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While I Was Away…

Since I started blogging some six years ago, this perhaps has been my longest hiatus from the blog-sphere. Illness, Death, Work pressure, nothing  stopped me from posting atleast one or twice a month. But since August of this year, life has been taking funny turns, leaving me with very little time to do anything but just get up and show up. It’s not been all bad, but not all good and for sure it has all been very very time consuming and at time both physically and emotionally draining. My reading has taken a back seat like never before; I did not even participate in the October Readathon, an event unheard off sine I discovered it  years ago and let’s not even get into blogging misses lately. The last novel I finished was on more than a month  back that too on a long flight. Life has been thrown off balance completely;so what transpired – plenty

  • I got promoted ..Yay
  • With promotion came double truck load of work and exhaustive travel….some yay and not so yay
  • Dad was in and out of the hospital for a while….definitely not a yay moment
  • My sister went through a terrible break up….for sure not yay
  • And…..some other very exhaustive personal stuff, which we an discuss when we know more

Life briefly speaking has been very very roller coaster like and I am not even sure we are finally settled. However I am trying to get some rhythm and regularity going and blogging is for sure part of that rhythm as is reading…… so here we go again.

How have you all been? What all have I missed? Please do drop by with some comments on how you all have fared and I hope to catch up with your blogs/posts soon.

A Year In First Lines….

Among the many awesome things that I have learnt from Jane, this is one of my favorites. Based on the idea of the The Indextrious Reader, Jane shares with us “the first line of each month’s first post over the past year and see what it tells you about your blogging year”. Her lovely post is here and I now follow her excellent example; though in my usual way, I go overboard and do paragraphs instead, but nevertheless –

January :: Ah! Well, the much looked forward to December is now gone and January beckons! Without breaking into my usual song and dance histrionics about the misery of getting back to routine and moaning the loss of much beloved vacation time, I must say, I do not feel too bad, not too perky either, but more like zen, knowing that this too shall pass!

February :: The first month of 2017 is now over and to think 2017 had started! Time flies when you especially need more time! Don’t ask me why!

March ::Winter in this part of the world is officially over and the brief Spring is here. I can like this season had it not been the harbinger of the terrible Indian Summers!

April ::While my friends in the Northern Hemisphere rejoice the Spring, here’s the sweltering unrelenting heat of the Indian Summers are beginning to be felt. 

May ::The much dreaded Indian Summers are here and much as I would want to hide away and never really come out of igloo styled hibernation, there are bills to be paid and work to be done! So May, do thy worst, I shall live for October!!

June :: As I read other posts, on glories of Summer, I am hard pressed to find one good thing about this damm season in this part of the Geography! Heat, dry and unceasingly stifling beats, down on all in the Indian sub continent and those of us able to afford air conditioning count our blessings. But what of those who are barely able to manage a roof over their heads, let alone any cooling instrument to give relief?

July ::Finally July…Fall is only 3 months away and I survived yet another horrid Indian Summer. Actually, there are 3 more months to go, but these are technically the Monsoon months, where it rains and floods and while it is quite pleasant when it rains, immediately after that the humidity soars and the baking heat now with high humidity, makes life, well miserable to say the very least!! But like my oft repeated motto, as long as there are books, life will always look up!

August:: I think this recent hiatus from the world of bloggers has been my longest. Unfortunately work and more work and now an added certification for which I signed up is taking up 37 hours of the 24 hours!  My reading is down to a crawl and to say I am neglecting housework is the a mere understated understatement. Oh! the joys of adulthood!

September :: September is here, which means, October and by that extension, Fall is around the corner and atleast for next couple of months, Winter, lovely Winter is in season!! Yay!! Another Summer gone and another year is coming round! Time does fly , but I honestly cannot say that I want to go back to January 2017 and would much rather move to December 2017!

October ::In the words, of L.M. Montgomery, via Anne of Green Gables “I‘m so glad I live in a world where there are October“. I cannot think of a more perfect way to show gratitude for the month of October…fall is here and winter is on its way. It means relief for the searing heat of Indian Summer, wood fire smokes, festivals and celebration and finally a year end, where for the mad year of 2017, I can slow down a bit and take a breathe to read and write!

November ::Ah!! November, glorious November, how I look out for thee, every year! It is in thine hope that I passeth months, that be March to September!! Finally, cold weather, holidays and celebration; what I ask is not like about winter coming? Atleast, winter in my part of the world!

December ::December, glorious December! How I love thee! You are the only month in the calendar that helps me survive, January to November! Ok, maybe not November, but for sure January to October! And finally this glorious, wondrous, joyous month is upon us, and boy! do I have plans!

The First Time of Everything – Top 10 Tuesday

I started this post on a Wednesday and then work came and intervened like never before and suddenly the next Tuesday is upon us! But we must finish what we started, so here goes neverthless….

I never ever do Tuesday Top  (hosted by The Broke and Bookish) simply because a. Its already Wednesday in my part of the geography and b. Tuesday and Wednesday’s are killer days at work! But I do love the lovely ideas our host always comes up with and keenly follow the Top 10 responses that my usual comrades in arms post – Cleo, O, Brona, Ruth and Helen. I love comparing their responses with mine and just in general chatting about books and more! I know this week was a throwback freebee, and I loved going down the nostalgia path of all my fellow blogging friends. But I really really loved the Spin that Helen put on it – of recounting top 10 books from her first year of blogging. Now this was a nostalgia trip, I simply could not pass up!  And though in 2012, I was still figuring out the nature of my blog because of which I only blogged about a few books, I added my own spin and added some books I read and loved that year but did not blog!

  1. Three Comrade by Erich Maria Remarque – Now what has become one of my all time favourites, this book was procured after much fanfare from my roomate and a lot of difficult logistics, since it was a copy was not available locally. However all the trouble was worth it as I followed the joys and tragedies of three young men in a country gone crazy on eve of World War II
  2. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell – I discovered Elizabeth Gaskell and her brilliance in 2012. I always knew she was someone I should read but my first attempt of North and South had left me unhappy. So the last minute rush before the library closure and a hurried decision to pick this book turned out to be a life changer. As we travel around Cranford with Ms. Gaskel and the denizens of this town, we discover joy, laughter and just rollicking fun. The book turned me into a devotee and I would go on too read North and South and many other books by Ms. Gaskell with much love and absolute wonder!
  3. London by Edward Rutherford – I love historical fiction but there are not too many authors who can keep your attention over a 1000 pages as you wander over the initial beginnings of London to modern day World War II setting, following the lives and fortunes of 4 family. Edward Rutherford managed to this and more, he managed to create brilliant novellas connection the past and the future with a page turning plot line and minute attention to detail. One of my all time go-to books!
  4. The Shadow of the Moon by MM Kaye – Yup! This was the first time I posted about this novel and since then I have not slowed down, rounding it off with a Read Along his year! Let’s just say I and this tale of Mutiny and loyalty in 1857 India have come a long way!
  5. The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thorton Wilder – This was another one of those; I began with hesitation and ended of falling in love with the time defying wisdom of this simple tale set in 18th century Peru where a bridge collapses and the narrator helps us look deeper into the lives of those who died in the accident and discern the subtle from the obvious!!
  6. The Russian Winter by Daphne Kalotay – Poetry, ballad and an ethereal love story of a trust that went wrong, this lyrical book set in Stalin ruled USSR brought about the harsh realities of a toleterian state and the most beautiful prose ever to describe a land of innumerable secrets and beauty!
  7. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – There has been so much that has been written and said about this book that I cannot write or add any more praise to this book! All I can say, what a wonderful lovely read!
  8. The Master and Margerita by Mikhail Bulgakov – Yet another story set in Stalinist Russia, a modern cult classic that was denied publication when originally written. Part allegory, part love story, one of the most captivating and ingenuous piece fiction that I have ever read!
  9. The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling  – Ms. Rowling showed us again the imagination and versatility can even make a plot based on the mundane sounding town council election a gripping, hard hitting and a humanitarian tale!
  10. Good Omens by Terry Pratchet and Neil Gaiman – Bunch of kids out to save the world, with a support of a demon who went good and a somewhat eccentric angel, in a battle of Good vs. Evil – what is there NOT to like???!!!

When I look back on my 31st Dec post of the best books I have read through that year of 2012, I see that so many books endured in my memory, translating to many re-reads and yet so many faded away! That’s time and that’s nostalgia for you!

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!

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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