Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Tuesdays with Morrie

Title: Tuesdays with Morrie
Author: Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom loved his sociology professor in the University during his college days, and attended every lecture of his. But, as time flew after graduation, the University and the professor both slip from his mind for a long period, until he learns that his favourite professor is in his last days. Tuesdays with Morrie is the collection of discussions that Albom has with his professor Morrie every Tuesday, just like he used to during the University days. The book is a collection of conversations that Albom has with Morrie on the last few months approaching the professor's death. The conversations are open, thoughtful discussions on a wide array of themes including love, work, community, family, aging, forgiveness, and, finally, death.

Tuesdays with Morrie feels like you are reading a story, rather than a non-fiction. It shows Albom's journey in figuring out what these things mean to him, with the help of Morrie's narration of his own story. Morrie's story is touching, real, and gives Albom a guidance to figure out what life means to him. Albom describes this book as "one long paper on what was learned". And, I think that's the best one-line summation that anyone can give about this work.

We all have a professor or teacher either in our schooling or during our University days whom we looked up to and had meaningful conversations with. We tended to attend every lecture of theirs, look forward to their classes, be curious about their views, and seek help and guidance from them when we find ourselves stumbling with baffling and deep questions. All of us have experienced something like this in someone, even if it wasn't our teacher- it could have been a friend, our parents, siblings, grandparents, or anybody. So, I think it is very relatable to see where the story is coming from. 

However, you cannot seek answers in the book. The book is just about the process that the author went through while discovering the meaning of life with his professor. The book is a beautiful record of how he meandered through his thoughts, and how he took the story of Morrie. And, according to me, what the book ultimately tells the reader is not the answers in themselves, but to stop, speculate, introspect, and take the interest to find the meaning for yourself. 

I really like the book, and especially its narration. The conversational tone that is maintained makes the whole process of reading the discussions pleasant and evoking. I really liked how there were no conclusions concretely established, and how Albom stood by the simple narration of his views, and let the reader think for themselves. Such narrative makes the reader enjoy the book much better, whatever subject it is on. 

I enjoyed reading it very much. It's a lovely read!

Monday, June 29, 2020

Murder In Beltour | Chapter 04 | Sunanda

Dev was taken inside by a boy who must have been sixteen or seventeen years.

“Straight in. You see the cabin?” asked the boy, pointing his hand towards an opaque wooden door.

“Yes, thank you,” said Dev. The boy nodded, and went back to the front porch to assume his usual position.

Dev walked up to the door, but stopped. He examined the heavy rosewood door on which a shiny plate carried the name of the person whom he had decided to meet- Sunanda Amble. With a sigh, he pushed the door open.

Inside, was a lean, young woman, poised on a high, fashionable chair, who must have been no more than twenty-five. She was wearing a skinny jean, and a crisp, white formal shirt, that fit on her perfectly. Her springy hair was pulled back in a tight ponytail that fell down till  her shoulders. She had a tight, formal smile on her face. Her hands were rested on the teak table in front of her chair.

Sunanda gestured Dev to sit down in the chair in front of hers with a wave of her hand.

“Yes, Mr. Som? You-” Dev cut her mid sentence.

“Just Dev, please,” said Dev. Sunanda smiled tightly.

“You must be here with a reason. I guess you know me, but for formality's sake- I am Sunanda Amble. I am a private detective. I am in no way affiliated or associated with any firm or establishment. I have my own contacts when I need information. I respect my clients’ privacy, and anything that you say here doesn’t go out beyond that rosewood door. So, please go on,” she said in a breathless, quick string of sentences, smiling her tight smile.

“Okay. I-I-” he mumbled, not knowing how to start. “All right, I have reason to believe I am not like any other regular client of yours. Before I say anything, I need a hundred-percent guarantee that nothing ever ever-”

Sunanda gave a firm assurance of confidentiality. Dev still felt nervous. He wasn't sure, now that he had come so far, whether he was doing the right thing. He would get eliminated from the face of Earth in no time, if found.

“Okay, okay. See… Let's get this straight,” said Dev, looking right at Sunanda. “If anything ever goes wrong in this process I might be as well dead as a doornail.”

“What do you do?”

“You could call me something like an ex-criminal,” Dev said, finally gaining confidence about the idea.

“How much of an ex exactly? Two, three years before?”

“Till yesterday.” Sunanda’s brows rose in a question, but she said nothing.

Dev, who was fidgeting with a pen on the table, put his hands a little farther away on the table- more to the lady’s side than his. And, immediately, an alarm started ringing. The footsteps of the boy on the porch could be heard in the corridor connecting the porch and the room.

Dev, reflexively, swooped down and cut the alarm. Sunanda looked down, rooted in her spot, her eyes wide and suspicious at the man- Dev Som as he called himself.

“Miss is in trouble?” cried the boy, as he burst inside the room.

“No, thank you, Raghav. It was an accident,” said Sunanda, calmly, and sent the boy off.

“What was that for?” asked Dev sharply, as soon as the boy went away.

“You kept your hand rather far away from yourself, on the table. Very much on my side… I happen to be in a field where I talk to a lot of people, like an ex-criminal,” said Sunanda, slowly, taking a look at her client in detail for the first time.

“No, but it is this alarm…The alarm only the workers of the Boss have, how? Who are you? Did you work for him, too?” Dev said to her, his eyes boring into hers.

“And you knew how to switch it off, which only some of the men of the Boss know to do,” she replied, her tone exactly matching his. There were a couple of moments of silence. Then she broke it by a simple question.

“When did he quit you?”

After a few moments of more silence, Dev said softly, “Yesterday.”

“And, why are you here?”

“I want you to take up the Beltour case, I want to remedy what the Boss started through me.”

*

Read Chapter 5!

Sunday, June 28, 2020

What Is Good Comedy?

Comedy and humour has always been and will always be something that we all connect to as humans. In today's world, we have many different platforms to express humour- even as a profession! There can be different kinds of comedy on places, things, practices, customs, norms, people, anything and everything. So, what is good comedy? Is there anything called good comedy?

Well, you might say that a good comedy is one that can make it's audience laugh- that's basic. Is there any other parameter? For a statement or an act to become comedy there are two parts that we can clearly see: 
1. Someone must do the act or make the statement/story/etc.
2. Some others, hopefully a majority, must find it to be funny.
You cannot claim something to be a comedy. It must be one, and that is solely decided by whether there are people who find it funny. If no one finds it funny other than yourself, you can't really call it comedy. So, the second part basically decides whether it is a comedy or not. We all know this, and this is not what I am here to talk about. I want to talk about the third factor. As long as there are people who crack the joke, and people who enjoy/feel-bored, it is absolutely fine. The problem arises as to the question of whether it is good comedy only when there is a third factor of people (the ones closely associated with your joke, and a majority in that sample space) who are hurt.

What is good comedy? People laughing at jokes may not make it a good joke. A good joke, ideally, should be one that is enjoyable the most to the person or the group of persons connected to the place/person/act/practice that you joke about. In a not-so-ideal situation, you can water down the "most enjoyable part" to at least "not hurt". It ceases to be a joke when there is someone hurt by it. 

The person not being "sportive" enough, or not taking it "like a joke", is never a reason to justify their hurt. Being sportive or not is their choice. Since you are drawing fun at their expense, you don't have the right to overstep beyond what they give happily. I think this is the primary difference between classic, enjoyable, observant, and truly witty humour to that of insensitivity in the guise of humour. 

In today's world of memes and stand-up comedies, and several other expressions of humour through books, movies, theatre, art, and what not, it is better for all of us to carry this thought, and make humour stay true to its sense. 

I love humour, it is one my favourite genres to read. I love the subtle yet strong English humour of Wodehouse, and the sarcastic humour of Shaw. I also have loved and read essays and writings of Robert Fulghum, Erma Bombeck, and recently read hilarious ones such as The Mezzanine, and Me Talk Pretty One Day

After all, as Erma Bombeck said:
"When humor goes, there goes civilization."

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Murder In Beltour | Chapter 03 | Diya

Diya and Saira were standing outside the hostel. The fire that had happened a couple of days ago caused a major destruction to the hostel, and all the residents were shifted to another building temporarily inside the campus of the University. A girl had died in the fire, and that had set the University and the residents on a binge-discussion. Diya and Saira were no different from the rest of the University residents.

“But, how? How did the fire break? The college is not disclosing the cause of the fire, how is it possible that they haven’t figured that yet?” said Diya, incredulously. She had been tripping on the thought of how careless and off-handed the University seemed about giving them the concrete answers that they deserved. Well, if the house is set of fire, then there better be answers for those living in it!

“There are rumours that this was not a mishap, and it’s an attack of some sort. But I think that’s absurd,” commented Saira, gazing on the burnt walls in the upper part of the hostel, partially collapsed. “What do you think?”

“I don’t know… There are too many questions, most of them vague and improbable, if you consider it to be an attack,” speculated Diya. “But, there are also weirdly pieced facts that the University has told us. How is it that no one except Ruchi was in that part of the hostel when the fire broke out? Isn’t it odd considering that we all know the third floor corner is one of busiest? Most of the rooms there are occupied. Also, I didn’t really see much of Ruchi before this incident. Maybe something was wrong.”

“Suicide?”

“Really? Burning down a hostel? I don’t think, though we never know anything about these things. I hope the University gives us some explanation.”

“Well,” started Saira, in a long, stretched out tone. “We have to just wait and watch I guess.”

“There is no time to wait, come on Saira. Why is the administration so quiet about this? I feel like something is amiss.”

“Let’s not overthink where we don’t even have the base to think.”

The sound of a car pulling up near them, in front of the hostel, cut off their conversation. A lean, young woman stepped out of the car, dressed in a casual pair of jeans, a white tee, and sneakers. She had a small duffel on her back and she tugged it as she stood observing the slightly dilapidated structure. Soon, the authorities of the University came along, and the woman exchanged curt pleasantries with them.

“So, shall we head in? I’d suggest as few of you to accompany me as possible. Two is the cap,” she said, briskly and in a matter-of-work tone.

“We are very thankful to you, Sunanda, for agreeing to come today,” said the Dean as he, Sunanda, and one more faculty walked into the hostel. “This is a matter of the highest urgency to us.”

Diya and Saira looked at the woman going inside, each speculating in silence as to who it could be. Finally, Saira broke the silence.

“Let’s go grab something to eat, I’m starving,” she said. A notification sound made them both turn to its source. It was from inside the car. Saira ignored when she realized it was the phone that was inside on the seat of the car. But, Diya looked in for a few more seconds, and her eyes fell on the screen. Her heart pounded, and her eyes widened. The lit home screen had one short message from the Boss.
Let go of the Beltour case, and I’ll spare you.
*

Friday, June 26, 2020

Me Talk Pretty One Day


Title: Me Talk Pretty One Day
Author: David Sedaris

Sedaris tries to live his life in France without knowing French, and tries to get away without learning, after some frustrating attempts. Drowned generously in humour, Sedaris's comic essays are a riot of laughter to read! Me Talk Pretty One Day is split into two parts- part one, and part deux. The first, about his life before shifting to France, and the second, about life in France. The second part has some of the finest humour and very relatable essays that I have read, that primarily included grounded and hilarious speculations by Seadris and his partner Hugh. 

My favourite chapters were ones where Sedaris hilariously takes on IQ tests. I loved the general thoughts on languages and learning it. It was very, very relatable. The keen observations, and the blunt honesty in those words make you giggle. This is a book that everyone can relate to, or draw parallels from! It's witty, and bitter, and delightful- all at the same time. And, that is what makes this book a really fun read.

If you are one of those people who start looking for some meaning to extract from a book, maybe this one isn't for you. A book need not always give you a coherent message, and in fact, like I said in my review of The Mezzanine, books and essays that are written with good humour and keen observation can be a pleasure to read sans any concrete story or message. In fact, it is the absurdity of it all that makes the read that much more fun. Sedaris is a very quirky writer, and to me this book was absolutely enjoyable. 
"When you publish a book, you expect that somebody somewhere will buy it. What you don’t expect, and what I’ve never quite gotten over, is that they may actually read it as well. Everything else is gravy."
And well, what Sedaris may not have expected is that his readers not only buy the book and read it, but also are absolutely entertained by the lovable banter and fine humour! The narration is sparkling and takes us through a ride of sweet, bitter and funny struggle of the writer and his life in France!

I loved it!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Longfellow on 'Old Age'

Old age is something inevitable for all of us. Today, I read this piece by Wadsworth on Old Age from my collection- The Complete Poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Since I liked it very much, I wanted to share this beautiful piece with you all. So, here you go:

The course of my long life hath reached at last,
In fragile bark o'er a tempestuous sea,
The common harbor, where must rendered be
Account of all the actions of the past.
The impassioned phantasy, that, vague and vast,
Made art an idol and a king to me,
Was an illusion, and but vanity
Were the desires that lured me and harassed.
The dreams of love, that were so sweet of yore,
What are they now, when two deaths may be mine,—
One sure, and one forecasting its alarms?
Painting and sculpture satisfy no more
The soul now turning to the Love Divine,
That oped, to embrace us, on the cross its arms.

Hope you enjoyed it!

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Weaving A Web Of Equal Resources and Abundant Opportunities

The internet has opened so many portals for so many industries, since its advent. One of the most important changes that it has created is our perception on how to learn today. Any skill, any subject, any opportunity can be utilized and learnt over the web today. We have brilliant platforms such as Coursera that let you do full professionally recognized courses and issue certificates that have value. In fact, the web has transcended borders to make available the best of things in the world in your six inch smartphone screen. 

While it is fair to debate whether all of us can afford to access the internet itself, I am sure affording a course from Yale wouldn’t be possible too for those who couldn’t afford an internet connection. The world is bridging a very significant gap of not having access to resources by putting out the platforms of education on the internet. And, it is much more affordable today than what it was before. 

Using the power of the virtual world to reach out to corners where it’d take another decade to make resources physically accessible is the very power of this medium. It is better to exploit technology to cover the wide gap of needs, and put it to use that can do the society a lot of good. Technology and the reach of the internet not only covers just rural set-ups, it covers especially the urban set-up where the needs are much more and yet the cost of living is ever-rising. 
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
― Nelson Mandela
We can educate ourselves, and contribute by sharing what we know- on the internet. Embracing this to push to a world where resources can be shared equally is a positive way of looking at it. There is no point just coming up with faults and loopholes in this system, and it is obvious that there will be. So, what we need to find are solutions to fix them, and treat this as an opportunity to make the world a place with equal opportunities.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Murder In Beltour | Chapter 02 | Dev

‘QUIT’ said the message.

Dev couldn’t believe it. It seemed to have come right from the ‘Boss’. He stared at the piece of paper that had come to him, through a known messenger, sealed tightly. He read it again carefully, though there wasn’t much to read. 

    Well done Dev. Mission successful. Now QUIT before death. Else, death awaits in an hour. -Boss    (12.15)

Why would his Boss do this? Ask him to quit when he has just achieved his position in the brotherhood? Something was amiss. He was completely shaken. He really hadn’t expected anything of this kind to happen. The message was already old by three-quarters of an hour. He read the message again. Was this a code to a new mission? Didn't seem like that. What should he do now? He had two choices. One, to go and quit from the brotherhood, like what the message asked him to do. Two, wait and see till the end of the hour, hoping that the message has a side meaning or some clue for him. 

Conveniently, Dev chose to do the second. He just couldn't fathom being thrown away like that after all that he had worked. The last quarter was passed with tense silence and repetitive reading of that single-lined text. The clock ticked away till 01.15. Dev breathed a sigh of relief allowing a snug smile tug at his lips. Just then, the doorbell rang. Dev’s heart leapt at the unexpected ringing. Fear gripped him again. He opened the door slowly. To his extreme relief, the face of whom-he-thought-a-friend peered at him with a grin.

“Thank God! It’s you! Come on in, I have the most bizzare-” said Dev opening the door wide. 

The next thing that Dev knew was a hard jab on his face, and a punch landing on his gut. He fell to the floor writhing in pain. The man stepped in deftly, leaving the door half closed. 

“You should have gone after the warning message from the Boss!” said the man, with a derisive, ridiculing look that spelled you-aren't-good-enough. 

“Yash? You are not here to kill me! I am your friend- we are like family!” said Dev, panic rising and his voice quavering, as he clutched his abdomen and managed himself on to the feet. 

“Anything to please the boss, buddy. He is family. Not you, not anyone,” laughed the man.

“Yash, Yash, no! You will not do it!” pleaded Dev. A blow on his nose again sent Dev doubling on the floor holding a bloody nose. But this time, the door was on his side. “Yash, Yash, stop!” he cried.

Yash slowly took out from his pocket a dagger. Realization crashed on Dev. It couldn’t be, but it was. Dev searched his adversary's eyes for a non-existent sign of hope that he wouldn't do it. Yash wouldn’t hesitate a moment to stab him dead. Yash advanced, ruthlessly, slowly and steadily, eyeing his target and not wavering for even a fraction of a moment.

“Yash! This will not help you. Where will you go after you kill me? You will be dead! Boss will do away with you, too. I just realized that, he doesn't care. Don’t-for both our lives! Just stop, and we can set things right. We have a chance, Yash, listen to me,” whispered Dev, as fear wouldn’t allow him to be any louder. 

Dev, didn’t know what to do. His breathing was becoming heavier. Yash was near, advancing closer. Suddenly, with a spurt of courage from an undefined source, he pushed open the door near him, and sprinted down the alley with all his energy to God-knows-where. Behind him, he heard his attacker’s footsteps for what seemed a long time. Then it suddenly died. But, Dev continued running, on and on and on, until he crashed down on the street, unable to move any more. Exhaustion took over as the world went black for the young man.

After many hours, he woke up with a start, to find himself on the hard tar road. A few moments of confusion was followed by a hard-hitting recount of everything that happened, and it felt to him like a hard punch on the gut that leaving him in writhing pain. He realized fully well what his position was. 

No home. No job. No money. But, an opportunity to set things right.

*

Monday, June 22, 2020

5 Fun Reading Lists With Something For Each Of Us

Have you already read all the books on your list? Looking for good resources to fill up your reading list again? Check out some of these brilliant reading lists that can get you going for the next few months. Also, most of these resource links have further links inside them to guide you to several more interesting reading lists on their website! 

1. For those who love the solved and unsolved mysteries of Science, and the men and machines behind it, check out this wonder list of The Greatest Science Books of 2016, a treasure compilation by none other than our favourite brainpicker! Popova writes in her introduction to the list:
"The question of what makes a great book of any kind is, of course, a slippery one, but I recently endeavored to synthesize my intuitive system for assessing science books that write up to the reader in a taxonomy of explanation, elucidation, and enchantment."
The books in this list seem very interesting, and are essentially a part of my to-read list. Hope I can get to them soon, covering a few of them before college reopens!
 
 2. For the authors, writers, and all those who love the craft of literary expression: how about Hemingway's list of essential books for aspiring writers? Because, Hemingway believed and said:
"As a writer you should not judge. You should understand."
Writers can also check out this list of 24 books that shaped one of the greatest writers, Gabriel Garcia Márquez. This list looked so wholesome and endearing that I had to include it all in my own to-read lists!
 
3. Are you in the a-book-a-day-keeps-the-gloom-away phase? The Reader's Digest list on 18 classic books that you can read in a day is absolutely wonderful. This is a list I can endorse, having read some of the brilliant classics in the list such as The Little Prince, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451, The Great Gatsby, and many more!

4. Are you curious what other authors are themselves reading? I came across NY magazine's article- 23 Authors on 26 Books They’re Reading to Escape the Present Moment- a list that was chosen during these tough times to read, and escape to the better world among books, and also part of an "ongoing effort to provide productive distractions from what’s happening outside of your windows and on your screen" from the magazine! Do check them out, there are some very interesting titles from Hemingway to Austen to Phyllis Grant, and so many more! It's a fresh list, and something you should definitely check out.

5. Do you have young kids, brother or sisters around you? Do you want good books they can read during this lockdown? You can check out my reading lists where you'll also find a review for each book. You can also see my post on Literature For Young Girls, my all time favourite books, and other reading lists.

Check these links out in leisure, and do follow my blog to keep getting new suggestions and book reviews! Happy reading!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Murder In Beltour | Chapter 01 | Saira

Saira was lying on her bed, her back facing the ceiling, her mind and body in a deep lull. An old, battered ceiling fan spun at a disgraceful pace coupled with a brash, rattling sound that was an irritant to the ear and racket loud enough to have woken up the whole colony. But to Saira, the noise of the fan was soothing- a familiar, comforting and monotonous lullaby that kept to its reassuring rhythm in her world of chaos. 

A day in the life of Saira was made up of five hours of University lectures, another three hours of back-breaking academic work requirements of the University, a good solid period of relaxing after the long day that started as a break of one hour but extended to an ungraciously long five hours of wasting time, three hours of long, luxurious meals, two baths for an hour and a half each that wasted all the water resources available as Saira conveniently stood under the mellow, cool shower lost in her thoughts and unproductive daydreams, three hours of trying to sleep, and then a sleepless night. But every afternoon, Saira slept blissfully, like a child, like a warrior in peace, like a vagrant comes to rest, taking in the monotonous rattle of the fan as a child takes to the lullaby. 

Any student at the University of Beltour, a prestigious institution for the study of Law nestled in the heart of the small, bustling town of Beltour in the southern part of the country, was considered to be a top performer- an assumption the world made by default. Saira, like the rest of the other students in this University, was promised that the 'Beltour-ite' tag would ensure that the rest of her life is a heaven if she managed to clear the entrance requirements and aptitude tests for this University. And, Saira aced them to secure her seat. What a proud moment it was for all who knew her! And, what a relief it was for Saira who believed that her life is now set!

Diya was her best friend from school, and another girl who was promised a bright future on entry into the esteemed institute. And, they both got sailed through inside in a bout of success after their schooling. Diya had always been a natural fighter when thrown in a race of competition. She was the kind of winner one never felt bad losing to and who made it look like she deserved to win, and she always won. A happy girl with a breeze of confidence, and a steady look at her goal, her march to victory was mostly unwavering even when there was an equal match for her.

Saira always had a subliminal pride in her friend, something that went beyond the superficial successes and was more about her very spirit. The two of them had always dreamt of the day they would start something together, and watch it grow under them. They always saw their lives entwined as the best of friends- extending it to even their professions.

A loud thud on the door of the room made Saira jump up from her deep slumber. Someone was banging the door hard and calling out her name. And, along with the bang she heard a high-pitched siren. Her head spun in confusion. What in the world was happening? Was it a dream?

'Saira! Saira! Open the door,' yelled the girl outside.

'Who's it?' Saira called back, her cluttered mind unable to register or recognize the voice. Her heart was pounding fast from the sudden banging noise and the siren. Her reflexes were slow, and her eyes were hazy and unfocused. She got up to open the door, steadying herself.

As she pulled the door open, she saw Diya standing there.

'What's-' started Saira, her eyes wide awake and reflecting the alarm from the chaotic noise. Her nose caught the smell of smoke, and she gave a short cough.

'There's a fire in the hostel. Let's get out.'

*

Saturday, June 20, 2020

10 Things You Can Blog About

Do you have a blog? And, are there days when you don't know what to write about? Here are some ideas from what I have written about and explored in the last 194 days of blogging everyday across various subjects- books, movies, stories, art, life, law, and more!

1. Write about a hobby, or something that you learnt to make/do recently.
2. Review a book, movie, game, product, service, food, or anything at all that you used, watched, or read. 
3. Elaborate on a thought inside your head. 
4. Write about the favourite people you admire (with or without names).
5. Write about places. 
6. Write a poem.
7. Write a story, or you can run a chapter series with 1-2 chapters of your story every week. I'm thinking about trying this out. 
8. Pitch an idea. If you want to collaborate on something, then let people know how to contact you so that anyone who reads the post, and is interested to work with you, can ping you!
9. Share anything interesting that you came across in the recent past. Or, share the interesting resources that you use/come across with your readers.  
10. Rant. And, provide actionable solutions, if you can.

There are so many other ideas, and once you get that small hitch, it's happy writing till you hit that publish button. Keeping an editorial list ready to publish on your blog can take your writing a long way, because then you'd have something to go up anyway, and you would be stressing about what to write for what would go up on another day! This will make sure you aren't writing for the sake of just putting up something. 

If you enjoy reading my posts you can subscribe and read them in the comfort of your inbox!

Also, I have a series of chapters ready to roll out as an interesting short tale for you all, with two chapters coming out every week! I am very excited to have my first chapter up tomorrow! 
So stay tuned, and see you tomorrow!

Friday, June 19, 2020

The Muse Mode (And, Mood)

Art: by me :)
The environment you are in plays a big role on what thoughts come to you when you sit down to write a story. Essentially, to write a good story, you slip into what I'd call the 'muse mode' (or, muse mood- whichever way you like it!). 

So, what's the muse mode? The muse mode is when you stare into infinity, irrespective of whether it's an ocean or a wall in front of you, and you are lost in the deep muse of what your protagonist(s) sees and does. You live the experience as you write it. Though we write a novel, we actually see the events playing out as we write it and even when we read it. And, most often than not, you become the protagonist and see it through your eyes when you write the story. 

That has always been my experience. Whatever form of story it is- a novel, a play, a short story, whatever- the best pieces written are the ones where you lived them through while writing. That is why the setting that you are in can influence a lot. What you can write from your heart in a fresh, open space one serene morning, is different from what you can write in a cab stuck in traffic jam. There is no hierarchy in standard with respect to them, as long as they are written from the heart, living that moment. Sometimes, we may carry the feeling from the serene morning, and live through it again to write about it in a cab stuck in traffic. The muse mood is still about the morning! A virtual muse mood, without an actual setting that demands it, is also very much possible, at least for writers who love the story they are writing. But, it is not possible for me to write without creating this mood. 

So, identifying your muse mode and writing genuinely is what can make a story actually reach out to people. Anyone who writes would definitely understand what 'muse mood' that I am talking about. And, if you don't understand what this whole post is about, I have an interesting exercise for you. Write 3-4 pieces, preferably stories of about 500-1000 words each, and write them each in different settings, different times. Then, go back and reflect on where you were and what you wrote!

Note: The drawing is inspired from a scene from the movie Whisper of the Heart, where Shizuku sits looking outside the window - deep in thought! Hope you get the mood I am talking about from the picture!

Ans, happy writing this weekend!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The Power Of Starting Something Stupid

Title: The Power Of Starting Something Stupid
Author: Richie Norton
“If you really want to do something, no one can stop you.  If you don’t want to do something, no one can help you.” - James A. Owen
Do you have some ideas and think that you must be crazy to think of something like that? Do you think your idea is just stupid and impossible? Well, Einstein once said: “If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” Richie Norton, in this fabulously easy-to-read book, attempts to break some of the mental barriers that stop you from living your crazy dream!

So, what does this book teach you? Alternatively, on what things can you can look forward to getting insight and clear your misconceptions about?

  • One, as the sub-title suggests: how and why to crush your fears, to dream and make your dreams come true, and to make sure you don't regret  not following them later. 
  • Two, how to stop blaming and, rather, overcome lack of time, lack of money, lack of education, or pretty much anything else that you want to blame on lacking. 
  • Three, differentiating and the need to differentiate future goals from present actions, and looking at the future as the accumulation of your actions that you do today.
  • Four, how to stop under-valuing your ideas, and discarding them off as 'stupid'.
  • Five, acknowledging flaws and vulnerabilities (in both yourself and your idea), as the first step to overcoming/rectifying them- so that you can successfully convert your 'stupid' idea into one that wins. 
The Power of Starting Something Stupid is more about having the courage and confidence to acknowledge an idea inside you, to work on it, to build on it, and to make sure that your commitment lasts till the very end to see it emerge as a success. The book is highly conversational in tone, and it feels like Norton is giving out advice that is actionable. It is an easy flowing read, that may seem simple and apparent at the face of it, but contains many actionable insights that can make you think better about the ideas in your head.

The book emphasizes the need to have determination, avoid procrastination, and be steadfast on your idea. While it asks you to be confident, it also asks you to do away with unnecessary pride that would hinder the implementation of the idea. It asks you to think rationally and beat your fears to dust. Norton asks you to own your ideas and make sure they win, through planning, and execution. The anecdotes and the real-life accounting that you find all over the book makes it a very interesting and smooth narrative for the reader!

It is an interesting read that will lead you to your stupid ideas, and tell you how to lead them both to success!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Dal Bati: A Modest Attempt


I first saw this semi-brown hard bread served with dal in my college. I neither knew what it was, nor knew how to eat it. And so, the first several times that I found this in the mess, I just skipped it because I couldn't understand at all how we were supposed to eat it (after a few weird attempts of trying to bite it or just dip it in dal and eat it). A friend saw me struggling once, and actually taught me how it is eaten. And, from then one, this has been one of the most satisfying, tasty dishes I have ever had. 

Dal Bati is a delicious Rajasthani dish, most typical in the arid areas of Rajasthan. In fact, it is the dish that the Rajasthani cuisine is most famous for. The popular combination to eat this is dal-bati-churma. The bati is the hard bread that is crushed while eating and is mixed with the tasty and spicy dal, while also accompanied by the semi-sweet churma. I absolutely love this wholesome combination that I got introduced to during my semesters. With the college shut down for a couple of months now, a conversation with a friend about dal bati made me try it out today!

Traditionally, batis are made in the fire and ashes of wood and cow dung- which gives it the authentic smoky flavour. However, in other places and at home, it is usually made in a grilled oven or tandoor. The hard knead dough is made into even-sized smooth, round-ish balls of dough which are then placed in the oven till they are baked inside out! But today, I've tried to make them without an oven, as I don't have one at home, and the recipe for making batis without an oven can be found here! I am not discussing the process of how it is made, so those interested can look up on page that I have linked. 

Considering that doing it on a stove was basically a substitute for oven, which in itself was a substitute for the traditional cow dung fire, I was skeptical as to how it would turn out. But, the pictures speak for themselves! Even if may not be as great as the authentic ones, for a first time it was as good as the my college benchmark. I feel really happy that it turned out well!

While preparing, kneading the dough thoroughly is very important. Simply put: better the keading, better the batis. The secret to batis that taste and smell absolutely delicious seems to be the ajwain/omam (carom seeds). They made them smell wonderful and made them feel like how batis should be. Heavily doused in hot, molten ghee, and with a tasty dal to eat it with, batis are sure to steal your heart! 

I had fun preparing it, and felt really happy eating it! If you are skeptical about trying without an oven, don't be- it turns out just fine!

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

"These Are A Few Of My Favourite Things"

You cannot make a reader choose the top five or ten books. Never do that. That's just not fair, because there are way too many that we love and cherish. Usually, there may not even be a favourite, rather there'd be an unending list of favourites! Back in 2014, there was this Facebook challenge going around to put up your top ten books. 

So, this was my list:


“Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!” is all about Feynman’s experiences and his Science career. This book contains many funny anecdotes. The fun Feynman had in MIT is wonderfully written down. The book also describes how he moved on from MIT to Princeton to Los Alamos and Cornell along with a ‘touch of Brazil’(as put forth by the author). The book ends with Feynman’s narration of his life as a Physicist.


Eliza, a cockney flower girl goes to Prof. Higgins to learn phonetics. I became a fan of Shaw, his plays, and the  I absolutely love this one, shall remain here in this list forever!


Anyone who knew me around my middle school times can vouch for a fact that I went around saying I'd deny the most prestigious institution any day only to get acceptance from Hogwarts. It was my happy place, and many thanks to J. K. Rowling for that beautiful story that made us all yearn to get in.


A young boy named Santiago tries to follow his dreams, and learns the treasure he was seeking was back in Spain.


A cowardly Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, is called by the great wizard, Gandalf, to accompany Thorin and his company in an adventure. Tolkein has always been one of my most favourite authors since the time I picked up to read The Hobbit. A brilliant storyteller, Tolkein has a charm and style that is very unique to him. Fantasy is a beautiful genre, but also difficult to write without making it sound foolish. Tolkien's world has always made sense. Be it his writing, his poems, or his stories, at the end it leaves you with a feeling that though it is a work of fiction, it is not entirely detached.


Kalki is one of my favourite story-tellers, and you can immerse yourself in the world of erstwhile Chozha kingdoms of the South, and it's amazing cultural and historical backdrop.


This heart-warming tale of three friends- Swami, Mani, and Rajam is sure to throw you into a melodic nostalgia, and pin a smile of fond recognition as you read it! Malgudi is a fictitious town in India created by R.K. Narayan in his novels and short stories. It forms the setting for most of Narayan's works. Starting with his first novel, Swami and Friends, all but one of his fifteen novels and most of his short stories take place here. Narayan has successfully portrayed Malgudi as a microcosm of India.


And, for the longest time, I was so into Christie's world of crime and these mind-boggling detectives, that I forgot there was Christie who actually wrote them. The realization kind of hit me that all the brilliance of Poirot, Marple, Quinn, Tommy, Tuppence- put together was the brilliance of one. And, since that day I am an ardent fangirl of her, and shall be forever. 

9. Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder

A 14 year old girl becomes the student of an old philosopher, Alberto Knox, and is pushed to think beyond her barriers into a world of wonder, possibilities, and innovative thinking. No wonder she was a favourite to another 14 year old girl who read Sophie's World! Sophie is someone who is ready to learn, challenge herself, and look at things with a neutral perspective even when things are against her! She opens you to a world of absolute wonder and strength.


Three unintelligible men decide to travel in a boat in search of rest and a change of scene.They head up to river Thames.They pass through the glinting barges, the wooded towpath and the trim-kept villas on either side. They fall inside the Thames and loose their boat many times in a day.They become tired. They realize life out on a boat is a far more appalling alternative for a change of scene. This is a classic that I love. 

So, in the imaginary visuals of Julie Andrews running over lush greenery, her arms wide open, from The Sound Of Music
brown paper packages tied up with strings (hopefully with books inside them!), these are a few of my favourite things!

Monday, June 15, 2020

Fancy Places

Enter a restaurant, and you find a seat-
a happy corner, candlelight retreat.
A bowing waiter hands over a sheet,
of numerous cuisines of dishes and treat.
One hasty glance and confusion you meet-
as your eyes skim the letters, styled in Greek,
of dishes unknown- neither heard, nor seen.
And lo, the waiter is back- with a smile so keen
to take your order from the menu umpteen.
Another skim, hasty and incomplete,
you search what to have, your mind in a reel.
Page after page you take an off-handed peek,
as you look for something familiar to eat.
And finally you say Gnocchi- your voice all meek,
in a demure of under-confidence, making it weak.
Sure ma'am, says the waiter, his smile ever sweet,
the way he was trained to meet and greet,
as he retires in grace with the order sheet.
Why fancy this place? - you think of a need
that makes you go to restaurants well heeled,
when you have your kitchen- hot food, in peace.
Is it the pride on the fancy prestige?
You tell yourself: don't bother, please!

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Tryst(?) With Languages

Learning new languages isn't exactly one of my strengths, probably because I have till now never been keen on it. I can speak fluent, good English and Tamil, with the latter being my mother-tongue. If you have been following my blog, I am an enthusiast of the intricate beauties in the languages I already know, and even have put up a couple of posts on my stark admiration for Tamil poetry. English has always been a language that I grew up to be comfortable with, thanks to the many wonderful books that I got to read since my childhood (you can find a list here, if you want). 

In English, I always knew what's the right way to say a phrase, or use a term, in the apt sense without knowing any grammar behind it. I may not be a wizard when it comes to defining the grammar of this language, but I am extremely comfortable with any level of writing or vocabulary- because years of reading have given me that confidence to understand in practice what the structure of the language is, and hence I can make out context pretty easily when I read something. And, if you keep reading then what was just a contextual understanding becomes concrete in your mind. So, that is how English primarily works for me. I may not be able to tell you why something is correct or wrong, but I can sure well tell whether it is right or not. To me, this language is highly instinctive. 

Tamil is a natural confidence for me, because it is my mother-tongue. I studied Tamil as my second language in school for ten years, and that exposed me to a lot of prose, poetry, grammar, and all the lovable intricacies of this language. I can obviously speak fluently, but I don't think I can ever be a graceful Tamil reader, though I can read and comprehend the language. I have never, and probably would never, picked a full-length Tamil book to read. 

I learnt French through a course in school, and I learnt quite a bit. You can see my learning here, if you are interested. I was doing well, and was really interested, but unfortunately I couldn't do the second level of the course. So, I just ended up learning a wide base of fundamentals of the language, enough to understand and relate to a lot of the French expressions in English novels! I hope I pick it up again some day. Poirot's mon ami was a constant bait for me to study this language. 

I had Spanish in college during my first three semesters. I learnt something in the first semester. But, the other two were a wash out. This was the most useless of all the attempts I have ever made to learn a language. Probably a law school is not the best place to have a compulsory language class. Neither were the faculty interested, nor were the students, so there was 0 learning. Or, maybe 0.00001% learning. Basically, the same. So, my Spanish is just as good as me catching the meaning of viva la vida

The final one, of course, is Hindi. This is the funniest. I wrote these Hindi exams that happen in Tamil Nadu by Dakshin Bharat Hindi Prachar Sabha. But, due to a clear lack of interest I left it after the first two levels. I had Hindi as my third language in school, but that was absolutely no use again. As Calvin would put it, it just taught us how to manipulate through an exam without any substantial knowledge building. Every student just hated the Hindi third-language classes, and none of us ever understood it anyway. However, one good that came out of these two experiences was that I could read and write Hindi. I just couldn't speak, because I didn't really know Hindi. 

I was unnecessarily nonchalant, so I didn't pick up this language initially. But, when I had to go to a University where nine out of my ten friends spoke in Hindi for casual conversation, I was forced to pick it up, at least in bits and pieces throughout the last three years, to make sure I understood what the hell they were talking about when I was chilling with them. Necessity can make you learn, and that's how I picked up this language. Today, I can understand Hindi perfectly well, and I can manage a conversation in Hindi, too. But, I wonder whether I would have ever picked up this language if the circumstances didn't really force me to. 

Even now, though I can understand and reasonably speak Hindi, I almost never do unless it is absolutely necessary. I get away happily with English, as almost everyone can speak English today. But, learning this language, this way, has opened up my thoughts about unnecessary nonchalance.

I think about it, and  I hope to do something about it next time it comes in the way!

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Can You Listen To A Song In Silence?

Can I listen to a song in silence? Yes, and no. If it's a song that I don't know, then yes. If it's a known song- absolutely not! I can never understand how some listen to a song they know while they are studying, or doing something that needs concentration. 

To me, singing to the tune is a natural reflex of listening to a known song. It's not even about whether it is a lyrical or instrumental version- it's all the same because I find myself humming along with it. Often, I can't even coordinate my hands to do the work because it's busy making gestures that match the rhythm and the feel! Also, I can't help moving to a beat- it's really tough to contain myself. If there is a mirror around, then that's it. I'd be too busy admiring my killer moves for the song, and all these natural reflexes just cancel out any possibility of me getting work done on time if I listen to music.

But, I have seen a lot of music that promotes itself as something that aids concentration, focus, and all that. I’ve checked them out only a couple of times, and maybe those work. But again, the rule is, it can't be anything remotely close to what I know, because there is no point fighting a reflex. I have a couple of friends who keep listening even while studying, taking notes, sorting things out, which I have always found impossible for me to do. 

And today, to write 300 words about something this trivially simple, it has taken me more than half an hour because I am busy breaking off every two minutes, tangentially on-
“Today I don't feel like doing anything… (whistles)” ðŸŽ¶ ðŸ’ƒ
Well, can you listen to a song in silence?

Friday, June 12, 2020

Longfellow's June From The Poet's Calendar

Well into two weeks of June, and we are barely two weeks away from crossing half way mark through yet another year! So, to lighten up our June: here's an excerpt from The Poet's Calendar by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The Poet's Calendar is a compilation of Longfellow's set of twelve beautiful poems, each song describing and narrating the essence of each of the twelve months of the calendar year.
Mine is the Month of Roses; yes, and mine  The Month of Marriages! All pleasant sights 

And scents, the fragrance of the blossoming vine,   
The foliage of the valleys and the heights. 
Mine are the longest days, the loveliest nights;   
The mower's scythe makes music to my ear; 
I am the mother of all dear delights;   
I am the fairest daughter of the year.
It is indeed the month of the longest days and the loveliest nights! If you want to read all the set of twelve songs, you can read it here: https://bit.ly/2YrS66R

Have a happy June! 

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Fancy A Quote? Then, Make Sure You Save It

I have started reading a lot more nowadays- books, articles, magazines, daily newsletters(you can check some of them here), interesting pieces from archives of the blogs I like, and more often than not I feel like saving a quote, or a phrase or the article. When I read more on the same, or when I come across something interesting about what I previously read, I feel like adding it to the previously saved article or quote. A repository of the wondrous sources of information under every theme I read is what I am talking about. 

For someone who has great discipline, maybe Google Docs or a simple word document where they can copy-paste the links/quotes/phrases/notes, compile and categorize them according to relevant tags, would suffice. But, if you're like me you'd be the lazy dude who just reads an interesting article, tell yourself you'll do the copy-pasting of the links later, and then just forget. Instead, what we need is an extension that is convenient to use and is always there where resources can be saved, compiled, categorized, tagged and everything- all in that same instant. That's why I use Diigo

I opened an account with Diigo in 2012. But, I never used it much until I started doing a post everyday since December 2019. Like I said in one of my previous posts where I was talking about the power of habit, I found myself reading more the moment I started writing regularly. I had to explore things, and not keep my mind stagnant in order to be able to write the post for the day. When I was reading more, I felt the need to create a repository of quotes and links, and anything I was going to cite/use/refer in my writing. So, I started to use Diigo again, and this time I'm just loving how all of it gets neatly stored and put away then and there!


"Diigo is actually an abbreviation for Digest of Internet information, Groups and Other stuff."
Diigo has a tagline that says it all: better reading and research! It allows you to bookmark any web link, highlight and attach notes to the web page that you bookmark, allows you to compile many bookmarks into an outliner that can be shared and collaborated. The best part is that what you save on diigo will exist intact even if the web page itself is taken down later. I really like how my personal library on Diigo is developing! 

I have started reading most books in their kindle version, and Kindle Highlights sorts out my needs for the quotations and excerpts that I want saved from the books. However, I save these along with other leads, lists, and essays from the various blogs and newsletters that I read in Diigo, so that all of them are presented in a compiled form for any tag I want to view. 

This is a really cool tool that can be used for anything- be it for your academic research, personal repositories, or just internet-collectibles! Check it out, today!

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Before Sunset

My long hair tousled by the cool, mellow breeze that blew in a course that pushed all my hair to the right, and my mind put to peace by the melodic chimes of the gentle wind and the soothingly alluring dance of the waves as they came from far to near, rising and falling, keeping the rhythm of what seemed the order of the world- I sat there taking in the whiff of saline air as the skittish waves played with my calloused feet, running them over with white, happy foam before they withdrew into the sea liberating the trapped sands under my feet. 

My eyes stared into the distant horizon, a line where the sky met the sea and where the serene colours of warmth and tranquil made a heavenly blend- a spectacle to watch, and I thanked myself for reaching the shore on time to catch a happy moment, one that would be etched in my mind for eternity. And, right on the line was the sun, the giant celestial ball of fire that gives our Earth its life, slowly descending after the day's job in this half of the globe. 

The water shone and sparkled in the beautiful pale tint of pinkish and reddish orange, gleaming in the direct rays of the setting sunlight, scattered around by the water and air. And at that moment, no thought could precede the one about this wondrous life and the order of nature. The sun no longer visible, but the water in the shade of a blissful, deep red and a bluish tinge marked the beginning of the oncoming nightfall. I smiled. 

The foamy water was still playing around my calloused feet, and I knew they would as long as I stayed, such faithful companions for the mind. I picked my duffel bag lying on the side,  brushed away the fine, wet sand clinging in defiance, and strapped it over on my shoulders ready to leave for the day. 

Another evening well spent, and every evening of my life shall be so, as long as I manage to reach the heavenly seashore- before sunset.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Hard Times

Title: Hard Times
Author: Charles Dickens

Thomas Gradgrind, a wealthy retired merchant who was known to be a "fanatic of the demonstrable fact", raises his children in the same manner, forbidding them any pursuit of imagination and grounding them to the factual truths in all subjects. Gradgrind also runs a school on the same principles and philosophy of rationalism. One day, he allows Cecelia(Sissy) Jupe, an imaginative girl, admission into the school on charitable grounds after her father disappears from the circus he was working in.  Gradgrind's two children grow up in their own confused manner, thanks to his active suppression of the imagination. Many events take place and the story meanders through the lives of Gradgrind, his children, their husbands and wives, the people in the town, Miss Sissy Jupe, and has wonderfully descriptive takes on the worker unions, the philosophy of rationalism, and so on. By the end, there is a classic turn around of Gradgrind and his fact-factory of a school by the gentle, imaginative, and kind-spirited Sissy Jupe. 

So, what makes this classic Dickens novel any special? 

1. It is a brilliant story. Dickens has always been an author whose descriptions I absolutely love. Reading a paragraph or two out of his books can literally paint the scene in front of your eyes. His novels are always of infinite, minute details that make it such a pleasure to read. 

2. It satisfies the classic-hunger for the classic-lover. Old school classics have a way with how they take the story, and usually have dramatic set-ups. The language is another pleasing oddity with Dickens' classics, and you get enough of it here. 

3. This book is incredibly short, considering that it's written by Dickens! Hard Times is a quick read compared to any other novel of Dickens. It is also has a different setting in the small, grim, industrial backdrop of Coketown, in contrast to the usual London country set up of most of his novels. And, this brings a fresh change to how we have usually seen the descriptions in his books, and also how the storyline is maneuvered. I really enjoyed it. 

Hard Times is typical and atypical of Dickens, both at the same time. And this, according to me, is the best part about this book. We get our familiar Dickens, yet it is adapted to a different backdrop and stimulating storyline, and this freshens up our exposure to classics in a very wholesome manner! I loved it, and so will you (especially, if you love Dickens)!

Today, incidentally, happens to be the 150th anniversary of this grand and legendary author and litterateur. I feel happy and honoured to be co-incidentally finishing this wonderful tale today, and putting up this post. If you want to read more on the life and works of Charles Dickens, check out my post on this man who lived his great modern life!

Monday, June 8, 2020

The Fault In Our Stars, Or Is It?

If you pick an average young child, in a bracket of space that the world would consider as average- not shining the brightest in the lot when the results come and yet not breaking the hearts that floated the expectations to be met- the child will probably not be as much an average in skill. And yet, what you see is an average performer. Why?

The simple answer to such a probing would be that the child didn't want such performance, or couldn't perform because of a certain, determined set of factors. From here, the thought process can take two branches. Let's see both of them. 

One: the clear lack of wanting to do it. It is most likely that the child really didn't care about getting that 10/10, or didn't think that much about it. He/She just cleared off the goal that the society expected, and settled happily in the average category. What's wrong with that? In fact, that's the most sensible thing to do. Assume that you aren't really driven about cleaning your table, and your mom repeatedly keeps asking you to clean. Would you clean it spic and span, and maintain it what way? Or, would you just clean to the extent your mom wants it to be cleaned? Why would you do extra work where in the first place you weren't even that keen about working?

It may happen that when you do what your mom says as a compulsion initially, you may start liking the clean set-up. And, when you start liking it, and when the clean space starts making you happy, that is when you'd go beyond the expectations of anyone around you and rise above the societal average, and fall into that niche category of those with self-driven cleanliness. People will start quoting you as an example to other people who are still in the average zone. This might not happen in every area that the society wants you to perform in, and it might happen only where you become interested genuinely. Or, none of this might happen, and that is also okay. 

The point that I am trying to make is in either case under this first thought process, there is absolutely no issue- because you are happy anyway. So, when does it start taking a negative turn? 

Two: the inability to make yourself do it. The child wants to do it, but doesn't actually do anything for it. You want your table clean, and you tell everyone that you love cleanliness, and you talk long about how you cannot be in a place which isn't clean, and then you never clean. People will have a problem with this, and so will you. Neither are you matching societal expectations, nor are you fulfilling your own. If you have big dreams, then you have to act towards it. You cannot let your imagination run wild to push up your own expectations sky high when your actions can't match it. That is when being in the average category will feel like a failure, in contrast to the first thought process where being in the average was equally happy and okay. 
“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.” - William Shakespeare 
That is exactly where it starts taking a negative turn. We may start feeling as if the stars conspire to push us into failure even with so much talent! We'd think of ourselves as capable as someone who is great at what they do. And yes, we may be skill-wise. But, intelligence without actual work, and expectations that don't match activity, is called 'fooling yourself'. That is the last thing that we should do to ourselves. If I want a good blog, I need to write regularly. There is absolutely no point claiming to be a good writer when I don't write anything at all. Nobody will dispute that I may be a good writer, but everybody would agree that just the skill is no use at all. No excuses, and definitely not the one about the 'fault in the stars'. 

Be brave to face yourself, be brave to accept the truth about what you can and cannot do, and if you believe you can do something then go for it. Emphasis: don't forget to GO! At the end of the day, nothing matters as long as you are happy and you don't do any conscious wrong to anyone. But, make sure that you work towards what makes you happy, or if you think you can't do that then be happy about whatever works for you. There is no ranking in either of these ways, because at the end you are happy and that is literally all that counts!

Don't blame your stars, or anyone else, for the choices you personally make. There are already several factors other than that you can probably attribute to your stars, but not on what you had the power to do. There is no point being discontent when the outcome was already predictable considering how much you worked on it. The stars neither get the credit for your successes, nor the blame for your failures. Own them both, they are yours. And learn from them, because it is never too late to learn!

Sunday, June 7, 2020

A Sad Post On The Books That I Missed Reviewing

In a recent flurry of searches for some of the old posts to relevantly link to a couple of my current blog posts, I found so many missing!

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder
Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Not A Penny More, Not A Penny Less by Jeffrey Archer
Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer
Tom Brown's Schooldays by Thomas Hughes


These are just some of the many titles that I found missing. I always knew that I didn't review  quite a few books, so what came as a slight downer and unpleasant surprise for me is how I failed to write about these books. I don't remember much about why I didn't write, or whether I didn't write. But, these books were some of the ones that made me most excited while reading and even after reading. My dad clearly remembers so many conversations that I had with him over so many of these books. 

We were thinking that maybe I wrote and it got deleted, or something like that. But that is absurd- it won't really delete itself, and definitely not selectively over a stretch of one or two years of reading. The only theory that could explain this was my lack of posts around 2016-17. This was during my Class XI and XII, and it makes sense because I read most of these books around when I was in high school. 

I feel very sad that I didn't write about these books and many more. The list above has so many of my absolute favourites, and I still remember about all of them and how I enjoyed reading and talking about them. Puzo's The Godfather and Archer's Kane and Abel are absolute favourite epics in the world of fiction, and so is the ultimate revenge tale of The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. I can't believe myself when I see I didn't review Catch 22 by Joseph Heller! What a disappointment, so much for talking all the time about it! 

And thus, a general bout of downtrend in the blog posts those two years reflects on me missing the opportunity to talk about these classic books. I can still write about all of them- but it won't do justice to them. Reviewing is best when done immediately, when your mind and body still has the passion of the story and plot internalized. And, that is the only point when you'd be living the story. Writing about it now would just be a memory, and not one that would be as genuine to my feelings as I felt then. 

If I ever read any of those books again, I'm definitely coming back with a post. And until then, I'm never missing a book review again- ever!

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Born To Run

Title: Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
Author: Christopher McDougall

Why are we not able to run long distances with speed without regular injuries? Why does our feet pain? And, how do the Tarahumara Indian tribe, snuggled safely in the recluse of the savage Copper Canyons in Mexico, manage to be long distance runners at amazing speeds without even having any of the regular injuries? What starts as a quest with this simple question and thought, leads Christopher McDougall to explore the lives and the ethnicity of this soft and passionate tribe nestled away from the rest of the world. 
"How come my foot hurts? Because running is bad for you. Why is running bad for me? Because it makes your foot hurt. But why? Antelope don’t get shin splints. Wolves don’t ice-pack their knees. I doubt that 80 percent of all wild mustangs are annually disabled with impact injuries."
After an impact injury and painful running experience, McDougall sought answers for his questions. And, the only ones who knew the answers—the only ones who lived the answers—weren’t talking. Especially, not to him. Seeing the Tarahumara tribe for the first time in an article, he thinks the image is of "some kind of wishful Atlantean legend about an extinct empire of enlightened super-beings", only to realize later that all that he thought was true- except for wishful and extinct
"I felt as if I’d discovered the Future of American Running, living five hundred years in the past."
The Tarahumara Indians called themselves Rarámuri, which means 'the running people' in their language. We sprint through the events in the book, swiftly yet steadily, just like the run of the Rarámuri- as we meet them one by one, their kids and the society, and their unbelievable running culture. With a brief insight into the history of ultra-running or long disatance running, and the science behind it, McDougall paints the contrast picture of the same idea in the mind of an urban and the Tarahumara tribe. Not only was the tribe full of ultra-runners and superatheletes, the author finds himself facing a tribe with a great immunity and endurance. 

Born to Run is a wonderful book, and I could feel Marcelino and the kids whizz past me as I witnessed their rarájipari, or their famed running races, through McDougall's vivid and fast-paced description. Exploring the contrasting aspects of Science from the Harvard lab tests and pro-running shoes, to these rocky pathways where the Rarámuri ran in thin sandals, the author brings up wonderful questions and seeks answers for them in this hidden tribe. 
"His feet were jitterbugging like crazy between the rocks, but everything above his legs was tranquil, almost immobile. Seeing him from the waist up, you’d think he was gliding along on skates. With his chin high and his black hair streaming off his forehead, he looked as if he’d burst straight out of the Steve Prefontaine poster on the bedroom wall of every high school track star in America."
We are allowed a tiny insight into this warm and happy tribe to whom running comes second nature, and we learn how and why they run the way they do. The author also narrates how the Tarahumara-style of running helped him become a much better athlete, and how he gained endurance and reduced injuries while running. 

This was such a pleasurable and highly enjoyable read. I loved the narrative format in which the story took me through, and I loved all the characters and the people of this book. It gives a gleeful glimpse into a vibrant tribe of born ultra-runners, and highlights the learning that we must take from them. Also, it just amps you up so much when you read about the tribe and their running, it motivates you and makes you realize that running is one of the most natural things that we can do!

I really enjoyed the book. It has been one of my best reads this year!