Bekal Fort, Kerala, India

Our plan was to visit these 3 places in one long weekend – Bekal Fort, Mangalore and Udupi (St. Mary’s Island). It was going to be hectic, we knew it, but as arthritis has not made its valuable presence felt, we told each other, let’s go and kick the butt of monotony.

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Bekal fort is in Kasaragod District, Kerala. It is 65 km away from Mangalore, a very important city in Karnataka. We reached Kasaragod at 8 O’clock in the morning on Friday. My travel buddy is a train freak like Sheldon Cooper. He thinks trains make everything better. So from the station we went to Bekal Fort. It was made in 17th century with Laterite stone. The fort looked black to me, a gorgeous shiny black creation.

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The Windows they used to have to keep an eye on the periphery and on the approaching enemy gives beautiful view of the ocean. I’m sure some soldiers became hardcore poets while living in the fort and sometimes put their weapons down to write about the nature, ocean, sky, beauty, love. Or maybe realized violence exists in spite of nature, ocean, sky, beauty, love.

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The boundary wall is encompassing a huge green field. There my travel partner almost saw a soldier on horseback galloping around the premises.

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There are some ruins that could have been the soldier’s quarters, ammunition cells.

Nowadays authority is trying to make it a family destination so there are flower beds too. I have a problem with man made gardens that look too organized and disciplined. A garden should be created but after planting the trees, let them have their way. Do not prune so much. But that’s a different topic we would talk about some other day.

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There are entrances into the underground. They looked mysterious and promised many stories.

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Okay now my favorite part. From the fort one can go the Bekal beach. The path from the fort to beach took my breath away. I always imagined places like this. I stood at a point from where I could see the ocean and a part of the citadel just little bit above the the beach. There are trees on both sides of that path. It is just beautiful.

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We reached the circular spot that is the part of the citadel. There were stones that were making the invincible sea very angry and the Arabian sea went on thrashing herself on those arrogant stones, saying I’m this vast sea everybody fear and you are just standing there dare to stop my free spirit! Some day I will grind you down.

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But now a fun fact of Bekal fort. A very famous romantic song “tuhi re” from a very famous and successful movie “Bombay” was shot in Bekal fort. So the moment I entered the fort I started singing the song, other tourists were looking at me, but I have this tendency to totally poohpoohed onlookers, and I do not easily get embarrassed. Sometimes what happens is that I’m doing the most embarrassing thing, my fellow companions getting uneasy, and then what I see is others has also started doing the same embarrassing thing! The male protagonist of the movie was Arvind Swamy, female protagonist was Manisha Koirala. I can name one or two people who got married to Arvind Swamy lookalikes after watching Bombay. So I was singing “tuhi re“, and I heard an odd sound, my buddy was licking ice cream … salarrrap…salarrrap!

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So the intense, passionate, tragic feeling of “tuhi re” was gone. Gave him the angry look, he said he was giving the background music and continued salarrap… salarrap!

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Shakespeare to Shakira

People love to categorize. Put everything in a box and then label it. It gives them peace of mind. Yes, we have figured it out. Hurray! Problem arises when one cannot find a category, a label for someone, something. There are some fixed idea about things that people do not like to toy with. But nature takes its own course and forms people’s mind with all the possible unexpectedness.

If a person is good at studies, it is taken that he or she would be a very serious grave person. Same goes with intelligent people or intellectuals. A PhD scholar or a Maupassant-Maugham or a Rilke-Baudelaire or a Monet-Matis or a Bach-Beethoven or Camus-Kafka-Kundera or a Chopin-Puccini fanatic is not supposed to dance at the pub drunk listening to Bailando, less twerking to get your freak on. But he can. He does.

A doctor or a physics professor can be a religious person who never forgets to pray in front of his gods, and at the same time keeps an eye on the television because soon Skyfall is going to start. A Muslim could be a vegetarian. He could hate meat. And when everyone is eating supposedly forbidden meat wraps he could go for simple grill cheese sandwiches. He shyly requests his quite capable and over qualified but otherwise sickeningly lazy unambitious wife to get a job as people start to whisper that he being a Muslim is against the idea of women working. On the other hand it can also happen that a knowledgeable person with all his wisdom decides to a stay home and not do anything.

Someone who loves to cook all the time starts to discuss for hours about Browning or Keats or Donne or Virginia Woolf people get shocked. And if then he starts to talk about the gory violent thrillers of John Sandford, Steig Larsson, Val McDermid people get shocked. If you know about Chaucer is it a rule that you cannot know how to make a fantabulous chutney! If you are a CEO of your company that means you cannot twerk like Miley Cyrus! (It seems twerking is becoming a recurrent motif of this piece of writing). A person who is talking ardently about Shakespeare, if he is seen talking about Shakira with same fervour people feel like they have been cheated. They give this look like they are saying “we are told and made to believe that you are gonna and only can talk about Shakespeare, and here you are also talking about Shakira, we have been conned to believe you are only this person, but no you are actually that person, too”!

Sylvia Plath Wanted to Live

Sylvia Plath wanted to live. She gave hints in her writings, through her words, through her actions. Nobody took that hint. Nobody read her words, I mean “read” read! She wrote about resurrection in Lady Lazarus, she talked about Phoenix, Lazarus. If all she wanted to do was to die, then why she kept talking about rebirth that only means life!

She tried to kill herself several times. Once when she was not able to meet poet Dylan Thomas, around that time she slashed her legs to see whether she had the courage to kill herself. Next in 1953 August 24th she took her mother’s sleeping pills and crawled in the cellar. She was found later and survived but admitted of having an oblivion that could only be compared to death. Then in 1962 June she drove off a road into the river but was rescued and told it was her intention to kill herself. Then came 11th February, 1963, Plath put her head into the gas oven and finally succeeded.

The responsible mother in her did not forget to put tapes, clothes, towels between her suicide zone and her kids’ room, unlike Assia Wevill, Plath’s husband Ted Hughes, the Noble Laureate’s mistress who killed herself and her daughter Shura. I bet during their togetherness Hughes accused Plath of being irresponsible. He had to, because all husbands of this world accuse their wives who are depressed and have the tendency of self harm to be irresponsible because during chronic clinical depression people lose the desire, the ability to perform the simplest of thing like brushing their teeth or combing their hair or the desire to go to work. In depression people do not even feel like having a job. Sylvia Plath was a brilliant student, a Fulbright Scholar with a high IQ of 160 and she worked as a receptionist for god’s sake! But she proved herself to be a good mother and a good writer. That was enough for me.

But she was not good at being alive. She wanted somebody to take care of her. Her poems, her only novel Bell Jar told people she was in pain, she was unhappy. Why people did not try to ease her pain? Why people did not try to make her happy? Isn’t it that simple? Isn’t it supposed to be that simple? If someone tells me she is thirsty, I give her a glass of water, if somebody says he fell down and scratched his knees I give him a band-aid. Yes, it was that simple. If somebody on regular interval try to kill herself I will see to that that she do not do that again. Simple. But people are generally callous. People are so engrossed with little problems of life like the favorite newspaper changed its font size, yesterday’s milk got sour, sound of loud crying hampers family’s reputation, friends are going to Italy for vacation, they have a better car, better make of a juice maker, stock market is crashing, diamond is not a Solitaire, anxiety of showing happiness of  being in love in front of the single friends or brothers or an itchy scalp that they forget once a life is gone, its Gone. “Gone”, the implication, the true meaning of this word nobody gets. If they did Sylvia Plath would have lived a full happy life with few more Pulitzers or may be a Nobel in her pocket!

Sometimes depressed people cling to a person, if they find someone they think they like or love, they get very attached to them. This unnatural attachment or one can call it love seems to others as a sick desperation, an unhealthy clinginess, a ridiculous neediness. Plath’s agitation and anger for not being able to meet Dylan Thomas whom she loved “more than life itself” as some said proves the intensity of her character. Soon after she slashed her legs. Later when she met and fell in love with Ted Hughes, she described him as “a singer, story-teller, lion and world-wanderer” with “a voice like the thunder of God”. This comparison with God proves her intensity of emotion, the depth of her attachment. Having all these emotions for him, giving the ultimate compliment to the man and putting him on dais to worship is a typical tendency of someone who has no hope, no desire but suddenly getting a rope in turbulent sea to hold tightly, the saviour is here. But sometimes the grip on that rope gets so tight that the supposedly knight in shining armour feels suffocated and runs to Assia Wevill. Even a free single unthwarted man goes to so many, and here I am talking about the husband of probably the most depressed woman of the literary world desperately seeking love and care. Sylvia Plath’s father left her, okay he died, she interpreted it as abandonment. So when she loved someone, she demanded the whole. She thought this man will take away her sorrows, will fill her soul with saturated overflowing care and love. Did she get it? Who has the time to cater to an insomniac, suicidal, temperamental, generally sad person!

Plath’s son hanged himself. So it is easy to say it was genetic. Insanity, depression run in the family. If the women are depressed during pregnancy, there is a fare chance her children would be depressed too. But here one must note one thing, Ted Hughes‘ wife, mistress and his son committed suicide. Okay, I know Sylvia Plath have contemplated suicide years before meeting Hughes. Maybe it was her, she turned everything blue she came in contact with. But her daughter who looks like her is the lover of life. She once told a journalist that the death of her loved ones made her embrace life all the more. Okay, I get it, she got this beautiful positive demeanor from her father maybe. So, when I asked who to blame for the death of Sylvia Plath, some said nobody to blame, she was mentally unwell, she was bound to kill herself sooner or later. Maybe. But why can not I come to terms with this fact! Why I feel that all she needed was over the top melodramatic stupid romantic love, I will bring the moon for you to see you smile like devotion, for each of your tears I will give you a pearl like care!

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness – A Review

I read God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy when I was in high school. I was bewitched and speechless. In the mean time gallons of dirty water passed through my city’s drains, and during my travel through the decades I forgot her. She came in conversations from time to time, but she became a distant memory. Then bam! it came, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. So I read it. It was in the Man Booker Prize nomination. People were asking me whether it’s going to win, I said “yes”, and then “no”, okay I could not decide. Then George Saunders won Man Booker for “Lincoln in the Bardo“.

I “liked” the book, it made me remember why I “loved” God of Small Things. That fluid poetic music of sadness glides by so smoothly in GoST,  one cannot stop it, can just experience it. The feeling I had in GoST is exactly like the one I once had in my uncle’s house. I was looking at the palm tree from the 2nd floor room lying in bed. Windows were open, a breeze was coming that comes only just before the winter, somewhere the sun was setting. And that twilight aura engulping my mind. You want to look away as you do not want to cry, but you cannot move. That’s the feeling I got from GoST.  Ministry… was preparing to do the same to me, it even did for few hours, and then came politics.

The story started with Anjum. Sorry. The story started with how the use of Diclofenac in cattle is killing vulturs in India. And cattle is a recurrent motif in this novel. The very description of the dying vultures was a direct punch in the stomach. At least one drop of tear will fall uncontrollably, and you will realize you are crying when the tear will hit your jawbone, yes just like a very runny nose is runny your realize when it touches your lips! So in that prologue Arundhati Roy announced she is back, like the Terminator she kept her promise. I had goosebumps, oh by the way did I tell you how much I was moved by GoST!

So Anjum was born, she was an eunuch. The time she was born in India, an eunuch could not do anything except be a “hijra”, they could not be a makeup artist or a college professor, just a “hijra”. There was a place near Lal Qilla where since Mughals, eunuchs were living. Once upon a time in India eunuchs always had a free roaming card to roam about in andarmahal or interior parts of castles where queens and princesses resided. That place near Lal Qila was called Kwabgah. Such a beautiful name this Khwabgah, almost like Elysium in As You Like It! But here lived the “hijras”, the unwanted, the despicable them. Anjum started her life there, she went to a quack to chop off her ashamed male genitals, and never had an orgasm ever. But here the question was which situation was better, she having a male sexual organ and having a night fall but her heart, her mind felt ashamed of the fact that being a girl it was unnatural to have a fall? Or that to sooth her wounded mind, to unveil and acquire her true femininity she was to never have the happiness that is sometimes compared to being once again born or to meet god, a word that Roland Barthes used to describe the pleasure of reading?

She went on living in Khwabgah, found a foundling, started raising her, that girl fell sick, here comes again a very striking situation when Anjum blames another Khwabgah mate for her daughter’s illness as well as 9/11 in America. Now that is there a fine example of microcosm to macrocosm, mixing superstition with the huge  technology that involves a mass destruction, the ridiculous with the grave, the Fool with the Kings.

Anjum’s story involved the Godhra riot. Here Roy made her presence felt with her powerful pen, all the folding and unfolding of the men and women, not the eunuchs, thank god, or is it? Anjum was changed after this, started living in a graveyard, built the Jannat guesthouse and various people started to flock there.

Tilo would come there too with a child, but that was to happen later. Tilo was another part of the story, she is clearly based on the author herself including her JNU connection and her hair to her nose pin et cetera et cetera. And with the author’s shadow came all the other shadows, politics, a leading protester with her salt and pepper plait, gummy smile, big chested chaste man, the shivering national leader, heaven on earth turning into hell with their peach and cream complexion, the tribe with their black hue, and everything in between! And here starts my problem with the book. My views go with Pater, “art’s for art’s sake”. If a novel becomes an agenda, it falls down in my eyes. Here in this novel there are pages that looks like essays that Roy was writing for last 20 years on various burning topics, some pages clarifies some of her actions and denies some allegations. These paragraphs even looked like what sometimes we write randomly with tremendous speed because we are angry. I truly believe because of Tilo’s story the book sometimes lost its integrity as a novel. Still the delineation of Tilo’s psychology is well observed and very personal, one can feel it. But trying to touch all the on going problems in the world in one book that ultimately intends to tell a “story” is too much. Even the dog they found had to be the runaway lab dog with all the pipes coming out of every holes of its body. Animal testing is a cruel ugly truth that needs its own novel and a revolution. But why I felt as if the author was running out of time, she was in a hurry so she put everything she thought of in one book? Is there no such thing as editing of thoughts? If Roy had written only Anjum’s story it would have been great in itself. Tilo’s story seemed an intrusion into the beautiful narrative of Anjum. It seemed Anjum and Tilo were written by two different authors. And there lies Arundhati Roy’s ability actually. So as a reader I’m looking forward to more stories like Anjum’s in future. Please.

Lastly, the title of the book, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, bound to make one ponder over its origin.

Acquired Taste: Psychology 101

Its all about acquired taste. What is an “acquired taste”? It means getting habituated with an unknown thing. Here things could stand for a type of food, like an Indian eating “Durian” or an European eating “lychee or jackfruit”, a Bengali having “idly” or Kannadigas having “chholar dal”, a British having “postor bora” or an Indian having “liver pate” or “cow tongue”. Or a Bengali having Nagaland “dog n cat” and a Nagaland having “Tel koi”.

If it is a smell it will be like getting used to heady Gardenia, dry fish curry, long time partner’s socks or horny hubba hubba scent of his armpits, or a fallen family start to live in a slum and get used to the open drain with its blue black glossy sludge and a dead puppy in it. Or in a govt. hospital sharing a room with a fellow patient with a gangrene foot – the soon to be amputee.

Acquired taste in the matter of tactile arena is a boss or a colleague who is the kindest gentlest soul on earth never forgets to put his hand on your back, just over the bra strap the hand lingers a few seconds more, but as he is the kindest gentlest soul on earth you acquire taste in his touch. A man calls you a saggy breasted ugly bald smelly woman, but you have no option but still to be honored with his touch on your ugly face, saggy breast. But your baldy head goes on crying during a fever for a motherly touch.

Getting used to hearing and liking it is also very simple. If one has his house on a busy road, initial irritation will soon convert into a “not even noticing anymore” acceptance and banality. Give him a quiet home in the meadow, he will now complain about absence of familiar honking cars.

Acquired taste in seeing is quite similar to smell. One feels comfortable with the sight of his or her baby’s poop in the diaper, or a baby on a dirty cloth lying on a pavement with boiling rice on a open fire just 2 feet away from her, or the overflowing bin at the cross of the road, or dendrite sniffing toddlers and teenagers at the railway station.

Yes, everybody acquires taste. But here i’m not trying to make it a propaganda, agenda, pamphlet to raise awareness. No, man, no. Who the hell am I to do that? My point is this particular phrase, “acquired taste” is an yardstick for intellectuality. And also the moment you say its an acquired taste, it makes you a superior being, people also secretly thinks you are a snob, but the slight elitist patronizing tone if the phrase makes people want to join the group. If I tell somebody “I don’t think you are gonna like it, its an acquired taste”, without a fail, I know they are gonna tell me after few weeks “its awesome, I’m liking it”. It is because if you do not have an acquired taste, you are not intellectual enough. For example, I use Moroccan oil, i first saw its ad on Vogue, there was something about the photo, i just fell in love with it. And i promised to myself Moroccan oil. There is something about the smell, the dark brown bottle, the very name Morocco make me feel very happy. When after a sad day i take a shower, i wash my hair and then i sit in front of my dressing table and i pump this thick heady very unusually scented Moroccan oil on my palm and apply it to my hair, instantly my mood gets uplifted, i feel like a princess in her boudoir, very luxuriant. I told somebody about the oil, and she smelled it, i distinctly remember her nose crinkled. I knew people will generally not gonna like the smell. I was embarrassed, and said i guess its sort of like an acquired taste, it takes times to like it. Few months later i came to know she is loving it, this the best thing in the world, and oh the smell!

So if you need to make somebody like anything that you know they are going to dislike it, just say “I guess its an acquired taste”. This phrase has an appeal that make people like it. Psychology 101.

The Lipstick is better than the song

Fifth Harmony’s “I’m worth it” is a fabulous awesome song, nobody can stop ‘self from dancing to it. I love it. I show it to people and to people who don’t even like these types frivolous light music videos, they were left open mouthed so wide that they almost drooled. Was that a sign of lust or a sign of fatigue for keeping their mouth open for a long time, who knows! There is something about the video, the colour scheme, the super confident sensuous movements, there is definitely something unique about it.

But, I have a huge I mean HUGE problem with the song. See if somebody has to say “give it to me I’m worth it”, isn’t it sad? It is not like the L’Oreal ad where women are pampering themselves with good expensive things and saying to the world “I’m worth it!”  in that ad they are saying, I deserve this luxurious vibrant coloured lipstick, do not dare to judge me, “I’m worth it”. I know these types songs are not meant for deep thinking, they are only for grooves and moves, but just that one line bothers me and I cannot shake off a feeling of unjust and humiliation. My advice is if you need to remind somebody you are worth it, so they would give you things you deserve, no matter what is the thing, leave that place immediately, go somewhere where you don’t need to remind anybody anything. They know.

Dead Joker – More a Story of Life than a Murder Mystery

Anne Holt.jpgDead Joker by Anne Holt was published in 1999, but it was translated in English by Anne Bruce in 2015. This is one Hanne Wilhelmsen book that shook me gravely, and the reason is not the murder mystery of the story, but Hanne’s own life, to be precise her partner Cecile’s life, again to be precise – her death.

The mystery is like this, chief public prosecutor’s wife is murdered, he is found in the room with the dead wife, she was killed with a souvenir like Samurai sword. When Hanne is struggling to solve the mystery, a journalist is also killed. During the investigation Hanne told herself this case will be solved in 3 weeks and on March 29, 1999 at 3 o’clock she realised the deadline she gave herself was up that day. But it was only 3 o’clock! That evening Hanne and Cecile would go to Karen Borg and Hakon’s house to stay. Hakon’s son Hans Wilhelm, named after Hanne would tell her there was secret. And soon Hanne would ride that secret alone late in the evening, a Yamaha Diversion 900cc. While riding lost in thought she would come across a country road with mailboxes, there was a particular name that would attract her mind, Eivind Torsvik. It was a name from Billy T’s report, the ear less writer/murderer. She would meet him, and yes, he is the one who would give the ultimate clue to Hanne to solve these bizarre murders. So in a way Hanne was right!

In the midst of all these Cecile was dying. She had cancer and she told that to Hanne the day before her operation. Now why she told her then and not early, why a life partner missed the fact that one of them is ebbing away? Enters conjugal life that has been lived long.

Hanne always had her demons. She kept her being a lesbian a secret for a long time from his colleagues, she kept her Cecile a secret, she is someone who experienced neglect, lovelessness, exclusion from her family, and that didn’t make her a strong rebel who couldn’t care less, the problem is she cared, and that is why over the 20 years of their conjugal life only a feast full people from her life came across Cecile. But Cecile wanted recognition of love, the appreciation from her partner that she is glad to have her in her life. But what Hanne gave Cecile was a name plate with their initial HW & CV. Hanne was scared that if people saw their names-2 girls’ names on the door they will know Hanne and Cecile a couple. Hanne couldn’t bear that. Or was it that Hanne didn’t love Cecile enough to give her the recognition, the status of her life partner! Because last time what my romantic googly misty eyes read somewhere, “love conquers all”. When one day Hanne was coming back home, Cecile was still in hospital after the surgery, recovering, Hanne seeing their incomplete declaration of love as HW & CV on the door realised how much it hurt Cecile! So only when the other half is dying another half realises her worth? When everything is super good, A-Ok, she is happy and smiling, why cant you love her then? Why to get the love and care and the recognition one has to die always?

Evil Under the Sun vs Triangle at Rhodes

Agatha Christie’s Evil Under the Sun and Triangle at Rhodes are eerily similar. A feeling of deja vu will bound to happen, either one is reading or watching. Evil Under the Sun has two movie adaptation, in one Poirot is portrayed by Peter Ustinov in 1982 and in the other Poirot is, who else, David Suchet in 2001. Evil Under the Sun is a full length mystery and Triangle at Rhodes is a short story and it was in the collection of Murder in the Mews. In Evil under the Sun Arlena Marshall is visiting this seaside hotel Jolly Rogers in Smuggler’s Island on the coast Devon and Cornwall. She is there with her husband Kenneth Marshall and a teenage stepdaughter Linda who loathes her. Arlena is self aware beautiful lady who never shy away from the company of the opposite sex. So, here in the island she is enticed by this man Patrick Redfern. Patrick is holidaying with his awkward wife Christine who cannot even bathe or go out in the sun without getting terrible sun burns.

So Arlena is dead and everybody’s alibi is ready and there were suspects too. When you are reading it you will suspect Arlena’s husband Kenneth Marshall, a jealous frustrated husband. Also the presence of his former fiancee Rosamund Darnley is going to make you suspicious. Did Kenneth Marshall killed Arlena out of jealousy or to be with his ex? Or the presence of his ex made him realise how he so not deserve his present wife? And just here comes the plot of Triangle at Rhodes. In Triangle at Rhodes Valentine Chantry/Arlena is attracted to Douglas Gold. Marjorie Gold/Christine is his awkward wife. Tony Chantry/Kenneth is the unfortunate jealous husband. In Triangle at Rhodes there is no Rosamund Darnley, not blatantly overtly! It was revealed that it was Tony Chantry who killed his wife Valentine, and he was having an affair with Marjorie. So yes Marjorie is loosely a Rosamund. Poirot says there is a Triangle at Rhodes alright, but it was not the obvious one! Fun fact, if two married man woman get involved with each other is it right to call it a “triangle”? Isn’t it always a quadruple? But obviously here who is concerned about right and wrong!

I tried my extreme best not to totally give away both plots, I just sacrificed one and the short!

Why the author crafted two stories so similar, because when one weaves a murder mystery there are suspects, and the author already has everybody’s backstory. So in one story she decides to go with one murderer, but she cannot help but thinking if someone else from all the characters present in the story was the murderer, what motive and method would she have given him/her then? That is how Evil Under the Sun and Triangle at Rhodes are created.

In Evil Under the Sun Poirot so famously says the beach reminds him of the morgue in Paris, the reclining sunbathers are like meat on butcher’s slab. And how it came true! Here so accurately and wisely he said that men were not attracted to Arlena but she was attracted to them. But the thing is whether the man is attracted to or just simply attracts the woman, the end is the suffering of the left wife and the husband. But there again Agatha Christie surprised the obvious and left us flabbergasted.

Agatha Christie is so good in portraying the adultery, the unfaithfulness, is it because once she was the sad shareholder of a triangle herself? Who cares, she got her husband Mr. Max Mallowan as the winning prize. When I was young my mother used to tell me do you know how much her husband used to love her? That is why she could have written so much and so good, she had her peace of mind. What I didn’t know then is Mr. Max Mallowan was her second husband through whom she found true love. I guess to be an author you need to experience everything.

It All Happened 1222 mts. Above Sea

IMG_20170624_130759 I first discovered Norwegian crime thriller writer Anne Holt in our hometown’s newly opened book store. It was in the only shopping complex of the town. On one greater half of the building there was this chain super market sprawled in 4 floors, it first introduced to us the idea of having cups, cloths, cosmetics, cucumber to bread, bed, broccoli, briefs under one roof. Till then saw these only in Hollywood movies. So no doubt we felt very proud, important, and successful.  On the other half of that building were individual shops and restaurants and a chain multiplex (the proud smirk lingered long after the end titles).

To ward off boredom, I went first to the super market, then lazily roamed the other half with the intention of catching a movie at 5.30. One day I suddenly came across this new bookshop. With all the happiness in the world I entered. On the rack found two books that I never heard of,  the first was “Buried Prey” and the 2nd one was “1222”. Through “Buried Prey” John Sandford introduced himself to me, and obviously he was honoured to meet such an avid, dedicated perusalist who he knew at first meeting going to read the entire Prey series within few months. And “1222” opened a Scandinavian country to me. Before that my peek into Scandinavia was through “Girl with a Dragon Tattoo”.

The very name “1222” drew me to it and just after reading the blurb, I felt like shouting,  “where was this book, this author all this time”! It was like you were just roaming in the forest and accidentally found El Dorado!  I knew then and there I am seriously going to love everything Anne Holt has ever written. To use a hackneyed expression, it was love at first sight.

The detective of Anne Holt is Hanne Wilhelmsen. The story opens with Hanne travelling by train from Oslo to Bergen to consult a doctor for her quadriplegia. How she became quadriplegic? Read “Beyond the Truth”. In this story Hanne is already in wheelchair. The train with its 269 passengers collide with the snow wall in front of a tunnel at the foot of The mountain Finsenut near the beatific lake Finseven and the utter confusion and chaos follow. Nearby town people come to the rescue. The extreme weather goes with the whole lot into a nearby hotel sans the driver, the only fatality of the accident. At least that is what seems initially but soon other deaths/murders follow suit. Now imagine the scene, a hotel where 269 passengers are staying, every exit is blocked by accumulated snow and outside world is totally cut off by a horrific brutal blizzard country hasn’t seen for years.

In that closed place deaths start to occur amidst the array of ridiculously diverse people coming from all the echelons of society. Now here is our Hanne, egged with her own personal problems both emotional and physical, using the capabilities of her original, ultimate comfortable identity of a brilliant detective.

While going through the book everyone will find similarities with Agatha Christie’s “Mousetrap”. Even Anne Holt herself mention it in “1222”. The thing is every crime writer will eventually give an Agatha Christie allusion in their books, sometimes overt and sometimes subtle, it is really hard not to! But I find the similarities with the “Murder on the Orient Express” too. That sudden halt due to snow reminds me of Poirot’s journey from Istanbul to London by Orient Express, when at night the train was stopped near Vinkovci in Slavonia due to a snowdrift. So “1222” is like a tribute to Agatha Christie. And every crime writer find solace in doing so.

I read, re-read “1222”, because it was the first Holt I found. And I love Hanne Wilhelmsen. I am following her life for a considerable time and she intrigues me. She doesn’t fit any norm of the society, no it is not because she is a lesbian (for the blockheads it is explained), it is just that she is on surface level rude, arrogant, sometimes even it seems she is so just for the sake of it. But no, she uses it to shield herself. But she is surrounded by people who always see past her armour, and know she is a great human being. They love her. She is surrounded by intelligent compassionate people. It is not always the case with everybody. Here Holt has given a glimpse of her personal life. Hanne has a partner Nefis and a daughter Ida and a house keeper Mary. Now if you want to know how she met Nefis, how she acquired Mary, why Hanne has this sadness that creates a fog around her, who is Hakon, Billy T, how Hanne end up in wheelchair, hit the bookstore, or hit your computer, whatever! Just read.