Monday, April 7, 2008
Emily Dickinson came to my mind again today. One of her most famous lines, yet some of the simplest beauty ever in the smallest of spaces:
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I ’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
Sunday, April 6, 2008
I came across this beautiful poem by Rumi and just had to share it:
This being human is a guesthouse
Every morning a new arrival
A joy, a depression, a meanness
Some momentary awareness
Comes as an unexpected visitor
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows
Who violently sweep your house
Empty of its furniture
Still treat each guest honorably
He may be cleaning you out
For some new delight!
The dark thought, the shame, the malice
Meet them at the door laughing
And invite them in
Be grateful for whoever comes
Because each has been sent
As a guide from the beyond
~ Rumi ~
Image from Wikipedia
It's been a lazy Sunday afternoon so far, and after my daily visit to the acupressurist, I came and finished in a rush The Veiled Kingdom. Which is not to say that Carmen Bin Ladin words were so gripping. I read through this book almost as if I had to reach the end. Of all the memoirs I have picked up, this was perhaps one of the most anticipated. And with good reason too, perhaps. If your brother-in-law is the most wanted man on earth, well, you would think you have a good story to tell, wouldn't you? Carmen Bin Ladin is yes, as you guessed it, Osama Bin Laden's relative by marriage. Her husband Yeslam Bin Ladin belongs to the same clan of brothers who run the by now infamous Bin Laden Organization that was one of Saudi Arabia's biggest companies.
But are there rare intimate glimspes of the man who New York Times describes as the 'brother-in-law from hell? Sadly, none. Carmen acknowledges that she barely spoke to the man. ''When Osama stepped into the room, you felt it,'' is perhaps the closest glimpse you get. And what of her life in Saudi Arabia? Leading by own admission, a luxuriant life, Carmen is also blessed with a gift that most women in Saudi Arabia don't - an understanding husband. Yeslam, until till the end of their marriage - offers Carmen relative freedom - holidays in Geneva, and the intellectual companionship that her own sisters-in-law in the Bin Laden clan lacked. Carmen does not really go through severe angst - so much so the book is ridden with old metaphors that run of out fashion like the sand in the desert.
Impressed I was not. But to be fair to Carmen, she does give us a stark and unrelenting potrayal of life in the Saudi kingdom. Need to shop? The shop would be literally brought to her doorstep. She describes the transformation of Saudi Arabia from an impoverished land to one of the wealthiest and the changing faces of its society. There might be better books on Saudi Arabia out there - for me, this is not one of them.
Image Credit: Amazon.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
I chanced upon an interesting article in New York Times on Sunday. Well, I didn't chance upon it as much as it was delivered to me through a newsletter. Now what would you do if you are a true blue lit lover and your partner loves Archie comics? I am not sure I agreed with all the presumptions in this piece though - hell, these days its hard enough to find someone who reads the newspaper let alone form erudite and sensitive opinions on Sartre! And I love reading - the elite literati set that this article refers to I think I belong not - might as well be humble enough to admit that my tastes range from absolute rotten in the coffin dirt to the highest most eloquent piece of prose that can kiss heaven. Did I mention that I never did understand Catch 22?
Oh, but I digress. I had blogged about First They Killed My Father a while back. After They Killed My Father is the sequel to that. I guess the book is also called Lucky Child: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, according to a Wiki entry - and lucky indeed is Ung Loung.
Escaping to Thailand with her elder brother Meng and his wife, Loung eventually makes it to the U.S. after the death of her parents at the end of the Khmer Rouge. Her sister Chou though is left behind, and interestingly Loung relates the story of Chou in a remote village deep in the jungles of Cambodia. The two stories are a parallel view of the world - Loung grows up to be the typical American teenager - while Chou receives no schooling, marries, has kids, and eventually shows her own strength in becoming a succesful entrepreneur. Their lives meet. And Loung, after battling her own demons finds her peace in Cambodia. Angelina Jolie calls this a 'deeply moving book' and with good reason. It shows that sometimes although there might not be any happy endings, at least there might be reason enough to hope that peace is not such an elusive quality after all.