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This and That….

It’s been a trying week from technology perspective. First last week, on a bright Saturday morning, I woke up feeling at peace with the world in general and with great ambition of penning ..er…it is typing some magnificent words in prose for my never –will-be –completed novel. I made myself a large cup of tea, switched on my laptop and then sat down to write in earnest; the screen went blink and fuzzy in 5 minutes and then completely white. No amount rebooting and lopsided shaking (Yes! It works!!) could get the screen to display anything but the pristine whiteness, something that did not help my rising temper. Frustrated by the evening I dropped it off to a repair center, who called me a day later and said that it would take 4 days or so to fix it and the reason my screen had given up living, (I do believe that inanimate objects have a soul!) is because some tea had fallen in its junctures (you know the place where it connects to the motherboard!) Oh!!! Sob! Sob! Wail!!! Naturally the repair would not be cheap (More Sob! Sob! Wail!!!) and just when I thought I would have some extra cash in my hand! The road to hell is truly and honestly paved with good intentions! Finally after 5 days when I got the laptop back, the internet stopped working due to a terrible storm that hit this part of the world and finally after another two days of enforced hiatus from the cyber world, last evening my entire technology related puzzle fell into place and now everything is working as it is supposed to. Or so I thought…then suddenly I realized by Blackberry’s keypad has stopped typing ….they will not type a thing!! This to me who texts more than she calls…and I DO NOT have the energy to chase down Blackberry Customer Service anymore!!

In other and brighter news, my best friend and flatmate, decided to take pity on my ghastly week and treat me to an awesome Italian dinner last night. Lots of cheese, cream and an amazing ice cream pudding made the world a much better place (I am aware of cholesterol and all that…but everyone is allowed an indulgence!!) The evening got better when we made an impromptu detour to our favorite bookshop where I promptly dispensed with all my remaining savings in buying all the below –

bpic

It’s not like either my flatmate or I needed new books…we had plenty to in our reading list, and I know I need to really save and well there are reasons for not buying anything but this is what happens when I go there – everytime!!

Bookstore

Hence the splurge and I could almost justify all the books I bought…almost!!I had lost my copy of Rebecca and Sherlock Holmes and no collection can be called complete in the absence of these two books. At the shop owners recommendation and he really knows good books and what I like, I bought Robert Galbraith (aka J.K.Rowling’s) Cormoran Strike novels. My sister had ranted and raving about Guy Gavriel Kay ‘s The Lions of Al-Rassan, so naturally I had to pick that up and then Jane had such high praises for The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters by Michelle Lovric that I could not let that go either. I also picked up for my history reading project War and Gold by Kwasi Kwarteng (Yes! I have been reading History…just not blogging about them…don’t ask me why!! And finally for a no better reason than a whim, I also purchased Bernard Cornwell’s Stonehenge.

Considering the troublesome nature of the week and the temptations that lie waiting in form of brand new unopened novels, I keep this post short! I hope your week went better than mine and your weekend as wonderful if not better!!

And December Will Come Spinning ….!

No! No! I cannot and I mean I CANNOT take on more projects! The Classic Club Spin#4 is way too much for a plate that already has so much and spilling over. Besides the Classic Club spin batting rate in favor of the books I selected is only 33%. I did not like re-reading Madame Bovary by Gustav Flaubert, but became a re-convert to Charles Dickens after revisiting Great Expectations; but again lost my way with George Elliot’s Middlemarch! There are enough reasons to shy away from this event and I will! I have will power! I do!

Oh! Heck! No I do not have will power! The devil in my mind points out that I have to read this through November and December and that by December my plate will be practically empty. Besides I have two weeks of vacation coming up, so what the hell? Go for it says the devil and I willingly jump into the deep blue sea.

Here goeth the list –

  1. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  2. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez
  3. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
  4. Wives and Daughter by Elizabeth Gaskell
  5. The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende
  6. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
  7. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
  8. Emma by Jane Austen
  9. King Solomon’s Mines by Henry Rider Haggard
  10. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
  11. Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
  12. The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope
  13. A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
  14. The Canterville Ghost by Oscar Wilde
  15. The Moonstone by Willie Collins
  16. The War of the Worlds by H.G.Wells
  17. Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions by Edwin A. Abbott
  18. The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler
  19. The Grand Babylon by Arnold Bennett
  20. Around the World in 80 days by Jules Verne

The list is primarily more or less the same, however because it’s December and Christmas and I have had an officially a lousy 2013, I have decided to make myself a little present via the list. I have included books I want to read and have never read as well as books I read long ago and wanted to revisit but never did; but taken off all the books that I dread reading or did not like reading it the first time round – yes! I know! Like before I may lose out an opportunity to rediscover and love an author /book because of my prejudices, but there is always 2014 to set forth for new brave adventures. In the meanwhile, the holidays are coming and I will indulge myself just this time round!

The Mystery of Life and All Those Big Questions…

Confession time and don’t raise your eyebrows – I am not about to disclose that I am giving up life to lead an ascetic life on the Himalayas nor am I going to give up my job to spend the remaining life as a poster painter of the streets of Paris. I have nothing against the ascetic living individuals or poster painters, especially the latter since it does kind of have a 1920s glamour associated with it, but I can’t imagine myself as creature deprived of home delivery, cab service and Kindle!

Anyway, as usual I digress; where was I? Oh! Yes! Confession time – I am a crier! As in a bawler! As in I cry over books and movies. I bawl and drown the world in my river of tears. For someone who takes life stoically and bounces through heartbreaks through cherry optimism which even I find nauseating in myself at times can spend hours crying when Elsa is left to fend for herself in the Jungle- yes Born Free! I cried buckets when Boo rescued Jem Finch and takes him home – yes To Kill a Mockingbird! I cried when Maria left without meeting the children – yes Sound of Music. Let’s not even get into the hours of uninterrupted tears shed on reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. My new year’s eve 2013 was ushered with me shedding buckets of tears for while reading The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I even cried when I understood how poor Snape repented through his life in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (I mean who cries while reading a Harry Potter? I do! I cried for one whole day when Sirius dies!) I am sure I forgetting a million others, but the point I am trying to drive home is that I CRY!!!!

One of my all-time favorites reads, which inevitably leads to a lot of crying, thereby increasing sales of Kleenex and I am so surprised I have never written about this book is called “Welcome to The Great Mysterious” by Lorna Landvik. I had never read Ms. Landvik before I picked up this book and I have never read anything since. But, boy! Am I glad that my flatmate picked up this book one summer afternoon three years ago when our community library was selling of some of its older collections due to space constrains.

The Great Mysterious” is not a mystery/thriller – in fact it is one of the best happy books that I have read – true there are some heartbreaking moments, especially around chapter 10 and 11 (My Kleenex quotient jumps from 3 to the whole box Now!) but in the end when you close the book, you will have a smile on your face.  The book is about dive Geneva Jordan, a broadway star who is in between projects and nursing a broken heart and menopause. It is at this serene moment of her life that her twin sister Ann, arm twists her into babysitting Ann’s 13 year old son Rich, while she and her professor husband take a much needed work/vacation for a month in Italy. Geneva Jordan is not particularly happy at the thought  of spending time in the back woods away from the glamour and comfort of New York where  she had decided on spending this time indulging herself and taking a much needed vacation while coming to terms with the crucial changes in her life. The other worry she had was that Rich suffers from Down Syndrome and she is not quite confident as to how she would manage such a child. After much pleading and emotional turmoil, she agrees to take on her nephews care and moves into her sister’s house for a month. It is there that her transformation begins – how she begins a warm relationship with its natural ups and downs with  her nephew Rich, new enriching friendships with Barb, who is mother to Rich’s best friend Conrad and James the mail man and the discovery of small joys that are far more beautiful than the most expensive indulgences. Intertwined with this journey of self-discovery via a memory book that a 13 year old Geneva and Ann created seeking to find answers to the big questions in life called “The Great Mysterious” and the understanding that all relationships have several layers and a person may not be the way they seem and that the past gives strength for living for the future, when you know how to look!

It is not, and I repeat NOT a pedantic book.  Written in an engaging first party narrative from the point of view of a very warm but very human Geneva Jordan, the book does not aim to be a high brow literature. Instead it tells you an unstoppable story which makes you turn page after page until you reach the end. It’s a funny book – there are many ha ha moments and critics can say that it’s a very linear story and far too simplistic etc. but the book is what it’s meant to be – an entertainer! There is nothing holier than thou or oh! look at the bright side of things and Down Syndrome is god’s gift etc etc. Instead it’s a joy ride of a book – where you laugh, scream and the cry your way through. It’s like talking to a great companion and realizing at the end of 2 hours, that the companion is actually a great friend to whom you can go back whenever you are happy or sad or just need company time after time!

Some Books and One Wish

Book reading 2As another year draws to an end, I wonder at my last post and think what would be the most appropriate ending for the year. Should I do a scorecard again, like I did in August? Should I carry on with my usual posts on books, friends and sundry? What would be the most befitting farewell to 2012 and then suddenly I knew – for someone who loves books, I would want to list some of my best reads of the year in no order of preference – it’s hard to really always scale things you love; especially if they are tied to a place. So without any further ado, here goes –

Book reading 1

Some are just darn good tales, while others are serious body of literature, while still others are morality tales of modern kind  – no matter what they are, I enjoyed them thoroughly and my life is so much more enriched, because I met these novels and their characters!

While I signoff for the year, here’s wishing all my readers a wonderful 2013 with all the joy and laughter! Thank you for tagging along with me through this year and for sharing your thoughts, experience or simply your likes! Thank you most importantly for taking the time out through this year to read through my random musings!

Cheers to 2013!

P.S. Here’s a special wish for all the follow book maniacs – wish you all a joyous and wondrous reading in the New Year! May we all get new books and brilliant new authors to savor! Happy Reading!

The Old and The New…..

I have come to my parents place for the holidays! Now when I say my parents place, that’s a loaded term; cause it’s not only my parent’s home, but in the grand tradition of dynasties, my uncles and aunts and even my cousins all live together in this rambling mansion, that was built more than a 100 years ago. Though time again, the various members of this extended family have flown from this house, including my father who left this house and city more than 40 years ago in search of better prospects, they all come back here! Whether it’s after their retirement, like my father or like my cousin who spent 15 years in Europe, only to come back here, so that he could raise his children in the way he was, in the very heart of the family!

BariI love this old house, its shaded nooks and the sunny parlors and wide staircases which for generations had served as gateway for a child with a secret game or a book to read in peace – something I did as a child and still do as an adult. The pistachio colored outer walls and cool deep green insides and the high pillared ionic columns or the inland courtyard, where I spent my childhood alternately playing with my favorite cousin or being teased by not so favorite ones!!!! I love getting up in the morning to the sound of the main street – this mansion overlooks one of the busiest thoroughfares of the city; my great grandfather who built this house had no conception of far from the madding crowd! Or to traipse down to the local bakery just two blocks down the line to smell of fresh bread and what I consider the world’s best plum cake! I love wafting through the books that were the “in reads” and when Fitzgerald was not a distant figure but a literary l’enfant terrible and a contemporary of the people who had bought these editions, including my grandfather! I love the old spacious kitchen, which is larger than my room in my apartment and the stone stoves, which stand next to the new electronic stove and the traditional food cooked and supervised by my aunts! I love the history and the sense of timelessness that go hand in hand with each other!

Yet despite all my sentimentality, I cannot imagine living here except for a brief spell of time. Unlike my cousin, I feel no compulsion to come back here eventually; nor like my father do I plan my retirement around this house, nor like my uncle claim that the very meaning of life and its travesty is embodied in this house!  I am not sure what I lack or what makes me so different from others? Was it because I was not born here or because I grew up away from large groups of people; I am not sure what keeps me and makes me shrink away from sending a lifetime here? Or is it just a highly developed sense of space that cowers me from large groups of people – but considering I am such a social animal, I somehow cannot seem to believe that theory either. But while l love this house and the identity of belonging this house and family, it’s important that I step away and make a separate identity of my own and create my own space that is not crowded by my past and holds the promise of a future that is not shaped by precedents.  At the same time, I do look forwards to returning to this warm shelter at the end of the exhausting year, to renew the ties that help me forge ahead for the next year. It is the balance between staying here and moving away that keeps me sane and independent and at the same time rooted to all that is beloved and part of my DNA. So here’s wishing a rip roaring success to the this legend of a house, – may it continue to provide nostalgia, safety and history for generations to come!

The Natural and The Practised….

I was at a social gathering last night and I started talking to someone about …you have guessed it – books! Now he began reading at an adult age and spoke about how he struggled initially with reading the simplest volumes and how by disciplining himself into reading a bit every day, he had finally developed an interest and a habit of books, so that it flew much more naturally now. He then made an observation, having heard about my obsessions with books from common friends, that how I must have never struggled with forcing myself to read or even knowing what to read when depending on my moods and preferences, while he himself went through this cathartic process of trying to inculcate this habit at a much older age!

This conversation kind of got me thinking – yes its true, not only for me, but I am sure about a lot of voracious readers, that we never struggled to read; nor did we have to switch our alarms on and force ourselves to read until it rang and more importantly, some authors/books, well we did not really “discover”, they were always in our ambit and unconsciously part of our inheritance!

I had mentioned this earlier, but it’s true that my earliest memories are of my father, reading out to me and somewhere down the line, his fingers stopped moving over the words and instead, I began to read for myself. I do not know when that happened, but I do know it happened at a very early age. When this gentleman last night made a statement that for the likes of me, we must have read our first books when we were 8-9 years old, it made me realize that actually, I must have read my first book, albeit a fairy tale with very simple words, at a much younger age….actually way before being 8!

So, how did all of this begin?

readingI am frankly not sure; the same gentleman said that when he has kids, he will like my father, start reading out to them from the very beginning so that they do not really have to struggle to appreciate such pleasure; he said like my father, he will ease them into books! I think he may have summed it up accurately – my father did ease me into books! I have always been surrounded by books and from an early age was always told that when all else failed, books would be there for my company. As an only child, to parents who worked full time, this was one of life truths.  Despite my adult bearings of gregariousness and being extremely social, as a child, I was quiet and an introvert and forever struggled to make friends – in those very lonely years of childhood and early young adulthood, my comfort, support and friends were the books that my parents stacked the house with. I remember looking forward to Saturdays, not because my parents will be at home, but because, without fail, my father would take me to this one book shop that he and later I had fraternized over the years and allow me to pick two books as a rewards for some task I did in the week.  Those two books would then sustain me through the long hours in a lonely rambling house, through the week, while my parents managed their professions. I am not sure if those books that were bought were bribes or gifts of guilt, but the point to be noted is that I was never given any other gifts like clothes or toys, but books. Was it because my parents, especially my father loved reading or was it because he knew that I loved reading? I am not sure – it could have been an amalgamation of both, but the key factor here is, I always looked upon the process of my becoming a reader as a natural progression; however until last night, I had not really thought about the factors and circumstances that enabled and encouraged this progression.

Does this make me a more dedicated or a more comfortable reader than the gentleman who developed this habit as an adult? I am not sure – his ability to read and appreciate something as a connoisseur is no less; he is quite aware of what constitutes a bad writing versus beauty of words or tenacity of plots. While he may have not read all the classics, which many of us have, but  because he kind of went through the ocean of literature, before settling down to a genre that he considers his own, his range of reading, albeit very modern, is also very vast and extremely interesting. Finally and more importantly, he now has a hunger for the time that he lost as a youth on books, and now reads so voraciously that he might put some of us “natural” readers to shame.

So does it really matter how or at what age you begin reading? Does it really matter if your father bought your first book or you bought one yourself, especially when it comes to appreciating good works? Does it matter if you timed yourself or read through the night? Is there really a something called a good reader like a good writer? And like a good writer, do you have to practice reading to appreciate it or does it always come naturally to you? And really does it matter if one had to practice reading to become a voracious reader, as long as he enjoys the habit and finds solace in it?

The1/2+ Milestone……

So 8 months down the line, I thought it’s a good time to retrospect about what I had planned for 2012 and take stock of things. I know 8 months are neither here or there…I mean its way beyond the mid mark and a little too early to review the P&L of the year. But then if I want to start, I want to start whenever I am inspired….I mean who says that resolutions have to be made in the year or I cannot start all over half down the year????

Anyhow, below is the checklist that I had made for myself somewhere around 30th December 2011 –

  1. Earn more
  2. Lose weight
  3. Write rigorously and get  published
  4. Compatible partnerships
  5. Save and cut debts

Now let’s do the report card bit –

  1. Earn more – I did, but then I kind of spent all of it, so no gain and no loss
  2. Lose weight – Nope, but then I do have a target to lose 90 pounds in next 3 months (have reasons!!) so this one I might make it!
  3. Write rigorously and get published – Well I am writing a lot more this year and while there have been conversations, I am yet to get published
  4. Compatible partnerships – The dicey one….I mean I am in that no man’s land of being single and in a relationship and not committed (ships passing through the night kind of deal, except this is the longest passage ever!)…er…don’t ask!
  5. Save and cut debts –Miserably failed…no reduction in debts and definitely no savings either!

Overall I think I am hovering around 50% mark, (yes I know I am taking a highly optimistic view of my efforts, but then I do have to stay motivated, so 50% makes me feel good!) but there is still a long way to go. Therefore I start afresh again today, so that at the end of the year, I would have touched at least the 75% mark….I mean there will be uncontrollable factors like when do I get a good publisher (but until then I can keep writing and improving my craft) and of course the relationship bit is more dependent on him than me (I know there are people who take control of their drifting relationships and a friend of mine tells me it’s very easy to manage him, but I ain’t like that!)  But the others items can and should be achieved….so here’s to renewed vigor and effort in achieving my goals!

As part of the off with the old and on with the new campaign, I have decided to give up on my old theme for the blog…I was kind of sick of the pink/mauve whirls and go in for a more minimalistic approach. The panel photo for the uninitiated is Van Gogh’s Parisian Novels Yellow Books (1887). I love Van Gogh and his dedication to his art (though unlike him, I would want fame while I am alive and kicking) and of course, this particular work encompasses books (my most precious possession) and is set in bright hues…making this work one of my all-time favorites and I have decided to share the joy via the blog! My contents however will not change (Yes! I will continue to bore you with historical fiction), but I hope my writing improves….so do feel free to let me know if I am gone up in scale from February to August or do you think I have taken a downturn (Shudder! Shudder! Horror!) …Either way, I do plan to plod on….so once again…join me in the journey!

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