Monday, 12 August 2013

Short Story Reads: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty by James Thurber

There is a little bit of Walter Mitty in all of us. 

First published in the New Yorker, this 1939 short story tells of a middle-aged day dreamer who is out shopping with his wife. Walter Mitty wades in and out of dream at the wink of an eye - from manning a ship through a hurricane to saving a patient by sheer genius to playing a sharpshooter accused of murder. Mitty plays his own TV channel, getting all the kicks that his routine, boring life doesn't offer - all in in his mind though.  

One can't help identifying with Walter Mitty. Will we end up like that too, having lived an unfulfilled youth, stuck in the routine of middle age, day-dreaming through the glorious adventurous life we could have been living? Man's greatest need is to be needed and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty vents open the pores to the gap that lies between how we live and how we meant it to be.

(Article by Snehith Kumbla)

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Fiction Reads: Angry River by Ruskin Bond

Another wisp of a book by Ruskin Bond, Angry River is a fine example of children's literature. The yarn is never overwhelming, the main characters are few.You should get to the end of the tale in little over an hour.

Having lost her mother early and with her father working in the city, Sita is a little girl who lives with her grandparents on a small island in the middle of a river. She spends her time taking care of her ailing grandmother. Sita can't go to school, because there is 'too much to do' on the island. The grandfather's character has shades of Ernest Hemingway's similarly brief The Old Man and the Sea.

It was an old tree, and an old man sat beneath it.

He was mending a fishing-net. He had fished in the river for ten years, and he was a good fisherman. He knew where to find the slim silver Chilwa fish and the big beautiful Mahseer and the long moustached Singhara; he knew where the river was deep and where it was shallow; he knew which baits to use - which fish liked worms and which like gram.

The trio live in a mud hut with a sole peepul tree, a couple of goats and hens for company. As things turn out, the old lady needs to be taken to the city for medical treatment. Used to living alone on the island, Sita watches her grandfather's boat dwarfing away from view, carrying her grandmother and two goats. The rain is already causing the water level to rise, and what follows as a consequence forms the rest of the book.

Though Sita and the river are the main protagonists of this novella, the enigmatic boy Krishan is an allegoric addition to the water-rising proceedings. A riveting little tale on nature's fury, human vulnerability and the anonymity of the poor.     

(Article by Snehith Kumbla)