Have You Ever Had Yourself a Bazinga! Moment?

There is a good chance that you would have heard about Big Bang Theory, and I don’t mean the scientific phenomenon that formed our universe, but the famous American TV series. You probably would have seen it too. 

And if you have, you either loved it or hated it immensely. For some reason, there are only opposites for this one. 

Either way, there is a good chance you might have come across Sheldon Cooper’s classic ‘Bazinga!’

Sheldon Cooper, a genius but socially awkward theoretical physicist, revels in his ability to pull what he calls ‘practical jokes’ on his friends by saying ‘Bazinga!’ after a false statement.

The Bazinga is supposed to be surprising the somewhat confused victim. 

a screenshot of a scene of bazinga from big bang theory
A Bazinga moment from The Big Bang Theory

So why the sudden rant?

On one of the days when my willpower defeated the electromagnetic force of attraction between me and my couch (and Netflix), I stepped out on a glorious summer day with a tote bag with a book in it. 

Today’s the day I will have tea and croissant, sit in a corner, and slowly sip my tea while it turns juice cold while making sure that the superpowers vested in me by the God of Klutz, I don’t spill a single drop on my book. 

I envy infants/ little kids sometimes; they can wear bibs in public without being embarrassed about it. There is glory in being able to spill things and still walk around without a care in the world. 

So here I am, reading away, mainly concentrating on my book, when suddenly I hear a song being played. 

Now, this little joint always plays songs, and for some reason, I end up going there when they are playing The Weeknd’s latest. 

But this time, it’s different. This is not your traditional song. This is a song from a faraway country that my parents call their own. 

I remember it because I have seen them playing it at home. I know all the lyrics. ‘Well, this is a pleasant surprise,’ I mumble and go back to my reading.

Five sentences down, I am distracted again—this time by the server at the cafe singing at the top of his voice. 

Lo and behold! 

It’s the same song. 

Typically, I won’t be surprised, but I am now. This guy speaks an entirely different language, not the one the song is in. He doesn’t know what the words mean, but he doesn’t care. Not a care in the world. 

I feel a sharp pang of jealousy that quickly converts into shame and regret. 

I know what the words are; I know what they mean, hell! I even have all the lyrics memorized, but I wouldn’t dare to sing that in public.

And it’s not because I can’t sing, Mind you, I can; I pride myself in being a slightly better upgrade from your typical bathroom singer. 

I don’t sing because, for some reason, I care about other people and what they would think about me if I did.

They would judge me to be using a language that’s alien to most here. 

They would brand me a freak and look at me with pity or disgust from the corner of their eyes. Speaking to each other in hushed tones about me. 

I’m not too fond of the limelight, definitely not of this kind. So I take the easy way out. 

But that easy way isn’t easy anymore. This random stranger has opened my eyes to a truth I don’t want to see, and it’s a sharp jab to the soul. I am patiently waiting for him to make a mistake with the lyrics, which could be a salve to the ache I am feeling. 

But No! The damned guy knows the lyrics perfectly! I hate him. I am almost tempted to ask him where he learned everything, but I stop myself. 

When I have 50 more pages to finish before this edge-of-the-seat thriller ends, do I really want to spend time on small talk? 

There is no clear answer, but I consider the episode a one-off, myself Bazinga’ed, and move on.

Why Take a Chance?

There is a good chance you have come across either of the following cliches : 

  • No gain without pain
  • Success comes with sacrifice

I think the idea behind these thoughts being so commonplace is that we all tend to see at least some value in them. After all, who wouldn’t describe practicing WWE moves at home on your younger/older sibling as a quality use of their time? 

You have been trained for the off chance that walking down a dark street in some city, if someone pounces at you, you have just the right move to ram their head against that broken leg of that dilapidated cot. 

Granted that the scale is heavily tilted towards the side of pains, what with years of childhood training to perfect the craft and at least a couple of scars to show for it, the day you get to use them – Boy o Boy! What a feeling of pride!

Often the pain may not even be physical but psychological, like wanting to read a Harry Potter book (the fifth one) with your midterm math exams looming over your head. The allure of the secret defense order in this wizarding world is just too much to bear. 

You see yourself robotically reaching out to that thick book tucked (hidden) cozily in your bedside drawer when you had your trig books lying shamelessly on your bed, crying out for a little bit of attention. 

You read Sirius Black’s family history and half heartedly and painfully stow the book away to work out the math of distance between buildings and an onlooker eyeing them with a weird angle. It hurts very much, but you do it regardless because later, when you are all grown up, you will have a job that will pay for all the books you would have earned the right to forever banish trig or calculus books from your personal space.

You make calculated decisions based on Pains (Cost) vs Gains (Benefit) analysis. You make them feel good about yourself. 

Yes, there are occasions when you doubt your choices based on this logic, but then you quickly skim through your introductory Psychology textbook about the benefits of delayed gratification.

What better way to test a kid’s patience than having them drool over marshmallows and pretzel sticks!

Yes, there definitely is some merit to the premise and the conclusion of these studies. That’s what you console yourself with. 

Those people experimenting at Stanford definitely know what they are doing. If they are smart enough to say it’s true, who are you, a mere mortal, to argue?

All is well in your world until one random day, you lay your eyes on this harmless-looking book titled “Three men in a boat,” written by a guy who happens to have the same first and last name. You find it curious. In all your naive glory, you flip over the first page of the book…

And your life is never the same again. In this book, frequently mistaken to be only humorous, you find life lessons that impart to you the wisdom of the sages, the kind that lets you live your life unapologetically, idiotically and (mostly)in (idyllic)peace. There may or may not be gains to be had, but a land without pain seems worth getting citizenship of.

And you are a transformed person!

You don’t set the alarm to wake up in the mornings anymore. You have donated all your trigs and calculus books. You don’t have to hide your Harry Potters in your bedside drawer. You give in to your laziness and stop toasting your bread – what difference does it make anyway? 

You have decided that life from now on is going to be painless. And then, as if by a stroke of luck (or a signal from the force field, if you will), you find this gem:

Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance? – Edgar Bergen

The Lottery by Maria Edgeworth: Summary and Review

Did you know they had lotteries back in the 1800s? I didn’t. 

So I was intrigued when I laid my eyes on The Lottery, written by Maria Edgeworth. 

And thus began my 48-page journey into the exploration of lottery and its perception amongst the masses – then and now.

The Lottery by Maria Edgeworth: Summary and Plot Analysis

The story revolves around a diligent working-class family, a man named Maurice, his dedicated and empathetic wife Elleen, and their young kid George. Maurice’s aunt, an older woman named Mrs. Dolly, comes down to live with them. They are on about living their life, mostly in peace, somewhat peppered by Mrs. Dolly’s harmless tantrums until one day, the discussion is directed to the subject of lotteries.

Mrs. Dolly is vehemently in favor of buying lotteries; after all, what’s there to lose? Seeing that this argument doesn’t seem to sway Maurice much, she appeals to his love for the kid and the hope of making a better life for him.

Surely, a man should try his luck, if not for his own, at least for his children’s sake!

Mr. Deane, a friend of Maurice, whom Mrs. Dolly isn’t particularly fond of, vehemently opposed lotteries. The dangers were too grave for an individual and his family’s present and the future.

If a man set his heart upon the turning of the lottery wheel, he would leave off putting his hand to anything the whole year around, grow idle, and may be drunken, then at the year’s end, if he have a blank, what is he to do for his rent, and for his wife and children, that have nothing to depend upon but him and his industry

Being the trusted friend that Mr. Deane was, the family decides not to entertain the idea of lotteries any more. Mrs. Dolly takes to another one of her tantrums to express her disapproval of the family decision.

She was so low that even her accustomed dose of brandy, in her tea, had no effect.

maria edgeworth the lottery book cover
The Lottery

Maurice finally succumbed and purchased the lottery ticket to appease Mrs. Dolly. Lo and Behold! Their ticket did win a handsome prize of five thousand dollars. Mrs. Dolly was over the moon hearing the news and immediately started thinking of their plans. New house, new coach, anything that would make them sophisticated. She advises Maurice not to work, as it would not reflect well on a family as wealthy as theirs to be working to make money.

Maurice obliged but found himself with nothing to do. He wasn’t accustomed to living his days doing nothing.

He gaped and gaped, and lounged about every morning and looked a hundred times at his new watch, and put it to his ear to listen whether it was going, the time seemed to him to pass so slowly.

The family, mainly Maurice and Mrs. Dolly, got accustomed to this new life; while the former spent a lot of his time outside the home, the latter indulged even more in her alcoholic pursuits.

Brandy and peppermint, taken together, was an infallible remedy for all complaints, low spirits included.

One night, Maurice, who looked utterly disturbed and tormented, confided in his wife that he had lost all of their fortunes on the gaming table. His wife Elleen, although wholly saddened by the news, continued to stay by his side, consoling and comforting him. They get similar information from Mrs. Dolly, who seems to have squandered her wealth with all her drinking. Not soon after, she has a terrible accident, resulting in a broken leg and a fractured skull, and later succumbs to the injuries.

With the help of an acquaintance and Mr. Dean, the family soon finds a way to live their honest, diligent life again, swearing never to let the lottery sway them. Nothing is more important than good character and the importance of a loving and supporting family.

A good character and domestic happiness, which can not be won in any lottery, are worth more than the five thousand or even the ten thousand pound prize, let any Mrs Dolly in Christendom say what she will, to the contrary.

The Lottery: Review and My Thoughts

Yea, I hear you. None of this is news. It wasn’t news to me either. But isn’t it curious to see how we as humans did not change in two centuries? 

We apparently, brought and squandered lottery wins then, and surprise, surprise! We continue to pride ourselves in doing that now. I was surprised the other day when I read the article on the proportion of lottery winners that end up bankrupt. 

MIND BLOWN.

From the way Edgeworth introduced Mrs. Dolly’s character, you could sense she was a ticking time bomb. Her take on no good ‘bookish’ laddies was hilarious. 

She had seen a deal of life, she said, and never saw no good come of bookish bodies; and she was sorry to see that her own darling George, was taking to the bookish line, and that his mother encouraged him in it.

Believe in the spin of the wheels and stay away from books to live the ‘good life’ – the advice has ‘wisdom’ written all over it.

All jokes aside, what stood out the most to me was this little nugget, which resonated with me, bringing back memories of my mother’s advice all those years ago.

Suffering for folly does nobody any good unless it makes them wiser in the future.

Odds are in favor of that one. 

Wanna bet?

Do you take a break from doing ‘Nothing’? I do!

Every now and then, I indulge my mind’s whims. Let it run wild.

Not that you don’t know it already if you are a working individual, but Monday blues are the worst! Unless you are one of the unicorns that love the work they do, in which case, I hate you.

But this is about me and not you, so I will focus on the topic – which was – yes, Monday blues! 

My only effective way to cope with it is to dedicate Monday evenings to mindless movie watching. These movies are carefully chosen for me to ‘relax.’ I don’t like to be inspired on Mondays; that job is better done on Fridays. 

These movies are carefully chosen to use minimal brainpower; they are supposed to make me feel good or feel nothing. They can’t be too interesting, lest it makes me go into a wondering spree; they can’t be too dull. I have to be able to sit through them.

So one of those Mondays, I happened to watch a movie about a guy who was a millionaire, trying to lure/trick single moms into dating him. Women, drawn to his charming personality, would mostly love hanging around this guy, but those ‘romances’ were almost always cut short the moment the conversation drifted to the man’s occupation.

Here is a paraphrased version of the conversation for you

Woman: So what are you doing these days?
Man: I am on a break.
Woman: A break from what?
Man: Break from a break.
Woman (confused): So you have never worked in your life?
Man : Yea, something like that.

screenshot of a scene from the movie 'about a boy' showing hugh grant and rachel weisz
A scene from the movie About a Boy

Now, this single mom is from a working-class family; she finds it repulsive for a respectable man to do nothing but live off royalties. The fact that he is a millionaire does not mean anything to her. This apparent ‘relationship’ gets nipped in the bud.

I am writing about a movie I watched on a Monday, which made me break a pact I made with myself – never to watch movies that make you wonder. 

And yet, wonder I did, for days after. And I still do.

The guy lives the lavish life, doing nothing. Absolutely nothing. 

How incredible is that! 

I even thought of a whole movie starring me doing nothing. Well, I won’t be as useless as him, I guess. I like to read, the most random things I can find. I will probably make more constructive use of my time to perfect the art of using chopsticks. I may even add ten more words of French to my vocabulary. How about that! 

I may hire an assistant to manage my calendar, but seeing that there is nothing to handle, maybe she/he will quit of her own accord, or I will dramatically fire them. 

Maybe I will get one of those cool beach houses they keep rubbing into my face in that sitcom I watch on non-Monday weekdays. 

Perhaps I will call TV a telly to confuse my friends. 

Maybe I will hire that angry chef to be my butler.

What else would I do? Let me think.

I seem to be drawing a blank now. I have dreamed of this day to be doing nothing all my life, but now that it is here, I am not sure if I like it as much as I thought I would.

Without the fear of money running out, what will motivate me to get out of bed to be or do something?

What will I do with 10 hours of idle time every weekday? I know chopsticks are hard, but they are not hard enough to need 51052*40 hours of my life. Who would have thought doing nothing could be that hard?

Leslie Nelson apparently, when she said:

“Doing nothing is very hard to do. You never know when you’re finished.”

Who am I to disagree with Leslie Nelson?

Shit , Shit, Shittttt!!!!!

You probably imagine something went (horribly) wrong when I say this. It’s only natural to use expletives to let the frustration out. Isn’t it? 

And you would be right in drawing that conclusion. 99% of the time. Just not this once.

Fast forward, or rewind if you please, to the scene in the movie Aviator, where Leonardo DiCaprio, playing Howard Hughes, seems to be stuck at the phrase, ”Show me the blueprints,” repeating it umpteen times to the confusion and then horror of his colleague. 

Hughes doesn’t seem to notice anything off. He doesn’t realize he is doing that.

Now, why the sudden rant about this? The reason being that I recently watched a standup special on Netflix, where I suddenly felt myself paying attention to what the guy had to say, which for the past half hour I had no success doing. (Watching Netflix is a better use of time than chewing up your nails dry). 

So the guy was talking about the sudden urges he has to randomly say things (primarily expletives) without realizing that he was doing so. He would only come to know when his well-meaning wife reminded him not to do that.

It’s funny, the topics you can relate to strangers on, I am not particularly a fan of this guy’s work, and here I am hooked on to what he has to say. 

Why? 

Because he makes me realize that I have been doing that my whole life, mostly in showers randomly saying Shit or F%$& or range of other colorful expletives. For no damn reason, apparently. 

Now, why would I do that? The mystery is too much to bear. 

So naturally, I do a little experiment on myself.

So for the next week, I consciously made an effort to note down what I thought when I did my random shower shout. The results were interesting. Not to bog you down with details much, but let’s just say, every time I did something like that, I was thinking of an embarrassing incident or mistake from the past. 

And some of these incidents were more than two decades old!

Now, this was a fascinating revelation to me for two reasons. 

One – I didn’t expect my memory to be that sharp, like ever! Where was this frickin memory when I was sitting holed up in the library wasting away years of the ’good life, trying to memorize those horrible equations and formulae, only to forget them conveniently right before it mattered?

Two – I never thought I could care about such incidents this much to be expressing my frustration after a 20-year time lag on random shower days without even knowing. Maybe I just assumed I was over them, but I never was. 

So obviously, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t the only one doing this.

For starters, I knew that that comedian did the same thing as me, but the fact that he is a professional comedian didn’t make for a good salve. 

Was I taking life advice from a comedian? For real? 

I must get professional here. 

Next step: a survey of my besties. Misery loves company, I gotta find me some more of it. 

Funnily enough, one confident soul came forth. His thing was that he would randomly blurt out one-liners and catchprases from movies, like ‘Aye, Aye, sir’, ‘Fire away,’.

And, unlike me, he would do that even when in public. He would realize he did it as soon as the words came out of his mouth, feeling embarrassed for himself and piquing the curiosity of or sometimes scaring some fine pedestrians in the process.

I laughed when he told me that; I felt a great sense of belonging—belonging to a group of random shouters and proud of it. 

We are all humans, all unique yet so similar. The feeling is humbling and exhilarating at the same time.

John Donne wasn’t wrong when he said, ‘No man is an island.’ 

So let’s maybe not try to be one?

Are you watching closely?

I call myself a Nolan fan, mostly of his earlier works (to be clear, I fully comprehend what went down in Interstellar and Tenet. wink, wink). The Prestige happens to be my favorite Christopher Nolan movie of all time. I must have seen it more than five times. And given how obsessed I am with it, that number will not be static.

So why the sudden rant about The Prestige?

There are many things I love about the movie, the passionate characters dedicated to their craft and their willingness to go to any levels necessary, the not-so-friendly competition between the magicians, the beautiful women that don’t shy away from holding a mirror to their men, the visionaries, the acolytes – you name it. 

But something from the movie that trumps them all in my little universe is the question, “Are you watching closely?”

Alfred Borden (played by Christian Bale) during the famous scene in The Prestige

Borden would say that multiple times in the movie, enthralling the audience with his majestic magic tricks. The guy is cheeky enough to challenge his crowd into watching him closely, daring them to expose the flaw in his tricks.

He would not shy away from putting his happiness and even his life on the line for the love of the craft that he held so dear. 

Why does the fear of being exposed not threaten him? What infuses in him the bravery of the daredevil? Is it mastery of the craft? Is the attraction of the spotlight much too intriguing?

I have never found an answer that I could find satisfying enough for more than two days. 

Are you watching closely?

Like in the movie, this question works on so many levels.

Say I was watching closely, closely enough to have been able to find a flaw in his tricks? Where would that have got me? 

Maybe on that path of obsession to be looking for flaws in every magic trick from there on? And why just magic? Maybe that spilled over to every other area of my life? 

What if I watched every ‘good relationship’ closely enough to see the cracks in it? Maybe I started dissecting every argument I see being made so that I could see where all it had been patched to create the illusion of the truth? Perhaps I would even doubt the perfect relationship between a Mr. Fox and a Ms. Kelly from You’ve Got Mail

Mr. Fox and Ms. Kelly in You’ve Got Mail

After all, Mr. Fox only went back to see her on their blind date because she was pretty, did he not?

I wonder if watching everything closely would turn me into a disbeliever,a cynic? And do I want to be that?

I do want to see things for what they are. I do! But to what extent do I go? Where do I stop? At what point do I become a Hypocrite if I choose to close my eyes to the truth? And would happiness/contentment elude me if I do?

The real Richard Winters (left) and Damian Lewis, who plays the character of Richard Winters in Band of Brothers

I love Richard Winters from the Band of Brothers and Sean Connery in The Hunt for Red October (who doesn’t?), but I made it a point never to research them enough to get to a point where I could find a fly in that love ointment. I am not oblivious to the dangers of doing this. 

This logic (if you could even call it that) has a lot of flaws. I have researched enough about Ostrich burying their heads to make their problems disappear. Surprise, Surprise! That isn’t true either, but it is a Roman myth.

So if Alfred Borden were ever to ask me, “Are you watching closely?” he would have a question coming right back at him “Do I want to?”

Ladies by Anton Chekhov: Summary and Review

Let’s consider the following two statements:

I’m surprised I didn’t think of it sooner! Listen, here’s what I can offer you.. Next week the clerk at our orphanage is going to retire.If you like, you can take his post! There you are!

I have no post for you! None, none! Leave me alone! Don’t torment me! Let me be, finally, do me a favor!

If I tell you that the same person said both of these things to the same person, what would your impression be of that person? 

Would you consider them bipolar, or would you give them the benefit of the doubt? 

I hope you chose the latter because the events that transpired between Scenario 1 and Scenario 2 are a fun ride!

These scenarios are from Chekhov’s short story Ladies is a comical take on the issues of nepotism and corruption in the Russian society. One of his earlier works, published way back in 1886, is also available as part of a short story collection called Fifty Two Stories published by Alfred A Knopf, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

Ladies: Summary and Plot Analysis

Fyodor Petrovich is a director of public education in a Russian province. He considers himself a fair and generous man. The story opens in his office, where he meets a teacher, Mr. Vremensky. 

Vremensky, having recently lost his normal voice after a comic mishap, is considered unfit to discharge his educational duties and is being dismissed.

With such a voice, you can not go on working as a teacher. How did you lose it?

I was sweaty and drank a cold beer.

The teacher, who has a family to support, is distraught at the dismissal, and the director seems restless about leaving a man such as him to fend for himself after 14 years of service. The director suddenly has an epiphany and, realizing that a clerk in the orphanage was retiring, offers Vremensky his job. 

I’m surprised I didn’t think of it sooner! Listen, here’s what I can offer you.. Next week the clerk at our orphanage is going to retire. If you like, you can take his post! There you are!

The director feels good about himself, having done such a noble deed. 

His happiness, however, doesn’t last long when later at the dinner table, his wife asks for a favor for one of her acquaintances- happens to be for the same job that he previously offered Vremensky to a chap named Polzhukin. He tries to resist, but his wife is adamant that Polzhukin be given that job.

And you know my rule: I never make appointments through connections.

That fop? Not for anything!

Why not?

You see, my dear, if a young man doesn’t act directly, but through women, it means he’s trash! Why doesn’t he come to me himself?

It’s not for the salary, but just… After all, it’s government service.

Later the same evening, he realizes that he had received a letter from the mayor’s wife recommending the same guy, K.N.Polzhukin. After that, not a day passes when he doesn’t receive one recommending him. 

On one occasion, Polzhukin presented himself directly to the director. The director, visibly disinterested, is quick to express his dissatisfaction with how the solicitation has gone so far.

Listen, why is it you didn’t turn directly to me but found it necessary to trouble the ladies first?

Fyodor doesn’t understand why Polzhukin, a man hailing from a well-to-do family, would be interested in a clerical job. Polzhukin clarifies that it is not the money he was after but the government position. He finally produces a document that the director has no power to veto; he has no option now, but to give him the job.

He took a paper from his pocket and handed it to the director. Beneath the attestation, written in bureaucratic style and script, was the signature of the Governor. Everything suggested that the Governor had signed it without reading it, just to get rid of some importunate lady.

Unhappy about having to do that, Fyodor also has to rescind the offer for the same job that he had extended earlier to Vremensky. Unable to find the right words and tone to deliver the news, completely overwhelmed, he explodes on the very man his sympathies were supposed to be directed towards.

I have no post for you! None, none! Leave me alone! Don’t torment me! Let me be, finally, do me a favor!

Ladies: Review and My Thoughts

Fyodor started off as a strong, principled man who took pride in doing the right thing. He was obviously pained by Vremesnky’s calamitous situation, revealing that he has his heart at the right place. 

As soon as he had the conversation with his wife about the position, things started to change, followed by numerous other referrals for the same person, putting him on edge. These people were providing unsolicited referrals for someone that was already well-to-do. 

He does not like Polzhukin one bit, mainly because he has women doing his bidding. He also feels that with the comfortable financial standing that he is in, he doesn’t need the job as much as a relatively poorer Vremensky. 

All through this reader still has the impression that the guy is not going to break. But as soon as he sees the letter signed by the Governor, he gives up. 

The same man had remarked that he would never make appointments through connections. Now in Fyodor’s mind, it could have been a woman that could have prompted the Governor’s signature prompted by a woman’s persistent pestering, but how does that justify Fyodor or the Governor making the wrong call?

John Amaechi once said -’ You can not be a part-time man of principle’. 

Fyodor better sit up and take notice.

Before the Wedding by Anton Chekhov: Summary and Review

Unmarried girls are crazy to get married, but they are the only ones, because it is no good at all. I’m married, I should know. Give it time; you’ll see for yourself.

If you are interested in reading plenty of (good) advice like the one above, you should pick up Anton Chekhov’s short story called Before the Wedding. The story was first published in October 1880 in Dragonfly magazine. It is now available as part of a short story collection called Prank published by The New York Review books translated by Maria Bloshteyn.

Before the Wedding: Summary and Plot Analysis

The story opens with the marriage of Podzarylkins’s daughter to a collegiate assessor named Nazariev. Contrary to expectations around such a ceremony, the betrothal went without a hitch. The Podzarylkins’s daughter is entirely unremarkable, considers good spelling as the best intelligence one could have, and loves tall men and the name “Roland.” 

The Podzatylkins’daughter is remarkable by the virtue of being completely unremarkable. Since no one has ever seen any evidence of her intellect, let’s not talk about it.

Nazariev, on the other hand, fancies himself as a real ladies’ man, talks loudly, and doesn’t shy from recommending literature reading to almost every woman he meets. He does not make much money, barely enough to cover his tobacco expenses.

The match looks doomed from the get go.

After the wedding, the daughter was called on to visit her mother. Her mother has some advice to give to her daughter. She starts with calling her husband names and ends with the same, sprinkling random words of caution about her son-in-law in between. 

The mother doesn’t seem enthusiastic about her own marriage and advises the daughter to advise caution against her husband and father. In the mother’s mind, nothing good seems to ever come out of a marriage. She also feels offended by her daughter’s complete lack of moroseness on the occasion of the betrothal. 

How bad would it look to the community- a child not crying! As if the daughter never loved her parents in the first place and is happy to leave them

Yesterday that ugly balding nitwit – your father, I mean -decided to play the joker. He handed me a shot glass. I thought it was wine, but it was vinegar and herring oil instead.

You didn’t weep once; what’s there to be so happy about? Everyone must have thought that you are happy to be leaving your parents. That’s how it looks.

A husband is never going to give you sound or sensible advice. He’s just going to do whatever suits him best. Don’t listen to your father either.

I hope he swells up till he can’t move!

The daughter left to see her father soon after. There was plenty of advice to be had there as well. A little more laid back than the mother, the father began with a lot of praise for Nazariev. 

He then mentioned the vast amount of dowry he had to give him for the marriage, then warned about husbands never having their best interests in mind and finally closing with how untrustworthy his wife and any mother-in-law in the world was.

Hear your mother out, sweetie, but be careful. She’s nice enough but no less of a double-dealing, flighty, namby-pambyish unbeliever for all that. Her advice can’t compare to that of your father, the very author of your being.

What does your husband love? Your personality? Your kindness? Your tender feelings? None of that! He loves your dowry.

Husbands don’t take to their mothers-in-law. I detested mine so much I put burnt cork in her coffee.

A father comes first – always! Don’t listen to anyone else.

Nazariev comes to meet his betrothed soon after. He begins with how much he had missed her and then goes on with a lengthy rant about her parents having duped him by not offering the amount of dowry as promised initially. 

Also, that her father had not disclosed his correct rank before the betrothal, he is adamant to bring her parents to heel.

That was before the wedding. You don’t need to be a prophet to figure out what happens after.

Before the Wedding: Review and My Thoughts

What’s fun about this story is its relevance to our times. It doesn’t seem like much has changed about the perception of mothers-in-law over the last century and a half. 

The mother hates the father, and the father doesn’t seem to respect the mother. The husband seems to care only about the money and the wife is almost clueless. 

What was consistent in the message was that her parents, who were at loggerheads with each other, lacked trust in the institution of marriage. Both the parents caution her about trusting her husband too much. No one would love her the way they would. After all, parents love their kid for who they were, unlike the husband, who was in it for his own personal gain – dowry in their case. 

Of course, the main thing he had on for the discussion when the husband came was how he had been duped on the dowry.

Chekhov’s message for you here – married or not – Proceed with caution.

A Little Joke by Anton Chekhov: Summary and Analysis

This is the time of the year when love is everywhere, absolutely everywhere! 

You just can’t miss the red roses, the greeting cards lining up the aisles everywhere you go. You might also be getting those subtle hints from your partner, your love interest, in anticipation of the gifts they are expecting, come the 14th of February! 

What if they say that you will be given a joke instead – a joke that will stay with you the rest of your life.

A Little Joke by Anton Chekhov is not your typical love story. The story is one of his earlier works, published back in 1886. It is also available as part of a short story collection called Fifty Two Stories published by Alfred A Knopf, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

A Little Joke: Summary and Plot Analysis

The story opens with an unnamed young man and a young woman named Nadezhda Petrovna on a bright winter noon. The unnamed man, who is also the narrator of the story, tries to persuade the woman to slide down the mountain with him. The woman is petrified at the prospect and disagrees, but after multiple requests from the man, agrees to do so.

As they sled and are mid-air, the man whispers, ‘I love you Nadya’. They finally sled to the bottom and come to a halt. Nadya is completely harrowed from such a scary experience and vows never to do it again.

I wouldn’t do that again for anything. Not for anything in the world! I nearly died!

It’s not long after she starts wondering if he had said anything of the sort. She looked at the man’s face for clues that might reveal more, but there was nothing to be found. She wondered if nothing was said, and she imagined it all. 

The riddle obviously troubles her. Were those words spoken or not? Yes or no? Yes or no? It’s a question of pride, honor, life and happiness.

She is visibly disturbed by her cluelessness on the matter. The man offers to take her home. She declines. Determined to find out the truth for herself, against her better judgment, she asks the narrator if they could sled again.

I… I like sledding. Can we do it one more time?

They sled again, and the same thing is repeated. She is in agony and wants to know the truth. It still evades her. They retire for the day. Nadya leaves a note for the narrator that if he goes sledding, she would like to tag along.

If you go sliding down the hill for me, will you take me along?

They go sledding again, and the same incident is repeated. Nadya doesn’t have a clue if those words are actually being said or she has been imagining it all. But that doesn’t matter to her anymore.

She soon gets used to the phrase, as to wine or morphine. She can’t live without it. True, to go flying down the hill is as frightening as before, but now fear and danger lend a special allure to the words of love, words that constitute as much of a riddle as before and torment her soul.

Winter fades away, and Nadya is visibly sad now since neither the wind nor the narrator will be around to say those magical words to her, the latter on account of his long-term move to Petersburg. 

Years pass by, and the narrator reveals that Nadya is now married with children, and he is still not sure why he chose to joke with her.

As for me, now that I am older, I no longer understand why I said those words, why I was joking…

The readers are left wondering if it was actually a joke.

A Little Joke: Review and My Thoughts

If you ask me, I would call it a load of bollocks. No way! It could not have been a joke. But that is the die-hard romantic in me having a knee-jerk reaction.

Note to self: Calm down, tiger! Let’s try to be as logical as we can be.

The guy observes Nadya closely and is able to see the whole spectrum of emotions on her face. 

Strike one.

He knows what to say to make her feel happy when seeing her in pain. 

Strike two.

After years apart, he still thinks about her and their time together when they were young, eons ago. There you have it.

Strike three.

But the funny thing is being right about this (in my head) doesn’t make me happy. There is a lot of pain and regret about leaving things unsaid. The dark clouds of what – if is not something I would want hovering over my head for the rest of my life.

Would you?

Moral of the story: use your words. Enunciate. Life is loads of fun that way.

Grisha by Anton Chekhov: Summary and Review

Chekhov’s short story Grisha explores the innocent and colorful world of a toddler. The heartwarming story is one of his earlier works, published in 1886.

It is also available as part of a short story collection called Fifty Two stories published by Alfred A Knopf, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky.

Grisha: Summary and Plot Analysis

The story is a day in the life of a two-years-eight-month old boy named Grisha, living in a family with mama, papa, and nanny. Nanny has taken Grisha into a park on a sunny day. 

His whole clumsy figure, stepping timidly and uncertainly, expresses the utmost perplexity.

The park is very different from anything he is used to, living in a small room, every corner of which he is aware. His perception of everything is so primitive and adorable.

In this new world( the park), where the sun dazzles his eyes, there are so many papas, mammas and aunts that you do not know who to run to.

The toddler notices all sorts of people in the park and is increasingly perplexed. When not doing that, he is copying what he can. When he sees two dogs running in the park, it is only natural that he does that too. A tall man wearing a coat with shiny buttons soon comes up to greet his nanny. There is so much stimulation in this new surrounding that Grisha starts laughing.

Soon after, the man with the shiny buttons and the nanny visits someone who has food and drinks ready. Grisha also gets to eat a little pie and drink a tiny sip. They return home, and Grisha tells his mama everything in the indecipherable babble language. 

He had trouble sleeping as all the experiences of the day were too much for him to bear. He begins crying.

Grisha: Review and My Thoughts

The story is fantastic! One of the best portrayals of a toddler’s world I have read in a long, long time. It’s just not possible to go through this story without your heart being warmed, your soul being hugged. The innocent take of a toddler is such a breath of fresh air.

Grisha’s family only has a pet cat, so look how he describes a dog-

Two big cats with long muzzles, tongues hanging out and tails sticking up, run across the boulevard.

Now tell me that it doesn’t melt your heart!

Look how observant the kid is:

Mama looks like a doll, and cat-like Papa’s fur coat, only the fur coat has no eyes or tail.

Not to say, wise beyond his years (wink, wink)

The nanny and mama are understandable: they dress Grisha, they feed him, and put him to bed, but what Papa exists for – nobody knows.

In the evening, he simply can not fall asleep. Soldiers with besoms, big cats, horses, a piece of glass, a basin or oranges, the shiny buttons – it all gathers in a heap and presses down on his brain. It tosses from side to side, babbles, and finally, unable to bear his agitation, he starts to cry.

So, that is the reason, people! You have heard it straight from the horse’s mouth. Less stimulation equates to a peaceful night’s sleep.

On so many occasions when I have spent time reading in a park, my attention inadvertently goes to the toddlers, some of them visibly confused upon seeing so many adults. Many of them run towards their neighbors, calling them Papa and Mama while their actual parents are standing right next to them; poor things have no clue. 

Inevitably everyone around the kid breaks into laughter – the kid, his parents, and the neighbors. It’s just an incredible feeling to witness that. Kids’ laughter is infectious and, more often than not, is entirely involuntary. 

I know that I was that Grisha too, what seems like ages ago now, and sometimes I wish I never stopped being one. He is the happiest teacher in the world.

But you know that already! Because you were one too 😛