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FREE READ æ A Suitable Boy Ñ De geschikte jongen speelt zich af in en rondom de fictieve Indiase stad Brahmpur gelegen aan de Ganges Het is voorjaar 1951 mevrouw Rupa Mehra schakelt vrienden en kennissen in om haar te helpen een goede echtgenoot te vinden voor haar jongste dochter Lata Met dit simpele motief als voorwendsel voert Vikram Seth vier familieDe geschikte jongen speelt zich af in en rondom de fictieve Indiase stad Brahmpur gelegen aan de Ganges Het is voorjaar 1951 mevrouw Rupa Mehra schakelt vrienden en kennissen in om haar te helpen een goede. After about page 200 I realised this was like eating Turkish Delight morning noon and night and my spiritual teeth were beginning to dissolve under a tide of sickliness which didn't ever let up All these characters are so unbearably cute even the less nice ones If post independent India was crossed with Bambi it would be Vikram Seth's endless gurgling prose So I stopped reading and drove several three inch nails into my head and I've been all right since then

Vikram Seth ✓ 1 FREE READ

Echtgenoot te vinden voor haar jongste dochter Lata Met dit simpele motief als voorwendsel voert Vikram Seth vier families ten tonele drie met een hindoe en een met een moslimachtergrond de Kapoors de Meh. Spoiler alertI finally finished reading A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth For some reason I used to avoid picking it up and kept putting it off I suppose it was mainly the size it’s one thick book approximately 1500 pages but I also think it had to do with this misconception I had that it would be a tough read that Seth’s writing would be pompous and saturated with flowery descriptions of rivers winding through the green and yellow village of GraamNagar Imagine my surprise when I find that the language is smooth his tone light and his narrative interesting The fact that Seth managed to keep the threads of the numerous plots and subplots clear in his head is an accomplishment in itself but even impressive is how each characters of his story is real; they are people we recognize with mannerisms we’ve noticed in ourselves and others and dialogues we’ve heard thought or spoken The title might suggest that it’s the story of finding the perfect marriage candidate for the central character but that would be belittling the grand work that is A Suitable Boy It is the story of the Mehras the Kapoors the Khans the Chatterjis and a myriad of other characters such as Saeeda Bai and Kakoli many of whom are fleshed out substantially even when their appearance is minimal The beauty of the story arises from their interactions with each other their thoughts and their ups and downs Little details that create vivid images of a decaying courtesan’s world a cosmopolitan Calcutta the shoemakers’ rank as in rancid neighbourhoods and so on The story covers about a year of the characters’ lives detailing the day to day mundanity Little decisions — a smile here a letter there a glass of nimbu pani lemon water every now and then are what makes the story Yet these little decisions these microsteps that are taken culminate in huge changes that are noticed only in hindsightI’m probably not giving away any surprises when I say that I was thoroughly pissed off at Lata Mehra’s decision to marry Haresh Khanna I shouldn’t have been surprised because Lata does say in the first few pages ” I always obey my mother” and so the ending wasn’t so much a surprise as it was a disappointment I did understand why she did it but I couldn’t help my acute disappointment in her all the same I was genuinely frustrated at her pigheadedness her thought process that led her to this decision I was angry because I am afraid that her reasoning resonated with the coward in everyone especially south asian girls who have had to or will have to at least discuss the concept of arranged marriage at some point in their livesIronically her mother later suffered a number of ualms herself about whether Haresh would be the right boy for her daughter Had Lata decided against the marriage Mrs Mehra would have been perfectly amenable especially since Lata’s yuppie brother Arun did not condone the marriage either So why did Lata decide to snub both Kabir the Muslim she fell in love with or Amit the Bengali poet she could fall in love with easily Her reasoning in the last few pages was scary because it reminded me of how we would rather our lives be a smooth ride of mediocrity than a roller coaster of brilliance that plummets from time to time We choose to be mediocre ly happy the utilitarian idea that the “aim of action should be the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain or the greatest happiness of the greatest number” She says “I’m not myself when I’m with him Kabir I ask myself who is this this jealous obsessed womanI don’t want to passionately love him I don’t know want to If that’s what passion means I dont’ want it”Once Lata makes her decision we know that she will lead her life contently enough It upset me because I saw Lata in a number of people I know in real life including myself Mind you I am not advocating against arranged marriage as a whole because I know they can work Lata’s sister Savita who marries Pran after meeting him only once in front of her elders does genuinely fall in love with him and go on to lead a happy life So it’s not that arranged marriages are wrong I just felt that Lata was wrong in her decision to marry Haresh Even if he was considered fair and good looking confident and ambitious Ironically from Haresh’s side it’s not exactly a traditional arranged marriage He arranges his nuptials himself because he doesn’t like the parents getting involved in this matter; his parents already know that he will run away metaphorically speaking if they try to set him up So to Haresh this is a decision he’s making by himself for his own benefit Haresh had already been in love with someone else before had neatly folded away his Devdas romanticism for that girl and was ready now to live a contented life with someone else it just happened to be Lata He is oh so bloody honest about his feelings for this girl and that he knows it won’t ever happen and so must move on Lata wanted his practicality his forceful ability to get things done his willingness to help out her family members What angered me was the underlying assumption that KabirAmit couldn’t be all those things that they would be selfish beings simply because they would also love her and she would have to him either him back My favourite characters in the book are Amit Chatterji and Pran Kapoor I know Vikram Seth denies fashioning Amit after him but to be honest for some reason while I was reading about Amit’s tendencies for the necessary inactivity that comes with being a writer I thought of Seth What I liked about Amit was that he was the uber intellectual his tone was oft sardonic his amusement freuent his observations of people accepting and piercing He talked a lot and said very little He was cryptic in his cynicism I loved him Lata rejects him on the basis of his being high maintenance type someone who needs his meals laid out for him who wouldn’t have time for her if he was working on a novel and whose moodswings are as freuent as her own I don’t buy that completely He did make the time for her he knew how to be charming and behave in society he wasn’t an absent minded intellectual he knew what he wanted and he knew how to get what he wants Lata was right in that he wouldn’t fall apart at her rejection but I think it’s not his insensitivity that would allow him to be friends with her after her marriage but his excessive civility his sophistication and his writer’s acceptance of lifeMy other favourite character Pran Kapoor a thin dark uiet professor is a sweetheart The kind of nice guy who doesn’t begrudge his mother in law’s long vacations with them who plays April Fools Day jokes on people because “those who aren’t conscious of the date must take the conseuences” He is the ultimate good son who uietly accepts his arranged marriage and falls in love with his wife His was the real arranged marriage in the true sense of the word and yet you cannot dislike him or his wife Savita because they are both so lovable people that you just know that they were destined to be together no matter how they got togetherFor those of you who haven’t read it do Trust me I can’t begin to describe the many shades there are to each character and how nothing I say will completely do justice to them I got mad at one character’s one decision not at the book Seth is amazing His voice is uninstrusive and style very graceful That’s the word graceful Despite its size you get a soft feeling reading it True it is a tad tedious at times Some of the political parts and some of the characters could have been done without But in the end you can’t get angry at someone who gives you the whole cake when all you asked for was a slice


A Suitable BoyRa's de Chatterji's en de Khans Hij brengt het postkoloniaal India tot leven dat aan de vooravond van zijn eerste algemene verkiezingen probeert om verschillende culturen en religies met elkaar te verzoene. A Suitable Boy describes a year in the life of the fledgling Indian democracy indirectly told through the experiences of four connected families and a litany of supporting characters who due to the diversity of their occupations and social positions are able to explore various facets – political legal social cultural religious artistic – of the India of this period and the clash of its opposing cultural forces traditional versus modern values religion versus secularism Hinduism versus Islam Eastern versus Western culture and democracy versus serfdom to name a few The titular story concerning Mrs Mehra’s search for a husband for her daughter Lata though just one of many stories that the novel weaves together stands out due to what it reveals about the norms and cultural prejudices of the time We see in Lata an intelligent young woman who has received a modern education but is pressured by family and cultural expectations to take on a traditional female role While her plight is no means as bleak I was reminded of Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go in terms of the dissociation between education and eventual societal role In Lata’s story there is a contemplation of what it means to seek happiness an evaluation of the importance of love of the fine balance between passion and security of the necessary compromise of values that is thrust on an individual by their cultural context where to either fight or relent to pressure reuires in one way or another a sacrifice or selfAs an outsider I was struck by the stratification of the society where one must be utterly obseuious to one’s superiors and trample upon those below in order to reinforce one’s status The caste system locks people into the positions they are assigned at birth preventing social mobility In this culture status and position are everything There is a casual internalised racism a sensitivity to the degree of darkness of one’s skin that manifests in all sorts of interactions from choosing a mate to business relationships to deciding with whom to associate There is an enormous disparity in fortunes between the wealthy and powerful who occupy great mansions and large estates and who are all but unreachable by the law and the majority of the lower castes who are forced into subservient roles living on a pittance in utterly sualid conditions without any hope of improving their lot To the list of Hitchens’ Religions That Poison Everything let us not omit the otherwise fairly innocuous Hinduism whose dogma of karmic rebirth provides religious justification for this horrible system of oppression There is evidence in this book of a gradual abandonment of these attitudes which I hope has been precipitated by the last 70 years of democracyStriking also is the extent of social and political disunity which I’m sure is in no small part due to the “divide and conuer” policy of the British It’s amazing the extent that the British were able to transform the country in their own image in such a short time and the degree to which many of the characters would define themselves as or aspire to be English The closer one dresses speaks and acts as an Englishman the refined he is Conversely the “Indian” he appears by his accent or demeanour the lower his standing and his desirability Though there are surely lingering benefits of British colonialism this kind of internalised oppression seems to me to be fairly odious The India of this period is depicted as a heterogeneous multicultural society where the religious ethnic linguistic cultural and ideological differences constantly threaten to disrupt stability One gets a real sense of the fragility of the young Indian democracy where there was a real possibility of failure and collapse Partition was a tragedy that affects the world to this day but overall the enduring survival of Indian democracy through these times of turmoil has been a wonderfully fortunate benefit to the world It is easy to imagine a world where things had turned out differentlyIn terms of the prose I did not enjoy Seth’s bland and relentless Realism In nearly 1500 pages there is not a single sentence worth underlining not a single interesting metaphor and rarely anything resembling a profound authorial insight Instead the story is told in a flat style of alternating description and dialogue with the omniscient narrator jumping freely between the thoughts of the different characters This style has caused the book to be compared to some of the great works of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century of which it is reminiscent Many people seem to like this kind of writing but it’s not my cup of tea I’m rating this book generously than its literary merits would seem to warrant This is a very long novel and though it is arguable whether many sections were essential to include on the whole it paints a thoughtful detailed and complex picture of post independence India with all the wonderful as well as the disagreeable aspects of its culture Indeed the India of Seth’s novel is a land of contradictions of ineuality of oppression and yet of hope through the experiment of democracy If nothing else I will miss his characters who though they are a little saccharine I don’t disagree with Paul Bryant's assessment are delightful companions with whom to undertake such a long journey