Book review : “The Housekeeper and the Professor”

For last few years, I have been reading quite a few Japanese authors and I am in love with ways, Japanese writers handle emotions. Most of the folks I know are in love with Murakami, but frankly, I did not like his works. The Japanese author that I love is Kazuo Ishiguro, and now after reading this, I will be adding Yoko Ogawa to that list.

If you visit Varanasi and go to Assi ghat, there is a quaint little bookshop which goes by the name “Harmony book store”. I have been frequenting this bookstore since class 10th or so. It’s been almost 20 years, the owner always has the best recommendation, in fact, “The professor and the housekeeper” was recommended by him.

The story revolves around a sexagenarian mathematics professor and his housekeeper, and her 8 years old son. Everyday conversations between the housekeeper and the professor, are around numbers. Prof loves it when especially if there is a prime number involved. Now if you are a geek or engineering background, you would love all these number references. How to find beauty in a prime number. The emotional aspect of the story is high, it unfolds like a lotus, presenting us ordinary existence of a housekeeper and the professor, yet their extraordinary existence.

“Soon after I began working for the Professor, I realized that he talked about numbers whenever he was unsure of what to say or do. Numbers were also his way of reaching out to the world. They were safe, a source of comfort.”

Through the pages, we learn about housekeeper’s son, whom prof calls as the root cause of his thick tuft of hair. Together they share a bond and mutual love for baseball. But the crux of the story is that Prof had an accident a few years back and owing to that his memory lasts only 80 minutes. To cope up with this, he uses sticky notes on his jacket.


Every morning the housekeeper will have the same set of questions
What’s your shoe size?
When is your birthday?
It was the sheer pleasure of going back to numbers, looking at them in an intuitive way to decipher their mystery. A few years back I remember seeing the documentary about the Cambridge Prof who solved Fermat’s last theorem. Here we had ‘the most beautiful mathematical equation’. Read the paper in the link, by Stanford mathematician Keith Devlin.

This quote from the book perfectly sums it up

“…The pages and pages of complex, impenetrable calculations might have contained the secrets of the universe, copied out of God’s notebook.
In my imagination, I saw the creator of the universe sitting in some distant corner of the sky, weaving a pattern of delicate lace so fine that that even the faintest light would shine through it. The lace stretches out infinitely in every direction, billowing gently in the cosmic breeze. You want desperately to touch it, hold it up to the light, rub it against your cheek. And all we ask is to be able to re-create the pattern, weave it again with numbers, somehow, in our own language; to make the tiniest fragment our own, to bring it back to earth.”

Now I am waiting to watch the movie, and waiting for book depository to deliver Yoko Ogawa’s another classic “The memory police”.

Day 30 : Mission accomplished.

@AssiGhat, Varanasi

So last day of year was pretty much happening. We guys from school met over @ Assi Ghat after , hmmm , 8 long years in a group. It was all fun and frolic. Reliving the old school days, and what better place then ghats of Ganges, and some darn awesome food and apple pie.

Rishi bought few books, ‘When we were orphans’ by Kazuo Ishiguro and he bought few Haruki Murakami. This harmony book stall is pretty rich and diverse in collection. And there was a firang lady, she was dressed impeccably in indian traditionals and spoke immaculate hindi. She was sweet and literature savvy, one cant ask for more. Well read she was, having read all of Murakami, Rushdie and Ishiguros. You know better what I am thinking.So two done from seven books by Ishiguro. Ulysses thou wait thy reader.

BTW test of compatibility level 1. “ChetanBhagat is an awesome writer naa?”

day 12 : Art of reading novels – an introduction.

A word about Kazuo Ishiguro, now since I have finished “remains of the day”. His reads are evocative ones, there is a storyline, but the way he hides the emotions among words. Its like the way one reads human emotions, you got to have a certain level of EQ to decipher emotions. That is what which makes his books contemporary classics. The intertwined feeling of love, that never comes fully to surface, you have to dive deep to fathom its depth. Like a tip of the iceberg. You read pages, you get some feeling, you think on it  and then you can actually feel it. Not like our times where you write love few times to convey the feeling, I wonder that is why they have genre classics and contemporary.

Well I also think winters are the best times to read up such novels, when temperature outside are dropping, there is moisture and cold in air, and the canopy of quilt gives the requisite shelter and environment to read a novel. And yes there is no one in home to chain-pull your train of thoughts. Someday I might write something on “art of reading”, let this post be an introductory one .

Which reminds me of Ishiguro’s first novel I read, “never let me go”. It was by the seaside of old-french ambiance of Pondicherry I finished the book. Amid the vast expanse of sea, the unending horizon and the shrieks of sea-birds. But this one, ‘remains of the day’ extended well beyond six months. I think it is like a aged scotch, you sip a little, relish it, savor it, and then pass into the state of thinking that only fine scotch can induce. And once you are satisfied and contended, you move on to another sip. A fine book is similar species,(if Darwin would have been alive few more years then definitely fine scotch and fine books would have been classified under same genus) So talking of a fine read, you try to save it for the best of times, and not waste it like a prodigal son, but more like Aisan son.Believe me it is very difficult to get over a hangover after reading a good read. For scotch you have ginger ale, full course meal, and if I remember correct an acquaintance once (impossibly) suggested red-bull. I think jotting your feelings down is the best cure, god save the ones who cant/dont and move around in time-space with an incomplete feeling of something needs to be done. I wont say that I had been stuck by that feeling quite a times, but this time nay !

There are few books which leave a deep impact on your psyche and way of living, like Atlas Shrugged, it inspires you to search the hero in you. Not the google search but rather searching for oneself among the layers of life. The characters larger than life which are heroic and have the charm and integrity. Indeed I should thank my aunt, who gave me my first novel when I was 10 years old. It has been like 16 years now since I got entangled in this hobby, infact it has ceased to be hobby anymore. It is the way of life, and all I can think about when I will be able to write as eloquent as these great writers. Amen.

Blog at

Up ↑