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One of the absolutely greatest blessings that have befallen me is the fact that my mother wanted to become a teacher when I was young. Since she couldn’t fulfill that dream for some years, she turned her ambition and interest towards me. As a result, I could read, write (poorly, but still!) and do some very basic math at the age of four. The only downside to this experiment of hers was that I was unbelievably bored when I started school and the real teachers spent a year teaching us the alphabet.

I can’t even begin to describe the joy that reading (and writing, for that matter, but that’s a whole other story and a very long one!) has brought me through the years. When I was a kid I would try my hardest to convince my friends to “come read with me”. In my mind, this was an entirely normal way to socialize with friends; we would curl up on opposite ends of my bed, each with a book in hand, and only surface from the story to share some enthralling details with each other. Sadly, not many were convinced by my arguments and demanded we go outside and play instead. In retrospect, that was probably a good thing.

I still love to read like this. To really dive into a book, its story and environment, and only surface if I’m forced to or if I just have to share a detail, a phrase, a feeling with somebody. The books that manage to keep me spellbound like that are the ones that end up on my mental bookshelf; the books that I will revisit and re-read for years to come.

And now to the point – the book at hand. I’m leaving for India in just under one month, to spend three months inhaling the culture and smell and heat and quirks of that fascinating country. I can’t wait. Our trip starts in Kerala, which is the reason I’ve been thinking of this book for a while now. I intend to grab it off that mental bookshelf, dust it off and delve into it once more before I leave.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy was the last book my grandmother read before her sight got so poor she gave up trying to read. I gave it to her for Christmas. She told me she had cried reading it. My grandmother is not a person who sheds tears easily – at least not in my presence. So I read it too. And I cried. And ached. And loved it.

It’s a story of love and of hate, of sisters and brothers, mangoes and monsoons, of family and the Love Rules and it takes place in Kerala. I’ll share some quotes. But please, just go read it.

“The only dream worth having is to dream that you will live while you are alive, and die only when you are dead. To love, to be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and vulgar disparity of the life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”

“He folded his fear into a perfect rose. He held it out in the palm of his hand. She took it from him and put it in her hair.”

“It is after all so easy to shatter a story. To break a chain of thought. To ruin a fragment of a dream being carried around carefully like a piece of porcelain. To let it be, to travel with it, as Velutha did, is much the harder thing to do.”

“The way her body existed only where he touched her. The rest of her was smoke.”


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