Thursday 23 April 2015

Art-5: The Fountainhead: A Book Review - Ms. Devarshi Pandya

The Fountainhead: A Book Review
Ms. Devarshi Pandya
Department of Communication Skills, MEFGI, Rajkot

Ayn Raynd - a name lost in war of canonical and non canonical. Over the decades scholars have been struggling to define and divide the works under two banners of Canonical and non- Canonical, which as in turn bounded us with a pre-conceived notions of writing. Her works like “Atlas Shrugged”, “The Fountainhead” and “Anthem” have surpassed the boundaries set by her contemporaries of writing a philosophical novel. “Fountainhead” is one such work overlooked for years. The book was written in 1943, a period of clashes and depression in the world i.e. the period of World War II. “The Fountainhead” seems an obscure title at the first, since it’s the scene unimaginable. The novel embarks you on the journey of grounded and philosophical questions. Through the struggle of its characters it takes you to the land of choices and consequences on life.
The most fascinating characteristic feature of this work is the way it breaks one’s notion of a “Novel”.  It is nearly impossible to decide the protagonists, plot, themes etc. It breaks free the boundaries of thinking and drops you at the vast island of your imagination. Each character has his/her own place in novel, they might be classified as minor and major characters but they hold a due significance in entire novel. The philosophy of “Objectivism” is what keeps you hold on the book forever. The protagonist of the novel, Howard Roark, the protagonist struggles and squeezes life out of him but doesn’t settle for less. He is a firm believer of his work of art and though left out, broken, treated like an animal in a society of “Soul-Slaved”, he stands firm facing the society as a hurricane and being adamant of his future. 
The book is an inspiration to many as the characters portrayed are not only difficult but also logically impossible to imagine. In reality, one doesn’t find such man so stubborn and firm towards his work. The spirit of man and his work are shown at great heights in this book, rather than the shallow lives that we live today.  The book is a must read, for it is a window to one’s own soul. It depicts the inner conflicts of man and about those choices that he makes. It narrates how easy it can be for a man to trade his self respect and soul, which can be found when Howard Roark says, “To sell your soul is the easiest thing in the world. That's what everybody does every hour of his life. If I asked you to keep your soul - would you understand why that's much harder?” The novel begins with Roark getting fired from his architecture college, for his “dreadful” work of art. The kind of sketches he draws is disgust for others. He is rejected by almost all great people he comes across. Surprisingly, he knows what fascinates people, what art will they like and he is much capable of making it, however he refuses to please others. “Art of Art sake” is executed meticulously in this novel when he states, ‘’I came here to say that I do not recognize anyone's right to one minute of my life. Nor to any part of my energy. Nor to any achievement of mine. No matter who makes the claim, how large their number or how great their need. I wished to come here and say that I am a man who does not exist for others."
The perseverance of Howard Roark for many readers is a complete soul awakening.  The way he battles with his enemies, with sheer indifference and consistent effort, makes us aware of the real hard work and its reward. Characters like Gail Waynayd- a tragic hero, Ellsworth Toohey- A satanic figure who slithers around mediocre others, falsely whispering their greatness into their ears in an effort to own their souls, Peter Keating a superficial, mediocre man filled with false pride and social acceptance . Last but not the least the unconquerable, misunderstood, independent and fearless “WOMAN” Dominique Francon. Together they bring alive darker shades of life and its misery. It’s a book of wisdom, intellect and harsh reality.
Fountainhead, is an artistically embellished work which cannot be missed out, if someone is in the urge to relish something inspiring with potential to bring about change in his/her life forever.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Guest Post - Through Gujarati Travelogues - Ms. Dhwani Vaishnav

Through Gujarati Travelogues
Ms. Dhwani Vaishnav
Assistant Professor in English
Shantilal Shah Govt. Engineering College, Bhavanagar

Journey has been a rich literary device. When it comes to travelogues or travel literature, reader undergoes various kinds of journey; external and internal. So is my experience of researching travelogues. Apart from reading canonical texts in English literature, I happened to read what is happening in the literature of my mother tongue - Gujarati; and you know what, I am thrilled!  

I didn’t know it can be such a wonderful journey. Let me take you to that journey and share the same joy of reading Gujarati travelogues with reference to  two travelogues on the river Narmada written by Amritlal Vegad. 

Out of his interest in nature and search for the subjects of his paintings, Amritlal used to go to the river banks. He took the entire journey of the river almost 2624 km. during his Summer and Diwali vacations with friends and students. After his retirement, his journeys became more regular. His two magnum opuses Parikrama Narmada Maiyanee and Saundrayani Nadi Narmada speak of beautiful river Narmada which flows from mountains, rocks and plains amidst three states.

Amritlal tries to capture lived life on the banks of the Narmada. He portrays folklore with their beliefs, typical behavior, and lifestyle. Amritlal’s journey is not a religious journey but it is a journey of beauty for him. This is a journey of an artist. His descriptions are full of figures of speech. He experienced the village life but at the same time he could feel the touch of urbanization entering very succinctly in the villages. He witnessed the rituals of the tribal life at different occasions like marriages and poojas. In first book Parikrama Narmada Maiyanee, Amritlal had to pass through Shulapaneshwar Zadi where tribal folk rob everyone considering it to be the order by the river which leads to the idea of renunciation of material world and self. But in his case, they completely miss that excitement, as they had armed police guards to protect them. He could know that tribal people have faith in parikramavasis but their lives are too difficult to sustain in this rocky areas. Amritlal notes positively that though they have tough life; they always go out of their way in their hospitality towards parikramavasis which is a major factor why such ancient tradition of parikrama is possible even in this modern time! People take up parikrama for various reasons. 

Only few are real sanyasis, many others are doing this to run their life because on the parikrama they get food without doing any job and to add to that people will revere you. He encountered real sanyasis as well as many imposters on the banks of this holy river.

At the end of his journey he writes about the change that is coming up in surroundings of the river including development of dams. But the writer has a positive eye for this development. He is looking at utilitarian aspect of dams. He believes that the travel writer does not write merely from spatio-temporal place but he adds his own reactions, contemplation to his experiences. He believes that the travel writer should be a bahushrut as he discusses his process of writing and also the river and its life in different modes like history, structure, religion, literature, language and culture. Thus Amritlal observes that the Narmada is an inborn traveler and for a simple human being who takes up its parikrama, it becomes yatra only, when one’s faith merges with physical travel. For him, this is a journey of anubhuti. A reader would find a good mixture of poem, story, novel and autobiography in Amritlal’s this travel writing.

Amritlal considers himself as the reporter (propagator) of the Narmada. In his dedication note of his second book Saundrayani Nadi Narmada, he scathingly criticizes Gujarati readers for their less reading practice. As per the parikrama rules the parikrama should be done in three years, three months and thirteen days. He believes that the winds of urbanization would make this beautiful river only a historical and an archeological monument only within few years. This he fears on witnessing the bridge building activities. He feels that due to dam the river would lose its natural bouncing flow and there would enter commercial aspect of life. In this period of his journey he covers remaining 800 km and when he saw the dam actually, his earlier notions changed. He notes that dam means a bow in the hands of the river and canals are arrows from those bows. He compares civilized and cultured behavior by saying that speech (vachalata) is the gift of civilization (sabhyata) whereas silence likes to be with culture (samskruti). He feels where the purpose ends, beauty begins from there. Parikrama is a mission of faith for every parikramavasi. He had two objectives in his mind when he started this journey: i) In the whole world only Narmada is the river whose parikrama is made and ii) The Narmada is very beautiful river.

He writes his experiences as if he is writing the biography of the river. He feels religious love towards the nature. He notes that the Narmada is having variety of cultures on its banks as on its North she has Aryans (aacharpradhan) and on its South she has Dravidians (vicharpradhan). He personifies the human emotions in the natural sources and especially in the river. Amritlal tries to gather the feel of the banks of the river. People believe that those who take this parikrama are doing a great task because taking of this journey even for a short distance is quite tough and to sustain throughout abiding by all the parikrama rules is challenging. This is the reason, why local folk try to contribute by taking care, helping travellers and at times joining them for a short distance and thus make an attempt to keep this cultural tradition of parikrama alive. These river travelogues make readers feel that they are not only the water flow but they are the lifelines, archival traces of history and civilizations and germination points of prospective future.

These travelogues will take a reader to the beautiful journey of the river Narmada and its curved flow. Another passionate, professionally a photographer, Mr. Jogesh Thakar journeys and captures the Narmada on his canvass amazingly. He often writes in Gujarati literary magazines about his various travels to the river. (For more you can read Navneet Samarpan, April 2015, pp 27-34.) I am happy that such magazines also provide scope and space for such writings.

My reading of these travelogues lead me to read few other Gujarati travelogues of different times and themes and I feel Gujarati literature has such a valuable treasure with it which can enrich the knowledge and experiences of number of students, researchers and readers. 

Keep reading, knowing and growing. Keep travelling!! 

Monday 6 April 2015

Art-4: Short Story "That Girl' by Sneha Patel

I don’t know from where to begin, I even don’t know what I am writing but it’s true. You are confused and so am I.
It was May 7th, I clearly remember. I didn’t know where I was, even I didn’t know what to know, what I wanted was to see that girl.
I didn’t know who was she? She was sitting there quietly, not uttering a single word and not breathing but her eyes were saying everything but I could understand the language of her eyes.
It seemed as if she didn’t want to hear anything but she was listening and understanding everything.

For the first time when I saw her, she seemed to me as if she was a statue, all still, not even for a breath she moved. When I looked in her eyes it seemed she was waiting for someone. I too waited to see for whom she was waiting. I sat beside her but could not dare even to ask her name or even talk to her about anything. She saw me, smiled at me and then again sat still. When she smiled at me, it seemed that she was asking me to wait and get all the answers of the questions rising in my mind.
Since morning we were there. Now it was evening, more time and it would all turn dark but no one came else a letter. It was from her teacher. I could only glance at the sender’s name, ‘Mrs. Shyama Arya, your teacher’. After reading the letter there was little smile on her face but she didn’t move. It was 8:55. I had to go but she was there, alone, still. I thought to ask her something but then thought let it be.
Next day again I went to the same park, she was also there. She was a total mystery to me. This continued for many days.
One fine morning when I was having my tea and going through the newspaper I spotted a news which shook me. I read it again, unable to believe what I saw,
‘Mrs. Shyama Arya’s daughter passed away’
Her daughter? When I saw the photograph of her daughter I was stunned. How could it be possible? It was unbelievable. Oh God! What is going on? But I wanted to talk to that girl anyhow: How can she die? So many unanswered questions bothered me. Now I had to find answers. I had to know who she was. Yes, this was that girl, Mrs.Arya’s daughter, whom I didn’t know who was a total mystery to me. Again I was there at the park. Oh God! What is this? Another shocking scene! She was again there and this time my curiosity spoke,
“You are dead. How could you be here? Who are you?”
She just smiled and vanished.
But still I didn’t knew the name of that girl, the reason why she died, the reason why was Mrs. Arya her mother and why did it was written her name as a teacher on that letter? She is still a mystery to me. I never saw her again and my questions are still unanswered. I have told myself that some reasons are never understood, that some powers and creation of God are beyond the scope of human understanding but the mystery continues…
                                                    ------The End------