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Updated: Feb 4, 2023

What happens when one does yoga after a long time? The whole body revolts to stretch and fights by making itself sore at places one never realized existed. And so, self decided to take a break from work yesterday, with the revolting body as the excuse. How best to spend a day than watching TV and reading books? There was this book, “Maus” lying around the house for the past couple of months. Knowing it to be about WWII , I was avoiding it till yesterday.

To start with, the book is not just about WWII, though the war is chronicled by the author as dictated by his dad (a Jew). The book is about a father-son relationship, the guilt carried by the son on living in a fairer and nicer world, the parsimonious father who saves every single penny and preserves all junk having struggled through the holocaust. Brought tears at various phases.

There are lot of books about WWII. I think what characterizes this as different is that it is graphic. ( no , not in details, but in pictures) Having read “Winds of War”, this one is less affecting on learning about the ghettos and Auschwitz. But, still tugs at your heart as it is beyond one’s comprehension . The real heroes. The father dictates his story to the son in a very matter of fact way,with no sentiments except during one phase where he starts crying. That clearly shows human nature. After couple of decades, the emotions are far subdued.

In the second phase, when the book dwells more on the current, with the son staying in NY, the author has beautifully shown the father-son love-hate relationship, which one gets to see in many households. The son feels guilty that he is born after the war when the parents have already lost one during the war. There is a page where he says how he feels inferior to the photo of the dead son.

The one that made me cry was the father’s frugality. Having seen the war from the ghettos, fighting for food, starving for days, struggling to live and finally coming out of the inferno alive, morphs him into a human being who doesn’t want to let go of anything and who suspects almost everyone. I guess I saw a lot of fathers in him. My dad bargains for every rupee even now, whether it matters or not. Times have changed, we all have money , but having seen a lot in his 76 years, he just cannot let go of somethings. And, I am sure every family has a similar parent in some aspect or other.

Coming to the name, the book is called “Maus”, mouse in German as all the characters are portrayed as animals . Mouse for jews, Cats for Germans, Pigs for Poles, Dogs for Americans etc… This made me wonder what would suit Indians? ( Tigers, maybe ?, that looks too royal, don’t u think?)

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