Memoirs of a Geisha
This is for the first time ever I’m writing a book review, not out of force, but out of sheer pleasure. In fact pleasure seems an incapacitated a word at this moment for it possibly cannot contain the plenitude of emotions I went through in the process of reading this extra and poignantly so more than any writing piece!
To share with you, I have often had great difficulty naming emotions I would be undergoing in difficult situations, but Arthur Golden, the author of this fantastic book ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ not only writes a book in the form of a diary entry by a beautiful Geisha named Sayuri, but he literally and literarily, intricately so, like a silver thread woven into the silk fabric of a kimono, artistically weaves out a spectacular scenic view on this kimono of his named ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’.
The visual imagery, so strong; the tears, crystal clear in your mind; the angst, the frustration, as it heats you up; the beauty of the bright coloured kimonos, the Japanese by lanes of Gion as a complete image of a small working town full of gorgeous Geishas comes alive in your mind. The seductiveness of a Geisha, her rolling of eyes, the way she can lure men towards her; at the same time, just like any other young girl she falters on the steps of life succumbing to deep puddles of life, very well, created by no one but herself.
The many emotions a girl can feel towards men of different ages, what in our lay language we term as ‘infatuations, crushes, or small time romance’ Golden in this book, like a real artist rises above these words and makes them alive, he makes them live in a passionate sense of the word –‘emo-tion’.
As I listen to this song called broken strings by James Morisson, the lyrics go like:
“You can’t play on broken strings,
You can’t feel anything,
That your heart don’t want to feel,
I can’t tell you something that ain’t real”.
The same holds true for this book as well, but just that the writer fills you with all the unnamed emotions, that which you felt, but never had words for in perhaps the lifetime you have lived so far!
Chiyo, a girl who is sold by Mr. Tanaka, when she is merely 9 years old, thinking that he would be adopting her and her elder sister after her mother would die, rather enters a whole new world. As she figures out that she has been sold to become a Geisha, and when she grows up she would be expected to pay even her selling price back to the okiya where she would be living in from that day on. In her okiya, she encounters Hatsumomo a pretty Geisha, just pretty looking, with a heart more evil than a devil, who at every point menaces with Chiyo.
The story beautifully and gradually proceeds to how Chiyo, a girl with watery blue eyes, who once had dreamt of becoming a Geisha soon sees a bleak future, rather no future at all, as in her act of running away from the Okiya she renders herself as untrustworthy for her life ahead, for no Okiya owner would invest in a girl to become a Geisha, once who has already attempted to run.
However one day this young girl is seen crying near the Shirokawa stream by middle aged gentleman who is known as the Chairman. There the story takes a beautiful turn; it unfolds itself like the drapes of a theatre showcasing an Opera. From that day on, Chiyo clings onto his handkerchief for her dear life, often fantasizing about him. Events change and so does her destiny, as you find yourself gripped by the story. She ends up becoming a successful Geisha who is named Sayuri. Just as beautifully she has been described, so stands her name, musical like a stream of water gushing beneath the bridge.
Unlike the clichéd love stories, this book brings a reader close to the moment of what possibly a divine love could be and how in the gaps the love for the other is filled in instances of peering at the other and gazing into his beauty, enwrapping oneself into the solace and kindness that he carries. And his love for her, almost unspoken, never spoken, yet so profound that kindness, forgiveness, and tranquility all combine into one, making it a divine part of Sayuri’s life.
The climax of the story is simply astounding. And only makes you take a breath of relief when you end the book.
This book, as much as it opens doors into the life of Sayuri also tells us about the trajectories of the lives Geisha, in times before the Second World War in Japan, had and what they turned out to be. For as a reader you come to understand that the Japanese dolls we often see are Geisha. For one of them is hung on one of my living room walls, and now that I know who a Geisha really is, I somehow have a lot of respect than a contempt one may have when one hears the word ‘prostitute’. For a Geisha who wears her obi in front is a reputed one, and the one who ties it at the back, is nothing but a prostitute.
Arthur Golden, captivatingly opens his book like a sneek peek of many windows into the Japanese world, and slowly opens doorways showing you rooms as well as scenes of the events that occupy the storyline. I’d like to share some of the lines which I found myself saving in my diary:
“Dreams can be such dangerous things; they smolder on like a fire does and sometimes consume us completely”.
“Occasionally in life we come upon things we can’t understand because we have never seen anything similar”.
“We don’t become geisha because we want our lives to be happy; we become geisha because we have no choice”.
And the most beautiful of all (hard for me to say though)….
“Sometimes….. I think the things I remember are more real than the things I see”.
Captivated by the book, I also found myself googling on the makeup which Geisha wear. Its pretty intriguing coz they don't let the natural complexion of their face show, rather they paint their face and neck white and then beautify it. Also, it is in this book that Golden tells us that just as the Western men get fascinated by a women's legs, Japanese men get enraptured by a lady's neck and hairline!;)
PS: And now the movie awaits me...:)
PS: And now the movie awaits me...:)