Shades Of Words


4 Comments

The Revolutionary Paul Revere

For someone who has no knowledge of America’s freedom struggle, “The Revolutionary Paul Revere’, is fast paced biography that not only talks about one of the most important patriots but also educates the reader on the start of the American freedom struggle The focus of the novel is Paul Revere, who is probably most known for his role as the express rider, who on one very famous midnight ride , awoke every house from Boston to Lexington and informed them about the approaching red coats. The story starts from his birth of France and his move to Boston under the bounds of an apprenticeship. Paul Revere is an enterprising young man who not only excels in his craft as a silversmith but also manages to rise about his station and mingle with the gentlemen of his time. In his early youth, he gets involved with the masonic society in Boston and is soon participating in the local political meeting. These early years of iniitation ensure that he becomes a key participant in the freedom struggle at its peak I beleive that Joel Miller did a very good job of explaining Paul Revere role as a revolutionary, though, some more personal details and characterstics would have made for a more interesting reading. The best thing that I liked was how this book was a crash course in American history for me – Joe talks about the American freedom struggle as much as he talks about Paul’s role in it. He captures very well the first notions of dissent among the populace as newly established towns thrived inspite the various colonial laws and regulations. I learned of many famous patriot names – Sam Adams, John Hancock – which may be common knowledge to most Americans. I will be reading more on who these people were and what they did. Joel Miller’s writing style is simple and succinct. It never gets text-bookish. For me it was literally a page turner! However, as this book outlines a story almost 200 years old..use of slang language is jarring and out of place. I also feel that towards the end of the book, the writer has lost his steam and is trying to just finish off the last few chapters. This book was both educating and entertaining and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in history.


7 Comments

The Turn of the Screw

 

After having really liked “Washington Square”, I went looking for my second Henry James novel.

” The Turn of the screw” caught my attention because it was a gothic horror story and not something that I quite expected from James.  An old english country house , a young naive governess , the seemingly innocent golden haired children and floating shadows – how perfect!

Well, now that I am through this novella, I can inform you,dear reader, that “The Turn of the Screw” is not your typical ghost story. Lets look at the premise first. The story is narrated by a young gentleman in front of a country house’s weekend gathering. He reads from the notes of a young governess, our novel’s heroine.

This lady, who remains unnamed, had been hired by a young charming man ,who wanted her to look after his orphaned niece and nephew at his country mansion.  He puts only one condition to  her-  he must never ever be troubled with any of their concerns. The governess , eager to please her handsome employer , agreed to this. Her welcome in Bly, the country house aforementioned, was pleasant. Flora, the younger of the two wards, is delightful and beautiful. It is here that the story starts getting sinister – as a reader , every interaction with Flora and the governess sent chills down my spline. Its innocent..but the the child is so perfect that it unnerves you. Soon enough the governess sees a vision of a man , who she later comes to know was Peter Quint, the master’s valet. The governess coaxes the housekeeper to tell her more and soon learns of an illicit relationship between him and the ex-governess Miss Jessel.

At this point of time ,you are just warming up to the prospect of reading a lovely scary ghost story when things get suddenly odd. The governess is convinced that the ghost has come to claim the child and corrupt the child (and I honestly dont know what it means and whether it is related to religion and concept of satan) and she must save her. She partakes this as her new mission. Meanwhile, Miles the other child arrives from school , from which he has been expelled ! He is more delightful and perfect than Flora, if such a thing were possible. On a picnic to a nearby pond, the governess now meets her second visitation , she sees an image of what she assumes to be Miss Jessel ( who has also been dead) . She also notices that Flora has apparently noticed this vision too. The governess now believes that the children are in some collaboration with the ghosts and they are about to be lost to them. On confiding her fears to the housekeeper, she learns  that the chidren were rather fond of Quint and Jessel  and were in their constant company. I dont tend to have a Freudian bent of mind but as I heard that particular conversation my mind somehow jumped to sexual abuse, paedophilia and other similar concepts. Worried that I may be reading in too much I went online to  find some analysis of this and yes one, from the many interpretations of this story, talks about the possibility of these relationships between the children and these ghosts.

The governess thought the same or something even worse , what that is, is neither stated nor implied, and she becomes almost obsessed of saving the children. Infact its the way she carries on ranting and raving that I start believing that she is quite mad. She believes that the children can be saved if they only would confess to what they see and she pushes them into situations to do so. The story’s ending is quite  unpredictable and leaves open many questions.

What really amazes me that even though the ambiguity is so high and as a reader you are so at a loss to understand the inner workings of the governess mind , not once , you feel fed let down or fed up. You keep reading page after page waiting for the big relevation that will explain everything.  One of the main assumptions and secrets to enjoying fiction is that you believe it is the truth in that relative space. In this novel, there comes a point when you realize that what may happening may not be true at all and that is very discomforting as you no longer have any frames of reference.  You dont know which character to trust!

A thorough roller coaster.


8 Comments

Hampi Temple City

Hemakuta Temple Complex

Hemakuta Temple Complex

Though its been some time since we made this trip , the fact, that this was the last trip we made before we left for India kind of makes it special !

A sunny Friday saw two Santros exit Hyderabad towards the state of K arnataka via National Highway &. Our destination was a small town , quite nondescript actually , of the name Hampi.
Though quite a smallish place today, Hampi , was the capital of the famous south Indian kingdom, Viajaynagara

Old mini temple structures

Today a UNESCO world heritage site, Hampi boasts some of the most numerous, spread out and expansive ruins of the Vittala Kingdom,

Hampi is about 400Kms from Hyderabad which makes it around 6-8 hrs of drive. That can be quite exhausting on Indian roads.Thought the road is good , some patches really slow one up and there are also stops that need to be taken for tea and snacks. We planned to make it around midnight and check in at our place of stay, Hotel Mallagi. Ofcourse, we did not factor in getting lost and we finally hit our beds at some 2.30 am in the night. Since its a small place the maps are not accurate and as we were trying to use the GPS ( which is definitely a bad idea in India) , at 11.30 pm in the night we found ourselves totally lost. We were for sure in Hampi, but dead in the middle of the ruins. We could not a see a single soul and the ruins just made it more spooky !! Since there were eight of us in two cars we really weren’t scared but definitely did not want to spend the night on road. Finally , we found a helping soul ( god bless him) who put us on track and we were back on the right route.

Intricately carved pillars of Virupaksha temple

Next morning we got up leisurely , had a hearty breakfast , and headed towards the ruins. Since we had just one  day with us we decided to hire a guide and hit the ‘must see’ spots. If you are a student of history or art or if you have time on your hand, plan to be in Hampi, for 3-4 days. You can walk or bicycle around from ruin to ruin. They are all spread out in a maximum of 3-4 kms radius.

Though I keep referring to the structures as ‘ruins’ they are actually quite stoic remains of one or more vast temple complexes. We started our trip with the Hemakuta temple complex. As I walked amongst the structures, my mind marveled at their architecture and thought of all that must have gone in those halls that are today just broken pillars. One could smell the burning incense and lamps and could hear the footsteps of hurrying townspeople going home towards their huts near the river.

I was rudely awakened from my reverie as our guide shoved us towards the Virupaksha temple down the hill- the most intact and the most busy of the temples.This temple is believed to be functional since the 7th century – much before the Vijaynagara kingdom came into existence. What is visible today , is the original temple plus the multiple shrines that were added over time. The temple is full of visiting devotees and you may seem a little out of place trying to admire the structure instead of trying to pray. I am not a big fan of hustling and bustling temples and we stepped out of this quite fast. The thing to be noted here is the practical implementation of the pin-hole camera in one of the chambers , the almost 7 story gopuram with intricate carvings and underground Shiva temple

The Stone Chariot

Our next major stop was at the famous Vitthala temple complex. On the way we passed several interesting ruins. Though we wanted to explore more, we were on a tight schedule and only stopped at the more famous structures.

The Vitthala temple is situated near the area as to what seemed to be throne of the Vijayanagara kingdom. One could see the remains of the old cobbled streets that led to the gates of the temple city. As you approach the city, a long row of 4-5 feet high columns appear. Instantly images of long forgotten busy street bazaars came to my mind. These columns must have formed stalls for vendors and they must have peddled their wares to all the crowd passing by the main street! The most famous structure that finds it way to all the tourist brochures is the Stone Chariot- more magnificent than it looks in photos – this huge and heavy chariot is actually a shrine devoted to multiple Hindu deities.The Vithala complex is sprwaling and has several other major temples and halls and dining areas.

No trip to Hampi is complete without a meal at Mango Tree Restaurant. Located on the banks of the river , this restaurant is famous for its own version of Indian food and a large variety of pancakes :).Being one of the places that serves full meals this place is always jam-packed and its find your own place to sit arrangement adds a touch of bohemia to the atmosphere.

Lotus Palace

Once we were well fed , we headed towards the last stop of the day – The Lotus palace and the elephant stables. The Lotus palace was one of the several housing establishment for the queen of Vijayanagar. In the twilight, it looked like a place from another time. I could be a queen for a place like that :).

Elephant stables

The Elephant Stables were very high on the WOW factor…these were essential the parking lot for the 11 Royal elephants !

Our very long and satisfying day was over in Hampi and we headed towards our hotel rooms. We did get up early morning to catch the cool breeze and pretty photos. But apart from that we were ready to go back. With the wish to return some day.