Thursday, January 19, 2012

Elizabeths and Darcys in Ghor Koli-Jug

So, the last post was about the book that I read ‘thrice a year’! I wrote in the beginning of that post that I’ll write about the movie that I watch in a similar pattern. But as you can see that I am going through an overdose of the book and am posting a second post about it within minutes of the first one, I just thought that it would be nice to write a bit more about the influence of the book on life in general, or rather the similarity between the book and life.

I do not know many an intelligent girl who has read the book and yet does not think of herself as Elizabeth Bennet – or, even if she knows she is not like her, does not want to be like her. There is something about Elizabeth – her nothing-extraordinary but interesting features, compassion, wit, above average intelligence, refusal to see things any other way than her own (basically the modern ‘my way or highway’ concept), embarrassment at the behavior of loud relatives, and such tiny significant things.

Who doesn’t want to be like Elizabeth Bennet? At least I did! But over the years I have realized a few things. Elizabeth is not about romance. She is a character very much strong. Had she been in 2012, she would have been an outspoken girl who had her own individual views about politics, feminism, music, movies, education, food, and many more. It's just that she was in 1800s. Try to think of her as in 2012, and I bet you will find her easy to relate with. She could be lazy, with a flair for gadgets or hard metal, yet putting some makeup on now and then, preferring to walk aimlessly on strange roads, going to the library even though the shelf is overflowing with unread books. She can be any girl - any intelligent, witty girl.

There is a Elizabeth in most of us. Girls who are basically good-to-average looking, with a good education, the spark to say the things we want to even if that does not go very well with the neighbours or mothers, the pride of being better than most of those around us. You could complete the list for me! I know many of my friends from school and college and university days who, I think, fit the bill of being a nice Elizabeth. What makes her so special? The fact that she is very achievable. A minimum ‘gumption’, as repeated in The Holiday over and over, is what it requires. We all have that one person in the house who understands us and our troubles, just like Mr.Bennet did with her second daughter. We have the too-good-to-be-true Jane, though the gender might change in real life, who somehow sees the brightest silver lining behind every darkest of clouds. There are the silly people, the very practical friend, the relatives you are not embarrassed of, the neighbours who try to outdo your family in the matters of daily life, the foolish admirer who is otherwise a good person but just not the One for you. I have it all in my life, and I have seen quite a few Elizabeth-like friends of mine sharing most of the similar symptoms.

[Statutory warning : "Bride and Prejudice" is injurious to health.]

Fitzwilliam Darcy. He is more of a phenomenon than a real person, I’m afraid. There are shy men in the world; men who are perceived as arrogant mainly because they are not good with introductions. However, they do have a pride in themselves and their background which is mechanical behind their lack of ability in making acquaintances. And somehow, these men always seem to have a friend who is just the opposite – as Mr.Bingley was to Mr.Darcy. And the lot of us – the Elizabeths – become friendly with these Bingleys easier than with their friend even though the Darcys interest us more for obvious reasons.

Now, I would not go as far as stating that the meeting of the Elizabeths and the Darcys have to be exactly as in the book, but usually we have prejudiced notions about them. That’s but natural, right? They think they are better than the rest, while we have proved over and over again that we are better than the rest too. But they simply deny the recognizing our superiority just because of the people around us. And it’s not that we are ashamed of our people, for we love them and are protective of them. So, the whole thing becomes as complicated as pride and prejudice mixed together.

However, I will not get in to how such things get cleared up in real life. That’ll be too mundane to romanticize about.

To talk about a few more P%P characters, there are the Lady Catherine de Boroughs. They think their son/daughter is the best, even though it’s evident that they are just being grossly overrated by some lunatic parent. These Lady Catherines sometimes have husbands. Poor souls. They have nothing to do other than sit quietly – sometimes even stand by their wives’ chairs – and silently endure the super exaggerated praises of everything they endorse. They think they know EVERYTHING. They know how you should eat, how you should talk, how you should proceed in your career, how you should cook jhinge-posto as well as Chinese roasted duck. (God have mercy on you if you can’t cook any of these!!)

Yes, there are still the silly embarrassing people. However, they are still as much adorable as they were in the days of Lydia and Mary, or even Mr.Collins. However, I am quite sure that they don’t realize their role in the real life P&P. maybe that’s because they do not see life and people and circumstances with wit of the Elizabeths. The world is rather black-and-white for them, with endless gossip, curious flirtations and stuff that they do. Mind you, I am NOT being condescending here. I am just presenting a fact that Elizabeths out there, reading this long post, will secretly or publicly agree with. You know quite a few of them, men and women, who belong to this category.

Let me not forget the Wickhams. They have such a big doing in the whole Pride & Prejudice story of the real life. These days, they are usually girls, as far as I have seen. They spread rumours. Nasty toxic rumours. It doesn’t always have to be about the Darcys. As girls are turning in to the Wickhams, the victims are naturally the Elizabeths. Sometimes they are envious of the Darcys liking the Elizabeths, and act more like the Caroline Bingleys. Keeping in mind that Koli-jug is more rampant in the 21st century than it was in the 18th and 19th centuries, these rumours succeed most of the times. The Elizabeths are maligned, and Darcys find it impossible to overcome their ego and clear the matter. And what with all the indirect modes of communication like text message, email, Facebook and even Twitter updates, the handwritten letters are long forgotten. The misunderstandings remain misunderstood.

Jaane se pehle, ek incurable romantic ke dil se nikle huye kuchh alfaaz!!!

If you have found your Elizabeth or Darcy, and you are almost sure – for in Koli-jug you can’t be 100% sure of even the existence of Santa Claus ( :-( ) – try to keep it out of the reaches of the Wickhams and Carolines and also the Lady Catherines.

After all, we are all entitled to be the leading ladies in our love stories! :-)

Revisiting an Old Love - Thrice a Year!

Some books, just like some movies, touch your life once and they touch it over and over again – at regular intervals. Pride and Prejudice is the book for me, and perhaps I will write about the movie for me someday later.

It was 2005 – class9 – when I came across the book at a friend’s place. Her mom had this classic leather bound copy of the classic, and my friend, being the type that she is, did all kinds of doodling on the pages! However, I borrowed it from her mom and tried to read it. I don’t think I could understand every bit of it, but it was love at first sight. Not just with the book, but also with everything vintage. That copy of P&P was already at least 15years old, and torn at places and the pages had turned yellow. (Can you imagine it getting any better?)

Then a few months later, just like some Providence’s call, I found the book at the Scholastic’s book fair that used to be held in school every winter. I didn’t know whether I wanted to read the book again, for the first time was not much of a success in terms of grasping the subtle British humour. Maybe it was just the little summary they write at the end of the book and the awkwardly drawn picture showing exchange of a letter that made me pay some 100 bucks and get it for myself. Just so that you know, 100 INR – 7 years ago – is something around 250 INR of 2012. And ‘in our days’, that was a good amount of money for a school child. (Didn’t I just sound like the grandmothers from all over the world with their perpetual ‘in our days’?) I won’t say I was unhappy, for I always saved for these book-fairs. And let me just digress for a moment here to shamefully confess that I visited the famous Kolkata Book Fair only after I joined college in 2006. Well, that doesn’t seem to have reduced my love for the printed letters in any way though. To tell the truth, I was a domesticated kid back then, just opposite to the chhara-goru type now!

Enough of that.

I have been reading P&P for 7 years now. At least three times a year – every year! At first I skipped lines and simply completed the story. I would read portions like when Elizabeth walks to Netherfield to visit ill Jane, and is rebuked by the Bingley sisters but the rise of color in her cheeks due to the ‘exercise’ is admired by Darcy. The Collins affair. The ‘infuriating’ proposal. The famous, the so very famous ‘letter’. The part where Darcy’s cousin flirts with Elizabeth but knows his standard in the society that separates him from the Bennets. The parts with Jane and Charlotte and Elizabeth (I hate ‘Lizzy’. Elizabeth does more justice to a girl as spirited as her. ‘Lizzy’ sounds like some kindergarten kid’s pet name). The part where Darcy does all that a man could do in my eyes in those days to get his lover’s sister saved from disgrace and trouble. The change of heart and Elizabeth confessing her love for Darcy to Jane. AND, the final clarification of the mistaken pride and prejudice. Oh, by the way, I love the line towards the end where Austen writes, and I quote, “She (Elizabeth) followed him (Darcy) with her eyes, envied everyone to whom he spoke…”. It seemed absolutely what a romantic girl like me would feel when the man she likes doesn’t know about her feelings, and more importantly, when she doesn’t know herself that she actually likes the man. I’ll mention just a few other things that I have come to admire about the book over the years – the way Elizabeth confronts Lady Catherine, Darcy asking Mr.Bennet for permission to marry his favourite daughter and the father replying with – “He is the kind of man, indeed, to whom I should never dare refuse anything, which he condescended to ask.” That was the father’s wit in reply to the son-in-law’s reserve! And that is perhaps the essence of P&P for me – take life with a pinch of salt, and even the worst shock might become a surprise to cherish throughout life.

The book has been more than just a book. It is something I grew up with. I played with the regular khelna-bati, Barbie doll, jigsaw puzzles as a child.  And I read Nonte-Fonte, obviously Feluda, Tenida, Rijuda, Batul the Great and what not as an adolescent. But I also read this one book all throughout my growing up days, and I proudly do it still now – thrice a year. That’s my dose to stay a dreamer – and dream of a perhaps existent Mr.Darcy! ;)