I'm just going to tell you what really was, based on the questions that were considered worth reflecting on...
Working on the A-to-Z Challenge was wonderful. I took it for the first time, in fact, I just happened to chance upon it in December and I thought to myself, while signing up, 'Oh, so much fun, I'm totally going to have a ready alphabet by the time April comes!'
That did not happen. Not only did I not have a ready steady line of posts, I hadn't even thought of a theme. This blog was never meant for greatness. It is called 'Shreds & Shards', it contained deep and dark poetry of the personal kind, random ramblings of a college student. It began when blogging wasn't so much a fad. Even before this challenge began, I had some 10 odd followers, all fairly close friends or colleagues. And now I have over two scores! I feel loved and honoured, most importantly, read.
It was April 1st! And I thought, what the hell, let's do it. I thought I'd not have a theme and just wrote about 'Atticus'. But then, I logged in the next morning and saw the response... people liked it! So I thought I was going to be posting about fictional characters. I took out a pen and paper, jotted down the first set that popped into my head, from A to Z. That's it. I did think of Q, X, Y, and Z later on, but otherwise I knew at least what I was going to be writing about.
I began visiting other blogs, again, I was overwhelmed by the amount of dedication that people were putting into this challenge. Commenting was never an issue for me, if there was something I had to say, I'd say it, word verification or not!
I was having a ball! I was putting in 15 minutes into my posts, most of them were shoddy, and I was spending another 15 on commenting and replying. That's it. April was a busy month. V and K will vouch for it. Neither of them thought I was going to make it. I was busy at work, busy at home. On the personal front things were piling up one on top of another... it was crazy! Time management could've been an issue but for he fact that here was NO time at all, managed or unmanaged, days and nights were just seamlessly merging into one another. The only saving grace was that I was posting from the other side of the globe as compared to most others, so I had the advantage in terms of time zones! V and K were both amazing, helpful and motivating. They will never know just HOW grateful I am...
So many people in blogsphere said so many kind things, I'm going to feature them all here soon. I'm not doing it now because it isn't fair to hem for me to be jotting their names in a hurry,; I'll do it, and do it well. And next year, I'm probably going to stick to the same theme and have different characters, and my posts will be more prepared. I'm not such a shoddy writer, I am better, I will be better!
For the hosts, you guys were amazing, you were all over the place! It was hard work for me, I can't even imagine what it must've been like for you. Just one selfish thing, I so with this was happening in November and not April! Only because in November, it is 20 degrees here, while in April, it's 40! It's way too hot to be doing anything productive! But that's just me :P
If you read and liked, if you stopped by just today, if you've followed me, thank you. Your words are important, they make me want to be better. Good luck, stay happy, and keep the faith!
There will always be more to write...
Congratulations to all of you!
Z is for 'Zhivago'.
I love Russian authors, I love the way they write. I'm fascinated by their lifestyle, their cold cold days and lands, their women, their courage. I'm still reading Dr. Zhivago. But I'm already in love with it. It begins with a funeral scene, a small boy, and his uncle. It goes on... with the Russian Revolution as a backdrop. Did you know that the author was awarded the Nobel? And did you know he refused it? I'm looking forward to keep at reading it and trying to find a way into the author's head... all those years past...
Y is for 'Yossarian'.
Catch-22 has been the bane of my reading life. Never have I tried so many times to read a book and failed. The worst bit is that i have been recommended this book my so many many people that I know and readers that i respect that I really want to read it. But I just can't! It is so frustrating. Yossarian is the principal character and I wrote about him here because I need inspiration to read about him in this strange book which doesn't follow a proper timeline of events!
X is for ‘Xenophilius’.
‘Xenos’ and ‘phile’ – the lover of the strange…
He is the father of Luna Lovegood in the Harry Potter books. He is the editor of ‘The Quibbler’ and lives in a rock-shaped house. His magazine mostly prints out-of-the-world unbelievable things but as the stories begin to emerge in weirder ways, we find that sometimes, he does print sense. He’s never accepted as normal or mainstream and because of his beliefs, even his daughter Luna is considered to be a weirdo. Although, they both are very courageous, I admit. I’ve always felt that his character was dubious, sometimes good and sometimes not so much. I had not, in fact, even thought of him until a fellow blogger suggested it. Lover of strange things, indeed!
The dear man, who assisted Holmes like an assistant would, cared for him like a friend, and brought him cases like an agent. Dear Dr. Watson, who was forever overwhelmed, like us readers, by Holmes’ extraordinary powers of observation and deduction. ‘Elementary’ that wasn’t elementary at all. He even saved or almost saved Holmes a few times. But for him, we would never have heard of those brilliant tales. I’ll keep this post till here, it’s been a long day.
V is for 'Valhalla'.
In Norse mythology, a valkyrie (from Old Norse valkyrja “chooser of the slain”) is one of a host of female figures who decide who will die in battle. Fascinating, yes?
Here, in Paulo Coelho's 'Valkyries', it is a group of women dressed in leather jackets and chunk, antique jewellery who ride on dirt motorbikes (I already have a very brazen image in my mind) and live a floating life, like a mirage. They meet and guide travelers, have cult rituals in abandoned caves, talk to the coyotes, and make love to strangers in the desert sands to satiate themselves. This book should have been as famous as the Alchemist, the imagery is beautiful…
Valhalla is one of these women, she is sort of like a leader. After she is done with the author an his wife, they feel like whatever they knew so far was not themselves at all. Her personality is magnetic and shifting, she is there but no really there. I love powerful women!
U is for ‘Ursula’.
The mother in ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’, she is the wife of Colonel Buendia and along with her husband, the founder of Macondo. This book is so unreal that certain events are almost believable. Ursula oversees six out of the seven generations of Buendias covered in this book, she is over a hundred years of age.
I loved her devotion towards her old and senile husband and towards her many strange kids and grandkids. She was an intelligent woman, she found a way from Macondo to the outside world when no one else could. She took stray waif-like children in, she was kind. And like a lot of other characters in the book, she was quite a bit of magic. Ursula, although the name has an evil tone to it, was a woman of great strength; she reminds me of my Grandma.
T is for ‘Tita’.
She is the protagonist of a book that should be better known, Like Water for Chocolate. It is a strange book with a strange name and an even stranger theme. The plot is simple, a man not allowed to marry his loved one Tita, marries her elder sister Rosaura so that he can be around the one he loves. I like themed books, the kinds that have a single theme running across all chapters, sort of like a spine to the book. In this case, the theme was Mexican cooking. Every chapter began with a list of ingredients for a dish and the events in that chapter somehow managed to give the entire recipe within it. Not once was there a disconnect, not once did the pace falter. Now that’s powerful writing.
Tita is obsessed with cooking and her dishes are delicious. There is a scene in which she is baking the cake for Rosaura’s wedding with her love, Pedro and her copious tears mix with the icing. Everyone that eats the cake is overcome with an eerie sense of infinite longing.
At times though, the magic realism foes into an overdrive and things are too strange to be true. I definitely recommend this book, not if you’re looking for classic magic realism; but more if you’re looking for a beautiful love story and a very unusual narrative. And of course, if you want to whip up some delicious Mexican!
What a girl, what a woman! She is the epitome of womanhood.
A match of strength for every Rhett, a match of folly for every Ashley… This O’Hara
is beautiful, brave, cruel, and brilliant. So what if Rhett left her (I do not think
that the sequel to Gone with the Wind counts); she was no left weak. No when he
played with her, not when he loved her. Bonnie’s death was Rhett’s fault.
Scarlett needed a different man, she didn’t need a charmer,
she didn’t need a fool. She was ahead of her times and men just couldn’t catch
up with her. Ever since I’ve read the book five years ago, her words have given
me strength on many a hopeless day. Whenever faced with trials and
tribulations, judgment, loss, and despair; she always believed: "After all... tomorrow is another day!"
R is for 'Rebecca'.
I never, even for a moment, felt that she was dead and gone. I identified with the second Mrs DeWinters, nameless, faceless. I shivered with her, I despaired with her… Du Maurier struck gold with her intense portrayal of Rebecca. Her presence, like an evil charm, hung on the reader’s head throughout the book. She haunted me right through it all. Manderley, oh Manderley, that fell prey to such dark, gothic forms! My heart bled for it.
I sympathized with Mrs Danvers, even when she was being villainous, at least she had a belief and an existence. The rest of us that the author dragged to Manderley, why we didn’t stand a chance against R at all!
She just overpowered all our senses and took over our lives from us. What a woman, what a book!
Q is for 'Quentin'.
Darling Uncle Quentin, crazy and adorable. The Famous Five, the most brilliant Enid Blyton, these names will only fill my heart with joy and bring to mind glorious summer days of childhood, emulating the children in the book. We rode bicycles, hiked out in the sun, splashed water on the beach, camped out in the crannies of fallen trees; yes, I grew up in a seaside town...
Quentin, father of George and uncle to Julian, Dick, and Anne, was a crazy scientist. He hated loud noises made by kids, the ruckuc of nighttime escapades, and the loud barking of Timmy, the dog. Every family has a Quentin, the immersed in work and lost to the world character. He loved his family, especially his wife Fanny, but he just couldn't cope with interruptions in his intense calculations.
While the kids nabbed wicked criminals and solved mysteries, Uncle Quentin was lost, with his head in the clouds! Every kid must be fed on a diet of at least one Enid Blyton a month for 3 - 4 years!
P is for 'Piyali'.
This girl is the heroine of The Hungry Tide, she studies cetaceans. An American of Indian origin, she comes to the Sundarbans to study them Irrawady dolphins. In a haunting tale of love, high and low tides, and shtrrange relationships that follows, the reader is led through a brilliant travelogue. The writer, Amitav Ghosh, has made a brilliant tale out of this one. The novel is well-researched. And the relationship of Piya and Fokir, her boatman, trancends time and space.
Love that has no words, love that has no name or meaning, perhaps it is not even love but a curious feeling that can exist only in the Gangetic swamps... This is the only contemporary Indian author I have true respect for. The way darkness and light have come together is beautiful, yet disturbing, a highly recommended read. I have written more about it here.
I read Oliver Twist a long time ago, when I was a child myself. I was horror-struck by the little orphan’s life in a massive city like London. He endures a miserable existence in a workhouse and is then placed with an undertaker. He also meets the Artful Dodger, leader of a gang of juvenile pickpockets. Oliver is led to the lair of their elderly criminal trainer Fagin, naively unaware of their unlawful activities.
Apparently, in the Dickens era, there were a large number of orphan kids found around London, something that led to The Waif Crisis. Eventually, of course, all is well. The criminals are behind bars and the awful people are reduced to the same sordid conditions that they had subjected little kids to. Dickens is dark, but not the kind of dark that only adults can deal with. Characters like Oliver, David Copperfield, Pip are ones that children should be exposed to. It is a good way to acquaint them to the real world, which has people like Estella, Fagin, and Pegotty.
N is for 'Nancy'.
Nancy Drew, who else!? The smart, intelligent, fantabulous young sleuth from River Heights; the epitome of modern girls. The champ driver, swimmer, actor of a girl that gave rise to one of the most widely sold Young Adult books. The hundreds of books, written by different people, were published under the common pseudonym of Carolyn Keene. Nancy, along with her friends Bess and George, sometimes her boyfriend Ned, nabs some pretty obnoxious criminals.
I spent some 3 - 4 years of middle school devouring these books one after another. And I think all little girls should have wonderful girl inspirations. And Nancy was one such... I loved her intelligence and her wavy blond hair; her powers of deduction and the blue convertible. Good days... simple days...
M is for 'Miu'.
Have you read any Murakami? Have you? His books have changed me for life. They have crept up to me on eerie and dark nights, his words have haunted me on seemingly normal days, and his characters... his men and women, his cats and telephones, they'll be a part of me for as long as I live and think. Miu is one of the three major characters in Sputnik Sweetheart. Sumire, the other girl, falls for Miu. They spend time together, lots of time. Sumire is an aspiring writer and K, the narrator, is in love with her. It is a triangle.
But then... then Sumire disappears. And comes back. Strange... strange; I mumble to myself, reading in the glow of a red lamp, rain drenching Delhi. Whenever it rains, I turn to Murakami. Something happened to Miu. Something that cant be told about here. Sputnik, the satellites, Violet, cruel... the ferris wheel, carnival, cruel. You must go now, go away...
I LOVE Silver. He's dashing, smart, charming, prudent, and handsome. He's the pirate in Treasure Island and probably the first dark guy I fell for... sigh. His relationship with the teenage boy protagonist Jim, is very interesting. At first, we do not know that Silver is leading a mutiny. For all we can tell, he's the regular good-spirited sailor with a parrot named after his ex-captain. He regales the whole lot with tales of his parrot's buccaneer background. Slowly, his dark side, his cunning is revealed. There are so many layers to the character of this man. Gorgeous.
Silver with his parrot called Captain Flint
Lisbeth is the very famous 'Girl with the Dragon Tattoo'. She is socially inept, has had an abusive childhood, and is a misanthrope. Yet, she's talented, courageous, has a photographic memory, and is very inspiring. Rooney Mara did a briiliant job of her image in the movie. She SHOULD have won the Oscar. I love intelligent women and I am attracted to dark creatures; no wonder I'm so fascinated by her. This trilogy is one bestseller that really deserves selling.
Kali is a form of Durga, a form of Parvati, from the Hindu mythology. She is said to be pitch black, aggressive, and ugly, terrifying. Her presence signifies death, carnage, and destruction. Even a vision of hers is considered ominous and her devotees worship her to pacify her.
The physical dynamics of the character has been retained in the seond book of the Shiva trilogy (The Secret of the Nagas) by Amish Tripathi. I’m not big on Indian authors; their English is at best halting and their vocabulary is limited. There are, of course, exceptions. But not this one. But that has been compensated for by the absolute hype created around religion and deities.
I’m not religious; but I liked Kali. She is ugly but is portrayed s a nice person. She is a Queen of a clan with a great personality and defined focus. She is deformed and has four hands and is dark; her clan is made of people with such and other deformities. And yet, I was attracted to her magnetic persona. Now the final book of the trilogy hasn’t released so I haven’t a clue if her character will turn out to be twisted. But I sure hope that doesn’t happen…
PS: This is a late post because K was a tough letter to draw out a character with.
This guy is the main character in 'Perfume'. If you've read the book or the Alan Rickman movie (I hear it's very good too), you already have shivers down your spine. Jean has a heightened sense of smell... he can discern the many different notes or undertones of smells. Of everybody and everything around him! This condition is a classic case of synaesthesia, where one form of sensory stimulus (here, sight or taste) is perceived as another smell).
Understandably, this socially inept and weird boy gets picked up for his gift by a perfumer. It was a good choice because Jean makes him very successful because he whips up new scents without any regard for process or protocol. But, like all twisted characters, he eventually embarks on a quest to make the best perfume of all... the book is replete with his dark ways of doing it. Eventually, he is caught for the multiple ruthless murders of young girls; the climax of the book when he is about to be hanged is brilliant. I relate to him because I relate a lot to the smells of things and people... not a good thing to relate to a psychopath!
Not connected, just my favourite poison... oops! I meant perfume.
I fell in love with the novel 'Moby Dick' when I was eight. I was a goner from the first like 'Call me Ishmael'. As I grew up, the tale of the great white whale appeared to me with a hundred other thoughts, a ton of other mysteries. And with the knowledge of the Bible came the appreciation of the protagonist, a school teacher turned sailor, Ishmael.
Abraham and his wife Sarai (in religious history, of course) were unable to conceive. So, Sarai suggested using her Egyptian handmaid Hagar, as a surrogate. Thus, Ishmael was born. Years later, however, Sarai got pregnant and delivered a baby boy, Isaac. Driven by jealousy, she convinced her husband to drive away Hagar and Ishmael. They spent years in the desert and yet the boy was to become great. All of that would eventually lead to Moses. But I get carried away.
The plot of Moby Dick is symbolical. The cruel and madly driven captain of the ship Pequod, Captain Ahab, has only one aim in life, to kill the whale Moby Dick. Ishmael narrates the story and somewhere in the middle of the book, he becomes omnipresent and almost able to read peoples' minds.
Illustration from an early edition of Moby Dick (from Wikipedia)
Moby Dick is a thrilling tale. It is one of those books that must be read as children and reread as adults.
H is for 'Humbert'.
I, for one, have a very different opinion of Lolita (read about it here). I hate Humbert too, not that I don't. But, I don't think he's gross. I mean, come on, Lola was a child, but she wasn't immature. She wasn't traumatised either. I am against abuse, but Humbert truly loved her. And love can never be limited by age. Sigh!
I have re-read Lolita twice, just to hate him like most other readers do, I have failed.
Lolita & Humbert (from the 1962 movie)
If you are reading this and haven't read the book, you should. This kind of novel is not written too often and Nabokov has worked true magic here. I Hate him, I don't Hate him too.
What a man! What a glorious wizard… I loved his character best in LOTR. Grey beard, flowing white robes, and a whole lot of wisdom. What I like best about him is that he is practical; he knows when exactly when he has to run! J I won’t say much about him because honestly, I read the book a long time ago and I don’t remember much of the finer details.
Der Berggeist, said to be Tolkein's inspiration for Gandalf (from Wikipedia)
G is also for Grandpa.
He is my hero and my inspiration. Today, it’s been a whole year since he was diagnosed with an inoperable tumour on his pancreas. Since then, he has had two major surgeries and countless minor procedures. He’s lost 40 kilos and needs help with his daily needs. And now he has good days and bad. His spirit is undaunted. He still keeps track of every minor event at my workplace and never fails to wish me luck. He will probably never be the same again physically, but to me, he represents the greatest wizard of all time!
Just wanted to let you know that you've been stopping by, saying kind things, and being brilliantly encouraging! I've been trying to keep up with my new followers and trying to reply to all. It's hard!
But, I'm reading all your comments and feeling very humbled. You are heard. And you are loved. Thanks.
F is for 'Francesca'.
I have gushed about The Bridges of Madison County here. It is the only so-called cheesy story that has ever moved me to tears. Francesca's character is practical and poetic; a simple farm wife from Iowa has to be both. When she meets Kincaid (in my eyes he competes with Rhett!), her life goes upside-down. She is a true woman, loves with boundless passion and sacrifices without tears. She is strong not for herself, but for her family. She thinks less of her own self and stolidly bears love and pain. I think she must have been an Aquarian :P
Cedar Bridge, Madison County, Iowa
For those of you that read a lot will surely find some time to read this book. And even those don't read much will fin this a very easy read, that will not weigh down your mind. A word of caution though: Francesca might touch you in a way so that you may never be the same again. I have never been...
E is for 'Estella'.
She is a very strange girl. The heroine of 'Great Expectations' is a mightily strange girl. She's the protege of Miss Havisham, who stopped her clocks (and her life) when she was jilted by her fiance on her wedding day. Estella takes care of her and practically runs the house while Miss H sulks in her God-knows-how-old wedding dress.
So, Estella has been part of a mentally abusive and sick household. Understandably, she hates men. But her behaviour towards Pip (the protagonist) is decidedly bizarre! I am a huge Dickens fan, but I truly believe that Estella could've been a bit more normal. Marrying Pip's rival Bentley was seriously a little too much for me to take. She was beautiful and rich, why did she have to be so mean!?
Read more about the book here.
D is for 'Dumbledore'.
Well, to be honest, when I noted down the names of characters from A to Z, that I'd be covering here; D was for Darcy. But, I'd never been crazy about Darcy, I didn't know why all the girls used to be fussing over him all the time. And let's admit it, compared to the greatest wizard that ever lived, what's a mere muggle!
Dumbledore was a grandfather figure, except that he was wayyyyy cooler because he was a wizard. Such a shame he died. But oh, so many things were taught and learnt. Be good, be strong, and be honest. Don't give up if you're right. Respect laws, but on't forget to break them once in a while. Love. Live. Never betray your friends. Respect your family and teachers. Everything good and kind was he. Which makes me want to repeat that good things do not happen to good people.
Words such as these still give me goosebumps “It is our choices...that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Oh, I will always love him
Gaius Cassius Longinus, known as Cassius, was mourned as ‘the last of the Romans’. He was well-made and well-read, intelligent and brave. He was the prime conspirator in the assassination plot of Julius Caesar. Shakespeare turned him into an immortal hero; his speeches strong and impressive, his stance confident. He was a true Roman.
Caesar was brilliant, no doubt. It was no mean feat to have defeated one as great a as Pompey. But Cassius fought for his belief, he truly believed that Caesar was a bully. He was defeated in the end by Caesar’s primary avenger and a man I think better than he – Marcus Antonius. He did not allow himself to be captured, rather asked one of his men to kill him; only because he believed his good friend Brutus dead as well.
Of course, C could be for Cleopatra too, for she was Caesar’s lover and Mark Antony’s seductress. But then, I didn’t play Cleopatra in school, I played Cassius J
B is for 'Beth'.
She’s the second youngest of the March sisters in Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’. I was barely ten when I read this book and I was shocked by Beth’s character. She seemed so good and soft and all things nice. Then she died. It shook my faith in God-fearing and sensitive young girls. Beth, thirteen when the story starts, is described as shy, even-tempered and musical, and very close to her sister, Jo. Time goes by and she wonders what will become of her. When she suffers from scarlet fever, the whole family is scared stiff that she’d die. She lives, though, but is never healthy again.
When the family understands that Beth will not live much longer, they separate a room for her, filled with all the things she loves best: her kittens, piano, father's books, Amy's sketches, and her beloved dolls. Soon, Beth puts down her sewing needle, saying that it grew "so heavy", never to pick it up again.
Good things do not necessarily happen to good people. Life is not fair. And sometimes, it is much easier to let someone go if they are brash, vivacious, and full of spirit, like Jo. But not Beth, she wasn’t supposed to die.
A is for 'Atticus'.
If you've read Harper Lee's 'To Kill A Mockingbird', you'll know for sure who I'm talking about. Atticus is a fictional character, a lawyer in a small town of Alabama. He defends a black man who is accused of raping a white girl. In the process, his kids, Scout and Jem, are subjected to much ridicule and insult by the community, close-knit and rascist. The black is convicted and unpleasant incidents follow. The book is notmeant to be a balm, it is a strong voice of protest against injustice. But, the character of Atticus is strong, upright, 'one-shot', and enigmatic.
The novel won a 'Pulitzer'. Book Magazine's list The 100 Best Characters in Fiction Since 1900 lists Atticus Finch as the 7th best fictional character of the 20th Century and his portayal by Gregory Peck in the movie is supposed to be 'the greatest hero in american film.'
This book is a must read for all sections of society in all lands. It is a modern day tale of the eternal fight of the commoner for justice, and the fight of good against evil. Social workers, lawyers, human rights activists have all drawn immense inspiration from Atticus, and on a personal level, so have I.