman director, Agnes Varda.

Through her path-breaking film, Vagabond, Agnes succeeds in portraying the innate emotions and desires of a woman so far not presented by anyone in the celluloid world. I remember talking about this film during my college days. Even in those days, the fate of the protagonist immensely disturbed me. Raised on classic cinema and literature, it had always been difficult for me to accept the division of role among women and men on the basis of gender. Therefore, it was totally impossible for me to comprehend the extremely discriminatory behavioral patterns imposed on women in the society. So, somewhere down the line, the film Vagabond resonates my and innumerable other women’s feelings.

This poetic tale of a beautiful and thoughtful woman who one fine day decides to throw away her job of a secretary and wander around the French countryside will make every woman to contemplate about their life and yearnings. The protagonist of the film chose the toughest season of the time, i.e., winter to camp around, which is enough to draw attention of the locals and strangers. Though her decision and step may sound erratic and not worth taking risk, her journey and encounters and experiences widen her horizon as an individual by bringing her closer to the truly free life that she wanted to live. In between, some of the women who happened to meet her felt more connected to her than freely sympathetic toward her miserable condition. They feel as if she is living the dream that they too wanted to live one day. However, nothing comes for free, so even the protagonist had to witness assault, humiliation, poverty, etc. to live her dream. Though she meets a fatal end, her journey remains inspiring and thought-provoking. It’s difficult for me to pen down the exact emotions that surged within me while watching this film. I can define them to be closer to poetic, longing, dreamy, etc.

Beyond the mundane structures of the society, the protagonist, named Mona, truly lives her life by meeting and observing the world. She met people who loved her, detested her, humiliated her and used her, yet it’s Mona who stands taller than others. Some of the beautiful scenes of the film include when she passes her time by blissfully sleeping in the arms of a new lover, indulging in wine and sumptuous food, and lazing around the backyard of an empty mansion.

Sometimes she traded her body to earn her living and sometimes she just wandered around with her backpack. She learns new trades to survive when she meets a Tunisian farmer who truly cared for her. If I can put my heart into my writing, then I can say that I loved her uninhibited life devoid of any ambition and the feeling of loss or pain. She is truly a survivor and dreamer. It also seems that she is not living her dreams rather living her life by eliminating her fears. She has no fear of living on streets, no fear of any man, no fear of not leading a normal life, which makes her more fascinating and interesting than all of us.