Thursday, December 31, 2009

Book Review: December 2009

I close the year with two books that have a lot to do with the way I am living my life right now and I would call it a good close. So much for getting over self-doubt.

So I finished the book The Bridge Across Forever this month along with Hope For The Flowers…wanted to squeeze in White Mughals as well but a sickness prevented that. And the combination of the two and half books that I read seemed almost symbolic anyway. And I am a big believer in symbols and signs and messages from the Universe : )

Hope For The Flowers by Trina Paulus was an allegory that uses the befitting analogy of caterpillars and butterflies to get a simple and strong message across: we are all capable of being much more and very different from who we are but that also sometimes means letting go of who we are now and pulling out from the rat race.

At a time when I am discovering all that I am capable of as a person, this book came as a rejoinder that it is ok to not belong to the race…to not want to run…because maybe we are meant to fly over fragrant flowers and not step on each other’s shoes. Thanks a whole big lot for this recommendation Push, you’re the best.

The Bridge Across Forever is a love story by Richard Bach. But it is strictly not mushy. It is not tear-jerking. It is far from love stories as we know them, ones that narrate what happens between two people, how they meet and end up in a happily-ever-after. The Bridge Across Forever is an intellectual love story. But then one can’t expect anything less from Richard Bach. Illusions had wowed my mind while Jonathan Livingstone Seagull had touched the seat of inspiration in my head. The Bridge Across Forever stimulates both the mind and the heart without being mushy or sleazy and that is it’s beauty. It is a story that makes you think and re-evaluate your own beliefs about love and marriage. And it is certainly a story of hope and faith in the fact that there is that one perfect person for you who will fit into your life as well as you will fit into his and the rest will be magic for ever after.

The book details out the thoughts of someone who loves his life as it is and does not want to lose his freedom and independence because of love or marriage; love is meant to be a beautiful thing, not something that cripples you. And so he decides to not get married…ever. He doesn’t want to kill something that is so beautiful. How he undergoes a change of heart and what goes through his head at all those points are detailed out very well in the book. How love makes you change and do something you thought you would never do, how it changes how you interact with people and how it makes you start accommodating another person in your life without it feeling like intrusion…all these and more have been laid out in thoughts – fears, joys, triumphs, anger…all of it put together. And that made it a great read for me.

There are many bits that I like from the book but I will quote one that comes towards the end and might end up being a defining thought for 2010 for me (as will the book itself) along with Hope For The Flowers:

She looked at me, curious. “Did you know you were trying to kill yourself?”

“Not consciously, I don’t think. But neither do I think my close calls were accidental. Loneliness was such a problem back then, I wouldn’t have minded dying, it would have been a new adventure.”

“What would it have felt like,” she said, “to have killed yourself and then found that your soulmate was still on earth, waiting for you?”

This book was as reassuring as intellectually stimulating and it’s a recommended read like most other books of Bach.

With that, the year’s list reads as follows…not bad I would say, each one has taught me something or the other:

  1. The Bridge Across Forever - Richard Bach
  2. Hope For The Flowers - Trina Paulus
  3. The Art Of Travel - Alain de Botton
  4. The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time - Mark Haddon
  5. The Catcher In The Rye - J. D. Salinger
  6. God Explained In A Taxi Ride - Paul Arden
  7. Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite - Paul Arden
  8. It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be - Paul Arden
  9. Desi Dream Merchants - A. G. Krishnamurthy
  10. In An Antique Land - Amitav Ghosh
  11. The Power Of Your Subconscious Mind - Dr. Joseph Murphy
  12. The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button - F. Scott Fitzgerald
  13. The Gift - Cecelia Ahern
  14. Message In A Bottle - Nicholas Sparks
  15. Discover Your Destiny - Robin S. Sharma
  16. The Game Of Life - Florence Shinn
  17. The Choice - Nicholas Sparks
  18. As A Man Thinketh - James Allen
  19. Stuff White People Like - Christian Lander
  20. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 - Sue Townsend
  21. The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari - Robin S. Sharma
  22. The Critical Chain - Eliyahu Goldratt

Happy New Year people and wish you many more explorations, discoveries and insights through the pages of paper delights that we lovingly call books. Happy Reading!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Revisiting Aisha

I kinda liked Wake Up Sid. I know at least one person who will sneer at that but it’s true. I liked the look of the movie, Ranbir’s T-shirts, the music, the fact that the guy goes ahead and does what he likes as opposed to joining the rat race, and the whole finding oneself business.

But what I liked the most was seeing myself on screen. I’m not kidding. I am pretty much what Aisha Banerjee is and today for some reason I was looking back on my life in Bangalore over the past three years and it made me think of Aisha.

I came to Bangalore leaving my comfort zone and lanes I knew like the back of my hand behind only because I knew the only way to grow up any further was to leave home and work in this lovely city, alone. I had fallen in love with Bangalore on my first visit but that doesn’t mean it made me any less apprehensive to start a new life here and establish myself when I came the second time. There was a time when I had got lost while coming back from JP Nagar 15th Cross to my office on Bannerghatta Road. Today, I know the lanes of this city like the back of my hand…well pretty much.

As I explored this city I ended up exploring myself too and rediscovered my love for a lot of things, in that writing. Bangalore let me experience so much in short spans of time that I just had to write it down to process it better. It let me put my past in perspective, it let me weave dreams for a future and it let me become the me I was always supposed to be. And it made me more of a writer. I am a small-time one right now but I do know I want to be a published author some day. And there I am Aisha again.

I love books and music much like she does. I have a fetish for cleanliness and order too. I have white-coloured curtains at home like her home does. And chai at midnight is one of my indulgences.

From The Art Of Travel I remember this bit about there being a place that we are born in and one that we connect to. Bangalore is the city of my soul. And the way Aisha falls in love with Bombay, I fall in love with Bangalore one day at a time.

A song from Wake Up Sid is called upon at this moment but instead I give to you one of my favourites – Aicha. This is for Aisha…my screen and soul twin.

Aicha by Outlandish on Grooveshark

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Book Review: August - November 2009

So it’s been a long time since a book review went up on this site. And before I post anything else I feel the urgent need to write a book review from the last four months. So here it goes.

The books going up for review this time are:

  1. Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite - Paul Arden
  2. God Explained In A Taxi Ride - Paul Arden
  3. The Catcher In The Rye - J. D. Salinger
  4. The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time - Mark Haddon
  5. The Art of Travel – Alain de Botton

Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite
Paul Arden

I liked ‘It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be’ so much that I decided to buy the other two books from Paul Arden as well. This particular book is just a notch lower than ‘It’s Not How Good…’ but equally stimulating. It asks you to break the mould of routine thinking and dare to be different as a pre-requisite to success. I tend to agree with him on most points there and recommend this book to anyone who wants his mind to be shaken out of the regular thought process.

God Explained In A Taxi Ride
Paul Arden

Disappointing. Period.

The Catcher In The Rye
J. D. Salinger

So I read the iconic The Catcher In The Rye only now. And I wonder why. I should take hype and recommendations much more urgently I think because I loved this book. I agree with Tigerstone in that it is a good but sad read. It is a very well-written book in the first person narrative with a style that almost disarms you. And the funny thing is, the way it is narrated it makes the reader agree with the narrator Holden Caulfield at most points until the reader discovers that he seems to have the same opinion about most everything and everyone. And that I think is when the reader wants to go back to the start and evaluate it all over again more objectively. But that is the power and beauty of the book; Holden seems to be right and evokes empathy without the reader realizing it. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

My absolutely favourite bit from the book (Eve, this is what I was talking about at lunch the other day):

…The only thing that would be different would be you. Not that you’d be so much older or anything. It wouldn’t be that, exactly. You’d just be different, that’s all. You’d have an overcoat on this time. Or the kid that was your partner in the line last time had got scarlet fever and you’d have a new partner. Or you’d have a substitute taking the class instead of Miss Aigletinger. Or you’d heard your mother and father having a terrific fight in the bathroom. Or you’d just passed by one of those puddles in the street with the gasoline rainbows in them. I can’t explain what I mean. And even if I could I’m not sure I’d feel like it.

Such and many other metaphorical bits from the book make it such an engaging and reflective read on the whole. Highly recommended (like the world needed my recommendation to pick up this cult book :D )

The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time
Mark Haddon

This book, again written in the first person much like The Catcher In The Rye, is the account of the life of a young boy. There isn’t much to the story if you look at it from the perspective of the story leading you somewhere. The story starts at the boy trying to solve the mystery of a death of a neighbour’s dog. The dog has been found dead in the garden. And the neighbour suspects the boy. To acquit himself of the charges (and also because he thinks dogs are better than human beings because they are easy to understand) the boy starts to investigate the murder despite his father advising him against it.

The story runs with this background but many facts and events unfold that tell us more about the narrator bit-by-bit. And the story ends on a different note than expected, far away from and after the murder-mystery is solved.

This book is disturbing. At various levels. But that also depends on whether you know as much about the group of people that the narrator of this story belongs to. The boy, from what I could gather from his narrative and my work with autistic children, is autistic. And every time I read another narration in the book I could picture one child or another that I had worked with who had had exhibited that characteristic – groaning constantly, rocking back and forth all the time, screaming at the instance of someone touching them, high attention deficit, not making eye-contact and yet extremely brilliant children. All of it came back to me. And it sent chills down my spine to read this book with that knowledge. It also threw light on an aspect I had always suspected to be terribly difficult – having a special child at home. The story brings to fore enough complexities of the lives of a couple that has a special child…the amount of patience required, the frustration that comes over ever so often, the different ways in which one must communicate with the child and an occasional fallout due to not being able to deal with that life. It is a terribly sad story in those terms.

I have to say one thing though – kudos to Mark Haddon for doing such a splendid job of portraying a special child and his thoughts. No wonder he got the Teenage Fiction award. I am absolutely in awe of his attention to detail and the brilliant job he has done at sketching various characters and detailing the story. But in my serious opinion, this is not a children’s book at all if that award title is misleading in any way.

I finished this book in Hampi on an evening when I was slightly under the weather and I couldn’t even sleep properly that night because every time I woke up I found myself picturing one of those children groaning or rocking. All the same, for the way it is written and the splendid portrayal of an autistic child, this is a must read. Hats off.

The Art of Travel
Alain de Botton

This book is who I am. And that is just one of the reasons why I love this book. It is well written. It flows easily between the realms of travel, philosophy and life. And it makes you reflect on your own travels and why you had undertaken them, what you took out of them. And it has a very warm feel to it. Every essay leaves you smiling at how the author has tied the entire content up to throw a brilliant insight your way.

So The Art Of Travel is a collection of essays by Alain de Botton on various aspects of and reasons for travel e.g. On Curiosity, On Anticipation, On The City And The Country, On Eye-Opening Art. Every essay starts with listing out the place the author travelled to and wishes to focus upon and the guide for this journey. This guide, now, could be another author who has written about that aspect, a painter whose work inspired the author to travel to this place, a traveller or explorer et al. And the rest of the essay is sheer joy.

Sample this bit from On Travelling To Places (one of my favourite bits from the book):

Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversation than moving planes, ships or trains. There is almost a quaint correlation between what is before our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times require large views, and new thoughts, new places. Introspective reflections that might otherwise be liable to stall are helped along by the flow of landscape. The mind may be reluctant to think when thinking is all it is supposed to do; the task can be as paralysing as having to tell a joke or mimic an accent on demand. Thinking improves when parts of the mind are given other tasks – charged with listening to music, for example, or following a line of trees. The music or the view distracts for a time that nervous, censorious practical part of the mind which is inclined to shut down when it notices something difficult emerging in consciousness, and which runs scared of memories, longings and introspective or original ideas, preferring instead the administrative and the impersonal.

The book is liberally sprinkled with such insights and is an absolute pleasure to read if you concur with the author in some ways. I am very very thankful to Ram for introducing me to this author and this book…my wanderings are definitely enriched, you must know : )

So that's a wrap for the book review. Hope some of the recommendations help. Happy reading people : )