Why The Oatmeal Should Be On Your Breakfast Menu

I can probably knit the amount of time I’ve wasted this month into a sweater. Size XL.

I didn’t read. I didn’t write. I didn’t hunt for new music. I spent my Internet breaks studying.

And one thing I’ve been studying very very hard, is The Oatmeal. I’d always liked Matthew Inman’s style, but I fervently scrolled through every single comic he’d created and fell a little in love with every single one.

I’ve always had a thing for cartoonists. And their cartoons. That’s pretty evident from lot of Archie Comics (well, Betty and Veronica, to be fair), Asterix, Tintin, Iznogoud and R.K. Laxman books adorning my bookshelf. I like how the best ones are always quirky, imperfect with a lot of personality. And what defines them is the missing pieces they’re looking for.

Cartoons are not shallow. In fact, far from. In my opinion, it’s a lot harder to write humour than any other genre. Cartoons, especially the ones on The Oatmeal are created for social commentary, telling humans what they do. They’re relatable, they’re hilarious. And the element of exaggeration makes you feel relatively good about yourself. Read this to know what I mean.

So, trawling The Oatmeal makes me laugh AND feel better about myself. Which is more than I can say for most things. Is that so bad? Is that really “a waste of time”? When the other “productive” option is trawling my textbooks which to be honest, suck out of me the little knowledge and sanity I could safely claim to possess. Ooh, that reminds me. Read this comic. It holds true. Screw you, HSC.

The reason I’m making grammar errors these days as Christina will confirm, can be credited to a certain English Professor, who is, to put it politely, incompetent. And mentioning said teacher’s name will pollute my blog in a way my writing never could. All I hope is that somewhere in the future, said teacher comes across The Oatmeal’s Grammar Comics, which are what made me discover the site.

Lastly, The Oatmeal is run by Matthew Inman. He draws cartoons and sometimes even cartoons based on himself that look like this:

With some variations, thereof. But you get the idea.

As if his sheer talent wasn’t enough, what if I told you he looked like this:

Yes, The Oatmeal guy is hot. IKR?

And like this:

Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Inman.

When I look back at all the things that brought goodness into my life, I’ll think of oatmeal. The Oatmeal.

P.S. They’re not even paying me to do this. That’s how much I love them.

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Vintage Dreams: 7 Pointless Pursuits

I’ve always had a soft spot for the vintage, be it literature, music or the photo filter.

You’ll find my bookshelf and reading preferences favouring the classics or stories set before and in the mid 20th century. I do read my fair share of contemporary literature, but there seems to be a pattern: these books will rarely find themselves a spot in my top ten, unless they’re exceptional.

An oldie at heart with a penchant for tea over coffee, and a preference for the scent of old books rather than the new (yes!), you probably wouldn’t be surprised to know that my music collection is heavily interjected by the tunes of the 60’s, 70’s, ’80s and other music before the millennium. Of course, you will find a lot of 21st century music as well, but it doesn’t take a rocket science to figure out which ones I prefer.

Yes, I’m an enigma; trapped between the ages. The fast pace of life sometimes tends to cut me off from the part of me in a Sepia frame. Sometimes, I just wished I owned a few pieces of memorabilia to remind me where I am, where I want to be. Here are seven obsolete, pointless pursuits to cater to the girl trapped in another time.

1. A Typewriter:

 When it occurs to me that most of my favourite books took shape on a machine like this, you can’t blame an aspiring writer for coveting one. Pointless as it may seem, I want to own a typewriter, try my hand at typing a few pieces of writing on it to feel like my favourite writer at work. Who knows, it might just help my writing.

Of course I wouldn’t look so photogenic, but what the hell.

2. A Gramophone:

Being a music lover and having listened to a record being played on one, you can’t help but feeling less cool for not owning one. The cool bit isn’t what I care about, really. I just want to listen to the Beatles the way they listened to themselves.

Here Comes The Sun by The Beatles is the first thing I’ll play. I don’t know why, but it just is.

3. Vinyl Records:

It goes without saying that a gramophone calls for vinylisation of my music collection. This would be hard, and rather expensive. With my music collection, it’ll take up an entire room and then some. But when I dream of waking up to my drawers filled with systematically arranged vinyl records, it so seems worth it.

Ah! Heaven.

4. A Vintage Telephone:

Yes, the dial up kind. I don’t even know why I want this. I have an irrational aversion to speaking on the phone and totally prefer texting; it’s why it was invented. Not to mention the countless suspense scenes in classic movies that revolve around the instrument. You may think I need help, but this is the very instrument that could help me get over my aversion to phone conversation and maybe add the much needed spice to my mundane life.

This should go well with all that other stuff.

5. A Vintage Bicycle:

A Vintage Bike in Mumbai. Before you go on about how the air would leave me in bed in a couple of days, let me remind you that I don’t think I even remember how to ride a bike. They say it’s one of those things you never forget, but I haven’t done it in 5 years. It would be one of those bikes with a basket and I’d ride around feeling like Summer straight out of 500 Days of Summer and I’d forget that I may actually look like a potato.

Watch out world! I’m coming!

6. A Vintage Dress:

I can almost feel myself not caring about how dated I look wearing a vintage dress. Okay, even I’m not crazy enough to carry it off in public. But it seems a far more economical and culturally feasible pursuit than the rest, what, with Vintage clothing being in vogue every other season. I’ll buy one and then I’ll host a costume party, just to get some use out of it. Oh! Oh! I can play my vinyl records at the party. Atleast it will drive away what I like least about parties…people.

Yeah, no I can’t look like that. Not even with flowers in my hair.

7. A Vintage Ink Pen

That’s what you get when you put together a stationery freak, a writer and a lover of the ancient. Until recently, all my posts and everything I’ve written started as handwritten first drafts; scrawls of ink across crumpled, deformed paper. I just never could get the thoughts out well enough by just typing them. I’ve got the hang of it now but I still write my stories and poems by hand first. So, this is a very special pursuit and quite readily available and feasible. (Gift hint!) As crazy about stationery as I’ve always been, nothing hits the spot better than a thick piece of yellowed, faded paper and an old fountain pen. Even I’m sensible enough not to covet the old quill and ink, but I’d be lying if I said the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. Maybe it’s just my aversion to birds.

And that’s where I end and begin.

Call me crazy, but the day I get these, that will be a good day.

Do you have any quirky pursuits on your wish list? Tell me about them in the comments below.

Ten Stories Behind Ten Great Beatles Songs

Now, I don’t have a favourite band. And I probably never will have a favourite band. My answer to a question like that will probably be very very very long, with an ensemble cast of proper nouns, a lot of commas and  the occasional “umms” and “ands”. However, ninety percent of the time, the first member of my ensemble cast will be the quartet that revolutionised music, the 60’s and a lot of haircuts that nobody can carry off better than Paul McCartney.

There’s just something about their music, the Beatles. I could go on and on here, write a ten volume series of books, script a movie, but with my head absentmindedly buried in a sea of projects and assignments on everything under the sun, a blog post will have to suffice.

I could love possibly every Beatles song there is. But then there are these songs, which became a little more special AFTER I heard the stories behind them.

1. Ticket To Ride

It seems Lennon and McCartney disagreed as much on the inspiration behind the song as they did on who actually “wrote it”. Let’s just say they both did. While McCartney stated that the song was about a girl leaving with a “a British Railways ticket to the town of Ryde on the Isle of Wight”, Lennon said “Ticket to Ride” was a reference to cards indicating a clean bill of health carried by prostitutes in Hamburg, Germany in the 1960s. The Beatles toured Hamburg in the early 60s, when the slang term “ride” for “sex” was gaining popularity. Which of the two stories is true? Doesn’t matter. We know which one we prefer.

2. Hey Jude

Originally titled “Hey Jules”, McCartney penned down this number as a comfort tune for John and Cynthia Lennon’s son Julian, post their divorce and John’s affair with Yoko Ono. Many people including journalist Judith Simons thought it was written for them. Even more interpreted it as a personal message to McCartney himself, including Lennon himself, courtesy his failing relationship with Jane Asher. In fact, when Lennon asked McCartney whether the song was written for him (Lennon), he denied it saying it was written for himself. Awkward conversation much? Julian found out only twenty years later that the song was penned for him, when it was changed to “Hey, Jude”, which was easier to sing.

3. Eleanor Rigby

Contrary to popular belief, “Father McKenzie” was not inspired by Father Tommie McKenzie of Northwich Memorial Hall, but by his own Dad, Father McCartney. Unlike lonely Father McKenzie’s in the song, McCartney Senior was a happy bloke, hence the name change. Eleanor Rigby’s original name was Miss Daisy Hawkins and was renamed Eleanor after actress Eleanor Bron, who starred in the Beatles film “Help!”. The beautiful song was intended as a comment on the lonely post war life in England. One of my personal favourites, this song is immortal, as is Eleanor Rigby and as are The Beatles.

4. Here Comes The Sun

1969 wasn’t the best of years for Beatle George Harrison. He had quit the band temporarily, was arrested for marijuana possession and had his tonsils removed. Dissatisfied with his treatment by Apple records, he stormed over to Eric Clapton’s house, walked around the garden, was relieved to get away from accountants and agents and just wrote the song. Quoting from his autobiography, “Anyway, it seems as if winter in England goes on forever, by the time spring comes you really deserve it. So one day I decided I was going to sag off Apple and I went over to Eric Clapton’s house. The relief of not having to go see all those dopey accountants was wonderful, and I walked around the garden with one of Eric’s acoustic guitars and wrote “Here Comes the Sun”.”

5. While My Guitar Gently Weeps

Harrison was inspired by the book I Ching or the book of changes which propagated the Eastern theory of everything being relative to something else as opposed to the Western view which puts this down to coincidence. Harrison just opened a random book, found the words “gently weeps” and wrote a beautiful song around them.  “I was thinking about the Chinese I Ching, the Book of Changes… The Eastern concept is that whatever happens is all meant to be, and that there’s no such thing as coincidence – every little item that’s going down has a purpose. “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” was a simple study based on that theory. I decided to write a song based on the first thing I saw upon opening any book – as it would be relative to that moment, at that time. I picked up a book at random, opened it, saw ‘gently weeps’, then laid the book down again and started the song.” The link to the song video is an older, acoustic version of the song by Harrison, containing an omitted verse.

6. She’s Leaving Home

Co-written by McCartney and Lennon, the storyline of the song was loosely based on the news of Melanie Coe, missing girl that found her way to the newspaper headlines. Although McCartney invented most of the content, Coe claims that most of it was accurate. Unlike the song, Coe’s boyfriend whom she had run away to was a croupie and she left home in the afternoon while her parents were at work. She was found ten days later and aborted her unborn child. Weirdly, Coe had met McCartney three years earlier when he felicitated her with a prize in a dancing contest.

7. Let It Be

Arguably my favourite Beatles song ever, McCartney wrote this when the Beatles were going through one of their most troubled phases. McCartney had a dream where his mother, who died of cancer when he was fourteen, just came alive in front of him and comforted him. The ethereal sight of his mother in his dream inspired the lines “Mother Mary”. He later said in an interview that he was going through a hard time when he had the dream and that it was his mother who told him “It’ll be alright. Let it be.” I always loved this song, but hearing that story made it even more special.

8. Yesterday

McCartney apparently composed the melody of Yesterday in a dream he had and played the tune on the piano repeatedly when he woke up to avoid forgetting it. He was initially worried that he might’ve subconsciously plagiarised another artist’s work. “For about a month I went round to people in the music business and asked them whether they had ever heard it before. Eventually it became like handing something in to the police. I thought if no-one claimed it after a few weeks then I could have it.”, he said. Once these doubts were cleared, McCartney began writing lyrics to the melody. Of course I couldn’t have been more glad to hear that he trashed the initial opening line of “Scrambled Eggs/Oh, my baby how I love your legs”. Yesterday has come a long way from the debacle it would’ve turned out to be. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

9. Strawberry Fields Forever

Strawberry Field was a  Salvation Army Children’s Home near Lennon’s childhood home in Woolton, Liverpool. Lennon and his childhood friends used to play in the wooded garden behind the home. One of Lennon’s childhood treats was the garden party held each summer in Calderstones Park near the Salvation Army Home every year, where a Salvation Army band played. Though the song has nostalgic undertones, it seems too surreal and psychedelic to be based on a childhood memory. The song’s conception was not set in the best of times for Lennon. With drugs, a failing marriage and two controversies under his belt including the “bigger than Jesus” fad, it’s no surprise the lyrics were obscure. However, later, Lennon confirmed that the lines “nothing to get hung about” were inspired by his Aunt Mimi’s strict order not to play in the grounds of Strawberry Field, to which Lennon replied, “They can’t hang you for it.”

10. Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

Hold your horses. Don’t get fooled by those initials. I don’t care what you’ve heard, but this is not a song about LSD. It’s actually inspired by this drawing.

The drawing by Julian Lennon that inspired “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds”

Drawn by four year old Julian Lennon in 1976 about a classmate Lucy O’Donnell, Lennon says it’s this piece of art that inspired the song although he had been experimenting with drugs at the time.

I had no idea it spelt LSD. This is the truth: my son came home with a drawing and showed me this strange-looking woman flying around. I said, ‘What is it?’ and he said, ‘It’s Lucy in the sky with diamonds,’ and I thought, ‘That’s beautiful.’ I immediately wrote a song about it.”

Be it a dose of acid or crayon on paper, little Lucy only realised she’d been immortalised into a Beatles song when she was thirteen. Lucky her!

Inspirations: Jacqueline Wilson

All of us bloggers have that author who played a significant role in our childhood. That author, who changed the way we looked at literature. It often is the author who got you interested in reading or the writer who blew you out of the water. You know, when you randomly pick up a book by an author you’ve never read before, or maybe on a friend’s recommendation and you love it so much, you just want to buy all the author’s other works, regardless of what they’re about.

I don’t really have a favourite author. Usually, I judge by the book. And, I’ve always been interested in reading. It’s hard to tell whether Enid Blyton or J.K. Rowling or Roald Dahl (all of them British writers) just made reading more fun for me. The truth is, they all did. And many more authors. However, Jacqueline Wilson holds and will always hold a special place in my heart. She isn’t the first author I ever read or the one who made me like reading. She’s the author who made me want to write.

There’s something about them British writers that’s just so indescribable. And Jacqueline Wilson is one of them. The first book by her that I read was “Clean Break” when I was nine. It was about a girl helping her little brother and sister get through their parents divorce while struggling to come to terms with it herself. I absolutely loved it. After that, I kept trawling through bookstores and libraries for her books. They weren’t as readily available in India at the time, but I managed to find most of them at the British Council Library in Mumbai.

I really love the way she uses simple prose and conveys her ideas so well. She always writes in first person and sometimes alternates perspectives (Secrets, The Lottie Project). Her characters are often always girls, which she says is because she used fashion magazines for inspiration when she was little. She just manages to fit in so well with all her characters; it’s just marvelous. She popularly writes for children and teenagers. She has written some adult novels as well, but I haven’t got round to reading them yet. I was surprised to learn she was fifty nine years old then (when I started reading her books that is; now she’s sixty seven), shocked, actually. She sounds so young in her books! And that’s the sign of an amazing writer. I often plan numerous conversations in my head with her and it doesn’t seem, at any point that we’re two generations apart.

Jacky (as I shall henceforth be referring to her), her books deal with social realism. They cover a wide range of issues like divorce, death, illness, abuse, abandonment, foster care, etc. interspersed with personal problems such as love, belongingness, friendship, weight issues and appearances. These topics might seem a bit heavy for young readers, but that’s just what so many kids all over the world go through today. However, her narrative is filled with humour to keep the read light. Social realism is popular today, but to think, these issues weren’t even talked about when Jacky was a kid reader in the 1950s. Neither did she go through any of them herself. To write about them the way she has…it’s spell binding.

Jacky’s characters are often misfit, going through various struggles. It’s astounding how problems that are taken for granted can monumentally affect a person’s life. Just because they’re common doesn’t imply that the person’s troubles are lessened. The problems come to light very early in the book and the greater part of the story is about the coping. And often, the trouble doesn’t disappear in the end, but the characters learn to acknowledge what they have and be optimistic, which is really the road one has to take in real life.

Oh, and how can I not mention Nick Sharatt’s ink illustrations that fill her books….They’re just too cute and make the read a lot more fun.

John Green once said,

Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book.

I’m sure we’ve all felt this. But have you ever had that feeling that a book was written just for you, with you in mind? That, for me was Jacky’s Girls Quartet (Girls in Love, Girls Under Pressure, Girls Out Late, Girls In Tears) series especially Girls Under Pressure. I never liked lending my friends those books because I knew they’d never understand them like I did. I lent Girls in Love to one of my friends and she didn’t like it. From then on, although it’s a little silly, I kind of felt that these books were written only for me.
Girls Under Pressure is the second book in the Girls Quartet and is very close to my heart. It’s about this girl Ellie who struggles with weight issues and is under pressure to drop the pounds while her two best friends and stepmother are drop dead gorgeous, and more importantly, thin. It’s the eternal battle between thin and happy. I connect a lot with Ellie. She loves Art and English at school, couldn’t detest Math and PE more even if she tried and is useless at most sports except swimming! And she’s plump! Just like me! It was a really special book. I had insecurities about my weight too and this book has helped me get through them, every one of the gazillion times I’ve read it.

As much as I love my dose of fantasy, it’s nice to get back to the real world at times and have books help you deal with reality.

I have as much in common with Jacky herself as I do with Ellie. There’s a real connect there. On reading her autobiographies, I realised that my relationship with my Dad was pretty much the same. The way she approached reading and writing was the same, the way she liked English but didn’t like Math or sport , her rapport with her teachers, her dreams…it was like…I was her! Of course you know, I might have left out a few details about how she was very slim and I am…well…not! And how she was quite popular with the guys and my true love is food, her life choices and a little more. But I would love to sit and have a lovely tète à tète with her. With all that we have in common, I’m sure conversation would flow.

Jacqueline Wilson has been an inspiration to me for every piece of literature I’ve written…from grocery lists to my poems and stories. If I can make someone feel half as special with my words as she has made me, I would be the happiest person alive.

P.S. I’ve always wanted to write to her, but I’ve felt too shy. It feels pretty nice to get this out in the open.

Until Next Time

-CP

The Sushi Seduction

What’s Sexy, Understated, Savoury and Happiness Inducing?

Okay, That’s a little vague.

It’s also small, wrapped up, delicious and leaves you most hungry where it most satisfies. (Hint: It’s not Cleopatra)

Last clue; you should get it now: The Beckham kids are addicted to it…and so am I. In fact, I think sushi is my new favourite thing!

Like most sushi virgins, I was reluctant to try it at first; “Raw fish? Uhh…I’ll pass.”

Famous last words.

When the Japanese delicacy tickled my taste buds for the first time, I knew it was more than that. I can’t really describe the packet of punch it brought to my mouth, but I’ll try anyway.

The light crunch of the mustard seeds sprinkled on the perfectly cooked rice was coupled flawlessly with the smooth salmon and the kick of the wasabi.

It was a luscious blend of delightful texture, of subtle, restrained, yet potent flavour that fashioned a symphony of ecstasy in the mouth.

That was it.

I was hooked.

It was only up from here.

Sushi Plate

I jumped at every chance to get a good sushi deal. Going to the Cool Japan Festival held at Phoenix Mills, Mumbai this month made me realise that I love sushi more than I hate crowds. That’s a lot of love. I mean, sushi in Mumbai for a hundred rupees? That’s a steal! You really might have some issues with Japan if you don’t leap like a salmon at that. Or you just hate crowds. How do you survive in Mumbai then?Anyway, so I went there, stood in line, in the never-ending line, trudging my way forward through a sea of sweaty people, one inch at a time, in pursuit of that elusive treat. After what seemed like ages, I was so close. Just one person ahead of me in line. So close. And guess what? He took the last box of sushi.
Image

The Cool Japan Festival-only it was way way way more crowded when I was there.

The girl dressed as Pikachu selling (by that I mean ordering the chefs about in a fake American accent and pretending to slog it out) the sushi was, and I’m being unreasonably polite here, irritating. She put a barrier in front of me saying that I had to wait another half an hour for the sushi! And then ran off to “watch her friends perform” at the festival. This perception does not in any way result from my justified frustration at that moment, and any perceived influences are purely coincidental, but honestly, her friends sucked.

Sick of the wait, some people behind me started leaving the line. And for the next measure of time which seemed nothing short of excruciatingly too long, the irritating sales girl kept saying “Pikachu” every time I tried to communicate with her. I felt like stuffing her in to a Poké ball and throwing her into the tempura pan! Why didn’t I leave? Because I had fought too long and too hard to give up now.

I could see that the chefs had made some sushi and I only wanted two boxes. I kept telling the Pikachu girl that and she started gabbing in her fake accent “Should I be merciful?” to the chefs who clearly didn’t speak English.

Finally, at the end of a long ordeal, with the blessings of the Japanese God Inari, who perhaps appreciated (or got tired of) my persistence, I triumphantly stepped out with my sushi. Yum! Yum!

I couldn’t wait to dig in. And when I did, I knew it was well worth the wait. It wasn’t the best sushi I’d ever had, but for the price-it was well worth it. The Beckham kids will know what I’m talking about! (Although they might each have their own sushi place with it’s own kitchen team.)

So, sushi virgins, you may either think I’m crazy or this stuff’s a pretty big deal!

I’ll let you in on what I know about sushi, which is awfully limited considering you can just Google it and feel like a sushi connoisseur just by reading Wikipedia’s introduction. But, you know me, I’m gonna ramble on anyway.

Sushi basically consists of shari: the cooked vinegared rice, also called sushi-meshi and neta or the other ingredients. Now the neta can be anything, but is traditionally raw fish or seafood, commonly salmon. In India, there are a lot of vegetarian options, so don’t fret veggies! You can try it too.

Sushi literally translates to ‘sour tasting’.

The ingredients involved in making sushi are:

·      Sushi-meshi, the rice

·      Nori: the black seaweed often used to wrap sushi

·      Neta: the filling

It’s served with soy sauce, wasabi (go easy on that, it’s got a kick), gari (sweet, pickled ginger) which is a palate cleanser and digestion aid, and grated daikon radish.

There are various types of sushi. Each of the following has numerous subtypes, which I won’t tell you about because I don’t know.

·      Inarizushi: is like a sushi rice pakora in a deep fried tofu batter. Inari is the God of rice.

inarizushi1
Inarizushi

·      Narezushi: is fermented, ‘matured’ sushi. Fish is heavily salted and left to drain for six months before it is ready to be eaten.

Narezushi

·      Nigirizushi: is hand formed sushi. The chef shapes the sushi with his own hands into a rectangular shape with the neta draped over it.

Nigirizushi

·      Oshizushi: is box sushi. It’s made like an upside down cake. The toppings are put into a wooden mould. Then comes the rice on top of it. It’s compressed, flipped over and voila!

Oshizushi

·      Makizushi: is one of the most common types of sushi. It comprises of the neta, rice and nori wrapped in a roll using a bamboo mat. There are many types of rolls depending on diameter, filling and presentation.

Makizushi

·      Chirashizushi: is like a bowl of sushi rice with the neta and condiments scattered on top. Sashimi (sliced, raw meat) is also often served.

Chirashizushi

·      Sushi à la West: Like most other things, sushi too has been westernised. The most common variation found in India would be the California roll which is avocado, cucumber, crab wrapped in rice and nori. There’s a vegetarian option too.

California Roll

Usually, sushi portions are quite small. It’s definitely not a meal, but it’s an experience. Don’t get me wrong here; I’m not one for ‘fine dining’ where one French fry is served under a giant turkey cloche with under some five word long fancy name where they name every ingredient! I like my portions big. So make sure you have something like a tempura (amazing fritters) or a teriyaki skewer too to go with your sushi.

But, sushi is delicious. Just ask the Beckhams! I could easily live on it day in and day out! But, that’s the hitch. I’m no Beckham kid. Sushi is not easy on the pocket; it’s a meal for an occasion. Perhaps, that’s what makes it so special.

Love it or hate it!

It’s definitely worth a try. For the experience, at least.

So, next time you’re dressed up in your kimono, all curled up on your futon with your sake, watching your favourite anime, make sure you grab your otemoto and dig into that sushi.

Sayonara,

A Sushi Devotee.

Heartbroken by Hosseini

I’ve just finished reading ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khaled Hosseini, and just like his other book ‘The Kite Runner’ (which I had read a few years ago), it touched my heart. It was an enthralling, yet thought provoking read. It was intense and heartfelt and trademark Hosseini-it made me cry.

Both, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns are literary masterpieces. They are must-reads, so I won’t reveal too much about them.

The Kite Runner tells the story of Amir; a Pashtun boy from Kabul who is desperate to improve his rapport with his father and his friendship with Hassan, the lowly Hazara son of his father’s servant. This story is set against the tumultuous backdrop of the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan and later, the Taliban rule.

A Thousand Splendid Suns follows the lives of Mariam and Laila, two women from different backgrounds and generations. Unfortunate events cause their paths to cross and a companionship is formed between the two. They find solace in each other and fight a common battle with astonishing bravery. This book too, is set against the turbulent Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban rule and the post Taliban restoration. It sheds light on these events from a feminine perspective.

Both these books are historical dramas. Hosseini succeeds in bringing historical facts to life through his storylines in a beautiful, poignant way. He has the ability to make a story come alive through his carefully chosen words. His words are deceptively superficial with hidden deeper meanings.

I find his writing impeccable. He always finds the right word, the right phrase to perfectly encapsulate an idea. It’s like, no matter how hard you try to, you can’t change a single word, because nobody could have said it better.

What I really love about Hosseini’s writing is his warm, understated humour. He doesn’t try to be a comedian, but weaves humour into his narrative with subtlety. It won’t have you rolling on the floor, but it is bound to bring an unassuming, wry smile to your lips.

However, Be Warned. That smile won’t last for long. Let me quote from The Kite Runner. “I’m so afraid. Because I’m so profoundly happy. Happiness like this is frightening. They only let you be this happy when they’re about to take something away from you.” I think Hosseini took this a little too seriously. Because, every time and I mean every time he makes you smile, be sure you are armed with a box of tissues. You are in for a sob fest. He will reduce you to tears. He will break your heart. His writing is so powerful that it rendered almost everything I’ve read insipid.

Even the reviews say as much:

“Hosseini is a truly gifted teller of tales…he’s not afraid to pull every string in your heart to make it sing.”

-The Times on ‘The Kite Runner’

“Only the hardest of hearts could fail to be moved”

-Glamour on ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’

The tragedy king’s novels offer a lesson in perspective. These books made me realize how lucky I am. The fact that I lead such a blessed life ‘both eases and breaks my heart’*.

Speaking of perspective, I love how Hosseini uses it and allows us to see the character’s world through his/her own eyes. Though The Kite Runner is narrated in first person, Hosseini has effortlessly portrayed Amir’s perspective. However, in A Thousand Splendid Suns, he has absolutely nailed it. Here the narrative is in third person and is divided into four parts. Part One focuses on Mariam, Part Two and Four on Laila and in Part Three, Hosseini alternates between Mariam and Laila. He fluently shows us the same world through the innocent, reclusive eyes of Mariam and through Laila’s intelligent view. The novel spans from 1959 to 2003, across these women’s lives, right from birth. It is miraculous how Hosseini evolves their perspectives as they grow older without disrupting the flow of the story.

Another box that Hosseini ticks as a writer is the depth of his characters. Like his writing, his characters are layered with multidimensional personalities. Nobody is bad because they are bad (except Assef from The Kite Runner). They all have pasts. Their thoughts and actions are consequential; shaped by past experiences. For example, in The Kite Runner; Amir behaves the way he does because he is guilty, confused and desperate for his father’s approval, Baba is protecting a secret and Assef is just a flat out rogue.

Even in A Thousand Splendid Suns; Rasheed is the way he is because he has lost a wife and a son, and is desperate for a male heir, Mariam feels betrayed and despises Laila in the beginning, Nana feels betrayed and is thus, cynical and pessimistic, Fariba is indifferent to Laila as she has to deal with the fact that her sons were fighting the war, which is difficult for any mother and Hakim has to be complacent with his wife, as deep down he knows she has a point. Jalil has less reason to be so heartless, but he was trying to keep up appearances in society.

Hosseini’s characters are well thought out and more importantly, convincing in such a dramatic setting.

This may be irrelevant, but I like the way Hosseini conjures up his similies, especially the ones personifying the geographical scenery of Afghanistan. I came across a few of these but the only one that strikes me right now is one from The Kite Runner“I ran. A grown man running with a swarm of screaming children. But I didn’t care. I ran with the wind blowing in my face, and a smile as wide as the valley of Panjsher on my lips. I ran.”

Both, The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns are amazing, inspiring stories. Please don’t ask me which one is better because I really can’t decide (Typical). Let’s just accept the opinion that both are equally good. If The Kite Runner is King then A Thousand Splendid Suns is Queen.

Hosseini’s books are amazing, but I didn’t really enjoy reading them. They broke my heart. They made me cry. Often, when I read a book and the story is funny, happy or thrilling, I just can’t put the book down. Usually, I’m a pretty quick reader, but with The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns, I was oddly slow. I couldn’t bring myself to read too much of these stories at once. I needed to stop and cry every now and then, and perhaps that’s why this post was delayed.

I don’t know if I’m getting too emotionally involved, but I felt as though I was there, in the novels. I felt as though I was watching Hassan get abused (The Kite Runner), I was watching Rasheed force Mariam to chew on pebbles, I was watching Laila battle for life under the pile of rubble (A Thousand Splendid Suns). I was watching all of this, and I couldn’t do anything. I was helpless. And that saddened me. It broke my heart. But that is brilliant writing. The ability to have such a profound impact on the reader is a unique quality. And Khaled Hosseini has it in spades.

Keep breaking hearts, Hosseini. It’s what you do best. If anyone gets to break my heart, it’s this guy. I quote fromJohn Green’s ‘The Fault In Our Stars’“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world…but you do have some say in who hurts you.” I would love to have my heart broken by you again, Khaled Hosseini. “By you, a thousand times over.”**

P.S. Please do yourselves a favour and read the books before watching the movies.

*A quote from A Thousand Splendid Suns.

** A play on one of my favourite quotes from The Kite Runner “For you, a thousand times over.”