A Little Life By Hanya Yanagihara: Book Review

The book opens up with a scene where four college friends, JB, a painter, Malcolm, an architect, Willem, an actor, and Jude, a litigator, are having lunch on a bright sunny afternoon in New York City. They are laughing, bantering, and eating like all other friends, but as you move up in the story, the breezy life of attending parties, finding apartments, going on dates, and gossip diminishes. The writer has very intelligently made you comfortable in your reader seat only to stir discomfort in the book’s latter pages. The prose is written in an eternal present day by scrubbing away references to any historical events. The effect is that it brings the characterโ€™s emotional lives to the foreground rendering the political and cultural Zeitgeist into vague scenery. As the pages turn, the ensemble recedes; with it, Jude comes to the fore and remains at the center. 

Jude, who’s 16 when he arrives at an affluent New England college with only a backpack of baggy clothes, parentless and horribly scarred. His legs disfigured in an incident whose details he guards as closely as everything else about his past, he’s profoundly aware of his “extreme otherness.” The book slowly discloses luridly gothic episodes from his life before college. “You were made for this, Jude,” he’s told by the only adult he loves, a monk who betrays his trust. Consequently, Jude comes to believe that his suffering is the result of his abandonment “He had been born, and left, and found, and used as he had been intended to be used.”

The book is scaled to the intensity of Jude’s inner life. The cutting becomes a leitmotif. Every fifty pages or so, we get a scene in which Jude mutilates his own flesh with a razor blade. It forces the reader to squirm with a queasy experience of the brutal world. Jude’s suffering is so extensively documented because it is the foundation of his character. His sense of self comes in waves of elaborating metaphors: he is “a scrap of bloodied, muddied cloth,” “a blank, faceless prairie under whose yellow surface earthworms and beetles wriggled,” “a scooped out husk.” His memories are “hyenas,” his fear, “a flock of flapping bats,” his self-hatred a “beast.” 

โ€œA Little Lifeโ€ keeps the queer suffering at the heart of the book. It uses the middle-class trappings of naturalistic fiction to deliver an unsettling meditation on abandonment, horrifying physical and sexual abuse, prostitution, abduction, and the difficulties of recovery. The collective traumas like sickness and discrimination, which have deeply shaped the modern gay identity, are approached obliquely. The writer has avoided the conventional narrative of coming out or the AIDS issues. 

For Jude, the relief comes in the form of career success and friendship. In addition to his law degree, Jude pursues a master’s in pure mathematics. At one point, he explains to his friends that he is drawn to math because it offers the possibility of “a wholly provable, unshakable absolute in a constructed world with very few unshakable absolutes.” Yanagihara has balanced ruthlessness by swashing us with the warmth and sunshine of friendship. Each friend of Jude’s tries to make innumerable accommodations to his daily needs. Malcolm, by designing spaces that will accommodate his disability; JB by painting kinder portraits that the eye alone would see; Willem by being the one person to whom he can tell his entire history. Willem and Jude invent their own type of relationship, which isn’t officially recognized or immortalized through words, but is truer and less constraining than legalized ones.

Why wasn’t friendship as good as a relationship? Why wasn’t it even better? It was two people who remained together, day after day, bound not by sex or physical attraction or money or children or property, but only by the shared agreement to keep going, the mutual dedication to a union that could never be codified.” The prose beautifully depicts how friendship can be the primary relationship for some people. I loved how the book portrays the lives that are rarely depicted in popular art – a life without marriage and children. How, in periods of crisis, Jude’s friends monitor him like hawks, taking turns to feed him and keep a close eye on his self-harm.

For Jude, his friends are his only refuge and savior in this toxic world. Yet the ending makes you realize that in the end, you are really left on your own. Even though so many friends come in and out of Jude’s life, nobody is really able to save him. And that part is a very accurate reflection of, lot of adult lives. 

Boxed Up

Someone recently accused me that I box up people too much. At first, I denied the claim, as is my habit of denying any absurdity pointing towards me. But then I thought more on the subject, and here is what I found out.

Boxing up or labeling is what we do from the moment we are born. The minute a child is born, a gender gets assigned to it. Isn’t gender a type of boxing up. Children are reared differently, how subtle that difference maybe, but there is a difference for sure. Then how we teach relationship to a child is also boxing up. We tell them who is a confidant and who is not, whom to open up and whom to not to. We tell them whom to consider their family and who is friends, and who is a stranger. Of course, all this is done to ensure the child’s safety to protect them from the wild wild world. But today, I am not concerned about it; my concern is about labels. We are taught to label people in our life, Period.

Most of you will be rolling your eyes at me, but wait till you fully hear me out. Do you have a friend? Then welcome to this another analysis. How many friends do you have? A lot? But how many of them are real friends? Whom will you call up in an emergency? Who will surely turn up at your door? And more importantly, which friend of yours will be best to deal with you in the situation of crisis. Did names pop up in your brain? Good, then look at the next line carefully.

Best Friend, Close Friend, Fast Friends, and acquaintance- You must have seen these tags on social media platforms. Now each person who came to your mind in my above questions should be given a mentioned tag.
Did you do that? If not, please do; it will help you understand more about yourself. I am assuming by now you have put these friends in each category. Congratulations, you have successfully done the boxing up.

I am not here to judge you or moralize you. I am here to show you that the human brain is accustomed to boxing up. When you claim someone to be your best friend, you have put a label on them. All other friends who will come after that person in your life will have to measure up to that set criteria. Sometimes a new person will exceed the set standards; then, you are bound to pass on the sash to this new person. And that’s how the circle of labeling goes on.

The labeling is vital for your wellbeing. Each person is bound to have boundaries, and you shouldn’t be allowing everyone to enter into your life. The walls are created for your protection; that’s a human survival instinct. You need to protect your mind and heart from unnecessary trouble. Of course, even with so much precaution, you are bound to have some bad experiences, and they will make you notch up your walls, and that’s ok. It’s ok to have high walls, it’s ok to distrust people, but then the point comes to what extent? To what extent your walls protect you? To what extent the labeling is not robbing you of better experiences? Confused, I am too, but then we have to set boundaries on labeling again.

There will come people in your life who will not fit into one label. There can be someone who opens up some part of you creatively, but they won’t be available when you need them the most. They might be the one who knows most intimate details about your soul, but they might not want to be part of your life or maybe they can’t. Yet you keep them close and remain agitated because that particular person or relation can’t be boxed up.

The funny thing is you are boxing up your love too. When you love someone, you box them in the category of a lover. Each lover you will ever have will go to that box. Whether you like it or not, your mind has done it every time for you, even without asking.

So my conclusion on the accusation is, Yes, I box up people. Boxing has kept my soul intact and my mind sane. I am a high-walled person, and I like being that person.

For you, my reader, your experiences are your treasure. Never let anyone take away that from you. If they want to prove your experiences wrong, they should provide you with better experiences rather than telling you that you rely too much upon your experiences.

PS: You are free to give me your opinions? I am open to hearing you out.

A Christmas to remember

“In this season of warmth,
Comes the memory of our year twentieth.
Filled with joy and laughter,
Making us believe this shall remain after.
Where every moment was brighter than the last,
That’s how I remember our glorious past.”

All the Christmas that I have witnessed so far in my life, the one I celebrated in 2008, stands out clearly in my memory. I was in my Graduation final year living in Gurgaon with a most fantastic set of friends one can ever have. We all knew that this would be our last holiday season with each other, we decided to have fun instead of lazing around in our college campus.
My friend L, who is a movie buff, decided that we should watch the upcoming movie Gajini, first-day first show. Now the thing was that this movie was Aamir Khan movie and everyone wanted to see it. Hence there were pre-booking of the tickets. L who was ever confident in his skills of getting tickets kept telling us to have faith in him. The funny thing about L is his overtly optimistic attitude, and we knew every group has its ticket except us. So I decided that the task should be given to H who is a go-getter and get things done. I called up H whining about the inefficiency of L in getting us the tickets and asking him to do the task. It was so last minute that though we ended up with seven tickets for our group, the theatre which we got was outside the city.

As per our itinerary, we decided first to visit the church in the city and then watch the movie. Anyone who has ever lived in Northern India knows what winter mornings look like in there. Dragging our bodies out of bed and layering ourselves with the woollen clothing we ventured together on this trip.
L and G were day scholars while the rest of us were living in the hostel campus, we decided to meet both of them at the nearest bus station. G being G was way before time, by the time we reached there she has turned into fire throwing dragon and L like always was putting water on her anger.
After throwing a few cuss words at all of us, she decided to calm down. Its then we took an auto and went to the church. G’s schooling was from convent school, so she knew her way around church and masses while the rest of us were clueless. We followed her around like little puppies. She bought candles for us; we lighted our candles outside as the inside was already overflowing with candles. Looked around the church, said a quick prayer and headed out. I wanted to see what a church mass looks like on a Christmas Day, but as we were short on time, we ditched the idea.

We took a bus from outside the church to reach the movie theatre. It was in a newly built mall where the only thing that was open was this theatre. As soon as we entered the theater, we saw a bunch of guys in the gajini haircut and wearing a shirt and vest. For more clarity, I will add the picture of both here.

The gajini haircut
The handsome sanjay singhania look

I must say the Sanjay Singhania look is the only Aamir look that worked for me, the only time I found him handsome.
We were shocked to see that people could be this crazy about an actor to get such a weird haircut.

We finally entered the theater, fought for seats, this was always an issue who will sit with whom, L who was movie crier like me always sat far away from me. So one side I had M, and on another hand, I had H to entertain me between the scenes. I must tell you I have a problem of talking between the scenes if I like something I will nudge the person next to me to see their reaction. Of course, this has stopped after I got married because my husband watches a movie with a pin drop of silence, in fact, he doesn’t even let me eat popcorn while watching a movie.

I will not write about the movie, as most of the people especially all Indians must have seen it, if not then you should watch it. The thing that makes this day a memorable one is the fact that all of us watched this movie in utter silence and when the film finished we were still in total silence. No one spoke anything, with a heavy heart we pulled ourselves out of the theater, hired an autorickshaw and sat silently for the next 15 minutes. Its then H said, “Itna sarnata kyu hai Bhai” (Bro, why everyone is so lulled). We all laughed together and then one by one we all shared that the scene where the actress gets hit by a rod, a tear rolled down our eye.

The thing that made me sad was that she died without knowing the true identity of the actor. This movie holds a special place in my heart due to several reasons. First this was the first tragic movie we ever saw as a group; otherwise, we always went for comedies or action thriller. Secondly this was the first time I ever cried seeing a romantic movie; otherwise, romance doesn’t make me sad, until its tragic. Third, this was the first time I celebrated Christmas Day.

We all felt uneasy for so many days while discussing this movie and its scenes. The film has beautiful songs in it, but the one that stands out for me is this one.

The lyrics are so meaningful that it melts your heart. I always wished that someone will dedicate this song for me someday, I think all of us did in our group ๐Ÿ˜› But then no one did, in fact, I recently I asked my husband that would he mind dedicating this song to me ๐Ÿ˜€ After all he should feel lucky to have me in his life ๐Ÿ˜‰

I want to write much more about us, but then words wouldn’t be enough to justify my feelings for this gang of mine. It was my first ever group, a group which made me value friendship and the love you share with your friends. It is the only WhatsApp group where I am an active member. It’s here where I go when I feel low, it’s here that we still find the past so funny and hilarious. It’s here we talk about the silly stupid crushes and all in between our college life.

We all are in different stages of life, most of our married except H and I think he doesn’t even plan to ๐Ÿ˜› Some of us have kids others are still enjoying being happy :D, but we always find a way back to each other. We haven’t seen each other as a group from the last five years except me, M and G always end up meeting somehow once a year, but yet all of us are connected by what we shared once. After all, it’s not easy to keep the 12 years of friendship going without any fight amongst in the group.

So L, H, M, G,B, and P you guys are one of the best things that ever happened to me. I cherish every minute of our friendship and love, and I still read our last letters to each other ๐Ÿ˜€

PS for my friends: I might have mixed up a few things, so guys if you are reading this blog and you feel I have messed up the sequence of events then I can’t help it. After all the writer has the last say ๐Ÿ˜‰

PPS: L we don’t have any picture where its just 7 of us, all thanks to you ๐Ÿ˜› . The magnanimous one ๐Ÿ˜€ So whenever we meet next time its your duty to click a G-7 picture ๐Ÿ˜‰

Ending this post with our group song ๐Ÿ˜€

Leafy love and friendship: Day 12 of A-Z Challenge

โ€œplease, love, leave,
like leaf from tree;
taking beauty,
leaving seedโ€
โ€• Andrew McMillan

leafy

There was a time when a promise of friendship was made through a leaf. It lasted as long as the leaf last to dry up.

*************

We were walking holding our biology books towards the park with a path full of dried fallen leaves. Two girls of 17 then who were soon going to graduate from school. Life seems pretty easy that time and teenage is a funny age, it make you believe that everything last for forever especially love and friendships.

We sat below the tree and opened our books. I took out my notebook and started making notes.

She (regretting): Oh, I forgot bring my notebook.

Me (surprised): Ah!! Thatโ€™s bad. Should we go inside to bring one?

She (smirking): Nah..leave it. I will write on something else.

Me (puzzled): What else?

She (smiling): Pointed her hand towards the fallen leaves.

I laughed and she picked up few and started drying diagrams on them. After an hour school bell rang, we started gathering our things. Suddenly she picked up one leave and wrote something on it. I asked her to be quick and do rest of her practice in next free period. She closed my eyes with her one hand and asked me to open up my palm.

Me( irritated): Whatโ€™s this?

She(suppressing laughter): Surprise. Just open up your palm.

Me(opening my one palm) : Ok.

I felt something light on my palm. Slowly I opened my eyes and saw a dried green leaf with message on it .

Friends Forever.

I smiled turning it and found

Apurva โค Neerja.

I kept my books down and picked up another same leaf and wrote the message,

Friends forever

in front and

Neerja โค Apurva

on backside and gave it to her.

Itโ€™s been almost eleven years since then and our friendship has taken a backseat now. Both of us settled in our own worlds forgetting the leafy promise of two teenage girls.

My favourite leaves are maple leaves, because they remind me of my teenage yearโ€™s favourite romantic movie Mohabbatein (love)

PS: Share your memory attached to leaves or autumn or friendship or promise.

This my attempt for the Telweth day of the A-Z Challenge.

Day 12: L(alphabet)

L

Books and Memories:Day 2 of A-Z Challenge

โ€œYou’re never alone when you’re reading a book.โ€โ€• Susan Wiggs

How perfect ๐Ÿ™‚ A reader always have a company either of people or of pages ๐Ÿ™‚ The latter is understood but the former would be browย  raising query.

Today to elaborate the former I will unleash a memory of book reading journey ๐Ÿ™‚

****************
On a foggy freezing Delhi winter, I was standing near the metro door holding “The Oath of Vayputras”.

tumblr_mr54jjmKk41sen22bo1_500
A lot of people are capable, Neelkanth. What makes a capable person truly dangerous is his conviction. I smiled wickedly as if a hidden sutra was unfolded to me.

I looked up, glancing sidewards at the moving Yamuna. I heaved and let out a sigh.
Excuse me! I turned to look, there was a beautiful round smiling face of a girl. I smiled back.

She(pointing towards the book ): Is this the latest one from AMISH TRIPATHI?

I(smiling) : Yap ! Have you read this already?

She(laughing): I think it’s out of stock right now ๐Ÿ˜›

I(laughing back): Yeah, I pre-booked this one before launch ๐Ÿ˜‰

She(inquisitively): So how is it turning out?

I(smirking): Good so far.

She(tilting her head): So do you read often.

I(grinning): Yeah, can’t live without them.

She(ha ha) : Me too.

So our conversation took off with books discussing the upcoming Indian authors to established ones. From the romantic genre to biographies. Discussing fiction to philosophy.Our two hours vanished in blink of an eye. We parted with huge smiles on our faces.

It was one of my most remarkable metro journey. And I call it friendship over books.

So friends share your friendship over books story.

This my attempt for the Second day of the A-Z Challenge.

Day 2: B(alphabet)

alphabet-b

Limerick Challenge Week 8:Lost

Today is your special day darling,

Hope it is beautiful and charming.

I may be missing from the party,

But you should enjoy your Bacardi

The wish for you is,be the way you are, marveling

This Limerick is dedicated to my best friend, Today its her birthday, I wanted to write something short and sweet โค for her.

Because Once in lifetime you get a friend as loyal and as loving as you honey โค

cake

Three years ago I bought this cake for you on your birthday, here I am once again with this cake without candles, wishing you …….

Happy Birthday sweetheart โค