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The purple hued plains of the Punjab as seen via the foothills of the Himalaya s the encroaching of modernity on the arcadia of Shimla the relationship between two irascible, stubborn characters, separated by several generations, who are mirror images of one another, one who has experienced all of life s disillusions and one who has yet to experience them but is still weighed down by a life of disappointment and disenchantment.Desai is able to beautifully render the area around Shimla in which The purple hued plains of the Punjab as seen via the foothills of the Himalaya s the encroaching of modernity on the arcadia of Shimla the relationship between two irascible, stubborn characters, separated by several generations, who are mirror images of one another, one who has experienced all of life s disillusions and one who has yet to experience them but is still weighed down by a life of disappointment and disenchantment.Desai is able to beautifully render the area around Shimla in which the story is set From the chatter of the cicadas to the orange tinted reflection of the sunlight in the early morning on the hillsides, to the ethereal dream like atmosphere of the forests, where the colouration of the sun light on the lakes and streams, there is a kind of fairy tale magic to the setting The sun shone on it s white walls It s windows were open the ones facing north opened onto the blue waves of the Himalayas flow out and up to the line of ice and show sketched upon the sky, while those that faced south looked down upon the plunging cliff to the plain stretching out, flat and sere, to the blurred horizon If the story itself superficially resembles a fairy tale trope cantankerous old woman whose life is enlivened by the arrival of a spirited great granddaughter, then the reality of the novel soon jolts the reader out of this reverie Instead it is the grand mother Nanda who seeks to rescue Raka out of her insularity and insularity which, like Nanda s is borne out of the disillusionment from coming from a broken family which does not understand her However, Raka lacks Nanda s potentially fictional idyllic childhood Whereas Nanda has the memories of her father and some outlandish make believe about pet bears to fall back on, Raka only has a neurotic mother and abusive father, a life time of displacement brought about by years travelling around the world due to her father s career as a diplomat In contrast Nanda s disillusions stem from her adult life, an unhappy, loveless marriage, children who she doesn t care for and who don t care for her, the societal burdens and expectations placed upon her to be a good wife and mother, all of these contribute to her hermit like existence which is occasionally punctuated by her eccentric if pathetic friend Ila Das.That is until Raka enters her life, whose insouciance and inertia reminder her so much of her own personality, whose rejections of her approach at friendship and intimacy she finds deeply hurtful and whose actions lead the novel and presumably their lives to it s violent and fiery conclusions Nanda Kaul is contentedly living out her twilight years in near isolation in the Indian hillstation of Kasauli, until she receives a letter from her daughter advising that Nanda s great granddaughter, Raka, is coming to stay Neither Nanda nor Raka is happy with this state of affairs, but Nanda is the first to thaw A visit from Nanda s childhood friend, Ila Das, provides some gentle comic relief as well as the set up for the shocking climax to this story.Actually, that s about all that happens, Nanda Kaul is contentedly living out her twilight years in near isolation in the Indian hillstation of Kasauli, until she receives a letter from her daughter advising that Nanda s great granddaughter, Raka, is coming to stay Neither Nanda nor Raka is happy with this state of affairs, but Nanda is the first to thaw A visit from Nanda s childhood friend, Ila Das, provides some gentle comic relief as well as the set up for the shocking climax to this story.Actually, that s about all that happens, but the treasure of this book is in Anita Desai s delicious, descriptive prose She paints a picture of Kasauli that I can see so clearly, and the three main characters are so well drawn that they really don t need to do very much.On Kasauli It was the ravaged, destroyed and barren spaces in Kasauli that drew her the ravine where yellow snakes slept under grey rocks and agaves growing out of the dust and rubble, the skeletal pines that rattled in the wind, the wind levelled hilltops and the seared remains of the safe, cosy, civilized world in which Raka had no part and to which she owed no attachment.On Ila Das It was this cackle, this scream of hers, Nanda Kaul thought, that held all the assorted pieces of her life together like a string or chain It was the motif of her life, unmistakably Such a voice no human being ought to have had it was anti social to possess, to emit such sounds as poor Ila Das made by way of communication.And finally, Raka s pain at having to sit through afternoon tea with the two old women shines through Raka wilted She hung her arms between her knees and drooped her head on its thin stalk It seemed the old ladies were going to play, all afternoon, that game of old age that reconstructing, block by gilded block, of the castle of childhood, so ramshackle and precarious, and of stuffing it with that dolls house furniture, those impossibly gilded red velvet sofas and painted bedsteads, that always smelt of dust and mice and that she had never cared to play with.This was my first time reading Anita Desai, but it won t be my last Length A Novella Perfect for A rainy day with drink of choice Your mood to match Sombre Rating 5 vanilla frosted cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles Why this book caught my eye The desire to break free and clear your life of all the clutter, the screechy irritations of the modern age in which we continually find ourselves inexplicably connected with the rest of the world via the internet of things, awaken forbidden wishes within usoften than we would like to run away from it a Length A Novella Perfect for A rainy day with drink of choice Your mood to match Sombre Rating 5 vanilla frosted cupcakes with rainbow sprinkles Why this book caught my eye The desire to break free and clear your life of all the clutter, the screechy irritations of the modern age in which we continually find ourselves inexplicably connected with the rest of the world via the internet of things, awaken forbidden wishes within usoften than we would like to run away from it all.Nanda Kaul does just that, and when I read the back of the book, that s what attracted me The perfect retirement plan from being a mother, a wife and the rest of the duties the society expects, or at least excepted from a woman back in the day, a few years after India s independence In that attraction, the book did not disappoint Nanda Kaul was inscrutably content, that is, till her great grandchild arrived The people you ll read about As you would have guessed, Nanda Kaul is not your average great grandmommy all love and baked gingerbread cookies, no.She doesn t want to be disturbed But then her wary aloofness and nonchalance and want of solitude has apparently skipped two generations As her great grandchild Raka displays even stronger signs of wanting to be left alone, Nanda Kaul starts to become uncharacteristically clingy She wants to pull the quiet moonchild out of her shell She starts down the path of experimental storytelling, making up tall claims about her childhood and the home she knew as a young girl.Raka is connected to nature in a way most of us fail to achieve She is restless to get her hands dirty exploring the mountains and wild paths of Kasauli Raka is not drawn to her namesake moon, as much she is drawn to the chaos and destruction of brilliant fires that the forests are prone to.The story of Ila Das made me break down and cry and it climaxed towards the very end of the novel in a way that would make a readers heart twist and head pound No, I am still in half denial The still quiet of the novel, weighed down with memories, stories, feelings and rare speech, is broken by the sudden vicious thorn plunged in its amidst Why this novel shines out This novel is different from most others in a way that it is fast paced not in actions, but in the speedy transitions of human thoughts The descriptions of the cantonment established in the times of British Raj are vivid and run like a movie Anita Desai grounds the demented and tortured strands of life in a way that is refreshingly beautiful Anita Desai is such an underrated writer Sometimes I feel she wrote her books four to five decades too early to gain the kind of appreciation and recognition that writers receive today She is one of the very few Indian authors who wrote in the English language in the 60s Her style of writing, her prose has the ability to carry the reader into a different world all together In this book the author describes Carignano with such detailed precision the pine trees, the valley behind the house, t Anita Desai is such an underrated writer Sometimes I feel she wrote her books four to five decades too early to gain the kind of appreciation and recognition that writers receive today She is one of the very few Indian authors who wrote in the English language in the 60s Her style of writing, her prose has the ability to carry the reader into a different world all together In this book the author describes Carignano with such detailed precision the pine trees, the valley behind the house, the cicadas and the apricot trees that one actually feels being physically present at this retreat A peculiar trait amongst all her character from several books is Solitude Be it Nanda Kaul from this book, Baumgartner from Baumgartner s Bombay, Bim from Clear Light of Day or Ravi from The Artist of Disappearance, all of these characters seem to rather enjoy their solitude It is surprising how these characters draw strength to live from their solitude [ Download Book ] ♫ Fire On The Mountain ♠ A classic from one of India s greatest writers with a stunning new cover in water colourGone are the days when Nanda Kaul watched over her family and played the part of Vice Chancellor s wife Leaving her children behind in the real world, the busier world, she has chosen to spend her last years alone in the mountains in Kasauli, in a secluded bungalow called CarignanoUntil one summer her great granddaughter Raka is dispatched to Kasauli and everything changes Nanda is at first dismayed at this break in her preciously acquired solitude Fiercely taciturn, Raka is, like her, quite untamed The girl prefers the company of apricot trees and animals to her great grandmother s, and spends her afternoons rambling over the mountainside But the two are alike than they know Throughout the hot, long summer, Nanda s old, hidden dependencies and wounds come to the surface, ending, inevitably, in tragedyMarvellous yet restrained, Fire on the Mountain speaks of the past and its unshakable hold over the present I was enjoying this so much, I was loving this and it made me happy as I read it, and then I reached the ending and I became bitter That familiar feeling of loathing I held for so long towards ignorance and men rose like bile up my throat I hate people I hate men, specifically I hate the way this book led me up to something happy and then dashed me down into something depressing I think I ve given away to much there But what else was I expecting from Desai She does that, doesn t she, I m I was enjoying this so much, I was loving this and it made me happy as I read it, and then I reached the ending and I became bitter That familiar feeling of loathing I held for so long towards ignorance and men rose like bile up my throat I hate people I hate men, specifically I hate the way this book led me up to something happy and then dashed me down into something depressing I think I ve given away to much there But what else was I expecting from Desai She does that, doesn t she, I m a bit annoyed at her As her reader, I feel as though she s played a nasty little trick on me I don t care to give a synopsis, why should I It was all a charade for the ending I AM being rather histrionic, I know, but I was happy, and then I was pushed over into the reality of life There was fire in the mountains indeed, I was just too distracted by unraveling beauty to see it Book Review Fire On The Mountain If Nanda Kaul was a recluse out of vengeance for a long life of duty and obligation, her great granddaughter was a recluse by nature, by instinct She had not arrived at this condition by long route of rejection and sacrifice she was born to it, simply Anita Desai I remember reading In Custody by Anita Desai and feeling underwhelmed Years later, I decided to read my second book by the author and ended up choosing Fire On The Mountain Over the years, Book Review Fire On The Mountain If Nanda Kaul was a recluse out of vengeance for a long life of duty and obligation, her great granddaughter was a recluse by nature, by instinct She had not arrived at this condition by long route of rejection and sacrifice she was born to it, simply Anita Desai I remember reading In Custody by Anita Desai and feeling underwhelmed Years later, I decided to read my second book by the author and ended up choosing Fire On The Mountain Over the years, this particular novella has received mixed reviews and only after reading it did I realise how difficult it might be to rate it It s rather a simple story narrated in three parts and before I knew it, I was flipping through the last page All through my experience of reading In Custody, I was immensely captivated by her ability to narrate the surroundings The city in which her plot unravels is always described in greatest detail This book was no different In fact, I enjoyed this muchthan her previous one Nanda Kaul is of an age where she prefers solidarity She resides in Kasauli in a particularly secluded house called Carignano in which many English gentlemen and ladies have previously lived She has only her cook Ram Lal for company and seeks refuge in the barren lands and ravines surrounding her abode Her husband was the vice chancellor and after his demise, she buys Carignano Her children are married and live elsewhere, busy with their own lives and Nanda Kaul continues to live her life in silence Her peace is shattered one fine day when she receives a letter from her daughter, Asha announcing the news that her great granddaughter Raka, will be sent to Kasauli for a span of few weeks Upon receiving this sudden news, Nanda Kaul worries about her privacy When Raka arrives at her great grandmother s house, she doesn t show a hint of interest To Nanda Kaul s surprise, Raka refrains from seeking comfort in her great grandmother s presence Instead she chooses to explore the surrounding area like a wild child She doesn t need cajoling or stories but prefers being completely alone Nanda Kaul is impressed but later turns desperate in grabbing Raka s interest She is amused by the uninvited jealousy that sprouts up as she watches Raka sharing her adventures with the cook Throughout her stay, Nanda Kaul feels tempted to write down the house in Raka s name in her will She feels the need to be Raka s favourite person and weaves stories of magic to keep her interested A sudden call from Nanda Kaul s childhood friend, sours her mood for she is no condition to entertain anyone else When Ila Das imposes her presence upon Nanda Kaul, she has no choice but to invite her to tea Being a Welfare Officer, Ila shares her stories about the plight of villagers and her attempts at educating them Nanda Kaul cannot stand Ila s shrill voice and prays for her immediate leave As the friends bid goodbye post tea, a series of terrible events leads for the truth to emerge in a grave manner Nanda Kaul s life isn t what it seems to be Raka s fascination with the forest turns into something darker Ila s fate takes a grim turn The book is conveniently divided into three parts Nanda Kaul s life in Carignano, Raka s entrance and Ila s visit I particularly enjoyed Anita Desai s vivid description of the place and people I could feel a faint coat of dust on my face as she narrated the murky hills The story is unique and even though it felt a bit stretched, the ending was worth it I recommend it Rating 4.2 5 Desai s prose echoes the quiet setting of this short novel In the backdrop of mountain terrain and cool breeze, the elderly protagonist unearths deeply rooted emotions from her past when her great granddaughter arrives The two women with wealth of time separating them, find themselves to bealike than initially expected There is a free spirit in all of us and Desai s writing calls out to that In that aspect, Desai succeeds in telling a story about women whose ending can be anything but Desai s prose echoes the quiet setting of this short novel In the backdrop of mountain terrain and cool breeze, the elderly protagonist unearths deeply rooted emotions from her past when her great granddaughter arrives The two women with wealth of time separating them, find themselves to bealike than initially expected There is a free spirit in all of us and Desai s writing calls out to that In that aspect, Desai succeeds in telling a story about women whose ending can be anything but tragic and their lives, rich The painstakingly created solitude of a Nanda Kaul is suddenly disturbed when her great granddaughter is sent to her for recuperation Discomfort soon turns to tenderness when the little one proves to be different from assumptions A simple story but Desai s skill at describing the life in the hills of Kasauli and the sparse descriptions are going to be etched in memory for a long long time Anita Desai so far is one of the very few writers who is able to directly influence my mood through their work Should you see a tragic end, you too would feel so if it were a heart warming end, you too would be smiling I really felt my mood change at the culmination scene Such an amazing writer she is Such a gripping tale this is If not for anyone else, it was certainly relatable to me.The opening scene greets us with a postman trekking upwards towards a home in the hilly area of Kasuali Anita Desai so far is one of the very few writers who is able to directly influence my mood through their work Should you see a tragic end, you too would feel so if it were a heart warming end, you too would be smiling I really felt my mood change at the culmination scene Such an amazing writer she is Such a gripping tale this is If not for anyone else, it was certainly relatable to me.The opening scene greets us with a postman trekking upwards towards a home in the hilly area of Kasuali Living in that quiet, secluded house is Nanda Kaul, who had had so hectic a life when she was young She had renounced everything and had settled in this place, much like an ascetic, scarcely with any worldly connections Her children, and their children would call, at times, even which she thought as an intrusion to her secrecy and quiet living In such a scenario the letter arrives announcing havoc in her life her great grandchild Raka will be arriving to spend her summer holidays with Nanda She shivers She was torn afraid that her secrecy and her solitude will get disturbed that she will be reduced to the same life looking after another soul which she had had much and thus resigned to this life She certainly disliked this unwanted onus to look after her grandchild, but it was inevitable.So, Raka arrives Initially, Nanda customarily, without real connection, embraces her grandchild But to her own surprise, Raka was unlike any other kid she had ever seen She never demanded anything never spoke, asked for anything She almost saw her own self in the child The child would resort to lonely walks along the hills, down slope she d go alone and would return It felt good for Nanda that somehow her quiet resigned life was left spared As days went on, she felt an indefinable connection with the child that she should, much to the dismay of the child, start authoritatively interacting with her Ram was the only cook Nanda has had the only other human being around her She felt jealous that Ram quite naturally bonded well with the child compared to her.It is amidst these happenings both the ladies trying to understand each other self exploring would arrive Nanda s friend Ila Das She was a club footed woman with coarse, shrilly voice that shooed away even the birds She was a chatterbox, whose presence irritated both the child and the great grandmother Ila prattled on, to the child, about their childhood and such, which dismayed both She would stay for the tea and would leave them that night She was way too excited to having met Nanda, whom she sees after so many years She was a social worker welfare officer who struggles, with her meagre Govt salary, to make ends meet She narrated some stories of the village that she works in such as their superstitious life which leads to death these people were blinded by a selfish priest who dissuaded the idea of going to doctors , of child marriages and such And just the day before, she would say, she had advised a person who, for a piece of land and two cattle, was ready to marry off her 7 year old daughter to a wealthy old man The priest had started to stir negative feelings of the villagers towards Ila as she interfered in his illegal business of deceiving people into magic and gaining money That night, as she returns home all alone, something significant happens The novel ends with Nanda receiving a phone call about Ila.This novel is such a marvelous piece of work from Anita Desai It touches upon innumerable subjects jealousy, craving, longing for privacy, self exploration, superstitions, judging humans and such sensitive subjects Such an emotional novel A must read