What I Talk About When I Talk About Murakami

In a world where literature has crossed the boundary of books to be found in lyrics, Nobel Prize or no Nobel Prize, Murakami, for me, is the Bob Dylan of literature.

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Imagine a world where cats can talk, fish rain from the sky, where a woman is omnipresent, where the soul is divided and wells are empty. Neither is it a Hogwarts nor a Wonderland; it’s not a dream, nor is it a crude reality. Far from a world of “abnormal things happening to abnormal people” or “normal things happening to normal people”, Murakami creates “stories of abnormal things happening to normal people”.

Such events and the impressions they leave in the minds of people are emotionally resonant, and universally so. I, for one, have this reminder written somewhere on my study table:

As time goes on, you’ll understand. What lasts, lasts; what doesn’t, doesn’t. Time solves most things. And what time can’t solve, you have to solve yourself.

– Haruki Murakami, Dance Dance Dance

These are oft-forgotten simple words, almost making it ironic that despite change being the only constant in our seemingly 9-5 lives, we do need to be reminded of change. This Japanese storyteller lacks a concrete plot. The events in his tales unravel in an abstract form which is only reminiscent of life itself.

Does life have a plot? Do the characters that appear in our neatly scheduled calendar-lives each have a specified function to play? If yes, are we clear in our minds about their functions? What about that man you had casual sex with on last Saturday? What about all the sleepless nights spent after a particularly tyrant schoolteacher flashes in your nightmare? That’s when Murakami outlasts the pages and slips into your very being.

 

The world of Murakami’s novels is inhabited by characters with Japanese names. They remind you of Salinger’s Holden. They make you feel Kafkaesque. Yet, for the first time in the literary history, these characters hail from the East of high rise buildings and modern shamans. The West, to them, is the source of jazz which constitutes a recurring theme in the sagas of these “everymen”.

This world is devoid of the homogeneity of the West as has been imposed on the East for the longest period in history. This world is of an erstwhile jazz café owner who, while being based in his native setting, stands out as a universal voice of inspiration without one didactic sentence. It’s as much your world too. It’s in the way he narrates his experience in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running that motivates you in the way your friends’ advice sometimes turns out to be more effective than that of your parents on the same issue.

On lonely nights, I read his works. I read his works on silent afternoons. I sometimes secretly aspire to write in simple language that connects to the hearts of many someday. On other occasions, I read Murakami to seek fulfillment from such sentences that make me feel as though the author was with me while writing them:

Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.

–Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

In a world where literature has crossed the boundary of books to be found in lyrics, Nobel Prize or no Nobel Prize, Murakami, for me, is the Bob Dylan of literature.


If this article makes you want to read more of Murakami, or has introduced you to him, do share. I would recommend A Walk to Kobe on Granta magazine for curious beginners who do not have immediate access to Murakami’s works.

Letter to the Woman I’ve Never Met

One of the few poured-my-heart-out posts on my blog to wish a happy twentieth to my fitness-flavoured Pun-dora’s box.

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Dearest ma’am

Love, as I have come to know, is most victimised by the whims of poets. I have woken up on numerous days to coffee table reveries brimming with how love looks, how it sounds in the lyrics of my favourite songs, how it smells in red flowers, how it tastes in the tongue of another person, and how it is described in the most romanticised nuances of language. I have had a lot of expectations about love. However, I have lately realised that this emotion loaded with myriad connotations is a mere process of rationalisation. You choose a vessel because you like how it looks, sounds, smells, tastes and also because of how others feel about it. Then you decide to look for magic in it. You keep doing so till the point when even if the bullets you had ticked on the check-list before signing up for love are detached from the vessel, you still can shower your passion upon it. It is a matter of consciously making yourself accustomed to a habit. Thank you for my best habit.

My habit of keeping one person in the subconscious did not start as an our-love-was-made-for-movie-screens kind. It began with the most mundane affair of all- coordinating with a photographer for a blogpost. This habit has taught me to breathe out of the quotidian; we have listened to our forever songs under a sky which made the stars look like disco lights, we have walked in seemingly ceaseless Calcutta rains under one umbrella, we have shared little infinities under the sun, and have with our cumulative youth, transformed closed spaces into celestial spectacles. (I doubt if things really were as magical as I claim them to be. Probably I have concocted all the magic simply because he was around.) It has also taught me to look at routines through the eyes of a new-born. This habit has been my only air on days reeking of steel elevator-like claustrophobia.

This habit is the newest one because I have spent only two months and a half with it, yet it is the oldest too because of all the calendars gone into the trashcan while rehearsing for it.

Love is mundane, banal, difficult, clichéd, repetitive, pretentious and what not! Mine has been all of these when I woke up in the middle of otherwise peaceful nights to complete unfinished poems while he was asleep, and I swear those poems now look like fresh paint on a palette tainted with colours which had dried up. In a world which has stigmatised the display of affection, lasting promises and honest “I do”s at the cost of relentlessly keeping up with the clock, my habit and I stand against the tide. I have not seen the future and I am aware that habits can change, that they are not immune to rust. I do not know if this is a permanent habit, but I am selfish enough to cling on to it with all my life. My habit tells me that you are the best that has ever happened to him; I am sure you are. Your happiness lights him up. I am grateful that you exist. I wish a happy twentieth to your motherhood.

Sincerely,

The woman in love with your son.