Two days back, I picked up a paperback with a boy’s photograph as its cover. Never am I the children fan, but the boy’s face especially his eyes were apt for the cover as the title of the book is blueeyedboy. Its story of a forty-two-year-old man who writes murder fiction on a site called badguysrock.com, and he is also a murderer. Here lies Joanne Harris’s masterful use of narratives, multiple plot twists and the singularity in the goal of blueeyedboy’s mind, to kill his mother, rather his Ma.
The book is an oedipal tale, here are three boys who love their Ma, but hate her equally. None of the boys’ escape her omnipresent sixth sense, each boy branded a colour black, brown and blue for sorting out laundry, they all resonate to their respective colour. ‘Blue’ being the special one, with his eyes blue and the youngest, he is most colonized by his ma. Hence at forty-two, he still lives with her.
Throughout the story, the themes of incest run parallel, blueeyedboy keeps stalking people, and he torments, molds and creates universes out of his desire to kill people he dislikes. The plot of the novel moves through the virtual journal of blueeyedboy and his nemesis Albertine and recreates their smoky past. One moment he is the brother, next moment the predator another moment he is a mentor, so does she, Albertine keeps shape-shifting throughout the novel.
I am not reviewing the book here, honestly, the ending became too predictable, that I threw the book twice. Throwing books after I am done with them happens only when the ending fails to live up to the expectation it creates throughout the process of reading. Joanne Harris is one of my favourites which may have spiced up my aggression with the book’s ending. None the less, it was a fantastic read.
While reading the book various images, observation and thoughts had resurfaced and mingled with recent experiences, in the back of my mind. As Gloria battered her children with the electric cord I was thanking my stars that my mom stuck and struck with rulers and her chubby hands with gold rings to fix me up. Image of the mother, the quintessential mother, is that of protection. See a tigress or a bitch, each will flare up when you approach its fledglings. Once there was a young calf sleeping near my hostel, it was a week old at best, pure white dozing without a care and it was happy. I, being the animal lover, tiptoed on soft grass towards it as quietly as possible. But its mother realized that some stranger was approaching her offspring and chased me away.
Mother means protection, absolute protection. In Cecelia Ahren’s Where the Rainbow End, when Protagonist’s mother dies at seventy-two, she herself is in her early fifties feels unprotected, scared and alone. Death a topic, I have been frequently reading these days, terrorists are its most notorious dealers, floods sweeping it, prose making it beautiful and poetry a spell. Death happens all the time, in reality, in fiction, in non-fiction, in dreams, and in alternate universes. So when blueeyedboy constantly fantasies to see his Ma die, he is actually not being evil, just letting his imagination roll. Though he emphasises thoughout the novel, "I am the bad guy."
We all imagine our near and dear one's death. We try to apprehend and incorporate that imagined experience for future reference. I have imagined deaths of many, I don’t regret them, but I am sure when reality will hit me, it will be nothing like fiction, it will be harsh. This crisis torments our blueeyedboy too. His imagination webs out, reality and the fictions he writes get intermingled and he is maimed in the final act of violence he sets in motion. Every time, the experience from imagination stops him from attaining the experience of reality.
Blueeyedboy and his mother suffer from Oedipus complex, well it’s easier to brand them, and I wonder what would we say if blueeyedboy was a blueeyedgirl? Would we say they suffered from the oedipal strike or had Gloria, been Glorious Green the father to boys, would we call it Electra complex. Freud was sexists and blind to the same sex relationship. By same sex, I mean Mother and Daughter, and Father and Sons. He saw both together as competing entities. What if Father and son, combined their energies to kill the mother? What if the daughters helped the Mother to kill her husband? I am not an expert on Freud, nor do I know what he has written about daughter and mother, and father and son relationship. My knowledge about Freud is third hand, that’s from teachers and books referring to him.
As I saw Gloria ransack her sons’ lives out of destructive protectiveness, multiple images relayed in my mind. A Bangla film called Icche, where this mother is obsessive about her son’s education and tries to control his life. This is such a common factor in India. Parents, in particular, the middle-class mothers of this nation are reliving their education life twice. In my mom’s case thrice, my sister was a good kid with studies she hardly got beaten up for the grand cause called education except twice or thrice. When it came to me, the poor old woman, she had to pull her curly hair straight to make me study.
Like poor Brendan, the Brown boy from the book, her expectation from my educational life was never high. She just wanted me to be good human and have a decent life, but that all changed when I suddenly grew smart and cracked through my high-school finals, topped college and did pretty well in my Masters a month back, now like Gloria Green, her expectation has shifted from the educated, employed and married daughter to me. With her expectation, my whole families’ dreams have been cementing me. Whispers of a future IAS office, a B+ civil servant, a Ph.D. holder and whatnot enter my beautiful ears. Like blueeyedboy I can’t escape my Mom, I can’t escape her daughter, her daughter’s husband, her daughter’s father, her daughter’s grandparents.
Blueeyedboy was special, I was not, I was the lazier one, the sane one, the less pampered one but more loved one. I am my mom’s creation. In the beginning, I called her mummy, well because my elder sister called her mummy. That’s what you do, follow and imitate the smarter kid and aspire to be like them. I had it easy than blueeyedboy, poor kid got bullied and beaten up, I was just tickled to death and occasional fist fighting broke and I was blued. Rest, I hung my shoes and let both my mom and sister decide my life, and have never looked back. Hence they spoiled me, I love being ignorant about technology and about half the things that go in the house.
Yet like blueeyedboy, the boy from the film Icche, love becomes suffocating, it became once when I was in grade seven or eight. A week back, I visited a parlour to beautify myself for my cousin brother’s wedding. As my beautician dolled me up, I heard rants about raising her son. How obedient the boy is, how she prevents a seventeen-year-old boy from making friends or has debarred him from exchanging his phone number with school friends, only coaching mates are allowed to text, as the need for class notes arises. Another mother and daughter I was sharing my auto rickshaw ride with, was saying how the girl should not make friends with dumb kids in school, only befriend the smarter ones. The girl was just six and gobbling the lessons to be self-centered. I wonder how my life would have been in kindergarten had my soul sister not befriended me, well I was the dumbest kid on the plant! I was of no use.
Yesterday, a boy of thirteen or fourteen, just hit by the arrow of puberty was looking at me. I do realize when I am being looked at from an admiring pair of eyes; I take no offense as I look at handsome and beautiful human all the time. So here I was sitting beside the boy’s mother in the metro, the son stood opposite me, his mum holding his huge sack of books. The boy kept looking at me, when I dress up cute I am a looker! I gave a small smirk and the poor kid blushed. Next thing his mom is hissing “Abhro, jao toh gater sidee giye daro” – Abhro go and stand near the door. Poor chap followed his mum's order, for next fifteen minutes the woman glared at me from the corner of her eyes. To her, I was the Siren eager to gobble her sweet son. So as a little payback when my platform came I smiled at the boy and stepped out enraging his large mom. I have seen similar incidents where our mothers think their child is the innocent red-riding hood and the whole world is one giant big wolf.
Blueeyedboy and his brothers lacked privacy from childhood; his mother never gave them a moment of rest. Gloria was their winter, summer, and green about their decisions. What about Indian mothers in reality? They never understand the word privacy, I recall when my elder sister was in full bloom of her teens and she would latch her door to keep my parents out. My mom being the classic woman, she had uprooted the very latch instead of coming to an understanding with her daughter . She nipped the bud. Our mom is our best friend, we tell her almost everything, from menstruation moods to love moods she knows me too well, even before I can take action she has figured my thought out. When I was small, and attending my great-grandmother’s funeral, there was my grandmother’s schoolmate, a tall erect lady with white spots on her face and hands. I had crept in the room, listening to people talk, I sat in lotus position waiting, fixing my purple frock and eyes eager to blow the conch when mom came and called me out. Next thing was, she asked me not ask about the old lady’s white marks and spot. From that day I realized my mom was everywhere! She was inside my head reading my thoughts. I was easier to control than my sister who was faster in her actions to embarrass the whole family in public with bold statements, example, a family where all the three daughters were informed they all had a thin line of moustache on their faces. Unhurt and determined she is mom’s worst secret keeper.
So when I threw blueeyedboy after I was done with the last page, I was angry with the predictable ending. I threw it twice, which is a crime; no book deserves to be thrown. In my Tagore paper, my teacher had said the home was the representative of security. It was our prenatal experience of absolute bliss and comfort. The idea of umbilical pool kept resurfacing in my head when it came to blueeyedboy. A reason we cuddle on our mom’s lap, the reason we love her smell, a reason we can shout at her when life takes a U-turn. She is the protector, the umbilical pool is stronger than mere flesh and blood and it’s psychological, metaphysical and metaphorical. The ultimate home is the womb. When I see people write ‘back to home’, the image to me is them with their parents, especially mothers. I am being insensitive to those who have lost their parents, I know. To my mom, her mother is her verbal punching back, they talk about cats and dog, and fight over petty things, my rickety granny hovers over my mom. My mom hovers over us.
Yet we never call her Ma, my sister had confusion in her infancy about her true mother, she was torn between her mother and my grandmother. So my granny became Ma thrice and mom not even once. At times I want to call her ma, but it’s always the serial killers in series, the murderers in novels, the sociopaths in alternate fiction, devoted sons who suffer from oedipal strains call their mothers ‘ma’. I refuse to be that brand, hence I went American and decided to differ from my sister’s mummy and labeled her as Mom. But poor blueeyedboy was always stuck with his ma. The umbilical pool he felt and the umbilical cord that suffocates Indian kids, in particular, are the same. No matter what, you always trace back your destruction to where you were created.
P.S- today is Mom's birthday and I am reading and discussing a book on Matricide! I hate myself or maybe not...
thanking you to bear with me