The Struggle

The water was perfect; just the right temperature that I loved, slightly lukewarm — hitting the right spot, neither too cold nor too warm. But unfortunately, I could not appreciate that feeling one feels when stepping into the water, a transformation that occurs when the skin pierces the surface of the water converting what was a dry foot to a wet foot without any apparent change in the temperature.

You see, I was too busy - busy struggling for my life, trying my best to keep my head above the water, above that thin barrier separating life and death.

As my head plunges below that surface, I can see air, that precious air bubbling away from me to rejoin the atmosphere. My lungs try their best to conserve oxygen that was being depleted every microsecond by the unrelenting pressure of the foot pressing down on me.

Why? How did I end up here?

The irony was that I knew the answers to that.

Hunger makes one do strange things; things that one would definitely not do given a chance.

And then blackness surrounded me as I died... at the hands of the person writing this...

What could I do? Yeah, what can a hungry rat do?

Twenty Fourteen in books

2014: a year in books

I started my 100 Books challenge in 2004. And a decade later, I'm happy that I was able to meet the challenge every year bar two (2006 and 2008). Let's see if I can do it again in 2015. One book done and 99 more to go...

On first listening to Fagles's Homer

My first encounter with Homer's epic took place on a summer afternoon at an uncle's house. I was perusing his library when I came across comic book versions of the Iliad and the Odyssey. And thus did I spend many afternoons on the windy plains of Ilium and among the shores of the Peloponnesus.

Over the years since then, I had many encounters with the blind poet's works. But recently I came across Robert Fagles's translation of Odyssey when browsing through Audible. When I saw that Sir Ian McKellen was doing the reading, I decided to buy it with the extra credits I had lying idle.

Homer was a storyteller - that is, he told stories; he did not jot them down in papyrus or stone tablets. Instead, he told them to an audience, probably over several campfire-lit nights. The Iliad and Odyssey were poems; they were meant to be listened to. Though I wasn't a great fan of audiobooks unlike my sister, I decided to give it a try to see how it goes.

I started with the Odyssey. Though I thought I knew the travails of that Ithacan hero, I slowly realised that there were many parts that I never knew about the hero's journey like his return to the Circe's island or the tale told by the suitors to Agamemnon in Hades. The narration was wonderful. At times, though I could not avoid it, I heard shades of Gandalf in sorrowful monologues and tinges of Magneto's supreme confidence in Odysseus. And mind that I did all my listening during my commutes in heavy traffic. Yet, the voice did not falter nor did it break.

Now Odysseus had been reunited with his wife and son, I decided to visit the circumstances that led to him leaving home in the first place, The Iliad. This time, Derek Jacobi was the narrator with Maria Tucci chipping in now and then.

Having listened to both, I'm more convinced that some stories are meant to be heard. The narration of McKellen and Jacobi was so powerful in their gastromancy that they could switch voices and characters in a heartbeat. I was very impressed with Odysseus's soliloquy on returning home and being humiliated by the suitors and Jacobi's rendition of Priam asking Achilles for Hector's corpse.

I can say that I'm hooked to audiobooks. The Aeneid and Divini Commedia now fills my ears. I now feel that some stories are not meant to be heard, but rather listened to and more so, in the case of the classics.

On turning thirty four

I just spent a few moments gazing heavenwards across the galaxy watching distant nuclear reactions take place on Rigel, on Pollux, and on Alderbaran. Then I realized that the selfsame reactions were also taking place within each of my cells.

Everyone needs to take some time now and then to gaze at the heavens to realize the significance of our mortality and our own hubris.

On an unrelated note, I also realized that I've outlived Jesus Christ on this mortal plane. :clap: