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Posts from the ‘Writing’ Category

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!

Something Old & Something New

And no, I am not getting married and anyway in a Hindu wedding, there would nothing old and all new! But at the very onset, I digress! The plan originally was to post about The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford, but something has been brewing in my mind for sometime and it finally being put into motion!

Many of you may be aware from my About page, that outside of Reading like no tomorrow and writing constantly, the other ruling passion of my life has been Traveling. I was travelling since I was 3 months old and have always been wanderlusting as far back as I can recollect. The prize for doing well in school was books and a new place to visit. Money for meagre paychecks were added/deleted/divided in an effort to buy all the books in the world and explore some new part of the world!Planning vacations, besides adding to the To Read list in my GoodReads has been and is a major way to de-stress. However despite all the energy and efforts spent in traveling I rarely if ever posted on my adventures, and what I did was a cursory overview more to give everyone a chance to see why I was away . Somehow I could not seem to bring in the very personal touch in my travel writings as I did on my book reviews. So I held on and then recently, an idea stuck me – I wanted to start website on Women and their Travels.

Now, I think most of you would agree with Mark Twain when he wrote that “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness.” But in the context of women traveling, it becomes especially important – it provides  a time for the woman to discover herself , her true identity and instills in her the confidence that if she can do travel to a new place without the patriarchs of her life, she can do practically anything. Women traveling on their own or with a bunch of other women is one of the most empowering experiences and it is these experiences and adventures I wanted to share. I have the extreme privileged and honor of travelling with some of these amazing women over the last couple of years and their stories of being caught all alone in the middle of nowhere in Columbia or traveling alone to the heart of Iran with a 3 year old in tow is not only an exciting adventure, but truly liberating and empowering!

Therefore, I seek an extension  your patronage and ask you to join me in these adventures, which my friends and I share at A Smooth Round Stone! You have always, always supported me in not only visiting my blog, but sharing your thoughts and ideas and showing me a whole new world, I hope you will do the same in this new adventure of mine. Furthermore, I hope you will also share with me your stories – stories of your travel or when you played host to travelers and enrich this humble motley collection of travel tales!

And, thus without any further ado, let’s us travel!

The Home & The World Read Along – Part III

This is the final post of the three part snapshot of Indian History (you can read them here and here), which I briefly and sketchily tried to summarize to help better understand the political nuances of The Home and The World, the Read Along, I am hosting for August. For those of you who still continue to read my long winded essays, Thank you for your patience and interest and I promise, this will be the very last of the Indian History 101!

The new century brought an increased awareness among the Indians – the states of Bengal, Bombay and Punjab especially had a growing population of educated class who were beginning to think for themselves and ask questions on the right of British to rule India. Bengal more than any other state was at the forefront as Calcutta, the capital of British India was located in Bengal and since the days of Siraj-Ud-Dula in 1700s, the Bengalees more than anyone else were in direct contact with the merchant rulers and were first to be educated in the English system and first to initiate reform for Indian woman. By 1900s they were producing authors, poets, statesman and scientist.The region was overflowing with intellectual brilliance and there was a need to curb its questions and revolutionary tendencies and to stem this, Lord Curzon came up with the plan to partition Bengal in 1905, apparently for administrative reasons, but on ground it was clear that it was an effort to divide the Hindu-Muslim population of the state and have them fight each other. This blatant act of tyranny, led to a mass scale agitation and protest by Indian called the Swadeshi Movement and it was during this time that the events of the novel unfold.

The Swadeshi Movement very simply put was an effort to boycott British made goods, from clothes to soaps, and instead support indigenous and small scale industries in India, by patronizing their product. The aim was to halt the unbridled commercial success of British trading community and therefore force the government in rescinding the order for Partition. One may ask to begin with, why did Indians buy British product – the simple answer is because Indian did not have their own products. For the previous  150 years,. India was used by the British to produce raw material from cotton to coal to Indigo and then dump all the manufactured goods back in Indian markets. The Indian industries which so far had been built on merchant guild lines and had no exposure to the industrial revolution of the West , could not keep up and folded up; the traders becoming indentured farmers or laborers. Under the Swadeshi Movement, there was an effort made to re-start the small scale industries by giving them the Indian market to sell their products.

The movement had a lot of ideological and bravado zeal; there were awe inspiring speeches , picketed against shops that sold British goods and made bonfires  to burn British products. it extended beyond economics and into other spheres- Indians began boycotting government jobs, use of British courts and schools and colleges.Most importantly socially, the political movement came to the masses; since inception of Congress, politics had been the dominion of some educated elites, but Swadeshi bought it to every home and hearth. The call for independence based on economic equality rang true to every man/woman. Meetings and processions, forming of committees, propaganda through press, and diplomatic pressure, every and each tool was used by the Indians to get their message across. Even Indian festivals were used as a platform to reassert Indian identity and strength.Richness of the movement extended to culture, science and literature. Traditional folk theater forms such as jatras i.e. extensively used in disseminating the Swadeshi message in an intelligible form to vast sections of the people, many of whom were being introduced to modern political ideas for the first time. Similarly authors from Tagore to others wrote pieces hailing the brilliant past of India and asking fellow countryman to seek out the country’s future destiny as well. Masses were educated for a bolder form of politics and colonial hegemony was undermined.There were a lot of student participation and some fiery young leaders,  took to the stage and adopted some aggressive means to drive the point. The indigenous and vernacular press also came of the age during this time, strongly condemning British force to curb non violent protests and faced shutdowns and imprisonment for writing against the British Government and jailed under Sedition charges. The British naturally also took other steps to curb the movements, including “lathi charge” – attack by long bamboo sticks to dispel protesters, imprisonment of many under the aforementioned sedition charges and use of terms like Bande Mataram (literally, “I pray/bow down to thee, Mother and a patriotic song penned during this time by the prolific Indian author, Bankim Chandra) were deemed illegal. (Making Bande Mataram illegal made it in fact the rallying crying of the Indian Independence movement until 1947)

Swadeshi movement for the first time in Modern History effectively united Indians and brought them together to fight what was an imperialistic policy. However there was one downside of this movement – the Indian goods because they were produced in smaller numbers, were expensive and not ubiquitously available. The British goods were cheap and constantly in supply; the common man living under severe poverty could barely afford to make his two ends meet, he need the cheap sugar and cloth of British factories and for a country whose average per capita income was below the Poverty line (1885 to 1921), even with best of intentions, supporting the slow and expensive Indian industry was out of question.To understand the grinding poverty of the time, here just one fact – The Lancet reported 19 million died from starvation and consequences of extreme poverty in British India, between 1896 and 1900. The other effect which made many, including Tagore draw away from the movement was the violence – the youth in patriotic fervor committed several acts of aggression, which principally makes Indian uncomfortable. A country which historically taught peace and acceptance, only wages wars as a last resource and acts of terror were as abhorrent to 20th century India as it was in 300 BC India.

Despite British repression and the discomfort of Indians, the Swadeshi movement did manage to pressurize the government to pull back the Bengal Partition order  and in 1911, Bengal again became a unified state. The Swadeshi movement was also a pre-curser to Gandhi’s Non Violent movement for freedom and Gandhi worked on the student population of Swadeshi Movement who were now established lawyers, doctors teachers and demand independence from British rule, finally leading to an independent India in 1947. The only blip in this heroic historic victory, was that India was partitioned into two states of India and Pakistan and left behind in its wake one of worst instances of religious violence and the largest displacement of a population. But that is another story for another day!

Finally my usual disclaimer, while I have not cited any particular sources, but my essay is based on readings of Modern India by Dr. Sumit Sarkar, A History of India by Percival Spear, From Plassey to Partition – A History of Modern India  by Shekhar  Bandyopadhyay, Wikipedia and once more, class notes during my Graduate School days from the lectures of Dr. Tanika Sarkar.

Happy Birthday…..

Yup …today is the BIG day….it’s the Blogoversary for Mockingbirds, Looking Glasses and Prejudices! Four years ago, completely disgusted with pink and fluffy madness that envelops the world when we say 14th February, I had made a timid attempt at spewing my angst by talking about Saki’s idea of celebration an Enemies Day, quoting people I wanted to really share the latter day with. Many moons later, I am still here and surprise, surprise, so is the Blog.

Yet so much has changed…my writing skills to begin with. I cringe when I look my old attempts (Please for the love of God, DO NOT look them up!) and I am very very sure that if I survive another five years, I will cringe at what I am writing today! Back then I used to rack my brains about what I should write about, but then one day, some four months down the line, enlightenment came to me and I knew I will write about the thing most important to me, books. Over the years, this resolution has been modified and I have blogged about history, friends, relatives, celebrations and vacations. But perhaps what has made this journey so much more fulfilling and rewarding , was how it opened me to new ideas,aka adventures (from MOOC classes to Ginger Carrot Soups) new books I NEVER knew off or would not dare to read (Margaret Kennedy (authors I never knew) and Virginia Woolf  (Authors I did not dare to read)) and finally and most importantly that I developed this whole community of readers, some who became close friends. Friends who introduced me to books, got me interested in hobbies I would have never ever thought myself capable off (Gardening, Knitting, Learning Latin….the last still being conceptualized and I think you all know who you all are!) and supported me with warmth and care on some of the darkest periods of my life, across thousands of miles and vast oceans, without ever having even once seen me in person!

There is so much to celebrate and there is so much of gratitude that I feel for everyone who takes the time out to read my babble and like and comment or simply visit like an old friend, dropping in without any formalities! Thank you all!!I am humbled by your kindness and attention! A mere thank you is not enough, but that is all I can say because while not enough, it is the most apt for the moment!

 

So here’s to all my sunshines and my secret place where I can be who I want to be….

 

Let It Go……

I am seeing too many friends drop off and take a hiatus from blogging because it is getting a bit too much. I know exactly how stressful this is becoming…half the time I am worrying that I have yet not blogged about a book and started on Y book and I disliked Z book so much, that I don’t want to blog about it, but should! We all seem to be laying increasing emphasis on whether we will like a book or not; if we do like it, what would we write in our blogs; if we don’t like it, will it, will we find the right words to explain our angst about the book….this project, that reading event…STOP!!

I remember when I started this blog, it was only a place to put drown some thoughts and help improve my writing. Writing about books  was easy because, I was constantly reading so many of them; but increasingly this became a bookish blog, which was never the main the intended idea to begin with! Its only lately that I have once again began to blog of things besides books….I don’t think it was a conscious decision, but somewhere I believe my mind was also exhausted of book reviews. I was tired of critiquing all kinds of books ….the good, the bad and the ugly and worrying over whether I was making enough progress on my projects, especially when other aspects of life took over, like job!

Time to end this madness….I will still write about books, but only if I really like em or don’t like em or because I feel like. Considering my love for books, this blog will continue to have bookish tendencies, but I will try and blog a little more about other things in life. I am not abandoning any of my projects, simply because I still see a lot of value in them – had it not been for some of these projects and reading events, I would have never read some great works and those would have a been a sad miss. What I refuse to do is stress over these reading projects and deadlines…no one is going to kill me if I read a book later than the stated date or chose not to complete one if I don’t like it!

Books and writing are two of my keenest pleasures…they are not my hobbies, they are me…manifestation of what I truly am and what I truly like. To turn them into six headed projects with gnatt charts and timelines is plain dumb. Its time to go back and read because that’s what I believe defines my essence and write because that’s what I believe I am born to do!! Hang around….this blog just took a very interesting turn (at least I hope you will find it interesting!)

I leave you with…naturally : have a great weekend! 🙂

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 –

Finally Something Lovely…..

It’s been a tiresome troublesome two weeks – I have besieged with challenges, both tangential and non-tangential – Just after my laptop was fixed and I could resume my normal blogging activities, WordPress for some reason decided to send all comments I made to the SPAM folder!! My phone after being fixed went caput again and just when my phone goes on a blinker the entire world has to call me!!!!But my phone could not go caput before I had a rather “distressing” conversation with one of my lesser liked aunts!!! I listened to a long and extremely offending lecture on my life style including what she deemed as important matters of life to which apparently I had an “immature” approach!!! AGRH!!!!! I am so glad I live 2300 kms from her and more of her kind!! Whoever said family is important never met my extended maternal family!! All of this followed by two instances of working for 24 hrs straight…I had heard of working for 24 hrs, and I have done 18 hrs but working for straight 24 hrs not once but twice in one week was just something else….needless to say, it’s not been very good lately!!

Anyway the only bright spot and this one is a considerably big bright spot, in fact it was so bright that I deem it as a bright sun, was to be nominated for a One Lovely Blog Award/Very Inspiring Blogger. While the honor is great and I am absolutely thrilled about it, what makes it even more special was that this came from Stephanie – a person I admire, whose tastes I have the firmest reliance one, whose opinions are always sensitive, a person who inspires me every day to read more, especially things I would have never explored and whose blogging discipline makes me write a post diligently and keep at it!! An awesome person, a wonderful friend and a great mentor all rolled into one!! What could be more joyous than to be recognized by somebody you look up to – there cannot be a greater accolade than this!!

Per the rules, I have to share with the greater world 7 facts about me and nominate 15 other bloggers –

About the 7 facts –

  1. I am extremely short-tempered and I have a TEMPER!! Over the years I have learnt and tried to control it, but there is no getting away that I have a short fuse and it takes very little to light the mental dynamite.
  2. I am FOODIE!!! I mean it…I love food!! The first thing I think off when I wake up is what will I have for breakfast??? Last thought before my close is where we can have dinner tomorrow. I love cooking and besides reading and writing, that is one activity, I spend a lot of time on!!
  3. I am a perfectionist – ask my team at work!!! Even the smallest mistake are highlighted and sent back with a not so nice email. For all my bouncy, optimistic, cheery personality, I am perfectionist and a hard, very hard task master…I drive myself over the edge and so does my team. I am very blessed to have a team which takes all my “perfection driven” idiosyncrasies with good humor and I am truly truly proud to lead them. But they do have to put up with comments like “the right hand margin of the slide 2 of the PPT is 1/4th inch less than the left hand margin”!!
  4. My first true love was when as 7 year olds, my best friend and I discovered a movie released nearly 5 years earlier, called “Top Gun”…No I did not fall in love with Tom Cruise, though my best friend did…instead I lost my heart and never quite gained it back to Val Kilmer . (I know he looks like a whale these days, but true love is beyond the obvious and such shallow things like good looks – though at the age of 7 I doubt I thought in such depths!! But I still hold a candle for that man!!!)
  5. I love and need my morning tea….nothing and no one comes in-between that…otherwise I am one grumpy creature. My other favorite drink is water and I consumer at least 6 liters a day – it’s never a task as I am always thirsty and I always have a bottle of water around me. I also LOVE white wines!!
  6. I am not particularly a movie person. I do watch an odd film now and then, but for me movie watching has to be an event – I do not go to the theater every week (more like once in 5 months) and I consider it a waste of time. However I do get bitten by a bug now and then and I watch back to backs non-stop for days on end, maybe because I like the time period the film was set in (I saw Band of Brothers 7 times, all 10 episodes) or the actor (like when I do my Val Kilmer fests) or country (recently went through Spanish film thingy!!)
  7. I love dancing – I went to a dancing school for more than 14 years and till date love to dance around my house. For some reason or the other, I have developed a strong disinclination for dancing in parties/clubs etc…cannot seem to quite enjoy that!!

Okay!! Glad that the 7 things are over…now for the 15 nominations –

Fleur in her World : Jane is my biggest bookish/bloggish inspiration along with Stephanie. Her reads are always wide ranged and her reviews succinct. I have never gone wrong with her recommendations and she is one of those very few people who have managed to introduce some great authors in my repertoire. If she has liked the book, rest assured, it will go in my TBD. Briar’s posts are absolutely marvelous and comes as an added plus when visiting her blog!!

Eggton : is another of my favorites. Katherine is not only an ex-New York mover shaker lawyer turned cook, but she is also someone with a wonderful sense of humor and with funniest laugh out loud takes on life. You read her blog, when you are down, and I guarantee 100% upliftment of spirits!! The fact that she always posts some awesome recipes that completely blows away the foodie in me, just adds to the brilliance of her posts!!

Flowers and Breezes – Sheen Mam’s take on life, her simple observations that bring home the truths which we forget in our daily lives and her generous nature makes her writing a refreshing read. If you had a bad day, read her posts, before you call it night, they act as a soothing, peaceful and comforting salve to your cumbersome challenging day.

Women, Words, and Wisdom -Dr. Joan Bouza Koster is a scholar, feminist, humanist, historian, author and a connoisseur par excellence of great literature. Her blog brings together all these items and more. Her posts deal with well researched nuggets from women writers from the past, on subjects as wide-ranging as daily working conditions, to memories of childhood to writing etc.

CogitoFilm – I don’t like films too much, but this blog has awesome reviews on both Hollywood and Bollywood film with some really clever observations and wonderful imagery of descriptions.

jaynesbooks : If you love books, you HAVE to love this blog. Her reviews are clever and absolutely in your face. I love her like it-do not like it approach and I tend to find myself almost always in alignment with her thoughts!! Her Top Tens are a treat!!

Brona’s Books : If anyone, anywhere loved books, then Brona is their ideal. Like me she reads practically everything, like me she has an opinion and unlike me her opinions are always well-informed, judicious and sensitive. If she likes an author, I will like it!! Her readings have opened me up to a whole range of authors and I love the bantering we share on every book we read via the Classics Club

The Odd Pantry – humor and good food and some wonderful insights; what more could one ask. Her recipes are as creative as it can get and her musings on life mostly hilarious, but at times extremely thought-provoking.

A Great Book Study : Ruth is again I met someone via the Classic Club. Though she claims that she is no expert and her posts are really her first cut take on classics, her writings and opinions always brings out nuances of books which I have read and though understood completely and her review is always considered and subtle

Breadcrumb Read – Risa has a post graduate degree in English literature and one quick review of her blog will convince you that her education is well utilized every day and though she does not accept awards for her blog, I am nominating her because I want more people to enjoy what I really really enjoy – her bookish talks, her love for classics and all her bookish adventures!!

Biblioglobal : I have only just started following her blog and I lament that I lost out on so much for so long. Reading one book about one country across our globe, she has in a very short span of time really broadened my understanding of literature. She also does some amazing and quirky research that gives you a lot of insight into reading and books related demographics around the world.

A Striped Armchair – Though she replaced her armchair with a lovely couch, her blogs keep up the standards of great review and a thorough and uniform understanding of the context of the book. She is one of the few fellow readers who reads loads of stuff about international relations, ethnicity, religion and identity that is outside of academic requirements.

12 Novels – 12 novels in 12 months, actually 13 novels in 12 months. What could be more inspirational than a struggling writer than to be motivated by this one diligent, fun and honest writer who takes on a new challenge every month, with no other expectation than becoming better in her craft!

A year of reading the world – Similar to Biblioglobal, Ann, a blogger based in London decided when 2012 Olympics came visiting her city, she would celebrate the occasion by reading literature from the 196 nations participating at the games. While Olympics has come and gone, she is still reading some great stuff and writing about them.

Mister G’s Kids – Hilarious, funny and a great take on teaching today filled with irony and rib-tickling laughter and all the highs and lows of being a teacher!!

It’s up to you if you choose to carry this award further, but thank you all for sharing your lives and interests with me and for picking me (virtually!!) especially when the chips are down!!

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