No time to turn at Beauty’s glance…

Clock

Clock (Photo credit: sleepinyourhat)

The sunday newspaper brought good cheer this morning with its awaited literary supplements. It is something I eagerly look forward to reading. But beautiful things come only in small packets and this particular supplement is published only once a month. And on beholding this month’s copy today I was overjoyed and instantly delved into its contents which as always had plenty to rout up from its depths. I discovered a completely new writer whom I felt I would really love without even knowing so much as what his books dealt with. And as the theme of his latest book surfaced in the article I knew exactly where my next investment had to go( The book happens to be Chronicles of a Corpse Bearer by Cyrus Mistry, if you were just curious to know).

After reading about five to six articles I had to restrict myself from finishing all the other inviting pieces for I have to sustain myself on this six paged ration for a whole month. And before I could indulge myself in gleaning information from around the world and my city the clock struck eleven! There was still a day’s work to be done with all the added obligatory activities to be performed being the diligent thing that I am. Where have those precious days where reading a warm newspaper was the only activity that Sundays called for? And of course cutting out fresh squares of articles for the clip book collection too.

The ubiquitous time crunch just revealed its presence to me yet again. At a time when I am already grappling with the grievous fact that my reading time has diminshed drastically being snatched away from my morning paper by sundry duties stung me bitter. That said there’s even less time for me to chronicle my thoughts on the things I read.

Off late I’ve been reading a lot online than offline. It’s always easier to steal a few minutes from work while using a computer. But with every underhand activity comes a peril. Here the danger lies in forgetting where I read a particular piece I adored. And even worse being unable to recall what I enjoyed reading so much altogether. So setting aside the greater grief of not being able to tick off books lying around my room in piles I thought to address this other issue which came with a plausible solution too. Several Google searches and conversations with the geeks concerned revealed Evernote, Pinterest, zoo something, etc as ideal apps to turn to.

But then again a little squirm arose from within. I saw yet another electronic versus traditional approach question surface. Can a mere cut-copy-paste action replicate the wholesomeness of taking notes by hand with the mind aligned on the same lines rather than focused on jumping to the next open tab on the screen?This really wouldn’t matter to a person with a reasonable amount of time to forage the net, pick, reason and ponder. But given the time constraints any solution to appease a self-proclaimed purist is far from the sight. I suppose such questions will continue to arise until the electronic approach completely converges with every aspect of life or it slowly disassociates itself fully. The former is bound to happen naturally or rather “unnaturally”.

So when we stand at the transition point where the direction of leap is uncertain attacking the problem at its heart is perhaps the best solution that I can think of. I simply have to make time. But how feasible is that? I don’t know. It’s as complex a question as the time we are living in.

Taking into account all these issues I’ve only arrived at this: It’s not an easy time to be a purist of any sort. And this: The spare time for those little joys in life is almost extinct.

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Note: The title is taken from one of my favourite poems by William Henry Davies.

Five life-changing books

Credit : booksaboutlife.com

Books can be the best possible source of constant companionship. They come in all different sizes and stories to suit each of our tastes and needs. But a book can sometimes be more than just an instrument to alleviate boredom. Sometimes they can one’s outlook in life. They are the grand category of books often referred to as ‘Life-changing’.

As a bibliophile and a book addict I’m happy to say I’ve seen my share of such books. Sometimes these are confused with self-help books but I’m referring to works, born out of the imagination of genius’ of writers. But don’t get it wrong. I’m not one against self-help books and I have my favourites in this section too. But how impactful they are to life is questionable according to me. For a truth put straight seldom is received in the way it should and so are secrets. And when it comes to life it’s one big secret and one big truth as well.

So, the first in this line that comes to my mind is J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. It’s got a beautiful philosophy underlying all the adventure. It teaches a most important lesson in life- Let go. And there are anecdotes aplenty to take as the escapade progresses.

Here’s a beautiful line from the book:

 The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of the mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.

Holden is the quintessential urban yogi of sorts whom I personally try to emulate in terms of outlook towards life and Salinger is the typical genius of a writer whose writing amazes me.

The next book that flashes in my mind is Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. It’s a one of a kind book and I’m only too happy that I was able to read last year. It was instantly my favourite the time I read it. Short and crisp though it is the point is nailed so very clearly. Even if the theme is not one that can so easily be said or understood. Only a writer who has felt it can impart such clarity of thought and fact to the reader and the reader in turn can capture the essence quickly. One needs a little spiritual spark to get anything out it; read the book at the least. But such a reader is bound to get a seed of the truth vital to his quest. I can say that with conviction for I did get a lot out of it. For others who simply want to get a glimpse into Buddha you get more than that. Herman Hesse has Buddha demystified for the commonest of people. I wouldn’t say it’s the most precise chronicling of Lord Buddha’s life and teachings but the essential extracts are set on a platter and hence the life-changing quality.

Oftentimes a book cannot be anything if it is a bestseller. A bestselling book is now a book which has reached its saturation level of popularity and its universal acceptance has sometimes invariably rendered it a clichéd image. It is a sad reality which won’t keep me from listing Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert here. Everything’s said and done and what’s more even shown in this case. Its honesty is pivotal to its success and reach and so is its passionate telling instrumental in striking that personal connection with me. The same lesson re-surfaces: Let go.

Now I come to another important book which is quite interesting in that I’m impelled to list it now but asked a year ago I would have fiercely detested its very mention. The book I’m referring to here is A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry. For an Austen fan much accustomed to happy ending and sweet twists reading this one felt like chewing a big chunk of raw bitter gourd. But after exactly one year I feel there was much truth. It wasn’t a waste of labouring over seven hundred pages of one heavy and gruesome book after all. Interestingly I also noticed having noted down just three lines from the book. And here the golden lines are:

“In the end, it’s all a question of balance”

“You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair”

“…Please always remember, the secret of survival is to embrace change, and to adapt”

They may be lines we’ve heard over and over but that doesn’t reduce their truthfulness in the least. And put in their context and storyline they make one big, impactful picture.

Finally the last one that I’m going to name here, assuming that I’m to name only five books, is Wuthering Heights. Yes, the gothic romance by Emily Bronte gave to me understand what a hero can actually be at the age of thirteen. I read the book twice immediately after my first reading to just make sure that I didn’t make any mistake in discerning the story. One thing, it strangely made me braver in matters of death and other grim aspects of life. On a more philanthropic level it taught me what love can be. It can be dark. It can be grim. It can be excruciating. But it can be true too. Heathcliff is a one of a kind hero whom I’ll always turn to at some point of time in life repeatedly.

So, there’s a cherry picked version of books that strike me as life changing. As of now.

I hope to turn this into a feature where we have other book lovers talk about books that changed their lives and the lessons they imbibed from them. As always I look forward to your support and suggestions.

 

 

 

 

 

The Kindness Project

If you ask me after Greenpeace the next best initiative to support a good cause that actually matters to the people of the world, I will immediately tell you that it has got to be The Kindness Project. If I have to describe what it has been doing since its inception about a week ago, I will say it’s been doing magic.

Yes, magic that brings happiness to all people. These wonderful people, Elizabeth Davis, Christa Desir ,Sarah Fine, Liza Kane ,Amie Kaufman, Sara Larson ,Matthew MacNish, Sara McClung, Gretchen McNeil ,Tracey Neithercott ,Lola Sharp ,Michele Shaw, Meagan Spooner,  Carolina Valdez Miller,  have so beautifully taken it upon themselves to be the change they want to see. We all find ourselves making faces at snobs, debating about decreasing respect for another human being and the like. But it is truly commendable that these people took that extra step that matters. Now they have set the bead in motion and its rolling steady I must say.

Now solid proof of that can be found on all their blogs and the many blogs that will lead you to. And better still is my own story. My terrific friend D.B. Smyth decided to send her love for me one fine Monday, and stunned me and others alike with her gesture. It takes a golden heart to do something so truly kind and random. I know I can never say much with words when it comes to people whom I love, respect and admire. So bear with me. D.B. Smyth, you are the sweetest and I love you. May God bless you with all possible happiness! And I ask you all to please stop by her fantastic blog which is just as amazing as she is and give her your love.

And if you hadn’t heard about this project till now and feel inspired by it please join in and do your bit. As they say every teensy bit makes a difference.

Now after having felt the goodness and read so much about The Kindness Project I feel so inspired to do something. To do my bit. But I am at sea, let me tell you and I need suggestions.

So tell me, what do you think would be the best way to carry forward this initiative? Have you done anything that you would like to share?

Rejection Slips

They give me more than one kind of feeling when I get them. Before anything the first thing that my mind tells me is: Someone actually read your work. That was the point of writing after all; to get at least one other living being to see your work. The sadness dwells in another core of me, a place which actually steers the day-to-day activities of my life. So such slips do affect my life in a way.

So if there was some small positive part to rejection slips in my view, it was that. Now the larger part of the story deals with the traumatic side. Naturally.

With every rejection slip comes the feeling that the day of being published will perhaps, never come. That one dream which struggles to sustain itself despite all the other things in life that don’t actually matter might just stay unrealised.

Even though positivity is something I try to keep a good stock of, it just doesn’t help beyond a point; it falls flat in the desert of discouragement where one is thirsty for reassurance. Now that is something harder to come by than the goal itself. While two close family members really believe the day will come, and a few friends who don’t know the intensity of despair try to cajole you and even pull you to a bad movie, no Angel is out there waiting to bestow kindness and reassurance. If there is one that’s got to be me and I’m only a novice Angel!

Writing is a lonely process despite the fact that I love it more than anything. What with the other hundred issues that can bog me down I have to handle the solitary feeling too. Sometimes being alone is a great comfort but at times when I sit staring at rejection slips in my hand it is pure hell. It even stalls the WIP which clamours for attention and polishing. It’s a sad state.

But there’s one other thing that rejection slips can do. A positive one too (I really didn’t see this coming when I began writing this post). It makes one brave. If I’m writing about my rejection slips with an intention of sharing it with the world, when the rest of world is proclaiming slogans like “My First book is in print” or “I sold my recent novel” or “I signed a three book deal”, then that’s something to feel happy about.

While sailing through one of my rejections I happened upon writer Ellen Jackson’s website. And these priceless words really did some good healing work.

Rejection-proof your manuscript. Write from your heart. Everyone is looking for a little bit of wisdom to help them get through life with courage and grace. Do you have wisdom to share? Is your gift humor? Can you make a child laugh? Can you tell the truth in a new way? What was important to you when your were a child? Make the clear expression of your passion your primary goal. Then show your writing to friends who know you and will understand what you’re trying to say. If one person “gets” it, you’ve planted a seed. Your writing is successful–no matter how the rest of the world judges you. The rest is just ego.

And this piece, Rejection Slips: A balm for Writers and as certain as Death by Gerald. W. Haslam is by far the most wise and sensible take on this sensitive ailment facing writers. In the essay Poet Donna Champion is quoted to have said, “I wouldn’t mind rejection so much if editors would just take the time to send a personal note” and I couldn’t agree more. This is greatest form of reassurance in my opinion. Being replied to with a little note that’s personal gives that feeling of the all important “belongingness” which is so valuable to writers.

This particular line, I felt, was the keystone point of the whole piece:

It is important to recognize that there is no sham in receiving rejection letters. For someone who wants to be published there may actually be shame in not receiving some, since that often means a writer is not really trying. Jack London once claimed to have received 400 in a single year, but he hung in there and eventually saw a great deal of his material in print.

So the deal here is to try, and try, and get there! And even if I don’t exactly wear shirts like these I’ve learnt to accept them just as any other  felicitous news.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The month in books #2

The month gone by was a long one for me. Funny: considering it was a February. Anyway the really strange aspect was when it came to what I read and watched. I hadn’t planned out anything in particular but strangely the general theme seemed to be- touchy. So…

There are very few things in the outside world that actually affect me in a sentimental way. Even though kindness and compassion is a part of me I’m as strong as steel when it comes to being moved by a touchy scene/story. People have often thought me hard-hearted at farewells and re-unions when I return home dry and composed as always.

But in everyone’s life, at sometime, a thing deeply shatters you and brings an outpour without any notice. The first time it happened was when I watched ‘The Last Lecture’ by Randy Pausch. My eyes were all weepy and I kept shaking and nodding at the end of the speech and a family member who entered the room was quite appalled at the sight. All through the speech only one thing went through my mind- This guy is freaking divine! He knows he’s going to die and there he gives an awe-inspiring talk to a hall filled with the grim auras of the gathering. Despite everything he forges ahead, with his ‘dark humour’ and left me crying. I was hollering in my head when he so coolly acknowledged that he had only about six months of “healthy life” left. And man did I clamour for one of those adorable bears!

The other thing that left me all teary was this book- ‘To Sir With Love’ by E.R.Braithwaite which I read this month. This racial thing has always put me to distress. I don’t really know if it exists even today but if it does then God save the man who supposedly is in the ‘information’ era. If there’s one word in the whole of the English Language that I hate, it has to be- coloured. Whatever million other meanings a vocabulary may render it invariably reminds of the atrocities that faultless human beings with a lot of melanin on their dermis faced.

This book is a straight ticket into the hearts of millions of people with dark skins. Braithwaite’s writing is so exact in setting the scene before the reader that only imbibing the emotions is left to do. And that is pretty easy to do for anyone who can empathise with the grave injustices faced by another human being. One minute he is happy with the way life has showered something upon him and the other minute, that which was in sight sometime back quite disappears. When Braithwaite finds a place to get accommodation he is more than delighted at the prospect but all the delight is sucked into a black hole the moment he hears that ‘kind refusal’ masking the prejudice beneath. The stark reality glares into his eyes whisking away the temporary mists of joy.

Then a couple of days after reading Braithwaite I took up John Green’s latest novel, The Fault in our Stars after reading much in praise about it. I’m yet to categorize the book personally whatever the world may say. I still cannot decide about what aspect of the book pulled the strings but that is because every time I even try to probe I find myself breaking down internally. I read a lot of contemporary novels and love them too. But never was I totally convinced that they would create impacts like the classics, which had the masses hooked to them. And John Green demystified every such notion and I’m so happy about it. I cannot further elaborate on the whys and whats for the same reason stated a few lines back.

‘The mysterious affairs at Styles’ touted to be Agatha Christie’s finest novel was one which I never got to read until now. Mysteriously. A die-hard fan of hers that I am. So I loved it and took in the atmosphere completely and for once my guess was almost right!

Finally I managed to squeeze in ‘Revolution 2020’ by Chetan Bhagat, the writer who revolutionised book reading in the India. And well, it was an average book with witty bits sandwiched between some mediocre bits.

Somewhere in between I also picked up ‘The Return of the Native’ by Thomas Hardy but sadly it was a failed attempt. Again.

And on the day before Leap Day I started ‘Charming Billy’ by Alice McDermott and boy was I shocked to find myself reading about a funeral! Well, I couldn’t pull myself to read it in a day and I suppose I’ll finish it now. Or maybe not. Maybe I need something more cheerful.

So, that was that. How was your February?

 

On Travel Aspirations

The time seems near, if it has not actually arrived, when the chastened sublimity of a moor, a sea, or a mountain will be all nature that is absolutely in keeping with moods of the more thinking among mankind. And ultimately, to the commonest tourist, spots like Iceland may become what the vineyards and myrtle-gardens of South England are to him now; and Heildelberg and Baden be passed unheeded as he hastens from the Alps to the sand-dunes of Scheveningen. – Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native.

Certainly Hardy’s foresight ran clear and the whole world is abuzz with travelling to exotic places on the planet. The latest issue of my Traveller magazine tells me in glossy enticing pages all that I can maybe see in ten lives. It is exciting for me to merely pick up an issue of the magazine from the stands. The travel bug bit me when I was busy talking to the stars and having dinners with the moon.

I didn’t quite realise how fortunate I’ve been to have travelled far across the planet in my own small way. Until recently I actually took the time out to mark out the places on the planet I’ve been to. That is always the easier thing to do when it comes to journaling your travel aspirations. But nevertheless I did go a bit further, ambitious that I am in these sorts of things, and listed down places I’ve got to go before…

Well, the city of lights, the city of my favourite bookstore, the city of history , the city of fashion and French still tops in my list. But that was that until I read- I, Literary Tourist by Daniel Nester. The writer talks about his wonderful experiences at a Bed & Breakfast. After reading it I just thought, “How sublime woulds’t that be?” There’s very little in today’s world where book lovers can experience the thrill of fiction in real life. Though author talks, book clubs, other little ventures are garbled here and there, there’s a lacking in terms of wholesomeness in the experience for it comes under the drone of everyday life, though the general definition of a ‘Literary Tourist’ as given in Daniel’s piece includes these activities. You have to munch on a granola bar while steering your way to the book club. You have to tackle that pending office work before you fizz out.

And the idea of Bed and Breakfasts themed on a book or a writer is very appetising to me personally. Though the commercial aspect of it might repel some people away from it, it must be noted that all that is unbelievably exciting is not bad. I wouldn’t mind saving up a few months for it. If it’s easy and worth the while to do that for an Audi it certainly applies here as well if you’re one of the happy dreamers like me. And the title of ‘Literary Tourist’ comes along with it too! Any new tags to my little literary cap rather my Literary Shack is very welcome.

Daniel discusses about a few places that are popular like ‘The Wizarding World of Harry Potter’ and Dickens World in Kent. As a prospective literary tourist my itinerary looks something like this:

~ The Poetry Ridge Bed and Breakfast

~ The Wizarding World of Harry Potter

~ The Anne Frank Museum

~ Jane Austen’s House and Museum

~ Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum

~ Robert Frost Farm

~ Stratford-upon-Avon

~ Brook Farm Inn

I solely relied on this marvellous website, LiteraryTourist.com to make up my list though they didn’t actually let me get to the details without registration but its listing is almost exhaustive. Now step two in my attempt to become a fancy Literary Tourist is about getting there and with enough dough too.

South Asian Writers Challenge: Gently Falls the Bakula by Sudha Murthy

I’m so happy to have started off with my reading for the South Asian Writers Challenge hosted by S.Krishna’s Books. Before I get to the book here’s a bit about the author.

Sudha Murthy

Sudha Murty was born in 1950 in Shiggaon in north Karnataka. She did her MTech in computer science, and is now the chairperson of theInfosys Foundation. A prolific writer in English and Kannada, she has written nine novels, four technical books, three travelogues, one collection of short stories, three collections of non-fiction pieces and two books for children.
Her books have been translated into all the major Indian languages and have sold over three lakh copies around the country. She was the recipient of the R.K. Narayan’s Award for Literature and the Padma Shri in 2006.

SOURCE: PENGUIN INDIA

The book is a short read but a very impactful one. It’s simple in tone and took me very less time to get into its core though the settings are quite unkown to me. The story parodies the life of a couple, both of who are talented and ambitious in their own ways. It starts off with their early conflicts in schools and flows through the subsequent years where Shrikanth and Shrimathi, the hero and heroine, fall in love and feel they are entangled for life. The domestic disputes between their families, which had lasted for years as far as they remembered, shadows their relationship throughout passively. Though their differences don’t enter directly into their combined happiness, it still penetrates into their personal peace. Life and strife gets the better of them as years progress and Shrimathi feels the pinch of the sacrifices she blindly made for the man she loved. Despite the advice of her mentor, an old Professor from the United States, to pursue her passion for history she goes on to give up all her personal goals for the good of her husband. But even after ten years of unfaltering devotion to her family she finds all her sacrifices being neglected and even worthless. The pain unrequited love is felt clearly through the lens of Shrimathi’s character.

The book deals with a heavy, multi-layered topic of complicated family matters very typical of the Indian society almost thirty years ago. It shows in

crystalclear terms the impact of the IT boom in a conventional gild. A strong feminist voice speaks throughout which is the aspect I most loved about the book. Thetenderness and sensibility of a woman, her sacrifices, her fortitiude, her aspirations and her suppression is all set on a platter for the reader to assimilate. Over and above everything is the beautiful metaphorical allusion to the fragrant Bakula flowers, from a variety of ornamental tree that grows in India.

Shrikant was restless . . . Holding a bakula flower in his palm, he was wondering why he was fascinated by this tiny flower, that was neither as beautiful as a rose nor had the fragrance of a jasmine or a champaka. And yet, it was very special to him. It held an inexplicable attraction for him.’

The book is also pretty informative for a short novel that it is. There’s plenty of love professed generously for the poignant Indian king Ashoka the Great , even more admiration for the artistic ancient cities and marvellous monuments of Western and South India. In tiny little bits in between the flow of the story there’s much beauty to discover in the form of facts and little characters.

I completed the reading in about four hours but the story left me with a considerable impact. As a self-professed student of Hemingway in matters of writing and reading, I say the book was a good one because it ‘hurt‘ me. It left me thinking way after I was done reading about women and life.