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Follow her as she prepares and partakes the "bread for the stomach" in http://beforesixdiet.blogspot.com/ . And while you are full at it, she offers you the "bread for the soul" in her travels by foot and by thoughts in http://footandfire.blogspot.com/ Happy Reading!

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

For Matrimonial Purposes

For Matrimonial Purposes
Kavita Daswani
Penguin, 2003, 277 pages

This novel was loaned to me by a good friend who shares my interest with anything Eastern. I read this long before I finished the first one I borrowed from her, We want to live here, an exchange of letters between Israeli and Palestinian teenage girls. But I'm glad that I decided to pick it up. I was inspired to pick it up maybe after reading proposals and marriges the Afgani way in a memoir, The Bookseller of Kabul, where the men gives dowry to women's family.

In this novel, I learned that the family of the Indian woman spends lavishly for the wedding and gives dowry to the groom. But the same thing as the Afghans, the family agrees and makes proposals and conducts the marriage ceremony within a short period. Afghans are mostly Muslim while Indians are mostly Hindus but the similarity can be pointed out as regards marriage and women in finding their husbands. In both culture, women can be married off at 15.

Back to the novel, this is a debut novel of the author and I found it really entertaining and readable. Her humor is tempered and not exaggerated that I almost think that it is a memoir rather than a novel, since it's written on a first-person account. I felt the heat of Bombay, I dreaded the crowded marriage parties before the ceremony itself, I felt the social pressure for Raju to get marired too, I felt liberated when she found "home" in New York, I was half-pleased when she was kissed the first time by a "white man" because she has to have "an Indian boy,"  I was sad when she hoped for a proposal that did not went through, and I admired her openness in her quest to marry "the one" among her circle of friends. But I confessed that I shed tears only on the last few chapters when she already met the man who is close to "the one" and she has to get past the traditional way of finding a husband. But mostly, before those chapters, I smiled through and through because despite the oppressive tradition, she chose to adhere to it but of course with little rebellions along the way.    

Aside from the Indian culture and the story of Raju's quest for matrimonial purposes, the book is also entertaining as it mentioned many Indian food which intrigued me till the end that I made a list of them only when I was nearing the end:  samosa, lassi, potato tikki, mint chutney, peas pulao, dahiwada, kichdi, parathas, cashew mithai and papads. I wished I did the list at the onset.

The cover mentions that this is likened to the "Sex and the City," "Bridget Jone Diary" and "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." I saw the latter and ignored the first two. I wonder whether this one was made into a movie. I can imagine that it can be a culturally vibrant (Indian Life) and glamorous (Umrican Life) one with a mix of hilarity in equal measures.  

Whatever hardship there is in finding love, all is well that ends well. As Raju aptly closes her story, "It didn't matter anymore."

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Habang Wala Pa Sila: Mga Tula ng Pag-ibig

Habang Wala Pa Sila: Mga Tula ng Pag-ibig
By Juan Miguel Severo
Abs-cbn Publishing Inc, 2016
Poetry with illustrations, 120 pages

I never heard him yet doing his spoken poetry but when I opened the first few pages, he got me by first impression with his Basang Sapatos, he likened the heaviness of losing a love with the heaviness of his steps when his shoes are wet. Plus maybe, it's rainy season so I bought and read this collection.

"Anak, nagmahal ka.
Dapat masanay ka nang maglakad
nang may mabigat na paa." 

There are "trying hard" attempts in some pieces like in Naniniwala Ako, Maliwanag ang Langit, Malamig ang Gabi, and Parating Huli but Severo got me fully in a surprising number of pieces like in Bago Ka Umalis ng Bahay and Karaoke. While I understand that his pieces are meant to be heard as a tale, I didn't get bored with the length or by some Filipino words I just met. Most of the time, I smile and breeze through the reading as heartbreaks are indeed breaking. And to just smile because you see some truth in the written words is to empathize.

My favorite pick among the collection is Corregidor, Bataan where he sought answer to his question why he can't replace the old love of his love likened to a war-torn Corregidor, and ended up realizing that to choose love is to make another landmark. For me, there lies the poetry.

"Ganito kaming iibig.
Pipiliin parati ang magmahal.
Magsusulat kami ng bagong kuwento." 


"Kung mayron mang pumasyal sa aming 
dambana o guho, nakatitiyak ako.
Pinili naming magmahal at hindi kami nabigo."

I also liked Guimaras, though it is a bit sleepy yet lyrical tale which owes of course to the lifestyle  pacing of  the province. He talked of being alone in the morning, remembering his love in the afternoon, understanding his being alone in the dusk, and his resolve to be return home being at peace with being alone. Just when I already accepted his resolve, his last line invites hope for her return to him.

I. Umaga
  xxx "Pinagbabayaran ko pa rin ang pag-iisa"
II. Hapon
xxx "Sakaling matagpuan mong nababasa na ng ulan 
ang iyong buhok, kamay ko 'yan: 
humaplos sa 'yo."

III. Dapit-hapon
xxx "Nilubos ko ang pagtitig sa araw
at hindi niya na 'ko kayang bulagin."

IV. Gabi
xxx "Uuwi ako sa lungsod nang panatag sa pag-iisa."

It could have ended there, but he added:

"At sapagkat ako ang gabi, ang sinasabi ko sa 'yo:
pagdating ko'y sasakluban kita.
Sapagkat ako ang gabi, ang sinasabi ko sa 'yo:
dito ka sa 'kin, humimbing ka."

Lastly as a writer myself, I can relate with "Kerida," where he likened his muse to a kerida who sometimes refuses to come to him although she should come to him under the circumstances of aloneness and midnight, but of course, one can't really force a natural flow of thoughts and emotions. I myself made a poem entitled "Infidel" where when there's writer's block, I feel I should rather be at work, and when the muse came and I have to rush for work, I feel I should write.

Back to this collection, I am happy that this is a short collection, otherwise, I will be shouting "enough" of these unending circles of love and heartbreak and love and heartbreak and love.  

Saturday, August 5, 2017

The Bookseller of Kabul

The Bookseller of Kabul
Asne Sierstad
Paperback, 276 pages
Virago, 2004

Kabul is in Afghanistan and Mikrorayon is the hometown of our bookseller. When Journalist-author Asne Sierstad came to buy books from Sultan Khan after she joined the army operations for days searching for news, she became interested to the life lived by the man whose hopes is to build a huge library after the war ends. Sultan Khan had dedicated his life salvaging books in the name of Afghani literature and culture, and in the process, he was able to save some old books from wherever source. But keeping the books safe from illiterate soldiers who burn anything with living things on the cover or anything that seems immoral is a challenge that could even mean his liberty and life.

 This extraordinary passion led the author to turn more stones and she proposed to live with the household of Sultan Khan. She was able to live with the Khans for four months and the resulting tale reveals a portrait of an Afghani family and culture. But for me, this book brought Afghanistan and the Afghani people closer to me. When I hear Afghanistan, 9/11 and Osama Bin Laden come to mind immediately and nothing more. But this book sent me some intimate understanding of the suffering brought by the event and the war that ensued to hunt Osama to the lives of an Afghani which turned their village into rubble.

I like how the author broke to me her discovery by revealing the thoughts and aspirations of almost all of Khan's immediate extended family in a chapter or two. While I admired Sultan Khan for his being a passionate bookseller and for his extraordinary dream of building a huge library to house important books for the Afghan culture, as well as his adoration for liberalism, I would also abhor him for his patriarchal ways in the family, and pitied the women and their lots. With the author, I was able to experience Afghani proposals and weddings, see how they define and treat crime and punishment, understand their need to be liberated from war, feel the impracticality of wearing a burka and the pain of not being able to choose whom to marry, hear each of them dream, aspire and express their fear, peep into the Muslim faith in their side of the world and peppered with poetry by Afghan poet Sayd Bahodine Majrouh.

Now, Afghanistan has flesh to me. It is a plus factor that the author told in a lyrical manner her observations, with anecdotes and intimate portraits which are balanced with some humor.