Jakarta, 27 December 2009
Laurentia Dhanio (Riri)
Ulma Nurriva Haryanto
This week's short story was 'In The South' by Salman Rushdie.
It's about two elderly Indian men understanding death and life. Senior and Junior, two 81-year-old neighbors, spent their days bickering and going at each other. It's quite lengthy. 5494 words, approximately 6 pages. Senior was portrayed to be the one with ambition during his younger years. But as he outlived most of his relatives and felt more and more confined by his old age, he became the bitter one. While Junior, unmarried, retired as a 'respected' clerk, had never had any ambitions in his life, and so, the easygoing one.
Discussion points (non-story related):
- Elvin's almost-frozen fingers. She had lost her gloves and hadn't found the time to buy new ones
- Riri just finished an acrylic painting and now it's being displayed in fedi's work room.
- Ulma just had dinner with her whole family celebrating her mum's birthday
- Elvin pointed out that we tend to pick stories that carry the theme of loneliness and bitterness.
Discussing the story.
Ulma thinks that googling is necessary for this story in order to really "get" certain vibes and impressions. Riri also said that she has to google a couple of words.
And so, everybody's favourite parts from the story was when Junior and Senior cashed up their pension slips, in which readers were given another twist on both characters. As Junior had always been depicted as the easy going one, he, in fact was quite bitter when it comes to the idea of retirement. My favourite part was when Senior talked about his relatives, especially the part: "The babies-in-law rattled their rattles and giggled their giggles and screamed their baby scream".
Riri's favourite part was when Senior said, “...The south is a fiction, existing only because men have agreed to call it that...The universe does not understand up and down...In this regard, the points of the compass are like money, which has value only because men say that it does."
Riri also pointed out that the same goes to the concept of time: hours, minutes, seconds, year - there is no such thing as how old you are, your body is just wearing out.
The story also made us think, as we get old, would we be the bitter one? or the satisfied mediocre one? are we going to ask God for death everyday? It also tells us about how sometimes achievement and satisfaction does not relate to each other. How many achievemnt one's had, does not correlate to one's satisfaction. When Junior died (sorry, spoiler alert -- Junior died at the end of the story), Senior asked, "Why not me?", but Riri pointed out, even if Senior died, he would had asked, "Why me?"
And Salman, like other middle-eastern/west-asian authors has a 'rich' story-telling style, very descriptive, very warm, perhaps their cultural background contributed to their writing style.