Sunday, February 22, 2015

Rapescars... They Never Heal - Book Review

Rapescars… They never heal…
By Gaurav Sharma
Review By Ila Garg

Rapescars… They Never Heal… is a novel by the author Gaurav Sharma, earlier known for his debut book Love @ Air Force which was brought out by Blackbuck Publications. Petals Publishers has associated with Jimmyeric Films & Media for the cover design of this book. The book has a very appropriate cover page. The newspaper cutting displayed on the cover enhances the look. Indeed, a captivating cover! The concept of the cover itself is so compelling that one would be tempted to pick this book.

Gaurav Sharma, is a Mathematics teacher by profession and a writer by passion. He contributed a poem in The Essence of Eternal Happiness which is a collection of poems from 29 poets from 6 countries. He claims, lunacy for his dreams has helped him being a published writer. As a writer, he doesn’t want to be just a storyteller but yearns to create a stir.

The blurb of Rapescars… They Never Heal… reads as, ‘A girl is raped! Her parents insist to report. Police tries to scuttle the case. Her father’s influence works! Doctor, the fourth man, sees her bare. The defence lawyer encounters with obnoxious questions.

As if, she had inveigled the innocent boys…

As if, she’s the one accused and her violators are seeking justice against her...

She feels & experiences being raped in public again. Her lawyer manages to seek conviction!

Akriti wins the case but refuses her culprit to have imprisonment.

Why does she do this?

What does she decide then?

Is this the decision of ‘her’ or ‘raped mind’?

RAPESCARS is the voice of a rape survivor who thrives to stand against the violation of her persona...

The author dedicates the book to all girls. In his own words -

“For all the daughters of the land
who braved the beast in men
and refused to be a victim
but chose to be a survivor…”

Initial impressions of the book from the title, tagline, cover, and the blurb – It’s not a mainstream plot. On the contrary, this novel offers a different story to read. A simple love story concluding in a tragedy! It talks about not just a rape, but the scars that it leaves behind; the unceasing fear, the tumult, and the shivers of brutality!

Beginning with a deep etching Prologue, wherein the author describes how the girl regains consciousness after being raped, what does she feel, and how she reacts. This description is so precise yet sounds harshly real. This is the story of Akriti and Raman, who went to college in the same university special bus. I liked the way the author kept in mind the small little details. He aptly writes from the girl’s point of view and narrates how she feels when she has a crush on a guy, how she takes hours to decide what outfit she should wear the next day and what accessories would she match them with and how would she style her hair.

The story that looks like a typical romance at the beginning, soon takes a turn when Raman begins to make faster moves and evades the questions of marriage. More often, he takes her in an empty apartment for their ‘secret dates’. He was desperate to cross the limits. They were going too far in the relationship too early.

The lodging of complaint, medical examination scenes and the courtroom trials were quite realist in narration. The chapter titles were interesting so was the style of writing. A few punctuation errors and the bad proofreading made the reading a little unpleasant for me but on the whole, I loved the narrative.

The 152 page book has a prologue and 30 chapters and is undoubtedly appealing. The book has sheer realism which is the USP according to me. The narrative skills of the author are indeed commendable and as he used a girl as the mouthpiece, this book really becomes special. The language and pace is comfortable.

Things that should not be left unnoticed are the words from her parents. The anger and helplessness is apparent in their dialogues. It is interesting to note that even after winning the case, she lets the culprits go scot-free.

'Yay' Factors:
 Theme and its execution.

'Nay' Factors: Few proofreading errors.

Message for readers: "Being born with a vagina makes you a Girl, but to reiterate that you are a human, you need a VOICE."

Rating: 3.75/5

This (Unbiased) book review is a part of "The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program". To get free books log on to Thanks Nimi Vashi for giving me the opportunity to read such a nice book!

Buying Links: Infibeam | Flipkart | Amazon | uRead

Thursday, February 12, 2015

City Guide: Garden of Five Senses

The Garden of Five Senses is a breath taking and enamoring experience. It is not just a park - it is a celebration of aesthetic expression and appreciation, a seamless dialogue between the creations of man and nature that invites interaction and exploration. It is an ideal ground to realize the twin objectives of the need for a public leisure space as well as awakening of human sensitivity to the environment.

It is an intricate blend of nature’s bounty and subtle human creation. Amidst the concrete jungle and the hustle and bustle of the city, the garden of five senses comes across as a welcome breath of fresh air and serene quietude. True to the imagery suggested by its name and with its beautiful, lush green landscapes, the garden of five senses stimulates all the five senses in an evocative bouquet that awakens the mind to the beauty of life and invokes a grateful prayer for the gift of touch, sight, sound, smell and taste.

Visitors are encouraged to touch the rocks and displays, the fragrance of flower for the nose, the landscape appeals to the eyes - the sight, the ceramic bells and the water falls create a soothing sound - pleasing to the ear and the food courts serve a variety of cuisines - to please the tongue. Thus, justifying its nomenclature - Garden of Five Senses!

The garden is located at Said-ul-Aizab village, close to the Mehrauli heritage area in New Delhi. The garden is built on a large expanse of land, 20 acres to be precise. It was inaugurated in February 2003 by Chief Minister of Delhi, Sheila Dikshit, coinciding with the beginning of the 16th garden festival which is showcasing seasonal flowers, hanging baskets and animal figures sculpted from the plants.

The garden is a visual treat, esp. for the photographers. The geometric arrangement of plants, the meandering pathways and lotus pools with beds of green leaves covering clear waters and with pink lotuses peeping out every now and then transporting a person straight to heaven. A brief walk in the garden serves as a great stress reliever. Stainless steel birds mounted on slate -clad pillars soar indignantly in the air, as if, trying to welcome the visitors.

Nestled among the natural slope of the site is the amphi-theatre with blocks of sandstone serving as seating. At the rear of the garden is an open exhibition area for displaying art and holding workshops. Pools of water lilies, bamboo courts and herb gardens are some of the other attractions. The garden is a wonderland for children and adults alike, who are virtually starved of this bountiful nature’s gift.

The mountainous landscapes and rocks strewn in every here and there give a casual trekking experience. Majestic rocks stand silhouetted against the sky; others lie strewn upon the ground in an alluring display of nature’s sculptural genius.

The garden festivals theme this year is Decorative Accents in Landscaping. A competition will be held in 24 classes consisting over 175 sections. There will also be competitions in Dahlia varieties, display sections, the tray garden class and nursery stalls. Such similar competitions and shows would be held every year.

To add more interest, are the toy solar cars imported from Taiwan for use in the amusement section of the Garden of Five Senses. Each solar car cost Rs 60,000 each.

During the garden festival, free battery bus rides up to the garden would be available from Qutab Minar and the deputy commissioner’s office near Anupam Apartments in Saket.

An integral part of the garden is the solar Park set up with the assistance of the Ministry of Non-conventional Renewable Energy sources. The aim is to promote awareness of renewable source of energy. A 20KW solar power plant is installed to meet the requirement of the park.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Someone Like You!

After long staring at the blank page,
I finally began to pen down a montage.
While thinking about you, about us,
So many feelings effortlessly gush.

Just wondering how some people connect so soon,
Discovering a friend in you was a perfect boon.
You are oh! So my type, happy go lucky,
Now I have someone when life goes tricky!

It’s strange that sometimes years of friendship breaks,
And few, like us builds strong with every take.
It’s something special that we share,
It’s beyond the usual care.

You are a guy with those nice, shining eyes,
A true friend, a saviour in disguise.
Amongst everyone whom we earlier picked,
Only something about us just clicked.

They say that opposite sex can never be friends,
But we will be this way till the end.
You are a good listener,
Demure, but a quick learner.

You are someone who can be trusted,
I know that I can count on you when am deserted.
I think at last I have found someone,
Who is different from everyone.

Someone with whom I can share my problems,
I know you will never judge me even if I throw tantrums.
I have been forever listening to everyone,
But I had never really found a real chum.

                                                                                         I don’t think you need any grooming,
                                                                                         Your personality is in itself so alluring.
                                                                                         You are the most awesome friend I have on the planet,
                                                                                         You’re one of the best things that this sad world has to offer!

Monday, February 2, 2015

A paper on Women of Brewster Place

The title of my paper is “Plight of a Black Woman: A Critical Study of The Women of Brewster Place”.

“They were hard-edged, soft-centered, brutally demanding, and easily pleased, these women of Brewster Place. They came, they went, grew up, and grew old beyond their years. Like an ebony phoenix, each in her own time and with her own season had a story.”

“When you’re a black woman, you seldom get to do what you just want to do; you always do what you have to do.”

Born in 1950, Gloria Naylor had witnessed her parents migrating from rural southern communities to large, industrial northern cities, during the Great Migration of African-Americans. The Women of Brewster Place, which is her first novel, reflects this dual cultural inheritance. The stories that reflected her own experiences as an African-American woman also influenced some parts of it.

Toni Morrison’s first novel, The Bluest Eye published in 1965, which received widespread critical acclaim, had a profound effect on Naylor. It gave her the confidence and authority she needed to write about the places and people she knew.

The Women of Brewster Place was published in 1982 after Naylor completed a master’s degree in African-American studies at Yale. The novel got many appreciations from the critics and authors for its lyrical prose style and its frank yet hopeful portrayal of an African-American community struggling to survive in a depressed landscape. Through this work, Naylor tried to present the ideas that comprised of mainly the experiences of African-Americans, especially those of black women.

The Women of Brewster Place reflects on many ideas including class, gender, color, sexuality, and general reflections on the African-American experience in the United States, from the legacy of the Civil Rights Era to the importance of faith and religion.

Women, who came to Brewster Place in search of a home, form the basis of this novel. The concept of home is well explored in the novel, it is a place where relationships flower and breathe. Brewster Place is a housing development in an unnamed city, a poor neighbourhood on a dead-end street. It seems destined to be an unfortunate place since the people linked to its creation are all corrupt. In words of Naylor, I quote, “Brewster Place was the bastard child of several clandestine meetings between the alderman of the sixth district and the managing director of Unico Realty Company”, I unquote.

The Women of Brewster Place is a fictional portrayal of events that occur during the challenging times of several women’s lives - Mattie Michael, Etta Mae Johnson, Kiswana Browne, Lucielia Louise Turner, Cora Lee, Lorraine, and Theresa. The male characters merely play the roles of antagonists for the women who are the central concern in the novel. Men are used as dramatic devices to bring conflict, of some sort, into the lives of the women residing in Brewster Place. The novel further consists of a second person omniscient view, allowing the reader to gain insight of the characters thoughts and feelings.

Naylor has efficiently used ‘Personification’ from beginning till the end, giving voices to the mute objects. It starts with Personification of The Brewster Place as a character itself, how it was born and how it looked during its youth. As described in the novel, I quote, “The gray bricks of the buildings were the color of dull silver during Brewster Place’s youth”, I unquote. As we further move deeper into one of the stories in the novel, we find instances when even the church is personified. “Canaan Baptist Church, a brooding, ashen giant, sat in the middle of a block of rundown private homes. Its multi-colored, dome-shaped eyes glowered into the darkness.”

Towards the end, there is another more prominent example, where blood oozes out of the bricks of the wall of the Brewster Place, aptly symbolizing the unending plight of the residents and the death of the dead-end street.

Throughout The Women of Brewster Place, Naylor emphasized the importance of sister hood by showing how the women are strengthened by their relationships with one another and proving that men are not necessary to their survival or happiness. 

In one of the recent Bollywood Films, ‘Queen’ directed by Vikas Bahl, a similar theme has been taken up. Women don’t need to depend on men for happiness. 

Surviving racism, rape, war, childhood neglect, and poverty, the women in this novel pull together and share a sense of sisterhood. They are all joined in their community by loss and all have a real sense, which the reader can relate to. Naylor's people are real, touchable, and tragically elegant. 

The Women of Brewster Place, attempts to trace Black women’s migration from slavery to freedom and submissiveness to self-assertion. All the women characters in the novel are exemplary of many African American women who still struggle to find a place of their own.

Each character comes as a ray of hope in the otherwise dark world. Kiswana Browne is introduced as a young revolutionist, who is determined to bring a change in the living conditions of her people. She is born in a family that can offer her a comfortable life and yet she does not want to lose her identity as a Black. So she leaves Linden Hills and resolves to stay at Brewster Place where she would be able to lead a life with her people. She is so proud to be a Black that she even adopts an African name; she becomes Kiswana instead of Melanie. She fights with her mother for remarking the black as ‘them’. In her own words, I quote, “What do you mean, these people. They’re my people and yours, too, Mama - we’re all black. But maybe you’ve forgotten that over in Linden Hills”, I unquote.

Naylor gives a graphic picture of Kiswana’s efforts to unite the women of Brewster Place to find solutions for their common problems. Kiswana also goes out of her way to help Cora Lee deal with her children. She compelled them to attend the production of a Shakespeare play being staged in the park. Cora Lee’s life takes a turn by Kiswana’s brief appearance and she starts taking interest in her children. She changes her ways and cleans the house and the children, dresses them up for the play. The performance at the play, further moves Cora Lee and by the end, she begins to imagine a better future for her children.

Kiswana Browne is thus, the representative of the young population of black women in America. The day women unite and fight for themselves; all kind of discrimination will come to an end, be it Gender Discrimination or Color Discrimination.

Another central character, Mattie Michael, had to leave her parent’s home when she got pregnant with the child of Butch Fuller. Miss Eva Turner plays a vital role in Mattie's life by taking her in during her loneliness and destitution and treating Mattie and her child, as if they are her own family. Mattie struggled to give her child utmost care yet he grew up to be as mischievous as he could be. He got into further trouble when he killed a man and was jailed. But here too as an epitome of an ever loving mother, Mattie fights for him. But Basil flees and Mattie is stuck with no son and no home. Instead of her just dwelling on the situation she moves forward and moves to Brewster Place. When she reaches there she ends up becoming a mentor to the other women who were having a hard time at the Brewster Place.

Naylor uses Mattie to portray the strengthening of women through other women. Mattie plays the role of a daughter to Miss Eva, a sister to Etta Mae, and a mother to Lucielia, thereby providing a support to them. 

The sisterhood between Mattie and Etta Mae Johnson is illustrated by each woman's willingness to help the other in their most trying times.  Etta’s long lasting struggle, in search of a dignified life and a decent life partner, highlights one of the common problems of most of the black women.

Lorraine and Theresa come as the lesbian couple introduced towards the end of the novel. They together raise the issue of sexuality. Lorraine as opposed to Theresa cares about how people see and think about her. She tries her best to fit in the Brewster Place with the rest of the women but a woman named Sophie gives Lorraine a hard time about her sexuality and taunts her.

Ben is the only one who befriends Lorraine as he had lost his crippled daughter and claims to see her in Lorraine. Ironically, Lorraine kills Ben in her frenzied efforts to save herself against her attackers. Here Naylor shows us one of the cruelest realities of the society we live in. Black women are not only prey for white men; but also for their own men. The gang rape of Lorraine brings this horrible reality to the center. Lorraine’s rape at the dead end wall shows a helpless state of women in African - American Community. She is attacked by a gang of teenagers. After the boy leaves her batter and bloody, the other one mercilessly sponges her. A black woman is smashed by her own men. Clearly, a black woman is not only exploited by whites, but within her own community, she is rendered unsafe. What can be a more brutal picture!

With whatever little strength that she had, she drags a loose brick towards the figure and bashes the person in the face, without knowing it is Ben and not the gang men who destroyed her completely.

Ben happens to be the first black resident of Brewster Place, and thus his death at the wall of Brewster Place is symbolic. It signifies the death of a community, of its inability to hold together for long. In the last scene, when the women gather to chip away at the wall that imprisons them, we are aware of the fact that the community rebellion has finally taken place. In one of the related critical essays, titled, ‘New Black Feminist Criticism (1985-2000) Barbara Christian mentions, “Brewster Place residents are displaced again, just as they had been before. They are as powerless as they were when they first came to Brewster Place.”

Thus, The Women of Brewster Place becomes a narrative of sexism and racism. It is a reflection of the pain and suffering of women who have been oppressed and discriminated against on the score of race and sex. Women like Mattie, Luciela and Cora Lee are all at Brewster Place because they have nowhere else to go; they have reached the end of the road, a dead-end because of their racial and sexual identity. They have been abandoned by their men and have to look after themselves and their children single-handedly. Traumatized and economically vulnerable, these poor women cannot survive in the white world. Brewster Place echoes with the blues, but there are glimpses of a subdued joy also. Black women are tough and enduring; they are the survivors as well as the victims.