Friday, October 9, 2015

Magnus Chase and the Sword of Summer: What Happens Next?

There, now you have been warned. If you’re still planning to read on, you’ve obviously read ‘The Sword of Summer’ already! If you haven’t, but plan to do so, and reading on in spite of the spoilers, then here’s a friendly advice. STOP READING NOW. And by that, I don’t just mean this blog. Don’t read the book. Don’t get yourself into that whole thing again, because not only will the book make you keep reading it like crazy till you finish it- making you forget your chores and homework and geometry an in my case, my Ph.D reading, but once you finish it, you will have a thousand questions that Riordan wouldn’t answer and you will immediately need to read the next book but you have wait and wait and wait one whole year again when you’re dying to know how the Hammer came to be in Randolph’s possession when clearly he is not worthy (look, I told you-SPOILER ALERT) or how Annabeth and Magnus react to each other’s stories- YOU HAD TO STOP THERE- DIDN’T YOU, RICK, YOU- So anyway, if you don’t want to be hooked again, now’s the time to get out!
This book, ah well, let’s just say I didn’t expect it to turn out like this. I mean, was I expecting a Camp Halv-Blod or a Halvgud Trening Skole? No. Without consciously thinking about it, I sort of knew that wasn’t going to happen. But, I also didn’t expect the world-jumping. I mean, I knew about the nine worlds in Norse Mythology and still expected Magnus’ journeys to be aligned along the human world. I guess I didn’t think too deeply on that.
Then, Magnus himself. A sword in the title of the book, a hero destined to wield that sword- I was expecting a hero along the lines of Percy or Jason. But Riordan has made Magnus a different kind of hero. He’s still incredibly brave though- my heart broke for him in the Bunker Hill chapter. And like Percy and Leo, Magnus has spunk and attitude. I like him.
And cheers to breaking stereotypes and non-conformity with Blitzen and Hearthenstone! I would totally buy a bulletproof tie if the knot-comes pre-tied.
Samira is as badass as they come. I look forward to her dangerous assignments from Odin. Odin og de andre gudene, how am I supposed to wait another year?
I also didn’t expect the hero to die. And till the very end, I sort of kept thinking he would return to mortal life somehow because what was the point of bringing in Annabeth if Magnus was going to live in Valhalla, separated from her forever? But Riordan managed that pretty well in the end, didn’t he? I’m reminded of the Amazons and the Hunters of Artemis- immortal but can die in battle. And Magnus is mortal outside Valhalla and now he has legal (or Odin-blessed) rights of passage in all the nine worlds, which solves the problem about Annabeth and helps my theory that the Greek-Roman world is going to collide with the Norse world.
Well, first of all, Aphrodite’s prophecy about Reyna’s love life- well, Magnus isn’t a Greek/Roman demigod and he is also an einharji so I think he definitely fits. But I think we need more information on this one. I also have a theory that Reyna might love a god, because that would also the prophecy.
2ndly, Frey’s advice. Frey told Magnus that he would need Annabeth’s help and at the end of this book they are deciding to share secret. Why Rick, why did you have to stop there? I have been waiting for that moment ever since you announced this book! Of course, the Egyptian and the Greek worlds almost collided in The Son of Sobek but then everybody decided to keep their secrets but Percy and Carter still don’t know who put the necklace around that crocodile, and Percy still has his one call remaining to Carter. I thought that would come up in The House of Hades (I mean, being stuck in Tartarus is a good time to call for help, right?) but that obviously didn’t happen so I’m guessing some kind of bigger collision was planned all along where more worlds collide. And if we’re lucky, we might know everything in about five years. Or may be ten.
Meanwhile, the possibilities? Imagine Freya and Aphrodite together on a shopping trip! Or say, if travelling by sea is bad for Magnus because Ran hates him, can he travel on a boat with Percy? Or if Percy and Magnus are fighting, and Annabeth is not around to knock some sense into them, and there’s just some random horse in the fray, then who does the horse support? The jokes were funny, though! Like Magnus hoping his sword would glamour itself into a pen. The Jason Grace chapter was disappointing though. I mean, I though at least someone would mention him. What was the point of just throwing his name in the chapter title otherwise? I guess Riordan was just laughing imagining our excitement and then misery when he named that chapter! Argh!
Also, I’m guessing no one travels to Scandinavia this time since the root of the tree has always been near Boston? But in that case, why didn’t the Viking civilization begin in around Boston rather than in old Germania?
And ah, okay, what sort of influence do the Norse and the Greco-Roman gods have in Boston? And if there’s a conflict, who wins?
I wish Riordan also wrote about Indian mythology because we have gods and goddesses very similar to the Greek ones, but I guess it would be difficult to fit that into a North-American plotline, although, why not, if we can have Egyptian gods in Brooklyn?
Also on my wish-list, a series with a female title character.
So what are your wishes, theories and questions? Keep the speculations alive in the comment section because that’s all we’ve got till Riordan favours us with another book!
And no, I don’t think Surt will kill Frey just as Percy’s fatal (!) flaw didn’t destroy the heroes.

No time like the present!

So, finally, I've come up with the plan to keep this blog working. Writing work-outs! Yes!
Over the sparsely productive years of my life as parts of various online writing communities, I have collected various writing prompts, exercizes to generate ideas, work-outs to break that damnable writers' block- all safely pasted, saved and filed away in an obscure folder on My Computer. Now, my plan is to use those exercizes to keep those blog-posts coming at respectable intervals. I might still come up with other posts, though, when the mood hits me, so watch out for those, but here's the first of the exercizes:

 1. Think of adjectives that define your personality. For example, mine might be bold, cocky, friendly, straightforward and witty. With those adjectives in mind, write 350 words on your favourite activity, and infuse those personality traits into your words. 
Right, I accept I'm cheating a bit here. This was written weeks ago and I just didn't post it. Because, you know, laundry and procastrination.

          Friendly, lazy, careless, nervous, dreamy, sweet, picky, afraid

What I like best doing is to write random pieces. And daydreaming. That’s great too, except it’s pretty much a futile loop that gets me nowhere. Writing is better, you get to leave something concrete, even if you’re the only one who sees them. Of course writing will involve you to actually make an effort, and in that respect reading is better. Easy to slip into someone else’s life so long as it allows you escape from taking the reins of your own. The worrying part is you gotta teach, and then you start analyzing characters, and then you start seeing yourself everywhere- Eustacia Vye, Raju, Gatsby… it’s actually very frightening because one day this suspicion may become stronger than your faith and that is when you realize what you had known all along, that there is no magic waiting to happen at all. Sucks, that’s R.K Narayan’s protagonists all over the place. What I’m actually doing here is talking to myself, but I’m not listening either. So what do I gain from these undisciplined stints of writing?

And oh, I enjoy being a couch potato, but I think that’s the lazy part of me acting out, as well as the fear that if I can’t continuously immerse myself into other people’s stories- however trivial and pointless, I will be forced to confront the emptiness that I sometimes find in my own. Work day- no problem. Students, prepping, the AC in the Staff Room and therefore the need to go take a walk, no problem at all. But when I actually have the time to attempt those dreams that can fill in the emptiness I find when I contemplate my life long-term, dreams that I have of breaking free of the shackles, then- I think the imposing nature of the task intimidates me. I want to do it, I want to write, and I want to stay away from it as long as possible.  Because, what if I fail? What if all I can give to it isn’t enough? But there’s nothing ever as relaxing than penning words, allowing them to come, freely, of their own volition, with no need for significance or glory or anyone questioning if they will amount to something. Except I want something. I want success. And I love aimless writing. And I’m afraid of the long hard slog of the quest. Yes, I’m thinking about fictional characters with flaws again. See, this is why I wanted to stay away from Freud and Jung all my life. And now apparently I have to understand Lacan. You brought that one upon yourself, DreamStruck!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sound alarms!

This is getting old. I begin  a post with profuse apologies for not posting more often, then I go off again. It's like an endless loop. Meanwhile crazy guys leave their crazy preachy rants under my comments section.
Anyway, here's what happened while I was fooling around in my online invisibility cloak. I got transferred, changed workplace, got a new syllabus to deal with, went through my first lot of university exam answer-scripts- honestly, I would take a few hundred dementors instead! And I'm still reading 'Dance, Dance, Dance' and also reading 'Magic Mountain' and my laptop and phone went for repairs and it was crazy.
And now I'm posting another pointless blog article and I have no effing idea why except perhaps I enjoy typing aimless words. Perhaps I need a new plan of action. Have a faint idea, let's see how that works out. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Blowing my tiny trumpet

Okay, okay, I know I've gone MIA once again after pledging on my blog not to do that- umm, when was the last time I posted here? Bad, bad me! By the way, is it technically possible to go missing in action when no one's missing me? If I was a character on stage the only lines I would get to speak would be soliloquys, and that would be right after the audience had left.

So anyway, I don't remember when I last posted here and I haven't checked, but it has to be a while because I finished reading  Hosseini's 'The Kite-Runner' (finally), Arthur Golden's 'Memoirs of a Geisha', Jane Smiley's 'A Thousand Acres', Murakami's 'Kafka on the Shore' and 'After Dark'  in that time, and have also finished 'Asura-the tale of the Vanquished' by Anand Neelkantan. I've also come across this fascinating series called 'The Song of the Titans' by Patrick Adkins which is up next on my reading list, along with a lot more of Murakami, Hosseini as well as some Marquez. I also need to get back to Faye Kellerman's 'The Quality of Mercy' which I started reading and had to stop midway because life happened and so on and so forth. In other words, I'm a greedy bookworm and books are the only things that distract me from this insane heatwave we're having- my friends at Leeds, Kiel, Baltimore and Boston who cribbed about the weather throughout winter and spring are welcome to trade places with me. It did rain today, but it was mostly sound and fury. The clouds and the thunder promised so much, but vanished too soon. Sort of like my half-a-dozen incomplete stories with reasonably good beginnings.

On that cheerful note, it's time for the trumpet:
1. My poem 'The Rider' has been included in the 14th edition of 'The Art of Being Human' poetry anthology, which is up for preview and sale on here.
2. I had my piece titled 'Blood' published in the April edition of Flash Frontier. Please do read and share.
3. Finally, my poem 'The Land of Dreams' which was published by the now out of circulation First Edition magazine and the 'Shambelurking and other Stories' anthology has been reprinted by the kind and lovely people at 'Cats with Thumbs' and they've also included a short bio of mine with a headshot. You can download it for free at this link. Please do read and share. That's all for today, folks.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A short whine

So I missed a week. My 2nd week. Lucky there are no readers or it would set a bad precedent. And now let’s move on.
Theme for this week- should I be writing poetry? Am I any good or am I wasting my time? At 29, I’m fast approaching the Eliot line. Perhaps something inside me is dead, and I was never very prolific to begin with. But when I read poems on the web, I find something within me alive enough to be moved, and that is what I think is poetry. It should surprise by originality of thought, by language and style. It should move you. I begin to see now what Robert Graves meant. Poetry is an invocation to the goddess, to that spirit that transcends finite awareness of any dogma. It transcends reality, even when it is talking about real world events. The webzine Rattle has some good work up its pages. Happy reading.

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Return of the Prodigal

Let’s not look at the date of my last post. I'm here now and I've got things to say. Well, honestly, I don't know why people would be interested to read my miserable whining about my completely messed up academic life, but I need to whine somewhere and the people I generally go to have a whine episode have gotten so tired of me that they have left the country. (It's true. One of them is busy sightseeing at Florence and eating Pino's sandwiches and truffled mushrooms and all sorts of exotically named food items. The other is sitting in Leeds and ignoring my whatsapp messages. ) And the person who's still around has stopped responding to my calls. He didn't even reply to my birthday wishes. Even though I actually got third time lucky and managed to wish him on the right date. He could have congratulated me on getting the date right, right? A little encouragement could help. I mean, I’m already neck-deep in trouble here, trying to fathom Jung. Don’t get me wrong there, I find Jung fascinating. It’s just that every time I try studying, I fall asleep. I think it’s my consciousness refusing to let me learn about stuff like shadow and animas and unconscious.
See, the thing about me is, I'm only an accidental academic. I was pretty sure I was never going have to study any more after my masters, but in an entirely unplanned turn of events, I ended up enrolling myself first for an M.Phil, and then for a Ph.D. And since then, writing has taken a backseat because there was always exams and write-ups to hand in for class and dissertations and papers. Well, that's what I tell myself, anyway. A good procrastinator always knows her excuses. 
But the point is, I'm back, turning a new leaf blah blah blah. I was going through parts of the odd 3 chapters I wrote for the one NaNoWriMo I participated in (way back in 2010), and it seemed to me it wasn't as terrible I thought it was at that time. I am musing on altering some of the plot lines there and pick it back up.
Also, I’m going to have a poem published in The Art of Being Human anthology, vol 14, theme insomnia. I believe it’s going to be a blurb book, not sure how I’m going to get a copy, but anyway, I’m going to keep you updated on that front.
See you next week, if you’re here at all. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Rape & Aftermath

The protests at India’s rape capital continue, but that doesn’t seem to have deterred the “macho” men of the nation.  Since the protests broke out, there have only been more reports of child-rape, gang-rape, rape and murder from all over the country. In the preceding week itself, there were two consecutive rapes in the town of Malda in West Bengal- on Wednesday evening a house-wife returning from her shopping was kidnapped by a few men in a car and gang-raped, the very next day- a 16 year old girl who was going to her aunt’s place was picked in a car at gun-point, taken to a hotel and raped through the night. The main accused, called Kalam Sheikh is apparently a student of a local college. He’s gone missing since then, but his family has been quick to pressurize the girl’s family to lift the complaint with an added benevolent gesture- an offer of marriage. And because there are no protests breaking out over these women, there has been no arrests made so far. All round, it’s all fair and lovely.
Here’s an article by Anjali Mehta, an eye-surgeon. I’m copy-pasting it because unfortunately, while there are laws to mark rape as a crime, and rapists as criminals, we as a population haven’t quite grasped a few basics. Here goes:
Fault lines
24 December 2012
Blaming women for the atrocities committed on them is nothing but a perverse denial that can extract a high social cost, writes anjali mehta 
One of my patients came for a check-up and we got talking. He was a man I thought highly of, therefore I was deeply saddened when he made the casual remark: “In more than 80 per cent cases it is the woman’s fault when she is molested.” I was too stunned to speak so sat in silence while he recounted how women ‘defy’ their parents and stay out late at night, hang out with boys, wear alluring clothes and so on. He explained that by this deviant and provocative behaviour women brought on all this sexual violence upon themselves.
When he finished speaking, I told him I would like to ask him three questions and he must give me a patient hearing and answer them. To his credit, he did.

Question 1:
 In a classroom, a teacher goes out for a few minutes. In the teacher’s absence, most students continue their studies quietly. One child is bored. He talks to his neighbours and tries to induce them to indulge in some mischief with him, but they continue studying and largely ignore him. Feeling left out and irritated that no one is joining in his pranks, this child then gets up and goes to the chalk box and starts throwing chalks at everyone. The class is disrupted .The teacher comes back and sees what is happening.
Should he counsel the boy who threw chalks or should he counsel the neighbours of the boy who did not agree to play pranks with him, leading to his resorting to chalk-throwing?
My patient answered that obviously the boy who threw the chalk should be counselled.
We both agreed that the person who commits the wrong act is the one who is at fault.

Question 2:
A very handsome young man comes out of a popular gymnasium in his cut-off T–shirt. His aquiline looks and well-toned body win him many admiring glances from women. Two girls who know him offer him a lift and he accepts. En-route, the girls stop at a house, pretending to collect something. Soon many women come out of the house and he is forcibly taken inside and his clothes removed and body admired. Till this point he is actually half-enjoying the attention and feeling he must be as irresistible as the men in the Axe ads. Suddenly, the women start touching him roughly. At this point he begins to feel uncomfortable and feels that things may be going too far. He protests, only to find that his refusal has enraged the women. Two of them have been abused in childhood and they feel this is a good opportunity to vent their frustration and anger at what happened some years ago. They thrash him soundly for not submitting to them and leave him lying there. He is greatly bruised all over, thoroughly bewildered and angry about what has happened to him.
Are the girls guilty in this case for molesting the boy or is it his fault for being good-looking and toning up his body to be more attractive to the opposite sex?
My patient answered that obviously it was the girls’ fault.
We both agreed again that the person who commits the wrong act is the one who is at fault.

Question 3:
Indians, like all races, admire beauty. As P B Shelley said ‘A thing of beauty is a joy forever’. Since mankind came into existence, beauty has been considered a highly desirable quality in humans. Statues are lovingly and skillfully carved, poems are written, paintings done, clothing and jewellery designed, all as an ode to beauty. Beautiful women (both external and internal beauty), have been the inspiration for many a creative soul. The same can be said of beautiful men. Earlier folks seemed to know just what to do with beauty. They took it in their stride; they handled it well. Now beauty is deemed a distraction by some; an evil quality meant to cause man to stray.
Should we hope and pray that all our children are born ugly? Should we dress up girls and boys in sack cloths so that the vulnerable and delicate minds of criminally-inclined people are not pushed over the edge? Or should adults be more responsible for their own thinking and (mature) actions?
My patient answered that he hoped most people grew up with healthy minds and attitudes.
We both agreed that adults should take responsibility for their own thoughts and actions and not use environmental justification for misdeeds. We both felt beauty ought to be admired and not destroyed.
When we blame somebody else, it is a way of absolving ourselves of any responsibility. Till the time people continue to feel that it is a girl who brings this upon herself, they will not feel any great motivation to participate in the issue. The truth is however, different. A wrong has been done, in front of our eyes and we must right it and prevent more wrongs. We must not be mute and silent witnesses to wrongful acts perpetrated in our presence. We have to work together to change things for the better. All must contribute their honest share and might. We must worry not only about our daughters when they stay out late; we need to worry equally when our sons stay out late, drinking and partying.
Yes, common sense dictates that people, especially girls, should not be out alone in the dark at night. Common sense dictates that women should move about in groups and not consume drinks offered to them by strangers at a party as they may be laced. Yes, they should not take lifts from men. However, it takes a very unfeeling and brutal mind to conclude that someone should pay for their momentary lack of judgement or common sense with their honour or their life.

A small note on the ending though:  Here’s the idea again. A woman once raped loses her ‘honour’. For rapes to stop, this is another concept that needs to change. Perhaps we should start at school? Teach them that a woman is as equal a human being as a man and not merely an embodiment of some abstract honour. Shuddhabrata Sengupta has an excellent article where he dwells on length on this subject, so do read.

Post-Script: Just to end the day:

3-yr-old raped in jungle, left to die

24 December 2012
BURDWAN, 24 DEC: A three-year-old child was raped inside a jungle at Katwa today. Some women who were collecting dried leaves in Kuldanga jungle  were alarmed by the barking of stray dogs. To their utter surprise they found a frantic girl child making her last-ditch bid to defend herself from the attacking dogs, lying without clothes on the ground. Her legs were tied up and she was bleeding profusely.
Mrs Sohagi Das of Parul village in Katwa said: “It was dreadful to see the child deserted by the hoodlums. We picked up the fallen branches of trees and hounded out the two dogs and picked up the child who couldn’t speak and was frightened.”
The women took the child home and informed police. The Additional Superintendent of Police, Mr Tarun Haldar, directed the child be taken to Katwa SD Hospital where she was given saline. The Chief Medical Officer of Burdwan, Dr Asit Baran Samanta, rushed to Katwa hospital to supervise treatment of the child.
Mr S M H Meerza, SP, Burdwan, said: “The child seems to be highly scared and is not in a position to speak. We will try to ascertain whether she can help us identify the accused.”
Mr Rabindranath Chatterjee, MLA, Katwa, said: “We have told police to nab the culprits immediately.” sns
 I can’t even begin to comprehend the minds behind such acts. This is sick on so many levels- where do I even begin? The rape of a three year old child, tying up her legs and leaving her to die a slow death…
A capital punishment is too easy for them.
And oh, if you’ve got suggestions to make about punishments for rape and sexual assault, send in your opinions here:
I suggest public, if non-violent shaming. And rigorous life-imprisonment where life isn’t just equal to 14 years or less.
More importantly, I want to live in a country where rapists are arrested without a whole city having to come down to the streets. The police shouldn’t be arresting criminals to placate the crowd. They should do it because they are supposed to. And no bails.