Book Quotes #6: The Fellowship of the Ring/Tolkien Reading Day

March 25th is celebrated as Tolkien Reading Day – something I came to know a few days later. A day marked to celebrate the life and work of JRR Tolkien must be quite something, fans and readers sharing their favorite passages from Tolkien’s work. I was introduced to Lord of the Rings (LoTR) from the movie franchise and right then on I was mesmerized by the characters, the stories, and the magical realm of Middle Earth.

Last year I finished reading the first part of LoTR, The Fellowship of the Ring. There are many things to note in the pages, and something that really stood out was how Tolkien describes the imaginary world of Middle Earth, the myths, and the lives that were, that was, and that will be. I felt as though I was reading a history of a real world. It is almost impossible to imagine the depth of art and work that must have gone into the making of the story.

Fiction isn’t real. The characters aren’t real. And yet there is a touch of truth behind, an invisible line of connection with the characters you’d never meet. That is the mind of the creator, the writer. A mind we marvel at.

Since 2003, Tolkien Reading Day has been celebrated by The Tolkien Society. This year the theme is Hope and Courage. When I lack courage I remember Frodo, when my patience wavers I think of Arwen, when I search for a guardian I look for Gandalf, when hope seems far I pray to be like Samwise, and when I think of life well lived I seek for the tiny yet strong Hobbits.

Here are some of my favorite passages from The Fellowship of the Ring.

‘I wish it need not have happened in my time,’ said Frodo.
‘So do I,’ said Gandalf, ‘and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’

Book 1, Chapter 2: The Shadow of the Past

A poignant line that also features in the movie franchise. It speaks of both hope and courage. All we can do is decide what to do with the time that is with us.

‘But where shall I find courage?’ asked Frodo. ‘That is what I chiefly need.’
‘Courage is found in unlikely places,’ said Gildor.

Book 1, Chapter 3: Three is Company

Like Frodo carries the burden of the ring, each of us carries our own. Where do the fires of Mordor lie where we may be able to leave the ring to burn, we cannot tell.

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The Spirit of Food and Language

Yomari – By Spartathreehundred at English Wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=32880059

It was 2pm in the afternoon. I was at my maternal grandparents place. We were about to eat the afternoon snack when my uncle mentioned about a Nepali who was participating in MasterChef UK. That was the first time I heard about Santosh Shah, whose name I didn’t know then. Soon after I googled to find more and followed his progress on the show like thousands of others.

His story reminds me of faith and patience; from a small village to the worldwide stage. The roads of life are strange and you cannot tell what awaits at the next corner, the only thing that you can do is practice your art.

Recently I watched the episode where he made Yomari and Chilly Chicken, the dishes that sent him straight to finals week. I was excited to see his take on the famous sweet dish and also equally excited to see how the judges would react to it.

Chef Shah had made balls of chocolate and covered it with white dough – something different from how I have seen a Yomari being made. How it’s often made at home is by melting a local variant of chocolate known as ‘Chaku’ and the liquid is then poured in the white rice dough that is made into the shape of a cup (with tails and two antenna like structure) and steamed.

As I watched him make a Yomari in a British show that had presented the contestants with a Chinese Kitchen, the words of Indian writer Raja Rao came flooding. Raja Rao had written: One has to convey in a language that is not one’s own the spirit that is one’s own. These words had nothing to do with food and yet everything in the moment. Chef Shah had tried to manage whatever was available in the kitchen and express the spirit of his homeland.

As someone who has been writing in English, a language that is not my mother tongue or first language, I have many a times stumbled upon the question of how can I ever express a world that is not English in English. Nepali writing in English is a relatively new sphere in the world of literature and language. There are not many in this field who can make you smell the tea farms of Illam, the rainy seasons of Kathmandu, and the heat of Terai in English. As I struggle to write my worldview in English, I worry about how unique or original will it be or if I sound like a copy of a writer I have been studying.

Watching Chef Shah mould the Yomari, I found a new interpretation of the words of Raja Rao – it is the spirit that one must express. There will be differences, but that is not what truly matters. It is the spirit that matters. The judges were wowed with the dish. They had never seen the unique shape of a Yomari.

It truly is the spirit that surfaces at the end, be it in the flavors of food or in the words written across pages.

Wrongs, Illusions, and the End

That one could feel wronged
without being wronged,
is a strange thing.

That just by existing,
by being real
the heart could bleed –
of course it’s job is bloodly.

And thus, honestly serves only as
long as it’s sweet. Bitter things
are bitter anyway.

We’re seeking illusions
to pass till the only
real thing comes –
the end.