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Sentimental Values

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Laughter is a universal language. It is extremely beneficial to the human body, and it has no known side effects. Laughter is one of the best natural pain-killers in this world. According to a recent study by cardiologists at the University of Maryland, laughter can lower risks of a heart attack by a LOT. Laughter also reduces stress, therefore lowering blood pressure. That’s a whole lot of health benefits just from laughing! As Psychiatrist Robert Holden states, laughing produces happy chemicals in the body called endorphins which work in the brain to give an overall feeling of well-being. Laughing, however, does not have to be genuine. Fake laughter will also cause the body to respond as if the laughter is real. So if you don’t like to laugh, then at least pretend to laugh! In addition to body health benefits, laughter can also help burn fat. According to researchers in the University of Michigan, ten to fifteen minutes of concentrated laughing will burn up to fifty calories! Wow, that’s a pretty quick way to lose weight. Next time you meet a fat person, tell him to laugh. Remember when I mentioned that laughter is a pain-killer? No, probably not.

Well, anyways, it reduces muscle tension, and it also distracts attention from pain – so when you break your leg next time, start laughing! Kids have a tendency to laugh the most – about four hundred times a day! Adults, however, are only laughing about fifteen times a day- that’s about…a couple hundred laughs lost along the way! How sad… and life-threatening too! If we keep losing laughs, we will start to have health problems – some researchers in Philadelphia have discovered that people without a positive self-image will not properly digest their food. As a result, the food can therefore become toxic within their intestines, eventually killing them. Laughter also relieves stress – according to a study made by researchers from the University of Colorado, people who laugh more often will have a forty percent less chance than those who do not laugh as much of developing cancer, heart – related diseases, and mental stress breakdowns.

Laughter is … how do we say it? I guess it could be called ” The Natural Medicine”. It heals the physical self, and in a way, it also gives the mental mind a chance to relax. Also, laughter has even been proven to increase intellectual performance along with strengthening the immunity system. Funny…and I thought that smart people were usually serious. It’s good to laugh, but ironically, hospitals don’t encourage it. I have talked to my doctor about this, and he asked me about the appropriateness of humor when people are suffering. I say there is no better time for laughing – after all, humor is adaptive, and it allows emotional distance from pain. Josh Billings said it best when he stated that, “There ain’t much fun in medicine, but there’s a heck of a lot of medicine in fun.”

Book report

Narayan Wagle, the young editor of Kantipur Daily (who seems to love solitary loitering), is one of few Nepali journalists I admire. I have been an avid reader of his gossip columnCoffee Guff which is marked by gift of phrases. I’m also a fan of his graphic reporting specially from remote corners of Nepal. Simplicity, I must say, is the hallmark of Wagle’s writing.

But, as I waded through the pages of Wagle’s debut novel Palpasa Cafe, I concluded that it’s just an extended version of Coffee Guff.

Let’s begin from the beginning. The novel starts with a metafictional note. The narrator, a journalist, is waiting for his protagonist to show the manuscript before sending it for printing. But then, Drishya (sight, literally) gets arrested. Chapter One opens in Goa, a perfect place for love, it seems! Here a painter falls in love with his admirer (a US returned, amateur documentary maker), Palpasa. Looks like a collision of two art forms.

Let me take a break from storytelling. In fact, if you have read the novel, you know the story and if you haven’t, you don’t want to know, for it spoils your curiosity. Anyway, the story goes, as life goes on. But two things are crucial: how it is told and what the content is. Wagle obviously is a formalist. He prefers form over content. Nevertheless, the story weaves both the complexities of ongoing conflict and its consequences.

But, like the protagonist’s shattered dream of opening Palpasa Cafe in the idyllic hills, the novel seems promising in the outset while ends up in the maze of it’s own making. Conflict is only the backdrop where an artist searches meaning of his love-life. But despite having an encyclopedic knowledge of nature and painting, Wagle fails to portray Drishya as an artist. Like Wagle himself, he sounds more like a journalist; so he is an alter ego of its creator. The novel is oddly replete with female characters (Palpasa, Christina, Phulan, Jemina, grandma etc) whereas males are not only mysteriously absent but are also nameless and faceless in the narrative.

The novel, however, has an abundance of repartees; the author tries to twist every conversation, rather artificially, to a fresh meaning. Flipsides aside, like many other readers (esp. males) out there, I too identified myself with Drishya and indulged in a rapt reverie of loving some Palpasa.

In terms of narration, he is akin to his painter-protagonist Drishya; he is able to paint a broad portrait of an apocalyptic present with the note of urgency and poignancy. He colors his fictional canvas with deft strokes. He writes with thoroughness of detail and poetic imageries. But his strength appears to be his weakness.

While providing elegant narrative, he fails to put the hold upon the story. Though, Drishya’s homeward journey evokes nostalgia with consummate mastery, towards the end, the story gets increasingly implausible. An encounter with Palpasa in a bus as a co-passenger and the fatal ambush which spares protagonist alive and his beloved dead is much a make-believe stuff straight out of Bollywood flicks. Wagle would have been better off had he woven the denouement more plausibly. Drishya is abruptly arrested from his gallery and the novel comes to an end leaving Phulan all alone.

The epilogue is an inquiry of Palpasa’s Nepali buddy from US; adjoining to the beginning of metafictional mould. The opening pages promise a lot, but it ends as an unsatisfying novel.

Book reportThe Necklace Summary
How It All Goes Down
At the beginning of the story, we meet Mathilde Loisel, a middle-class girl who desperately wishes she were wealthy. She’s got looks and charm, but had the bad luck to be born into a family of clerks, who marry her to another clerk (M. Loisel) in the Department of Education. Mathilde is so convinced she’s meant to be rich that she detests her real life and spends all day dreaming and despairing about the fabulous life she’s not having. She envisions footmen, feasts, fancy furniture, and strings of rich young men to seduce.

One day M. Loisel comes home with an invitation to a fancy ball thrown by his boss, the Minister of Education. M. Loisel has gone to a lot of trouble to get the invitation, but Mathilde’s first reaction is to throw a fit. She doesn’t have anything nice to wear, and can’t possibly go! How dare her husband be so insensitive? M. Loisel doesn’t know what to do, and offers to buy his wife a dress, so long as it’s not too expensive. Mathilde asks for 400 francs, and he agrees. It’s not too long before Mathilde throws another fit, though, this time because she has no jewels. So M. Loisel suggests she go see her friend Mme. Forestier, a rich woman who can probably lend her something. Mathilde goes to see Mme. Forestier, and she is in luck. Mathilde is able to borrow a gorgeous diamond necklace. With the necklace, she’s sure to be a stunner.

The night of the ball arrives, and Mathilde has the time of her life. Everyone loves her (i.e., lusts after her) and she is absolutely thrilled. She and her husband (who falls asleep off in a corner) don’t leave until 4am. Mathilde suddenly dashes outside to avoid being seen in her shabby coat. She and her husband catch a cab and head home. But once back at home, Mathilde makes a horrifying discovery: the diamond necklace is gone.

M. Loisel spends all of the next day, and even the next week, searching the city for the necklace, but finds nothing. It’s gone. So he and Mathilde decide they have no choice but to buy Mme. Forestier a new necklace. They visit one jewelry store after another until at last they find a necklace that looks just the same as the one they lost. Unfortunately, it’s 36 thousand francs, which is exactly twice the amount of all the money M. Loisel has to his name. So M. Loisel goes massively into debt and buys the necklace, and Mathilde returns it to Mme. Forestier, who doesn’t notice the substitution. Buying the necklace catapults the Loisels into poverty for the nextten years. That’s right, ten years. They lose their house, their maid, their comfortable lifestyle, and on top of it all Mathilde loses her good looks.

After ten years, all the debts are finally paid, and Mathilde is out for a jaunt on the Champs Elysées. There she comes across Mme. Forestier, rich and beautiful as ever. Now that all the debts are paid off, Mathilde decides she wants to finally tell Mme. Forestier the sad story of the necklace and her ten years of poverty, and she does. At that point, Mme. Forestier, aghast, reveals to Mathilde that the necklace she lost was just a fake. It was worth only five hundred francs.

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