Jane Austen: My Respite in a Decadent World

I have often been ridiculed for my irrevocable love for Jane Austen. Somehow, the people around me cannot adjust to the ‘dreary, jaded and cliched’ stories of Jane, often labeling them as predictable. My love for Austen was ignited when I first watched the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice where a young, green eyed Darcy (the unbelievably gorgeous Matthew MacFadyen) pours his love for the stunning Elizabeth Bennett (Keira Knightley.)

I knew I was hooked and proceeded on reading all of Jane Austen’s works and found in them, a sense of companionship and understanding. Her stories were soothing and were remarkably successful in extirpating, even for a brief period, any strands of hopelessness or grief.

Jane had a proclivity to bestow upon her stories triumphant, happy endings. In Mansfield Park, she remarks, ‘Let other pens dwell on guilt and misery. I quit such odious subjects as soon as I can, impatient to restore everybody, not greatly in fault themselves, to tolerable comfort, and to have done with all the rest.’

December 18th, 2017 will mark 200 years of her death. If the literary genius had even an ounce of idea of what her books have done, how they’re worshiped, vehemently debated and discussed, admired and looked up to, shared and cherished, read in schools and colleges- all this after two complete centuries- she would beam with joy and perhaps tell us a little more about Darcy.

From the surface, and specially to men who find reading drama not ‘masculine’ enough, her books might appear like a simple, everyday romance.

But her stories and characters are unabashedly real. They don’t exude unrealistic courage or over enthusiastic proclamations of love or betrayal. They’re simple, meaningful and are a precise embodiment of human emotions. Her characters are just as vulnerable, and just as unsure as we are. They struggle with human follies, make sacrifices and learn from their mistakes.

3248276

Jane’s world in the 18th Century was plagued with patriarchy and subjugation of women. She was a critic of societal hypocrisy and unfairness and made it evident in her novels with sharp criticism masked in solemn observations and witty remarks. So Jane, through her writing, was secretly rebelling against the patriarchy at that time. She created strong female characters who were capable of standing up for themselves- like Elizabeth Bennett or Elinor Dashwood– a trait not much admired by her milieu.

So personally, Jane will always be my respite. Often when I find myself troubled over an issue, I pick my copy of Pride and Prejudice and leaf through its pages; reading lines I’d underlined and paragraphs that still never fail to appease me.

I like to call her work as the modern day rendition of fairy tales. They possess a remarkable healing ability and leave you with an assurance that things will get better. And when the world around you is constantly plagued with hatred, anguish and cold wars, it is soothing to delve deep into a story that promises, unlike the world around you, a happy, satisfied ending.

I will always be grateful that she graced our world. That she created characters that will stay with me, that I look up to. And for giving us hope, that somewhere in a far fetched land, comfortably perched inside a dimly lit cafe, there is a Darcy waiting for us, equally earnest and hopeful.


You can read more of my work here.

If you wish to watch the best adaptation of P&P, watch the BBC 1995 version. It’s precise, sticks to the book and shows the details.

My ranking of Jane Austen’s work:

  1. Pride and Prejudice.
  2. Northanger Abbey.
  3. Persuasion.
  4. Sense and Sensibility.
  5. Mansfield Park.
  6. Emma.

 

Festival for the Soul

Over the past year, there has been a surge in both literary festivals and eager book enthusiasts attending them. I don’t blame them. In a time where books stores are perilously on the verge of extinction and one seldom comes across people who take unrestrained joy in the humble art of reading, it is quite justified for the endangered lot to try and seek others of their kind.

Book lovers have always taken immense pride in their love for literature. And it cannot be denied that they don’t miss any opportunity for preaching it. After all, it is a morally and emotionally uplifting experience, to live someone else’s life through pages.
I have myself not have had the honor of attending a Lit fest till now. But my imagination has teleported me to one plenty of times. My eyes twinkle and my heart leaps at the thought of seeing Markus Zusak or Stephen Chbosky.
Or the more coveted spirits of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald or Tolkien for that matter.

The mere thought of standing under the same roof with the person who gave you a story to live is enough to make me seethe. People who gave us timeless heroes to count on. And in whose fictional company, we never felt alone.

I have to mention that once in 2013 I had the great privilege of meeting Ruskin Bond. Probably one of the greatest short story writers alive in our times. The funny thing is, I always envisaged and framed all the various questions I’d ask him (if I ever met him) but upon seeing him, it all blacked out. All my brain could calibrate was the fact that I was sitting next to a man who gave us a childhood. And it was a while when I realised I had to breathe.

Despite the giddy feeling of being in the presence of an author there are plenty other things that make a lit fest stand out. The most adored being in the presence of other bookworms. The ‘endangered specie’ I mentioned above. People who wallow in literature as much as you do.
People who appreciate words over a tv screen. Who, like you, have also resorted to reading to find an escape from the vast, recluse and solitary world of social media. They’re not found in pubs or malls, neither will they be found on the streets dominated by a society of burgeoning extroverts.
They will be found amassed at places like a lit fest. Thus it gives us the pleasure of being in cherished propinquity with others of our kind. We share, discuss, laugh and most of all are relieved that we’re not alone.

New books are discovered, new ideas unearthed and new perspectives are brought to light. Something these ostensible online bookstores cannot provide you. There’s only so much options an online portal can give, for there’s always a hurry of putting things in your ‘cart.’

Unlike a regular festival that caters to your need of worldly pleasures, a Literary Festival is a festival for your mind and soul. It nurtures your need for bookish pleasure and welcomes your enthusiasm for words.
Not everyone can enjoy that place. Only the voracious readers will feel at home. Only they will feel among family.

In a world where almost everything is either transformed or elevated to a trend, literature still remains a most raw and un-tarnished form of pleasure.
It’s not like it wasn’t tried and tested by the growing likes of pretentious freaks. But they couldn’t succeed in glamourising it.

Thank God literature requires brains to understand it.

It is both a relief and felicity to know that in a world outrageously dominated by hashtags and filters, there still are some humble souls who appreciate the power of words.

Have a great week ahead!