Benjamuna's Blog

Stories…. with a touch of India….

Two reasons why I couldn’t stop reading… March 28, 2015

I have just finished two books. I came back from Delhi in the middle of February and when I did my packing, collecting all the books I had bought, I squirmed… One, two, three and many more. I let one go in my hand luggage, the rest in my suitcase.

I picked up Mirror City by Chitrita Banerji at Bharison’s Booksellers, quite a famous book seller at Khan Market. And a good place for bookaholics. I knew I had read about the book somewhere, and that it most likely was on my to-buy list in my notebook. Having finished Mirror City a few weeks after I came home, Jumpa Lahiri’s latest novel, The Lowland, was next in the pile. I bought it at The Delhi World Book Fair; a very intense experience. The grounds were enormous, the halls likewise, crowds, heat, confusion… I picked up Lahiri, a few more and fled…

Now that I have read these two books I realise that I wanted to finish both books fast, but because of different reasons.


Mirror City is set in Bangladesh just after independence. The cover summarises the book in words like “the turbulent early days of Bangladesh”, “the slow breakdown of a marriage”, “a woman’s search to find herself”. I should have read it like a warning, still, novels set in Bangladesh are hard to come by and I bought it because of that. After a few pages I knew I’d label the book as simple. An easy read, rather shallow… Very easy language, one-dimensional characters. Still I read on, just out of curiosity because I wanted to know who Uma fell in love with, if Nasreen really was a traitor and – having swallowed even more pages… if Uma would leave her husband and escape with her lover. I wanted to finish the book fast, because in a sense I felt that I was wasting my time.

And then I moved on to Jhumpa Lahiri’s Lowland. After 50 pages I was hooked, the story seemed promising, but most important; the language was music to my ears compared with Mirror City. As a “foreigner”, meaning that English is not my mother tongue, I’m sensitive to language. A few years back I picked up Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. I wasn’t able to turn the first page, I read the first few paragraphs again and again and I hardly understood a word. It might as well have been Urdu. Defeated, I searched my book shelves and found a Norwegian edition. It was a relief though, to realise that Rushdie can be rather unattainable also in your own language, he writes long and complicated sentences. Concentration is a part of The Rushdie Reading Experience…
I experienced almost the same a while ago, while reading Neel Mukherjees The lives of others. I enjoyed the story, but more than that, he writes in a very sophisticated language –  I must admit I had to concentrate as well as enjoy….but I never gave it up!

Whereas Mirror City tells the story from Uma’s view and within a restricted time span, The Lowland moves back and forth in time and follows the main character almost from the day he is born until he is a man in his 70s. Moreover, the story is told from all the three main characters points of view. Which makes the story even more interesting.

I knew from the very start that I would like the book to last. That I’d get a book hangover after the last chapter. Still, I couldn’t stop reading, I wanted to finish the book because I wanted so badly to see how the character’s lives unfolded. I read before going to work in the morning, after dinner (which in Norway can be as early as 4.30…), when I was watching the news, in bed – at length… And now it’s over…

My present pile...

My present pile…


Midnight’s Children A MOVIE!!! April 22, 2010

I got Stavanger Library’s 2009 copies of India Today almost for free some time ago. I don’t read every single word, but I find a lot of their articles interesting and moreover, almost every copy has a book review.

Last night I read a copy that was almost entirely dedicated to “famous Indian people living abroad” – among them Salman Rushdie. And what news…. Rushdie is now about to finish the screenplay for Midninght’s Children and, even better new; the film will be directed by Deepa Mehta.

People tend to believe that Indian film is Bollywood, but it’s more to it than that. Bollywood is important for many people, but difficult to interpret for “Westerners”. Try as we might, we always end up with a huff and a sigh….. (A while ago I watched Baadshah… took me two days, and the music got stuck in my mind for weeks…).
Deepa Metha has directed three films (among many others) called Fire (1996) and Earth (1998), and  Water (2005). Beautiful movies. Highly recommendable! And forget about Slumdog Millionaire. An Oscar doesn’t say everything, Deepa deserves one now!


Rushdie & me… April 21, 2010

Filed under: Indian literature — benjamuna @ 6:39 pm
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Time to read Salman Rushdie. After three years with various known and unknown Indian authors, I somehow thought it was high time to read Rushdie. Or was it maybe because I was moving my Indian book collection to one designated shelf, and came across Midnight’s Children. The book tells the story about a boy who was born quote Nehru: “At the stroke of midninght hour, when the world sleeps, India will come to life and freedom.”In other words, 14 August 1947 – at midnight. I guess it was this historic touch that made me keep the book out of the book shelf, because stories centered around the Partition are always triggers my curiosity! And moreover, when it comes to India I believe in faith. I didn’t find the book, the book found me! As happened before…. (Geethia remembered…)

But – disaster struck….. I read approximately 50 pages and I didn’t understand anything. Vocabulary…. syntax….. story…. No. I read almost all books in the English language, but this was quite a nutcracker.
My bookshelves are deep though, and by chance I found a Norwegian edition. Must have been bought long time ago, a 1989 edition and the price tag says 45 kroner. Some bargain.
Again. The book came to me!

After a few pages I realised why I wasn’t able to decode the English edition. The language is not average even in Norwegian, nothing is average in this book. You have to think hard as you go. And being familiar with Indian history isn’t exactly a drawback!
Who’s voice is it now…. where are we…. what happens really now? Two stories simultaneously. It’s crazy. Witty. We are in Kashmir. Agra. Delhi (even in Chandni Chowk!!), and then Mumbai where Saleem is born. We’re in “Muslim-India”.

So far it’s a slow read. I’m not half way yet, but this might be one of those books who could last for ever!