Book review : The other hand

The coverpage of The Other hand

The other hand, Chris Cleave.

When the book’s back cover page reads ‘ We don’t want to tell you what happens.. and once you’ve read it, you’d be tempted to discuss this with your friends. Please don’t do so until they’ve read the book’, I felt compelled to buy the book. Such confidence did motivate me to grab the book. It was a blind date of sorts and yeah, I think the date went well. It had it’s moments, it felt nice and while I wont enjoy such a date again, I don’t feel cheated by it either.

This is a serious book and the book doesn’t shy away from it’s premise. This is a story of two women. Little bee, and that’s not her real name. Bee escapes Nigeria and finds herself in the UK’s immigrant’s detention centre. After a short stay of two years in that institution, Bee walks into the land, almost as a free citizen. The office doesn’t issue her papers, just lets her go. That makes her an illegal alien in the land.

Bee, fortunately, knows only one family in the whole of UK. Andrew and Sarah. The English couple , a few years ago, had managed a vacation in Nigeria and it changes their lives forever. There is something that connects Little Bee, Andrew and Sarah. As fate would have it, their lives intersect all over again. What happens to Bee, what happens to Andy and Sarah? The tale unfolds the fates of these wonderfully penned characters.

To throw in a little context, Nigeria was gripped in a chaos over petroleum. The black gold resulted in the government shaking it’s dirty hands with corporates. This leaves the natives as unwanted burden in their old land. As with money everywhere, violence is a friend that walks hand in hand with it. As resources go plundered, lives are reduced as mere perishables. Bee is a young teenager and her view of her land does paint a horror story. Bee’s narration also walks us through the differences in the human lives when they are separated by boundaries of nations and wings of development. Bee is , by far, one of the strongest narrator that I’ve ever come across. Her narration brings two distinct worlds together. She makes us laugh, she’d make you queasy.

There is a Batman in the tale. Charlie, the tiny tot of Sarah, often dresses up as Batman to cope up with his small life. What is he coping up with?, you have to read to discover that by yourself. The innocence of Charlie, the fear driven defiance of Bee, the idealism of Sarah and pragmatism of Andrew, they are all but the many sides to a life. Through them, we do see the strength of the human spirit. Through the world of politics, rules and governments, we see the might that feels forced to crush that human spirit.

The book poses a wonderful question. Should a country be permitted to refuse asylum to seekers across the world? Are there strains to the native citizens? Is the world not a big enough place to host everybody under the sun? Why cant countries protect people who don’t belong to them? As a species, do we belong to the earth or as civilised, educated blokes, do we belong to nations and governments that rule them? There is no simple answer to any of those questions. Globalization does make the world a smaller place and does make governments indifferent to one another.

I liked the book. It’s not as engaging or soul shattering as some of the other books I’ve had the pleasure of reading in the past few months. That being said, I think this book deserves its place in your cupboard or your kindle.

Karthik

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Holy Christ and Strings!

I do like drama in real life. I enjoy the drama , mostly because I see them when they usually don’t even exist. This perfectly places me between two states of the mind. The one where I’m naïve and the one where I’m a suspicious skeptic. Through a few iterations, a baggage of lessons learnt, I’d like to assume that I’ve grown a bit wise. I’m not sure if I’d ever be wise enough.

The fantastic part of telling a fabricated story is the treasure hunt phase. The other beautiful part is the execution of the idea itself. I could have made this a tale. I chose a different approach this time around. Leaving this in the realm of fiction would have diluted the seriousness to the tale. When I talk about strings, what do you think of? Strings could be the ones from a musical instrument, like a guitar or a violin. Strings could be the emotional ties that keep us anchored to something. Strings are also the ones that the ‘Master of the puppets’ pulls. We’ll be talking about such masters of the universe. One sentence that pays its tribute to both Metallica and HeMan. I like that.

It doesn’t take much for one to understand the nature of written and verbal communication. Very similar to forensics, every time we leave a trail of words (written or spoken) around, we also leave behind an imprint of our truest nature. I call this a reflex honesty. There are times when our minds work faster than the speed of our thoughts. It’s precisely at these moments when people exhibit their natural self. It’s not all that very difficult to pretend and put on a show. It, however, does take a lot of effort to sustain that show. Putting on a show, indefinitely, forever, without inconsistencies, and always staying in a make believe character is hard. It takes a lot of conscious and subconscious effort to maintain that façade.

And so our tale takes us to the realm of manipulators. I find these folks interesting. They make a wonderful character to explore and add elements to a said story. Manipulators are an Archtype persona. They pull strings to either keep themselves satisfied, or do it because doing so servers their purpose. Such Archtypes are impressive because uncovering the motivations that drive them , is often the hunt that takes us, both the readers and blokes in real life, on a journey of discovery.

These Archtypes have always existed. Right from Mahabharat, the earliest known Manipulator that I can think of, the Bethal ; which also manipulated in the interest of it’s preservation and vested interests, this archtype is one that transcends time and stays relevant to the modern context. I think it’s also pertinent to note that we, as folks; as a herd; usually don’t mind the manipulation as long as we are not told that we are being manipulated. As with most things that govern life, being manipulated could be a good thing or something to regret later on.

Since manipulators are an Archtype, they do exhibit a specific type of modus operandi! I made that sound more sinister than it usually is. But , you get the general idea.

1. The Jeebus Syndrome – Or as science calls it, the Messiah complex. Most manipulators enjoy playing the compassionate god. If you remember my works on Carl Jung, the archtype personality is that of a Wise old man/Wise old woman. The underlying ploy is to fuel trust and faith in the victims, but posing as not a threat but as the designated chosen one who is put on earth to serve all humanity :)))))

2. All ears, all guilt – Most manipulators are great listeners. I’m not sure if the vice versa is true enough. Their ability to listen, to throw light on our misgivings, also feeds their status as the Wise old bloke. They are prone to deflect questions that try to expose their intent. They usually deploy guilt to sneak out of tight spots.

3. Victim card – Most manipulators , always and I mean ALWAYS, play the victim card. They exhibit a certain charm that accompanies the fact that they have been there, they have suffered and hence can understand what you are going through. If you start to connect the dots, point 3 feeds into Point 1 and therefore Point 2 is the way they run their business.

4. All in, all the time – Most manipulators go all in and all the time. It is human to have skeletons buried deep in the closet. It takes an enormous effort for us to open up and share our deeds to others. Manipulators usually rapidly accelerate that phase. They go all in. It’s a tease and a gamble of sorts. By feeding us personal , all too secrety secrets, they A : Obligate us into opening up trust B: Obligate us into reciprocating with a few nasty secrets of our own. And bada boom, feeds into the victim card

The dynamics between a manipulator and their prey is also interesting thing. It banks on TRANSFERENCE. Transference is similar to a Stockholm syndrome, just without a Stockholm in place. There is a symbiotic relationship at play here. Victims are kept in that stasis of misery and guilt so that the manipulator stays relevant and in context. Manipulators really do look for their victims to remain miserable because if folks are not miserable, they’d not go about painting their lives to such manipulators. It is a vicious cycle. They both need each other, they both feed into each other and as long as the victims and predators co-exist, neither would fizz out.

I am but amused at this cycle of prey and predation. Things used to be different before the dawn of the age of 24/7-365 social outreach program that the Internet is. We do make it easy to get manipulated. In ways, we also do manipulate/influence the course of the lives of folks that we are connected to.

Emotional manipulators are real. They walk among us, they talk to us everyday. They are not monsters who hide away in shadows. In fact , they are not monsters at all, till we start making them one. That said, it’s nice to recognize the world around us. Staying observant and staying sceptical is a survival skill that comes handy. At all times.

Karthik

Book review : His bloody project

Cover page of His bloody project

His bloody project , G M B.

I picked this book because , 1. The cover page looked awesome. 2. It was heavily discounted. 3. I wasn’t thinking much when I picked the book.

In a short span a few months, I had comfortably moved away from comforts of reading murders and the satisfaction of accompanying a sharp mind in deciphering the twisted mind of a heinous bloke. While this was the genre that got me into reading, I had found myself moving towards other philosophies of life. I had this book for nearly six months before I eventually got to it.

I was impressed with the book. Yup, it makes for a well constructed , gripping narrative.

This is a story of a boy , Roderick Macrae. His not so simple life leads to a not so simple situation. Roddy is charged with manslaughter of not one but three people. The story is not a cat and a mouse chase of who-dun-it. With the dirty deed done cheap, the story kicks off with Roddy’s confession of the murders. Soaked in mind, Roddy goes on to getting himself imprisoned.

Now that was a twist in the tale that got me intrigued about the book. While in prison, Roddy is encouraged to write a memoir of the things that eventually transpired in the act of cold blooded murders.

The book is split into three sections. Roddy’s memoir of things that led to the murder. Roddy’s present in the prison. The retelling of the trail that decided upon his fate. I found the trial to be extremely engaging. Cheap thrills. The court room drama was both efficient and thrilling. I particularly enjoyed the sequence that the book follows. The memoir and Roddy’s time in the present are beautifully unravelled. With each page turned, one finds oneself closer to the nature of Roddy’s life.

There are brilliant questions that the book leaves us, the audience, with.

‘If an insane bloke proclaims to be insane, is the bloke really insane?’.

‘What justifies a murder?’ .

The book also explores the environment that nurtures a mind which readies itself to carry out the crime.

Are we born a murderer or do we grow into that role?

I did enjoy reaching my own conclusions about Roddy. I am intrigued by my not so ‘black and white’ outlook towards moralities of life. I’ll let you experience the narrative and form your own opinion about the curious case of Mr Roddy.

The horror that humans are capable of chilled me to the bone. Now that I think about it, it doesn’t take a lot for something within us to snap and embrace the animal in us. The book explores the simple clarity of a damaged mind’s conclusion that eventually does lead to a murder. Murders rather.

Maybe this book is not for everyone, then again, the whole act of murder is contained within a chapter. I guess in that sense, this can be picked without too much fuss.

I enjoyed the book. I enjoyed the thoughts it left me with. The greatness of a book is not measured by the words used to describe it, its measured by the amount of thoughts it leaves , once that story is read. In that respect, this book manages to achieve just that.

Karthik

Dad

Uncle!’. ‘Uncle, look at me! I can jump and touch the sky’.

I looked towards her and smiled. I gave her a thumbs up. She was a tiny little tot and was a bundle of energetic joy. She was the sunshine of our lives.

‘Way to go sweetheart’ I called out.

She had paused to see what I had to say. Happy with what she had heard, she stretched her arms wide and carried on pretending to be a bird. She soared high. Through the blue sky that was adorned by cotton grey clouds. The grass under her tiny feet was moist and pleasantly cold. Birds paused their chirping to watch her, much to their own amusement. It was a picture perfect afternoon on a quiet September day.

‘Give her time’ Radha whispered into my ear. She took my hand , assuringly and gently gripped them. She then rested her head on my shoulder and closed her eyes.

‘I know’ .

I guess one could call it a fairy tale of sorts. The fact that it was very much unlikely to be a fairy tale, made our story a fable of sorts. It wasn’t love at first sight. It wasn’t boy meets girl, boy falls head over heels, girl plays hard to get and yet flirt in a disguised inviting way. We were friends. We weren’t into each other. We had never been that way, as far as I could remember. I was there when the wedding bells rang. I was there when she blushed red with a satisfied joy in her face and the usual tears of leaving behind the house she had always lived in.

Hers was a fairy tale of sorts. High school sweethearts. Love at first sight. A marriage after an uncomfortable wait. A wait that left many pails of water that refused to flow under the bridge of a bond shared by two hearts. Word became words, words gave life to fights, fights revealed facets of a life. Some faces were scary. She couldn’t deal with it anymore. Her heart crushed, her face bruised, her dreams shattered, she made it home.

Yeah. Hers, one could argue that it was a fairy tale of sorts. The kind of sort that Disney wouldn’t bother making into a movie. I was there when she returned back home. It felt weird to see their home now gripped by a gloomy silence. It felt depressing and that depression felt infectious.

I’ll do it, I found myself say. It wasn’t an act of chivalry, it wasn’t an act of setting things right. I don’t really know why I said it, but I said it none the less. Of course, I was turned down. Persistence persevered. Amidst hushed resentment, it was a discrete family affair and our lives started on a brand new page.

The brand new page indicated a whole new chapter. The new chapter had a new character. Diya. The name that meant direction. She was old enough to know what a family was and a bit young to understand the dynamics of human nature. Diya , she was the much needed direction in our life. Radha and my life usually centred on her. Yeah.

Diya’d usually address me as her uncle. She couldn’t bring herself to call me her dad. Radha would assure me that the transition would eventually happen. It didn’t matter to me. I loved her. She loved me. Ours was a happy family. It was our favorite park. We’d make an effort to spend a lot of time there. Diya would run about till she tired herself out. Her excitement was never concealed. She was never short of tall tales of birds and animals that spoke to her in the park. Her imagination was as wild as her spirit. The routine was a norm. The Saturdays were spent in the park. Our little family flourished with smiles and love.

I still remember the wonderful day when Diya called me her dad. It was a Saturday, of course it was. The little one had woken up early. She had walked to my bed. She had scaled my chest, pried my sleepy eyes open.

‘Lets go to the park Daddy’ she begged sweetly. I kissed her forehead. Asked her to get ready. Radha was impressed at her daughter’s determination to shower and dress up for the big day. Every once a while, she’d scream ‘ lets go go go daddy’. Simple words, but it warmed the depths of my soul. It felt like the most special thing that had ever happened to my life.

As we readied ourselves to leave, my phone buzzed. Against my enforced principle of leaving my work at the doorstep, I had to take that call. The two ladies of my life decided to make a start, leaving me behind. The park wasn’t that far anyways. It was a short bus ride away. Four stops and twenty minutes away. I hinted that I’d join them shortly. I knew our usual bench. I knew our usual routine. Spirited Diya would wander aimlessly. Her curiosity would know no bounds. Radha and I would sit on the same bench. We were happy with the ‘Dad’ status.

****

The city rocked from the blast. Another act that hoped to represent an ideology, a god, or whatever the demented disillusioned mind chose to believe in. My world fell apart. I reasoned with it, I justified it all, I stopped reasoning and kept myself from justifying it all. Life had happened and I couldn’t reconcile it any longer.

And so after a year, I’m back in the park again. Diya is out there, playing and running on a lush carpet of green grass, under the blanket of a blue cloudless sky. Radha’s head is rested on my shoulder. It was all happening, none of it was real or fiction. It was a moment that was trapped between a world of what if and a world of if only. My salvation was a chrome steel and a river of red crimson. The world could deal with the mess that I’d leave behind.

As I said, my life turned out to be a fairy tale after all. I would go on to have a happily forever after.

Karthik

Note: Inspired by a day spent in Kew Gardens! What can I say, I do love a good tragedy!

La Belle Annabelle

What should have been a fun movie review outlining how good the movie is, how the scares and the scare tactics work, how the movie’s subtle plot points connect well with the Conjuring universe, Unfortunately, it was not the kind of horror that I thought I’d be watching.

The day started off nice and easy. The I-Day. It felt nice to celebrate the day in a way that I could. Spur of the moment decision and I opted to watch a movie, Annabelle : Creation , later in the evening. A quick hop to Leicester Square later, I knew I had arrived an hour before the show could start .It was going to be a good evening after all. I loitered the streets, shot a few pictures, the smiling faces of Londoners was as pleasant as they have always been. With a little time to go, I made it to the movie hall. A large bag of salted popcorn later, the show was all set to begin.

This was a first of many kinds. I’ve been a purist when it comes to picking movie halls. BFI – IMAX. Period. Unfortunately, BFI was still showing Dunkirk, a movie that I seem to be avoiding for no warranted reason, I made that choice to try Super Screen in Cineword Leicester Sq. Italian leather seats, Oh I picked the balcony, which made it even more flamboyant. The balcony was smallish and cozy. I knew I’d enjoy the show. I had picked a nice strategic seat. Bang on Centre to the screen. The horror was all that I needed. Like a junkie after a fix, I was excited about the show that was to begin.

The funny thing that added to the sense of horror in that balcony was the simple fact that when people walked in, the entire room would feed shock waves. Two false jumps later, I had gotten used to the movement and the aftershocks. The ads had started. There were a dozen people sharing the balcony with me. Small crowd. That enhanced the eeriness to the movie watching experience. Perfect.

The floor rattled once again. I had grown wiser to it’s rumble. I ignored it. It rattled and rattled some more. The rattling persisted and I realized that something was going on a few seats away. I slowly turned away from the screen towards the side to see what was going on. Two blokes had kick started a fist fight. They were about 10 seats away from me, a row above.

My initial thought was that they were just a bunch of kids, teasing each other and landing soft punches to kill time. With the clock ticking, the punches didn’t sound soft any more. Yes, I could hear each thud landing. I could hear each fist getting in contact with a body.

Lets just say things escalated really quick. I’ll skip through the gory details. Watch American history X instead. I saw the same thing. Thank god, it wasn’t an execution.

I sat frozen in fear. I didn’t want to be on the path of the two idiots hell bent on killing each other. I made a split decision to run down the stairs and notify the manager , or flag it to the cops who were there on the streets. The message now conveyed, the cops now engaged, as I walked back to the hall to collect my bag, the victim walked past me. The horror still remains in my head and his blood remained splattered across my shirt. I didn’t realize it when he walked past me.

Testimony and witness account narrated to the cops, the movie resumed. With the movie now watched, only when I walked under the lights of the street did I notice streaks of red plotting fashionable tangent across my white shirt. I grew sicker and sicker on the train ride back home. I knew I was hallucinating the smell of blood. It wasn’t there. It wasn’t real. It felt all too real to me. The sanctity of my sanity had been breached.

It was the moment when the horror had finally caught on.

What drives us to deliver horror in real life? For what it’s worth, the movie was good and it’s horror was pale in comparison to the one which I didn’t volunteer to witness.