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Doris Lessing

The measure of greatness of any literary work is the no. of questions and debates it stirs up in one’s head and heart. ‘The golden notebook’ is priceless.

May 3, 2008 23 :14

I am reading Doris Lessing’s ‘the golden notebook’ right now. The author’s note has some interesting points that made me ponder.

First - subjectivity.

Essentially, how can one remove one’s experience from that of the rest of the mass’s. “how can you write about your petty little issues, when world is going through so much’. How can one not be political. How can one just reside in his own cocoon, without thought to the rest... well, this links up to a myopia of a thought culture that we have inherited from our subordinated forefathers of Raj era. Today me with Kasturee and Ashima were touristing around Mumbai, when Kasturee remarked, upon seeing a heritage building, as to did the government just ‘steal’ these structures from British or what? I was left aghast then. We are still the White man’s burden, is it? Yes, our leadership is of shady sorts, but still they represent us, and the places of bureaucracy are for citizenry and not individual leader’s disposition as would have been the case in British era. And what of countless farmers and workers whose Lagaan and blood, British crystallized into the bricks that go into the making of all those heritage buildings. Blood buildings. We forget when we marvel at so many of the wonderful architecture of the last century and the one preceding it around the world, the blood of third world and Africans that went into making it. It is the Europeans who stole so many generations from us, who stole our identities, our way of living, the very us that is lost forever. Who knows, what world might have shaped with the indigenous knowledge had it not been the hegemony of west.

Secondly, Doris Lessing says ‘ growing up is after all only the understanding that one’s unique and incredible experience is what everyone shares.’ Firstly, I am in awe with such clear insight and understanding of this woman. But secondly, I doubt if what she says is completely true. Maybe she has found out the symptoms, but not the underlying situation.

As a child, and even now, every new revelation fills me with a sense of achievement and I wonder the knowledge/power/condition is unique to me. Often, as she says, I realize that what I thought of as a powerful new facet of mine, is something quite mundane, not as powerful and common to many around us. But, I refuse to believe that these things that make us who we are, are mundane enough to render us unspecial; That their realization is uniform across the people; That the shared experience should be any less valuable and precious to an individual.

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