Archive for July 6th, 2011

I really needed a light reading after the Banville book. My friend Arch suggested the right one! The book I just completed is “A celibate season” by Carol Shields and Blanche Howard.

A long time friends, the authors of this epistolary novel, write letters to each other taking the roles of the couple Jocelyn and Charles, who are happily married with two kids, till they take a 10 month long separation due to Jocelyn’s work. Quoting Wikipedia,  an epistolary novel is a novel written as a series of documents. Here it is the letters between the husband and the wife.

The book is so interesting that you would hardly like to put it down. I took two days to complete only because of the parental pressure! 🙂 It was fun to watch the husband Chas take the household responsibilities and how easily he tries to tailor the home to his taste and ends up upsetting his wife Jock. It is kind of an unspoken rule in any household that the kitchen belongs to the person who uses it the most, rather spends time in there the most, which would invariably be the wife. And no wife can tolerate any changes to the kitchen without her concurrence. I have even seen my own mom’s discomfiture when my grandma cooks beside her in her kitchen, and tries to rearrange stuff! So, I could not believe the husband was stupid enough to attempt such a transformation in the kitchen all the while thinking he can pleasantly surprise his wife!! Poor guy, he sure takes a beating for that from his wife..

The wife Jock does turn out to be a hard-to-please woman after enjoying a taste of her professional success, she is suddenly turning blind to her husband’s love and her family ties. A part of her wants her old life back and a part of her enjoys the freedom away from the household chores and responsibilities and wants to scale newer heights in her career.

When the couple decided to exchange the old fashioned letters, I am sure they had romantic thoughts in mind. Little did they think how too much information on a day-to-day basis would drift them apart as their environments turn out to be totally unknown. Also even after you have committed to certain thoughts in a letter, by the time the other party reads the stuff and talks about that to you, you may have changed your mind. So there is always a disparity in the understanding levels.

Another food for thought from this novel is how a geographically displaced couple can keep a marriage intact and what a prolonged separation do to them.  Though it is said that a little separation adds spice to relationships, I beg to differ. When you are together as a couple, there is this interdependency that brings you together, however when you are apart and are getting used to leading separate individual lives, the interdependency is lost and an invisible bridge would come between the couples. Nothing can bridge that gap and every tryst would be looked forward with too much expectation and the couple cannot satisfy each others emotional needs in that rendezvous, tending to split them further apart. It will be very difficult to empathize with the other half’s life as that life is not familiar to you. Phone calls can only do so much, even a detailed commentary of whats happening on a day-to-day basis would be no substitute to being physically present. These are just my own thoughts and am not passing a judgment on couples who are staying apart and am definitely not willing their relationship to fail. The separation that I am referring to is at least 4-5 months apart and not talking about couples meeting every weekend! I guess that’s enough disclaimer from me! 🙂

Anyways I have always been a sucker for getting physical REAL letters as opposed to emails and I have my share of instances when I have sent letters to my dear folks. But to me physical letters can only be carrier of good news. So I have resorted to letters only when I have been overwhelmed with emotions and my speech cannot justify my love. I remember how my amma used to be excited to receive letters from her mother, of course then the letter was also a carrier of all news and updates. Still my amma felt the letter transported her back to her home village and the familiar surrounding in which she grew up, before she traveled 300 miles away with her husband. That feeling in her and her happiness, made strong impressions in me and since my childhood, I have resorted to writing letters whenever I felt my words were inadequate.

I have also given an ultimatum to my hubby that the best gift he can give me anytime would be a real LETTER from him to me.  🙂 He is person of few words and it will be a very difficult task, nevertheless I still hope he gives me one before my lifetime!! 🙂 Since I read this book weeks before our wedding anniversary, I know what I am going to gift my hubby this year. It will be a letter from me!

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