Sunday, February 25, 2018

THE COCKROACH VIGIL – by Devika Rajan BOOK REVIEW


THE COCKROACH VIGIL – by Devika Rajan

BOOK REVIEW

This a delightfully allegorical short novel. It reminded me of Kafka’s ‘Investigations of a Dog’ in which the unnamed narrator, a dog, recounts a number of episodes from its past, to rationalize and resolve the basic questions of its existence. Here the cockroach has been made real by naming it. The fact that it is a cockroach which is the protagonist, dawns on you slowly as you read.

Laroche and his niece were by the kitchen drain. Laroche had a view of the outside through a crack – the real world outside and not just the next room.

.. But their egg cases were secure

The entire setting is surreal with a nuclear holocaust as a result of the misadventures of a country. The entire wiping out of life in the future appears a possibility. While Laroche the cockroach narrates how through time immemorial despite being under threat of annihilation and being trampled upon, they had risen again and again. Here is where the allegory gets stronger alluding to the fact that despite the conflicts between the strong and the weak, the ruler and the ruled, the Gods and the lesser mortals, humankind can emerge stronger and resilient if we could only get rid of our prejudices and irrational beliefs. I particularly liked –

“You elders don’t value yourselves. We don’t need gods, we don’t need validation from others”

“Let go of the past!! I will not allow it shape our future! When we come back, we ourselves will be the gods. Uncle, LET GO OF THE PAST.”

Ultimately the cockroach teaches us the art of adaptability and ultimate survival instincts under any conditions.


This book though a short read leaves its impact on the reader and will for a long time.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

AUTUMN LEAVES – Seasons of Life A PREFACE



AUTUMN LEAVES – Seasons of Life

A PREFACE

Looking back, the seed for this book was sown nearly two months ago as I was listening to Nat King Cole singing ‘Autumn leaves’. His hauntingly captivating voice captures the poignancy of loneliness and a lost love.

‘The falling leaves drift by the window
The autumn leaves of red and gold
I see your lips, the summer kisses
The sun-burned hands, I used to hold

Since you went away, the days grow long
And soon I'll hear old winter's song
But I miss you most of all, my darling
When autumn leaves start to fall.’

The falling leaves for me symbolized the drifting away of relationships, of life itself. Autumn or the Fall has always fascinated me with its colors but at the same time, there was a despondency that it would soon come to an end. I quote a passage from my book ‘I am just An Ordinary Man’ –

‘I watched as the leaves fell from the tree near the balcony at her house, once green then golden yellow, brown and then on the ground. The tree stood barren and stripped; waiting for winter, to be covered white with snow, the rejuvenation in spring and glory in summer to once again the fall. The cycle continues. Isn’t it very similar to the processes we undergo during our lives? Then would winter signify the hibernation we undergo after death to be rejuvenated and born again during spring?’

While I grappled with the existential questions in my first book, in the second book ‘Darkness and Beyond’ I had explored being part of a larger process, a process of experiencing, for no knowledge of life would be complete without introspection and experiencing. The book was about all that: each chapter a slice of life, in search of a meaning that would define existence; in search of the ‘Beyond’ of this ‘Darkness’. Beyond all this was the offer of hope that there is always light at the end of darkness.

I asked two of my friends their views as to what Autumn symbolized for them. While one said it was the full attainment of all that life can offer you, with all its colors it was a ‘beautiful life’. The second view was that it represented sadness as after all this achievement the leaves would turn brown and fall to the ground, a symbol of our approaching end. Two divergent ways of looking at life itself. While the first reveled in the present moment, the second despaired at the approaching darkness.

We are not here to judge which view is correct for both represent the reality of living.
I came across a very enlightening passage from Hemingway’s book ‘A Moveable Feast’ which I have used in my book under progress ‘Autumn Leaves – Seasons of Life’

“You expected to be sad in the fall. Part of you died each year when the leaves fell from the trees and their branches were bare against the wind and the cold, wintery light. But you knew there would always be the spring, as you knew the river would flow again after it was frozen. When the cold rains kept on and killed the spring, it was as though a young person died for no reason.”

This book deals with the reality of aging and loneliness; the reality of moving away from relationships and the disintegration of what was once a family unit. It also explores the renewed search for roots in the generation to follow. Here I have made a departure of projecting into the future and accepting the reality that an individual’s search for the meaning of life can never end.

That’s all I have now, for I am one-third of the way towards completion which may take me a few more months. But I thought should share with my friends the satisfaction and joy of sitting once again to write. I write because I live through the different characters I portray in my books. Ultimately, I want to present to my readers something they can identify themselves with and ask their questions and find their own answers.


So friends, bear with me for this premature posting, for it is the support and encouragement extended by you that is taking me on my journey. Thank you.