If You Love Literature, Travel, and History Alike, Read Juliet’s Answer

We desire love. A love that seeps through our bones and lights up our very being.Some of us get lucky and find it right outside our doors. But for the rest of us, it is an achingly longer journey. It makes us wander across oceans and do crazier things before we find our true home. Glenn Dixon too went down the same road except Shakespeare kept him company guiding him all the way to “Fair” Verona, in Italy. His book, ‘Juliet’s Answer’ is a memoir of that journey towards love.

Glenn was a teacher for more than twenty years before he became a full time writer. During his time as a teacher, he taught Romeo and Juliet to high schoolers. So, when his love story turned tragic, he held on to this epic tale for comfort. His heartache and longing for answers brought him to the doors of Juliet’s house in Verona. Once in Verona, he volunteered to be one of the “secretaries of Juliet”, answering thousands of letters that are addressed to Juliet.

Love is a madness beyond measure. It can make you do unbelievably irrational things. So, it is not surprising that Juliet serves as a symbol of love for some of these heartbroken souls . However, the sheer volume of letters written to Juliet year after year and in so many languages, can take your breath away. As if that is not enough, someone thought that these letters needed to be replied to. What an amazing and equally outrageous idea! But such wild ideas keep the world going and bring comfort to many that are lost.

The book talks about the author’s life as a teacher, the events that led to his arrival in Verona and his experiences being Juliet’s secretary. So, one moment you are in Glenn’s classroom waiting for your turn to play a Shakespearean character and next, you are sitting in an office full of letters waiting to be replied to. While Glenn’s own story is heartbreaking enough, the excerpts from the letters he replied to makes you sob silently.

One might think that the subject of the book is quite the cliche. A heartbreak, followed by a trip to a foreign land sounds like a day in the life of a millennial but Glenn’s writing makes all the difference. The narration is so intimate and sincere that it becomes impossible to deny the instant connection. His interesting findings from his research on love keeps you hooked for more. However, what enthused me more as a reader was his passionate pursuit for everything that’s Shakespeare.

I was as overwhelmed as Glenn was when he eventually got to touch and feel the very old manuscript (printed in 1599) of Romeo and Juliet, in the British Library, London. I jumped in joy every time Glenn discovered something in Verona that indicated that Juliet and Romeo were probably real people. It reminded me of my days in Europe walking from churches to graveyards to museums to bookstores, because those places were once walked upon by some people who inspired me greatly. Although I regret missing Verona during my visit to Italy, I am grateful for the insights this book has given me.If you are looking for a heart-warming story to keep you hopeful during these stressful times, I recommend Glenn Dixon’s Juliet’s Answer. The book also serves as a guide to the city of Verona. So, if you love literature, travel, and history alike, pick this up. You might even end up adding Verona to your travel bucket list.

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तैमूर-Timur-Lang-Langda Tyagi और नाम में क्या रक्खा है?

लंगड़ा त्यागी ने अपने लड़के का नाम तैमूर रखा है। इस से ट्विट्टर वालों का मुंह फूल गया है। गुस्से की वजह है – तैमूर का मतलब होता है लोहा। कोई अपने बच्चे का नाम लोहा कैसे रख सकता है? लोहा अली खान पटौडी – कैसा अटपट नाम रख दिया है! जब चाँद, सोना जैसे नाम उपलब्ध थे, तो ये लोहा क्या सोच कर रख दिया ? Continue reading “तैमूर-Timur-Lang-Langda Tyagi और नाम में क्या रक्खा है?”

Books – The Used and the Abused!

Barely a minute after the gift books had reached the recipients, I got an email from Junglee, an Amazon subsidiary, saying something to the effect of – ‘Now that you have bought books from amazon, how about selling some on Junglee?’ Though this was a routine pitch, it got me into wondering about a lot of things of recent past. Just a day earlier I had told a friend in jest that I was going to sell all my books, take note – it was not a serious statement!

I don’t own a lot of things. My friends who know me well are completely sick of my wardrobe and at times have to take me hostage to get me to buy stuffs. This is not because I am on some money-saving mission, I don’t save either. So where does the money go? I don’t claim to have some sort of library for myself, but I have a respectable number of books with me and the number increases at a staggering rate. In fact, our Government could define BPL (Below Poverty Line) mark by just contrasting between my wardrobe and the bookshelf.  Rich gets richer, the poor gets poorer.

Capitalism-Socialism-Communism all sleep in the same bed here. I had read somewhere that the day you own more than single pair of clothes to cover yourself, you cease to be a communist. Now, most of the present day communists would certainly fail this test in today’s age and I don’t blame them. The condition itself is too stringent and suffocating. However, if for a few considerations, I am allowed to take it as the benchmark, then the beggar who just had a garbage box to comfort his spine in and almost no rag on his body,  just outside my workplace in Chennai would perhaps make the greatest Communist on earth. Marx and Lenin would miserably fail this test. Taking heart from this, my wardrobe stands a much better chance to be regarded as at least a reluctant communist, reluctant because perhaps it wants to get a few more clothes for itself, but its master is lazy as a dead bone in such matters. This opens up two new ways to become a communist –

1. Have a very bad master!
2. Become lazy, lazy like a dead bone.

Sitting on an antipodal citadel, my bookshelf is a shelf-ish enchantress. If there ever was a true capitalist, it is her. The master is possessed by her beauty and she makes him do all that she desires. When much of what the master earns goes into her wishes and fancies every month, it is not very difficult to understand how enslaved and smitten by her the master is!

There is no end to her desires. I have never left my bookshelf alone, but perhaps on one occasion when I was moving to a new city and all her possessions had to be transported beforehand. For about a month, I couldn’t see her due to delays in courier service. That was the only time we were separated. A thing to note here is that this Capitalist monster owns a lot of anti-communism books, and since sits just beside my reluctantly communist wardrobe, leaves no opportunity to jeer at him and show him how communism failed the day master’s friends bought him a second pair of clothes. I can’t tell you any method here to become a capitalist. It can’t be done. Capitalize is a verb, but capitalism is a noun. So, you might think you can capitalize to become a Capitalist but Capitalize in turn depends on some noun, say in this case – situation! That situation comes by itself, you just have to be greedy enough. Like I said, the day you work your ass off for another pair of clothes in your wardrobe, you have embarked yourself onto the voyage of Capitalism.

To let myself wander for some more time, I would want to touch upon capitalism in books-industry and what’s going wrong there. I remember my boyhood days when books containing spiritual or religious messages used to be distributed for free and if I talk particularly about a few organizations, they used to encourage their first readers to pass on the books to somebody who hadn’t read them and continue the relay so that someday in distant future, entire planet would know about these organizations. Backed up by huge grants and charity money, this was their way of marketing. To be candid about it, I used to collect all of them just to sniff the fresh-from-print pages. Not that I didn’t try reading them but failed to make any sense of the content matter then. Interestingly, many customers stood benefited as even if they never opened these books, never turned over a single page; they could always keep them on their study tables and shelves to show off.

This still continues with the Quran and the Bible. You get them for free most of the times and the people who throng on the stores to get these books for free, generally don’t belong to Islam or Christianity. However once they rack up these books in their house, it helps to prove their broad-mindedness and establish a secular image to their guests without having read a word. That notwithstanding, let us think from the perspective of an involved reader. For him, these socio-religious books still come at nominal costs. Additionally, most of the dedicated readers share these books on their own after having read them. While he can get a Bible or a Quran, or a Gita for almost nothing, Das Kapital will cost him somewhere between Rs 500 to Rs 1500 on Amazon.

The socio-religious book segment is more communist than the segment that sells the works of Karl Marx. Marx would perhaps say today – ‘Socio-religious book is the new opiate of the masses!’
Think of all the socio-religious books as public owned and the fact that anyone can read them easily, re-interpret, comment, criticize, and burn them amidst a few fatwas from selected communities – not very difficult to fathom! Unwittingly and ironically, the bible of communism can’t be bought by the segment of the society that needs to read it more than anyone else. They have to be content with mind-numbing tall tales of leaders and impostors, not that the leaders and impostors have much of a difference in today’s age.

The article continues in its second part.