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Wednesday, 21 May 2008

‘Snow Flower and the Secret Fan’ by Lisa See

While in lagos, I had ample time to catch up with the reading. My niece lent me her book assuring me that it is a good book. and it was. 'Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See is the book that I enjoyed reading. This is an extraordinary tale of Chinese Culture in 19th century, set in a remote Hunan county, it is a story of a bond between two girl friends,(the laotang or old same) Snow Flower and Lily that lasts a lifetime. The laotang, Snow Flower, introduces herself at the age of seven to Lily by sending her a silk fan on which she has written a poem in ‘Nu shu’ (meaning women’s writing) a unique language that only Chinese women could communicate secretly away from influence of men. Having a wife with bond feet was a status symbol for men in the 19th century and consequently having bonded feet increased a woman’s chances of marriage into a wealthier household. Women took great pride in their feet which was considered not only beautiful but also their best and most important feature. Snow flower and Lily had their feet bound during the same time and there begins their friendship. They both endure the agony of foot binding and together reflect upon their arranged marriage, shared loneliness and the joys and tragedies of motherhood. Excerpt: Snow Flower My son is here beside me My child bearing pollution days are not over My husband visits in the morning His face is happy My son has eyes that stare at me in question I can’t wait to see you at one month party Please use your best words to put my son on our fan Tell me of your new family I don’t see my husband too often. Do you? I look out the lattice window to yours You are always singing in my heart I think of you everyday Lily Lisa See has triumphed, writing an achingly beautiful story through vivid memoirs of eighty year old woman who reflect on her life during the 19th century and her relationship with her laotang Snow flower. Nu shu is the backdrop over which the whole story is woven. This haunting, beautiful and ineffably sad tale of longing so intense as to be taken beyond the grave, is written in See's characteristically strong prose. She has a keen ear for Lily's yearning, and manages to depict an era and place vastly different from our own Westernized world with grace, acumen and not a little humility. In her capable hands, Lily evolves as a character with whom the reader (of either gender) can feel a deep affinity, for Lily's quest is irrespective of era or geography or even isolation. See makes her audience feel what Lily feels, to identify with her desperate desire to be touched at that place we call "soul," to exorcise the alienation she feels through one passionate connection with another person.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Visit to Ghana and Togo

Before I came to Africa, I thought Africa is one big country, just to be recognised as east, west, north or South Arica not realising it as a continent that it is. I see Europe as the group of different countries in Europe and Asia as the group of different countries in Asia and moving from one country to another, I have been exposed to a completely different culture and custom and it is something to be accepted. But Africa…I always thought as a whole one country and that is when I was ridiculed at my ignorance. When I was to go from Nigeria to Ghana and I was to take an international flight and change the currency and take Visa, I was surprised. But like we go from India to Bangkok, we see the difference in culture, language, currency but that’s the difference we don’t find when we travel from one African country to another.there is hardly any difference between two countries in Africa.. So don’t blame…me On the periphery, we don’t see much difference. While Nigeria was more community based and there are huge iron doors everywhere, separating one residential area from another. In Ghana it is more lively and Lome is quite scenic. Apart from this, I didnt see much change in behavior of the natives, nor could I differentiate their culture or style After staying for four days in Acra, we decide to go to neighboring country Togo for few days. We hired a taxi to reach the border and then cross over and take another transport. Never in my life have I ever crossed the border between two countries by foot! and this is what I did this time when i crossed the border between Ghana and Togo. we took a taxi rite upto the border of Ghana and then walk through the nomans' land to a new country Togo. The formalities were similar like one we experience at the international airports, that is immigration, visa and checkpost but we did all that on the road. In the middle of the road! There are ill managed bulidings with the officers sitting on the wooden benches and issuing Visa. It took us one hour to finish all the formalities and then we were in a new country. Immediately after the border, there was a market place followed by the ride from the border to the house, a pleasant ride with a beach all the way lined with rows of coconut trees.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Market place in Lagos

Markets in Lagos are no different from the markets in other parts of the world except that you need to be prepared to face the heat that is quite cruel. In reality, one should be happy to visit the air-conditioned malls which sell almost everything and shopping in style should be the norm of the day. But if we come all the way to Africa, we are likely to be curious of a local market. After much cajoling, my cousin finally agreed to take us to the local market. First things first, we had to remove all the jewellery, wear cotton clothes, carry minimum of cash and carry lots and lots of water. Surprisingly, markets are clean. There is lots of crowd in this particular market and branded goods are available at throw-a-way prices. There are rows and rows of shops selling the same items at competitive prices. There are many more hawkers seen on the road causing traffic jam ( called ‘goslow’ ) and the market there is called ‘goslow market’ The streets are colourful with women dressed in bold block prints and a head scarf. They greet me with a smile and wishing me a very good afternoon. I want to buy a fish and she quotes astronomical price. “Wat, are you mad? It is too much” I say “No mamma! Price very good. I tell you, you no get this price nowhere.” “No, price too high, I no buy. You my friend? You no like me? You no want to sell? No? “Mamma, price very small, I make it small for you, for you only, I make it small, how mush you pay hah?” After much discussion, I finally get a good bargain.

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