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Of Paper and Bytes

I took the e-jump this year.I put aside my need to smell a new book and feel its wonderful finish (and get paper cuts in the process), installed Kindle on my iPad and downloaded a sample extract from Amazon once the India Kindle Store opened. And then I downloaded some more. And then some more. Now I have a bunch of receipts from Amazon in my inbox and not weekly visits from Flipkart’s delivery guys. I window shop to my hearts content at the Crosswords and Oxford’s of the world (Ever see a female with her nose in a book, literally?That would be me) and then go home and download. To be honest Kindle is a bit overpriced and my hand gets tired cradling the iPad during all night reading sessions but I have run out of space to store my voluminous tomes with no heart to give away some of my precious books.I also choose to believe that I am helping some tree live a little longer.

So I have been diligently reading up quite a bit in 2012 and  here are my 5 super fantastic reads for the year in case you are into that sort of thing.

Gone GirlGone Girl is not everyone’s cup of tea. Its a deconstruction of a marriage hidden as a thriller or maybe it is the other way around. A woman goes missing and the husband is the prime suspect. But what the author gives you is two bedazzling sides of the same story. Just when you think you have a character figured out the author will pull you in a completely different direction. This book once bought will not be left unread and may refuse to get out of your brain for days. Its a book that you would love or you would love to hate. I re-read the book post the reveal so that I could connect the dots I missed the first time around.

Game of Thrones What Can I write about this best seller and hit TV series that has not been written/said before. The only thing stopping me from reading the complete series is the number of pages in each tome. Also I pray for the authors good health so that I know what he was thinking doing what he is doing to my favorite characters. I have started watching the series as well and the casting is bang on!

How to beHow To Be A Woman I think I fell in love with Caitlin Moran after reading this.Its funny in a tears-in-eyes till you realise the joke is on women and the way they have let themselves be treated. Its about society’s expectation from women on everything from thong underwear to marriage and babies. Its about reclaiming feminism .And this what it says about feminism before you imagine bra-burning-butch hair styled women.

“We need to reclaim the word ‘feminism’. We need the word ‘feminism’ back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29% of American women would describe themselves as feminist – and only 42% of British women – I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies?What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? ‘Vogue’ by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF THE SURVEY?”

Read it. If you are a woman you have thought about these at some point or the other.

No Easy Day An ex-marine who was part of the elite squad that killed Osama Bin Laden has penned this. He gives the reader a background of what it takes to be part of this team, previous missions and what happened on THAT day. (Things started going wrong even before a single person had put a boot to the ground).Written in simple english (and large fonts-bought the paper book) I finished it in a single marathon reading session. And then followed it up by watching this interview.

persepolisPersepolis is a graphic novel for non graphic novel readers as one review said.It that covers the author’s story from when she was 6, living in Tehran with her intellectual parents, to when she was 14 and had to flee to Vienna to continue her education and her return to Tehran post her graduation. At its best it’s an inspiring coming-of-age story which shows Iran in a much different light than what one would imagine from a once-in-a-blue-moon PTI reports one reads in the paper.However I suspect the author grew up in privileged circles and her perceptions may not be that of a person on the street. I also wanted to shake her and ask her to get her life in order/stop self pitying once in a while considering she did get chances many people in her home country did not.

There are however many many books I wish I had not read. Unfortunately some of them have been on bestseller lists for almost a year now (yes its that Fifty Shades book!) and are widely loved by women. I cant write a review that matches this so go ahead and read what I pretty much wanted to say.

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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An ode to parental strength

So on my recent trip I picked up “Room” by Emma Donoghue and read the whole thing in one sitting. Its the story of five year old boy Jack who lives with his ‘Ma’ in the ‘Room’ – a 11 by 11 shed with skylight and locked door. He has friends like Dora-the explorer on TV and the Rug, the Bed, the Meltedy Spoon and believes the two people in the Room are the only real people till one day his Ma tells him there is a world outside.

Inspired by the likes of Fritzel case, Room is unlike any other novel. Written in the voice of Jack its not in the same vein as say “The curious incident of the dog in the night time”, Jack’s voice is more adultish and yet endearingly child like.

The first half takes place entirely within the 12-foot-square room in which a young woman has spent her last seven years since being abducted aged 19. Raped repeatedly she now has a 5 year old child. “Ma” has spent every scrap of mental energy in teaching, nurturing and entertaining her boy, preserving her own sanity in the process. Its voyeuristic-watching the mother son relationship-its heart warming and yet the terror is never far away. Thankfully the author doesnt go into descriptive details of abuse. Most of the back story in the novel is filled through adult conversations Jack overhears or through watered down stories his Ma tells him.The second half is about their re-integration into society and perhaps is the more painful part. Especially the heartbreaking interview and its after math.

Room although touches a very dark topic isnt a dark book-if anything its an ode to human hope, courage and a saga of parental strength which is affecting and uplifting. Deserves to be shortlisted for ManBooker 2010.

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Some recommendations

I have actually managed to finish some books I had started and have been having surprisingly good luck in all of them turning out to be excellent reads.

‘The Immortals of Meluha’ by Amish: I just happened to pick this up without any recommendations because the backpage blurb blew me away. An ancient King called Sri Ram has founded the ideal state called Meluha. The Suryavanshis – as the citizens of Meluha describe themselves – are threatened by an invisible enemy. Legend has it that ‘when evil reaches epic proportions, when all is lost… a hero will emerge.’ And that reluctant hero is a Tibetan nomad called Shiva.

I am not sure what genre this would fall into-mythology or fiction? The characters are familiar so you kind of nod along. But the story is brand new. It even touches upon currently relevant topics like interpretation of terrorism by different people. There is new interpretation to a lot of things that have been culturally always there. There is even a cute love story in there.

It was a pleasant surprise to find such creativity, such departure from the normal “look-this-is-life-at-IIM/IIT” books. You can almost see the author has spent some time thinking about the story and the book. Really looking forward to the sequels.

You can read more about it here.

‘Girl with the Dragon tattoo’ by Stieg Larsson:its a bestseller of all times and not without reason! A literary thriller is all I can think of. I mean its far far removed from the worlds David Baldacci, Agatha Christie and like. The characters are unique whether it be hero Michael Blomkvist-a journalist crusader forced to do sleuthing for retired millionaire Henrik Vagner or “the girl with the dragon tattoo” Lisbeth Salander, eccentric and genius hacker who has been declared unfit’ as an adult and has a legal guardian provided by the State.

The setting is quite unique too-Sweden and not by lanes of New York or Rome. Without giving the ending away the story did seem a tad filmy but in the past few years many such exploitation cases have come forward which makes this a statement book of our times.

I think the original title in Swedish  is way more appropriate but kinda gives the story away!

‘Paths of Glory’ by Jeffrey Archer: I had really believed I was over the days of reading Jeffrey Archer. But this is a good departure from his usual genre. A fictional biography of Mallory of Everest it does romanticize the man a bit too much. However it did create some controversy at time of release if “George Mallory should be added to a list of Legends  because if he were, another name would have to be removed”!

Highly recommended on 3 hour flight or if your want something light that doesnt send you scampering for a dictionary!

Am now onto “On writing” by Stephen King. Have I told you how much I love Flipkart with their prompt service and discounts!

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Profound love?

“We all dream of that chance meeting, that moment when we feel we are really living”

-Sunday Telegraph’s review of “The bridges of Madison County”

I have just finished reading the book-The bridges of Madison County.

SPOILERs ahead

It tells the story of a married but lonely Italian woman-Francesca, living in 1960s Madison County, Iowa, who engages in an affair with a National Geographic photographer from Washington, Robert Kincaid who is visiting Madison County in order to create a photographic essay on the covered bridges in the area. As dreams and responsibilities of a real world clash the ill-fated couple decides to part-their 4 day love affair defining the rest of their lives.

Hold on. Wait a second. A brief encounter whose passion will last a lifetime? Is it a Mills and Boons I picked up or a classic which is one of the highest selling books of 20th century.

Maybe am too cynical and world weary. The book is good, the language so simple yet you can feel the dusty afternoon Kincaid drives upto Madison County. The covered bridges and the gossip at the local saloon.

But can someone really experience true love-the once in many life times certainty in 4 days? forget in 4 years or in 40 years?Is true love really being swept off your feet by a exotic stanger who lives a life you can only dream about.

Infactuation-maybe. Lust-maybe. The heady cocktail of attraction and taboo-most definitely.

Why is that great love stories are often the ones that are ill fated? Where lovers see each others reflections and fall in love? Where they kill themselves because they cant spend a life time together?

It is because the heady, giddy feeling will never last a lifetime. Science tells its unsustainable neurological phenomenon-that our nerve cells light up at the sight of a beloved but this consumes an incredible amount of energy. To seal this initial bond to something stronger-a bond called affection it pumps enough pleasurable chemicals equivalent to a high dose of a good quality drug.

Affection is on the otherhand is something very different from attraction. It can sustain a happiness on seeing a beloved despite countless towels on the floor, choosing boy’s night out over movie and dinner plans, of gifting free shopping vouchers to family over you.

And that is my problem with all “profound love stories”. The four days are magical because you never saw who the other person really is. You see what you want to see. You see what what could be. And can some one be such a force of nature that those 4 days define your life entirely?

I know its fiction. I know am not supposed to find logical loopholes where love is all encompassing. After all in todays world a girl giving up her life for a vampire’s love defines the standard for love, Fransesca and Robert are as real as they get. Small town farmers wife and a wandering photographer.

Love for me is NOT never having to say I’m sorry. Love for me is to kill your ego and say sorry when you have hurt your beloved.

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Paisa haath ka dhool

or so I have to believe because somehow my savings remain miraculously zero month after month.After month.

How do I do this is beyond my analytical capability (itna Quant aata to aaj IIMA ke passout hote, Europe based consulting firm main kaam karte)

Anyhow not a small part of my salary goes to paying for the” dream job for drivers “. You see when I had brought a shining new vehicle and was driving one day, minding my own business a bullet riding fellow suddenly had the urge to land on my lap-through the door. The impact was so huge there was a hole in the left passenger door. Yes and I had to replace the door of my then 2 weeks old vehicle. So now I have this fellow (at the insistance of my folks) who sits next to me while I drive and keeps giving gyaan like chalo madam-slow madam-accelerate madam. I would have laughed at the comedy in the scenario if I werent paying him a bomb for this 1 hour advice everyday.

Also since mom and dad have a put a pause on unneccessary shopping I have been diverting those funds to buying books as if all bookshops will disappear overnight. I start every new book almost as soon as I reach home.The new book smell is intoxicating. Then after chapter 3 it lies by my bedside for me to read the rest. There is a miniature leaning tower of Pisa situatuin happening there which is a testimonial to the number of books I have started and left alone. The only two books I did finish in the new year are

  • Hossini’s “A Thousand Splendid Suns”, a brilliant follow up on The Kiterunner-describing the story of 2 women as Afghanistan transitions from monarchy to short lived socialism to Soviet inavsion to finally Taliban’s rule. A lot of people have described it as depressing but I felt the message was of hope. For a better tomorrow.
  • Sidin Vadukut’s  “Dork”. Its funny, irreverent and paisa vasool. I was bit apprehensive about the whole blogger turned writer after “My friend sancho”‘s anti climax.

Also I bought Dork via Flipkart and lets say I was thrilled. I got a discount, book was in top notch condition and they delivered within 4 working days. When I told this to a friend, she introduced me to a fantastic library instead-Just books. They have multiple locations and a good collection, so Bangloreans would want to check it out. But I love new books, I love their smell, I love their touch, I love seeing them on my bedside or in the shelf so Crosswords/landmarks underlying volume growth will continue.

I am currently reading “Lolita” by Nobokov and the book is making me really, really uncomfortable. Its like reading the minds of those peverted “uncles” who hit on young girls-which is pretty much what the story is about. There is also Bridges of Madison County and Pahmuk’s Snow to go through and Shantaram which I have been trying to finish for over an year now I think.

Inexplicably I have ballooned again over last few months. My trousers had been protesting for sometime which I attributed to everything from heavy lunch, water retention to PMS. But finally I was going through some snaps of Innovative filmcity (India’s err…answer to Sentosa?) and I kept searching for myself till I realised you know that big fat face in the centre was mine. So I sneakily got on a weighing machine soon after and yes the numbers didnt lie-am back to 2008-nice south indian actress plumpness. So I dejectedly walked back to renew my membership at the gym next door. I think since the entire Bangalore has decided to work out as well, the gym is literally overflowing with people. In our aerobics class where we are packed like sardines and expected to jump and run around,the 6 footer in front of me landed me a few punches in all his enthusiasm. I returned the favor the next day by stomping on his foot. Twice. He has since maintained his distance.

Now I need to think of a good ending to this post. Not happening on an empty stomach in the morning. So got to go now,ciao!

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Elementary my dear WSW!

I saw Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes today. I had at some point in my life-I think class 8th to be precise read through the entire volume of Arthur Conan Doyle’s series. And Ritchie has totally turned my imagination on its head. I had never imagined Holmes to have joined a fight club for hobby and somehow I always imagined Watson as this “healthy” jolly doctor not a lean and mean wise cracking Jude Law(who on an aside I have always found ehmm very desirable, even with the receding hairline). I totally loved the movie. To see 221 Baker Street, the old world Holmes deduction based on logic unlike the cutting edge CSI’s of today. And I loved the humor.


Thrillers were my chosen genre for majority of my growing up years. I first read through Famous Five, then came the obsession with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Nancy Drew was my aspiration-she was smart, total kickass not to mention good looking and had Ned Nickerson for a boyfriend. So closely did we follow her adventures that I remember dicussing her break up with Ned in one of the Nancy Drew files cases with my friend S the entire lunch break.
Soon a time came when I could predict the villian before Nancy could and it was time to move on to Jeffrey Archers and Robert Ludlums. I wanted to be a terribly attractive and brilliant doctor as I raced through Robin Cook’s latest or a criminal lawyer who took on life-threatening cased a-la John Grisham’s heroes.

For some one whose life was restricted beyond words to a 2 room flat, I lived vicariously through these heroes and heroines from another’s imagination as they leaped frog over dangers, encountered villians who would stoop to any level and displayed heroism beyond words to have a last chapter happy ending.

With age and freedom now I read about battered housewives and other chronicles of our lives and times. I dont remember the last thriller I read-I guess it would have been “the Da-Vinci Code” some 4 years ago.

But seeing one of my favorite heroes on screen brought back such fond memories. I really wish they would make “The hound of Baskerville”-my first Holmes novel and perhaps the first adult thriller I ever read.

 
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Posted by on January 26, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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Books I have been reading-I

I am thinking of asking the bank where the salary slip comes to auto transfer the money at month beginning to Shopper Stop’s(and through them Crosswords) coffers considering how berserk one has been going at both these establishments of the late stocking up on things one doesnt need.

So what have we been devouring?

1. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell

Prof.Obvious indeed! The book claims we never ask the highly successful people-the outliers the correct question-their success is not because of who they are but rather is a function of where they came from. In short

opportunity+ability=outliers

No wonderful surprises there but the book is told in a lucid fashion with simple language and enough anecdotal evidences to keep you hooked till the last chapter where the book turns autobiographical. The other interesting and I guess new theory propounded in the book is that it takes 10,000 hours of experience at any art/work for one to become truly good at it,abilities aside. Yes he has put a figure to it-10,000 hours.

All these theories are propounded not in so-bored-i-can-sleep-with-eyes-open fashion but interesting stories from life (though primarily American) of people we have admired for long as well as curious stats. Sample, why are most Canadian hockey players or American baseball players born in the months of January to March? No Linda Goodman’s star signs has nothing to do with it 🙂

2. Don’t lose your mind, lose your weight by Rujuta Diwekar

Rujuta for those who arent as celebrity obsessed as me happens to be the lady behind Kareena’s size zero figure. Her diet advice is mostly sensible but its her english that is terrible, horrible and every other adjective which can convey similar emotions. We read how Karisma was dabaoing(Rujuta’s favorite word by frequency of appearence) chips, she was doubtful if a client was line maroing her or Kareena’s “Shit ya“. You recoil at what is equivelant of literary lunch comprising Cheeseburst pizza with bucket of  Pepsi being thrust at you through the Hinglish she uses.

In case you dont have the patience of going through the book, the four mantras are:

1. Do not begin your day with tea/coffee

2. Eat every 2 hours. Not elephantine meals but mini meals and 3 regular ones.

3. Exercise. (Yeah no escape)

4. I forgot. I think it was to be happy.Errr…

3. The woman who thought she was a planet by Vandana Singh

I think the book jacket is very wrong in proclaiming this as a Sci-Fi collection. Its more about the alienation in daily life than aliens arriving in saucer shaped ships. Although a couple of the stories are actually about space travel and tetrahedron shaped alien crafts, I believe even these stories focused more on space between people. Overall I was not spell bound by the short story collection.

4. Kleptomania by Manjula Padmanabhan

After Escape my expectations were sky high and in usual fashion they took a severe beating. This short story collection left me underwhelmed because it was like the author was trying too hard to shock, or tie up loose ends. I havent finished the book 2 months after buying it as I have lost the initial enthusiasm.

5. Kari-a graphic novel by Amruta Patil

Maybe am not mature enough to understand the subtleties but I dont think the story made much sense (it ended with a to be continued, so maybe it wasnt all my fault). Neither am I waiting with bated breath for the sequel nor am I venturing to buy any other graphic novel any time soon.

What I bought over the weekend and am eagerly finishing are The Palace of Illusions-Panchali’s Mahabharata by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and The Female Brain by Louann Brezindine.

Next post will have more details on these two books.

Oh and I lie sniffling, wheezing like a 60 year old in my bed with Cold and Glycodin induced delusional dreams of a tub of BaskinRobbins finest and I haven’t seen Dilli-6 yet.Sob!

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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