Friday, November 11, 2016


Human relations are definitely complex and fragile as each one of us has our own fears and insecurities. Not everyone possesses the same sense of humour and sensibilities and we are inclined to form our views and perceptions based on  our  predispositions and what we think we know.

You may think that the society is oppressive when you are not in the position to negotiate what you really want, you feel life is insufferable.  If you think you are a victim or that luck is never on your side, your brains start to emit all the negative responses and they will eventually become who you are. In the long run you will very likely become resentful and bitter. Life can never be perfect because that is life. Perhaps happiness is devoid of meaning if you do not choose to be happy.

If you google “the happiest man in the world”, the name Matthieu Ricard appears. Ricard is a Tibetan Buddhist monk, originally comes from France and he has participated in a 12- year brain study on meditation and compassion led by a neuroscientist from the University of Wiscousin, Richard Davidson. According to the scans carried out by Davidson, when Ricard meditates on compassion, his brain produces a level of gamma waves and his mind was unusually light. Ricard’s advice for how to be happy is to stop thinking “me ,me ,me”. This is because thinking about yourself, and how to make things better for yourself all the time, is exhausting and stressful. We have to train our mind to  become altruistic and benevolent and not let selfish thoughts creep in. Altruism and benevolence are the answers.

In The Buddha of Suburbia, the first novel written by Hanif Kureishi. Karim Amir, a dreamy mixed parentage teenager is desperate to escape suburban South London and experience the forbidden fruits which the 1970s seem to offer in the city of London. Karim is in his teens and unknown to his dad, he drops out of school to his dad’s disappointment. When he is landed with the unlikely opportunity of a life in the theatre, Karim starts his acting career and  he meets vain and self- possessed Eleanor , a fellow actor whose father is American and owns  a bank and her mother is a well-respected English portrait painter. Karim realizes how na├»ve and stupid he is when he has thought that Eleanor is less middle class than she has turned out to be as she dresses roughly, wearing a lot of scarves, lives in Notting Hill and – sometimes-talks  with a Catford accent and says ‘shit ‘ and fuck every ten seconds. Eleanor conceals her  social origins and she  appears to have  taken her connections for granted.

Eleanor had been to country houses, to public school and Italy, and she knew many liberal families and people who’d flourished in the 1960s: painters, novelist, lecturers, young people called Candia, Emma,Hasper,Lucy,India, and grown-ups called Edward,Caroline,Francis,Douglas and Lady Luckham. Her mother was a friend of the Queen Mother, and when Ma’am turned up in her Bentley the local kids gathered around the car and cheered. One day Eleanor had to rush away from rehearsal because she was required by her mother to make up the numbers at a lunch for the Queen Mother. The voices and language of those people reminded me of Enid Blyton, and Bunter and Jennings, of nurseries and nannies and prep school, a world of total security that I’d thought existed only in books. They lacked all understanding of how much more than anyone else they had. I was frightened of their confidence, education,status, money, and I was beginning to see how important they were.’ 

 Karim’s main rival for Eleanor’s affection is  a man called Heater. He is the local road-sweeper, ‘a grossly fat and ugly sixteen-stone Scot in a donkey jacket whom Eleanor had taken up three years ago as a cause.

Karim’s Indian father, Haroon is described as small, elegant and handsome with delicate hands and manners. His English mother is described as ‘ a plump and unphysical woman with a pale round face and kind brown eyes.’ His dad gets to know Eva, who is into Oriental philosophy and there are guru gigs where he has been invited to speak on one or two aspects of Oriental philosophy and he is well received and became known as the Buddha of Suburbia. When Karim accompanies his dad to Eva’s house in Beckenham , not only the display of money  impresses Karim, he is seduced by sensuality and intellectualism.

 It wasn’t far, about four miles, to the Kays’, but Dad would never have go there without me.  I knew all the streets and every bus route.

Dad has been in Britain since 1950 – over twenty years – and for fifteen of those years he’d lived in the South London suburbs. Yet still he stumbled around the place like an Indian just off the boat ,and asked questions like,  ‘Is Dover in Kent?’ I’d have thought , an employee of the British Government, as a Civil Service clerk, even as badly paid and insignificant a one as him, he’d just have to know these things. I sweated with embarrassment when he halted strangers in the street to ask directions to places that were a hundred yards away in an area where h’d lived for almost two decades.
Eva is into mysticism and she is ambitious, a social climber.

‘In the old days, when we were an ordinary suburban family, this pretentious and snobbish side of Eva amused Dad and me. And it has seemed, for a time, to be in retreat –perhaps because Dad was its grateful recipient. But now the show-off quotient was increasing daily. It was impossible to ignore. The problem was ,Eva was not unsuccessful; she was not ignored by London once she started her assault. She was climbing ever higher, day by day. It was fantastic, the number of lunches, suppers, dinners, picnics, parties, receptions, champagne breakfasts, openings, closings, first nights, last nights and late nights these London people went to . They never stopped eating or talking or looking at people performing. As Eva started to take London, coving forward over the foreign fields of Islington, Chiswick and Wandsworth inch by inch, party by party, contact by contact, Dad thoroughly enjoyed himself.  But he wouldn’t recognize how important it all was to Eva.’
Apart from Karim, Haroon, Eva and Eleanor, there are other colourful characters who have also had a part in   and caring for the susceptibility of the human heart.
 Karim's coming of age experience. The themes of the book span identity issues faced by immigrants, multiculturalism, oriental mysticism, coming of age, social class, success, suburbia and the city. Hanif Kureishi’s writing is punctuated with wry humour. The story is about how we connect with people we love and it does not matter where you come from and where you settle in, life is about navigating human relations, managing the vulnerability of human desires.

Incidentally the book has been made into a four-part drama series by the BBC in 1993 and the song featured in the programme is by  David Bowie  whose 1993 soundtrack album bears the same name as well. 

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