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New Year and New Spins….

There is something called the self-fulfilling prophecy…these days I am becoming a staunch, absolutely staunch adherent to this thing. If you wish it, it will happen! I share with you a simple illustrative example – just last night, I was thinking it’s been ages since I participated in the Classic Club Spin read; after all this event is a good way to get me to read some of the stuff I dread! And lo! Behold! The first thing I see this morning when I open my system is that Classic Club is announcing their Spin#9. There is naturally no question of “not participating”.

The Spin rules are as always simple –

  • Pick 20 Classics of your choice
  • On Monday, i.e. April 6th, the Club will pick a number
  • You read the book that you have marked against the number by May 15th

And now for the list. In the spirit of things, I decided to make the list a little more challenging and listed 20 books I really kind of nervous taking up.

  1. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  2. The Awakening by Kate Chopin
  3. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee
  4. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  5. Daisy Miller by Henry James
  6. Washington Square by Henry James
  7. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
  8. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  9. Main Street by Sinclair Lewis
  10. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
  11. A Room with a View by M Forster
  12. Howard’s End by M Forster
  13. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
  14. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
  15. The House of Seven Gables by Nathanie Hawthorne
  16. Of Human Bondage by Somerset Maugham
  17. A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul
  18. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a Márque
  19. Windsor Castle by William Harrison Ainsworth
  20. The Last Days of Pompeii by Edward Bulwer-Lytton

That’s the list! And Now I sit, biting my nails till April 6th!!!

The Eternal Joy of a Funny, Brilliant and Humane Mind….Sir Terry Pratchett!

As the world knows by now, that Sir Terry Pratchett had a recent visitation from DEATH and in his language has “moved on”. I mourn his loss as much as other Pratchett fans and know that life on the third planet from the sun, without his wisdom, humanity and funny bones would simply be not the same. However knowing him, I do not think he would have appreciated ‘mourning’ and would have found much hilarity at the professed grief of folks who have never read his work, let alone appreciating it. He would instead read his true fans a riot act for being cast down when he was simply “getting on with things”. Therefore instead of doing an obituary post, I thought of blogging about some of best reasons why we all adored Sir Terry Pratchett and his Discworld!

  1. The Great A’Tuin and Discworld – Why? Give me one good reason why you would want to live on earth, when in the parallel trousers of time you could inhabit a world which sits atop four giant elephants who in turn stand on the back of the great big turtle A’Tuin….I mean earth just spins on its Axis while Discworld swims long gently rotating on the back of these creatures…far! far! Better I say!
  2. DEATH – YOU GOTTA LOVE DEATH. HE RIDES A COOL BIKE, CARRIES A SCYTHE, CAN WORK AS A HOGSFATHER WHEN THE NEED ARISES AND IS ALWAYS HELPFUL ABOUT THE TRANSITION THE LIVING BEINGS HAVE TO MAKE FROM ONE STAGE OF LIVE TO ANOTHER.
  3. Lord Vetinary – Not only is Discworld way cooler, but the leader of its greatest city Ankh-Morpork is the coolest dictator ever. A trained assassin, he knows the use of all kinds of people and has a finger in each pie (as in spy). He keeps the order, ensures the city makes money, provides a quick and easy end to any troublemaker and is indulgent for the right causes. He is never threatened, (Yes! Captain Carrot could be a potential kingly candidate) but Lord Vetinary could not care less and is more interested in understanding why Captain Carrot along with his superior Sam Vimes cannot hold peace in the city for longer duration!
  4. Ankh-Morpork – How can you not love Ankh Morpork, the greatest city of Discworld? How can you not hate Ankh Morpork, the greatest city of Discworld? Its rich, its crooked and its mad bad city like all big mad bad cities of world!! We love em’, we hate em’ but we cannot live without em’
  5. Ankh Morpork City Watch – The entire cast of characters led by formerly alcoholic, street talking walking cynical Sir Sam Vimes (One bottle is one too many) the very ideological and completely incapable of grasping sarcasm Captain Carrot, the gorgeous and seriously and I mean seriously deadly Angua and the amazingly none too bright pair of Fred Colon and Nobby Nobs…You love this watch and you want them to be the watch of your city….they are always late to the crime scene, they take forever to solve crimes, but they always get their man/woman/creature in the end, something our real life coppers have yet to master!
  6. The Witches – Bring on the drumroll and I am sure Granny Weatherwax would disapprove, but bring them on nevertheless!! The absolutely ruthless, rough talking, no-nonsense Granny Weatherwax who is not particularly fond of people, but she will stand by them, well because you gotta stand by them! Nanny Ogg, the gregarious, alcohol loving, bawdy song singing Nanny is the “mother” as likes to think of the gang. The third have beens with their unique perspectives: Magrat Garlick who loved herbs and nature and became the queen, the fat Agnes Nitt with a voice of gold and Tiffany Aching!!
  7. The Footnotes – What are these books without the footnotes – a detailed explanation to all that is caustic, funny and convoluted of complex and not so complex issues of Discworld. Like my flatmate/best friend says they are a parallel plot unto themselves and you truly cannot imagine the Discworld without these gentle and not so gentle references!
  8. The Parodies – Oh! My! Did Sir Pratchett make a parody of Sir William Shakespeare or Gaston Leroux? It is said that parodies are one of the highest forms of flattery; I am not sure if Sir Pratchett meant to flatter either of the “greats”, but he did make “Wyrd Sisters” and “Maskerade” a whole lot funnier and intellectually palatable than “Hamlet” or “The Phantom of the Opera”!
  9. The Moral Brand – Sir Pratchett was for all his imagination and humor a humanist. Anything mean, discriminatory or stupid got onto him and came out as scathing lashing critique of the utter stupidity of mankind through his pen. His City Watch was a testimony to his belief that all creatures are born equal and that no one was lesser or superior basis birth. He was intolerant of anything remotely resembling racism or xenophobia and was caustic in his condemnation of nations of their greed and power mania (Jingo is a prime example) and religious narrow mindedness (Small Gods). What made him a genius instead of a boring pedagogue was his ability to convey his point through humor, wit and a strong dose of irony!
  10. The Humor – What can I say? The caustic ruthless and absolutely funny humor! I will let Sir Pratchett do the talking himself – “The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it.” “Here’s some advice boy. Don’t put your trust in revolutions. They always come around again. Thats why they’re called revolutions.” “The enemy isn’t men, or women, its bloody stupid people and no-one has the right to be stupid.”My flatmate/bestfriends favorite“Our stars are entwined,” said Casanunda.”We’re fated for one another. I wants your body, Mrs. Ogg.” “I’m still using it.”

I was first introduced to Terry Pratchett’s world when as a bumbling and confused sixteen year old, I picked up Maskerade from the Library. I then knew I had found true love when he wrote about Agnes Nitt’s reaction to comments on her fatness, being constantly told that it’s what inside that’s important, “as if people fell in love with a good pair of kidneys.” That love has never wavered and funny as it may sound, I have found solace, wisdom and a lot of distraction every time I reached out for one of my much loved Discworld novels, in moments of greatest distress and trauma.

Thank You for helping me through the journey called Life, Sir Pratchett…I am so much a better individual for having met you. You will live on with us, while DEATH takes you to the next phase!

Exceptional Women and More Exceptional Women and Some More Exceptional Women….

A very Happy Women’s Day to all the ladies and a special mention for all the gentlemen across the world who display sensitivity and generosity, supporting equality and standing by us while we fight our battles! While I don’t believe in “particular day” based celebration, but considering we as women, have more than 5000 years of bondage to throw off, a special boost does no harm, I guess!

Naturally, I wanted to a do special post on focusing on woman, and considering I draw all inspiration from books, I decided on strong women characters – I don’t mean to go down the road and list some of the strongest heroines and do a regular cliché cataloging; but rather I wanted to take this moment and identify top 10 women in “supporting cast” across various works of fiction, who are more humane and identifiable than the central heroine ( because most ‘heroines’ have it all – beauty, brains, courage, etc etc) and yet a critical to the plot, without whom the novel would fall apart, pretty much like life. After all life does imitate art…

Here we go then…

  1. March from Little Women – I have mentioned about her in one of my previous posts as well and while the book is about her five daughters, there is no getting away from the fact that Mrs. March is what holds them together; her kindness, fortitude and silent courage in face of extremely distressing circumstances, keeps the March brood together. She is not perfect and she claims to have struggled with her unbiddable temper for a long time, but what makes her stand out is her innate ability to overcome this shortcoming.
  2. Jane Bennett from Pride and Prejudice –True Jane seems to have it all – beauty, kindness and a cheerful disposition; but it cannot be fun constantly living in the shadow of a brilliant and witty sister, who is her father’s favorite and with a mother, who favors her only for her beauty. But Jane Bennett rises above all that is petty; to appreciate the good in all and feel blessed for the love she gets, in whatever form or manner. When Bingley leaves her without a word, she promises Elizabeth that she will not regret or pine over her loss for the sake of all those who love her. In an age of increased awareness about individuality and the “I” factor, it is still worthy to honor sentiments of others and do something for their sake!
  3. Rosa Hubermann from The Book Thief – Outwardly Rosa Hubermann is brash, aggressive, nagging and pretty much a termagant. But she is also the pillar of the Hubermann family, providing food on the table, taking good care of her adopted daughter and standing by Hans no matter how difficult the circumstances. While Liesel has a far more bonded relationship with Hans, there is no denying that Rosa Hubermann acted as good strong surrogate mother to her foster child.
  4. Mellissa Hallam from Lucy Carmichael – The best example of a girl best friend; she describes Lucy as – “She taught me how to enjoy myself … Lucy forced me to believe that I might be happy. I don’t expect I’d have had the courage to marry you, to marry anybody, if it hadn’t been for Lucy.”It’s not just about what she says about Lucy that is significant, but what it says of her own character – strong, devoted, loyal and brave enough to admit her flaws and get past them. Mellissa and Lucy’s friendship endure various test of time and all the natural emotions of knowing that friends see you through when they see you through. Mellissa stands by Lucy through all her ups and downs, with maturity, sensitivity and the everlasting knowledge for the other that she will always be there for her!
  5. Mrs Burden from My Antonia – Generous , kind and supportive, she is there even when she is not wanted, (Remember how the Shimerdas react when she first comes over to their farm to help them) helping in all the little ways so that those whose fortunes are less than hers, can better their lives and become more complete individuals. She knows that her good nature is often exploited but she lets it be, if there is some good in the end. She is the principle person who helps Antonia in attempting to shape a better life for herself beyond the farm. If you ever need a model mentor, Emmeline Burden is a shining example of that!
  6. Molly Weasly from Harry Potters – She is perhaps the most unconventional of the great mom’s literature. She yells at her children when they step out of line; she is generous in her love when she adopts an orphaned Harry in her family, caring for him like her own sons and a roaring tigress when anyone harms her brood! (Remember her battle with Bellatrix Lestrange in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.) She is one fierce woman demonstrating the best of motherhood – pride, kindness and protectiveness.
  7. Ellen O’Hara from Gone with The Wind – Ellen’s life revolved around Tara and the O’Hara; the perfect mistress, she took care of her family, the plantation and the dependents with kindness, wisdom and determination. She embodied the very best of what was considered the highest standards of a “lady” and seemed absolutely contended with her life, never letting anyone know the very depth of her heartbreak and despair, when she lost Philip, the one man she truly loved.
  8. Cheery Littlebottom from Feet of Clay and other Discworld Novels – No one knows she is a ‘she’ until she decides to step away from the paradigm of what constitutes a female dwarf. What makes her really endearing is that her rebellion is not without angst; she is afraid of breaking away from the mores of traditional societal norms, but she still marches ahead and thumbs the nose to the world, while quaking in her boots! And oh! yes! She is a brilliant chemist, a contradiction in itself – brilliant and a Chemist? Now who would have thought of that???
  9. Marilla Cuthbert from Anne of Green Gables – Marilla is a traditionalist, a conservative and she seems to have absolutely no room for imagination. Yet as the book progresses, we are touched by all that is kind, warm and filial in Marilla as embraces Anne’s unusual look of life with a strong sense of humor and resilience for all the upheavals that life throws at her!
  10. Sita from The Far Pavilions – The iconic Ashton Akbar Pelham Martyn would not be Ashton Akbar Pelham Martyn had it not been for this uneducated, poverty stricken woman. With no resources at her disposal and only her subsuming love for her surrogate son which drives this humble woman to a display of courage, strength and intelligence; the end being only to ensure the survival of young Ashton, through the mayhem of 1857 Mutiny and the intrigue of 19th century indigenous kingdoms, even if it cost her, her own life!

There are so many more I want to include in this list, but space constrains along with time limitations, force me to end here. However before ending, one last virtual toast to all these and other brave women, both in fiction and the  real world, thank you for inspiring us and paving the road for the future generation of women.

On Ending of February and Missed Dates!

February, the last month of my favorite season came and went and had I not experienced all the turbulence that I endured over 2013-2014, I would have said it was a disastrous month! But there is something to be said of the lessons learnt from the past and achieving a level of “Sang-Froid” (an inevitably difficult task for someone who is fundamentally and incurably suffering from control freak symptoms) and therefore I will restrain my usual hyperboles and just state it’s been a rather DIFFICULT month!

Work front was hardly a paradise, in fact more like the Siberian Gulag! But then one of my team members pointed out recently, work equals service and service stems from the word ‘servitude’ and therefore is inherently a flawed state of being and a necessary evil and to expect something marvelous, while not a miracle is a rare, hardly ever seen event. It was/is tiresome, irksome and completely exhausting, but at least I really love the job and I have one of the best, funniest and brightest team ever; so let’s just say the cup is half full!

My woes with technology continue; after my recent disaster with my good old blackberry- the phone finally killed itself because I will not stop using it after 5 years, forcing me to buy an Android touch phone which I abhor. A single mistaken swipe of the fingers and suddenly I am talking to an aunt I really never want to talk to! But my woes did not end there, just as I was getting settled with my “Smartphone”, my tab gave away and committed Hara Kiri (Yup! Read Painful method of suicide – Japanese style). So now I am out of an E-Reader and would have to buy one when I really do not want to and get used to it and …..it is all very very depressing and frustrating and infuriating and irksome! But I am not losing my temper here! Nope! I am practicing being “Sang-Froid”

Considering the Project Manager avatar took up so much of time this month, I barely got any reading done – so all my reading plans for February now naturally translate to March, with a couple of added attractions or otherwise – Conn Iggulden’s  Trilogy (Part of the War of Rose’s Trilogy) and Daniel Deronda by George Elliot (I Do Not like George Elliot and I do not care if she was considered one the premiere modern novelists, but if I do not read it now and as part of a group activity, I never will!) It was extremely disappointing that after some great reading months, I came to almost dead stop in last couple of weeks! But hopefully I will pick myself up and be rattling about this book and that author, soon enough!

And now, because of all the servitude, I forgot a most important day in my blogging career – 14th February. (No! It’s not about Valentine’s Day!) It’s my bloggosanniversary and Mockingbirds, Prejudices and Looking Glass, completed 3 years of existence! (Drum Roll!!!!) While the day wenteth unmarketh because I slogeeth , I do want to take a moment, to thank each and every one of you for all your kindness in taking the time out to read, like, comment through these three years. Today I am honored to share the blogshphere with all of you and more importantly to call so many of you friends – friends across geographies, time-zones, cultural and linguistic differences!

Thus, clichéd as it sounds, all well that ends well and therefore ending on celebratory note with fireworks and more, I leave you with this –

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