Tag: books

I time travelled!

Do you remember that book shop owned by William Thacker (Hugh Grant) in the movie Notting Hill? It sold only travel book. When I first saw that movie, I thought “Wow! How many Lonely Planets does he have?” and “Of course he isn’t making profits”! Back then, little did I know about this genre called travel literature and it’s magical powers!

image1A few years later however, on my last birthday, when my brother and his wife, gifted me my very first travel memoir, From Heaven Lake, by the one and only, Vikram Seth, I felt like I discovered a way to escape to any place I want to. In this book, I escaped to Eastern China and hitch-hiked across my way back to India. I felt, I was practically transported to 1982 China and to all the places Mr. Seth visited. I didn’t read the book, I experienced it.

The the diverse landscape of China, the dry  and the cold desert, and the transformation of one into another, the finding of an oasis in the middle of unending inhabitable landmass, and finding unconditional help all along the way; sitting in the comfort of my home I  experienced it all.

A noteworthy fact about this book is that, it hardly contains any pictures and the ones that are there, are in greyscale. Despite that, the author has been able to paint a vivid picture of his travelogue in my head. And wait till you web search all the places he has been to, they are all unimaginably beautiful. Yet, amongst all the literary merits and interesting subject matter, it is the author’s wit, that makes this book extraordinary and worthwhile.  I couldn’t stop myself from grinning, giggling, chuckling and sometimes breaking into a roaring fit of laughter.

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Vikram Seth, beautifully wearing that radiant smile and those sparkly eyes. (an old picture)

He goes on the explain the geographic diversity of China as well. Since the world climatic zones are arranged in latitudinal bands, a longitudinal journey, i.e. North-South, is likely to be much more varied than a latitudinal one, i.e. East-West journey. In western China the main topographical features are so latitudinal, and this enhances the variety of longitudinal journey. Hence, the sandy deserts, cold plateaus, arid land, pastures, glaciers, rigged mountains and passes. Sounds exciting? Now imagine hitch-hiking your way through it!

Mr. Seth has not only made an account of the physical surroundings, but also succeeded in showing the irony of two neighbouring countries India and China, so close to each other, yet culturally and economically so distant and disagreeable. It makes me wonder how the present-day China is like, maybe I’ll find another more recent travelogue.

In the end, if you want to travel and don’t have the resources or the time to, read a good travel memoir and escape to lands as inaccessible as it may seem; and come back rejuvenated. 

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What would you like to do with your time? Comment below.

Have you ever time travelled? Please share your experience in the comment section below or write to me on the ‘contact’ page.

Please don’t forget to share this with your loved ones 🙂

Ciao ❤

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Never Let Me Go

Have you ever read a classic? It is easier to know if you are reading an older publication. But how do we determine if the newer publication is a classic? I have devised a way! A IMG_1115contemporary classic will have the following few characteristics; first, it will be painful and/or slow read. It will make you question why are reading this book? Secondly, despite it being so, it will push you to read the entire story. Thirdly, it will not at all be dramatic (which means less entertaining!). It will be like our lives, slow and seemingly mundane. Fourthly, it will be devastating in the end. Fifthly, it will change your perspective towards life forever.

Never Let Me Go is one such contemporary pieces of work which won the Nobel Prize in Literature in the year 2017.

Preface of the plot

The book is first hand narrative of an English girl named Kathy in the late 1990’s England. It is about her and her friend’s lives (Ruth and Tommy) who grew up were brought up in a country side boarding school called Halisham for one purpose only- organ donation.

These children’s origin is unknown to them and Halisham. They grow up together in a secluded environment where special emphasis in placed on keeping their internal organs healthy; where they cannot smoke and drink for fun and experiment with their lives, neither can they ever start a family; they are made aware of sex as a physical need, like breathing. Throughout their lives they keep wondering about the strange and mysterious little incidents happening around them, like little remarks by their teachers or memories from Halisham. 

Despite believing their lives have been marred by their fate, they somehow inadvertently carry on until they fulfill their purpose and finally realize the real meaning of their lives.

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Never Let Me Go: Movie scene

In the plot, organ donation does not hold a central position, it is rather in the background. The story, instead, is about the evolution of these three individuals; it is as insightful as it can get; and certainly incomprehensible without contemplation!

Thoughts about the book: Knowledge and Innocence 

The book is suspenseful throughout for the readers and the characters alike. One might feel pretty clueless about the plot most of the time. But considering this is not a drama, that kind of feeling is acceptable.

The book is based on a philosophy and that philosophy can be inferred form the events of the story. That philosophy being, our life has a purpose; everyone has different purposes, and we are to carry them out with or without the knowledge of that being so. When we start our lives, we are innocent, impressionable and completely oblivious of “the big picture of life”. It takes a while to become partly conscious or aware as a person, sometimes it takes a lifetime. However, while we are unwise and naive, we fail  to appreciate what we really have, we fail to see the real nature of things, for the very fact that we are ignorant and naive! Expecting ourselves to be wise and enlightened when we are young is unrealistic. But that innocence, lack of wisdom and naivety itself is a gift that we all are in such a hurry to get rid of.

It is inevitable that we will become wiser by our experiences. But the tragedy is that only when we are on the verge of losing what we have or when we have already lost it, is when we finally realize it’s value.

A word of caution 

There are no short cuts to reading this wonderful book. It cannot be simply read and understood, it demands to be thought over and discussed. The language of the book is simple and devoid of any difficult words, which makes it an easy read prima facie, until you start contemplating.

Neither would it be advisable to watch it’s adaptation before reading the book. The adaptation by the same title is a simplified version of the book, and it goes without say, that the book is always better than the movie!

I would like to thank my very special friend who gifted me this book. I hope you are reading this. Just with this simple book you have completely changed my life and filled my heart with more affection and gratitude for you. Thank you 🙂

Backlash

This Valentine’s Day I did something unusual. I went on a blind date, but that was not the unusual part, what was unusual was that my date was a book!

Thankfully, the public library near my residence is run by some very clever people. They wrapped up books in brown paper with a few lines of introduction of what our “date” is like and whatever we choose is going to our date. Clever, eh? The idea behind this is to encourage readers to try something we would never usually try.

It so happened that I ended up picking this light yet interesting novel for young adults, titled “Backlash” by Sarah Darer Littleman. It is about two teenage girls, Lara and Bree who used to be best friends in middle school. When Lara is going through bullying, self-image issues, depression, etc, Bree tries to help her cope up, but after repeated failed Photo on 2018-02-05 at 7.58 PM #3efforts, she gives up and distances herself from Lara. As they enter High School, roles reverse and Lara, who was struggling and simultaneously working on herself in High School becomes what she aspire to be and Bree on the other hand is suffering this time. Unable to contain her emotions mixed with jealousy, Bree makes some very poor choices. Knowing Lara inside out she decides to take revenge (or vent out her jealousy) by creating a fake Facebook profile, but unfortunately Bree ends up digging her own grave.

It was a dramatic read, and also some cute teenage romance and of course Cyberbullying! It was in fact reminiscent of my own teenage, because like most people I also saw cyberbullies in my school, hiding under the mask of their fake virtual identity.  Back then, I was just an ignorant teen, like most people my age and I could not make sense of anything happening around me. But I somehow survived that too and now I am a Lawyer and can not only protect myself and people around me, but can also help you protect yourself.

Do’s and Don’ts of your cyber activity

Do’s

  • Know your rights. Like it is a crime to assault someone, cyberbullying is also a a crime. Cyberbullying is most probably a punishable offence in your country which could include jail time and/or other serious consequences against the perpetrator. Even if it not a punishable offence in your country, it is certainly against the terms and conditions of most social media sites; which means the offender is in serious trouble. So don’t be afraid of such bullies, they are the ones who should be afraid instead.
  • Don’t be afraid to share such incidents with your close friends and family as they can help you.
  • If you feel someone engages in similar activities like cyberbullying, spreading fake news or hateful content, stay away from them as much as possible- virtually as well as physically. Most importantly, inform your peer and above about it immediately.

Don’ts

  • Avoid realtime update of your (or other people’s) personal activity as it can lead to cyber assisted crimes;
  • Avoid publicly criticizing or taunting anyone on social media;
  • Do NOT record anyone’s activity without their permission and obviously do NOT post it or threaten to post it online- even for fun;
  • Avoid making friends online, because they generally tend to be quite different from what you perceive them to be;
  • Never open up to a stranger online, there are plenty of people around you who love you and would treasure your company. If however, you still decide to do so, make sure you don’t divulge details of your personal life to them. Most importantly, be wary of emotionally investing in such relationships;
  • Last but not the least, don’t falsely accuse anyone of being a cyberbully, as it can be a Backlash.

Remember, your inaction can help the potential offender, who will one day find someone else to hurt. And.. “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing” (-Edmund Burke).

Ciao ❤

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War & Peace: Noteworthy quotations

WAR & PEACE- NOTEWORTHY QUOTATIONSOne must read, reread, think and rethink to understand War & Peace. I have tried my best to  come up with some of the noteworthy quotations to inspire you to give this book a try. It looks intimidating, but its worth your time. I have tried to resist the temptation of writing paragraphs and pages from the book, because then it would have been excerpts and extracts and not quotations. So, here are some of the noteworthy quotations from the epic War & Peace:

Prince Andrei

Prince andrei
Actor: James Norton  (BBC adaptation)

Nothing is forever

It is not given to people to judge what’s right or wrong. People have eternally been mistaken and will be mistaken, and in nothing more so than in what they consider right or wrong.

..this feeling (of love) is stronger than I am.

The whole world is divided for me into two parts: one is she, and there is all the happiness, hope, light; the other is where she is not, and there everything is dejection and darkness..

Don’t think that grief is caused by people. People are His instruments. Grief is sent by Him, not by people. People are His instruments, they are not to blame. If it seems to you that someone is to blame before you, forget it and forgive. We have no right to punish. And you will know that happiness is forgiveness.

A battle is won by him who is firmly resolved to win it.

…what is war, what is needed for success in military affairs, what are the morals of military society? The aim of war is killing, the instruments of war are espionage, treason and the encouragement of it, the ruin of the inhabitants, robbing them or stealing to supply the army; deception and lying are called military stratagems; the morals of military estate are absence of freedom, that is, discipline, idleness, ignorance, cruelty, depravity, and drunkenness. And in spite of that, it is the highest estate, respected by all

War isn’t courtesy, it’s the vilest thing in the world, and we must understand that and not play at war…

Pierre Bezukhov 

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Actor: Paul Dano (BBC adaptation)

To live only so as not to do evil, so as not to repent, is too little. I used to live that way, I lived for myself and I ruined my life. And only now, when I live, or at least try to live for others, only now I have understood all the happiness of life.

…that man is created for happiness, that happiness is within him, in the satisfying of natural human needs, and that all the happiness comes not from lack, but from superfluity…there is no situation in the world in which a man can be happy and perfectly free..

…The source of blessedness is not outside, but inside us…

 

Natasha Rostova

natasha
Actress: Lily James (BBC adaptation)

Can it be that this stranger has now become everything for me?

Why ask? Why doubt when you cannot help knowing? Why speak when it’s impossible to put everything you feel into words?

Napoleon Bonaparte

napolean
Actor: Matthieu Kassovitz

However, a great number of monasteries and churches is always a sign of a nation’s backwardness

A city occupied by enemy is like a girl who has lost her honour

General Kutuzov

general kutuzov
Actor: Brian Cox

…there is nothing stronger that those two warriors, patience and time; they’d do it all…

When in doubt, my dear…abstain

Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy

When an apple ripens and falls- what makes it fall? Is it that it is attracted tot he ground, is it that the stem withers, is it that the sun has dried it up, that it has  grown heavier, that the wind shakes it, that the boy standing underneath it wants to eat it?

…in military matters the most profoundly devised plans meant nothing, that everything depended on how one responded to the unexpected and unpredictable actions of the enemy, that everything depended on how and by whom the action was conducted.

A good commander not only does not need genius or any special qualities, but, on the contrary, he needs the absence of the best and the highest qualities- love, poetry, tenderness, a searching philosophical doubt. He should be limited, firmly convinced that what he is doing is very important (otherwise he would not have enough patience), and only then will he be a brave commander. God forbid that he should be a human being and come to love or pity someone, or start thinking what is just and what isn’t.

…one cannot get used to danger…

..the greatest attention was accorded to totally extraneous events, which had no relation to the battle…

The work of the commander in chief seems to be merely to choose one of the (proposed) plans. But he cannot even do that. Events and time do not wait

And as it happens in matters of cunning that a stupid person tricks the more intelligent..

If we allow that human life can be governed by reason, the possibility of life is annihilated.

…the view of what the good of mankind is changes with each new year, with each new writer; so that in ten years what seemed good looks like evil, and vice versa.

Behind lay destruction, ahead lay hope.

Gospel

To him who has will be given, from who has not will be taken.

PS: Due to the nature of the book, I might have missed some essential quotations, you are, however, most welcome to add to the list by commenting below and I shall be happy to update the current post.

I write my blogs with a lot of effort and passion, so if you enjoyed it don’t forget to follow it, like and share it among your friends as it’s my only incentive. You can also share your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below. Thank you🙂

India through the eyes of a servant

There are different kinds of fiction books. I know about two varieties now. Type-A are realistic fiction throughout; reading them feels like living them, example War & Peace (https://goo.gl/BimFhn). While Type-B deals with realistic subjects, scenarios but are evidently fiction. Both such varieties are inspired through real life events that has deeply impacted the author and the author has also chosen to write about it. The White tiger is Type-B.

It is Arvinda Adiga’s first book, published in 2008 and also the winner of Man Booker Prize (2008). This book is India through the eyes of an underprivileged village boy who eventually goes on to become “a man”. (How intriguing!) It is not just a rags to riches story, but also portrays the differences between the rich and the poor, their perspectives, attitudes, ambitions and….ethics? No! Certainly not!

I don’t know about the author, but the protagonist is certainly an angry (and sarcastic) young man. This angry young man a.k.a. Balram Halwai (Halwai being a sweetmaker “caste” in India) explores castism and classism in Modern India. Balram Halwai is caught between his necessity to be a faithful servant and his instinct to live up to his father’s dream of- being a man.

This book is also a realistic (not real or general) description (as far as I know) of master-servant relationship and also the servant-servant relationship in India, glimpses of life and governance in villages and mega cities (of India, of course). An independent India that has not yet freed itself of its past.

The book is not to be read for its literary merit, rather for its metaphorical merit. Everything writer in a book has two meanings- one literal and another, what you can interpret. The book is like a thought provoking pop song, its easy listening yet profound. If you read it literally, then it is simply grotesque (and morally deceptive, at least according to me), however if you read between the lines and understand the metaphorical meaning then it turns into something meaningful. The reader needs to know when to take what literally or metaphorically.

The narration is darkly sarcastic and witty. (I’ve never read a book more sarcastic than this one.) And the world through the eyes of Balram Halwai is intriguing. Once you start reading, you’ll finish it within a blink of an eye (of course metaphorically! It’s the Arvinda Adiga effect hehehe)

Favorite quotes

The dreams of the rich, and the dreams of the poor- they never overlap do they?

See, the poor dream all their lives of getting enough to eat and looking like rich. And what do the rich dream of? Losing weight and looking like the poor.

You were looking for the key for years, but the door was always open.

The moment you recognize what is beautiful in this world, you stop being a slave.

Fact or fiction?

The White Tiger compels me to think- Does it require a person to do immoral or illegal things to climb up the ladder? In the book, Balram Halwai (the protagonist) murders his employer (and it’s not a spoiler) to climb up the latter and eventually climbs up the ladder. And THAT…precisely makes this book a work of fiction (at least for me).

This is what I’ve learnt from the classic Crime and Punishment (https://goo.gl/NYsieg) that no matter how tempting, compelling or grotesque the circumstances are one must choose virtue over vice- because circumstances change and more importantly – as you sow, so shall you reap. If you do something wrong, it’s guilt will imprison you, even if the government cannot; and you shall suffer until and unless you redeem yourself by suffering for your misdeeds.

(Back to the point) Although the protagonist in this book is shown to have “morally suffered” for it, I’d still like to caution the readers to not get a wrong idea. I insist the readers look at the murder committed by Balram Halwai metaphorically, as in, breaking of the shackles of time immemorial and ever-prevalent corruption, slavery, class difference.

However, from the comfortable position of a reader, I agree with Balram Halwai’s  inevitable metaphorical revolutionary murder, i.e. breaking away.

Lastly, the book is very simplistic, lacks human complexity and metaphorical; suitable for light reading.

Ciao.

PS: I write my blogs with a lot of effort and passion, so if you enjoyed it don’t forget to follow it, like and share it among your friends as it’s my only incentive. And for any queries, comments or if disagree with me don’t forget to write to me in the comment section below and I would love to reply to it. Thank you🙂