Don’t Wake Up – Book Review

“Gillian has always encompassed the vast space between pretty and ugly. In fact, she is painfully aware that there is nothing remarkable about her, until her husband Ricky experiences a mysterious fall that leaves him in a comatose state. As doctors and nurses rush to assure her that Ricky will recover well, Gillian thinks of the years of cold silence and manipulation that have overshadowed their marriage. As the coma persists, Gillian dreams of a different life, one her marriage has denied her, and hopes Ricky does not wake up. Nonetheless, his eyes open to reveal a man who claims to remember nothing of his former self. Gillian, convinced that this is only a furthering of his past cruelty, seeks to test this new Ricky. She invents a family they never had, and fills his head with stories of an imaginary life. Ricky becomes a father, and an orphan, eagerly accepting magazine-clipped photos and an urn filled with cigarette ash as evidence of his once-happy life. But, as Ricky persists in his assertion that he remembers nothing of their real past, Gillian begins to question how far she can go in punishing a man for sins he cannot remember committing.”

The book starts with pretty much what is described in the blurb. Gillian pretends to be sad for her husband who is in coma after a fall, but is secretly relieved to be rid of him. She likes going back to the house, watch mindless television and eat ice cream for dinner. But one day, her husband, Ricky wakes up. But he does not remember anything after the first 16 years of his life. She is secretly sure that Ricky is playing mind games with her, only to catch her red handed as soon as she makes a mistake. But turns out, that’s not the case. Gillian discovers that not only does Ricky not remember anything, he is a totally different man from what he used to be. Gillian remembers him as cold and distant whereas the new Ricky is warm and caring and wants to know all about his old life.

The thing that worked for me was the brilliance of Gillian’s character. It is complex and layered. The way it progressed from a happy child to a pregnant teenager and subsequently, an unhappy adult is totally comprehensible and spoke for many of her life’s decisions. The narrative keeps going back and forth, but definitely keeps one hooked.

A couple of things didn’t work for me. Gillian keeps insisting on the fact that Ricky was manipulative in the marriage, but has only incident to share for it. And somewhere down the line, I got an impression that maybe she was so clouded in her own grief of losing her child, her sister and her parents, that she was a little too preconceived about her relationship with Ricky. Also, Ricky’s character was never delved upon in the book, except from the protagonist’s view. And so, one forms an opinion about him based on that. But by the end of the book, I felt like I would have liked to know what was going on in Ricky’s head as the years rolled by and their marriage kept falling apart and none of them did anything about it. I never got to know if it was Ricky, a philanderer and alcoholic who destroyed the marriage, or Gillian, who was too cold and hurt to care or both. Also, the sub plot of Ricky donating money for causes that are close to Gillian’s heart seems like a cliché and doesn’t add to the book in a meaningful way.

The ending of the book is a little abrupt and yet not bizarre. It takes you by surprise, and yet not! It feels like “not a happy ending”, but a right ending as if this was real life. By the end of the book, I felt sad for Gillian and her life journey hitherto. I would definitely like to read another book from the author, Shauna Kelley.

My rating for the book: 3.5 stars (a half extra star for brilliantly carving out Gillian’s character)

 

Separation anxiety of a different kind !

The husband has been away for a while now. It will take him another couple of months to be back. The little one is keeping me very busy and on some days, I do not even remember that he is not there. Some days we do manage to squeeze in to talk for a few minutes. On most days, thanks to the time difference, we just about manage to acknowledge that we are doing fine by messages that are replied to, hours later.

There was a time when I could not bear to be away from him, even for a couple of days. I would call him all the time or chat and invariably miss him when I got home. I also wrote about how strong I was while he was leaving the country here. Any other time would have had me crying and bawling and being depressed for entire days after he was gone. The other day I was just wondering about this. All sorts of thoughts crossed my mind. Had I changed after becoming a mother? Did my love for the child overpower my love for him?
Or was I just over imagining things because I was so busy at all the other times?

I got my answer when I was watching “Two States”. It’s one of two movies I have watched in the past 7 months (all thanks to the entry of the little one in our lives). I am known to be a book lover and I, almost, never (except a few times) like a movie adapted from a book. And this was a book I did not even rate too high. It was OK, average. But I liked the movie. I loved the way Alia’s character was portrayed. I loved all the cliched drama of the loud Punjabi family and not-so-convincing South Indian accents. I loved the songs. And I liked Arjun Kapoor the best. His face had such a lost puppy look to it that you would immediately want to run and hug him. He didn’t seem like a quintessential “hero”, but a very normal guy who has his  ambitions and apprehensions mixed up.

Another reason I also loved this movie could have been because H and I also faced a lot of opposition when we decided to get married. Somehow, I was transported back to those years when we were the boy and girl in love. When we just had to get married to each other or no one else. When there were lots of tears, emotions and melodrama. And suddenly, all those emotions which I thought I had lost came back to me. I had a lump in my throat. I wanted to cry, I wanted to meet him and say the I love you. I wanted to be with him right then.

And then the movie ended. The ear phones came off. And the little one woke up.

But there is this song “Chaandaniya” (from the movie) that I have been playing in a loop ever since. It’s my favorite song these days.

Disclaimer: If you are missing a loved one, hear the song at your own risk. It will make you all sad and mushy.

 

 

Is Love really sefless? Or above survival?

She loved him. More than anyone or anything else in this life. He loved her too. They were married for more than 3 years now and still had the same chemistry between them. If not same, better. Living together had made them even more considerate of each other’s needs. Nainika sincerely believed they were soul mates and not really just partners who had loved, got married and settle down. Everybody knew they were perfect for each other and she could never thank God enough for what she had in her life. A nice family, supportive in-laws, a God-sent husband, a good career. When she folded her hands to prayer, she didn’t know what to ask. Instead she thanked God a million times for all that He had blessed her with.
 Nainika waited for Manik impatiently on the bed. As they started to get cozy and intimate, she told him, “I love you so much. I think I can die for you”. Manik was not really pleased with the D-word. It put out his mood. But Nainika kindly explained to him that she had said that only because she was too afraid of death and it’s unpredictability. But ever since Manik had made her life so beautiful, she wouldn’t mind giving it away for him, rather than ever have to live without him. Manik understood and kissed her with all the passion in his heart. The night wore on and so did the love.
 Manik shouted “Naini, come here. Look at the beautiful view”. Nainika carefully made her way off-track and went in the direction where Manik stood. She exclaimed when she saw a small lake surrounded by beautiful mountains, lush green grass, completely concealed in a corner in the middle of the jungle. Immediately, they both decided to run down and steal a quick kiss. Manik helped Nainika down to the lake where they sat down admiring nature’s beauty, looking into each other’s eyes, stolen kisses and breathless promises were made.

 As it started to turn dark, they realized they had sat there far longer they had planned to. They started on the trek again, oblivious of the facts that they were completely on the wrong trail. As night fell, and stars appeared in the sky, they reached a huge waterfall that was nowhere in the trail they had been following. But they decided to rest the night there and follow up with their friends in the morning. Both of them were tired to their bones. Nainika was quite terrified too. The darkness and the eerie silence made her uncomfortable and she jumped at the slightest noise. Manik held her in his arms and soothed her like a baby. After a while they both fell asleep.
 Nainika woke up with a start. She thought she had heard some noises, but since she didn’t want to disturb Manik, she kept still. But now she was sure there was some wild animal waiting to make them his next meal. But what came out of the adjacent bushes got the better of her scariest nightmares. She saw a herd of men, more like tribals, who wear only leaves around their genitalia. They held spears and pointed it at them as a threating gesture. Nainika shook Manik up and for a couple of uncomfortable seconds, no one spoke a word.
Assuaging the situation, Manik finally spoke up, “Wh-What do you want?”
Immediately Manik and Nainika were separated and bound with thick ropes. The tribals did not say a word to them and spoke excitedly amongst themselves in a language that both Manik and Nainika couldn’t decipher. They both tried to calm each other and said their “I Love You” in English and Hindi. At about 3’o clock they both were forcibly taken near the huge waterfall they had earlier encountered on their way. Manik was stammering and Nainika crying. With fear. Finally, after much persuasion from them, their chief, a menacingly looking man, came forward and spoke some broken Hindi. Manik and Nainika froze. They ears were buzzing as if somebody had boxed them. “Sacrifice…1….man…woman….good luck…rain…happy….god”.
It didn’t take them long to realize that these tribals wanted to sacrifice and throw one of them down the waterfall to appease the rain gods. But they didn’t know who would be chosen.
Just then, another bomb dropped on them. The chief tribal pointed his spear towards Nainika and asked her to be brought forward. Nainika took one look down the waterfall, then looked at Manik with horror in her eyes and stepped forward. And then the chief spoke again, “you decide….who goes to the God”.

The sacrifice was to be made at the crack of dawn. Both of them were hung on poles with their hand and legs tied apart. Below them, they could see the waterfall gushing, as if prophesizing its mightiness. Both Manik and Nainika were speechless. The only words they both could hear were “I love you Manik. I could die for you”!
Nainika jumped and woke up with a start. She was sweating profusely despite the air conditioning in the room. Nainika was bewildered as she realized she had been in a horrible dream and started crying. Manik sat up, confused and looked at the clock. It was 5’o clock in the morning and sun was just about to rise. Manik laughed softly when he heard that his wife was crying due to a nightmare. He gave her some water to drink, calmed her down and went back to sleep. Nainika, however, could not sleep.
 She kept tossing and turning. Only she knew in her heart the terror she had gone through. It was real. She could feel the fear of death in her ribs and heart and that the prospect of dying had put a lot of things in perspective for her. Including the love she had for Manik. And more importantly, herself. She kept thinking whose name she would have taken in the dream. She wanted to hear herself say Manik, but she knew better. She had just seen another facet of the human mind.

O (Wo) Maniya !!

The other day H and I were discussing about how a man woman relationship evolves from lovers to spouses to parents. Now this kind of conversation is often triggered whenever we visit my home or his. You know, seeing our respective set of parents married for over 30 years now, and still bickering over the same issues as 30 years ago makes me see red. The last thing I have on my mind is to spend the next 25 years of my life bickering and fighting and tearing my/his hair out for stupid things.

 

A few days back we had a small fight about something inconsequential and I jokingly remarked that if we were to ever have a son, I would scold and even beat him (if required) so that he should never turn out to be like  H  (the wicked wife that I am!). So H got all worked up about this and said that whatever fights/issues we have each other should always remain between the both of us and that we should never involve the kids. Talk about future planning! :-D:-D

And so that got me thinking about how men are such a strange species and that it is nearly impossible for women to live with them peacefully (If any of the men reading this feel the same way about women, I agree with you completely :-P). Men like their wives to NEVER behave like their mothers. Even though they want us to be fussy about them and pay attention to them and massage the Man ego every now and then, they really hate it when we say something like, “Don’t do this. It’s bad for your health!” Because while you are expecting your lover’s eyes looking at you in an appeasing way for being so thoughtful about your health and all that, all you get is a set of rolling eyes. And if this were to repeat a couple of times in a week, you are sure to hear the quintessential words from the “horse’s mouth” (pun intended!) “Stop acting like my mom!” 

Now when did the tables turn, you would never know? The last time you remember you did this, he was sufficiently happy and even told you that you reminded him of his mom. Maybe you should go see a doctor for a suspected case of STML (Short Term Memory Loss). And so, I did the same and went about happily following the doctor’s advice – shout at him like a wife, but don’t (read NEVER) care like his mother. No more picking on him, after all he is a grown up man and can take care of himself. That is, until  H  happened to fall ill. I took care of him and cooked for him, gave his meds on time and blah blah. But he was acting cranky and impatient, to the extent of being PMS-ey. Now this was more than I could take. After all, I had married a man capable of living on his own and having his own family and so on and so forth and I didn’t really expect him to throw tantrums like a 5 year old. The wife in me was irritated. But the mother in me saw through his actions. His actions were not really to harass me or irk me, but he was really having a bad time coping up with the illness.

I was in a dilemma. Should I switch roles? I couldn’t be sure if the tables would turn yet again. So I decided to talk to H about it. I told him that I couldn’t take his nagging another minute and that he should behave like a grown up man. Which 27 year old have you heard of, who lies on the bed and stomps his foot because he was denied a chocolate after the medicine? He said what I had guessed, that he was cranky because of the meds and that he really hated the house-arrest part, the restless kid that he is. But then, I told him that he shouldn ’t expect me to have any sympathy, or that if he did, he shouldn’t crib about it later. He laughed his guts out. Did it sound funny to you? Atleast I had berated myself in my mind a thousand times for acting so cold. After all we girls have always been raised with notions of pati parmeshwar and other shit!:-

And with that laugh, I realized that we too had evolved and transitioned from lovers to spouses. Here I was wondering what role to take up, but we both think I am best when I am the wife because I can make him laugh. Or more importantly, I can still make him laugh AND I get to be myself (Read: can shout at him at my discretion). So ladies, while you make a note of the doctor’s advice above, the men can enjoy this quote by George Burns that I have so thoroughly begun to understand now:

“Do you know what it means to come home at night to a woman who gives you a little love, a little affection, a little tenderness? It means you are in the wrong house, that what it means.”

 



*All images courtesy Google

The Relationship Basics!

Now, I am no expert in this domain, and as far as I understand the way it works, nobody is. Ya, we do have relationship experts who advice and counsel us on what is the best thing to do under certain circumstances. But I like to believe that they have indulged in name calling and petty fights themselves, at on odd time or two. After all, they are just as humane as us. But as people (read friends and siblings) around me get into new relationships, and I see them blushing a deep crimson at one time and in the depths of gloom at other because ‘he/she doesn’t understand me’, I have more than a few words of wisdom to share. You know, been there done that! 😉
Here they go, in no particular order:
1) If you are in a relationship for good (read: long term/getting married), please do not mould it on the basis of how other people would like to see it. After all, you are the one who is going to be the central part of it. Mould it just the way you both can fit in snugly! 😉 (No pun intended :-P)

 2) Set the ground rules. More often than not, all of us are particular about some habits that we absolutely cannot stand in our partner, while we may be able to adjust with some other distractions. Now these things differ from one person to the other, pretty much like one apple from the other! Please let the other person know of  these early in the relationship and save yourself a lot of heart pain.

3) Communication is the key word. Now which relationship in the world does not have fights. Don’t shy away from them nor be prepared for one, every second. But if you disagree about something(s) (which I am sure you will, if not, it’s NOT normal!), sit down and discuss. No good came out of WWI or WWII, and nothing of the sort is going to happen with your silly fight too. No point of throwing tantrums, or living in denial, or washing your dirty linen in public. In the end, you are still going to have to sit down and discuss. Better do it the first time around.

4) NEVER GET PERSONAL during a fight! No mudslinging on your partner’s character or parents’ name calling. Run in the opposite direction if your partner does that. Respect is a very important ingredient in a relationship, more so than love. You cannot love a person until you respect him. 

If your partner has the habit of getting personal, keep your silence and dignity. You will be so proud of yourself some years later, of not having given into the temptation of falling down to his/her level.

5) Save your best side for later.
Now which girl is going to reject a man who looks handsome, smells good, earns decently and is chivalrous as well? Or which guy in his sane mind wouldn’t like to take home a girl who is good looking, caring and loves him to death?
But more often than not, people on their best behavior in the early days of their relationship and once they tie the knot or the relationship is a year or two old, the behavioral curve starts hip-hopping. And you will be left wondering as to what changed.
Utilize the time that you get before marriage(esp. in arranged marriages) to know your partner better. Show your bad side too. If your partner can love with your follies, imagine how your life will  be with all the good in you.

Otherwise you will be in for some real surprises later. And all surprises ain’t good!

6) Opposites attract, but make sure that you two have at least a thing or two in common. Otherwise, a few years down the line, you will have nothing worthwhile to discuss and only a pile of things to bicker about.

 

 

7) Last, but not the least. Show faith in your partner. It is good to keep your eyes and ears open and look for hidden meanings in the sweet (and long) conversations in the initial months, but don’t make it a habit of misunderstanding him/her for any and every small thing. After all, isn’t your relationship/marriage a leap of faith too?

 

You may or may not agree with a couple or all the points above. But that’s okay. What I have observed and learnt from my experience is that even though each of us are different in some way or the other and so are our mutual relationships, somehow all relationships follow some pretty similar graphs. (I think I will write another post discussing the various kinds of graphs ;-))

I can already see some cynics turning up their noses at the idea of falling in love with a check list in hand. Of course, love is blind, deaf, mute and completely illogical! But it alone is not sufficient for an “and they lived happily ever after” world. After all, people are not paper that you can bundle them up and see under a lamp!
So dearies, once you have fallen (in love), stand up, brush yourself and do consult your checklist before taking the plunge and saying those beautiful words, “I Love You too!”
Ther are no perfect people or relationships in this world. Just the Happy ones and the miserable ones!
All pictures courtesy Google.