15 October 2016

The Lowland - the shallow deep

Read ebook 18 Jan 2016
 
Book: The Lowland
Author: Jhumpa Lahiri
Review: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Deja vu and a nice one. I would have read enough books with setting of 1970s Bengal communist revolution, the immigration to America, the struggles of an alien land, the memories of youth, the drifting next generation - I would call this genre as the 70s Bengali NRI Fiction. 

Jhumpa Lahiri, writes on the deep sadness inside those Indians who leave their past behind for something better, but happiness alludes them. Broken relationships, loneliness and nostalgia haunts them. They flow with life where it takes them, but there is no turning back. The Bengali immigrants to the hope and freedom of America, but they never belong there. The families left behind, the friendships that never could be, the families that could have been break in the alien atmosphere. 

Jhumpa in her most beautiful style pulls the reader inside the book and one can see the palpable sadness of the story. Some of us who can't deal with our past escape to a place where it can't touch us. You may fill the lowland but how can one fill this strangeness and hollowness of life. 

There are shades of Namesake in the book, same setting but a different story. The same search, the search for meaning! 

The beautiful words of Jhumpa stay with you for much longer, here here...

Richard asked Subhash about India, about its caste system, its poverty. Who was to blame? I don’t know. These days, everyone just blames everyone else . 

For some reason the church reminded him of the small mosque that stood at the corner of his family’s neighborhood in Tollygunge. Another place of worship designated for others, which had served as a landmark in his life. 

Udayan was the one brave enough to ask them for autographs. He was blind to self-constraints, like an animal incapable of perceiving certain colors. But Subhash strove to minimize his existence, as other animals merged with bark or blades of grass.

He had stepped out of it as he had stepped so many mornings out of drea ms, its reality and its particular logic rendered meaningless in the light of day.

She saw that his mouth never fully closed, that there was a diamond-shaped aperture at the center. 

His upper teeth overlapped slightly, as if there were one too many of them. 

To watch the sun sink like a melting scarlet stain into the water of day. 

Unable to fathom his future, severed from his past.

There was the anxiety that one day would not follow the next, combined with the certainty that it would
He had tried to deny the attraction he felt for Gauri. But it was like the light of the fireflies that swam up to the house at night, random points that surrounded him, that glowed and then receded without a trail.

The baby’s lifetime, so scant, already outdistancing and outpacing her own. This was the logic of parenthood. 

There, as he slept next to her, that she felt the cool of his bare shoulder nestled in her armpit. The warmth of his knees against the backs of her legs.

Still he addressed her in the affectionate mode, the diminutive form of exchange reserved for bonds formed in childhood, never questioned, never subject to change. It was how parents spoke to their children, how Udayan and Subhash had once spoken to one another. It conveyed the intimacy of siblings but not of lovers. 

That her reappearance meant nothing. That she was as dead as Udayan. Standing there, unable to find him, she felt a new solidarity with him. The bond of not existing

He wouldn’t say. Whatever happened, he told her, he regretted only one thing: that he had not met her sooner, that he had not known her every day of his life.

It conveyed the intimacy of siblings but not of lovers

Books mentioned in the book
Jhumpa Lahiri does seem to be a philosophy student as her bibliophile knowledge is spread with actual mention of famous philosophers and their works: 
Descartes’s Meditations on First Philosophy
Marx’s Manifesto, and Rousseau’s Confessions. Felix Greene’s book on Vietnam 
One-Dimensional Man, by Herbert Marcuse.

And her love for books - 
She remembers reading smuggled books in Calcutta, the particular stall to the left of the Sanskrit College that carried what Udayan liked, that went out of its way for him. Ordering foreign volumes from publishers. She remembers the incremental path of her education, hours sifting through card catalogues, at Presidency, then in Rhode Island, even early on in California. Writing down call numbers with short pencils, searching up and down aisles that would turn dark when the timers on the lights expired. She recalls, visually, certain passages in the books she’d read. Which side of the book, where on the page. She remembers the strap of the tote bag, digging into her shoulder as she walked home. 

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