Skip to content

Posts from the ‘Books’ Category

5 Best ‘Work From Home’ Cafes in South Delhi.

Let’s face it, working from home isn’t easy. Waking up early in the morning can be injurious to your daily schedule. Getting distracted by social media is necessary to keep your sanity. You can be eating breakfast at dinner time, and supper during lunch. The least you deserve is a handful of cafes that understand your lifestyle.

Since bidding goodbye to corporate life in sunny Singapore and moving to Delhi, I’ve been on a quest to find cafes with easy all-day access to good food, a lightening fast internet connection, and the option to interact with a friendly staff. Read more

200th Post Special: Travel books Giveaway!

I’m surrounded by the jungles of Jim Corbett as I write this, my 200th post. This trip to India’s oldest Tiger Reserve is as special as today’s post; this is my first ever travel blogging trip, with the awesome social media folks at Club Mahindra. And I owe it to you, for reading my blog & keeping me company while I travel! So I’m going to thank you, and celebrate these two momentous occasions by giving away my copies of two of these 4 unlikely travel books to inspire you to travel. Read more

4 Unlikely Travel Books to Inspire You to Travel.

I’ve just put down a book by Vikram Seth and picked up another written by the son of Tenzing Norgay (yeah, the first man ever to climb Everest). Claire, a fellow travel blogger recently wrote about a love-hate relationship with travel blogs. I think I’m developing the same with all these travelogues I’m reading. I’m trying to convince myself that if I can’t go, atleast I can read, but that is little consolation. Read more

The Tempest – Singapore Act

Kudos to Sam Mendes & the traveling cast of The Bridge Project.

Singapore is one of the 7 cities to be stricken by The Tempest. If you are or were ever into Shakespeare, watch it! Watch it for creative, insightful direction by Sam Mendes (of the American Beauty fame). Watch it for a mind-blowing performance by Ron Cephas Jones as Caliban. Watch it for Prospero’s ardor, Miranda’s innocence, Ariel’s fragility, Trinculo’s humor, Gonzalo’s frailness. Watch it for the love of theatre.

In exploring the Shakespearean themes of betrayal, love, power, wisdom, sacrifice, forgiveness & magic, The Bridge Project team did every bit of justice (and more) to the written version of the play. The actors breathe life into the characters with oodles of imagination & emotions, backed by stunning sets, and an apt selection of sounds & music.

“These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air,
And, like the baseless fabric of vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with sleep.”

Read a complete review of The Tempest. To see or not to see is not a question :)

Many Lives, Many Masters

Whether or not you believe in science, this is one book that’s bound to give you food for thought.

manylivesmanymasters

Penned by a psychiatrist, Dr Brian Weiss, Many masters, many lives is what he claims to be the true story of one of his patients. Catherine, a young girl troubled by inexplicable phobias, seeks his help, and when typical psychiatric treatments don’t bare results, he resorts to the rarely used practice of hypnosis. What follows is plain bizarre. In her hypnotic state, Catherine appears to visit her past lives, reincarnations of herself in varied geographical locations and time periods. Often, Catherine reaches an in-between stage, where she’s dead but not reincarnated yet, and she communicates to the doctor the messages of highly evolved spirits (called the Masters), including personal details from his own life.

I know it sounds like the plot of some psychological thriller, and as I re-read it, even the highly predictable story-line of a horror Hindi movie. But that’s the beauty of it – what you believe is completely your choice. At one point, I passed it off as a self-help book in disguise, one that will make you feel more aware about life and why it throws what it throws at us.

What makes me think though, is why there are barely any conspiracy theories about what might have happened in Dr Weiss’ office. The book was first published in 1995. There are tapes which recorded the hypnosis sessions, there are psychiatrists who have reviewed the treatment, and if anything, Dr Weiss has abandoned his practice to teach fellow psychiatrists the art and benefits of hypnosis. It sure makes me wonder; if we are to buy that life and death are really the way the book defines them, it will undoubtedly put into perspective everything else we have believed thus far. It’s a matter of faith, yes, but the ideas the book puts forth have an uncanny similarity to Hindu ideologies. For instance, it affirms the entire cycle of life, karma, death and rebirth. I must confess that the book tempted me to abandon my recently acquired nihilistic stance, at least briefly.

If you have ever questioned life and the after-life, pick up a copy and read it. There can be no firm evidence for or against the book, because as google says of the topic, all evidence is anecdotal. It sure however, is an enticing case to brood upon.

Keep Off The grass

I finally found, read and loved a book that hasn’t been extensively reviewed (yet) on the blogosphere! If you aren’t already enticed by the title, get a load of this: an Indian investment banker on Wall Street, born and brought up in the US, decides to quit his million dollar job to go to India to find his roots. He enrolls himself at IIM (Indian Institute of Management) Bangalore, and what ensues is a hillarious chase of answers, grades and weed. 

Keep off the grass - Karan Bajaj

Keep off the grass - Karan Bajaj

Obviously, the IIM turns out to be completely different from typical B-schools in the US and elsewhere. Samrat Ratan, the protagonist, once a Yale valedictorian and a big-shot banker, is pitted against the super-brained IITians from the country, only to discover that mediocrity has its own virtues. His constant struggle between his American upbringing and Indian roots initially finds no solace in the rat-race of grades and jobs, until he realizes that relationships are what really matter. 

In his quest for happiness, Samrat meets Sarkar and Vinod, the former an incredibly smart guy with not a care in the world, the latter an army officer who lived through the Kargil war. Sarkar’s is a very enticing, twisted character, never without marijuana, alcohol and smokes, and with a simple, life philosophy on wasting away:

I think suffering is the fate of the human soul, and in its acceptance is happiness. Really, why wouldn’t there be suffering when death is the only real certainty in life? It’s like trying to enjoy a movie when you already know the climax, and a sad one at that. I guess this inevitablility of doom is the reason why there is an unknown vacuum in all of us, a vague sense of dissatisfaction. [...] Somewhere in IIT, I think I figured out that I would embrace the doom, in a slow, deliberate destruction. Kind of like a moth slowly flirting with the flame instead of being surprised when it is thrust into it by an unknown force.”

The IIM adventure is complete with a prison-stay, a stint in the hinterlands of India, a freaky experience with hermits in Benaras and a meditation course in the Himalayas.  Of course, each adventure is tripled by getting stoned on endless joints, and in his defence, Sarkar has a rather valid argument:

“I smoke it in protest man – Marijuana exists naturally as a plant . Who is the government to ban God’s creation? It’s like me wanting to make potatoes illegal because I don’t like their taste.”

Karan Bajaj, the author, a BCG management consultant and an ex-P&G brand manager, did a fantastic job of bringing to life the atmosphere of B-school in India. I must admit that I got so absorbed into the book, I forgot for sometime that it was only well-crafted fiction. There is no dirth of wit, humor, sarcasm and irony on any page.

If you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a student, or if you’re looking for something to make you laugh out loud, this is the book for you! Get your copy and tell me how you like it.

The Diary Of A Young Girl

I am probably among the last people on the planet to have read Anne Frank’s diary, and given that, this review is probably very redundant. I am doing it nonetheless because it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time.

anne_frank1

Anne Frank’s was one of the Jewish families that went into hiding during Hitler’s reign. Her diary is a day-to-day account of life in hiding, written between the ages of 13 and 15. Even though it was never intended for public readership, it makes for a smooth storyline and an extremely engaging one at that. It re-emphasizes, time and again, the futility of war. 

Anne Frank was 13 when she started writing her diary and I’m 21, and yet, I can relate to everything she writes about growing up in a world where adulthood is defined by age and not maturity of thought.

“We’re all alive, but we don’t know why or what for; we’re all searching for happiness; we’re all leading lives that are different and yet the same… People who are religious should be glad, since not everyone is blessed with the ability to believe in a higher order… Not the fear of God, but upholding your own sense of honor and obeying your own conscience. How noble and good everyone will be if, at the end of each day, they were to review their own behavior and weigh up the rights and wrongs.” 

annefrank8

In the movie The History Boys, the Professor talks about such a literary relationship with a book, 

“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – that you’d thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it’s as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.” 

Anne Frank’s diary has really inspired me to resume writing my own. I want to document every part of my life, every moment, everything that has ever meant anything to me.

“Paper has more patience than people.” – Anne Frank.

The Time Traveler’s Wife

time_travelers_wife

If you could defy time and visit snippets of your past and future as your current self, would you? It’s not exactly a choice for Henry DeTamble, the protagonist of The Time Traveler’s Wife.

Henry’s genetic condition makes him vanish involuntarily from the present, and lands him into his past or future, unaware, in only his birthday suit. His time-travel episodes are filled with adventure, lies and heartache, because even though he can defy time, he can’t change it.

Henry DeTamble: “How does it feel?

I feels exactly like one of those dreams in which you suddenly realize that you have to take a test you haven’t studied for and you aren’t wearing any clothes. And you’ve left your wallet at home.

When I am out there, in time, I am inverted, changed into a desperate version of myself. I become a thief, a vagrant, an animal who runs and hides. I startle old women and amaze children. I am a trick, an illusion of the highest order, so incredible that I am actually true.”

Though a far-fetched fantasy, Audrey Niffeneger, the author, has painted extremely realistic, believable characters, and the book makes a light, pacy read. Through the pages, the characters become so interwoven with the reader, so life-like, that it’s hard to disentangle and let the story take its disturbing course.

More than science fiction, the book is really the story of two soulmates, Henry and Clare, who find and lose each other ever so often, in keeping with Henry’s time travel. At 36, Henry first meets Clare in the past, when she is only 6, and paints her entire life. Then begins a love story which could easily be equated with the eternal characters of Erich Segal’s Love Story and Tarun Tejpal’s The Alchemy of Desire.

“Time passes and the pain begins to roll in and out as though it’s a woman standing at an ironing board, passing the iron back and forth, back and forth across a white tablecloth.”

A delectable book throught each of its 518 pages, for the hopeless  romantics, for the believers in soul mates, and mostly, for everyone willing to flex their imagination just a little wild.

Teacher Man

Frank McCourt has given a new dimension to teaching in this non-fictional account. He writes about teaching and learning and teaching to learn and learning to teach.

McCourt’s journey is rooted in Ireland, from where he seeks to rise in the minds and hearts of the students in New York’s public schools, through his unconventional, inspiring approach to teaching. As he explores his own identity, he accepts that teachers don’t have all the answers, and that is only human. His creative writing class reads and sings cooking recipes, his English class discusses Little Bo Peep!

Even when we don’t relate to the Irish life or the NY adolescents, we end up becoming a part of the Teacher Man phenomenon. The racy, decryptable writing makes you belong in McCourt’s classes. His humble, inquisitive approach to teaching makes you want to learn, as though it comes from choice and not force.

Great teaching, great writing and very inspirational. If you’re a student, it will give you a new perspective on learning. If you’re a teacher, you’ll want to follow in McCourt’s footsteps. If you’re neither, you’ll want to become either one. Go read it, while I try to get my hands on Angela’s Ashes and ‘Tis.

RIP Frank McCourt aka Teacher Man [20th July, 09].

The Arabic Language

Arabic has long fascinated culture-seekers and artists from the west. The language is reminiscent of an ancient setting, and has a crude, poetic aura about it.

Despite all the unconventional stuff I fancy myself doing, I never thought I’d be learning Arabic someday! It’s an absolutely brilliant language, though the non-artist in me can barely do justice to the creative strokes of the Arabic alphabet. I learnt my first few today (alif, baa, wow…), together with some introductory greetings (sobah-ul-khair, masaa-un-nuur) so often heard and ignored in hindi movies.

Here are some interesting facts about the Arabic lingo:

  • Arabic is written and read from right to left. In fact, books and newspapers are binded on the right, unlike conventional reading material. Check out the front cover of my Arabic textbook and notice the right-binding.

  • All letters are connected when writing in Arabic. Unlike English, this does not vary by handwriting. For example, in print like this, the English letters are all disjointed. In Arabic, even in print, these letters are connected. There are a few exceptions, those that are not connected to other letters; my instructor calls these ‘selfish characters!’

  • Arabic characters / letters have different shapes, depending on where they occur in a word (beginning, middle or end). 
  • The Arabic script has 2 distinct layers of writing. The layer below comprises the consonants, and is topped by a layer of vowels. This layer of vowels, however, can be seen only in elementary textbooks and religious scriptures (Quran). It is eliminated in daily Arabic reading. Apparently, with continuous practice, people can easily identify words, even without the vowels (there are only 3 vowels in the Arabic language). It sort of holds true for English too I guess. I’m sure you’ve read one of those emails with words missing vowels and found them easy to decipher.
  • Like Hindi & Spanish, every object is either male or female in Arabic. 
  • Every letter in Arabic has the right to pronunciation. There are no silent letters.
  • Arabic closely relates to Sanskrit and Urdu, and has a whole bunch of Hindi-like words. It also loans vocabulary and sounds to Spanish, Malay, Turkish, Indonesian, Bengali and Hindi.

That’s about what I’ve gathered so far. One day into the lessons and I’m in love with the language already!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 15,964 other followers