Neti, Neti: Not This, Not This
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91 pages

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Twenty-five-year-old Sophie Das has moved from Shillong to Bangalore in search of work, fun and liberty. Neti, Neti follows Sophie and her free-spirited friends through offices, pubs, call centres, night streets, shopping malls, rock concerts, and the homes of Bangalore’s newly rich, as Sophie starts to feel more and more alienated in the money-mad city. A horrific murder sends her back to her hometown, where her Hamlet-quoting father and increasingly religious mother are chasing their separate dreams. Will Sophie be able to pull back from the brink and find herself a home? Neti, Neti is one of the first Indian novels to bring to vivid life the situation of a young woman in the big city, and to do so in a way that balances cynicism with wit, warmth with uncertainty, existential doubts with the pulls of the everyday world.



Publié par
Date de parution 31 décembre 2009
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9788194566175
Langue English
Poids de l'ouvrage 1 Mo

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Anjum Hasan is the author of two novels, The Cosmopolitans and Lunatic in my Head (shortlisted for the Crossword Book Award), a collection of short stories, Difficult Pleasures (shortlisted for the Hindu Literary Prize and the Crossword Book Award), and a book of poetry, Street on the Hill . She lives in Bangalore.
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Hot Winter Day
If Wishes Were Horses
The Fatness of These Pursy Times
Don’t Stop the Noise
Garden City
We Want the World
A High-up, Magical Place
I Must Unpack My Heart with Words
Shadows are Falling
In the Spring Time
I’m So Tired of You, America
The Rest is Silence
Hot Winter Day
F irst, the few birds remaining on earth calling urgently through the open window. Then the landlord, arguing with any one of the three nodal visitors of his morning – the jasmineseller, the greens-seller, the milkman. Finally, the phone shrieking with all the insistence of the person calling. Sophie Das crawled out of bed, held the phone a few inches away from her ear and went to stand by the living room window. She liked to, as she talked to Swami, watch out for her landlord’s two-year-old grandson who sometimes strayed out to play in the little mound of sand by the roadside, or climbed his grandfather’s scooter, or just stood there, arrested by a mysterious thought, till his grandparents decided he’d had enough freedom for the morning and dragged him back, bolting the gate behind him.
‘Sophie, I’ve got the loan,’ announced Swami. ‘I asked my dad for some dough to make the down payment but he won’t hear of it. In fact, he could buy me a car off the shelf if he wanted to. But no one encourages that – not the car companies, not the retailers, not the banks. Anyway, I had to take another loan to make the down payment.’
‘What did he say?’
‘I didn’t want a lecture on the meaning of life etcetera so I’ve kept this whole car plan to myself. But last week I just said to him straight – Appa, can you give me a bit of cash for this loan I’m taking, and instead of being curious he just quoted the Upanishads or something at me.’
‘I don’t like loans either,’ said Sophie.
‘What do you mean you don’t like loans?’
‘Just the thought of being caught in the web of them.’
‘It’s not about liking loans, it’s about liking the things you can buy with them,’ explained Swami patiently. ‘Just last week you said you liked the Chevy Tavera.’
Sophie was actually car-blind. Swami was always pointing out different makes to her, but where he saw individuality and beauty, she saw something on four wheels that moved. The gleaming black and white Tavera had looked impressive in the showroom window – that was all, whereas Swami’s longing for a car was a capacious thing that could suck him in, make him a shadow that would acquire features and personality only when he became the owner of a car. All Sophie had heard her boyfriend discuss during the last few months was the car dream (‘I’m not saying I can afford a luxury sedan but there’s still no harm drooling over an Audi … I hate small cars, I hate small cars, they’re so nineties … Did you see that? Brilliant piece of work – sporty style, great safety features, high torque which ensures smoothness in stop-start traffic …’). Sophie so badly wanted Swami to shut up. The thought made her guilty and she tried to take some interest.
‘So what happens if you can’t repay the loan?’ she asked.
‘They’ll take back the car, naturally.’
‘I’ll go out in it when it’s actually your car,’ she said, knowing she always spoilt it just when she decided to be good, as if there was a part of her that resisted the idea of being nice to Swami whenever another part of her made a conscious effort to.
‘It will be my car the day I buy it. Sophie, loans make the world go round. People are even doling out easy monthly instalments for their cheap little cellphones and feeling proud about it. Soon you’ll be able to buy a pair of jeans on EMIs.’
‘But I don’t want to have anything to do with this. I’m going to stay out of it.’
‘Just because some lady in a book went bankrupt and died?’
Stop, that’s Madame Bovary, thought Sophie. Most of the garbage Sophie had read in her twenty-five years had faded against the light of three major works – Madame Bovary, Vivekananda: Awakener of Modern India and Swami and Friends . She wanted to explain to Swami that Madame Bovary was no loan junkie. It was just that her longing for love and adventure often took the form of buying things she didn’t need with money she didn’t have. Instead of living one takes loans, Sophie thought grandly, then yawned noiselessly and wished she could crawl back into the wide camera angles of her dream. Once she woke up, everything narrowed down. Everything was degrees of pettiness.
Swami tried again. ‘What I need to decide is whether to get a SUV, which is the sturdiest, or a three-box sedan simply because they’re the best looking. Sophie? Say something!’
Mani, the toddler, emerged from the opposite house and sat down in the middle of the lane; his grandmother followed with his breakfast in a small steel bowl. Sophie tried to wave to him.
‘Sophie, I just called to figure out which type to go with and instead you’re being a pig about this.’
‘ I’m being a pig? I want to drive a car so big it’ll swallow people if they so much as try to press their horns?’
‘Fine then, I’ll decide myself.’
Mani squatted on the ground with his mouth clamped shut, deaf to his long-suffering grandmother’s entreaties.
‘Of course you’ll decide yourself,’ said Sophie. ‘You always do.’ But Swami had already hung up.
Whatever, whispered Sophie, as she went into the kitchen and toasted a slice of dry bread over the gas. She then put four small blobs of butter on four corners of the toast and waited for them to melt. In the morning, everything felt heavy . A knife had the weight of an axe. Even from its distance, Swami’s voice pressed so hard against her ear, she would do anything to cut it off.
After a few minutes he called back as Sophie knew he would.
‘We need to feel happy about it two years from now, five years from now. It’s a long-term thing,’ he said, while Sophie said nothing – a blank space where the enthusiastic girlfriend should have been.
Sophie sat crosslegged and barefoot on the balcony behind the house from where she could see the two-storied choultry that stood at the far end of a balding field in which cars were parked and a cow nosed about in some dried bushes. The screeching of nadeswarams and the laughter of women in saris embroidered with flashing golden blossoms signalled a wedding reaching its climax. All weddings in the choultry were alike – a faded purple, green and red canvas shamiana with scalloped edges went up, the drums and pipes rang out all evening and a video camera (with a boy on the cameraman’s side, beaming a blinding white floodlight into people’s faces) followed the ascent of the bridegroom to the first floor where his bride awaited him. Wedding guests would spill into the lanes around Sophie’s house – women wobbling in their uncomfortable-looking heels, thin boys shouting out urgent-sounding messages to each other, sticky babies enjoying screaming competitions. In the mornings the ceremonies that had abated in the night would reach their logical and satisfying conclusion. Sophie was a hidden sp

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