Unfortunately I didn’t get it. I was looking forward to reading it especially since Sally Rooney is a Marxist. I’ve enjoyed Alexandra Kollontai’s LoveUnfortunately I didn’t get it. I was looking forward to reading it especially since Sally Rooney is a Marxist. I’ve enjoyed Alexandra Kollontai’s Love of Worker Bees, another Marxist novel of love, relationships and gender. Sure, in Rooney’s novel, the protagonists belong to different social classes and there’s all the frustrating stereotypes about gender that make dating and love so much harder. There’s also the universal angst that surrounds love and relationships that most readers will relate to, but truly, what did I miss? It was an easy read but maybe I didn’t quite enjoy her style? I think you should try it and please let me know what’s the Marxist? or any take that I am missing from the novel....more
Several academics, poets, and activists - Varavara Rao, Hany Babu, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj (since given bail), Stan Swamy (who passed away) GauSeveral academics, poets, and activists - Varavara Rao, Hany Babu, Arun Ferreira, Sudha Bharadwaj (since given bail), Stan Swamy (who passed away) Gautam Navlakha, Anand Teltumbde, G. N. Saibaba - are/were languishing in Indian prisons simply because they raised their voices against injustice. The Indian state has wrongfully charged them under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (an anti-terror law) and alleged that they were linked to banned Maoist organizations. Most of these activists have spoken against Dalit and Muslim oppression under state violence. That's pretty much their crime.
Why do You Fear My Way so Much? is a collection of poems and letters from one such activist, Dr. G.N. Saibaba, a professor of English at Ram Lal Anand College in Delhi University. G.N.Saibaba is a person with 90% disabilities and is wheelchair-bound. He was arrested under the UAPA in 2014. In 2017, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for alleged links to a banned Maoist organization, which Saibaba has denied. An activist from his student days, he became the target of the state when he played a major role in the campaign against Operation Green Hunt, the paramilitary offensive against Adivasi people. In 2021, Ram Lal Anand College terminated Dr. G.N. Saibaba's services.
In Why do You Fear My Way so Much?, we read letters and poems written by Dr. G.N. Saibaba as well as a few letters that his wife writes to him. He is not allowed to write letters in Telugu from the prison, his mother tongue. Even worse, he has been denied the medical care that he needs, even during the pandemic. The poems tell us about the dire state under which Dr. G.N. Saibaba has been detained by the Indian state and the resilience and hope he harbors in spite of it all. Here are some of my favorite ones:
The True Prison
It's not the high walls nor the solitary cell.
It's not the clanks of keys nor the sounds of surveillance.
It's not the monotonous food nor the cruel hours of lock-up.
It's not the pain and suffering in isolation nor the fear of death.
Neither the emptiness of days nor the blankness of the nights
My friend, it's the lies that spread on the high tables of justice.
It's not the canards thrown at me by the enemy of the people, nor the intrigues of criminal jurisprudence, nor the demagoguery of the political establishment.
My friend, it's the silence of voices against injustice done to the vast multitudes.
Some silence is imposed, rest is self-imposed. Some censorship is ordered rest is self-practiced. It's this web that is cast around us.
It's not the fear for the powers-that-be, but it's the fear in the voices to give voice to the voiceless.
It's the moral decrepitude. It's the hubris of a civilization. It's the amnesia of our combined histories in struggles for a free society.
Dear friend, it's it that turns our world into a true, dreary prison.
If you needed any reason to get this book and read it, this poem is the justification you needed.
Here's a small excerpt from another poem, Mother, Weep Not for Me which demonstrates his resilience.
Mother, fear not for my freedom.
Tell the world, my freedom lost is freedom gained for the multitudes as everyone who comes to stand with me takes the cause of the wretched of the earth wherein lies my freedom. [post script: Mother, I hope someone translates this letter in Telugu for you. Mother, pardon me for writing this in a foreign language that you don't understand. What can I do? I am not allowed to write in the sweet language you taught me in my infancy in your lap. - Your child, with love.]
I refuse to Die
When I defied death again, tired of my life, my captors released me.
I walked out into the lush green valleys under the rising sun smiling at the tossing blades of grass.
Infuriated by my undying smile, they captured me again.
I still stubbornly refuse to die. The sad thing is that they don't know how to kill me,
because I love so much the sounds of the growing grass.
Reading this book, one gets a glimpse into Dr. G.N. Saibaba's politics that speaks of injustice against Dalits, Adivasis, Muslims, Palestinians, and Yemeni people. His compassion even extends to the prison guard who surveils him. It is perhaps one of my most favorite poems from this collection, only because its expansiveness is challenging for me personally.
Ode to a Prison Guard
He smiles, he laughs through the bars to shake me up from my early morning dreams with a hug of a good morning clanking a huge bunch of keys into the cage of my life sentence.
A dark blue Nehru topi on the scalp, brutal khaki robes from top to bottom girded with a snake-like black belt around the waist, he stands and sways in front of my sleepy half-opened eyes like a devil guarding the gates of hell.
He appears like an apparition from an enemy's army but with a warm smile and friendly face, checking if one were alive or dead as the day breaks, counting each live head.
He opens and closes the locks of the iron gates a thousand times a day without expressing pain or complaint.
He demands no tips or favors for his untiring services. He calls the unattending doctor repeatedly on his wireless set patiently when I am sick and unconscious.
he hids his own sad stories lending his patient and compassionate ear to the voices of the chained melancholic souls never bothering for their crime or innocence.
He listens, debates, and damns the evil forces in power with scorn and a frown on his brow when the bosses are away into their offices.
he stomps on the dark steps of the devilish states all night long with his eagle eyes of surveillance.
he comes from the deepest well of our social misery. he has no time for his beloved ones languishing outside the gates. Imprisoned by his duties day and night behind the high four walls and closed gates, he spans away a lifetime in prison for a pittance. The cursed souls come and go, but he is a permanent prisoner, he has no holidays or holy days and weekends.
he is a nun, a nurse, and a priest, a pious perseverer of patience.
A tireless slave sticking everlastingly to the bars of my cage, he is a friend, a cousin, and a comrade. He is the guard, and the guardian of my life's sentence, phrases, words and syllables.
Highly recommend this book to free ourselves from the prison of silence that's being cultivated in India....more
I think this is one of those books to which my response may keep changing over time. I am not exactly sure what I feel about the overall point that FrI think this is one of those books to which my response may keep changing over time. I am not exactly sure what I feel about the overall point that Frankl makes in this book. The first part of the book is a long essay about Victor E. Frankl's experiences in the concentration camp. As other reviewers have mentioned, for the horror and the fear that he went through, the tone of this section is deceptively objective, which is kind of the point he makes in the second half.
The second half is an introduction to logotherapy, which he contrasts many times with Freudian methods of psychotherapy. In some ways, he demonstrates impatience with the retrospective nature of psychoanalysis without a way forward, which he hopes logotherapy offers. To Frankl, in logotherapy, "typical self-centeredness of the neurotic is broken up instead of being continually fostered and reinforced." I relate to this critique of psychoanalysis and wonder about these issues even in the context of identity-based social movements (but that's for another time).
Logotherapy is meaning-centered psychotherapy. Based on his own personal experience and from observing others in the concentration camp, he says that those who can find meaning in their suffering are those who will be relieved from despair. It is not suffering that is the issue, it is the absence of meaning.
For someone who has experienced the horror of a concentration camp, Frankl is no stranger to despair. But read this :
To draw an analogy: a man's suffering is similar to the behavior of gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber com- pletely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the "size" of human suffering is absolutely relative.
A holocaust survivor saying "suffering is relative." He doesn't undermine the suffering in the concentration camp. As a reader living in a time when such empathy for other people's suffering is often not offered even in social justice spaces, this felt strange and comforting at the same time.
But his main point was even more uncomfortable and I am still not sure what I feel about it.
An active life serves the purpose of giving man the opportunity to realize values in creative work, while a passive life of enjoyment affords him the opportunity to obtain fulfillment in experiencing beauty, art, or nature. But there is also purpose in that life which is almost barren of both creation and enjoyment and which admits of but one possibility of high moral behavior: namely, in man's attitude to his existence, an existence restricted by external forces. A creative life and a life of enjoyment are banned to him. But not only creativeness and enjoyment are meaningful. If there is a meaning in life at all, then there must be a meaning in suffering. Suffering is an ineradicable part of life, even as fate and death. Without suffering and death, human life cannot be complete.
The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity - even under the most difficult circumstances - to add a deeper meaning to his life. It may remain brave, dignified and unselfish. Or in the bitter fight for self-preservation, he may forget his human dignity and become no more than an animal. Here lies the chance for a man either to make use of or to forgo the opportunities of attaining the moral values that a difficult situation may afford him. And this decides whether he is worthy of his sufferings or not.
Why does this make me uncomfortable?
There are many lenses that illuminate my own living. Optimism, or as revolutionaries argue, revolutionary optimism, I believe, is how the world changes. Nothing happens automatically. When powerless people come together and transform the world, it changes for everyone. That's what keeps me going. In that sense, seeking meaning in the suffering felt passive and accepting of injustice. To be fair, Frankl argues that if you can change the circumstances, you must. His recommendation is for when nothing can be done and it is true that we may find ourselves in situations where nothing can be done.
But I can see how it is not always passive either. There are circumstances where a "positive outcome" is not the objective at all, but rather meaning-making, as Frankl argues. I often think of parents of children who struggle with disabilities. They spend their lives helping their children cope while also advocating for a world that is safer for people with disabilities. Mothers who fight for their disappeared children in Kashmir, for example, their fight for a better world is not distinct from the meaning they make of their suffering. In finding meaning in their suffering, they make the world a much better place for other Kashmiris and people with disabilities. It may also be useful to understand what Frankl means by meaning.
For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself.
In that sense, meaning making is to see beyond oneself.
I still struggle with it though. To even think if I am worthy of my suffering? That in finding meaning in my suffering, I demonstrate dignity? If in the face of suffering, people engage in self-preservation, that is an undignified choice? I think, given my current politics, I am skeptical of anything that suggests that people can "choose" how they respond to crises. However, I do recognize, this book was written in a different context. I also acknowledge that balancing our individual responses without losing sight of systemic injustices is the magic solution :)
As you can see, even as I struggle to resolve my feelings about this book, it was very thought-provoking. Do check it out!...more
It feels ridiculous to say this out loud, but I'm dealing with a lot of shame even to include this book in my Goodreads list and to give it five starsIt feels ridiculous to say this out loud, but I'm dealing with a lot of shame even to include this book in my Goodreads list and to give it five stars. I also wrote one version and deleted it. For two reasons - 1) Shame. I feel shame for feeling this sad about not having children. Bad feminist! 2) To tell the world that I read this book and related to it gives my journey/hope a finality that I am not quite ready for. Am I indeed childless? Maybe there is still hope?
Which is why I needed to read it. If you are reading this, it means I did muster some courage to click the Post button, after all.
In much of the media that I consume and among progressive-minded people that I hang out with, there are only two types of conversations - challenges of parenting/motherhood and/or child-free status. Both are valid concerns. But there is a loneliness to childlessness.
To be child-free is a choice. To be childless is involuntary. I'll spare you my story. Need another dose of courage for that. What is relevant to this review is that I know very few women who are childless and single. Most of my friends don't have children (also relevant to this review) but they are either childfree or not as sad about it as I am. They've all been supportive, of course. But reading some quotes from this book, I felt as if Jody Day was writing from my brain.
There are many reasons why women who desire children end up childless. While there are biological infertility issues, there is increasingly the issue of "social infertility." You are single or find yourself with a partner who does not want children; you are a member of the LGBT community or you get divorced at a time when your fertility goes for a deep dive. Why not go alone? There are sperm banks all over the country. Fertility treatments are expensive and are often not covered by health insurance. Mine wasn't. Well, my health insurance does not cover most abortions (it covers abortion if the person was raped) or fertility treatments. So yay patriarchy! Moreover, most IVF (Invitro Fertilization) treatments fail in the case of older women (old here refers to >37). Multiple rounds of IVF leave many people in debt. Yes, I have seen all the celebrities who had children in their late forties. But that is not the norm, Day reminds us! I've always thought gender bias was a social phenomenon, but this year, I got a rude awakening of how nature and society are allies in gender bias. After 37, women's fertility does start falling down a cliff.
Why don't you "just" adopt? Another comment you probably shouldn't make to a childless woman. Newsflash - she's probably considered it. In the US, the for-profit adoption industry is quite an ethical minefield. Very rarely do we hear adoptee stories. When one does listen, one realizes quickly that adoption is not the beautiful thing it is made out to be. Though this book does not cover it, adoption in the US is not a "why don't you just" option for many people. Private adoption is expensive, a commodification process, and the adoption process may also break down for various reasons. If you are not a US citizen, immigration rules make it difficult (almost impossible) for you to adopt domestically or internationally. This affects Asian Indians (maybe Chinese people to some extent) the most given our long wait-times for Green card and citizenship.
While the book offers a useful context to the grief of childlessness, my five stars are for how the book offered the emotional support I needed so badly. The grief of childlessness is quite unique in that you are grieving something that you never had. How do you grieve an embryo in a test tube? I didn't know how to access my grief. As I mentioned earlier, I have amazingly supportive family and friends, but none of them are childless. So it's difficult to find someone who relates to your grief as an “independent" woman who desires to have children. I couldn't even cry. For months.
Maybe it was therapy (shout out to my amazing therapist at Listener's Collective https://thelistenerscollective.org/wh...), but reading Jodi Day was affirming in so many ways. Someone was articulating my fears for me. When you acknowledge your fears, it loses its power a little bit. You can move from a state of paralysis and sadness to action. Most importantly, I could sit with my grief. Your grief doesn't disappear, but you can learn to grow around it (paraphrased from the book). Perhaps the best thing I recognized about myself from the book was how I was putting off "living" until I have a child to share my life with. What would it take to live now?
The book offers some exercises that encourage you to remind yourself that you are much more than a childless person.
The book has exercises that draw on a method that my therapist also suggested - logotherapy - to think of your life as one based on values and meaning. This exercise made me realize that I do have a very meaningful life at present, irrespective of whether I have children or not. When she asks me to think of the times when I am in "flow," it came easily to me. Teaching and research are deeply fulfilling for me. That said, it also reminded me that I have some human need for connection. But perhaps, I can re-think how to build those human connections. This is not an easy re-wiring for me. I struggle and need help with that. But articulating those needs and fears was very useful.
The book also reminded me that in many ways, I had some advantages already. The book points out that many women do not have role models of child-less or childfree women in their lives. Well, almost all of my friends and my favorite feminist mentor are child-free people who live very rich lives. Role models, I have plenty :) The book also talks about hurtful comments from friends and family. As I read them, I realized I am surrounded by wonderful people. Most people I know, including mothers, have been extraordinarily kind to me. As I shared my IVF stories, women shared their experiences of miscarriages with me. Given how common it is, the silence around miscarriage is deafening. My mom, unlike the moms of many women in the book, has been my biggest support system. I've never felt closer to my mother than I did through this experience.
This book is written for those who have decided they are child-less. According to Day, giving up the hope of motherhood is critical to start living in the present. I am not there yet. Choosing the finality of childlessness is scary. I would have to change how I live and how I envision my future. What this book did for me was to nudge me to consider not fearing that new future. With empathy, Day opens me to the possibility of a different type of fulfilling and meaningful life that awaits me if and when I decide to embrace the dreaded full stop at the end of my motherhood hope journey.
If you are childless and want to feel a little less alone, I highly recommend this book....more