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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Reading and Viewing

Nectar in a Sieve was the first novel of the Indian author Kamala Markandaya. Though written in English by someone with an upper class upbringing, the novel eloquently tells the story of a poor village woman, who must deal with the travails of village life in a rapidly changing India. The passing reference to a "bioscope" suggests it takes place in the early part of the twentieth century, and the recent death of the author at age eighty might also suggest she spoke from her own experiences watching her country change.

The book is told in the woman's voice, the youngest daughter of a village chief, who had long lost much power to representatives of the English by the time her marriage was arranged to a poor tenant farmer. Nonetheless, the marriage was a good one, and she had little complaints about her fate. As so many tough things did befall her, Rukmani took the fatalistic sentiment that one had to accept life as it comes. Nonetheless, she retain her spirit, perhaps gained (along with an ability to read and write) from her father. Thus, the book -- along with an examination of the changes and hardships that added to the usual lot of peasant life -- is ultimately a vindication of the human spirit.

A story of one woman, peasant life in a changing India, a criticism (mostly through the voice of others, including a local white doctor, who helped her have children) of the wrongs inflicted on the poor, and a beautifully written one at that. This small book is a little gem on many levels, and I am glad that I happened upon it at the book store.

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants is not quite a movie aimed at my demographic. Nonetheless, the story of teenage girls can be viewed as a matter of cultural sociological study as much as that of peasant life in India ... the strange and complex world quite different from one's own is after all is present as well. Anyway, a good story performed by talented actors can be enjoyed no matter what the subject matter. The movie, which some sources say are fairly loyal to the teen novels, is something of a mixed bad. Still, it is generally a positive experience.

The movie concerns four very different teenage girls who are best friends due to be apart for the first time in what is destined to be a seminal summer in their lives. Before they part ways (to Greece, summer with a father, soccer camp, and one remaining home), a miraculous pair of jeans are found. Clearly some sort of metaphor, the jeans fit each of their quite different body types perfectly. They draw up a set of rules and decide to share the jeans over the summer as a means to stay united. The jeans also help them gain confidence, though they are not a panacea ... as time will show.

Each girl has her own little battles to fight, including a good amount of heartache (grieving for a beloved mom, dealing with a dad re-marrying, etc.), but also some romance. Though the tall blonde (mom) is a newcomer, the others have had some past success (Gilmore Girls, Joan of Arcadia, and the indie gem Real Woman Have Curves). They all are promising young actresses and do a good job here. The plot has some iffy moments, especially one involving a sick child (who, no matter the questionable plot device, is very good in her own right), but many very good ones. The love and friendship among the girls is clear and the emotions real.

One understands why this is a popular teen series. Just read those Amazon reader reviews!