Tag: reading

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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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🙂

How to read War & Peace

How I started reading War & Peace

It all started when I unexpectedly traveled to Mumbai and unexpectedly stayed there for about two months. Living there (or anywhere) with any book is simply impossible for me. So I checked my to-read list and decided to purchase War & Peace. It got delivered on the 10th of September, 2016 and  my enthusiasm got sublimed within minutes. The size of the book was bigger than my Constitutional Law book. I felt an adrenaline rush, my brain was numbed. I sat down in the sofa, sipped some water, and kept staring the book. There were no voices in my head.

For days to come I would just wake up every morning, look at my book for 10-15 minutes and say nothing to it or myself. I started reading my niece’s old history books. The one with a lot of pictures, the one she used to read when she was 11.

After about 10 days, when I was silently staring at the book, I said to myself, (in Raskolnikov’s Russian accent) “What have I done? Why did I do this to myself?” My sister and her entire family started to laugh at me when I would just sit and stare at the book. And after a couple of days, I finally opened the book.war-and-peace

One afternoon, when I was all alone, I sat on the dining table and started reading. I read about 5 pages and understood nothing and within minutes I dozed off. After a couple of days, I read upto 20 pages and again slept on the book. The next time I opened the book, after a gap of 2-3 days, there was nothing I could remember and page 21 was not comprehensible. I went back to staring my book for a few days and repeated the above process four times. It was the fifth time that I read about 20 pages and got a hang of it, I even went to to read till page 22 and could comprehend and not fall asleep.

And THAT is when I finally started reading War & Peace.

How to read War & Peace

This is one of the most notable and much celebrated works of Leo Tolstoy. It is divided into four volumes and it could be overwhelming for some of us (like me) considering it’s size, volume and simply because it’s Leo Tolstoy’s book. Following are some tips for how to read this book or the like-

1. Get used to the book.

Flip through, go through the contents, read the covers, about the author and other such short paragraphs in the beginning of the book. Accept the fact that you are going to read the book. Keep the book around yourself, so that you get to see the book every now and then. After getting used to the book, it won’t seem like a mountain. You’d start seeing it like a readable book, maybe not that big after all!

2. The Russian names!

In the beginning of the book there is a list of important characters. The list constitutes about 35 Russian names, which are difficult to pronounce at least for an average Indian. Well that’s not it; every Russian name has 4-5 variations. The name, the second name, the title, and the additional list of nick names. For example-

COUNT NIKOLAI ILYICH (Nikolushka, Nikolenka, Kolya, Nicolas, Coco)

Now this person Nikolai could be addressed with any of the above names, depending upon the situation and who is addressing him. He is also sometimes called by his father’s name, i.e. ROSTOV. So don’t be surprised if you have read about 100 pages and yet don’t recognize the character.

The solution is to keep referring to the list of characters often. Also creating a mental picture of each an every character would help (that would automatically happen, with Tolstoy’s description!)

3.   Be patient with yourself and with the book.

This is one of the most amazing book you are going to read. It might be very different from anything you have come across until now. Learn to appreciate the book, the writing style, imagine the author’s dedication, hard work and research to be able to come up with this; countless people who have translated this voluminous book into different languages.

4. Read regularly.

The writing style of the book requires you to read this book regularly; even if it is one page a day. It doesn’t matter how many pages you’ve covered, if you don’t read it on a regularly, you might just forget everything and might have to restart. (gasp!)

Most importantly, always remember, You don’t read War & Peace, you live it. So don’t just read it, breath it, taste it and get lost in Tolstoy’s vivid work.

 

 

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🙂