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The End of the Year Wrappings….

Another year goeth by and yet another year to make new beginnings with! What did we accomplish in these 12 months and what do we hope to accomplish in this new year?? I am not a resolution person and from experience I know that whatever I propose, God/Fate disposes completely differently, therefore it makes total sense to make no plans and go with the flow! Instead I look back on 2016 and think of all that was done and if I may say, I deserve a pat on my back; while I did not do a lot, I did do some stuff that atleast showed some traction on my self improvement trajectory –

  1. I ran a marathon – ok! only 5km, but hey I am 115 Kgs and managing 5km is a task!
  2. I took 3 major vacations and 3 minor getaways, including a 14 days road trip into deep Himalayas. A year in travels CANNOT get better than this!
  3. I got a short story published!! Yes, finally I got something printed! So its not a big journal and the work is not one of my best, but hey! I am now an officially published person!
  4. I made some wonderful new friend, friends who are akin to my soul sisters, who have encouraged me run to marathons, keep writing till I get published and in general become more rational in life!
  5. Most importantly, I read and read and read!

On that happy note, as is my norm, I share below, the 12 best reads of the year as is my norm, with wishes for an even better 2017 for all of us –

  1. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf – I have been in perpetual terror of Woolf ever since I read Orlando when 15. However, Ali was hosting a Woolfalong and I was also participating in the Women’s Classical Literature Reading Event hosted by the Classic Club and this seemed as good a time to plunge in. And I am ever so glad I did; with it’s subtle narrative of following the thoughts of the protagonists and the sense of time passing and some of the most brilliant prose. I fell in love with the book, to say the very least!
  2. Miss Marjorie Banks by Margaret Oliphant – I had this book in my collection forever and now I sit back and wonder what the hell was I doing waiting for ages to finally get around to reading this one! Another one of Women’s Classic Literature Reading Event read, this wonderful narrative of the Victorian town of Carlingsford and Miss Bank’s effort to be a comfort to her father and the residing social priestess of her town is a hilarious and at the same time a gentle telling of things that were not quite right in the Victorian society! One of the best books I have ever read!
  3. Metamorphoses by Ovid – I would have NEVER EVER read this one if it was not for Cleo! Cleo with her enthusiasm and pep talk kept me going and I discovered a book that I had dreaded and ended up loving. This is an epic poem which is a compendium of all Greek and Roman legend has violence, greed, sacrifice, courage and every other element of human drama that come together to form a grand tour-de-force that simply sweeps you away!
  4. The Fortunes of the Rougons by Emile Zola – Another one of those books I did not want to read and ended by up loving it. This first book in a series comprising of 20 novels, traces the rise of the Rougan family from Plassans during the coup of 1851. Not a happy book, with hardly any redeemable characters, this book yet manages to share a story of humanity and deep insights into the human  heart! The only word I could use to describe it is profound!
  5. The Gypsy in the Parlour by Margery Sharp – This one was another one of those great finds thanks to Jane! The trials of the Sylvesters in their Victorian farm with new wives and wayward sons, seen through the eyes of a distant 12 year old cousin, is a retelling of an old tale of good versus bad with wonderful plot, characters that you wish were actually in existence and an end that kept you on the hook. Margery Sharp showed that with the right crafting of the plot, the old stories of human relationships will endure and even become page turners!
  6. The Rose and The Ring by William Makepeace Thackeray – A children’s tale that I picked up on a whim, while looking around for something different to read! Did I stumble on a gold mine or what!! Biting satire with hilarious dialogues with absolutely marvelous cast of Princes, Princess and amulets, this one was written originally as a fireside pantomime, and continues to be a complete enteratainer some 150 years on!
  7. The Dairy of Nobody by by George Grossmith and illustrations by Weedon Grossmith – If I have a find of the year, it is this book! Why in the world is this book not more popular is quite beyond me. This is hilarious, in fact uproarious narrative of Charles Pooter, who has just bought a new house and is adjusting to his life in suburban 1892 England, with some aid from his friends, his difficult son and his exasperated wife! if there was ever a laugh out loud book, this is the ONE!
  8. Up The Country by Emily Eden – My favorite non fiction read of the year! This wonderful travel journal, of Emily Eden kept while her brother was the Governor General of India, is a lovely description of an era of British Raj and of a time gone by. Free of prejudices, and with more insights, than her brother ever displayed, this book is a wondrous read into what the past really looked and felt like!
  9. Shadow of The Moon by MM Kaye – I know and I know! This is my all time favorite and I should not have included this and all that! But every time I read, this breathtaking saga of Winter de Balletros and Captain Alex Randall, in the backdrop of the Indian Mutiny of 1857, I am left breathless and mesmerized! Kaye who was born and for many years lived in India, poured her love for the land and her people in this masterful novels about tolerance, sacrifice and human courage! They really do write books like any more!
  10. The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore – My first ever hosted read-along, with the kind support of many of my friends in the Blogging world! The story of Nikhil, Bimala and Sandeep in the backdrop of Indian Indpendence Movement, tells a complex narrative about freedom, responsibility, choices and a woman’s true emancipation, at a time when India woman had in fact no place of their own!
  11. The Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson – I am NOT a science person, but this book, another one purchased on a whim,.is a wonderful, engaging and at times downright funny telling of , well everything! How this universe, earth and we, the living all came into existence. It makes you appreciate the wonder of the earth, read more about the Big Bang and sit back and wonder at the genius called Bill Bryson!
  12. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas – This is one of those re-readings that classify under “I know”. I know this is a classic, I know there is nothing better than this yarn of revenge and forgiveness and I personally find no better philosophy to live by than those enshrined in this book – “All human wisdom is contained in these two words, Wait and Hope.”

I know I restrict myself to 12 books alone, but this has been a very very interesting year, and I wanted to make an honorable and critical mention about Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Here was a book and an author I was not ready touch with a barge pole, until Stefanie came along with her wonderful review. Now we all know, I trust Stefanie, so I picked it up and ended up receiving some very practical advise, about being a creative person, about persisting in your craft and about capturing the moment, without wondering about when/what/where will the rewards coming in! This is perhaps the first self-helpish book that really helped, saw me pick up the pen and write more and genrally recommend it to all other creative folks!

That just about sums of my 2016 adventure!

Thank You for being part of this bloggish journey, thank you for your diligent and thoughtful comments/likes and advise. I am better reader/writer, because you all decided to help me out! Here’s wishing you all a fabulous and brilliant 2017!

In Memoriam, [Ring out, wild bells]

by Lord Alfred Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be

The Year in Posts and Books…

I first learnt of this kind of blog posts years back from Jane and since then every year, after gentle nudge from her post, I would suddenly remember, that it was that time of year, to sit back and look at how this bloggish year went. It goes without saying that since I am irredeemably in love with reading, the blogs should be all about books; but as I look back, there are some interesting surprises! Therefore I present without further ado, the first lines from the first blog posts of this past 12 months….

January – Its A New Day

Well, December is gone and January is here and before we know another December will be here…I am trying to cheer myself that If January is here, can December be far?!

February – Money and Marriage in Cumbria

I am devoted and I mean DEVOTED to Anthony Trollope.

March –  The Pickwick Paper Read Along

Many moons ago, some of the greatest Victorian authors, like the worthy Mr. Charles Dickens, Mr. Wilkie Collins, Mrs. Margaret Oliphant and Mrs. Elizabeth Gaskell, wrote some of their best works not in a single bound novel, but as serialized installments in various magazines.

April – Holiday Hangover, April Reading and Therapy

Hello! Hello! I am back! And while I am overjoyed to be back in the world of cyberspace and virtual interactions, I must say, I soooooo do not look forward to the Monday! But that is a bridge that I will cross and dream of August again!

May – May-ish Reads

Ah! May…..the fire breathing months on Indian plains, where the sun burns and earth scorches and you wonder if hell is like this! Joy!

June – About Summers & Reading 

I am seeing many posts around the internet, celebrating Summer! Reading and Summer seems a most conducive combination; reminds of my summer vacation from schools, with 2 and a half month of bliss, reading and eating!

July – An Act

I was planning to share my July reading plans but decided to share this instead…

August – The Home & The World Read Along – Indian History Part 1

As many of you are aware, I am hosting The Home and The World Read Along for the Month of August, both to celebrate Indian Independence which happens to fall on 15th Aug but also to mark the centenary anniversary of this masterpieces publication

September – Come September

Yay!! September arriveth and summer goeth! If that is not a reason for me to celebrate I do not know what is!

October – October and Reading 

October is HERE! Yes…October is REALLY HERE!! So what if it feels like I am inside a boiler and there are no winds with a hint of chill and no delicious smell of wood fire smoke signaling the onset of Winter, but October the calendar assures me is here!

November – This & That

Its been an absolutely couple of miserable weeks. 

December – The Most Glorious Month

Yay! December is here….the season to rejoice! Off with the old, and on with the new month!

Its been an interesting year, with reading, writing, traveling and sobering experiences. It’s been an enriching and informative year….it’s been a good year!

The Years at Macando

I finally read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s seminal novel One Hundred Years of Solicitude, after it lay in my TBR for a 100 years, metaphorically speaking! I have been planning on reading this work ever since I was 20 and I completely and utterly fell in love with Love in Time of Cholera! I was mesmerized by Marquez’s images and his sensitivity; despite that it took me 14 odd years to get to his most famous work! Anyhow, thanks to the 12 Month’s Classic Challenge, I was able to check this one off, this November!

One Hundred Years of Solicitude, traces the rise and fall of the Buendia family, in the township of Macando, which is founded by the patriarch of the family José Arcadio Buendía. José Arcadio marries his first cousin Ursula, defying the conventional norms of not marrying within the family and and sets off with her and some other fellow countrymen for a better life and one night after a long and arduous journey, dreams of a city called Macando. On waking up he decides to  establish a city right there on the river back and calls it Macando. With the setting up of this township, the roots of Buendia family are laid and each generations, from Jose Arcadio, suffers through tragedies and loneliness, as they struggle with their inner geniuses and their need for solicitude. There is Colonel Aureliano Buendía, the second son of Ursual and José Arcadio, the poet, the craftsman and the warrior in the 20 year Civil war that saw Macando at the grip of violence between the liberals and conservatives. There is Amaranta, his youngest sister, whose life is marked out by tragedy after the suicide of Pietro Crespi, who had loved her and was rejected by her. The fourth generation twins, José Arcadio Segundo and Aureliano Segundo, whose lives are closely entangled with the changing dynamics of the economy of Macando. José Arcadio becomes involved in the banana worker strike, and is the only survivor when the company massacres the striking workers. Aureliano Segundo takes his first girlfriend Petra Cotes as his mistress during his marriage to the beautiful and bitter Fernanda del Carpio and makes a fortune with in livestock trading, only to die penniless, after the the four years storm destroys all his livestock.Finally, there is Aurelino, the illegitimate son of Reneta, daughter of Aureliano Segundo, who dies as the worst cyclone hits the town, destroying the very house built by José Arcadio.

The rise and fall of the Buendia family and Macando was naturally a metaphor for Columbia and traces some of the key events that define Colombian history, the Liberal political climate of the country, the arrival of the railways, the hegemony of the United Fruit Company and the military actions to suppress all labor movements.  Marquez also employs Magical Realisim to create a myth like narrative, while blending the novel with  the more real affairs of civil war and economic boom.The reader is expected to be prepared to accept the impossible along with realistic themes like war and marriage. The other two main themes that hold this novel together is the concept of solicitude and realism. From the very founding of Macando, at the very edge of a swamp at the end of civilization, kicks of this quest for solicitude by the Buendia family.The characters all seem to live in their own private world, distinct and isolated from what was actually happening and bringing in destruction after destruction, as they secluded themselves from the world. The theme of incest, also runs through the novel.The patriarch of the family, Jose Arcadio Buendía, is the first of numerous Buendías to intermarry when he marries his first cousin, Úrsula and this form of relationships continue with every generation, till the very end when Aurilino marries Ursuala Remidios, who technically is his aunt.

There is a otherworldly effect that one is left with after reading this novel. While, the narrative constantly touches on some very real themes, the myth like story telling techniques, leaves one feeling that one has just finished reading a fable. There are some lovely descriptions and lyricism that pervades through the novel and some hard truths, that make it a book of wisdom. However, while there was much to admire, I could not honestly say I loved the book. The convoluted story telling seemed to be a contrived effort not to sound, linear; though what is the problem is sounding linear in a multi-generational narrative is something i am yet to figure out. I could not emphasis with a singly character, except Urusla, who seemed remotely normal and is one of best portrayals of a grand matriarch ever! The other all seemed to be self obsessed without much kindness of any human touch and while I understand that Marquez was trying to portray the utter selfishness of the landed gentry of Latin America, I found the characters just down right irritating than actually villian like! Finally, I do not and I will not understand the need for incest as a theme. I am not sure what Marquez was attempting to say through the constant emphasis on incest and sex, but I cannot quite find the literary abandon and intellectual freedom in this. To me it was completely unnecessary,  creating hype when none was required and not adding any real enrichment to the story telling.

I am glad I have read it. I am glad to know a whole different style of narrative and story telling. I think it is important to read this work once, at least to understand Latin America a little better; however, it is not a book that I will ever go back to again!

 

The Most Glorious Month

Yay! December is here….the season to rejoice! Off with the old, and on with the new month! The Holiday and Happy Cheer month! The month to read, write, party and rejoice! The Birthday Month! The Month that justifies and makes up for of the other 11 months! Ah! Glorious December, how I miss thee, through the year!

Unfortunately my precious December started off this year on several wrong notes! Stupid partners at work continued to crowd on my time and more importantly on patience! I am striving hard through some personal stuff and i began kick started the month, by spectacularly falling ill! However, this is December so it cannot be all bad, just by virtue of it being December!

So what grand plans, you ask? Well, I know you did not, but I continue to enlighten you anyway – This being the season of joy, I have several house parties planned, namely three, all starting this Friday, the next Friday and the Friday the 23rd. I have friends visiting, so there will exploring Delhi in the lovely winter sun and many grand lunches. I am off the to the mountains again in the last week of December, for a Father Daughter trip. And finally and most naturally, there will READING! Loads and loads of books planned and unplanned which I plan to read, nice and cosy, under a pile of blankets, with tea and snacks! Bliss! The reading plan just got an impetus as I got an advanced birthday present in form of a Paperwhite Kindle (Yes! I hang my head in shame and say that I have gone over to the Dark Side!) which my flatmate cum soul sister cum Santa Claus gifted me, after my tab kind of committed hara-kiri after three years of ruthless use!

Enough excitement to fortify me for the trudge for the next 11 months! For now, I have to rush since I missed on the first few precious days of the month, but I will keep  you all posted; so please do hang around for the party!!

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