Sunday, February 25, 2007

Here is the link to where you can read reviews by readers

The Hindu - First Impressions

THE HINDU FEB 04, 2007

By The River Pampa I Stood; Geeta Abraham Jose; Srishti; Rs 100.
IN the backwaters of Kerala stands the Gold House. Its occupants have many stories to tell and some secrets lie locked away till the eldest daughter of the house lies ailing. Always the rebel, she has set her standards way above those around her. She has lived life by her rules. But now, it is time to come clean and as she waits for her favourite niece to be by her side, Annama, as she is now known, wonders about the past. At the same time, her niece discovers different facets of her aunt's life, many of which throw up quite a few surprises. However, she keeps these to herself, promising to fulfil her aunt's last wishes. Spanning over a century, this story also covers the lives of Kerala's Syrian Christian community, a people who abide by age-old conventions abhorring change of any kind.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Hindu (Kochi Edition) - By the River Pampa I Stood

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21 Dec 2006

From alongside the Pampa

Geeta Abraham Jose reveals the background of her book By The River Pampa I Stood, which is based on the Syrian Christian community

"The Syrian Christian community was un-charted territory till Arundhati Roy put it on the literary map. But I decided to write about something I know. I know what's happening in this community." Taking advantage of the topicality of Kerala, Geeta Abraham Jose ventured to write By The River Pampa I Stood.

Based in Dubai, she was recently in Delhi for the official launch. An IIT Madras post-graduate in Electronics and Communication Engineering, she started writing the book in 1995, when her husband had just moved to Dubai.

An engineer and professor she asserts that literature is her first love. She moved to engineering only because she got good marks! Writing was her way of unwinding at the end of the day. Her daughter would sit beside, watching her. Today, her daughter in senior school hopes to write her own book soon.

She is bashful of the rejoinder on the cover of the book, "A novel by yet another IITian!!!". "It is not an IIT story," she insists. But she admits she sent the book for publication, inspired by fellow IITian Chetan Bhagat's success.

While she desists from calling the book autobiographical, she says has taken stories from older people in the family. "For me an old person is a store house," she admits with a genuine laugh, "When a grandmother dies, I feel sad at all the stories that have died with her."

By The River Pampa I Stood is the story of a grandmother and granddaughter and the tangents of their lives. But Jose's aim is to show, "though times are different, mindsets have not changed, especially when it comes to marriage."

The status quo of the community does affect her. "The Syrian Christians pride themselves on dating back to the Apostles. As a community they are resistant to change." But her beliefs and book betray an optimistic view. "You cannot step twice into the same river for the waters are continually moving on," she quotes. Taking the example of her book she says, "In the end, change does happen. At first the patriarchy went to great extent to preserve the family, but towards the end, a new system emerges. Change becomes inevitable."

While preferring to stick to the "Queen's English", the book does use different Malayalam verses to re-create the ambience. Songs of the workers and rhymes of children are occasionally woven into the text.

The river Pampa has been a constant for Jose's childhood. Memories and legends are associated with it. The book, she hopes, will also promote tourism in Kerala as she describes in detail the beauty of the backwaters.


Indian Express -By the River Pampa I stood

Indian Express Sunday 15 Jan 2007
Books & Literature
Fresh print
Thursday January 11 2007 19:07 IST

Priya M Menon

By The River
Pampa I Stood
By Geeta Abraham Jose
Srishti Publishers & Distributors, Rs 100

The world got a peek into the life, caste politics and practices of the Syrian Christian community in Kerala with Arundhati Roy’s God of Small Things. Geeta Abraham Jose’s work (a novel by yet another IITian, screams the cover) once again revolves around this very community.

Replace Ayemenem with Kuttanad and the prominent Ponnumpurackal family. Where caste politics still lurk within the folds of Christianity. Where the do’s and don’ts are still dictated by convention.

To the author, then a lonely young girl who has just lost her father, great aunt Annammachi offers solace, comfort and inspiration. But Annammachi is the woman who had dared defy all norms. Who had reversed the do’s and the don’ts with her love for childhood friend and pulaya, Thoma.

The novel, filled with local colour, paints an evocative picture of the typical Syrian Christian/ Nasrani family, its beliefs and time-honoured traditions. The fictional plot sketches characters that are refreshingly real, the author choosing to dwell on the grey areas of life where there are no heroes or heroic acts but just the ordinary human condition.

Femina - By the River Pampa I Stood

Femina 17 Jan 2007

Sunday, February 18, 2007

To the Po

River, that rollest by the ancient walls,
Where dwells the lady of love, when she
Walks by thy brink, and there perchance recalls
A faint and fleeting memory of me;
What if thy deep and ample stream should be

A mirror of my heart, where she may read
The thousand thoughts I now betray to thee,
Wild as thy wave, and headlong as thy speed!
What do I say -- a mirror of my heart?
Are not thy waters sweeping, dark, and strong?

Such as my feelings were and are, thou art;
And such as thou art were my passions long.
Time may have somewhat tamed them, -- not for ever;
Thou overflow'st thy banks, and not for aye
Thy bosom overboils, congenial river!

Thy floods subside, and mine have sunk away -
But left long wrecks behind: and now again,
Borne our old unchanged career we move,
Thou tendest wildly onwards to the main,
And I -- to loving one I should not love.

Lord Byron (1819)

Friday, February 16, 2007

The aftermath...

124 WAS SPITEFUL. Full of a baby's venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children. For years each put up with the spite in his own way, but by 1873 Sethe and her daughter Denver were its only victims. The grandmother, Baby Suggs, was dead, and the sons, Howard and Buglar, had run away by the time they were thirteen years old--as soon as merely looking in a mirror shattered it (that was the signal for Buglar); as soon as two tiny band prints appeared in the cake (that was it for Howard). Neither boy waited to see more; another kettleful of chickpeas smoking in a heap on the floor; soda crackers crumbled and strewn in a line next to the doorsill. Nor did they wait for one of the relief periods: the weeks, months even, when nothing was disturbed. No. Each one fled at once--the moment the house committed what was for him the one insult not to be borne or witnessed a second time. Within two months, in the dead of winter, leaving their grandmother, Baby Suggs; Sethe, their mother; and their little sister, Denver, all by themselves in the gray and white house on Bluestone Road. It didn't have a number then, because Cincinnati didn't stretch that far. In fact, Ohio had been calling itself a state only seventy years when first one brother and then the next stuffed quilt packing into his hat, snatched up his shoes, and crept away from the lively spite the house felt for them.
Baby Suggs didn't even raise her head. From her sickbed she heard them go but that wasn't the reason she lay still. It was a wonder to her that her grandsons had taken so long to realize that every house wasn't like the one on Bluestone Road. Suspended between the nastiness of life and the meanness of the dead, she couldn't get interested in leaving life or living it, let alone the fright of two creeping-off boys. Her past had been like her present--intolerable--and since she knew death was anything but forgetfulness, she used the little energy left her for pondering color.
"Bring a little lavender in, if you got any. Pink, if you don't."
And Sethe would oblige her with anything from fabric to her own tongue. Winter in Ohio was especially rough if you had an appetite for color. Sky provided the only drama, and counting on a Cincinnati horizon for life's principal joy was reckless indeed. So Sethe and the girl Denver did what they could, and what the house permitted, for her. Together they waged a perfunctory battle against the outrageous behavior of that place; against turned-over slop jars, smacks on the behind, and gusts of sour air. For they understood the source of the outrage as well as they knew the source of light.
Baby Suggs died shortly after the brothers left, with no interest whatsoever in their leave-taking or hers, and right afterward Sethe and Denver decided to end the persecution by calling forth the ghost that tried them so. Perhaps a conversation, they thought, an exchange of views or something would help. So they held hands and said, "Come on. Come on. You may as well just come on."
-Toni Morrison (Nobel Prize winner) (Book:Beloved- Pulitzer Prize winner)

Friday, February 02, 2007

Thoughts of "Doubting Thomas"

Thomas: On The Forefathers Of His Doubts

My grandfather who was a lawyer once said, "Let us observe truth, but only when truth is made manifest unto us."

When Jesus called me I heeded Him, for His command was more potent than my will; yet I kept my counsel.

When He spoke and the others were swayed like branches in the wind, I listened immovable. Yet I loved Him.

Three years ago He left us, a scattered company to sing His name, and to be His witnesses unto the nations.

At that time I was called Thomas the Doubter. The shadow of my grandfather was still upon me, and always I would have truth made manifest.

I would even put my hand in my own wound to feel the blood ere I would believe in my pain.

Now a man who loves with his heart yet holds a doubt in his mind, is but a slave in a galley who sleeps at his oar and dreams of his freedom, till the lash of the master wakes him.

I myself was that slave, and I dreamed of freedom, but the sleep of my grandfather was upon me. My flesh needed the whip of my own day.

Even in the presence of the Nazarene I had closed my eyes to see my hands chained to the oar.

Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.

Doubt is a foundling unhappy and astray, and though his own mother who gave him birth should find him and enfold him, he would withdraw in caution and in fear.

For Doubt will not know truth till his wounds are healed and restored.

I doubted Jesus until He made Himself manifest to me, and thrust my own hand into His very wounds.

Then indeed I believed, and after that I was rid of my yesterday and the yesterdays of my forefathers.

The dead in me buried their dead; and the living shall live for the Anointed King, even for Him who was the Son of Man.

Yesterday they told me that I must go and utter His name among the Persians and the Hindus.

I shall go. And from this day to my last day, at dawn and at eventide, I shall see my Lord rising in majesty and I shall hear Him speak.

-Kahlil Gibran (Jesus, the Son of Man)