Ghachar Ghochar : The tyranny of the mundane and my pseudo-language barriers

 

A big frustration of mine is that I can read my mother tongue, Kannada. I spent my early years learning Hindi and English and only speaking Kannada at home and with family. This is hugely annoying for me, especially because I know that Kannada literature has so many rich stories to offer. It also really annoys me that I can’t read street signs, shop signs, truck signs etc. etc. (which is actually a weird pass-time of mine) when I’m back in India. The overall effect of being so well versed with the narrative of a language but being blind to its writing and physical language is a disorienting one.

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Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street and How Gayatri Spivak Taught Me to Read at 23

Last week I had the immense privilege of attending a lecture by the great post-colonial thinker Gayatri Spivak at LSE. Spivak’s work has literally been life changing for me, so I was really excited to see her in action. Apart from her obviously beautiful mind I was struck by her spark and sense of humour and positivity. She had pneumonia but still travelled all the way to make this lecture simply because she committed to it.

While I can go on about how much I love Spivak, she said something specific about the way in which we as readers – or listeners and consumers of everyday media – have forgotten how to read, which really got me thinking. She pointed out that all texts “express a certain desire” which should not be confused with the “fulfilment of that desire”. In other words, we have become lazy in the way we receive media. We take what we read, hear or watch as a fact rather than somebodies perspective. So I tried to keep her advice in mind when reading Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street.

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Book #1: This Is How You Lose Her

My favourite book of the year so far has been This Is How You Lose Her (TIHYLH) by Junot Diaz. It is a very short and quick read that left me wanting more! It is a collection of short stories about Yunior, a character from Diaz’s previous book ‘The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao’. A lot of people feel that this book is about heart-break and love but for me this was about a lot more. This is one of those books that is about everything and nothing. Yes, its about Yunior’s relationship with women and how he constantly sets himself up to fail in his love life and how he comes out of his post-heart break depression. Sure, there is one dimension to it that reads like the Dominican-American version of ‘Eat Pray Love’ without the fetishisation of distant ‘Eastern’ – in this case Southern? – lands. (Which apparently is called ‘re-orientalism’ or ‘self-orientalism’ to make things even more complicated[1])

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