Saturday, April 7, 2018

Love, etc

This evening I visited a friend who lives behind a Japanese tea house in the inner city. It is a quaint house on one of those narrow alleys that has all the charm of an old town. I spoke to one of the young proprietors of the tea house. She must be in her twenties and she was telling me that she did not know what she wanted to do with her life after graduating with a degree in finance and accounting. After doing an internship and working as a research assistant at the university, she chanced upon an opportunity to pursue  a Master degree in Sociology in Korea.  Brilliant. Now that she had completed her Master programme, while she was figuring out what to do, she decided to run a tea house with her Japanese friend.

When I hear young people telling me the different things they are doing, I do wish to be young and carefree again in these changing times since most of us baby boomers tend to have stories which are interchangeable except for some brave ones. Of course the  young these days may appear to be free to do what they want, they will definitely have their own share of challenges too. In the same café, I met a computer wizard who was  trying to solve my friend’s problem with  the operating system of her laptop. During our conversations, the newborn baby who is now under my friend's care awoke from her sleep and she was crying softly as she was hungry.The Japanese lady proprietor held the baby and feed her. Sweet. I could stay there for a tad longer but it was time for me to head home.

During  French conversation class this week,  we talked about  nomadic life. We were shown a short clip of a French family who lives a nomadic life. The children in the clip are aged between 11 and 16. We spoke about their schooling and our teacher who was moderating the dialogue  explained that these children were doing distant learning. One participant   was eloquently  arguing that it would be very unfair for  the children to be experiencing  that kind of unsettled life. I disagreed but I struggled with my limited command of  French  to express my views . I illustrated by saying  that I had sent my daughters  to a school that required them to keep short hair and as soon as my daughters and their school friends left school, they started  growing their hair long. I was trying to illustrate that we do not know what kind of system is best in bringing up children. We can only do what we are comfortable  with since we are all products of our time and no matter how we try to do what we think is best for our young ones we may still hurt or damage them in some way. There is no manual really. I could not elaborate all that but I think my point was understood partially.  I  also said that it would really depend on the character of the individual as not everyone might be suitable to move around. What I had meant was that the formula that you think is not right for one individual, it may be right for another. Perhaps uprooting one from one’s comfort zones cannot be everyone’s cup of tea, and a child may need a stable environment to grow, but if the child is cared for by his or her loving family, I do not see why it should  be bad just because the child is moved around a lot. I think even if I were young again, I would not be able to cope with life as a nomad although I like the concept of globe-trotting. I really do not know. You need to be courageous, I told those in our conversation group. 
There are synopsis or reviews that make you want to immediately run out and buy the book mentioned in these reviews. Conversations with Friends, Sally Rooney’s debut novel was such a book. Perhaps it was the title that first attracted me and I had read that  its author, Sally Rooney  has been hailed as one of the rising stars by the publishing industry.

Conversations with Friends is a story that makes me marvel at the wonder of being young, clueless and experimental. I like to think that I have no regrets as I know that given another chance, I would probably arrive at the same place where I am. Perhaps I have no regrets because it is pointless regretting anything when you cannot change a thing that is in the past. Sometimes I do envy the young although I must not.

Conversations with Friends reminds me of the time when it was easy to fall in love. Affairs of the heart is an indulgence just like chocolates as they make you feel dizzy and happy. When one is young and unassuming, falling in love is easy. It is all so emotionally exhausting and yet riveting. It could be  only a crush or an infatuation or about being in love with the concept of loving. It is the chemistry of love,  the anticipation that gives the adrenalin rush. Falling in love must be triggered by some chemical response or some biological reasons when some unseen forces draw two people together.  There is a famous quote by the brilliant  Albert Einstein :
Gravitation is not responsible for people falling in love. How apt !!
In Conversations with Friends, Frances, Bobbi, Nick and Melissa are four character who ask each other endless questions about sex , friendship , art and literature. Frances and Bobbi are in their early twenties while Melissa and Nick are in their thirties. These characters are  rather wealthy people, they are what we would classify as bourgeois and  their dialogues involve all those philosophical talks about love and marriage. The dialogues are clever and the way they are written  makes it  easy to get into the rhythm of reading the novel.  

Frances is doing internship three days a week  in a literary agency and her job is to read stacks of manuscripts and write one-page reports on their literary value.

Here are a couple of snippets in twenty-one year old  Frances’ voice : 
I hadn’t been kidding with Philip about not wanting a job. I didn’t want one. I had no plans as to my future financial sustainability : I never wanted to earn money for doing anything. I’d had various minimum wage jobs in previous summers- sending emails, making cold calls, things like that – and I expected to have more of htem after I graduated. Though I knew that I would eventually have to enter full- time employment , I certainly never fantasised about a radiant future where I was paid to perform an economic role. Sometimes this felt like a failure to take an interest in my own life, which depressed me. On the other hand, I felt that my disinterest in wealth was ideologically healthy. I’d checked what the average yearly income would be if the gross world product were divided evenly among everyone, and according to Wikipedia it would be $ 16 ,100. I saw no reason, political or financial, ever to make more money than that.’

My ego had always been an issue. I knew that intellectual attainment was morally neutral at best, but when bad things happened to me I made myself feel better by thinking about how smart I was.When I couldn’t make friends as a child, I fantasised that I was smarter than all my teachers, smarter than any other student who had been the school before a genius hidden among normal people. It made me feel like a spy….

Frances is a child of divorce with an alcoholic father. She  and Nick find themselves drawn to each other despite the age difference and they end up having an affair. Frances seems so young and naïve and we as readers will not judge her. Bobby is Frances’s classmate and first love.  Frances is in awe of her for she is fiercely independent and free spirited.
 I like how the author ends the novel.


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