De-grudging myself

At the outset, Happy Diwali to everyone. Hope you are enjoying your Diwali in whatever way possible with a little thought for the environment as well. I know I’ve been MIA for quite a bit from this space but believe me, I get these exceedingly great blog post ideas a few minutes before shut-eye and the next morning I dont remember any of it! But this post is more of a personal experiment (read: change) that I’m trying to perform. I call it the de-grudging, much like de-cluttering. Except here, it is all in my head.

When I was a little kid, my dad gifted me two special books. One was this thin red book that had a tribal or some international art form (I dont remember now exactly) and read “Folk Tales from around the World”. It was a special book for me for not only its stories and exotic settings ( Poland, Peru, Thailand etc.) but it had a different font. The paper was also a little creamish and felt so different. I always like the feel of a book. I like to hold the pages between my fingers and feel the page and admire the font settings and appreciate how beautiful some words look in print (wrapped is one such word – dont ask me why) and enjoy the prettiness of it all. Ok ok , I will stop ranting but you get the idea. So this book had this story about a little girl from Poland who had a lot of grudges against people. She was always miffed and angry and sported a scorn at all times on her face.No one liked her, she had no friends, she was never happy. Then one day an angel ( Now Im not sure if it was an angel or God but some holy spirit) decided to teach her a lesson. Every time she sprouted a grudge against someone, a brick appeared in her room. So as she kept getting angry with people, more and more bricks appeared. Slowly, they began to fill her room, her house and it became impossible to live. Her parents were desperate and did not know what was happening. Everyone was very unhappy, including the little miserable girl. One day she got an idea to drop grudges against people. And she did. As she forgave them, the bricks started disappearing and lo behold! not a single brick remained. The girl forgot about holding grudges and became a very happy little girl. They all lived happily every after.

So you might ask, what has this got to do with me. I realized about the “bricks” in my head. Of course as a child I thought they were real bricks which appeared, but the real meaning sunk in much later. I realize I was the one at a loss when I kept sprouting reasons to dislike people. And it was infectious. Then I thought of this story and realized well, it is only me who will be left miserable at the end of it all and started dropping grudges. As I went about clearing that pile of bricks I realized I was so happy and relaxed. I no longer had a reason not to talk to someone or remember misdeeds and heat up my brain. I could use that memory space for more beautiful and happy ones. Really, sounds like a lot of tosh on paper? No, trust me. It feels wonderful and I feel cleaner and lighter than I’ve ever been.

If Diwali is a time to clean, I think the timing is perfect. I have cleaned my most important asset, my head and am happier than ever. Im not qualified enough to ask anyone else to do so, but it is a wonderful feeling. I would really like to get my hands on that book again. It was lost in so many transfers. I will hunt it down though. ( It had this story about what mosquitoes really say when they humm near your ears- they are actually asking if you have their queen’s earrings!!)

On another note, the second book I was referring to was called “Popular Tales from Rajasthan”. It had a blue cover with a side-view face of a Rajasthani woman I’ve replicated like a zillion times. It had great stories, some ghostly, about Rajasthani princes and brides and forests etc. It was also where I first read the word “magnanimous” and impressed my first-grade English teacher with reasonably accurate usage. Sigh, fond memories.

Happy Diwali again folks! And happy degrudging! 🙂

Movies, books and more

I’ve organized myself a little this time. I dug out time to relax and indulge a little in my favorite hobbies. Firstly I read a few books. The first one I read was “The Help” by Kathryn Stockett. It was after a long long time I read something that was simply unputdownable. I give it a 11/10. The book deals with black maids (help) in white households in South US in the 60’s. The revelation was stunning. They were discriminated, incriminated and abused (not physically though). They lived in poverty with generation after generation of black women who raised the white babies, cooked and cleaned and had their own children looked after by others or sometimes no one at all. The book is set in Jackson, Mississippi and does a beautiful job of describing life there. What stood out is the way the book was written, in three first person’s voices which portrayed the troubles and insecurities of everyone including the white protagonist. I watched the movie as well and Im sure this one will sweep the Oscars for the lead performers, Viola Davis and will garner considerable adulation for Emma Stone as well. The book is obviously my winner given the depth of emotions it portrays. But I will give credit to the movie for capturing the essence rather well. Read or watch, but do catch up with The Help.
I watched a hindi flick after eons. I saw “Mausam”. Basically I was carried away by the trailer since it looked like a decent movie. My verdict is mixed. First half is really very nice, second half drags and the last 20 mins are ghastly. My advice to Sonam Kapoor: please spare us all and become a model. You cant even mouth words properly. The nicest scenes are when you dont have to talk. Shahid Kapur was good though the movie started to resemble his launch vehicle towards the end with some scenes that seriously need deletion. Songs were nice and hummable and I didnt find the story too weird except for the parts where they resort to old world forms of communication. I liked the way political events were woven into the story though once you got the hang of it, you could draw your timeline and expect the next. There lies the major flaw. It was a mushy movie and though the Indian junta dismissed it, I wont. The main reason is because midway through, I saw this trailor of some horrific,gay movie called “Desi Boyz” with Akshay Kumar and some other guy in the lead that instantly increased my appreciation for Mausam. Not bad at all. Just wait till you watch the remainder of the movies that are lined up. Maybe this one will become a hit 😛
The last bit was about this movie Force which released today and by the reviews and trailer looks bad. Cmon, you try to match Kaakha Kaakha? The movie that started my love affair with Suriya and made me sit up and take notice of Tamil movies? That movie was a gem of a movie, good cop story, superb performances, crisp editing and script and some wonderful songs that I still listen to on my ipod. The love story in the movie was so real and believable that you tend to wholeheartedly agree with Jyothika’s explanantion of “its a girl thing” when questioned about the likeability of the hero. That movie was a gem and its a waste to cast a wooden hero like John and a complete waste like Genelia as the leads. Haha, Im NEVER watching this one.
PS: Im midway through this amazing book called Maximum City. (Thanks Apurba for the recommendation).
PPS: I have a niece now! Yoohoo!

The other side of the coin – or is it ?

This is a pretty controverisal take on Jerffrey Archer by Shobha De. I dont know if it is true or not, but I think it should be also read by everyone. Not being judgemental here, just the information provider. ( I thank Sonali and Arushi for giving me this).

Excerpt from her blog:

Jeffrey Archer is a real character. I’d been invited to an intimate dinner the last time he was in Mumbai to promote his books. I found him racist, impatient, arrogant and conceited. All he did was complain. About Mumbai’s traffic, Mumbai’s readers, Mumbai’s everything! Just before we exited India Jones, someone at the table asked him if he had read or heard of any Indian authors. He dismissed that question instantly…. but swiftly thought better of it, perhaps anticipating more such questions from the desi press. He turned to me and asked who my favourite Indian writers were and I mentioned R.K. Narayan and Vikram Seth. The canny Archer looked totally blank, but being a smart cookie, asked for some paper, pulled out a pen and requested me to jot down their names and the titles of their books. He also asked about the contents of Narayan’s novels. Perhaps he did take the trouble to pick up the books at the airport and has indeed read them before whizzing into Mumbai again. He has been dropping both names at every press conference.I didn’t want to meet him one more time and skipped all the functions – alas, I’d seen through the guy. He has obviously sensed numbers in the India market and is determined to create a record here. Fair enough. Which author doesn’t want to sell in great numbers?? But in every interview, I notice with glee, he trots out the names of Seth and Narayan like he has been following their work for decades. Intellectual dishonesty? Or just good salesmanship and P.R.?? You decide…

– Check out more of this on http://shobhaade.blogspot.com/

An evening with Archer

This one is going to be big. More for myself to read and re-read and relive those amazing moments.

It all started with an sms. Being a Landmark Fellowship member, I got an sms saying that Jeffrey Archer would be in Landmark Chennai on so-n-so date. I was disappointed about the fact that it was something I was going to miss and with a great effort put it out of my head. All that until an advertisement appeared in the Pune times saying he was going to be in Landmark today. (17th May, Sunday). It was decided. We had to go.

I was all excited to meet this author whose nearly entire collection I have read. It all began with ‘Shall We Tell the President’ and then I read my favourite books of all time ‘The Prodigal Daughter’ and ‘Kane and Abel’. This man was a genius. I enjoyed his short stories the most, ‘A Twist in the Tale’ being my favourite collection. As I sat impatiently drinking lemon juice in The Coffee House, I kept thinking what an evening it would be! It was remarkable indeed.

We got chairs in the fourth row from the dias (only that it became 6th later since they made additional two rows last minute so unfairly- its India man, such things are bound to happen) and we picked up our copies. He was here to promote his new book ‘Paths of Glory’ which I had already finished reading a month back. They didnt allow us to bring our old copies inside so we had to buy new ones. Sonali hadn’t read his books so it was an easy choice for her. For me though, it was very difficult. The point being, I had read all his books except the Prison Diary series and I racked my brains to remember if there was any book missing from my collection. I found the answer. ‘Not a Penny Less, Not a Penny more’ was in the form of a battered old copy of my dad’s which had the last two pages missing. It was also the first book Archer wrote. It would be perfect to get this signed and so I bought it. The rest of the hour as Landmark slowly filled up, I engrossed myself in reading ‘Oxymoronica’, an interesting book full of paradoxical quotes and sayings. It was enjoyable to listen to people’s views, mingle with a crowd of well-read, decent people and watch as the excitement in the crowd grew. I was also super excited to see him.

The proceedings began very promptly. He was there in Landmark at 7:05pm, with a permissable delay of just five minutes. Clad in white khakis and a blue sweater (?), he ambled up the walkway and everyone stood up. Lord Jeffrey Archer was here in person. He spoke immaculately. His British accent in place, he narrated with extreme poise and confidence his hilarious experiences about his books and publishers which made the crowd holler. He narrated that he was turned down by 14 publishers before his first book ‘Not a Penny Less, Not a Penny More’ got published. He went on to add his funny experiences in promoting Kane and Abel in the USA ( the ones where he had to share slots with Mickey Mouse whose policy was ‘If its the last question, never stop talking’ or the Radio Chat show where his introduction was replaced by Edmund Hillary’s and he wasn’t given a chance to speak!). He did tell his story about the part-biographical latest novel ‘ Paths of Glory’ with the main lead, George Mallory being a real person. ( I didnt know that). He also remembered how he kept nagging his publishers to publish just  25,000 more copies of his book ‘Not a penny less, not a penny more’ every month when the publishers would tell him they werent going to publish any more. Today, that book has sold more than 23 million copies worldwide.He added that R.K Narayan was one of his favourites, Malgudi days being his best book and he considers him to be one of the best authors ever. It was heartening to hear him appreciate Indian fiction and he was all praise for the educated youth of India and also the Indian women. 😀 He also added that he wont write a book based on India since he believed that it was wrong to dwelve into someone else’s world. To prove his point he said ” Perhaps R.K Narayan could never write anything like Kane and Abel just as I can’t write Malgudi days”. Absolutely right he indeed was. In addition, he also showed us the subtle differences between a story-teller and a writer ,emphasizing that he is a story-teller and a story-teller is one who prompts the reader to keep turning the pages like Charles Dickens who is the grand-daddy of story telling. Writers are those whose works are heavily laced with literature and the Nobel prize winners are precisely those people. He proved that people tend to prefer love story-tellers than novelists.

He added that he has re-written ‘Kane and Abel’ and the revised version will be released October 3rd this year followed by another collection of short stories and followed by a family saga. He answered many questions from the audience and gave a few key tips to budding novelists and authors. Some questions were funny like the one where one person asked ‘ Aren’t your plots predictable, I mean you always kill the bad guy’, to which he cooly replied ‘If it worked for Shakespere, it’ll work for me’ which sent the audience into pearls of laughter.

Post this, the signing of books sessions started. He promised that he would be there till the last copy was signed. I got mine signed rather quickly being in the front of the crowd. Landmark was distributing hot spinach puffs and jam tarts with mango juice to everyone present. I ate the snacks waiting for Sonali to emerge from the crowd near the dias. After she did, we bolted to The Place, the most amazing sizzler joint just down the road to eat our dinner. We ate with gusto, hungry after all the waiting and excitedly discussed our amazing evening. It was an evening none of us were going to forget.

I met my favourite fiction author. I am on cloud nine. It couldn’t get any better.

Book hunt

Ever laughed incredulously while looking at the cost of a book in a book store? I have. In fact I laugh everytime I look at the prices! Use e-books, millions have suggested. But I simply cannot read a book scrolling down using a cursor key on adobe. I need to feel it, to look a the print, to smell the freshness of the pages, to appreciate the artist’s work on the cover page and most importantly, I find it more real. I know it is tough to describe this intangible sensation. But for an ardent book lover like me, a book is better than any electronic copy of the same text. It has its charm.

But I find most of the books heavily priced. Exorbitant amounts are written on that little yellow or blue sticker on the back-cover. A book just worth a one-time read is definitely not worth shelling out a winsome 300 odd rupees. You know, the best thing I liked about Chetan Bhagat’s books (the second and third since there wasn’t much in the text to like there) was the price. Today there are so many of these books based on IIMs and IIT’s that it gets very repetitive. They are the only ones available for less than 100 bucks today! I’d say that most of the books on those shelves are worth even less. But then who will pay the publishers!

Today, good plots are rare. Rarer though are books worth a second read. There are books like ‘To kill a Mocking Bird” or “A Catcher in the Rye” or “Kite Runner” which can be read and re-read. Even the Jefferey Archers or Agatha Christie’s do good justice to their time and money. But the other run-of-the-mill titles which even the authors perhaps pen out of a lingering contract from the publisher or strive to meet the stipulated number of books to get that staggeringly huge cheque, are perhaps best read once. Then how do you spend so much of your precious money on such a colossal waste!

So the hunt began for a second-hand book store. Not having the comforts of a library anymore, I began the hunt for those little shops, tucked away in corners of this city to find those second hand books. I asked people (it is tough to find devoted readers nowadays) and google sadly wont list those kind of shops I am looking for. I walked around colleges here ( the F.C in particular) and peeked into every small by-lane. Find I did, with great difficulty on one street (which I later came to know was called Hong-Kong Street) and it was famous for the accessories more than books. But at the fag end of it, I spotted two shops which stored those books I wanted. I heartily picked out the ones I wanted though not everything I wanted was available. Even he quoted exhorbitant prices looking at my genuine interest. I was surprised when a battered copy of Doctor Zhivago that I extricated from the back shelves with sparkling eyes, immediately costed me nearly the price of an original one. “You didn’t even know this book was worth anything till now!” I protested. He replied with a business-like grin, “Rare copy madam! Naya hee le lo!” He even called up his boss who perhaps asked him how keen I was to buy and asked him to quote the price. That was another book I missed reading in my college library! Everytime I asked for it, it was always issued. So many such books I haven’t been able to read and circumstances don’t help either! Sad.

Gargi helped me out by showing me another one which was in the basement of a bag-shop on the same road.! I am planning to explore that next. I am lucky to be in Pune where there is a section still devoted to books! But still I cannot stop thinking about Delhi and its markets filled to the brim with books. I remember how I used to carry only half my luggage form home and fill the remaining half with books on my way to Goa.

So I continue to hunt for books. If people from Pune are reading this, do help me out. If nothing else, Ill be happy to get some sites for downloading e-books (sigh!).

Yeh Mera India

So many things came to my mind today as I took a day off from my daily routine and lay on the floor (my bed heats up like it has hot pads under it!) thinking about a few things that have been running through my mind lately.

‘The Zoya Factor’, a bestseller these days and given top rankings in the fiction book rankings by many a magazine, uses phrases like ” I stared back like a besharam defending my statement’. Whoa! A few hundred years back, it was french that used to add that little glamour or sophistication to a book. I remember staring at the french written in italics in many Agatha Christie’s novels,though could only guess the meaning. The book is full of such usage of hindi words, the words we have grown up hearing and the way we mix and mash the language so much, it has almost become one. But somehow, the very idea of reading such language kills a little something inside me. I dont know why, but when I’ve read Mario Puzo’s books set in Sicily, the heart of Italian mafia full of Italian words, phrases and greetings, or many french authors books laden with french, why does reading an Indian author’s book using blatant street language( more precisely, the mashed up stuff we guys speak) invoke feelings of negativity?
I guess,it has something to do with the fact that as kids we were encouraged to read as much as we could to improve our language and increase our english/hindi vocabulary. I dont think that using street language is a good idea at all.
This wasnt a first time. The last book I read in the vacations ‘Superstar India’ by Shobhaa De, ran on similar language. Street usage, though she used those words but never as a part of the conversation. But, I totally disagree that something of this sort can put India on the global map. On the same note, my wholehearted congratulations to Aravind Adiga. His book is brilliant. I have often told everyone (who cared to listen) to read his book, ‘The White Tiger’way before it won the Booker. Simply brilliant.

Another thing came to my mind was the reservation system. Ok, there have been prolonged debates on this and so much is said against it but the thing which struck me was how much have we started caring about which caste one belongs to. Cmon! the caste system was a black mark on our culture and I am pretty sure our forefathers never wanted the future generations to even know such brutalities existed. But, the first thing we ask is ” Is he SC/ST ? “, if the answer is affirmative “Yaar, his life is set, he’ll get admission anywhere”. Whatever little was trickling down through the ages, our dear goverment has just opened the flood gates for such caste apartheid to begin. Not surprisingly, this time it is the so-called ‘forward caste’ which has been hit.

Im not proud to re-state the now-famous quote:

“India is the only country where people fight to be called backward”.

My holiday…

These vacations I tried to take a break from my usual holiday routine. Visited places I wouldnt have usually been to and read up books which I usually dont. Its been a different journey for me. Spiritual to say the least. I vacationed in small villages, eating typical south-Indian cuisine, swam my heart out, tried a new form of dancing and yeah read a lot. It was so nice to take a real break from the tensions of college-life, from projects and deadlines, from grades and averages, from LAN and DC.

I have always been a nature-lover. Nature excites me. The fresh cool breeze, dark clouds,arrays of tall coconut trees, no modernization, the green-rice fields entice me. Sadly all I recounted so far was my painful yet in-the-end blissful visit to Srirangam, there was lots more which happened. Things which made me genuinely feel blessed. It was simply amazing.

For one, I got to see my native village. My mom had recounted stories of her childhood summer-vacations spent there with my great-grandfather. Tales of how they used to swim in the village tank, of chasing young calves and playing with goat-kids, of beautiful airy houses with a verandah where my granny used to plait my mum’s hair every evening, or how the whole agraharam used to sit collectively and listen to the evening news on the valve-radios. Hmm feels so good. I actually got a chance to see all that. The houses were almost in a state of ruin or occupied by someone else but the village tank, the nearby green trees, the old village temple and the post-office. All were intact. Though no one recognized us today, visiting that old village amidst lush green rice fields seemed like a perfect holiday!

Our journey till trichy by road, took us through many villages. Small and beautiful, they seemed so peaceful. Loads of coconut palms, women and children chatting away happily near village wells, lush green fields with sprinklers working overtime. We ate in simple small-town hotels which gave hygenic yet very authentic dishes. It was an overdose of nostalgia for my parents. For me, a new experience.

The choice of my books this time has been varied. Some I have been wanting to read for a long time like “Freakonomics” and “Gone with the wind” (okay..I kno I am late, but the size of the book used to intimidate me in college! 😛 ). But for the first time, I forayed into the vast world of non-fiction. I had a couple of futile attempts at reading them before but due to lack of understanding, I did not continue. Non-fiction is beautiful. They say, fact is stranger than fiction. Very true.

I read almost all Sudha Murty’s books. Wise and Otherwise, Mahashweta, The Old Man and his God, to name a few. I also read up a couple of auto-biographies and two-three more political books. Very interesting. I thoroughly enjoyed them. The book I am currently reading is on Greek Mythology. ( Maybe a few questions in trivia I can answer now…:P) Non-fiction has a charm of its own. From real characters with absolutely real traits, from real unexpected circumstances to very real dialogues, these books have plots which touch you from inside. They move you even bringing tears to your eyes.

Lastly, I embraced the power of yoga and meditation. I was always a gym-goer and more of a outdoor kinda person who thought that perhaps all this was meant for older people. But turns out that it isnt. Mediatation calms the mind so thoroughly that one feels energized after a session. Yoga is very effective. Infact, my torn ligament feels better already. I plan to continue a small part of the regime known as the quick-yoga (meant for busy people who cant spare 2-3 hours a day) in college. Lets see.

That completes my holiday report. This would be my last blog of 2007. Eventful though it was, it was in many ways one of the years when I grew mentally and philosophically . I learnt so much about life, love, the joys of loving, friendship, experience of staying in new places, being with new people, making newer friends and acquaintances and lastly keeping the old friendships alive.I also learnt to accept defeat, learnt more about people and their ways and lastly a new language. It was also when i entered the next decade of my existence.

It was also the year I started blogging again.
So adios 2007. Welcome 2008.
Hope you(2008) will be even better and more enriching in many ways.

HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE. HAVE FUN.

PS:New Year resolutions can wait till the 1st . I dont have time before that anyways!

Wise and Otherwise

This is the name of the latest book I read. Its authored by Sudha Murthy. ( Yes, Mrs.Narayanmurthy). What I really loved about this book was that it wasnt of a particular genre. It wasnt exactly an autobiography nor was it fiction. It was what I would call a conversation kind of a book. Stuff she would have told her friends over a casual meeting. Things we usually tell each other when we spend time together. No fancy english words, no complicated sentences. Pure English, written beautifully.
But it was very inspiring all the same. She wrote about how her B.E in Computer Science actually took her places. Though she has also denied learning anything very practically useful in college, she described engineering as an experience. An experience that made her bolder and changed her perspective of life. At the same time, it planted seeds of inspiration in her . What interested me more was ( on the same lines of thought as ripvan winkle) her observation on the pretence of people. It was hilarious reading about so many incidents which happened to her (and they are very normal ones..not the one-in-a-zillion coincidences) My favorite was the one where she and her driver, wearing the infosys t-shirt go vegetable shopping. The vendor angrily tells her in kannada” These IT people! runing our city. They just come asking for the costs and dont buy a thing!!” he quotes nearly triple the cost of the mangoes to her driver!
She also describes her chance meeting with her husband and how he was so impressed with her boldness and courage to venture into a male-dominated side. (Engineering was taboo for girls in those days). The relationship they have today is highly reflective of their excellent education and forward-thinking.{btw..I didnt kno it was a love-marriage :P}
Lastly she described her relationship with her children and how they are still kept away from the media glare and made to work on their own. (Both are in USA).

Overall a refreshing read. No jargon, no flowery lingo, just life .

PS: I found my coin-collection. YOYOYOYO! I has evaded me for the last 4 years. Never found it in dehradun despite hundreds of hunting expeditions. 😀