My journey with books

The dark ages – Up to my 8th class, I never realised the wonder of books. I was coaxed, requested, ordered to read books as my father’s side of the family is what I used to call them ‘book bees’, as I didn’t know the term book worm existed. This was the era when I couldn’t understand why people read books.

Enlightenment – Times change and so do people, I am known among my close friends as the person who loves books and with a set of my close friends I enjoy some wonderful conversations on books of various genres. The motivation to read books came in when my scores in English language in school were dropping and I picked my first Enid Blyton in 8th (yes, pretty late in life). I went on to discover couple of wooden boxes full of some priceless classics. Our school curriculum was fantastic and we were lucky to have Ms. Rebeiro as our English teacher who brought Shakespeare’s As you like it alive in the class, along with some excellent collection of poems from ‘Flights of Fancy’.

I was encouraged by my folks. Mom is an excellent story teller and she described one of her favourite books, Jeffrey Archer’s As the Crow Flies, to me in vivid detail. This sealed the deal and I made my transition to adult novels. I suddenly was able to relate to my paternal grandmother a lot better. We discussed David Copperfield and she gave me her copy of Anna Karenina. This was engineering and there was no turning back. I never remember travelling without a book from then on.

Present day – Marriage slowed things down with priorities creeping in, but my daughter’s arrival brought things to such a stand still which I had never imagined. It was unprecedented and I didn’t touch a book for close to a year. Sleep took a priority over other things in life.

A’s gift of a kindle brought back what my soul was craving for. And yesterday, thanks to my cousin ‘A’, I revisited my personal collection of books and realised exactly what makes me so happy.

The feeling is simply superb and I am sure all my friends who share my passion second it.

The ‘Kubla Khan’ syndrome

Talking about inspirations and brain wave, every person would always have at least one exact spot or place where these ideas strike like lightening.

These brain waves are crucial to one’s life. Otherwise just imagine, we wouldn’t have discovered so many things and Archimedes wouldn’t have said, “Eureka!”

I had a friend in school and for her the spot was her morning loo time. If we were pondering upon a problem, then she would come back with her solution and sometimes brain wave after her morning visits. Back then when she shared it, I was amused and wondered how it could happen. Looking at it closely, it probably reflects two things:

  1. It is probably a point in a day when you are concentrating on the problem or conundrum at hand and the entire mind’s focus, both conscious and the sub-conscious are in unison
  2. It is probably also a time when you think about things that you are most interested in and your brain likes it

This goes to show that when we work in concentrated spurts of time (say 60-90mins) then our brain is most focused on the one thing we are working on and hence the productivity is very high. Secondly, you should always pick the work that you enjoy most to do, then it stops being work and something you enjoy doing and as a by product make money too.

An ideal situation which is not easy to achieve, however not impossible either.

Coming back to my ‘spot’ of enlightenment, well it is that time in the night, when I lie down to sleep and the lights are out that some of my finest thoughts flow. I am too lazy to make a note of such thoughts and more often they have just remained the passing thoughts. I am trying to put a special effort in trying to remember these thoughts, as I never know I might be a good writer too 🙂

I call this the ‘Kubla Khan’ syndrome because Samuel Taylor Coleridge, had once a dream of a beautiful poem in his sleep and when he woke up and started writing. He could only note down a third of it before being interrupted. That poem was named The Kubla Khan. The beauty of this incomplete poem lies in the literary merit and richness of the composition and it is regarded as one of the best composition’s of Coleridge. It does tend to get incoherent like all dreams, but has a lot of merit to it. It was inducted as a part of our school literature course and least to say, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Kubla Khan
By Samuel Taylor Coleridge

In Xanadu did Kublai Khan
A stately Pleasure-Dome decree,
Where Alph, the sacred river ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers was girdled ’round,
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But, oh! That deep, romantic chasm which slanted
Down the green hill, athwart a cedarn cover:
A savage place! As holy and enchanted
As e’er beneath the waning moon was haunted
By woman wailing for her Demon Lover!
And from this chasm with ceaseless turmoil seething,
As if this Earth in fast, thick pants were breathing,
A mighty fountain momently was forced,
Amid whose swift, half-intermitted burst
Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,
Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail;
And ‘midst these dancing rocks at once and ever,
It flung up momently the sacred river!
Five miles meandering with ever a mazy motion,
Through wood and dale the sacred river ran,
Then reached the caverns measureless to man,
And sank in tumult to a lifeless ocean.
And ‘mid this tumult, Kublai heard from far
Ancestral voices prophesying war!

The shadow of the Dome of Pleasure
Floated midway on the waves,
Where was heard the mingled measure
From the fountain and the caves.
It was a miracle of rare device:
A sunny Pleasure-Dome with caves of ice!

A damsel with a dulcimer
In a vision once I saw:
It was an Abyssinian maid,
And on her dulcimer she played,
Singing of Mount Abora.
Could I revive within me
Her symphony and song,
To such deep delight ‘twould win me
That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome within the air!
That sunny dome, those caves of ice,
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry: “Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle ’round him thrice,
And close your eyes in holy dread:
For he on honeydew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise!”

 

A Reply

This morning S asked me to find an online copy of Atlas Shrugged and it wasn’t tough to find one. He was interested in a particular section and when he sent the extract over, my mind felt refreshed!

  • I remembered why I love her writing so much.
  • I fell in love with Ayn Rand once again.
  • I could verbalise one of the reasons why I left Infosys.
  • I remembered those moments when I felt lonely at work.
  • I realised how much I hate mediocrity.

So here goes the extract from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged –

Miss Taggart, do you know the hallmark of the second-rater? It’s resentment of another man’s achievement. Those touchy mediocrities who sit trembling lest someone’s work prove greater than their own—they have no inkling of the loneliness that comes when you reach the top. The loneliness for an equal— for a mind to respect and an achievement to admire. They bare their teeth at you from out of their rat holes, thinking that you take pleasure in letting your brilliance dim them—while you’d give a year of your life to see a flicker of talent anywhere among them. They envy achievement, and their dream of greatness is a world where all men have become their acknowledged inferiors. They don’t know that that dream is the infallible proof of mediocrity, because that sort of world is what the man of achievement would not be able to bear. They have no way of knowing what he feels when surrounded by inferiors—hatred? no, not hatred, but boredom the terrible, hopeless, draining, paralyzing boredom. Of what account are praise and adulation from men whom you don’t respect? Have you ever felt the longing for someone you could admire? For something, not to look down at, but up to?

PS: The post is dedicated to S who sent it and ‘S2‘ whom I love and look up to and admire. Also to all those whom I respect.

2 States – The story of my marriage

Finally Chetan Bhagat came close to what he had created with FPS!

Yes, 2 States is a much better book when compared to Bhagat’s previous attempts post FPS. The book  has a certain element of suspense, adventure, twists and fun. Light reading as ever, Bhagat’s style was written all over it.

The characters are identifiable to common man and situations, in most cases, very likely to happen in reality. Krish, our hero is an IIM A pass out and his heroine Ananya is an intelligent ‘Tamilian’ not a Madrasi also his batch mate at IIM A. The best part about this book was the way Bhagat describes the cultural disparities between a Punjabi and a Tamilian family. Their reactions are so typical and for someone who has seen both Punjabis and Tamilians from close quarters can identify with and enjoy thoroughly.

The story’s end is predictable, but the way things come about and the reactions of various characters is what makes the book fun – the typical loud Punjabis vis-a-vis the quiet Tamilians. I always felt that marrying someone from a different state wouldn’t go down easily with parents and this trauma is very well described in the book. Parents are never ready to accept someone who is from a different community and especially someone whom the child chooses. It is but understandable from their end, but makes it tough for the children. A certain degree of ‘arranged marriage’ stuff needs to be there in the marriage for them to feel good. Moreover, in India, it is not two individuals marrying, it is their families and a match of their status in the society. So the book talks about all this and more in a nice manner.  I felt that the physical relation between the couple, prior to the marriage, has become common, but my parents’ generation would not be ready to accept it.

I always felt that one could enjoy a book much more when one can readily identify with it and that is what Bhagat is so good at. No wonder his books sell like hot cakes. So pick your copy or download it and breeze through it –  a fun read.

PS: One thing for sure that all the North Indians ought to realise is that there are four main states in the South of India and not all south Indians are ‘Madrasis’ and the language they speak is not ‘Madrasi’. It can be Telugu, Tamil, Kanada or Malyalam, at the least. (This message comes out partially in the book and I wanted to emphasize this for the Northies.)

30 Days of April!

With slight hitches and glitches, some dated entries, I finally managed to complete my Blog-A-Thon for the month of April, 2009. 

I must admit that writing everyday was a challenge and some of my articles were not upto the mark. But I felt that this regularity helped me to write better and more in this one month on some topics I wouldn’t ideally have dealt with. 

Over all a great experience and I hope that my readers liked it. 

I hope to be much more regular and conduct some more Blog-A-Thons in the future.

Harry Potter

With the release of the seventh and final book of the Harry Potter Series over two years back, I presume the Pottermania has come down. As a result making Ms.J.K.Rowling, extremely rich and the another possible good out of it could be that, it made many children read. Children of today hardly know of Enid Blyton’s and no wonder being a soft skills trainer, I have some work to do. 

I initially took to books pretty late in life and was skeptical about Harry Potter too. My cousin who is a big, big Potter fan or rather wizard got me reading the first book and finally after two years of the final come out I got the time to start with the last book. 

The easy and simple writing style that is called low fog index and a desirable quality in good writing is one of the primary reasons for HP’s phenomenal success. No wonder Panchatantra stories and Mahabharata and Ramayana epics have been such a big hit with the hids. All the wizardy or the magic involves makes these book surreal.

I like them because they feed the imagination for the child within me. 

If you haven’t read it, I think you should. No reason why you won’t enjoy and for all Potter fans – Happy Potter Mania!

AWAD

I don’t quite remember as to how did I first come across AWAD – A Word A Day or Wordsmith, but it surely has changed my outlook towards words and transcended my love for them to a new level altogether. 

Wordsmith is a daily newsletter that sends you a word a day. Started by Mr. Anu Garg, it is one of the most enterprising and lovable daily newsletters that one can get. 

The magic of words — that’s what A.Word.A.Day (AWAD) is about.We are a community of more than 700,000 linguaphiles in at least 200 countries. You too can sign up to receive the daily newsletter.

Come, explore the world of words, share, and delight in the joy of words.

The best part of this newsletter is that every week, there is a certain theme and under that one will get to learn 5 new words in that week. I have shifted accounts, but remain subscribed to this wonderful and highly dedicated newsletter. It is a wonder to note that the range of topics never seem to end and the continuity is impeccable. All this, and one gets to learn a new word at the end of it, along with its usage, as provided in an example. 

Added to all this, I love the introductions that are given to each theme. 

One example of the weekly theme : 

 

Winning even one Nobel Prize is a big deal. Marie Curie received two

(in physics and chemistry). But then hers was a family of high achievers:

her husband, their daughter, and their son-in-law were also Nobel

laureates.

 Similarly, having one’s name turned into a word in the language is a rare

feat. Yet there are some, both real and fictional characters, who have

accomplished this more than once. This week we feature five such people.

And Marie, well, she too had had two words coined after her: Curie, a unit

of radioactivity, and curium, a radioactive element.

This week’s theme: People who have more than one eponym coined after them

And the words for that week were:

  • ciceronian
  • maudlin
  • hermetic
  • Cadmean victory
  • Pickwickian

To get to know more about the words and to revel in this lovely world of words visit – Wordsmith and subscribe to AWAD.