Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Reading Ruskin Bond ..

And I am disappointed :( Yes, I know he is hailed as one of the greatest writers ever. Lured by the praises and discerning that his books are flavored with beautiful descriptions of nature(which I love reading for it brings those scenes alive in front of my eyes), I picked up an omnibus from Flipkart.

I did enjoy reading 'The Room on the Roof' and 'Vagrants in the Valley'. The descriptions of picturesque Dehradun were delightful to read and the theme of a young boy breaking free from his shackles and boldly making his way in the world, trying to shape his future even as he struggles to sustain himself was heartening to read. My empathy and appreciation went out to the many people who must be living such lives in the real world. I also enjoyed reading about the bond of friendship that ties Rusty and his friends together and the unadulterated fun that they all have even though life is pretty hard for them. The ending which is not so conclusive adds to the story's value. It is left to the reader's imagination to figure out whether Rusty does make his fortune or if he would reach London at all, for that matter.

Bond has beautifully sketched the lives of people who are left to their own means in this world and has completely explored the concept of strangers coming together for brief periods in life. Now, the two novels that I have talked about so far are actually one single story. Vagrants in the Valley is a sequel to the first book. They can and probably should have the same theme and flavours.

But then I started reading 'Delhi is not Far' and lo! The same theme of a man struggling through life all by himself while nurturing a distant dream, strangers being friends and helping each other, each person wanting to break free from his current circumstances but held a prisoner in them, and ... hold your breath - repetition of a character and a related scene from the previous novel! I cannot accept this from a writer of that stature. There is a mentally retarded character named the 'Goonga' who can speak only a word which is 'Goo'. The scene where the Goonga is harassed by customers at a tea shop and the protagonist shows kindness to him features in both the novels.This is the point where I lost my patience.

I do not know if I am being too hasty in being disappointed. Maybe I should not judge such a widely acclaimed author after reading just two and half of his works. Or should I have given some gap between reading one and the other? I did. I almost gave it a month. How long a gap is required? A year? But I would still remember every detail and even if I did not, the next story is sure to bring it all flooding back into my memory,  thanks to the remarkable resemblance of theme, characters and story line.

I do not want to offend the many hard core fans that he has, but I am certainly entitled to my opinion. I feel really sad when I cannot complete a book and this omnibus is staring at me from my table with three fourth of it left unfinished. Oh how I hate this feeling!

Do any of you know his other novels in this collection to be different? If yes, please tell me which one and I shall gladly pick up the book and pursue it again. For, I did like his way with words and the pictures he paints with them. Just that I am unable to bear the monotony. If you have indeed offered something even slightly different in your other novels, I would gladly join your fan club Mr. Bond! Believe me, I wish to.

PS: I am aware that some amount of research on the internet can get me the answers I seek but as I already said, I have run out of patience. I bought this book after quite a bit of review reading and seem to have gone wrong in choosing it .So if fellow readers can help, I would be glad :)

Saturday, 8 March 2014

What can 'I' do to make my life better?

This post has been written by me for the Write Tribe Festival of Words - 3. Today's topic is 'Women'.

I'm taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words -3

Empowering Women is the most widely discussed topic today. We have done it to shreds, discussed each thread in every possible dimension and maybe very soon, even the media will be exhausted with handling this topic. But sadly, in the real world, it hasn't gone that far. Educated families living in metropolitan cities still bargain over marriages, men who at least in the deepest realm of their mind think of their wife as someone who ought to be subservient still outnumber the few gentlemen who know she is priceless and the ones that do not have a spine to stand by that woman who has left behind everything that is familiar to her in order to live with him are out there everywhere. First of all, the concept of only her 'leaving everything behind' is in itself a major flaw.

But these are all deep rooted evils and it is going to take quite a while before we can wipe them out. And it all depends on other things changing - men, their families, the society at large. Instead, let us look at what can change within the woman herself. Is that not a more hopeful case to pursue ? I may not be ready to change in order to be fair and just to the world. But if it is for my own good, I certainly will. Human nature, isn't it? 

When I was thinking along these lines, the first thing that came to my mind was a story of Swami Vivekananda. He was once threatened by a big group of chattering monkeys and he began to run away from them. They chased him menacingly. A sanyasi who was watching this told him 'Stop running and face the brutes' which he did. The minute he turned around and faced them, they all ran away.

What does this story tell you? It tells you that no one can subjugate you without your permission. People take you for granted only if you allow them to. You set your own limits. If people are treating you badly, you allowed them to do so in the first place. You showed them that you will take it silently. I have noticed this in life several times. People see you the way YOU want to be seen. YOUR conduct decides it more than anything else. 

Will it not make a little bit of difference if each woman ponders along these lines. When you are subjected to unfair treatment, sit back and think where you went wrong in allowing this to happen. And correct it if it is still within your power. If the children think you are a machine who exists just to cook the food they demand, show them you need holidays too so that they realize your value and do not take you for granted. 

What I have said here is in no way a solution to all the evils that plague women today. It may not work for millions of situations where women are utterly helpless. I am dumbstruck and helpless if you ask me how to get them out of the rut. I can only fume within, shed tears and pray to the almighty. Those issues are too mammoth and deep rooted and I am no God to give solutions to them. Even if i did attempt that, I would only be writing paragraphs about the problems and utopian solutions that everyone is going to brush aside. 

I only say that this solution lying inside your own mind may do the magic of raising your image in your own eyes and thereby, in those of others too. And hence make them at least think twice before they twist your arm (not literally!). Be the dutiful daughter/daughter-in-law, doting mother, loving wife and whatever other roles there is. Yet, show them all that you are still an individual and have a mind and will of your own. Put across the message that you may do a hundred things for them, but only because you wish to. And that you are NOT to be taken for granted. How do you manage to do that? By sincerely believing so yourself. A high self esteem never fails to show.

I leave you with a very powerful quote I came across today.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Invisible Scars

It started off as a mere squabble between the loving couple and built up momentum as both failed to 

control their temper. Words were said that shocked them both. They made up a little later, but the 

verbal exchange had made deep gashes. If only one of them had the wisdom to practice restraint..

This post has been written for The Write Tribe Festival of Words - 3. The theme for today is to write 55 fiction.

I'm taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words -3

The Cosmos conspires .. But always for our benifit

Does inspiration always have to come from earth shaking incidents? Many times some small events that happen repeatedly try to tell us something. A message that God wants us to understand.These small things in life actually teach us a lot more than the big storms.
There is one such learning that struck me long back through a series of happenings and has been an inspiration to me ever since. The time span that ties up the whole thing is huge and I can only be in awe of God's wisdom and farsightedness, looking at these. It was no nerve wracking ordeal or a great victory that changed my life or any such big thing. Without further ado, let us get to the story.

As a school going kid of about 12 years, I was going through The Hindu newspaper's additional - The Literary Review. I was already drawn into the world of books by then and always read this additional with interest. That day's edition carried a very striking picture of a man in glasses who was completely bald with a very genial smile lighting up his face. He was reading a book in the picture. Below the picture was written 'P.G Wodehouse'. Something about his face was very striking and I went on to read the article which told me about him being the king of the humor genre in the literary world.

Years later, I was a happy part of the world of Jeeves and Wooster, and had become a great fan of the Wodehouse novels that featured them.

Again, years later, during my second year in college, the lecturer put a random question to us in class, asking us to name all the search engines we knew about. A variety of answers came and amidst the cacophony, I discerned 'Ask Jeeves' among many others. Full stop.

The following year, three of us were sitting as participants at a quiz contest at an inter collegiate festival. The scores between our team and another was very close and we were heading towards a nail biting finish. That round had to do with connecting images they showed on screen. As we started at the white screen expecting the next one, the genial face of an old man staring at a book and a search bar with the title '' flashed on the screen. Within seconds, my brain cells ran down memory lane and flashed images of PG Wodehouse in the Literary review newspaper, the 'Ask Jeeves' search engine from the class discussion and Wodehouse's Jeeves whom I loved reading about. I pressed the buzzer in less than 5 seconds and found myself giving out the connection between the pictures - The author and the search engine named based on his novel and guessed that it had changed from Ask Jeeves to A wrong answer would result in negative points and I waited with bated breath for the quiz master to respond. After a slight pause, he started saying 'That was a ...' and paused again. My heart was already in my mouth. 'Brilliant answer!!!!' he echoed and the hall erupted with claps and cheers. We had won!!

That day, I realized that even the smallest and insignificant things that we do in life never go a waste. Every second that we spend in this world is God given and He has ensured that it never fritters away. Even the simple things that we do like looking at hoardings as we pass by in a vehicle, listening to someone or ruminating about something in our mind pays off in the future. Then do we even have to doubt about the significant efforts that we make? Maybe they wont pay off immediately and look like wasted effort at the moment . But at a future point of time, when we least expect it, they will suddenly turn up in our aid and prove that our efforts were more valuable than we every thought.

My sister recently found herself in a quandary. She got an opportunity to get trained and teach English speaking through drama and theater to small kids. The financial return was negligible and taking the time to do it was going to be a challenge considering the fact that she had her 5 year old kid and 2 year old toddler to look after. Nevertheless, it was a priceless new skill she was going to learn and enjoy doing. She decided to take it up and when she asked me about it just for assurance, I only had this incident and its learning to narrate to her. She has started taking the classes and is having a ball of a time doing it. Even today, it gives her so much of satisfaction and happiness for she thoroughly enjoys doing it. Some time in future, I am sure I will see her reap benefits from it which she had never imagined.

This post has been written by for the Write Tribe Festival of words -3. The theme for today is to narrate an inspiring story.

I'm taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words -3

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Book Review : My Family and Other Animals

Bringing out humor in writing is not an easy task. Making the reader laugh with just your words and the scenes it manages to create in his mind is quite an art. You can dish out doles of sinister crime scenes and create a sense of despair by explaining pathetic or violent situations in excruciating detail. But making a reader feel light in the mind and double over with laughter? Now that calls for a master writer. And Gerald Durrell is undoubtedly one. Durrell was a naturalist, zoo keeper and conservationist by profession. From childhood, he displayed a strong inclination and interest in wildlife. And so, quite naturally, the animals for which he had great love play a major part in all his books. 

My Family and Other Animals describes Gerald and his family's move to an island called Corfu and their life in that very bountiful and picturesque place where nature is at its best. The element of humor that is present throughout the book infects you from the beginning itself. The way the author describes the eccentricity of each of his family members, the mother's infinite patience that makes her bear everything with fortitude, the smallest of events that always turn out to be disastrous because of the unexpected appearance of Gerald's secret animal collection throws you into fits of laughter. There was in fact a point of time when I seriously considered not reading in the bus while travelling to work. For, I often found myself break into peals of laughter while reading and people around started giving me quizzical looks doubting my sanity.  

Apart from these, the breathtakingly beautiful descriptions of the island of Corfu and the carefree life that the Durrell family leads there, with each of them pursuing their interests really took my fancy. I mean, here we are, going to a serious formal workplace everyday and adhering to strict clockwork like schedules at home and work, trying hard to manage both. And there in Corfu, they live in a happy go lucky manner, writing books, chasing butterflies, gardening, sunbathing and doing picnics as if life is one long holiday. Am not sure if I would opt for that even if given a chance, but I did fancy living that way when I read about it. It was just in my imagination after all and there, you can do whatever you want :)

At the outset, though it does look like the family is simply frittering away their days, the passion that each of them have for their chosen pursuit is very evident throughout the book. Gerald's interest in learning about wildlife and their habitat, his elder brother's love for writing, books and literature, the mother who keeps a lovely garden and her ability to cook even for an army are all heartening to read about. It is these interests that each of us have for different things that makes life livable. Be it music, reading, writing, cooking or anything. Life becomes unbearably mundane without that one or many things which we enjoy doing and which does not weigh upon us like work. I felt this very strongly while reading the book.

So if you want to laugh your guts out while you enjoy experiencing life in an exotic island in your mind, pick up this book and read on. In your interest, I advice you to avoid reading it in public places if possible. It doesn't feel great to be looked at like a loony who laughs by herself for no apparent reason. Hey, but on second thought, that is an experience too. So go ahead, try that also if you want to :) 

This book review has been published for the Write Tribe Festival of Words -3.

I'm taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words -3

Monday, 3 March 2014

Free Write - Giving Wings to my Imagination :)

Yesterday, as I was thinking about the topic I can choose to let my  mind and hands loose on paper, the first thing that struck me was 'Free Write' itself. I have never done this before. Being a person who constantly tries to be a perfectionist(only when it comes to writing) but one who makes mistakes and repetitions in spite of best efforts, I have always been the kind who would write a post and keep it in draft for days wondering if it is worthy of publishing. So this is going to be a one of it's kind exercise for me. The very idea sounds liberating. Not having to worry about the subject, how my words flow, looking up the internet for correctness of information and checking if I am using words in the right context. I feel like I have grown wings and am about to fly! And yes, I have already taken off!

Many times, I have wondered if I was putting in too much of thought into what I write here. This is my own space after all. No one is going to edit my writing or reject it saying it cannot be published. My blog has gone into slumber many a time because of this obsession with wanting to post only my best efforts. Is that right or wrong? Well, I still do not know. But I do know that when I pick up old posts in my blog to read (which I do every now and then), I want to feel satisfied that my writing at least has my own approval if not of anyone around. When I see my list of posts, there should not be even one that was posted for the heck of keeping my blog in action. So what if I am not able to post for a while? When I do post, it should be worthy of reading even if only in my opinion. I am by no means saying that all that I have written here is great stuff. Not at all. All I am saying is, in my own eyes, my blog should always have what I deem as acceptable content.

Having said that, am sure there is an experience that awaits me in future. Have you all ever taken out and read your old articles or poems -  the ones that you wrote while you were still kids?  At that time, those pieces of writing would have been the pride of you and your parents most probably. You would have also been widely appreciated for your writing skills and cheered as a budding writer. How do you feel when you read them now? I always smile or end up rolling on the floor laughing looking at my ideas and how much I prided myself for having authored them. The childish rhyme for every two lines in that poem, those words which I had learnt afresh then and used all over thinking them to be very 'hi-fi' - these are things that never fail to amuse me. Do try out this exercise if you haven't done it before. I assure you it will be great fun. Apart from the amusement, you can also pride yourself over how much you have improved.

Coming to the experience that awaits me in future, I hope I will feel the same way when I read my blog posts ten years from now. There cannot possibly be the same level of improvement that has been there from writing as a child to writing as an adult. But I do hope there is at least a little bit. Maybe the fact that your rate of learning drastically decreases as you become older will be proven. Hmm .. Let us see :)

This post has been published for the Write Tribe Festival of Words - 3. The theme for today is Free Write.

I'm taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words -3

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Blog Love - Featuring Neelima Vallangi's Blog - The Wandering Soul's Wander Tales

This post is published as a part of Write Tribe - Festival of words 3.

I'm taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words -3

Today's theme is to feature a blog that you enjoy reading.

I would like to feature Neelima Vallangi's blog - The Wandering Soul's Wander Tales.

Neelima and her blog by no means need an introduction. I am featuring this blog as a fan of her great writing and the person that she is.

Neelima is an avid traveler who enjoys visiting offbeat travel destinations. Her blog is collection of her awe inspiring travel experiences, each of them accentuated by truly brilliant photographs.  She is a professional travel writer and photographer who has had her work published in prestigious magazines like National Geographic.

You cannot help but get rubbed off a bit by her wanderlust when you read her blog. Each and every travelogue that she writes takes the reader to amazing destinations in India and some brilliant adventures that would leave you with your mouth wide open in wonder. Her posts also have very useful tips that you can keep in mind if you consider doing those trips yourself.

What Neelima seeks for when she travels is very different from what the usual holidaying crowd does. Don't we all love the rains and the spell it casts on landscapes? But how many of us would go chasing it to enjoy its beauty? Well, Neelima has.Her series of posts on monsoons in various destinations in India is a feast for the mind and eyes for its content and brilliant photographs. You can read it here.

Neelima is not just a travel enthusiast. She is a hard core traveler by heart and soul. This comes across very clearly in her writing. She is one of those few people who have had the courage to follow their heart's calling. Managing a full time job along with so much of travel and professional writing is no mean task. Also, she is probably one of the few women who have the guts to do solo travel. Read her inspiring post on solo travel here. Apart from the posts she does on her tours, I really like those that she writes about her love for travel and the landmarks she has made in the travel world. They are very awe inspiring to read and always give me goose bumps. Read this where she has described her journey in getting her work published in print.

'The Wandering Soul's Wander Tales' is much more than a collection of travelogues. The writings in this space take you through the journey of a person who has fought stereotypes, followed her heart and made a mark for herself in a world that took her fascination years back. To me, it is a symbol of success and happiness that becomes yours if you have the courage to follow your heart's calling against all odds.

Saturday, 1 March 2014

The Mentor

Preethi's heart was beating fast as she went through her heavily researched presentation for the tenth time. She was to brief the technical team in front of her boss Vinay and provide guidelines for the implementation of a high profile project. She had been a programmer for quite a while, all the time enviously eying Karan(almost her age) who led projects on the business front, talked to customers and spearheaded application launches. She was really good at these too, just that she needed some experience and her boss had handed over a new project to her much to her delight and Karan's dismay for he was asked to simply guide her and stay away otherwise.

They assembled in the meeting room and as Preethi was setting up her presentation, she heard Karan start off saying 'Let me brief you with the business requirements' and a cold sweat broke on her brow. He went on like a pro with just the white board, marker and his brains as the aid and finished with 'Preethi will now give you the technical details'. Resigned to her fate and disappointed, she went on to discuss database table structures and program logic as always, nursing extreme hatred for Karan. 'If I am not given a single chance to run on the track, how will I show that I am a good runner?' she thought with pain and resentment seething in her heart. Karan, too young and early in his career to possess a mentor's maturity and ability to stay off the course, left the room with smug satisfaction.

Note: This post has been written by me for the 'Write Tribe - Festival of Words - 3'. The theme for today is to write a 9 sentence fiction. 

I'm taking part in the Write Tribe Festival of Words -3