Glimpses of Life Through Cobweb
By Madhu N R
Published by Partridge India (2015)
Reviewed by Brian E. Wrixon
Founder of “Poets with Voices Strong”
It’s an interesting little book, one of those that leaves you scratching your head and then thumbing back through its pages. I quickly came to the conclusion that Madhu is a person with whom I would like to spend an afternoon, in the off chance that I might be successful in nailing down just who the real Madhu is.
Reading Glimpses of Life Through Cobweb is like being a spectator at a race car track. You know your favourite driver is behind the wheel of car #29, but every time it makes the circuit and roars past the starting point, a new driver is behind the wheel. As I read through the book, I am confronted by an author who is at one time a philosopher, then an artist, a lover, a patriot, a humourist, an historian, a social commentator and the list could go on and on. The question remains for me, “Just who or what is Madhu?” All I know for certain is that Madhu is a writer who keeps me engrossed throughout the entire book, and one whose brain must operate at racing speeds.
This slim volume is comprised of three parts – Poems, Stories and the Cobweb dialogues. The first two sections are self-explanatory, whereas the last one needs some description. The author tells us that Cobweb has two characters, a spider and a sloth, both of which are symbols of human beings. The deadly spider is waiting for the sloth to fall into its web but the boring and wily sloth always manages to steer clear of the trap. Their dialogue consists of a series of questions and answers or statements and counter statements. It is all highly entertaining.
My favourite poem in the book is the first one, “Ode to a Tigress from India”. It is a tribute to Jyoti Singh, the young medical intern who was the victim of that horrific attack on a bus in Delhi in 2012. More than a tribute to her and to women in general, it is also a strong social commentary on men, the police, and society itself that allows such things to happen in the first place, and then does little to keep them from happening again. One could easily just change a few words in Madhu’s poem to create a similar diatribe against gun violence in the USA, or the backlash against refugees in Europe. The author’s strong feelings and disgust with the system and its do-nothing supporters literally spits from the page. The people were outraged and protested vehemently, but the system has done nothing since that dreadful. The problem continues. I find it interesting to note Madhu’s contention that if Nirbhaya (Fearless) had died in India instead of Singapore, Delhi would have burned.
My favourite short story in Glimpses of Life Through Cobweb is “Vincent Van Gogh Meets Death”. It is the story of a conversation that Vincent has with Death while he lays there waiting the end of his life. Death is surprised that Vincent does not appear to fear him like most people do when at their final point of worldly departure. Vincent tells him that he has always had more trouble dealing with Death’s enemy. “My enemy, who is that?” Death asks him. Vincent replies, “Life.” Like all of Madhu’s short stories, this one is well-written, poignant and surprising.
The final section of the book is most entertaining. The Cobweb dialogues between the Spider and the Sloth will leave you laughing at times, shaking your head, shedding a tear, shouting “Aha!”, or sometimes “O no!” It is through the give and take of these two line conversations that we see all aspects of Madhu’s personality and sometimes his strange ways of thinking. Call them repartee, wit and quick retort, fast thinking or whatever you wish, the fact is that the dialogues are brilliant. Once more we see a writer’s brain operating at 100 miles an hour. As the author says in the Introduction to COBWEB, “This is NOT – non-political, non-philosophical, non-sexual, non-satirical, non-ironical, and non-absurd.”
The next time I am in Trivandrum Madhu, please put on the kettle for a pot of tea. I would love to spend the afternoon trying to keep up to you. On second thought, maybe you had better make it something stronger than tea!
Glimpses of Life Through Cobweb is a good read and has my full recommendation. I look for more in the future from this talented writer.