29 September 2011


Wholesale book market, Old Delhi.

Shahjahanabad or 'Old Delhi' as it is more commonly known, was the fantastically unreal starting point for mine and the bf's adventure in India that has almost brought us all the way up to the end of September. I can't believe it's almost October! (Although quite an unseasonably warm one in Manchester this week..)

As most people seem to the first time around, we decided to focus on the area of this vast country nicknamed 'The Golden Triangle'; a bewitching region that encompasses Delhi, Jaipur, the Taj Mahal, and a whole bunch of other fascinating nooks and crannies along the way. Although I have travelled and lived abroad in the past, I had never been outside of Europe before now and to say we felt as if we'd landed on Mars (and I mean that in the best possible way) would be an understatement. Chaotic and romantic in equal measures, this country is absolutely beautiful, despite the incredible poverty that would shock even the most seasoned individual. The people are friendly, the food mouthwatering, the atmosphere invigorating and I loved every minute of it. Without sounding hackneyed, I genuinely feel enriched (and slightly shell-shocked) by the last few weeks we've spent there.......for now, let me just share a few book pictures with you ..

Happily our book choices seemed to be right on the money. The bf read Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts; a swashbuckling (and apparently fairly corny) true story of an Australian fugitive living in Mumbai, a book I am still trying to wheedle a review out of him for. William Dalrymple's personal love affair with the ancient city of Delhi also added an extra layer of significance and romance to our stay and, although I was initially daunted by the size and subject matter of Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance, this masterfully accurate and heartwarming portrayal of four individuals struggling to get by in Mumbai has ensured that I can maintain my spaced-out, captivated state of mind for just a little bit longer...

8 September 2011

La Llorona

After reading this wonderful article in The Paris Review a few days ago I decided to devote this weeks' post to the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo; a woman whose inspirational life and artwork I rightly devoted an entire year to studying at University.

I have racked my brains to try and remember when I first discovered Frida and am proud to say that, unlike certain 'Fridamaniacs' who obsess over her chronic health problems, I discovered the art first and the personality afterwards, something I would hope that the artist herself would be pleased about.

Bold, quirky and unconventional, Kahlo's paintings have a distinctively revolutionary air. As a teenager I was attracted not only to their unnerving subject matter but also to the handsome, moustachioed woman at their center. As I gradually began to discover Kahlo and the work of her husband, Diego Rivera, the lives I found behind the images were so extraordinary that I fell in love with her work all over again.

During her early twenties, Kahlo was involved in a horrific traffic accident when the bus she was travelling in with a friend crashed into a trolley car. The collision left her close to death with broken bones all over her body (including her spine) and an iron handrail pushed through her uterus. The event understandably altered her life, one that was subsequently spent in a great deal of pain. Knowledge of this harrowing incident opens up entire windows of understanding when studying her artwork; work that is littered with images of death (a hugely popular theme in Mexican Culture) pain and symbols that betray her frustration directed at other areas of her life such as her inability to have children (also due to the accident) and her philandering husband Diego. HOWEVER. Let's stop here. Unlike the Fridamaniacs out there we don't want to become bogged down in the tragic details, something that is so very easy to do.

Ironically the world may never have had the joy of knowing Frida the artist had Frida the invalid never come to exist. An inability to leave her bed for long periods of her life coupled with the necessity to find an outlet for pent up pain and energy gave us the art we know today...although I am much keener to focus on the woman who had a great sense of her heritage and a strong desire to promote ancient Mexican culture as it was crushed underfoot by the great Western superpowers. Having suffered bouts of severe illness myself, Frida Kahlo is an individual whose story I have drawn strength from throughout my life. However, what ultimately inspires me is a woman who, in a mans world, pushed her opinions and her politics to the fore, openly criticising capitalist culture and lamented a world where the individual, and particularly the female, was forced to take a back seat. Battered, bruised and eventually drunk as she was, she is a figure for all to look up to and admire and she can have a seat around my dinner table anytime.

NB: Obviously I won't have mentioned (haha!) that Literary Relish will be taking a break whilst I go away to India for a couple of weeks. I am jabbed up and RARING to go so wish us luck! The boyfriend is taking Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts and I am going for two Indian and one very English book so I have the best of both worlds; i.e. something for discovery and something for a bit of nostalgia. Hip hip hooray!