When I started reading Lessons in Forgetting, I was not immediately impressed, particularly by the Page Three setting of the opening chapter, but after I had, in my usual fashion, charged through the book at top speed to know what happened next, I was compelled to re-read it several times.
I often wonder how much of your response to a book or a film or a play or a painting is determined by your state of mind and the recent experiences that you bring to it. So much of what Anita Nair has written resonates because of recent life experiences. When the caregivers find that their patient has developed a bedsore, they are deeply upset.
One of them, Kala Chithi, wonders how she can explain "the weight of guilt a bedsore can burden one with?"
"You feel helpless, knowing that there is nothing more you can do.You feel weary with all that is expected of you. You feel hopeless, knowing that nothing will change. You feel trapped in another person's misery while your life is put on standstill. You feel resentful, angry. You feel grief, you feel confused. There isn't enough space in one's brain to hold all this and not explode. She was my mother. Her life came before mine. So you tell yourself that this too is part of the cycle of life. That samsara consists of both joys and sorrows, of bedsores, too, perhaps."
Reading this moved me to tears. It also felt wonderful to know that I was not alone in the confusion of emotions that seems to have become a part of me in recent months.
Such insights apart, the stories , the characters and their linkages are compelling. The continuing impact of childhood betrayals, as well as the sensitivity, kindness and cruelty of the young are all portrayed beautifully. My unfamiliarity with the mythology of Zeus and Hera made the references rather esoteric. I wonder if the names of the characters Meera, Giridhar and Krishnamurthy are deliberate, in the context of Meera's devotion to her lord.
The volume I have with me right now is from my library. I may just go and buy my own!For me, this book is a keeper.