I never get hold of Jodi Picoults easily. There is a mile long waiting list for them, normally, so when I saw this one sitting in the ‘Just returned’ section, I grabbed it – quick, real quick.
Max and Zoe Baxter are about to have a baby. A much awaited for baby, who came after 5 cycles of IVF treatment, 2 miscarriages, and lots of heart break. Zoe is 28 weeks pregnant, at a baby shower organised for her, when she gets painful cramps, and is rushed to the hospital. They couldn’t find a heart beat for the baby, and she had to be induced to deliver her stillborn son. Heart-broken after the loss of the baby, all Zoe wants is to try for another baby, while all Max wants is a divorce. He has had enough.
The divorce left Zoe depressed, unhappy and with nothing to look forward to, while Max turns to alcohol. An alcoholic, he had stayed dry for a long time, but the loss of the baby and the end of their marriage pushed him over the edge. He discovers God, rather Church which saves him from self-destruction.
Zoe, in the meanwhile, is found to be suffering from cancer, and has had to undergo a hysterotomy and with that loses all hopes of having a baby, until she falls in love with Vanessa. They get married and realize that Zoe’s dream of becoming a mother can still come true. Zoe and Max still had three embryos from their last IVF cycle, and Vanessa could carry the baby, now that Zoe can’t.
Zoe gets in touch with Max to get his permission(both parents’ consent is required) to implant the embryos in Vanessa. To her shock and surprise, Max is a different person now. He has discovered God, a God who according to his church believes that same sex marriages are living in sin. So much so that they end up in court fighting for the right to use the embryo.
Sing You Home has so many aspects covered, Gay and Lesbian rights, the homophobia that is rampant in certain sections of society, the heartbreak that infertility brings.. It brings home to the reader, how difficult things can be to people going through such situations. How fair is it that a gay or a lesbian couple has to fight so hard for things that are considered natural for the rest of us – marriage, becoming parents, living a stigma free life, freedom to love and spend the rest of their life with the love of their life? Does having a different sexual orientation ban a person from these basic rights? Who defines normal? what makes for a loving family? Can blind belief in religion(or rather interpretation of religion) distort our views?
The book also has a musical score with it. Zoe is a music therapist, and each chapter has a musical score we can listen to while reading – I did not read it with the music. I plan to buy the book, and read it again with the music. Picoult explains quite a bit about music therapy so that we, readers get an idea as to what it is all about.
Another wonderful book by Picoult. Her books never disappoint. I will certainly be reading it again. All the characters are well thought out and well etched out. Zoe’s wonderfully eccentric mother, Max’s conservative, super successful brother, the fanatical Pastor Clive..
Another book which will stay with you. Your heart breaks with Zoe’s, empathize with Vanessa’s insecurities and worries, you understand how Max is caught between his faith and his doubts about right and wrong.. A book that I will definitely re-read. I would recommend it to anybody who likes Jodi Picoult books – another gem from her.
Every so often, in a group here, somebody, while relishing their dinner, will remark, ‘I can’t understand how these Goras eat their bland food. They have no taste. There is nothing like Indian food’.
I call it the ‘Culture Comfort Zone’, where we believe that everything we like, or what we have grown up with is the best. And it happens to the best of us, doesn’t it? For instance, piercing of ears of young children is so common in my culture. We normally have a ceremony on the 28th day after a baby is born and if it is a girl, her ears are pierced. It is said to be easier, because the tissues are softer and apparently the child does not feel the pain, as much(we can never be sure of that, can we?). My mother had her ears pierced at the age of 8 years, and she remembers it vividly, and felt that it is much better to do it at a time when the child is less likely to remember.
Something that is common and totally acceptable in my culture might come across as horrible, and cruel to some others, who believe in letting a child decide when she is older whether or not she wants pierced ears. They might think that we are barbaric to even think of doing it to such a young child. That is again, because of the culture one has grown up in. I am so used to the concept that I did not even have second thoughts about piercing daughter’s ears.
In some cultures, a samosa is a great, delicious treat, while in others it might be fish and chips. And who is to say, that one is tastier than the other? Who is to say that I have better taste than you?
For a vegetarian, it might be unthinkable that someone could relish non-vegetarian food, while for non-vegetarians, vegetarian food might seem so uninteresting.
So many of our likes and dislikes are based on our upbringing, and the influences through our lives. Some of us love to try different cuisines and enjoy it too, while others need that comfort food. What I find difficult to understand is that blanket statement of how ‘my food is better than yours’. Of assuming that other cultures don’t know how to cook.
I know people who like only Indian food, and try to get hold of it where-ever they go, but don’t go around spouting things like, ‘Only Indian food is edible’. They find it difficult to try other cuisines, but don’t try to run them down. That, I think, is perfectly fair. Not everybody can like every cuisine, but surely, that does not mean that other cuisines are not good?
Maybe, if we remember that just as we find somethings in other cultures different, and difficult to accept, there might be things that others find totally unacceptable in our culture, we might not be so judgemental about others?
We had a get together last Saturday. A fun and delicious dinner with friends, made spicier with an interesting discussion.
Some of us ended up discussing Feminism, and as is usual, there were a lot of views. Predictably most of the men felt that it was ‘unnecessary’. I have to say rather proudly, that I have a feminist of a husband – he was only man who openly supported us girls
While a lot of things got discussed, one which I wanted to analyse here was ‘History’.
Just because historically patriarchy seems to be the norm, people seem fine with accepting it as the best thing. I was told a lot of times that we, women need to understand the ‘history’ behind it. And if it works, why are we trying to break the balance. The question for me is, does it actually work? What was difficult to get most of them to understand was that it works only for some sections of society. If it were working, we wouldn’t need to change it.
Also, the fact that the Western world followed patriarchy is always thrown in for added measure. It always makes me laugh that most people who would deride ‘Western Values’, have no problems with using the example of patriarchy in Western Society as an excuse or a justification.
So going back to the issue, I was surprised to see how vehement the men were in opposing any change to the current situation. Most of them were ready with examples of women torturing men, with women abusing dowry laws, citing these, as reasons why men have more to fear than women. Nuclear families, of course, were the worst example of low-life, the moral corruption that women getting powerful, is leading us to. What makes it all the more ridiculous is that the people spouting all this are all NRIs who are most certainly not staying with their parents.
And of course, most of them saw nothing wrong with women being considered ‘paraya dhan’. It was natural, was the claim. Girls leave the house, and the boys bring their wives into the house. Perfect, according to them.. What if there are only girls in the family.. Well, that is of course, unfortunate… but what can be done. ‘Sex selection, perhaps?’, I had to ask!
I wouldn’t have worried if these were views expressed by our parents’ generation, but when my generation is so vehement about it, it makes me wonder if education, makes any difference at all.. It made me want to send the IHM’s blog to open their eyes to what women(and men) go through in our society. I wish I could explain to them how patriarchy shackles both men and women. But sometimes, people don’t want to listen, they don’t want change because it works for them at the moment.
You know what was the saddest part? At the end of the night, I was taken aside and told that all this talk of women empowerment is of no use. You can’t change anything.There is a reason society evolved like this, and we should know better than try to upset the apple cart. If at all things have to change – they will change by themselves!
You know what, I was sad, but not for us, women. I was sad for people who thought like this. Who refuse to accept reality, who think that by closing their eyes to it, they can pretend that everything is fine. What a sad existence, don’t you think?
March has been a good month for me – books-wise. I have loved all the books I read so far. Most of the time, I review only some of the books I read. This time, however, all the books so far have been review-worthy- which means that I am hard pressed for time. Sigh! But I can’t really complain – have been having so much fun reading them
Edited to add the book cover. Thanks Smita – I don’t know how I forgot, and did not even realize!
I came across Zohra, when I was searching through books on Amazon. It sounded very interesting, so I placed a request for it at the library.
Zohra was first published in 1950, and remarkably still remains very readable, even after more than 60 years of being written. Set in Hyderabad, when it was still a princely state, with Nawabs and their way of life still intact. Hyderabad has just become part of India, and the turbulent state of affairs of the state(and the country) is reflected in the people living in those times.
Zohra grew up in a Nawabi family, with her sister. Her mother and other women despaired of her interests in studying(mainly Persian poetry) because they feared that educated girls would never settle in domestic life. Although Zohra has hopes and aspirations of her own, she comes to realize that those are futile to hope for, given her background and resigns to her fate. She gets married to Bashir, an England educated young man, who comes to adore her, but fails to understand her.
She lives a normal married life, when her brother-in-law, Hamid returns from England. Despite all the years spent abroad, he seems to be the brother more comfortable on Indian soil. Both brothers clash on several issues like modes of political protest. Hamid, siding with Gandhian methods, while Bashir felt that the violent/aggressive methods would have been more effective. Hamid seems happy in home-spun Indian clothes, while Bashir insisted on wearing suits in sweltering Hyderabad.. In the middle of all this Zohra, trying to balance duty with passion. Married to the brother who loves her, and attracted to the brother who loves and understands her.
Zohra’s life, her sacrifices, and her choices make up the book. A touching story, a tragedy which just had to happen..
The story also gives an insight into the lives of the Nawabs in Hyderabad at that point in time. People who believed that their lifestyles would continue the way it had been for years. Only some like Hamid believed that change is at their doorstep. The book also reflects the conditions, confusions and mindsets of the Indian Muslims who decided that India was their land.
A beautifully written book, that cannot leave the reader untouched. A story that will stay with me for a while. A wonderful period read.
*Just a rant – please free to ignore*
What do you do when you have to deal with totally opportunistic people?
People who only call you for dinner because they need to ask a favour of you?
People who expect you to be their personal driver – just because you have a car?
People who will won’t even listen to a ‘no’. How do you deal with people like this?
I have had some bad experiences with people who just leech on to you, and refuse to let go. People who want others to do the fetching and carrying for them – on a regular basis.
The only thing I have learnt to do is avoid. I steer clear, as much as possible, but sometimes it gets tough, especially in a small place, where you do run into people. I am so petrified of these people, that I worry that even a ‘Hi’ might end up with doing things for them. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have any problems with helping out people, but sometimes, it gets a bit much, especially when it is all one way traffic. Or sometimes when they try to do ‘favours’ for you – which you don’t need, and don’t want, just because they need to feel good for themselves for taking your help. Those ‘favours’ that they do for me, is plain torture – but no matter how you try, you can’t wriggle out of it – mainly because they refuse to listen to you..
Most of us friends, pitch in whenever needed, help out in whatever way we can.. but nobody tries to use another person – which is what makes that difference. One-off favours are one thing, but if it becomes a regular thing, it gets annoying to say the least. And the problem is when people start expecting things – as if they have the right to.. I mean, even close friends would not assume rights(in your house, of your time) in the way some of these people do..
Today, something made me think of all this, and I realized that my life is so much easier after I steered clear of people like this.. I feel tension free and comfortable. I don’t need to make my plans based on other people’s schedules.. And I don’t feel used. Now, I also feel that I will be a little more wary of people..
Looking back, I just feel glad that I got out of that situation before it made me totally miserable. Glad that today, I still help out people – but have learnt enough to not get taken advantage of..
A lot of times when I start discussing the topic of the condition of girls in India, I get that ‘There she goes again on her feminist track’. The thing is,whatever I say, I feel that it is not enough. It will never be enough – until the date that people stop this yearning for a boy. It will not be enough until people stop treating girls as the unwanted sex. Until a girl child is welcomed just as much as a boy child is. Until people stop saying things like, ‘Pehla bacha ladka ho to santhusthi hai’ – this was said to a friend of mine.
How will mere words help, people ask. Well, I think, words help in its own way.
For one, some people accept it as part of culture. Having seen the boy child preference practiced all around, they take it for granted. They assume that it is normal for grandparents to love grandsons more than granddaughter(I have come across people claiming this- educated people, by the way). So when they hear/read people talking about the injustice, and the why it is so wrong to shun a girl child, they might turn a deaf ear initially, but slowly, I think it will make a difference. One of the people, who used to loudly proclaim how her son was the favourite of his grandparents, has now toned it down. She is now careful not to mention things like that in public again. Probably after she realized that not everybody thinks this way. Hopefully her thinking might have changed too.
I have seen this happen right in front of me. While people might not change their thinking right away, they might start to understand that culture is not a justification for everything.
The same goes for dowry. The more people talk about it, shame it, publicly, and stop treating it as part of our ‘culture’, the more likely it is to die away as a custom.
I am so vocal about this, that nobody in my friends/acquaintance circle dares tell me to have another child to have a boy. Somebody I know told a friend of mine to try again, maybe this time she might have a boy. Only to be told on her face, that she doesn’t care if she has a boy or not – she is happy with her daughter. That was the end of it.
Will all this talking make any real difference. I think it will. I think it makes people think – even if it goes against what they have always seen. And even if one person rethinks what they have grown up with, it makes a difference, don’t you think? At the very least, they might think before speaking in front of vocal people like us, some may remember not to let subconscious discrimination enter their actions, some might go even further.. From the place that we are at – any progress is better than no progress, wouldn’t you agree?
..and I have certainly realized the truth in this saying.
I had been tagged a while ago by the lovely Usha. But I put it off. Before I knew it, Kanagu and Zradar had tagged me too. Now, instead of doing 1 tag of 11 questions, I have to do 33! Can’t blame anyone but myself, can I?
1. In one word, what have you gained, in life, that you hold most precious? (there, that rules out “weight” )
2. In three words, a pet peeve?
People littering places
3. A word you think you use a lot, unconsciously ?
Oh dear! That is a tough one – I will have to ask husband
4. What is it that you love to do, most, and would rather spend your time doing it?
Read, read, and read some more
5. What do you think others think of you?
I really couldn’t answer that, you know I am sure different people will have different views of me
6. Who would you say made you who you are today (other than your parents, if that is what you would answer )
Husband and daughter and friends…
7. What gives you joy?
Reading in peace Playing the fool with daughter
Dissecting a debate on NDTV with husband, sometimes irritating him because he never gets to hear half of what is being said
Chatting away with my parents, before my father asks me to stop wasting money
Talking to daughter’s teacher and getting to know what a star she is – my eyes fill up, and I get so choked with emotions..
9. If you could go back to one moment in your past, which moment would it be?
The moment daughter was born.
10. Do you believe in alternate lifetimes? If so, what is the you there doing now? (It’s actually one question, with two parts )
Nope – I am very satisfied with my life as of now Can ask for nothing more(or less)
11. What makes you you?
Me? Just being me
Now for the Kanagu’s
1. Name your favorite fictional character and why?
Now this is tough – because my favourites keep changing.. I don’t think I have a real favourite, to be honest.. I do like strong women characters.. I like Ken Follet’s women protagonists, especially in his historical fiction – they are all so strong minded, independent, for the age in which they are portrayed.
2. What you like to do more in your free time?
3.Please tell us the most funniest prank you are involved in?
Long back, about a year or so after I started working, we got access to Yahoo Messenger at work(at a client site). Our own office had very strict rules. We had email, but could only email our colleagues – most of them sat next to us, so you can that email made no difference to us So it was a huge deal when we got access to YM. One of my colleagues decided to play a prank on another colleague. So he created a fake id, in the name of a girl, pinged this other colleague, who delighted, over the moon, that a girl pinged him, started chatting To cut a long story short, it went on for a bit, and we had the best time Such mean friends we were
4. What makes you happy?
Already mentioned in the first set of questions.
5.Any regrets in life?
No, not really.
6. If you can chose an alter-ego, who or what it will be?
Can’t think of any. Guess I am really happy being myself
7.Do you have any interest in politics? If yes, what you feel about UP election results?
Absolutely! I have a lot of interest in politics. UP elections, I think were the result of people voting for the alternative – even if they weren’t the greatest alternative. I think we have got used to the fact that no matter which party comes into power, the effect is pretty much the same. I do think that SP did promise things which were more relevant to the people at that point in time. I wonder if all states would go the Kerala way – where they interchange the ruling party at every election. That, in the long run, might mean that the parties try harder to take up issues that actually matter to the people.. We’ll have to wait and watch, I guess..
8. Name the place which you visited last? Whats the special about that place?
The last place we went as tourists was Greece, and we loved it! What is special? Have written all about it here
9. What you like about you most?
I like the fact that I adjust to living in different places quite quickly. I don’t yearn for what I don’t have, or what I used to have… I like to live for today, in that sense, and it has helped me a lot over the years.
10. Name 5 things which you feel is most important in life.
Family, hobbies, money, a positive attitude, good food
11. Name a childhood favorite serial other than animation one.
Now for Zradar’s set of questions. Why, why, why did I not do this tag when I first got tagged?
1. Do you think there is a woman behind every man?
Sure. Most of us(men and women) will have a partner, a parent or a sibling who would have played an important part in making us what we are. In that sense – yes, of course.
2) Do you believe in God and why?
Now this is a tricky one.. I am not really sure what to believe. I do believe that the concept of making people ‘God-fearing’ is a mad made thing, to control others. If there is a God, up there, I am sure she would be a fair minded God, who would have discriminatory ideas for her people.
3) Why do you think you blog?
Because I enjoy it.
4) What is the bestest memory with your lover/spouse?
Loads And too private to share
5) Which is that one place in the world you wouldnt dare to travel to and why?
Saudi Arabia – I am not to sure I would be comfortable in a strictly segregated society.
6) Do you like the US. Why?
I did enjoy the time I spent there. The US is great for shopping, though. And it has some wonderful natural attractions that needs to be seen. If I were to live abroad, however, I would prefer to live in the UK – for a lot reasons.
7) Are you smart enough to escape from any situation? Describe.
Escape? I think I would prefer to use the word – ‘face’ any situation. Escape comes across as ‘running away’, in my opinion.
8) Which is the one circumstance you could not have survived without the support of your parents?
After daughter was born, I developed mastitis – it got out of control, and at that time, I would not have been able to manage without my parents.
9) Staying with In-laws is……
.. not easy, if it is for ever. If it were short visits – it is quite pleasant. Living with any other adult – apart from your spouse, is a difficult situation, even if they are your own parents. Mainly because we all have our own personalities, and expectations. Managing all that is no cakewalk.
10) What change does parenthood bring into your life?
I think it changed the way I look at things. It brought me a different perspective to life. I took decisions which I would have never taken if I had not been a parent.
Are you able to remember your grocery shopping list by heart without making the list?
And I’m done And I am not tagging anybody else. Too lazy, you see Anyway, most of you have already been tagged – see how kind I am to you guys? If any of you would fancy doing it – please do, and do let me know, I would love to read it.