Friday, September 26, 2008

The India Yoga Spirituality Travel Genre

Part of my skepticism (scepticism anyone?) for the genre of books that talk about Travel and Spirituality and Yoga and India in the same breath stems from the fact that such books lack depth. There is the evocation of the exotic, the squalid with frothy accounts of how close yet how far self-awareness is. Of course there is the unfailing mention of kundalini and chakra along with a good smattering of other Sanskrit words (dhyāna features prominently in that list). And there is the vague Coelholike conclusion that the treasures lie in your own backyard. One of the examples I looked at some years ago was Yoga School Dropout which is funny and timepassy and generously fictionalized (fictionalised?) but there is something eerily fantastical about such a book when you happen to live in the country it features.

Given such a preamble it is not surprising that I looked part curiously, part cynically at the copy of Eat, Pray, Love (Elizabeth Gilbert) that was lying on my friend's sofa when visiting her flat a year ago. She did not wait for me to ask. Instead she said it was a lovely book and then tossed in a line, which caused me to double take (when nouns become verbs you know the language is evolving!), about EPL's similarity to A New Earth. Really? Really!, said my mind. Now I must mention that A New Earth is a book like no other to (for?) me. I'd call it the single most defining book I've ever read. And if someone was equating EPL to ANE then they better know what they are talking about and they better be ready to talk to me after I read EPL. So a resolve was made to get to EPL sometime irrespective of the fact that it was a bestseller and that it had a very YSD feeling about it.

In my post-partum period, earlier this year, I decided to act on that resolve and requested the EPL copy that I had originally set my eyes on. From then until now I have been reading the book, in spurts, with a sense of amusement and a vague sense of disbelief. Gilbert is a very talented writer and her narrative is engaging, though a gastronomic urge is more than enough to help one through the part where she talks about her Italian decadence. However when I got to the part about India (Gilbert's book, as the title suggests, is Eating in Italy, Praying in India and Loving in Bali), my skepticism came to the fore. As expected, this part of the book is more fantastical than the one about Italy. I stopped when a New Zealand plumber came along with a poem. As a finisher, I will get to the end of EPL - one, it is written well; two, I am curious how Bali will turn out. But this book is nothing like ANE thank you very much. And picking up an argument about apple and no apple is a complete waste of energy.

Part of my skepticism for the genre of books that talk about Travel and Spirituality and Yoga and India in the same breath stems from the fact that each book is a copy of the other. Indian Spirituality, at least its orange hued esoterica, its limbs contorted utopia, have forever been topical. And topicality usually sets off verbal excesses. And topicality usually sells the best.

I am still a skeptic.


Notes:
EPL - Eat, Pray, Love
ANE - A New Earth
YSD - Yoga School Dropout


Often I cannot help indulging in laughing at myself. Especially when writing I notice the various stutters that come along and it is irresistible to make a note of it for future amusement. You know the parenthesis shows up and on cue you laugh at your earlier bumbling self. Much joy presents itself on rereading one's own writing. One of the reasons why I love blogging - it is a wonderful snapshot of one's own ramblings from years past. And as I was writing this post I kept thinking I should stick a note on it saying 'adverbially yours'.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

On Chesil Beach - Ian McEwan

She wanted to be in love and be herself. But to be herself, she had to say no all the time. And then she was no longer herself.
(Pg 146, GBR Hardback 2007 ed.)

This is how the entire course of a life can be changed - by doing nothing.
(Pg 166)

For more...
On Chesil Beach extract from The New Yorker

Did I like it? Well, loved it. Recommended. A bonus: it is a short book.