Dec 28, 2011

The Shadow of the Wind

 

[Note - This review will not contain names of any of the characters, because I don't trust myself to not reveal the plot of the story, and I want anyone who reads this review to actually read this book]

A tale of passionate love, till the end of time friendship, ruthless hatred and extreme sorrow, the words in Shadow of the Wind wove a beautiful world of the early nineties in my mind in Barcelona.

What entirely captured my attention in the first few pages and let me read the first 20% of the book was the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. The concept. The place. Its description. How little Daniel feels as he enters it. His transformation as he reads. This is what kept me going, and am glad I did.

I can call this a love story and go on to talk about the love friends feel for each other, or what a father feels for his offspring, or what a boy will feel for a girl and how passionate each of these facets of love are, in this book.

I can also call it an almost-horror story, with its deep dark details of haunted mansions and old legends, and the chill in the spine these create as you are reading them.

But then what will I do about the mystery part of this book? Well, this is very much a mystery, thriller kind of a novel as it is a love story or a horror story.

I had not felt these many emotions while reading a single book ever, and I have to thank Zafon and Lucia Graves, the translator for not letting the essence of the book dilute.

I, now have a beautiful image of the little bookstore, the Aldaya mansion, the hospices, and the rest of the casas and the plazas. I also have an image of an entire set of amazingly-woven characters, all cursed because of their own accord and the way they dealt with their lives.

I cannot ever forget how I felt as I went on to discover each of these characters and what emotion each of them evoked in me. Deep hatred towards the main villain in the story, pity at the plight of some characters, anger at how some others have shaped their own lives, and hope that things could be alright for some others.
I went through spurts of giggles, smiles, deep pain, sorrow , fear and pity all in the duration of reading this book.

Am not a fan of epilogues, on the contrary, I hate them. Most often than not , the epilogues I have read have shattered the beautiful world the book created in my imagination and have brought me back to the earth with a loud thud.
But the last few pages of this book, well, they have made me heave a sigh of relief. I felt for each of the characters, and was glad the things turned out the way they did for them all. Every one of them.

If you are looking to read a brilliant, even-paced, love-horror-mystery story, then you should pick up this book.
If you want to understand how the Spanish lived during or after their Civil war, how affected they were because of it, and the different ways the Spanish people feel about their friends, daughters, and sons, you should read this book.
If you want to challenge yourself and see how many emotions you can feel when you read a book, pick up this one.

Even as I am typing this, I am still coming to terms with the deep sorrow I felt while reading this book, just a while ago. The words 'There are prisons worse than words’ are ringing in my head, and the feeling associated is refusing to go.

In short, just read this book. Please, will you? :)

Just to remember how I felt as I was reading the book, this is the reading progress I recorded in GoodReads.

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Dec 23, 2011

2012 Books

 

After having finished the maximum number of books I’ve ever read in one year in 2011, I am all excited to see what 2012 will bring in. So this GoodReads challenge piqued my interest and opened up a world of books for me.

These are the books I plan to read in 2012, as a part of this challenge. The hope is that they will also broaden my view on these countries and teach me a thing or two about their histories. So what if I cannot visit them, I can atleast be there in spirit! :)

1. Afghanistan:In the Sea there are Crocodiles

2. Albania:The Palace of Dreams

3. Algeria:The Lovers of Algeria

4. Argentina:Kiss of the Spider Woman

The Aleph and Other Stories

5. Belize:Wanderlove

6. Bhutan:Married to Bhutan

7. Bosnia:Twice Born

8. Bostwana:Whatever You Do, Don't Run: True Tales of a Botswana Safari Guide

9. Brazil:Gabriela Clove and Cinnamon

10. Bulgaria:The Making of June

11. Chile:Of Love and Shadows

12. China:The Good Earth

Ten Green Bottles

13. Colombia:Of Love and other Demons

14. Cuba:The Island of Eternal Love

15. Czech Republic:How I came to know fish

The Metamorphosis

16. Egypt:Woman At Point Zero

17. England:The Tea Rose

The Remains of the Day

18. Ethiopia:Sweetness in the Belly

19. France:A Very Long Engagement

You Deserve Nothing

Lunch in Paris

20. Germany:Floating in my Mother's Palm

Every man dies alone

21. Greece:Zorba the Greek

22. Hungary:Fatelessness

Sunflower

23. India:Secret Daughter

Sister of My Heart

24. Iran:Samarkand

25. Iraq:Scattered Crumbs

26. Ireland:The Picture of Dorian Grey

Two Lives

27. Israel:If You Awaken Love

The Lemon Tree

Someone to run with

28. Italy:The Enchanted April

The Name of the Rose

29. Jamaica:The Book of Night Women

30. Japan:1Q84

Kafka on the shore

31. Jordan:The Language of Baklava

32. Kiribati:The Sex Lives of Cannibals

33. Kosovo:The Road to Kosovo

34. Lebanon:Sabra Zoo

35. Mexico:Like Water for Chocolate

36. Morocco:Let it come down

37. Norway:Sophie's World

38. Palestine:I saw Ramallah

39. Peru:Aunt Julia and the scriptwriter

40. Poland:The Girl in the Red Coat

41. Puerto Rico:The Rum Diary

42. Saudi Arabia:Princess

43. Serbia:Encyclopedia of the Dead

The Tiger's Wife

44. Spain:The Shadow of the wind

45. Sudan:They Poured Fire on Us from the sky

46. Sweden:Popular Music from Vittula

47. Switzerland:A Jew must die

48. Turkey:The New Life

49. Tibet:Seven Years in Tibet

50. United States of America:The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

51. Venezuela:The Sickness

52. Vietnam:The Things they carried

After having spent around 3 hours in making this list, the theme I’ve noticed in all these books is -

1. I am still as interested in reading about the Holocaust as I was before. No amount of reading about it has satiated the appetite, in fact it was whetting it! And there is a lot of interest in stories with war as a backdrop.

2. Most of these books are still love stories, but with war as a background.

3. The thought process behind selecting every book was – Will this tell me anything about this country?

4. Another important parameter I considered was – How good are the ratings for this book? And how many pages does it have ? Anything beyond 400 pages gets too big to read and will take a lot of time to finish, thus hindering the overall progress of the book. So only those long books which I absolutely want to read are included in this list.

5. Another best practice I followed is to add books from my own To-Read list into this list, that way I can get the number reduced by a fraction, atleast. As you can see, this list is currently ~260 books strong with atleast 10 new additions every week into it. Basically, the outflow from this list is not as good as the inflow… :)

6. I’ve read a lot of Indian authors so far, but I realized I haven’t read a single book by Amitav Ghosh, Arundhati Roy, Vikram Seth and Salman Rushdie. In fact the the thought of reading a book by any of these is making me yawn. I must atleast read Seth’s Suitable Boy, may be in 2013

7. I’ve always wanted to read Borges. Marquez is a forever favourite. Murakami had to be on this list(I’ve practically been hounding FlipKart for the 1Q84 copy from the time it was released in US)

8. I’ve never realized it, but I have a great amount of interest in reading about the cultures of Middle Eastern and European countries. Must be the need to know how people survived in these stress-filled lands.

Basically, any book which talks about the country’s culture or food or political situation has caught my eye, and has made it into this list. And yet there are a zillion more books to be read. Some of them are here.

I can only say one thing now – So many books, so little time!

Dec 12, 2011

Catching Fire–Hunger Games - 2

 

Oh, what fun! Reading the second part of the Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire in just around 5 hours... Super fun. Though not as good as the first book itself, and starting on a sloppy love story theme filled with sentimentality and all such emotional stuff, this book did good for itself.

Its anyone's guess that Katniss will be safe, but I was dying to know if Peeta will live too, and if so, what would be the twist in the plot that will ensure this. Also, by the time I was done reading 60% of the book, I was also hoping that Finnick lives too, for himself, and for some drama between him and the audience in the third book. By now, Gale is beginning to be a little of a wimp with not much meat in his character, so I am guessing his is going to be a better role in the third book.

I like how these books are progressing. Some drama including romance and family sentiment at the beginning, some meat about the fights and television program related stuff at about 30%, the real games by 40%, alliances forming by 50% and half the tributes dying by 60%, and the games themselves ending by 90% giving plenty of time and space for the reader to gather what will follow in the next book, and what has happened in the games really. Its almost like a template. :)

I also like the style of writing in these books. Very simple language enabling a fast reader to finish the book in one sitting, giving lot of room for imagination for the reader about the arena, the districts, the scenery around Panem and Snow, and just enough romance to keep the reader engrossed. I also love the introduction of new words , the words mutt, district, Snow, mockingbird, jabber - none of this would mean the same anymore.

Its like the author is thoroughly influenced by Rowling's style of writing and plotting the story. There is an evil force which is tormenting the entire known population with some followers, there are a few people who want to rebel but cannot do so because of situations, there is a setting for some brave people to show their courage to the rest of the population which pines all its hope on one person who happens to be in that situation due to some co-incidence and does not really know how to live up to the image created for him/her by the suffering people but still manages to live up to it, loved ones get killed , their memories torment the living hero and how in the end good triumphs over evil.

In any case, the one reason I will rate this book 4 and not 5 on 5 is because of its slow start. I'd love to give it .5 stars lesser than what I gave the first book. It almost made me cry in disappointment till about 40%. I was literally begging for some action.

Dec 11, 2011

Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins is no JK Rowling and Hunger games is no Harry potter, but it is close. Very close. In the way it holds it excitement to the story, Collins has used many details to build a believable  Panem with the arena akin to the Pandora of Avatar, at least in my imagination.

As Collins said, this book is a true mix of a reality show and a war movie, both clubbed into one. All the flavours of a reality show like drama, adventure, romance, fights are explored, some staged and some real, and I felt like I was seeing an entire season of Bigg Boss :)

Right from reading about Katniss's struggle to keep her family fed do the point when she only thinks about whether they got something to eat or not when she is fighting death in the arena I felt that Katniss's character is well etched. So is Peeta's. It evolves from being just the boy who gave the bread to the boy who has a crush on Katniss to the boy who camouflages himself so well that  he wards off death till he is rescued , he is superb. I expected a little more of Gale but I guess that's for the second book.

After reading the first book, I cannot wait to read the second one, to see how the relationship between k and p evolves, and what happens of Katniss and Gale and how the Capitol will retaliate for Katniss's rebellion. Also for the first time in years, am waiting eagerly for a movie based on this book.

Finished the entire book in 5.5 hours, cover to cover… this is my GoodReads progress.

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And off to the next one in the trilogy – Catching fire... 

Dec 8, 2011

The Help

 

One of the best books I've read this year for sure. This has been in my To-Read list for days but when Vaish got me the hard copy of this book as a gift, and spoke highly of it,  I immediately picked it up. I was facing a kind of a reader’s block, and this book for sure jolted me out of it.

This book is a portrayal of three strong characters, all women, who do not have anything significant to look forward to in their lives, except to bring a change to the circumstances they live in. Three strong characters who looked out for each other, and had a non-conformist attitude. Three women who were the definition of girlfriends.

I’ve read Gone with the Wind and To kill a MockingBird, and have a fair idea on how bad it could have been for the African Americans to be living in a white man’s world, I’ve even compared it a bit to the Untouchability practised in India (even now in some remote areas), but what I read in this book made me think about the whole issue all over again.

My heart went awww everytime I read Aibileen’s behavior towards Baby Girl, I cried when I read the part where Constantine died just three weeks before Skeeter figured it out, I could feel the bile rise up everytime Hilly would say or do something, I couldn’t but help falling in love with Minny, feel pity for Celia, call Stuart a loser or laugh out loud at the whole pie story … In short, I went through a myriad of emotions during the 7 hours that I spent reading this book, all in a day. It was simply un-put-downable. Totally.

Here it is… my reading progress per Goodreads -

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I was left to thinking of all the maid’s I’ve had over these years (both the ones who brought me up till I was 5 and the ones whom I’ve hired) and how I’ve behaved with them and how they were with me. Was a mean person to them or would' mine be one of the good stories if they were all to write a book. :-)

One thing is for sure. Like how Skeeter’s Mom Charlotte says towards the end of the book –

Good help is like true love. You only get it once in your lifetime.

This morning as I see how my maid was helping me around the house, owning up to things and showing commitment in what she does, I involuntarily thought about these lines, and thanked Universe for making me lucky in this aspect. (Yes, I’ve been blessed with good help, all along) :-)

At the end, I cannot help but commend the way American society pulled itself together, and their change in outlook towards African Americans… Today they even have an African American president, which is such a big deal! I’ve begun to appreciate this much more after this book.

Dec 6, 2011

Yippeee… Baileys…


I’ve posted the recipe here and the pic itself here, but I am not able to get over the fact that am now making my favourite liqueur at home. :-D
And the pic itself stole my heart. The Jug is right now my most favourite item in the kitchen, and I hold it in my hands atleast once a day to feel it. That’s how much I like it. :-D
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Doesn’t this pic in particular look like its ambrosia in a jug? With all that soft lighting in the background bokeh-ed out? And the shape of the jug itself ? Well… now you know why I love this!

Dec 3, 2011

Jamie boy!

 

Hehehe… I know , he is no friend of mine in real life, but the way he writes the books makes one feel like they’ve known him for years… Love the way he has written this book.

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And when I was fiddling around with the 50 mm lens, the book was on the table and it was in such a perfect position that it had to be clicked…

Dec 1, 2011

1 down... 49 more to go... !

 

I was chatting with this friend, and telling her how its been 6 yrs that I’ve been married, and how the husband used to be a poet back then. Also that he is still a poet, just that the poetry has always been confined to one set of women – Anyone who is not a wife. In fact , he has been exercising all forms of art that I married him for, for this same set of women. Great, no? :)

During this chat session, I remembered a blog post I wrote on the eve of my first anniversary, almost 5 yrs back. I read it, and chuckled at how I wrote all that I wrote, and how that is all true. Well, there is tonnes of mush in that post which I will cut back for your benefit, but then, well… even that mush part also is still true… ;-).

Now that you’ve barfed enough, here is what I wrote 5 yrs back…

Long ago, someone wrote a nice poem to woo me, something which no one did for me ever. Though I understood that the poet is obsessed with tans and tanned beauties, which I am obviously not, I obliged to his wooing and decided that I should let myself be the object of more of such poems.

Now, not so long ago only, I met a guy who called himself a charcoal painter. He looked into my eyes deeply on one of those very romantic evenings and tried to look deeper into them and announced to me suddenly – ‘Someday I am going to paint you in the backdrop of Hussain Sagar!’. The innocent me blushed and secretly did a monkey-jig at the thought of being the object of someone’s painting. Then I gave a very shy, demure smile which was so unlikely of me.

At around the same timeframe, I happened to meet this guy who called himself a wannabe-musician because of his small stint with a few musical instruments and he was also trying to patafy me and convince me to marry him.

Oh well, that also reminds me of this guy who was supposed to be a kinda-model, whom I met. Seeing his obvious attempts to line-marofy me, I told him that I am not at all open to meeting or getting married to models and that I don’t trust the lot. This guy had the guts to look straight into my eyes and tell me what marriage and commitment meant to him and what his wife would mean to him and how close I was to being there. He also went on to tell me how he intends to keep his marriage happy and exciting and somehow got me hooked.

But then, I was also supposed to be meeting this dirty IT-geek who has been lauded as the next best thing to Hyderabad. When I told him how much I hated being in IT myself and how I had no idea to get married to someone who wants to retire from IT, he had the self-confidence to tell me that he doesn’t intend to do that either.

Now I didn’t want to disappoint any of these guys who displayed flashes of qualities that I liked, and so I ended up marrying all four of them – thankfully it was just one person! :)

God only knows where the poet flew, or where the painter hid himself or which instruments the musician wants to try next, but I got the husband part minus all these extra additions and frills. Since then, every morning I woke up hoping that today would be the day when I would become the object or inspiration to any of these art forms, and every night I slept with the feeling that ‘Tomorrow is yet another day!’ *Sigh*

I go on to talk about how marriage has made me feel complete, how true love feels and all that stuff that relationship-help books write about,  a truckload of mush which even I cannot handle now, but yes, you get the drift right? :)

By the way, just to get things straight, the husband still is all those things I mentioned, and has even gathered a few more talents under his sleeve, yet again, all of them are for the betterment of the set he is most interested in.

Am now going to show this post to the husband, just to rub it in that I’ve never been a ‘muse’, a term he uses for anything which catches his fancy, generally of the female kind and falling into the aforementioned set. And see if I can squeeze material out all this emotional blackmail I plan to do.

Note: The title of this post is same as the one I wrote back then, I couldn’t think of a better title. I will not get into the meaning and significance of this title for the readers’ safety (yes, all three of them) , but please be assured that this itself is enough to make you barf for an entire evening.

Of journals and nostalgia…

There is something about reading old journals or dairies and nostalgia, isn’t it?
While they all take us on a good nostalgic trip, the journals also remind us of what we were back when we wrote them…

Like how I am feeling right now as I am reading my journal (blog) which I wrote when I was 25….

All the songs I liked back then which I don’t like anymore, my opinions on many important things around which have obviously changed in all these  years, the things I was attached to and which do not mean a thing to me anymore, the kind of problems I had in life back then which look like child’s play now, the things that hurt me and made me cry don’t mean the same anymore…

The 25-yr-old-me thought that -

JKR would keep writing Harry Potter novels
I would be valuing the colour-wire-bracelet that the best friend made for me in the Basic Electronics Lab when I was in college
The transistor I stole from the Electronics lab would be with me forever, for all the great conversations I had with friends after stealing it
I would not ever throw away the pyjamas that I wore when lil Bro got his job
Those huge pile of Hero pens that Dad got for me claiming he ordered them to be flown in from China
And all those memories of college that I cherished and stored away so deep in my heart
I would never get over not being in the lives of some very important friends

Yes, she thought they would stay forever where they were.

And then the Law of Impermanence happened.

5 years thence, a much-more matured me will say that these things have all passed. I don’t have any of these saved anywhere. Not the Hero pens, nor the bracelets nor the pyjamas. Or the memories related to any of these. Somewhere in all these years, something snapped. I stopped holding onto these.

This person now thinks that all these have had their time, they were much loved and cherished during their day, but it was time to let go of them. They meant a lot when they were in my heart, but then their presence in my life was to end there… That’s just till where I was to have them in life. All those things, and all those people also.

As I was reading a post I wrote back in March 2006 talking about practising The Art of Letting Go, when I felt a myriad of emotions at having to move from a place I called my home for 2 yrs, my bachelor-pad to a place that would be my home forever , I couldn’t help but think of how much I’ve changed over these years. Heck, even my style of writing, the things I write about, my language , all of these have changed.

Nov 28, 2011

Being married

 

I read this quote somewhere and its so awesome that it deserves to go on my blog -

Always carry the photo of your boyfriend in your wallet. Look at it whenever you face any problem. This makes you realise that there are bigger problems in life.

Shall we change the word ‘boyfriend’ to husband, coz I am past that stage in life?

Now anyone wants to take a wild guess on whether I have the husband’s pic in my wallet or not? ;-)

Nov 27, 2011

On me!

What with V’s activity on my food blog increasing (read, him being mean to me as usual) I was reminded of the poem he wrote for me, back in 2009 when we(a bunch of us bloggers-turned-friends) were all into poetry(again read, talking to each other in 4 lined rhymes and pleasing ourselves calling it poetry) and some good old conversations we had (read, him bragging about all his conquests and I refuting them asking for proof).

During one of our chat sessions back then, V got around to write this for me. He claimed he did it in 5 minutes flat, and like I do to his many other claims, I couldn’t refute this one, coz we were talking when he wrote this.

And I must say, I liked this one and this is like the second or third time someone wrote a poem on me(No, not from college boyfriends or secret admirers as much as I’d love it to be, from just a group of girlfriends, mostly related to some leg-pulling because of my classic-foot-in-the-mouth-syndrome). Also I maintain that he could use a different word instead of FRUIT (In Kannada, our common language, if you call someone a fruit, it means you think they are innocent!), coz am anything but innocent. Not then. Not now.

To set some context, Ms Taggart was my original blogger profile name, with which I had blogged for 5 full years, but all the blogs are now dormant, deleted or unavailable for public consumption. I had originally posted this poem immediately on one of my blogs, but tempted to post it here again…

Ms. Taggart had been showing off
Her skills in making fun of people
But after she met me, she was put off
And has agreed to be my disciple

It took me a day to call her 'Fruit'
And now, she can't help but breathe fire
She has no choice but stay mute
As I take it up a notch higher

We bonded over a common language
I was laughing when she spoke
Her usage belongs to the medieval age
All the more ammo for me to poke

But I have to admit she strikes back
With wit and anger, I'm impressed
A little nudge and she's ready to attack
The way any troublemaker should be addressed

Nov 25, 2011

An evening at work

 

Something I posted way back in 2009 on the original Pottery Barn site and tempted to post it here again… especially given that I am not writing poetry or limericks or rhymes anymore…

Decided to change the World,
Made my cloud say Hello World!
Demo-ed a smart calculator,
And it worked like a motor!

Cloud, .Net and Azure
These got me into the lure!
Tried Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V like a true dev
Saw
Http://Pagenotfound only after the dive!

Clients and the servers
Some of them with the buses
WCFs, Live Services and Access Controls
My brain goes for numerous strolls!

Cannot start and now totally stuck
Muttering the unholy word, f**k
I started off on a cloud to pioneer
Only to strike the left foot with a spear!

Nov 24, 2011

Atlas Shrugged – The movie!

 

Well… yet again, I’ll stand by what I always believed in – never watch a movie based on your favourite book. Barring Godfather and Gone with the wind, there is not a single movie which brings justice to the book.

But still, if it is a movie based on your favourite book, it would take immense and senseless will power to not watch it. And that is exactly why I subjected myself to this movie, based on my forever favourite book (so much so that I even once had a blog with the name – Who is John Galt?, and a blogger nickname of Ms Taggart).

For starters, even I am glad that they decided to go with two parts of the movie, only that way could they even try to bring justice to the extremely verbose ~1200 page novel , cast in the smallest font. But then, the point that a movie will never live up to the detail and description that a book will feed to  your imagination turns out to be true in this case.

There are couple of good points in the movie – like it being set in 2016, and a time of great depression. Well, we are in the almost-great-depression right now, and the references to the oil spill, the Dow-Jones index falling everyday, against-capitalism attempts by some governments make perfect sense for this times.

However, where the movie fails in its logic is , why would a railroad mean so important for the survival of a state even in 2016. Its not like the 40’s which is when the book is set that trains were the only means of reaching out into the interiors of the state.

The movie fails in areas where it is supposed to make a mark, like showing Dagny’s never-say-die attitude , or her childhood friendship with d’Anconia, her passion with Hank Rearden, or when John Galt comes to take away each of the Titans.

Also, the movie seemed unnecessarily fast-paced which is why most of the important scenes felt like they were rushed.

Watch the movie if you are a fan of the book, but keep in mind that this will not stand up to the world the book has created in your mind. Watch it only to see an effort to make a great book into a movie. A not-so-great effort.

Nov 23, 2011

The whole world looks at you, honey…

I don’t know if I read this somewhere or if I imagined I read this or if these are lines from a song I heard but can’t remember which one as is often the case or if it is starting of a poem in my head, something which I didn’t care to finish as always … but these lines have refused to leave me for a while now…
The whole world looks at you, honey
Would you turn around and look at me?

Oh well.. what the heck. May be I will finish this after all…
The whole world looks at you, honey
But here I am, behind you
Hanging on every word you speak
Dwelling on your every smile
Liking what you like, doing what you do

Waiting for you to like me
May be, you'll notice my presence
May be, you'll want me too, someday
Would you turn around and look at me too?

Hmm… Feels little desperate, lonely and vulnerable.
But then the first lines in my head called for it -  the whole oh-am-so-unwanted-in-this-world and look-nobody-loves-me tone of these lines… :)

Nov 22, 2011

New Role Model

Christine Lagarde . First woman head of the IMF. First woman ever to become minister of Economic Affairs of a G8 economy. Swimmer. Lawyer.

Need I say more?

Also read this article Guardian article – Is this the world’s sexiest woman?

Nov 21, 2011

A little DIY…

We had a lot of glass liquor bottles from the wild days (that’s what I’d like to think of them, please don’t burst my bubble, now :-)) up the attic for a long time. They would’ve been there had it not been for the idea that we could use them to store water, and get rid of the plastic bottles. So that’s what these bottles have been useful for, scaring away innocent teetotallers who visit us for the first time, giving us enough gaalis from the family for having finished off so many bottles, and enough jokes for the both of us to laugh about thinking of all these.

Dad particularly bought into this idea a lot and started collecting these bottles for me. He’d give them to me every time I visited, the empty ones, of course, and I used these to grow my plants. The bamboos and the money plants, the low-maintenance ones which look beautiful when grown in these bottles thus giving a new purpose to their existence.

After that, I’ve started asking the husband to get me liquor when he was returning from this abroad trips which would look good when I place a plant in it. It didn’t matter what liquor it contained as long as the bottle was pretty, I told him, coz I wasn’t going to have it anyways, neither was he (This guy now sticks to his good old Kingfisher, and an odd rum these days) So this time again, I gave him this request, and an ultimatum to not come home empty handed. This time he came home with this bottle.

A beautiful blue coloured tall bottle of… Vodka, something that none of us ever had. Vodka had never been a favourite, and I lost all hopes of ever getting the bottle for my poor little bamboos. But then, due to the generous contribution of some good-natured friends, this bottle became empty in no time, and I got my bottle. Its mouth turned out to be too small to host any of the plants, so its primary purpose had been to store water, until this friend gave me an idea that it could be a lamp too.

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So this is what we did – Coil in a long series of LED bulbs into the bottle and plug in power to them. Not great in spreading light, but this lamp is a sure-shot attraction to the corner where I work.

Now that there is something more we can do with these bottles, I am waiting for the husband’s next abroad trip. :-D

Nov 20, 2011

Food for thought?

No, its for the belly, at least in this case…

Ever since the thought of eating healthy has entered this pea-sized brain of mine, growing my own food has been a dream. This big balcony we have in the house got me one step closer to this dream. I now have couple of herbs which I use in my day-to-day cooking. Two types of Tulsi, Aloe vera, one Arika palm tree and a couple of Bamboo plants comprise the home garden, for now. There are big plans to grow the Italian Basil, tomatoes and chillies too, but given my green thumb, lets see how far I go…

Coriander is one of the easiest to grow. Just squash some coriander seeds and pour it into the pot. Water it daily and wait for at least a week. The sprouts do not look anywhere like how a coriander leaf is supposed to look, but hold on for another week and see the beautiful coriander bush in the same pot. I am so in love with this bunch, that I’ve decided that I am not going to cut this one out. I am just going to let this bunch stay in the pot and see how far it will go…

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Pudina is another easy to grow plant. My maid, who has a great green thumb insisted that I have mint in my garden, and got the branch herself and planted it. It now is a cute little bush. Not enough to make mint chutney but enough to increase the green colour in the balcony…

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There is no other plant that has got my fancy as much as the Basil. I sometimes doubt that my love for pasta is because of the love for Italian Basil. I love the smell of Thai Basil and the shape of the leaves. I love to pluck the Indian Basil’s leaves and chew on them. Fresh Basil and its smell always make my mouth water and when I made my first batch of Pesto, I was on Cloud 9.

So when I was getting the home garden ready, I knew I had to have the Basil plants. N gave me a bunch of Thai Basil seeds, but given the success rate I have in getting plants out or seeds, I lost them all. That was when A was generous enough to give me a Thai Basil sapling which I asked my maid to plant in the pot. And lo… within a few weeks, I had a beautiful plant , full of leaves and some more saplings in the same pot.

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I am still waiting for laying my hands on some Italian Basil so I can make pesto out of my own basil leaves without having to make that trip to the super market , and to make plain basil pasta. Till then, I am making do with this Basil.

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And then, there is the Lemongrass herb that I painstakingly grew. One fine day I got this craving to cook and eat Thai food, and the recipe called for lemongrass. I immediately set off to the nearest super market to buy some. Sadly, that place didn’t have any. The next super market didn’t have any too, neither did the next. Desperation took me to the Hyper City mall where I found three bulbs of lemongrass. But so shaken was I with the whole looking-for-the-herb when there is a deep craving for the food , that I chose to not cook with this lemongrass, but grow my own lemon grass. How I grew this from those three bulbs is another story, but this herb has not given up on me, so far. It gives me fresh stalks of grass every week, which i sometimes cut and throw away, because of its abundance. Touché.

And oh, the Kari Patta plant, which is now almost stripped off all the leaves, yet has one stalk for me every time I want to tadka-karo my South Indian dishes.

The Aloe Vera plant which promises eternal health, great skin , the sun, moon and the stars , has not been used for any of these purposes so far, because of which it has grown enormous leaves, stretching into my Thai Basil. And then there are the decorative plants the husband loves so much… All this on the bamboo stool that we got made for the balcony… well, that’s all to the home garden, for now, at least.

Nov 18, 2011

La Mariee

 

This is the painting Anna Scott and William Thacker talk about in his house in the movie Notting Hill, the dialogue being exactly this -

Anna Scott: I can't believe you have that picture on your wall.
William: You like Chagall?
Anna Scott: I do. It feels like how being in love should be. Floating through a dark blue sky.
William: With a goat playing the violin.
Anna Scott: Yes - happiness isn't happiness without a violin-playing goat.

Anna also gifts the original of this painting to William towards the end of the movie.

In all the times I’ve seen the movie(which is at least 5 times so far), I’ve not noticed anything peculiar about this painting. But the last time I saw it over last weekend, I was intrigued by the painting. There must be something in the painting.


La Mariee - Marc Chagall

I looked up the painting and found the above jpeg. More information about this painting – here.

There is indeed something about this painting. Something about yearning. Something about love. Something about wanting to go with the person the bride loves. And a magic realism-istic feeling being shown by the flying fish in the background. And something making the whole thing grounded and real with the chick and moving man at the bottom right corner. Something about all this love getting realized, by the church like building in the background and the man beside the bride, may be she found the love?

To me also the painting spoke of love. Of Love that makes the bride want to fly in the sky , expect beautiful yet strange things a goat playing a violin. Of Love that makes her want to be grounded and may be have a house with a hen in it.

May be I am reading too much into this or may be the movie indeed did influence my thinking about this painting, but for the first time a painting (except of course Da Vinci’s. But then who isn’t interested in Mona Lisa or the Vitruvian Man?) interested me.

Now am looking to have at least a copy of the photo of this painting as a poster in one of the rooms in the house… Lets see.

Nov 16, 2011

The Zahir

 

The first time I read this book was in 2006. I was 25 and was just married , the entire world looked rosy to me. I was discovering books, the spiritual side in me , and trying to get to my own set of definitions on many things in my life and in life in general. Above all, I had decided to love everything Paulo Coelho would write.

Yesterday when rummaging through my old blog, I came across my review of the book ‘The Zahir’ when I read it the first time. What I wrote there piqued my interest. Though I do not feel the same way about Paulo Coelho anymore (from being someone who used to worship him , I’ve grown to be someone who accepts that he can write bad books too, and hence like him for just the two good books he has written, at least in my opinion and not buy his books anymore), I realized that the review I wrote had many points in it which still made sense to me.

For years, I’ve recommended this book to many newly-weds, many friends who had some interest in spirituality or thought Alchemist was the greatest thing to get out of Coelho’s pen or had radical thoughts about love, belonging and attachment.
A voracious reader himself, this is one of the few books I and the husband liked together back then.
But after reading the old review, I had to verify if the book meant same to me after all these years.

I am 30 now. I have read many more books, both on spirituality and by Paulo Coelho, and have started my first step towards improving my understanding of the existence of humans, the soul and everything. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I am not even tad bit religious but heavily spiritual, and have begun to understand that I do not do anything because it has to be done , unless someone explained the logic behind that act to me.
Above all, I have been married for almost 6 years, hence have had my share of ups and downs in the marriage, my questions about being married and togetherness, my own set of arguments, my feeling of where-am-I-going-in-this-life, my fights with the demons society has been throwing at me and my resistance to not adhere to the norm just because I had to.
I wanted to see if Zahir would still make sense to me and if I would still continue to recommend this to people as one of the best books by Coelho and for married couples.

Well, the short answer is yes. I will continue to recommend this as a must-read for couples. The slight difference is that, I would recommend this book to all couples who have been married for a little longer while. Especially if you do not have kids. Newly-weds might not appreciate this book because of the rose-tinted glasses they see the world with. It does make a lot of difference to the way we think about marriage, the norms of the society, the rules of love and above all about ourselves.

For the long answer, read on…

To start with, Zahir is a Arabic word, meaning clear. There is a similar derivation of this word in Hindi also, meaning the same. In the context of this book, Zahir is something one sees so clearly that it consumes a person’s every single thought to the point of becoming his obsession. That is what happens to the narrator in the book when he suddenly realizes that his wife has left him. Probably for another man. Without as much as a goodbye. After 10 years of being in a what he thinks happy marriage. And he cannot place why. And this thought consumes his every action, thought and word for a period of two years. He finds other things to do with his life, but the need to understand why Esther left him continues to eat  him till one day he is given an opportunity to find out why. In that process, he answers many questions he asked himself, remembers many conversations he and Esther had when they were married and rediscovers himself and almost gives himself a new birth with a fresh outlook. How he does that and if he makes himself worthy of being loved by her again or not is the story. A very well written one. Ruffling many thoughts in your head.

Like every book I read, I have a couple of takeaways myself from this book. Some very important topics that I have been mulling about and have been having internal conversations about have been touched upon in this book, and I have to start exploring them again, this time with my partner, in this case the husband. And the best part in this case is that my thought process had begun in this direction for a while now, its about rethinking it with the thoughts from this book as reference points.

One theme I have noticed so far in my life and something that is underlined in the book is the need for a closure - How important it is for a person to have a closure on anything he is emotionally connected to, without which he cannot continue living normally. Every relationship between two people, when it ends needs to have a proper closure for either of them to continue with their respective lives. For a long time I denied the need for a closure in my life, but only when I achieved it did I realize what it meant to me. A closure gives you a chance to take a look at the relationship, summarize on what it meant to you, how it has changed you and respect the other person for giving you a chance to be in his/her life. You may regret the relationship or cherish it, but giving it a closure after it ends will make you ready to move on, and to accept other relationships into your life.

On the same note comes the point of letting go. Of the past. Of things that have hurt us. And the things that have brought us great joy. Of things that we regret doing. Or people we hold on to with fear of living without them. The minute we let go, we realize the enormous space it creates in our heart, giving us an opportunity to love and feel again, a way to channelize our energies, or to live with peace with the past.

The society we live in dictates some rules. If you are married you should be with your spouse forever. You should not ever think about the other side of your spouse even if it is glaring. If you are a woman, then you should be a mother. Otherwise you are not a complete woman and have not lived life. If you have been for x no. of years, you should be making y money and should have z material possessions. You should always make your parents happy no matter how it makes you feel. Otherwise you might be a failure. So on and so forth.

We have grown up around these rules, and have been taught to live per them, otherwise we would anger the society. In living according to the rules we tend to forget how to live life. We just live it mechanically, doing things the way they are supposed to be done because that’s how they were dictated to be. We do not give ourselves a chance to think of other ways to do any of these things, and any question on that would ruffle our minds so much that we lose peace, and get scared of the possibilities life might offer if we were to not follow the rules. This fear determines the way we live, we interact and we think. The minute we dare enough to think of other options , we know there is a world of opportunity sitting there.

Like for example the story about why the two tracks in the train are 143.5 centimetres apart. The reason for this dates back to the ancient Romans, and the narrator talks about all the missed opportunities because of no one having ever questioned this rule. The same applies to marriage also. Two people who are destined to be together but with a certain distance between them. Its up to the couple to determine if they want to live like that or not. And if they do, its because they want to live and not because of external reasons.

The society says that if you have been married, then it means that you have to love your spouse is forever. The minute that thought enters your head, you take the spouse for granted. If you are busy to do an activity with your spouse today, you tell yourself that the spouse is not running away and you can do the same activity tomorrow . Most likely, this tomorrow never comes. Either you or the spouse ends up being disappointed, and like all other activities you postpone talking about your feelings also.

Because you are too busy living today. Making money. Taking that one phone call or checking that one email that requires your attention. Or simply because you are too tired to do that today. You do not realize that you have grown apart from  your spouse. A little. But like every drop makes an ocean, every such missed opportunity to talk makes you grow apart , little by little , to such an extent that you do not recognize the person you married. One fine day you wake up and wonder where the chirpy little girl you married is or where the brooding, wanting to change the world guy you fell in love was. Gone, the magic in your marriage, out of the door you shut behind yourself when you were busy living.

If you dare enough then you will face the situation and make amends. If you chose to ignore this , you will continue living, not your life, the life someone else has dictated for you. Add kids to this equation and it changes totally. Even if you realize that you do not know each other anymore, you will sweep this thought under the carpet called Family Life in your mind and stay together for the sake of kids. You live a life your family wanted you to live, and not what you wanted to live. You are not happy. You are just living. And giving unhappy or not-in-love parents to your kids.

The key to all this might be in not taking the person in your life for granted. Respecting the person’s presence, valuing the fact that he/she has thought you good enough that they are staying in your life, caring for you , appreciating you and loving you. Living life every day like it were your last. Now, the last one takes some effort to live up to, but one can always try to be there.

In short, you do not have to do things just because that’s the way they are supposed to be done. You should do things because YOU want to. You should stay with a person because YOU love the person and not because you are married to him/her. You should have kids because YOU want to have kids and not because you are feeling lonely or that your marriage seems to be going nowhere or that’s what your spouse wants to do or since that’s what all married couples do. You should continue working not because that’s what all grown-ups do, but because YOU love what you are doing.

These kind of thoughts are branded as being selfish in the world we live in, but aren’t we all our own islands? We have come to this world alone and will go alone. We will just be gifted by the presence of other people in our lives, they are not here permanently. So why plan your life’s decisions around what other people want you to do. Yes, you can give some concessions to the people in your life, but letting people decide your life’s course would mean you are living their life, their dreams and their plans. Not yours.

As people, we grow everyday. The experiences we face everyday, the learning we encounter with each experience, and the exposure certain things give us, all of these change us , in most cases make us better people. Similarly the people in our life also grow everyday. That is the reason why most of us do not connect with our schoolmates or college friends anymore. We are not 20 anymore when life was just a big party. One way to tackle this is by talking. With at least those who mean the most to us. Regularly, and with an open mind that the other person is growing too. His thoughts need not align with every thought of yours like how they used to be. Respecting the person’s judgement when we talk lets us accept the changes they are going through. Since man is not an solitary being and has contact with various people throughout his life , its up to the people in his life to make themselves worthy of his love. If everyone thinks this way, they all would strive to be better people , so that the ones they love would love them back for what they are, and not because they have to.

The other thought is to accept that nothing is permanent. Not a single thing in this life. This feeling you get when you see your spouse at this instant, well that’s not permanent. It will change a bit the next instant. The pain you feel when someone hurts you, that’s not permanent either. The car that you love so much that you spend hours on cleaning it, well , it will get spoilt any day. Similarly, the life you build with a lot of planning , love and care, that could collapse too. Knowing this, accepting this and still continuing to live will bring a lot of peace and happiness.

It might look like I have launched on a tirade here under the pretext of Zahir, but trust me, when you read the book you will encounter such thoughts yourself. The books makes you think and question many things in your life. Your love for your spouse. Your definition of success. Your need for people. Many of the decisions you’ve taken so far in your life. Your possessiveness towards things you own. All of these. Thinking about them all after you are done reading this book will make you a much peaceful person. And bring more love into your life.

Again, trust me on this.

Nov 15, 2011

Master Mama…

 

And it finally happened. You are relieved from all the physical pain you’ve been enduring for years now. You left us, and went to a happy place.

We all know it must’ve been very tough for you to accept that you are not the tiger-like man that you used to be, and that you had to depend on someone else for the easiest and smallest of your activities.

And how you would cry every time you would see me come visit you. And see S talk to you in his broken Tulu. And try to converse with us in your feeble voice. And then cry again, because you knew you weren’t audible and that we would have to see you at your vulnerable worst. :(

I spent most of my summers around you, all of them my most happiest, growing up taking one Cadbury’s Eclairs from you each day(quite an expensive deal 23 years back, a story everyone in the family still talks about, about how you pampered me in  your own sweet, silent way), being paid in paisa for every grey hair we plucked (that is how you used to keep us kids occupied during those hot summer afternoons) , learning how to draw my first ever cat drawing from you(the drawing teacher that you are, you taught me the technically right way to do that), standing for hours in front of the big beautiful tilting mirror in your room and play with the cousins and run away the minute we heard your TVS come in, wearing that saree and imitating Maami talk to you and see you smile with joy at your little niece do such antics, buying you one perfume bottle every time we visited and seeing you smile like a small child…

I can never forget the happy smile in your eyes when you met S the first time, and learnt that he spoke Kannada. And then you went on to have long beautiful conversations with him, and me listening to you talk to each other in the background. That peace it gave me to know that you approve of my husband, and in fact loved talking to him… You were closest to being a grandparent to me. And today I don’t even have you.

PS: Master Mama is my Mom’s elder brother, whom passed away on 15th Nov, 2011, after years of being bed-ridden and unwell. :-(

So, who’s the RockStar?


Though I did not understand what the whole deal with ‘Socha Na Tha’ was, and think that ‘Jab We Met’ was a nice movie and that it didn’t blow me away, and that ‘Love Aaj Kal’ was a decent movie, I agree that Imtiaz Ali is a good director, there are no doubts in that. And a good dialogue writer too.
 
So where did he go wrong with Rockstar?
In my honest opinion, what is wrong with the movie is the plot. Its just not present. Or let’s just say, its too weak. So weak that if it were to try to stand on its feet, it would make a big hole in the earth beneath it and fall down. You get the point , right? Heavy, but weak. Its like he planned to fit in all elements into the same story and make one movie out of this all. Well, this had material for atleast two movies – one love story, and one story on how a boy turned into a rock star. Both would’ve sucked big time, but nonetheless, it would’ve been two stories. You get the point again , right?
 
No? Imagine this - Glimpses of a wannabe-Jim-Morrison and in-love-and-hence-will-do-things-to-piss-off-lover-and-media-Salman-Khan in a very good-looking, extremely well-dressed-in-its-own-new-way Ranbir Kapoor romancing a just-about-okay-looking-really-big-unnatural-looking-pout-just-cannot-act-for-nuts-Nargis-Fakhri, killing himself out of frustration at not getting to sleep with her, and hence writing and singing great songs composed by AR Rehman.
Well, this is the movie in a nutshell. Now add a cheating-on-the-husband-angle, one could’ve-been-dealt-with-better-divine-intervention angle, police-chasing-Jordan-for-no-apparent-reason angle and a very weak, discontinuous editing job. You have RockStar!
 
Don’t get me wrong. Its not a bad movie. This movie had the potential to be a good one, had it not been for the whining Nargis Fakhri and her pout, the cheap antics of the Platinum music company head, the whole extremely-ridiculous you-should-have-pain-to-be-a-great-artist(Everyone in the story team totally forgot the great musicians who have had sober lives – Bono and ARR himself for example!) and the various angry outbursts by Ranbir Kapoor for no logical reason.
And why the whole cheating angle? Why should Heer chose to cheat on her husband? And if she felt guilty about it, why should she be doing it with Jordan? No, am not against people cheating on each other and all, but the illogical cheating is what I don’t get. In this day and age when people are free to be with whom they want to be, and without anything binding Heer to her husband, why didn’t she just dump her husband and go with Jordan if she loved him that much?
 
And getting the cancerous-about-to-die-Heer pregnant with Jordan’s baby is just, well… cheap. There was no need for this angle in the movie, and Jordan would’ve been pining for Heer even if she wasn’t pregnant with his baby. Also, the Free Tibet concert with Tibet being blurred out. Cheap again. The mention of the forest being cut to make way for the city and the absence of the parinde , well, not required. What is the character doing to substantiate his interest in these causes apart from just fighting with the police?
And what were they trying to show when Shammi Kapoor’s character shakes his head sadly at seeing Jordan’s poster for the album ‘Noir’? That he is going the wrong way? Well, didn’t he already know that Jordan was never the ordinary guy. And he wasn’t on the roads begging after a big fall from grace. So why the whole sad look?
 
And why on earth was Jordan running away from the cops in Prague or Verona or whatever awesome-looking-place it is? And if he was indeed performing in that place, why would the cops not know him?
 
This and many more such plot gaffes killed the movie for me.
What it should’ve been is just a guy’s angst at not being able to be with the woman he loved and hence transforms that pain into music. It could’ve been an honest attempt to show a love story.
 
Not a love-cum-musician-story. Not a sorry mish-mash of all the bad-boys we know in the media. Not how Jordan has an affair with Heer and tries to break into her house or pines to sleep with her or kiss her. Not how he became a Rockstar, coz being a Rockstar is not about being a bad-boy. Not how Jordan uses his pain to gain an image and show his attitude to audience.
The only things I liked in the movie – the music and the clothes. Though many say that this isn’t certainly one of ARR’s, I loved the songs. I enjoyed all the songs and the way they were shot. I loved both Heer’s and Jordan’s costumes. Brilliant work at building a separate style for them both. I loved the locales, and cinematography.
 
But if you ask me who the Rockstar in the movie is, I’d say Mohit Chauhan. Period.

Nov 14, 2011

Notting Hill

 

The first time I heard the song ‘When you say nothing at all’ by Ronan Keating, I fell in love. With him and with the band that he belonged to, Boyzone (yeah yeah, boy bands and all, I know! :)). But only recently did it occur to me that this is OST for Notting Hill, and that I hadn’t seen the movie at all.

And the minute I finished the movie, I knew this made it to the list of Movies-I-Watch-When-I-Need-Comfort and hence one of my most favourite movies.

After all , I’m just a girl… standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her…

Everytime I listen to this dialogue, tears well up in my eyes, I cry. Every.single.time.
I cry for the vulnerable girl standing in front of the boy she loves, asking him to take her back and understand her, love her and care for her.
Honest, deep, poignant, vulnerable, slightly desperate for love – this scene is the most defining moment in the entire movie. Anna’s character jumps out of the screen and suddenly feels live, like someone you know could’ve said this , or may be you could’ve said this too…

Nov 13, 2011

The weekend that was…

 

Starting from Friday evening, I -

  • visited in-laws who live 30 kms away
  • cooked a complete Telugu/Tulu meal for friends who were coming in for lunch
  • baked a whole lot of items in the evening, some of which fell flat and some of which turned out good
  • watched all the sitcoms (7 of them!) and a movie (Nights in Rodanthe – beautiful but depressing movie, btw)
  • had Neer-dose as an elaborate Sunday breakfast
  • did a small DIY project with an old lantern and some LED lights
  • helped a nephew move into his own room and set it up a bit
  • an evening in Hard Rock Cafe
  • two movies after the evening – Notting Hill and Under the Tuscan Sky

For someone whose idea of a perfect weekend is when she curls up on her couch reading something, and cooking a nice meal for dinner, this is way too much activity.

Sometimes I wonder if I am really a super woman or just a restless person trying to find her Zen… :-|

Nov 11, 2011

Zahir – an old review

[I posted this review in May 2006 on an old blog after reading the Zahir. I finished reading it again in Nov 2011, and there is a new review up here.]

And the feeling that is still lingering on my head is that there is a Zahir in everyone's life. Zahir is this void in your life which doesn't let you do anything in peace, which haunts you, which forces you to do things you don't like, which makes you feel obsessed about the void... All in one, Zahir is what you can say - your calling... Its something which you are meant to do. Its something that you want to do, something which you sent on this earth to do...

Never thought that the author of Alchemist can write a book of this measure which touches a totally different dimension of love. The tenacity of the narrator on the book to find where his is wife though for different reasons at different points in the story, the mysticism revolving around the character,Mikhail; the love Marie has towards the narrator; the explanation which makes you realise that love can be changed throughout the life of your marriage; - The manner in which each of the smallest emotions are described by the author is commendable. (On second thoughts, Alchemist is also a love-story with a different measure!) At some points during the book, I felt that the author must surely have experienced all those emotions, coz the portrayal cant be so real unless you go through them.

And I am damn sure that at the end of the book, the reader will know quite a few things in general also. May it be the reason behind the 143inches between the two rail tracks, the flirtatious game in the Tengri tradition, the name changing ritual of the steppes, the rule of the steppes, or the energy of love.

Knew that Paulo Coelho is a good author, but the feeling that I got after finishing this book is something which I cannot express in my words.

All in all - this is a very good book. My recommendation for any reader...

Lessons I learnt after reading this book:
1. Love is not always constant. Never follow rules set by someone if you don't know the reason behind the rules.
2. Now don’t jump off the reign and start devouring all Paulo Coelho's books lest you end up getting bored of him like what happened with Dan Brown.
3. Try to tell a few people about this book. Who knows, they are also suffering from the Zahir? And might want to read it... You would've introduced another person to the beautiful world of books...:)

Nov 10, 2011

Void

This morning as I was sitting and trying to meditate, the whole thought of void got into my head. Yes yes, I know you are not supposed to think about things when you meditate, but isn’t that what happens exactly when we try to meditate. Given that I was trying to catch up on some Vipasana, I let the thought fly by, since that is what you do in Vipasana. Let the thought run its course, instead of struggling to suppress it or ignore it. I wanted to see how far the thought process would go, and what other thoughts spring up as a result of this one.

Well, for once, I had questions – Do I have a void in my life? Did I ever have a void in my life? What did I do when I faced the void? What exactly is this void? And as with what happens with all the questions that come to my mind, being the little Miss Know-it-All that I am, I also had the answers. Well, the answers might not work for everyone, and for sure do not apply to all the situations in my own life, but they do solve most of the emotional puzzles I faced so far.

To start with , I think that needs and void are inter-connected. Sometimes it so happens that you would’ve never known that there was an emotional need and it would’ve been getting filled via some means. But when the means suddenly stop, the void appears.
Basically void is this huge need that has to be expressed. A feeling in your mind which has to be expressed. It could be love for a spouse/significant other, maternal feelings, love for a pet, wanting to serve the society , love for a sibling, a deep dependence on friends… etc.

What we do with the void determines our personality. Some of us might go berserk at the void and try to fill it up with material possessions. Some might turn to religion and look for all the answers in religion. Some might turn to spirituality. Some might just become depressed.
Rebound relationships, adopting a kid, a mid-life crisis, an extra marital affair, babysitting a pet, trying to replace the sibling with similar people or looking to replace the sibling’s place, getting new friends, an endless string of relationships with people of the opposite gender, immersing oneself into their career… these could all be examples of how one gets over the void.

I was thinking about how I tried filling up my share of voids. Back when I was much younger and faced with a void, I tried filling it up in a stupid manner. Something that I have never been proud of.
But even as I grew older , I noticed that every time a person left my life, I tried filling it up with another person. Sometimes more than one depending on how important that person is/was.
And when I look back, think and make comparisons on the original person and the replacements (which is a terrible thing to do , btw, both for the original and the replacement person), there have been times when I was happy at having done that. And sometimes I beat myself to it, at how I could’ve replaced the person X with the non-deserving person Y.

That was when Vipasana helped me. The first time, and every time thence. Acceptance, Impermanence and Understanding – the major mantras in dealing with matters of the mind.

The next time I was ready to take a trip to the Guilt-Land, I told myself this – Agreed that this was not the right way to do it, but back when you did it, it seemed like the one. And it helped you get over the void. And no, you did not replace the person/need. You just were looking to channelize all those emotional energies to something else because you did not know how to cope with the void. That only emphasizes the importance of the need/person in your life, a compliment to their/its existence in  your life. All the things you’ve done when faced with the void are justifiable in their own way. But here’s a learning – Identify the next time you face a void. Treat this void better. Mourn the loss of the need. Think through your replacements and then go ahead for one.

Trust me, this helped. Immensely. I’ve come to terms with the things I’ve done in the past. I’ve got a learning on how my mind works when faced with a void and I have a better idea on how I will deal with it.

I know this is a long topic and not something that will be done with just a post. Yesterday being the day when I saw many close friends expressing their need and hence the voids in their respective lives, and me thinking about it for the longest time possible must’ve led this early morning discourse on the whole process of wants/needs/voids.

When I think about how some voids have been filled up in my life and in others’, I cannot help but think – this is all coz of us being humans. Supposedly the third most intelligent species (oh yes, I totally believe dolphins and mice are the most intelligent. Got the whole H2G2 reference?). If we were like any other animal , except of course a dog, we would not even face a void. We wouldn’t need to deal with it. Or if all us were sanyasis, and didn’t need or want anything or anyone for our living, wouldn’t it be a great life? But then, we are not… and till the time we attain our Nirvana we have to deal with voids. Make stupid mistakes. Learn from them. And deal with the voids again. The whole cycle of life!

Nov 9, 2011

Ayn Rand and Me!

 

I am a huge Ayn Rand fan. I haven't had the patience to dig up her Objectivism theory, but whatever small I understand of it, I like it. But more than these, I love her books.
Oh yes, I haven't read all of them, just Atlas Shrugged, Fountainhead , both of which I read a decade ago, and very recently We, The Living, but more about this one later.

I was barely 18 when I first read Atlas Shrugged. Picked it off my uncle's bookshelf and started reading it. At that age, I totally loved the guts Rearden had, and hated Lilian. I loved Dagny's resilience and hated James's weak attitude. I adored Francisco, and loved the two professors. I imagined that Galt's Gulch is for true, and dreamt of going there some day. I loved the sentence, 'Who is John Galt?'. It looked like a answer to many questions that teenage brain of mine had. And above all, I worshipped John Galt.
Someone so intelligent, so persistent, and so determined - I thought I should have those qualities when I grow up.
Someone whom everyone trusted, whom people respected, and loved - I put John Galt on the pedestal.
Now almost a decade after reading that book, my feelings have not changed. Yes, they have matured a bit, but that was because I have grown up.

John Galt is still on the pedestal, but Dagny Taggart reached that place with her strength & never-say-die attitude. Francisco still stays there, but now I understand him better. Hank will always be where he is, but what now I know why he is not willing to share his success. And yes, I still loathe people like James & Lilian.

I still dream of going to my own Galt's Gulch with like-minded people someday.

But the most important thing this book has done to me in all these years is to give me a model. In the form of different characters, Ayn has clearly written down the streaks each person should have in his character, and like they say character is destiny!
Now coming to the other book, Fountainhead - after having read the earlier one, I was so besotted with Ayn Rand that I had to read this. At almost 21, I read this book for the first time.

That instant, I fell in love with Roark also. He appealed to me then, and the young me did not understand Dominique better. And I hated & sympathized with Keating at the same time. I almost ignored Gail Wynand.
But now after so many years, the practical me does not let me feel the same way about this book anymore. Yes, its a classic, but I still fail to understand why Dominique had to go to Keating, and then to Wynand and then ditch him at the hour he needed her the most and then go to Roark finally. No, don't get me wrong here, I am not preaching that she should've stuck to one man, I just fail to understand the motive behind giving your own self so much torture and glorify it. I do not see logic in the love she had for Roark.

However, Roark - his slender yet agile body, orange hair, long fingers, his calmness yet determination, his art still are etched the same way in my mind's picture.

But now, Gail Wynand is almost my favourite.
I love this guy who had the guts to accept the mistakes he did and goes to great heights to bring himself peace. If someone works on something from which they don't expect any material benefits but just mental piece, then their strength to do that is what is commendable.
I love the way he would handle his relationships and his love for Dominique.
I loved the guy's silence when he accepted Dominique's & Roark's relationship.
I pitied the helplessness which made him ask 'Is this the first time after our marriage?"
I got inspired by the way he stood for a friend and sailed him through thick & thin.
I love the way this guy handled his enemies..
In short, he is my new hero.

This is what I love about these two books. I love the way Ayn Rand does Hero worship, yet makes the woman protagonist equally strong. The love the main protagonists share in these books is unique. They don't crave to be together, they don't even share a complete dialogue, they just love each other. Yes, it seems impossible for anyone to share a love like that in real world, but she makes sure that this kind of love at least lives great in the dreams.

And this proves to me that a book which will not change the way you feel towards it even after a 100th read is a classic, or rather your favourite book!

PS : Except for some edits, I wrote this post exactly 3 years ago. I have read many more books after writing this post, and have found some classics too. In fact, in contrast to what I always thought about We, The Living, I quite liked it when I read. I loved Kira’s character – her love, her friendships, her determination, her hatred. Everything.

But Atlas Shrugged still has THAT place in my heart. It is the first book that told me what a hero should be like, something I read when I was forming my own ideals, my own role-models and my own landmarks. And Atlas Shrugged, Dagny, Hank and John Galt have a huge influence in the way I think, I act and I believe. Something a classic should do!

Oct 31, 2011

Gilmore Girls, Again

 

As you read this, I would’ve finished watching the season finale of Gilmore Girls, and wished yet again that they should’ve ended it with Lorelai getting engaged to dear old Luke instead of just the kiss, and hoped again that they make something more out of this awesome series.

I will continue to be a lifelong fan of Lorelai, Luke and Emily , and may be Rory and Logan also, but what I will miss most is Lorelai, her awesome attitude, her non-stop-talkativeness and her cool puns.

Meanwhile, read this – A NY Times article published right after the season finale was aired.

Oct 24, 2011

#357

Hehehehe… And we wonder why things turn out the we want them to… And try to be control-freaks! :)

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Original link here!

Oct 22, 2011

Oct 20, 2011

Gilmore Girls

 

Its like an obsession. A big big one. Every waking moment of the day I have, I want to watch the series. Currently in the Season 5 , Episode 20, I finished all the earlier ones in just a matter of 2 weeks, back to back, sometimes as much as 8 episodes per day, the maddest day being 11 episodes in one day, each episode being ~44 minutes long! :-)

Yes, the last time I felt this obsession was for Castle, and before that Friends, and I didn’t watch even these at this rate and urgency.

Its a need to find out what happens with Lorelai and Luke, what Rory does, and what trick Emily comes up with next in her attempt to do good to Lorelai… this list just goes on. But I guess what is keeping me hooked to this is the big crush I have on Scott Patterson, and the girl crush on Lauren Graham. Both of them incredibly good looking, and great actors.

Both their style of talking, the numerous pop culture references, the male suitors the Girls get… each of this is a reason…

Just in love with the series. :)

Oct 17, 2011

Truly, Madly, Deeply. Really?

Aargh! Crappiest book EVER!
Absolutely terrible style of writing - even a 15 yr old can write better. The author can sure do with some Beginner's writing courses.
Absolutely no writing editing. The writer did not ask for a critical opinion from anyone. I am damn sure.
Terrible plot. Done to death. Not handled properly. Bad choice of adjectives to describe the lead characters, and its like the author is obsessed with the good looks alone of Seema and Rahul. And what description of the looks... Hah!
Yes, the author sure needs to re-visit his English.
At various times while reading the 136 pages of this book, I got up from my couch, slapped myself in my face for having bought it, and then went back to re-read it, in the hope that the book might not have been stupid, it probably is coz I misread the previous pages.
I wish Indian authors stopped writing with the sole motive of getting their books made into movies. I understand that they get paid heavily, and Chetan Bhagat must be some kind of a role model for them all, but really... is he one? Don't they have any care for what their place in the world of literature is going to be?
First it was C-Bag. Then Amish Tripathi (with his overtly Bollywood-ized Meluha. I read the first one, decided not to waste my time with the second one) and now Faraaz Kazi.
I decided to not read this book and thus save my precious time. I might as well be reading the Page 3 of Times newspaper. Its that bad!
One of the worst books to spend your money on.

Am in half a mind to not give this book any rating at all, am guessing if a book doesn’t have a rating, its not counted for an average. Hence the 1 star.

I must quite agree with one of the reviews this book got on GoodReads – The author clearly has no idea how American Indian kids talks, or how teachers treat 15 yr olds who are in love or how to fill in 300 pages of this book… you get the drift, right?

Just for kicks, read the series of status messages I posted on my GoodReads as I came across each crappy page/line I read in the book… Am still wondering how it is just 11 and not 136 (I read only 136 pages off the 303 pages, and decided to give up!)

See the first comment at the bottom of the page. Well, I sincerely tried to like this book before I even started reading it. Honestly. But then, it didn’t deserve a long chance.

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And now I completely believe that book ratings can be rigged too. Nothing else explains the 4/5 rating this book got on GoodReads. No, that many people cannot be dumb. I still have hope on this Universe!

Sep 26, 2011

So many books, so little time!

 

Books were one thing that bound us together – me and the husband. From the first ever time we met and discovered that we both loved GodFather equally, to discovering Paulo Coelho’s genius in Zahir and Eleven Minutes to re-discovering that he is highly over-rated to reading each others’ favourites, books have been one thing we could talk about, any time.

We love our books, both he and I. So much so that , before we could even discuss marriage, we discussed what we would do with our books. We both laid conditions that we would not disturb each others’ collections and that we would not read the same book at the same time, and so on.

An ideal holiday for us is to laze around on a lazy boy/bean bag/hammock/beach-side-chair and read a book. :-) No wonder why our parents ask us why should we even go to a different place when all we want to do is to sit and read. :-)

So when we both moved to our first home, he from his parents’ house and I from my apartment which I shared with my friends and Mom’s house (which is where most of my things were), we had clothes which fit in two suitcases each and books in 8 cartons. After 2 yrs when we moved to our second home, a slightly bigger apartment, much to our shock, we noticed that our books alone fit in 16 cartons! Both of us didn’t realize we had so many books!

And when we were to move to our third home , our own this time hence a little bigger than the second one, in which we had planned every corner and decided what goes where, we realized we’ll have to get rid of some of the books. Coz there wasn’t enough place for all of ‘em, in spite of one closet being dedicated for books alone. That was when I took the hard decision to part with few of my books. The Kindle 2 that I had then made me feel slightly better about this terrible loss, and so I gave away/sold most of the books, and moved into this new house with just a handful of them. The classics, books which we loved, he and I separately, together and had memories with. Books like GodFather, Atlas Shrugged, Carlos Castenada’s, some Paulo Coelho titles… just a few of which actually mattered.

So you would imagine my shock when I realized that after little more than an year of moving into this house, we have not one or two but a total of 7 bookshelves. In short, we’ve been converting one corner of the house into a bookshelf every 3 months. This, in spite of having a Kindle, my new Kindle 3!

I tried sorting the books and putting them all in one place so they would not take so much space, but then figured out they belong where they were placed.

The recipe books in the kitchen, the ever-green ones each of which I pick out and read every few days near the bed-side bookstand, the ones that I am currently reading in the passage-shelf , the ones that I want to read, and will read in sometime in the inner-living area, the ones that I will NEVER give away to anyone in the place they were intended to be in – the third bedroom closet. I could not move them anywhere, they had to stay there. Each of these bookshelves serve a purpose, you see… :)

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This is the one in the kitchen. Just some basic recipe books, and some knick-knacks, and of course a plant or two. If you are a bewdi/bewda, you might even recognise the terracota bottle there. Yeah, its a model of Jack Daniels bottle, made by the husband. :)

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This is in the corner of the living room, the inner room. We have a very comfortable seating near this side table, and spend almost all our time in the house in this place. See, these are the books that I will read someday. I will get there… Someday, you see! :-)

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Now, these books – they have to be here. I need to see them everyday to remember that I have them. Some of these are borrowed from friends which I have to return, some are good old huge recipe books, and some are classics like Kahlil Gibran here. So they sit in the place which we frequent the most – the shelf near the small corridor to the bedroom. Noticed the little piece of Worli art on the wall? Husband’s handiwork again.

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This is by the bedside, err… rather on the wall near the bed. I need to see these daily too and hence they wont go into their final resting place, the big closet. These are books that I can read when I am about to sleep. I can live without reading these books but need them around, you see.

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This is the good old closet, the one originally intended to store all the books of the house. Its deep enough to have someone like me sit inside it, and so has two layers of books. These are the ones we will not part with. Atleast for now. :)

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And the Kindle. My love. It is a long way from replacing all the above books, but without it, we’d be having books on the beds, couches, dining table and all. Literally all over the house. :)

Books Pics

So when I was shooting these bookshelves around the house, I loved that I had so many books. Makes me feel very wise you see. That is, till the time I open my GoodReads page.

As on today, I still have a total of 406 books, 220 of which I am yet to read. :) And new books get added to this every day. What? I’ve read only 174 books till date? Seriously? Sigh.

So many books, so little time! No?