Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Cupid in the court (Interview with authors, Manjiri Prabhu and Sujata Parashar)

Why do people marry? Do you need to fall in love to get married? Or is it the society’s pressure to ‘settle down in life’ that makes people take the plunge? How many marry for the right reasons? And, what are those? If these are some of the questions troubling you, then you might find some answers at a symposium on ‘Love and Marriage,’ to be held today (April 27) at 11.30 am at Pagdandi-Books, Chai, Cafe, in association with Butterfly & The Bee. Writers Manjiri
Prabhu and Sujata Parashar will interact with each other and unravel various threads involved in the subject.
Manjiri is the Pune-based author of astro-detective novel The Cosmic Clues, in which the protagonist, Sonia Samarth launches a brand new business of private investigation using Hindu astrology as a crime-solving tool. Amongst her clients are a terrified bride-to-be and a missing husband with suicidal tendencies.
We ask Manjiri if matching stars takes the mystery and magic out of marriage. Manjiri disagrees, saying, “In fact, I believe that the mystery deepens, because now you have the clues to look for the right partner. Groping in a definite direction is better than groping blindfolded in the dark!”
Sujata Parashar, whose book In pursuit of offence is a contemporary take on marriage, is not entirely convinced about the use of astrology in choosing the right partner. “Although, I am not against the traditional way, I’m also not totally convinced about the astrology’s role in determining the right partner in one’s life. So, I’m very much looking forward to the discussion with Manjiri and the audience.”
What do the two think about the survival of the institution of marriage in times of live-in and open marriages? “Whether it is arranged or love marriage or a live-in relationship, love would determine the length and strength of your relationship,” Manjiri believes. Sujata opines that marriage as an institution will survive and work. But the form will inevitably change.
Her book tries to explore a very important question: Do people marry for the right reasons or just because the society expects it from them? “Happiness is the underlying principle for all relationships. If one is not happy, one cannot contribute towards a healthy and happy society. So, putting pleasure and happiness above the collective authority of society is not a blunder. It’s a requirement,” Sujata believes.
Clearly, there’s no right or wrong when it comes to love and marriages. And the topic will continue to provide fodder for books, poems and the cinematic medium. Agrees Manjiri, “Everyone loves a good love-story, in a book or in a film. The feel-good part, the intensity of conflict, the passion — it is easy to relate to. It reminds you of yourself and that is why somewhere along the line, it becomes your story, either in parts or whole. And that is why, stories of relationships will always find a season.”

I'm sure Sujata has her own time-tested views on marriage and whether we share the same views or not, the discussion should be very interesting. Not everyone has to agree with everyone. You can keep your own views, listen to those of the others and believe in the ones that relate to your experience and knowledge.
Manjiri Prabhu
The apparent incompatibility between the two sides on the issue of marriage will make it an exciting and meaningful interaction. It will present the readers with two completely different schools of thought meeting each other face to face and trying to question, explore and if possible establish a connection.

Sujata Parashar

Amidst flowers

Sharada was at the dining table wolfing down her cereal, and listening to Aji's telephonic conversation with Ram. It was a ritual that Sharada never had enough of, because Aji rolled out tongue-twisters (like pyarijaat. Actually, parijaat!) with ease. Plus, she was always bullying Ram with never-ending stream of instructions – Did you water the plants? Did you clear the weeds? How many ananta flowers bloomed?
Sharada had flown in from the US to Pune during her vacations. Her mother was already there with Aji, who was undergoing chemotherapy treatment. The treatment left Aji wan and weak, but her eyes twinkled after her conversation with Ram.
Pune was not Aji's home; she lived in a sprawling house was in Konkan and loved telling stories about the house and garden to her granddaughter. Sharada who had never visited Aji in Konkan was full of questions, but soon realised that she didn't have answers to them. For instance, what was the English name for Jassuwandi? (It was jaswandi, but Sharada couldn't pronounce it correctly.) Aji didn't know.
Sharada's mother knew, but she was so busy tending to Aji that she dismissed Sharada's query with, 'Later.' Aji, Sharada discovered, didn't know how to use google. She had no photographs of the flowers to show.
So Sharada waited patiently for Aji to get better and fit to travel to her house. Three weeks later, the doctors said that Aji was doing fine and that cheered Aji and her granddaughter. Two days later they set off. But, by the time the car rolled in Aji's garden, dusk had fallen and there was power cut too.
Next morning, Sharada was startled by rooster's alarm! Rubbing her eyes, she wandered into the house and the veranda, where potted plants in every colour swayed in the gentle breeze. Sharada opened her eyes a little more wide and took in the plants and shrubs.
'Aji,' she called out and rushed to find her. She was nowhere in the house. Sharada thought she could hear some voices at the back.
'There you are!', said Sharada. Her mother and Aji were standing below the palm tree. Sharada spied a man higher up the tree. ' Ram!' she recognised him instantly. Soon he was down the tree in a jiffy.
Aji then asked him to get down the jackfruit and kelful. She also demanded to see jaswandi. And, when they rounded on the bush, Sharada exclaimed, 'This is hibiscus!'
'Is it?' smiled Aji. 'We call it jaswandi.'
Sharada knew of only red coloured jaswandi. But, in Aji's garden, she found white, pink, a mix of white and pink and even orange coloured hibiscus flowers!
Aji asked Ram to pick the flowers for her puja. Sharada followed Ram as he chose flowers with care. Hibiscus, jasmine, parijaat, ananta and tagar! The basket was full of aromatic flowers.
Ram handed it to Sharada who took the basket to Aji's prayer room. After puja, mother took out old albums and Sharada giggled at pictures of her pig-tailed mother and cousins. There was a picture in which a sulky looking mother stood near a jasmine shrub, with her palms cupped to hold flowers that Aji picked.
'Why are you sulking?' asked Sharada.
'I thought I looked funny and silly!' she grinned. 'But, now I think it's special! To be able to hold something which spreads so much joy!' she explained.
Sharada knew what she meant – she had liked picking flowers and watching Ram water the plants. Tomorrow she would request him to allow her to water plants and trees; and sit under their shade when it grew sunny. And, in evenings, she would return home, her eyes and ears blessed with sensory pleasure!
'But today,' she thought as she searched for Aji in the many rooms of the house, 'I'm going to collect jasmine flowers in my palms which Aji picks out for me.'