Other Worlds

I recently read 4 books almost back to back that made me feel really low and upset. All of them were really very interesting and opened up worlds to me that I had just a faint idea about.
The first was The Truth about Me: A Hijra Life Story by A. Revathi. The title says it all. The high price you pay for breaking the rules, no matter what you are.
The second was A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. Despite all the controversy surrounding this one, the writing itself packs a punch. Straight in the gut.
The third was Beautiful Thing: Inside the Secret World of Bombay’s Dance Bars by Sonia Faleiro. It made me so, so sad inside.
The fourth was The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad (accent on the author’s name missing). Distressing, especially the plight of the women.
These books have left little dark scars in me. However, to be fair, they have also made me count my blessings.

So It’s July

Almost the end of it. I’m glad to see it go. I keep forgetting and then when it comes around every year, I remember.

I kind of hate July.

It’s hard for me to hate stuff, for I’ve never been one for strong feelings, but July gives me a sick feeling in the stomach. Only because it’s been a month where too many folks I’ve known have passed away.

This year was no exception. When the wind wailed and howled for days without end, I began to feel the familiar dread. Irrational, I admit. But then, someone I know, an elderly gentleman who was the epitome of old-world elegance and courtesy, passed away. That day, the wind fell silent and the sun broke through the clouds. As if a rampaging rakshasa had been appeased. Irrational, I know.

Apart from that, the health front for all family members, including yours truly, suddenly took a nosedive. We hobbled out of that entire mess, clutching on for our dear lives in a manner of speaking. I came down with a case of shingles, and am still on painkillers for the nightmarish pain and irritation (or postherpetic neuralgia if you want to get fancy) that follows.

The only silver lining to this awful month has been that I’ve really caught up on my reading. I’ve finished 65 books (9 ahead of schedule according to Goodreads). I’ll update the list of books soon. I’ve read a bunch of rather amazing YA stuff, and a whole lot of books that depressed me, which, believe me, isn’t a wise move when you’re already feeling low.🙂

That, and the way family and friends have rallied around. Always a blessing, always.

Not Quite Half

June is coming up and I do hope I hit the half-way mark of 50 in my Reading Challenge. I’m reading more in binges rather than consistently, so sometimes, I complete 2-3 books over the weekend, and then two weeks pass before I pick up a book again.

Here’s an update to the list:

28. The Guardians of Halahala by Shatrujeet Nath: A competent fantasy book with Indian mythology woven nicely into the plot. First of a trilogy.

29. Mahabharata Quest by Christopher C Doyle: Again, a fairly interesting thriller (I guess) book set in India, the second in a series. But it lost me in some of the technical details – it was dealt with in a heavy-handed way.

30. Hysterical by Rebecca Coffey: Interesting book on Anna Freud, daughter of the famous Sigmund Freud. I would have liked to read more about Anna’s achievements though.

31. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert: I had heard so much about this book. It didn’t disappoint, but I did feel disappointed that Alma Whitaker was a figment of the author’s imagination instead of being a real person. That makes it a great book, doesn’t it?

32. Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak: Loved the Rumi stories, but was bored with the modern day equivalent that seemed forced.

33. An Outrageous Affair by Penny Vincenzi: It was a really long time since I read something like this, so picked it up from a friend’s house. It was interesting in bits, but didn’t quite stay with me. It also brought home to me the fact that even a “bestseller” like this needs solid research.

34. Netherland by Joseph O’Neill: The blurb looked really interesting, and when I started reading, it seemed one heckuva tale. A Dutchman playing cricket in America, talking about outfields and pitches and Sachin and Afridi…what’s not to like. Writing is brilliant, but the story itself wasn’t captivating enough. I could take in only small doses at a time, which was quite frustrating, since I wanted to finish it soon and get on to the next one!🙂

35. Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos: When I began reading this book, I just fell in love with it. The women seemed so real and familiar to me. Of course, as the story progressed, everything was too pretty, and loose ends were all tied up a bit too neatly. But I hugely enjoyed this book and read it at one shot.

36. Ithaca by David Davidar: Did not quite work for me. Though it provides a lovely insight into the publishing world, I just did not feel engrossed enough to care.

37. The Unfinished Clue by Georgette Heyer: GH was one of my favourite romance authors growing up. I loved that her heroines had such spunk and I liked her witty writing. I picked this up on a whim, and was a little bit disappointed that it turned out to be a murder mystery instead (didn’t take the title literally – duh!). But it was nice to read her writing again, and see the wit sparkle.

Still quite a bit of catching up to do, though. So many books, so little time!

One Plus One

I saw two movies recently. Both were aspirational and inspirational. Both revolved around Maths.

The movies I am talking about are The Man Who Knew Infinity and Nil Battey Sannata.

The former was about Srinivasa Ramanujam, the genius. Though I loved the movie, straightforward as it was, I somehow felt it portrayed Ramanujam as very desperate. I did not get the same feel when I saw his real pictures and read about him. Of course, this is my own perception, and I guess I will never know how he really was. But the impression I got of him was something we see quite often – the sheer determination to rise above your circumstances to achieve something, together with confidence in what he was doing. That he was a genius goes without saying, but the grit to make something of himself felt all too familiar. It would be so fascinating to see how exactly his brain was wired to make him such a prolific and original mathematician. It’s a joy to watch open-mouthed with amazement, and marvel at such phenomena.

The latter movie too was about the same, but in a different sort of way. Though I did like the intentions of the movie, some things felt a bit too superficial, like the bit about Maths. There was no need to even touch upon it, imho. Similarly, the last bit of dialogue, though quite representative of the scenario today, left me with mixed feelings. For those who haven’t seen the movie, and don’t mind spoilers, the last scene is that of an interview where the girl is asked why she wants to become a Collector. The answer she gives made me wince: Kyonki main bai nahin banna chaahati. Because I don’t want to become a maid. If the point of the movie was to follow your dream and work hard to make it happen, this single statement undermined it completely. Dreams are about what you want, not about what you don’t want. But other than these few moments, I thought the movie itself was heart-warming and worth a watch. It says something that the theatre was almost full on a week-day morning!

Catching Up

I started quite a few books, but somehow didn’t feel inclined to finish them.

The ones I did manage to finish reading were all good reads, but I didn’t find anything particularly spectacular about them. So here goes the list:

23. Ponniyin Selvan – The First Floods, originally by Kalki, translated by C.V. Karthik Narayanan: This was an interesting read. I liked that the flavour of the original Tamil version still came through nice and strong. (I really liked the use of the word “Adada!”) The descriptions were really quaint – sometimes I felt I was reading a “Shakuntala” novel. But all in all, very nice, and I would definitely like the read the entire set.

24. Personal – A Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child: Didn’t particularly care for this one, to be very honest.

25. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story by John Berendt: I was recommended this novel in order to understand better how to do character sketches, and boy! this one rocks when it comes to characters. The story itself didn’t somehow interest me too much, but the writing was excellent.

26. Holes by Louis Sachar: Lovely book. It was well-paced, and though not too much of a surprise for me, I really liked the way the story went. Solid writing.

27. The One You Cannot Have by Preeti Shenoy: I had the opportunity to meet the author, and she came across as a sincere, down-to-earth, practical and hard-working person. So I thought it would be good to read one of her books. I can easily understand why this book is such a hit with young people. It reflects a lot of their lives and the relationship problems they grapple with. It is easy to read too, without becoming too preachy or literary. But I guess I won’t be too inclined to read more of her since I’m not particularly interested in this genre.

GoodReads tells me I am behind in my reading challenge by 2 books. I do hope the next crop of books excites me more than this one.

Passing through

Old people have the reputation of being stuck in their ways and of being judgmental.

However, as I grow older myself, I’ve learnt a few things:

  1. Humans are resilient. They change all the time, in ways they never would have imagined possible. I am not saying they will be happy with the changes, but they do adapt wonderfully to practically any situation. This has made me tranquil about life in general. I know that if something were to drastically change, I would adapt to it too. Why worry?
  2. There’s no point in being judgmental about people. Folks do the things they do because they feel that’s the best thing they can do given the circumstances. Even if you take a person who is considered abnormal (what is normal anyway?), he/she will be behaving in accordance with certain rules they have come up with internally, because that is what works for them. Each of us is living in our own personal universe, and everything makes sense in that universe – or rather, we impose our own sense of right and wrong in this personal universe. Every story has infinite sides to it. So our judgments are reflections of our own personal universe rather than of other people.

As I grow older, I realize more and more everyday the wisdom of great teachings. Letting go is easier. I focus on the doing and in the now rather than on the future. ‘This too shall pass’ has never been truer. Friends jokingly call me Buddha, Zen and Yoda. I guess I’m slowly beginning to earn these nicknames.

Like a cloud passing overhead which may or may not be noticed, which disappears without a trace, I too shall move through this world and evaporate one day. Till then, I’ll go where the wind takes me.

More Reading

I managed to do more reading this weekend than practically the entire month!

The books I’ve read so far are:

17. Gachar Gochar by Vivek Shanbhag: What a beauty of a book this is! Deceptively simple, it plumbs many depths. Beautifully written and beautifully translated, the story is about a family which suddenly finds itself rich. The details are very vivid, and I could easily relate to them. The ending leaves one flummoxed initially, but then it grows on you, and I could see how cleverly the author had built up the story to the end, leaving the reader to figure it out. I had the opportunity to hear the author speak, and I was very impressed. A must read, in my opinion.

18. Wonder by R. J. Palacio: Oh what a book this is! Again, a must read. It is the wonderfully told story of a facially deformed kid who joins school for the first time in fifth grade, and comes into his own. Very sensitively told, bringing out the best in people always, this is a very heart-warming book. I loved the different POVs and the way it tries to always present a balanced picture, even of the very worst of people.

19. Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa: I loved the author’s other book Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. This book was a well-written book, but it didn’t really strike a chord with me. I do like the way this author writes.

20. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr: OK, I can’t gush enough about this book. What a beautifully written book! Every sentence is crafted with so much love and care. And what a lovely story. It brings war right to our doorstep. The characters are so wonderfully vivid. I think it deserves every prize it has been awarded so far, and then some. Absolutely fantastic!

21. Stoob – Testing Times by Samit Basu: I was swept away by Samit Basu’s Turbulence when I first read it. It was hilarious, cheeky, clever and a great read! Stoob, somewhat in the same genre as Wimpy Kid, is no doubt a cute book, though not as exciting as I expected it to be.

22. The Reluctant Detective by Kiran Manral: I’ve been a long-time reader of Kiran’s blogs and have been meaning to read her books. This book, her first, felt more like her blogs than anything else. She is pretty hilarious most of the time, but since I’ve read most of the funny things in her blog posts, I didn’t find it as much of a page-turner as I expected it to be. The detective part wasn’t much or very interesting, but her trademark wit was very much in effect.

I’m all caught up with my Reading Challenge target now. I’m really enjoying this so far!