Format: Kindle Edition
By Amazon Customer on 29 Jan. 2016
Format: Kindle Edition
I first met Roshen in the mid-1970’s, when we were both students at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi and we lived close to each other in the hostel. I knew the young Roshen then as an amazingly brilliant women with a gentle spirit and a kind heart and a hunger for spiritual enlightenment. We visited her mother once in Dehradun and I recognized at once the source of much of her intelligence, love of learning, and commitment to social justice.
Roshen remained in my heart and I longed to see her again for almost forty years. Last year, my longing was finally satisfied and I was able to return to India and visit her in her mother’s house in Dehradun where she continues writing, lecturing, speaking, rescuing cats, fighting for animal rights, and continuing on her spiritual quest. It seemed like we had only been apart for a few years.
I experienced so much of Roshen in these short stories. In The Library, I almost got the impression that the characters were books representing knowledge that was going to be wiped out by the encroaching online world and saw the nostalgia of academics as the ancient abodes of knowledge and the dusty old books of past secrets get tossed aside for the slick reality of modern, minimalist libraries where books seem almost like an afterthought. I also saw in the characters parts of Roshen, as a highly skilled and respected academic who never got the opportunity she deserved to excel in the politicized academic world of India. Her PhD Dissertation still remains one of the most profound, well-researched, and unique sources of ancient Indian history and my prayer remains that it will be published so that she gets the recognition she deserves. Not that she has not received recognition, but I do not think that her public is aware of the wisdom that remains locked in her PhD tome.
In As below So Above, I saw Roshen’s commitment to social justice combined with her insistence on individuals’ power to create their own reality on earth rather than to surrender to the notion of fate or to religious truism that can make people inactive and give up. Her story was almost a call to action confirmed by a revelation coming from the same world that can justify inaction. I thought it was also revealing that the protagonist’s wife was the one who interpreted the life-changing profundity in her husband’s dream.
I certainly saw Roshen as the main character in Paper Toys and again saw her incredible sense of social justice and frustration with the bureaucracy and traditional superstitions of villagers which dominated over lives and allowed preventable death to happen in order to uphold the status quo. I could also sense Roshen’s sadness about the materialism and love for money that had creeped into Indian society in the years between her visits. One the one hand, the hospital looked cleaner and more professional, but the human spirit had clearly diminished and even children had changed. How often we find when we return to places we discover the world is no longer as we perceived it or hoped it would be.
Jahanara struck the deepest chord with me because Roshen so clearly conveyed Jahanara’s feelings combined with her almost sterile, well-planned act of suicide. I empathized with her character and could also relate to the stark contrast between her vision of herself and her reality and how others saw her and her importance to them and her potential contribution to the world. How so many of us can get mired in self-loathing and distorted views of what is happening around us and other’s feelings toward us and staunchly decide to follow the path to self-destruction only to be thwarted by the sudden recognition that people “out there” care and that our work is perhaps really worthy of us continuing to live.
My Kindle version had only four stories and so I missed reading The Frogs and The Beautiful One, which were not even listed in the Table of Contents, and The Search, which was not even mentioned on Amazon but was in my version Table of Contents. I will have to write Roshen to get these.
Roshen’s style is clear and punctuated by images and descriptions that draw the reader into the scene. I was captured. I look forward to reading more and also to seeing Roshen again.
Personally, I like the style in which Ms. Dalal writes. Because her literary voice seeks neither pity nor admiration I can easily visualize the India she writes about. I wish she would use that authentic voice to expand her experiences in a future novel or memoir. She is a prolific non-fiction author on subjects related to India, and though this, for her, was a rare foray into fiction I hope there will be more of the same to come.
As I had written earlier, I started finding and typing out short stories/ episodes written earlier. These six were uploaded in a kindle book, link below them.
A thousand years later they will excavate a mound and as they dig, slowly, carefully, lifting the bricks of crumbled buildings, they will find the skeletons of six people who seem to have died sitting, covered in dust; and when they take some of this dust in a test tube and analyse it in their laboratories, they will learn it is the dust of books. To make the excavation report factual and interesting they will attempt to reconstruct the situation but they will not quite succeed.
[A story on academicians–well-qualified and brilliant, but unable to find jobs]
As Below So Above
My story begins with a nightmare. One night I dreamt I went to heaven.
It was like this. I had died in my sleep, and I was happy. After all, the life I had was not worth living. I did have a few momentary regrets about my young wife and two-year-old son, but as I rode upwards, light as a cloud, I soon forgot them. I was eager to start my new life.
[a story about a real refugee camp in Bangladesh]
Last evening I visited Ward Number 28 again, the Orthopaedic Ward for women, in Janvadi Hospital. More than thirty years have passed, though I had planned so often to go there.
[a true story–life in a government hospital in India]——————————————————–
Jahanara was the most beautiful name she could think of. It wasn’t her real name, but she had chosen it for herself. Its the name she wanted to die with. In about three months Jahanara aimed to be dead, covered in flowers, her face pale and beautiful, her hair washed and straight. [a young woman, full of ennui, who becomes a writer]
Once again, I was allotted a new place to stay. It had two small rooms with low, ill-fitting asbestos ceilings under tin roofs, and a bathroom and kitchen without the ceilings, the tin roofs propped up by shaky, termite-ridden rafters. The floor was perpetually damp with seepage from the ground, and there were cracks everywhere, which let in a wide variety of insects and creatures.
[an account of frogs and other creatures]