Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Inheritance of Loss

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Most of the time, if I don’t like a book, I won’t even bother telling you about it. This book, The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai, is an exception for one reason – it IS worth reading.

Inheiritance of Loss showed up on the book club reading list for the year, and I ordered it. I read the cover when the book came, and it didn’t sound that good to me, so I read other books instead. The next time it came to mind was when a friend, reading the book, said she was having trouble with it, and asked me if I had started it. This friend is a READER, and a thinker. It caught my attention that she would have problems reading a book, so I decided to give it a try.

This is a very uncomfortable book. The characters live in the shadow of the Himalayan mountains. The most sympathetic character is a young orphaned girl, sent to live with her grandfather. With each chapter, we learn more about all the characters, how they came to be here, what they think, what their lives have looked like.

The author of this book has a very sour look on life. She has snotty things to say about every character. You can almost feel her peering around the corner, eyes slit with evil intent. She is that vicious neighbor who comes by and never says anything nice about anybody, and when you see her talking with your neighbor, you get the uneasy feeling she could be saying something mean about you, and she probably is.

The book covers a wide range of topics – Indian politics, Ghurka revolts, English colonization, Indian emigration to the US and UK, everyday vanities and pride in petty things, how people destroy their own lives, how people can be cruel to one another, oh it’s a great read (yes, that is sarcasm).

At the same time, this vicious unwelcome neighbor has a sharp eye for detail. You may not like what she is telling you, but you keep listening, because you can learn important tidbits of information from her. In my case, I learned a lot about how life is lived in a small mountain village in India, the struggles of illegals in America and how class lines are drawn, ever so finely, when people live together. I learned a lot about the legacy of colonialism, and the creep of globalization. This unwelcome neighbor has a sharp tongue, always complaining, and yet . . . some of her complaints have merit.

I don’t believe there was a single redeeming episode in the book. There was not a paragraph to feel good about. I am glad to be finished with the book – but, yes, I finished it, I didn’t just set it aside in disgust, or give it away without finishing.

Here is the reason I am telling you about this book – as uncomfortable as this book is to read, I have the feeling, upon finishing, that ideas and images from this book will stick with me for a long time. I have the feeling that it contributes to my greater understanding of how things work, how people think differently from other people, and on what levels we are very much the same.

Here is an excerpt from the book, at a time during which the Judge is a young Indian, studying in England:

The new boarding house boasted several rooms for rent, and here, among the other lodgers, he was to find his only friend in England: Bose.

They had similar inadequate clothes, similar forlornly empty rooms, similar poor native’s trunks. A look of recognition had passed between them at first sight, but also the assurance that they wouldn’t reveal one another’s secrets, not even to each other.

. . . Together they punted clumsily down the glaceed river to Grantchester and had tea among the jam sozzled wasps just as you were supposed to, enjoying themselves (but not really) as the heavy wasps fell from flight into their laps with a low battery buzz.

They had better luck in London, where they watched the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, avoided the other Indian students at Veeraswamy’s, ate shepherd’s pie instead, and agreed on the train home that Trafalgar Square was not quite up to British standards of hygiene – all those defecating pigeons, one of which had done a masala-colored doodle on Bose. It was Bose who showed Jemubhai what records to buy for his new gramophone: Caruso and Gigli. He also corrected his pronunciation: Jheelee, not Giggly. . . .

This it was that the judge eventually took revenge on his early confusions, his embarrassments gloved in something called “keeping up standards,” his accent behind a mask of a quiet. He found he began to be mistaken for something he wasn’t – a man of dignity. This accidental poise became more important than any other thing. He envied the English. He loathed Indians. He worked at being English with the passion of hatred and for what he would become, he would be despised by absolutely everyone, English and Indians both.

I consider this a review, and not particularly a recommendation. I read the book, I finished the book and I learned from the book. I didn’t like the book. I recommend it only as a challenge, for people who like to read and stretch their minds in new directions.

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January 13, 2008 Posted by | Books, Bureaucracy, Communication, Community, Cooking, Cross Cultural, Fiction, Financial Issues, Friends & Friendship, Generational, Hygiene, India, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Marriage, Mating Behavior, Poetry/Literature, Political Issues, Relationships, Social Issues, Women's Issues | 10 Comments

Get Moving!

We all know that we need to get more exercise. This report from excerpted from BBC Health News tells us that if we don’t get moving, we are more subject to depression and later, to dementia. Get moving!

Inactivity link to mental decline

A lack of physical activity leads to depression and dementia, evidence presented at the British Nutrition Foundation conference shows.

It comes as new research from the University of Bristol found that being active cuts the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by around a third.

Currently only 35% of men and 24% of women reach the recommended weekly amount of physical activity.

Professor Nanette Mutrie, an expert in exercise and sport psychology at the University of Strathclyde, told the conference that mental health was not a trivial issue.

“It’s only recently that people have begun to see the link between physical activity and mental health,” says
Professor Nanette Mutrie.

“It’s important for increasing people’s self esteem, general mood, coping with stress and even sleeping better.

“And we now have very strong evidence that physical activity can prevent depression.”

She said inactive people had twice the risk of becoming depressed and there was also very good evidence that exercise is a useful treatment for depression.

Dementia risk

Researchers at the University of Bristol carried out an analysis of 17 trials looking at the effects of physical activity on dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

They found that in both men and women physical activity was associated with a 30-40% drop in the risk of Alzheimer’s.

It is unclear why there is such a great effect but it could be associated with benefits to the vascular system as well as release of chemicals in the brain.

Professor Mutrie added: “It could be a simple case of use it or lose it.
. . . . . .

“There has already, justifiably, been a lot of emphasis on good nutrition but we must also find ways of helping people to be more physically active to ensure that they maintain health and quality of life in later years.”

Department of Health figures show the majority of adults do not do the recommended 30 minutes of moderate activity at least five times a week.

Read the entire article HERE.

January 13, 2008 Posted by | Exercise, Health Issues, Living Conditions, News, Social Issues | 5 Comments