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Review: ‘A Walk to Remember’ by Nicholas Sparks

February 1, 2016

The thing I remember with a grin about my higher secondary days is finishing one M & B (Mills & Boon) per day hidden under my desk reading it entirely during class hours (as was habit with many of us who considered ourselves ‘rebels’ in those days). Even if there were other fictions, romance had a special place in our heart. TDH was our dream lover – i mean, the Tall, Dark, Handsome hero 🙂

Anyhow, that was a phase. Ofcourse, even M & B had to be closed shut if it was Maths hour!

The M & B addiction continued with some of us girls including me through early married years as well after our joining work. The men in our family can’t help teasing us about our vain interests.

But then, personally to me, M & B stories meant love and goodness wholesome, nothing more. I liked the way they ended ‘happily ever after.’

Even if there were other romances like ‘Silhouette’ at the same time, I and my friends swore by our regular Europe-based M & Bs somehow. May be the reason for adoring older men is this. Our heroes were already well into their 40s. M & Bs made us accept widowers and divorcees for lovers, something that was otherwise unthinkable especially in ’80s. No wonder, in my class 11 & 12, a bunch of us girls had a crush on Kabir Bedi, Shekhar Kapur and Imran Khan who were a solid 15-20 years our seniors!

Mills & Boon romances always had woman authors. I can’t recollect names much now but back then I had had individually identified over a dozen dream-weavers, with most of them from UK. The fairy-tale romances almost always unfolded in the Swiss Alps or Italian Vineyard or in the streets of Paris or London.  Not to leave out cruises, treks and lush ranches and dairy farms! In the pre-computer and internet era, we girls would be instantly transported to these honeymoon destinations in ‘magic carpet’ that the M & Bs had become for us!

Over years, M & B changed and those of girls who were brought up on climate of ’70s and ’80s could not come to terms with the new ‘avatar’ of the latest versions where heroines were getting bolder and assertive. How naive of us! This is the reason I stopped reading M & B in last few years. I think secretly every single teenage girl of those times loved and craved for the ‘seduction’ part!

’50 Shades of Grey’ was something I read after a long while because it was critically acclaimed somewhat. Still the book was penned by E L James, again a woman author. I couldn’t quite honestly picture a man writing this way. But the pleasant surprise was how the girl in the book was like a typical M & B lass of our times! Innocent, naive, waiting to be seduced!

Until now I thought, only women could script sweet romances. I have had doubts about men getting into the minds of women and writing first person female character account. Somehow that has never worked well.

So it does come as a big surprise to say the least that I find ‘A walk to remember’ an oddity because it has been authored by an American male. The narration is from point of view of a male central character which is a relief. There was one by Paul Coelho (Adultery) told from female vantage point and preaching boringly cover to cover  which was rather disappointing. Sparks’ book is a light read – or so I thought when I started with it this morning.

On and off I read it through the day. Ended up crying for most of the parts. That’s even before the author gets to Jamie’s secret that is. Jamie’s goodness rubbed in long before anti-climax kicked in!

Too good to believe and irresistible somehow. May be it was so keeping with the times (’50s).

Couldn’t appreciate the religious part but it synced well with the story, therefore fine. If not for relentless christian conversions happening in India sponsored by foreign church and local evangelists, I could perhaps appreciate more those few Bible pages. As such I could only smirk for the ‘imposition.’ Ofcourse the author never begged me to read him up!

But as the author underscores the pre-christian days and exodus, I guess we Hindus can relax about the supposed myth-theory propagated by christian missionaries in India. A good and timely reminder! If Noah’s Ark was possible, then why cannot we have an elephant-headed Ganesha for God?!

I wouldn’t want to be elaborating on anyone’s faith here but the book does contain weighty religious content so I hope I can take the licence.

Still the story is a moving read. Admire not only Jamie but also the wonderful man Landon seems to have become. So he never married (again)?

The thought that crossed my mind while reading the home-coming dance and play rehearsals was this:

If someone hurts us and humiliates us, it is only because they can get away with us, safe in the knowledge we won’t hurt them back. I bet they don’t take the same advantage with every tom, dick and harry they come across in life. If the privilege is just with us, it means some of us are born ‘givers.’

For average mortals, this could at times be frustrating. But then, we pull along heaving under breath, but never drawing courage to sting back. It is just the way we are made i guess … Blame it on the gene or will of God or whatever…

I liked these verses from Corinthians even if they may sound cliched. Now that Valentine’s Day is round the corner, I may as well add the quote here:

Love is always patient and kind. It is never Jealous. Love is never boastful or conceited. It is never rude or selfish. It does not take offence and it is not resentful. Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins, but delights in the truth. It is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.

Marvelous finish to a beautiful tale of love even if I have to borrow from Mrs. Garber here!

Many do not understand the effect of positive vibes in our life. Good music, books, friends, happy shared moments like dinners, even group activities like Yoga and Aerobics  – these are all precious gifts that can make our days sunnier.  It is important to avoid gossiping, jealous people in our lives. A couple of minutes of interaction with negative characters could sullen us and make us brood for days. A single drop of poison is enough to make the whole cup of sweet milk go waste. This is why I switch off horror/scary movies in tv.

Everytime I listen to M S Subbulakshmi amma sing her ethereal ‘Kurai Ondrum Illai’ (I have everything Lord, nothing to lose), streams of joyful tears streak my face whether I am cooking or mopping my floors. I drop my menial job for  a moment to imbibe her spirit, her earnestness that flows and ebbs through the heavenly divine voice. Most of the times we pray, we keep seeking selfish things from the Maker. Hardly we find time to appreciate Her creation or thank Her for what she has given us in life. And do we include others in our prayers? Demands, demands and more demands. Reflecting how my Mother Goddess made good for what she denied to me, I would feel ashamed how I never felt the gratitude for the real gifts She has bestowed me with. The M S rendition – this one – is for Lord Balaji actually. Penned by C. Rajagopalachari, India’s first governor-general from Tamil Nadu, the composition has such a stilling effect on me. And the way the doyen of Carnatic music renders it giving up herself to the lord …. keeping her eyes closed… what a moment of reckoning….

Religion and spirituality vary by many degrees.

For years now I have been including prayers for nature like Varuna (Rain God). Praying for India, praying for our PM. Praying for Elephants hahaha (that they shouldn’t go extinct)! Praying for our farmers, Indian agriculture. Praying for Ganga and Kaveri NEVER to dry up. Praying for Dharma to reign supreme. From last week, I am praying specifically for Hinduism to thrive, survive and defeat manipulative forces in Bharata and flourish to eternity. It felt strange to seek such a blessing from my Mother Goddess. In short I am asking Her to save Herself and her consort Shiva!

I don’t know whether prayers can move mountains but this change is there in me only for last 10 years or so. More specifically in last 5 years. Reading a lot of atheist stuff. Good to read about ‘faith’ with this book (just please don’t overdose on God!). And the kind of emotion shared between Jamie Sullivan and Landon Carter is like mature love and kinship normally shared between long-married couples who become soul mates like a pair of albatross – habituated to each other, living under one roof for a considerable length of time. So old-fashioned but comfortable like well worn couches or pajamas we love to snooze in! Mostly we get to this stage only when we grow up on each other, married early in life. Rare to see such a depth in younger people.

It feels strange that a male author could write about romance and spirituality the way Sparks has done.  The book has sparked an interest in me to read his other books, let’s see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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