Death of A Salesman – As A Modern Classic and A Lesson in Mental Health


A Modern Classic

Recently, I have been venturing into the 1940’s dramas and plays. And the Death Of A Salesman has been the third book in this expedition.  Miller is indeed one of the best to get started with this genre.

The book is one of those modern classics that was spurned out as a consequence of the aftermath of the second world war. They perfectly capture the economic ups and downs, the changing social outlooks and religiosity that followed the brand new peace times. But we’ll discuss that a little bit later.

These modern classics have one big major point of similarity which differentiates them from the books that had come before in the genre of drama, may it be of Eyre or the Bronte sisters. A factor which affiliates us to them in greater spirit than the ones that came before: they ushered in the modern world as we know. In these books, we find cars, capitalism, shopping complexes and all the modern world experiences. Except, of course, the internet. We live in a world of constant yet abrupt changes and someday this point of relativity will vanish for the residing human generation but that day is not today.

But none of this is to say that these books lack the essence of the events that took place in those times. In fact, they are heavily influenced by those events. And damn, if those years were not marred by some big time happenings.

For the purpose of this essay, let’s divide these modern classical stories into three categories. This will help us gauge them by the events of those times-

  • Pre-War
  • During the wars
  • Post-War


As evident, writers Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams fall in the third category. And consequently, their stories and writing are heavily influenced by the world around them which is not that different from the one that we live in now.

Miller was born in the early 1900s in New York to Jewish parents who had immigrated to the Americas. They were one of the Jewish families that profited off the fast mover advantage of the ready to wear garment business and consequently, his early childhood was spent in wealth. However, the Wall Street Crash happened during his teenage years, as a result of which his family lost everything. This job insecurity and financial problems have found representation in his stories. For example, Death Of A Salesman which deals with topics of being laid off, job instability, unemployment, etc. One can find a direct correlation between the instability in the job market that marked the Great Depression and the career graph and experiences of the characters in the story.

A Lesson Mental Health

Miller’s The Death Of A Salesman is many things. It is a genius take on several complexities of life and family and also successfully ventures into themes of economy and work life. But hidden behind it all sits a relatively less discussed theme- mental health.

The play opens with a description of Willy Loman, our salesman’s house. This description gives an aura of a very pleasant atmosphere, the spell of which is broken when Willy enters the house. We are met with the first conflict here- Willy’s warm, peaceful outer environment compared to his internal state, his mind, which is in torment with immense stress. He is introduced to us in an almost scenic and calm environment, even the melody of a flute played in the background is described to be ‘small and fine, telling of grass and trees and the horizon’.  He is also welcomed by his loving and caring wife. But none of this is able to change this internal torment, his anxiety that finally drives him to death. It is also mentioned that although Willy hears the flute, he is not aware of it. If this pleasing outer environment is the metaphorical ‘the good things in life’, we see that mental illness is not something that has a direct correlation to your outer environment. It is a more internal thing. Often, we hear people who are misinformed about matters of mental wellness and depression perpetuating this very misconception about this topic.

Permit me a little digression here.

The British show Doctor Who has an episode on the painter Van Gogh, who is known to have suffered from major bouts of depression and finally took his life at the age of 37. In what can be called, one of the most beautiful scenes in the history of the show, The Doctor, who is a time traveller, brings Van Gogh to the present to Musée d’Orsay in Paris to show him what an effect his life work has had on the world and how the world does not forget him even after so many years passing his death. The doctor and his companion, Amy, do this because Van Gogh mentions that his art was something that will be lost in time. Van Gogh not surprisingly is taken aback and is overwhelmed with joy. After dropping him back home, Amy and the Doctor return to the museum and Amy runs inside expecting more art from Van Gogh as she feels that they have changed history since, Vincent, would’ve had a renewed sense of his worth and won’t kill himself at the young age of 37.

But she finds that nothing has changed and she breaks into tears as all the good they tried to bring to Van Gogh went inconsequential. At that moment, the Doctor says something which has now become one of the most famous dialogues of the show – ‘The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don’t always soften the bad things. And vice-versa. The bad things don’t spoil the good things and make them unimportant.’


With the Salesman and his son, Biff also, the incoming good things in life are not enough to keep them satisfied and happy. Both of them drive away the good things that were coming their way. At the beginning, one might think that they are being ungrateful but as we go on reading, we realize that both of them have underlying issues which they are not able to satiate with the positivity coming their way.


In the first chapter, Willy almost talks about his mental illness. He tells Linda how he is unable to ‘keep his mind to it’ and how he forgot that he was driving and did not remember the last five minutes when he was driving at 60 miles an hour.

These are all clear signals that something is wrong with Willy, but Linda ignores it all and places the reason being a lack of rest and a restless mind and a need for new glasses. She, in a way, represents a very common reaction that people have when dealing with situations of mental illness.


Even the reader’s relationship with Willy is not one of empathy. Till the end, you do not really relate to him or understand him. And there is a very important lesson in that. More often than not, one will not truly understand what it is that is happening with someone suffering from depression and the like. It might be straight up frustration at times.


The interesting thing is that in 2018, there is a surge in the awareness and treatment of mental health issues. But the fight for this awareness began so long ago through plays and books like these. And the subtlety and ingenuity with which it has been done never fail to impress me. I really don’t know if Miller wrote it with that intention or in the attempt of an honest portrayal of human minds and relationships, he stumbled upon it, but it is impressive nevertheless. Funnily enough, Miller himself is supposed to have denied any mental illness on the part of Loman and has claimed that is actions and his decision to kill himself were borne solely out of stress. Also, we must remember that Miller grew up at a time when suicides sort of had a center stage what with the Wall Street crash and all. Then there are also the sufferers of the first and the second world wars. Wars take a toll and literature of the period also showcases the consequences of it for the survivors.

Interestingly, Marilyn Monroe, Arthur Miller’s second wife was also known to suffer from depression until she finally took her own life.

Obviously, the book is nowhere near to being an informative guide about depression or mental health in general so the term ‘lesson’ might not be accurate. But somehow, towards the ending, it manages to convey empathy and understanding to its readers through a very everyday sort of story.


The Most Honest Words Ever Written About Writing

I am currently reading a play called The Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. It has been written by Tennessee Williams who won a Pulitzer prize for it in 1955. It supposed to be a must read in the modern classics genre and thanks to the friend who introduced me to it, I have finally come around to reading it.

At the time of writing this post, I am just a few minutes into reading the book so I have not yet reached a point where I can draw conclusions or develop opinions about it. But before I started reading the actual story, I came across something that hit me right in that sweet spot called the ‘Identity Crisis’.

The writer, Tennessee Williams has given us a Person-to-Person at the beginning of the book. In it, I came across what I thought was possibly one of the truest words ever written about writing. It is the kind of truth whose characteristic of being true stems not from facts and figures, but from its ability to ring true to the ones who are familiar with the burden of identifying themselves as writers.


There is too much to say and not enough time to say it. Nor is there power enough. I am not a good writer. Sometimes I am a very bad writer indeed. There is hardly a successful writer in the field who cannot write circles around me…but I think of writing as something more organic than words, something closer to being and action… I have never for once doubted that there are people- millions!- to say things to. We come to each other, gradually, but with love. It is the short reach of my arms that hinders, not the length and multiplicity of theirs. With love and with honesty, the embrace is inevitable.


The beauty of these lines is that, somehow, it is able to articulate and encompass the feelings that come to mind when one tries to identify as a writer. Especially at the beginning of the journey. Interestingly enough, these are the words that Williams refers to when he is talking about the beginning of his own journey, which he describes as “the time when I would first catch and hold an audience’s attention..”

I am very excited about reading this book. It will be my second book in this genre after Arthur Miller’s Death Of A Salesman.  I think I have stumbled onto a very interesting time period with regards to books and authors.

The Escherian Perspective

M C Escher


We adore chaos because we love to produce order.


A Favour.

Do me a favour and check out all the pictures I have linked below. Preferably before you start reading the article.

Relativity :

Hand With Reflecting Sphere :

Day and Night :

Drawing Hands :

Let’s Begin.

Hopefully, you have taken a look at all these pictures. If you haven’t, please do. We have seen them so many times on so many types of media. They are very popular images made by a not so popular man. Unlike Van Gogh, Vermeer, Michealangelo, M F Hussain, Da Vinci, his name doesn’t naturally come to our minds when we encounter one of his works. They are a publication staple which we seem to see everywhere and they never fail to catch our eyes and yet, we don’t know who made them.
The mystery man in question is called M C Escher.

M C Escher

Maurits Cornelis Escher is undoubtedly one of the most interesting artists to ever live.
I have been unequivocally smitten by his artwork since the time I saw it for the first time. It was his Relativity and I think I saw it in some magazine.

But that was a long long time ago. I didn’t even think that it was the result of a single mind probably sitting alone by himself, furiously scratching away on the stone, to let out the inspiration which has filled his brain to the brim with a crazy but amazing idea that needs to be pulled in and held forcibly by his mind and brought to life. He might’ve ignored one or two cries of a hungry stomach because this was more important and who knows if this inspiration would strike him again. And even if it did, would this unbending sense of purpose and belief which he has in that precious moment return when he came back from lunch? Or would he just dismiss it as a stupid idea with no backbone or maybe he would lose the ability to give this idea or inspiration a form for the world, and more importantly, for himself, to celebrate.
I don’t know if it happened this way or not but in my mind, I see it happening this way.
Because if I am honest with myself, I have done away with thousands of ideas because of procrastination on bringing these ideas to life. And even if I have found the inspiration to start, I haven’t maintained the motivation to continue till the work was finished.
Now Escher here, was born in the Netherlands to an engineer and his wife. He was always a sick child and did not do well in studies. In fact, he failed the second grade and had to be put in a special school when he was just seven years old. When he grew up, he studied architecture for a while but then he failed in several papers ( mainly due to a persistent skin infection) and had to switch to decorative arts.
In 1922, he went on a study tour to Italy and Spain, where he was highly taken with the geometrical patterns and repetetive colourful designs on the walls, tiles and ceilings in the moorish artichectural buildings he encountered. This influenced his own artwork where he has incorporated patterns and geometry in his designs.

His love for Italian countryside and architecture led him to return and eventually settle down when he married in 1924. Jetta Umiker was a swiss woman who, like Escher, was in love with Italy. They had three sons together.
During the world war II, the political climate in Italy under Mussolini became unbearable to Escher and he and his family left this beloved land and moved to Switzerland where they stayed for two years. It is said that this decision was triggered when Escher’s eldest son was forced to wear the uniform of Balila in school which was an Italian Fascist Youth Organisation. It was also during this time that he became obssessed with the mathematics of tessellation. (Tesselation is a process in which a plane surface is completely covered by a geometrical shape repeated again and again, leaving no gaps or spaces in between.)


Mathematicians have opened the gate leading to an extensive domain.

His family had to move again to Belgium and then back to Neatherlands because of the war and by this time he had stopped taking study tours and drawing out in the field. He retreated to his studio and focussed intently on his work. Most of his best-known artworks were made during this time. After 1953, when he was 55 years old, he started lecturing widely.
In 1962, he fell sick again and had to cancel a series of lectures in America and even stopped creating artworks for a while.
He created his last artwork in 1962, which was titled “Snakes” which has several interlocking circles of various sizes in a disc shape with the illusion of infinite circles as we move to the centre of the disc. Moreover, there are three snakes curled up along on the outer part of the disc. Now, I could attempt to describe it in a more deeper and artistic way about my perception of it’s purpose and meaning but I don’t think I can describe it better than this simple line on Escher’s wikipedia page-
“The image encapsulates Escher’s love of symmetry, of interlocking patterns, and at the end of his life, of his approach to infinity.”

Snakes :

At the very beginning of this article, I stated that we see his art everywhere. And I have wondered why this is the case. If have to attempt to answer this question I guess I would say that the reason is their versatality and the fact that they are very open to interpretation. They are simple in their titles and descriptions but maintain that factor of complexity which throws their whole purpose into question. They can’t be categorized into black or white but lie within a whole range of grey and are flexible enough to shift their meaning with our different whims and moods.

Maybe it’s the stereotype of a tortured artist but I still imagine him leaning over his work table, etching his design desperately onto the paper, with his equipment strewn around in a mess in the backdrop. To be honest, it very well could’ve just been him sitting peacefully, at night, after dinner, holding a cigar in his hand, thinking calmly of shapes and geometry and architecture and how they can represent a state of mind, then drawing lines with a scale every now and then on a rough piece of paper and then relaxing back into his chair and reverting back to his cigar and his thoughts.

At moments of great enthusiasm it seems to me that no one in the world has ever made something this beautiful and important – M.C. Escher

But then again, who knows?

The Horror In Erebus- Chapter One

Chapter One

She woke up with a smile on her face that was reminiscent of the dream she had been having.


Father came into her room and announced that his relocation was a misunderstanding on the part of the office paper work and he, along with his family, could go back to Apollo. She could almost jump with the thought of going back home to her friends, school and aunt Gemma.


But then she had woken up.


And as the smile drawn from this dream receded slowly, it turned into a frown, followed by a groan when she realised that this was just a dream and that she would have to live here, in Erebus.


She took a bath and was ready when she went down for breakfast. Normally, she wouldn’t bathe and dress out of her pyjamas till the late afternoon or till she had to go out but now hygiene and good habits seemed easier and less tiresome than lassitude and Erebus. Actually, if she was honest with herself, it gave her some sense of achievement amidst a situation where she felt that she had lost everything that had ever mattered to her. Also, since the family had shifted just as the holidays started, there was no school for another month to pass her time. Moreover, since she hadn’t met or seen any of the other children, there really wasn’t anybody she could talk to.  She hadn’t even seen any of the neighbours except for Mrs Falafel, an over enthusiastic, highly opinionated (although she wasn’t sure if she was rightly opinionated) talkative person who had already bored the head off Mary’s mum. She had seen her when Mrs. Falafel came down on the very first day of unpacking, asking the busy, tired and dirty inmates of the house a hundred different questions about where they were from, what each of them did, how the last neighbourhood was, what sort of neighbours they had, what all clubs they were a part of, where all the kids studied, etc. Mary had an older brother who was away at college at the ACU (Apollo City University). She was terribly jealous of him. He was getting to live in Apollo.  And the other person she had met was Mrs Falafel’s daughter, Jaime, whom she saw just once when she came to drop off the pie her mother had sent.


Life had been reduced to waking up, getting dressed, eating breakfast and sitting on the sofa with earphones in till either the charge got over and she had to move to a more power plug friendly seating place or if it was time for lunch.


Thus life went on like this for a few more days till her mother, tired of her complaining and also of her personal frustration of seeing her daughter lying like a bag of potatoes in a very unhealthy form of the spine on the sofa all day itched her like she was something that had to be removed. It was like the feeling she got when she looked at a finished bowl of food on the table counter, just lying there, with no purpose, creating a distraction and spoiling an otherwise great looking table counter and kitchen. So finally, one day when her OCD could no longer endure it, she decided that Mary had to be removed. Removed and thrown out of the house so that something fruitful may come out of her flesh, brain and soul.


So, she did just that.

And Mary found herself on the front porch with the door firmly shut her on her face.

It was 3 pm and bright and sunny and all that stuff but also confusing and terribly aimless. Mary had to use her brain which had been dormant for quite a while now and she found the entire process of thinking a very tiresome and difficult thing to do.


Fortunately, or unfortunately Mrs Falafel’s daughter, Jaime was just walking past their house and seeing Mary, she came up to her and before Mary could decide the fortune or misfortune of this act, she pulled her and starting taking her to wherever she was going amidst a torrent of words out of her mouth until the obviousness of her being Mrs Falafel’s daughter, hit Mary.

She was taking her to where all the other children hung out- the Plush Park. Well, might as well know the people she will be going to school with. And soon enough, Mary heard voices coming from the direction in which they walked.


As the park came into the view, she saw a couple of kids just standing around the railing, talking and laughing.

The first person she noticed was a very good looking, handsome boy called Jin. She was sure that he would be the one on whom everybody crushed on at school.

‘Jin has caught your eye I see. But wait till he opens his mouth. Dumb as one can be. Or simple-minded. Whichever you prefer.’ said Jamie when she saw the direction of Mary’s stare.


‘No no. I wasn’t…’ drifted off Mary’s voice. She wasn’t feeling ashamed or red but it was part impressiveness and part offence of her personal thoughts being read and being correctly assumed without her permission.


Then she saw a few other girls and boys but they felt like the kids in the background used to fill up scene space in ads and movies.

When they neared, a girl in the group waved and called out to Jaime.

‘That is Ria. She is a singer with a terrible general health. But she speaks thoughtfully chosen words at appropriate times. You’ll like her.’ whispered Jamie.

‘Everyone, this is Mary and Mary this is ……’ she sped the names of the different kids, but Mary didn’t remember a single one except for Jin and Ria. I suppose context is always necessary if we plan to remember a lot of new information at the same time.


After introductions, Mary just stood there listening to them talk and once in a while answering questions they put up to her. Soon, she understood what Jamie meant when she called Jin ‘simple-minded’. Then Ria said suddenly ‘Where’s Tyche? She is also new around here and is also from Apolla. You both would have a lot to talk about’ she looked at Mary.

It’d be nice to talk to someone who might just understand, thought Mary.

The group spent the entire evening talking about all sorts of things. They talked about the school and the town and what was going on in their lives and Mary’s initial displeasure at being forced to go out subsided. She wasn’t convinced that she would love her current situation but maybe, just maybe she could bear it.

It was dark by the time the group dispersed. Mary thought she would walk back home with Jaime but she was nowhere to be found. Somebody suggested that she might have slipped away and left early.

With no other option, Mary started to walk back home.

The way back home was pretty easy as it was almost a straight path but in the darkness it was still a bit confusing. Also, a weird chill had developed in the atmosphere. Slowly there developed a weird feeling in the pit of her stomach. On top of it all, there was nobody in sight. It was all too still and dark and cold. Mary wished that Jaime hadn’t left. Or had at least informed her before leaving. Maybe it was stupid but she felt that it was taking a bit too long for her to get back. She started walking faster. Then from the corner of her eyes, she saw something moving but it was making absolutely no sound. She looked straight ahead and broke into a run.

Then a sudden dent in the road caused her to stumble. She stopped to balance herself before she could fall and when she looked up, she saw a big oak tree. It was gigantic with red leaves and it seemed to spread across the sky. A strong wind started blowing and the sky seemed to be amidst a storm and the tree was almost glowing red against the dark blue sky. The wind was loud. Mary struggled to keep her eyes open.

She blinked and shook her head. She thought of running back in the direction of the park. Away from the tree. But suddenly, the wind stopped. It all became quiet. Mary opened her eyes. It was all still again. The big oak tree had disappeared. And she was standing at the corner to her block. Her house was a mere twenty steps away.



Education – The Purpose

Establishing The Perspective.

So in this essay, we are going to look at the subject of education not from any personal point of view but from a collective point of view vis-à-vis the purpose it fulfills for our species. For this, let’s take a step back and try and see it for what it actually is.

What is the purpose of Education?

I am hoping this will not turn into a rant but will rather endure as a well-intentioned point of view on a very important element of human life- educating the future generations.

Now, we must also remember that education is not the only thing that gives one knowledge. But even with that in mind, the role of education is too big to be downgraded or ignored.

I am sure everybody has heard the sentence ‘ The Education System is failing us’.

And despite different opines as to how, why and ifs of the above single-quoted sentence, I think we can all agree that something is grossly wrong with it.

If you ask me, it’s aims and goals seem to be distorted and skewed from its purpose in the furtherance of human life on this planet and beyond.

If I take a step back and ask myself what is the true purpose of education, the best and the most enduring answer that comes to mind is- preparing the future generations.

And in the continued spirit of clarifications, let’s what we mean by ‘preparing the future generation’.

It refers to making sure the future generation is equipped to deal with human life as we know it. Making sure that they become critical thinkers and are capable of making choices and decisions. Furthermore, teaching them how to make the said choices and decisions, and providing a whole lot of information pertaining to varied topics like Maths, Science, Social Studies, Economics, Computer Science, Language studies, etc to broaden their spectrum and thereby letting them conclude where their interests lie and deciding a role for themselves in the society whereby they can best assist themselves and the rest of mankind.


Well, that seems to be the logical answer anyway. Or at least something close to it.

But then come the questions.

Is this what the schools are aiming at?

Is this what the parents are aiming at?

And consequently, is this what the students themselves are aiming at?

How are we, as a society, preparing those who will become bearers of human life as we know it?

The Horror Of Erebus

She woke up with a smile on her face that was reminiscent of the dream she had been having.


But then she had woken up.

And that dream begotten smile receded slowly and turned into a frown, followed by a groan when the realisation hit that it was just a dream and that she would have to live here, in mind-numbingly boring Erebus.


Mary moved from the beautiful city of Apollo to the small dark town of Erebus. She thought this was the most horrifying thing to have happened to her. Little did she know the true meaning of horror lay waiting for her in the shadows of the night. Erebus was not just a small town, but a town with deep dark secrets.

A horrifying yet humorous tale of a family move gone wrong.

Chapter number one lies in wait.

See you on the dark side.

The History Of Coffee

Ah! That Aroma Early In The Morning!

I am one of those tortured souls who cannot start their day without a cup of coffee. So I thought it only appropriate that I begin my blog with an article on coffee.

So, in the spirit of beginnings, let’s talk about the beginning of this soul reviving liquid.

I mean, water may be getting all the attention for being the life-giving liquid and all but this dark drink doth give strong competition, at least if you ask a coffee addict.

Coming back to the beginning a.k.a the history of coffee, there are several stories as to how it came to take this celebratory place in human life.

It all started with a couple of Ethiopian monks and goats.

It is said that, once, when a shepherd in Ethiopia took his goats for grazing, he discovered that his goats became perky and started to ‘dance’ after eating the berries of a plant which grew only in the shade. He took the berries back to the monastery, where the head monk threw the berries into the fire in the fireplace announcing that they were the work of the devil because of the effect they produced. However, after a while, the exotic aroma of the coffee beans inside the berries getting roasted in the fireplace caught the attention of the monks who later brewed a drink out of them. And this is how coffee is said to be discovered.

In its very initial days, however, coffee was eaten and not drunk. Tribes in Africa mixed coffee berries with fat and ate them as energy balls. The Arabs were, however, the first to cultivate coffee as well as the first to begin its trade. By the 15th century, coffee was being grown in Yemen in Arabia. Then slowly it spread to Persia, Egypt, Syria and Turkey. Around that time, many coffee houses called qahveh khaneh appeared in cities across the Middle East and eventually this drink came to be known as the ‘wine of Araby’. ( I have half a mind to enter the kitchen tomorrow morning and announce that I will be drinking The Wine Of Araby!) Stories of this drink were told by the European travellers, but the main credit of popularizing it goes to the thousands of pilgrims who went to the Middle East to conduct the holy pilgrimage of Haj.

 I Followed My Heart And It Led Me To Coffee

                                                                                   – every bean head ever

In fact, coffee was introduced in India by one such pilgrim who was called Bababudan. In the 17th century, the Sufi saint, Bababudan went to Mecca for Haj. There he encountered a strange exotic dark drink. He found out that it came from a plant. He was so impressed by its taste that he wanted to bring the plant back with him and grow it in India. But it was not easy. In order to maintain their monopoly in coffee trade, the Arabs did not allow anybody to take the coffee seeds; people could only take the roasted beans. But Bababudan managed to acquire seven seeds of coffee which he hid in the folds of his robes. It is said that he left Yemen through the port of Mocha (Interesting name, eh?). After reaching home, Bababudan planted the seeds in his hometown situated in the Chikmagalur district of Karnataka and fortunately, they grew! Even today, coffee is grown in a hill range in Chikmagalur called Dattagiri, which is otherwise called Bababudangiri as a homage to the Sufi saint.

*A Liquid Hug For Your Brain*

The spread of coffee to many other popular plantations of today came about more or less in the same adventurous way. For example, coffee was introduced in Brazil by Francisco de Mello Palheta, who was sent by his emperor to the French colony of Guiana to get coffee seedlings. The French, however, did not want to share their coffee and Palheta’s request was not accepted by the French governor. However our hero was not only an adventurer but also a man of the ladies and on the day he was to leave, the seduced wife of the governor gave him a bouquet of flowers in which were hidden the coffee seeds which went on to lay the foundation of the present 2,339,630 hectares/ 27,000 large coffee estates in Brazil which have subsequently made the country the largest producer of coffee in the world.

After so many hurdles of being declared the ‘bitter invention of Satan’, overcoming Arabic monopolistic efforts and other challenges, coffee has emerged as one of the most sought-after drinks, grown in more than 50 countries and is in fact, the third most popular drink on earth after water and tea.