Monday, August 31, 2020

'I Sit And Think' by Tolkien

There is no more need to establish what a huge, sincere fan of Tolkien I am. Tolkien has always been one of my most favourite authors since the time I picked up to read The Hobbit. A brilliant storyteller, Tolkien has a charm and style that is very unique to him. There's hardly a writer who can weave a fantasy the way he does. 

My top favourite poem of Tolkien has always been, and will always be, The Road Goes Ever On and On of which 'All that is gold does not glitter' is a part of! Here is the my second most favourite poem of this wonder author: 'I sit and think' - a poem where an old narrator contemplates on the past, present, and future, and sits and thinks. 

I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall never see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.

Hope you enjoyed! If you're a fellow Tolkien fan, let me know your favourite poem in the comments!

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Pen and Paper v. Online Tools

I wrote my first two full-length novels in my diary- with a pen on sheets of paper. And, as the years passed I completely shifted to writing online- in word/google docs/other writing tools. And, I have found that both of them have advantages and disadvantages. I decided to make a comparison table. 


Pen and Paper
Writing On A Device
Ease of editing
You can edit. But it is definitely not the most convenient way to edit. You’ll have a lot of arrows and strikethroughs when you are drafting. You’ll have to rewrite them clearly again to make sense.
The best thing about online writing is the ease with which you can edit what you wrote. You can keep making changes and improvisations on your original text. You can add, delete, insert- all without any hassle whatsoever. 
Distraction-free
Pen and paper wins hands down. You can turn off all distractions, sit with just a piece of paper, a pen, and give yourself to the story you see and feel. 
There are many, many distractions. Even if you try to switch off your wifi and write on an offline platform, you just are a click away from turning it back on. So, unless you are super disciplined (which most of us are not), writing on a computer or laptop can definitely not be called distraction-free.
Completing A Story

(Yeah, this is an actual criteria because one in a hundred story ideas actually reach the final form)
While you are writing on paper, you tend to be more involved in writing the story, rather than perfecting that one paragraph that you have managed to write. The story and your idea flows easier, and you keep writing. It is important to not keep editing while you write your first draft, and pen and paper actually helps with that.
This is the biggest drawback here. Since, editing is extremely easy and convenient, we tend to try and perfect/rewrite a single scene while there is a whole story left to be told. It takes much more to progress while writing online. 
Environment friendly
Pen and paper is not really environment friendly anymore, looking at the rate at which we have managed to deplete resources. 
This is the truest and most important advantage of this medium. We are saving hundreds of thousands of trees from being cut down for paper if we all shift to writing on a system. 

There are also other miscellaneous advantages and disadvantages in both. But, if you notice- the biggest disadvantage of pen and paper is editing, and that itself actually helps in moving forward and separating the process of writing and editing, thus making it easier to complete what we write. However, the advantage of being able to save paper, and also make the editing process a thousand times easier are significant advantages.  

Although I might have preferred pen and paper earlier, I have used the online mode for quite a long bit now. And, having realized its disadvantages of getting me stuck on perfecting a couple of paragraphs when the whole story awaits telling, I have worked on my mind: consciously to push forward and keep editing only after completing the draft. This takes time, and I still don't follow it all the time, but the benefits we reap by saving paper, saving trees are so starkly important.

Which medium do you prefer writing in, and why? Share them in the comments below!

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Taglines

Taglines. They bring a world of difference to whatever we go. In fact, I think sometimes the taglines talk more than the name or the title. 

Nike- Just Do It
Apple- Think Different
Coca-cola- Open Happiness

My most favourite library in Chennai that I grew up reading all the books I had read till my schooling was Eloor. The library branch in Chennai shut down, but they had a tagline that is still very close to my heart, and that which rang true with the very essence of that huge, wonderful library: For love of good books! Eloor did absolute justice to its tagline.

Taglines are not just for companies or brands. They can be for anything, including blogs and even blog posts. They all tell you something about the brand/blog/article/post/whatever that is you are viewing. A tagline is supposed to help anyone get to know very quickly, in a manner catchy, short, and sweet, what they should be expecting.

When I started this blog, I definitely wanted to have a tagline and I looked into defining what my blog was primarily going to be about. I write a lot of things, but what gives my blog its primary identity is the books I read and the reviews I write for them. I read regularly and I write a post on every book I read. My blog is just a huge repository of all that I have read since 2010! And, what does that give my readers? A reading list across varied age groups! Because I grew up with these books, the books are in the natural progression of an actual reader, and it feels like an index of books with a review by me on each book. 

And, that is why, I chose the tagline that tells you exactly what to expect. It is a blog on 'What to Read'. Taglines can be of various tones. It can talk about the spirit, the function, the motto- anything! But, a tagline helps immensely. For all the bloggers out there, do you have a tagline? If you do, share it in the comments with your blog links! And, if you don't, go with what you feel, and: get set thinking! 

Happy Saturday! 

Friday, August 28, 2020

The World As I See It

Title: The World As I See It
Author: Albert Einstein
Translated from German to English by: A. Harris

To most of us, we were taught who Einstein was since the time we were taught what science is. But, did we ever really know who Einstein is? We knew Einstein, the universally famous scientist, who was one of the most brilliant of men to have walked this Earth and who talked of things that were way beyond the comprehension of common men. Mark Twain once commented how as a reader and writer, he still could not completely comprehend a single line of Einstein's theories. 

But is that all who Einstein really was? Obviously not. And, his own book The World As I See It gives you a glimpse of another, less-spoken side of this man. We meet Einstein, the human and the thinker, through the miscellaneous collections of Einstein's thoughts on a wide array of things from education, war and peace to religion and life. He portrays what he believes as reason itself manifesting in nature, and emphasizes on the importance of experiencing it. And, he calls such an experience of humans as that which:
"... stands at the cradle of true art and true science."
The chapters and the thoughts are what you might call as haphazard, and yet by the time you wrap up this book you get a clear, appealing picture on this brilliant man's view on the world and it's philosophies. It is a small, quick read that should take more than a couple of hours. I obviously read the translated version by A. Harris, since I don't know German. The translation is top notch, and the book will have you so engrossed in the content that you won't even notice it's translated! 
"A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving." 
We take home many lessons- some that we already know in the corner of our mind, and some new. It is just as inspiring and admirable to see Einstein, the thinker, share his perspective. We all admire him, although I wonder if any of us really understand any of his works. So, why not grab this opportunity to understand at least the one book that he did write that works within our ranges of understanding! It's a great read!

Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Process of Thinking

A lot of who I am today is because of my school, as I have previously told in several of my posts. There was a brilliant system in place that pushed us to think, be creative, and produce genuine work however shoddy or error-ridden it might be initially. We were allowed to try our hand, and add a dash of our own colours to everything we did or learnt. All forms of art, expression, academic interests were equally supported, and that made us all so confident to 'be ourselves'.

Giving importance and acknowledging the thought that a child has put behind the work he or she submits can change the whole way we are moulded to think. I am not restricting myself to creative arts, music, painting, dancing, and the likes. Not at all. I have seen teachers who have appreciated kids for approaching a math problem from a innovative or different angle even though the final answer on the paper might not have been the right one! Reprimanding for a wrong answer when the method was actually to be appreciated can make the child stop trying to think innovatively, and instead might push the child to just stick to the traditional methods to avoid the possibility of mistakes. 

This taught us that to think about the process, and be innovative in the process and how we approach a subject is more important than thinking just about the results. In fact, innovative results are a mere consequence of an innovative thought process. So, when they focused on the right thing, we learnt the right lessons.

I agree that at the end of the day we all want results. Nobody cares how you did something. What we want is results that work. But, we should reserve such an attitude to probably professional activities where results are of the highest importance to everybody involved, and there are goals to be met. However, with children and young creative artists- it is important to teach them the right lessons, nurture and help them grow as thinking individuals, and also for us to look at their work with the right lens.

So, as teachers, as parents, as sisters and brothers, as fellow human beings who see the work of each other and comment on it- we should first look into what work, what process, what thoughts go into something, and give it as much weight, if not more, as you give to the end result!

As the picture says: think, innovate, be yourself. I thank my school and my parents for teaching me that!

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

A True Artist (In My Imagination)


I am not great at sketching. Probably because I rarely draw, and I have very less patience. The enthusiasm with which I start sketching frizzles out in a while, and then I'm in a rush to just get done with it. Oops, sounds like just how it shouldn't be! But sketching is also a lot of fun. 

I sketch once in a while, and it's usually simple things in my memory. For example, you can see my sketch that I've put up with this post. It was just one out of the experiences that I had in Mumbai last year- with a lot of ice golas and desserts in it! The drawing definitely (and obviously) looks unpolished because the artist is a highly unpolished one. But, the main point that I'm trying to make is: it is a lot of fun to just recreate your own sweet memory! 

Do you remember how in The Little Prince the pilot, in his childhood, attempts to draw and is discouraged by adults because they thought he wasn't really good enough at it? Remember: don't let them steal your magnificent career as a painter and an artist, at least in your imagination.

Sometimes, we do things just because they were momentarily fun to do, and not because we are passionate about it, or think that we have a career in it, or because we are good at it. Simply, we like it. If not all the time, we enjoy it at least that one day or one hour that we do it. And, we don't do it often, but that one-off time is still happy enough! One such things is sketching for me. I cannot call it a hobby, I cannot call it a talent, and yet I do it sometimes and it makes me happy!

I drew this on Adobe Sketch. Do you have that one-off activity that you really enjoy? How do you like my (undoubtedly brilliant) sketch? Let me know in the comments below! 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Correcting Grammar

People tend to make grammatical errors, structural errors while talking in English. I have seen people who don't correct at all whoever it is, and I have also seen people who immediately correct anybody at all who makes a mistake. I don't agree with both. 

Correcting a person immediately can have many drawbacks.

1. It cuts off their flow.
2. It can make them less confident about what and how they were going to say what they were saying.
3. It can be mean, sometimes (even if you don't do it with mean intentions).
4. It shows you have no idea why a person might not be great in that language.

On the other hand, if someone close to you is making an error constantly, there is no harm at all in openly talking to them and correcting them. In fact, they'll understand better and might not face such a situation again. At any point of time, the correction must be said in a manner that is educating for the other person, rather than making it sound like you are just out there to find faults. 

I have had friends who have been more than happy, and in fact have voluntarily asked me to review what they speak and correct errors if I find any. And, the same applies to writing. It is alright to move with the person and their way of expression, as long as you get what they are trying to say. Remember, you might just be worse in so many other languages. Languages are many, and everybody is not required to be an expert in the same language.

You should definitely take the opportunity to teach people, and help them become better and learn more. What matters is how you do it. Wait for them to finish what they are saying and reply to their questions or statement before you correct them. It is important to acknowledge the content first, before you jump into correcting their structure. Your correction has to encourage them, not demotivate. It has to make them more confident about what they learn, and not make them lose the little confidence they have. 

Most things in the world work that way, especially when you teach someone: it's not about what you teach, it's about how you do it. 

Monday, August 24, 2020

Delete This At Your Peril

Title: Delete This At Your Peril: The Bob Servant Emails
Author: Neil Forsyth

What do you do when your inbox is spammed with tens and hundreds of email every single day promising you gold, a million dollars, a grand house, a high paying job, or even your true love if you just bother to type in your phone number, address, bank details, and their passwords? I guess: block, mark as spam, try a better filter, and wrack your brains in frustration to separate these weeds. Well, Bob Servant, a 2-year-old window cleaner, and Dundee's former cheeseburger kingpin, decides that enough is enough, and that it is time for the sweetest revenge!

Delete At Your Peril is a funny, absolutely original, brilliant book by Neil Forsyth that captures an exchange of emails between the character of Bob Servant and his spammers, where the elderly man gives the spammers a taste of their own medicine- taking them on a promising ride and demanding hilarious deals in return ranging from legal asylum to emotional support, golden lions that speak and leopards that sing and wear clothes. It's hilarious to see our Bob come up with a new trick every time only to gleefully witness his spammers trying to fulfill all his wishes to get that one email from him with the bank details, or a cheque on their names!

Forsyth nails the tone and the flow of the emails. There is bound to be a grin plastered on your face when you read this book- right from the very first email! The spams are so relatable, and it wouldn't be surprising if we have seen many close to them. I love it when the hopeful exchange of the spammers meet Bob's final one:

From: Bob Servant
To: Jack Thompson
Jack,
I have some bad news, my friend. I have just been to the bank and the guy there said that I cannot send you any money as I do not have any in my account. In actual fact, it turns out that I owe them over eight grand. I'm really sorry, Jack, I hope I haven't wasted your time, but I'm afraid that the deal is off. Good luck my friend, and good luck with the animals.
Love,
Bob
The exchanges and Bob's way of taking the spammers on a hopeful trip of emails that promise payment are truly funny, and the revenge is so absolutely sweet. It is a very innovative book, and the approach to the narrative through emails, and the theme are so refreshingly fresh and original! Bob Servant takes the spammers head-on for all of us, and he will remain an unforgettable treasure when you finish reading!

I loved it, and so will you!

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Brighten Your Post With The Right Pictures

Two things play a major role for someone to even start reading a post.
1. Title
2. Image
Pictures are important. Photos, images, illustrations, graphics- they all bring attention to a post. They spark the interest in the reader to go ahead and read the post. In fact, even before we look at the title, we look at the image associated with the post. Our eyes naturally fall first on the picture and then move up to see the title. That is why it is essential to have a catchy title, and also a catchy photograph. 

Photos can be funny, moving, informative, descriptive, beautiful, and much more- and each of these type of pictures have their own role and contribution. What type of picture you choose for your post will also influence the tone with which the reader will look at what you have written. For example, for a serious subject,  a funny cartoon might tone it down a bit. If that is the intention, then it is one of the greatest tools to put a subtler impression on your readers. But, if it is not the intention to make it more subtle, then a funny picture can actually derail the whole tone of your article/post. The other way round is also true. A very serious picture for a funny/humorous post can make the reader confused about whether the writing was actually meant to be funny. Long point short: pictures speak a lot more to our subconscious minds than we care to notice.

There are many resources today for finding pictures. One must always be careful of the credits that go to the picture. Also, not all pictures can be freely edited or modified. Some pictures are allowed for reuse while some others are not. Some are allowed for reuse with credits while some others can be reused freely without crediting or linking back to the artist. Some pictures are allowed to be modified while some are not. So, one has to check these things before using photos digitally. 

We all search on the web and just insert photos from there without thinking. A good way to filter pictures on Google according to your preferences is to use the "Tools" under Google Images where you can filter pictures according to the user rights enabled for them.


This is especially useful for all students who use images for projects, and also bloggers like me who constantly look for good pictures for articles and posts. I learnt of this pretty recently, and thought I should share it (just in case someone didn't know about it- like me)!

Pictures brighten up your post, and you should definitely use them to your advantage! But always give credit where you can (even if the image doesn't need credit)! Happy writing!

Saturday, August 22, 2020

"Fifteen Men On The Dead Man's Chest"

Jim Hawkins is in the company of lunatic seamen, hungry for treasure, and Flint screams at them with a "Fetch me rum; Darby!", and the other sing their screams of:
Fifteen men on a dead man's chest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum
Drink and the devil had done for the rest
Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.
And, the ten year old me couldn't wait to scream along with the chorus of 'Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum'. Every time I picked the book, I was transported into the world of Hawkins, Flint, Trelawney, Billy Bones, Black Dog, Long John Silver and Ben Gunn. Till date, I remember the exact words with which Flint was tricked to death- an ingenious Ben Gunn mimicking Flint's “Darby M’Graw! Darby M’Graw! Fetch me rum; Darby!” 

After a long time, a conversation with a friend today reminded us of all the 'non-detailed prescribed readings' we had in school as part of the curriculum. We've had Treasure Island, Merchant of Venice and other plays of Shakespeare, books of Ruskin Bond, short stories of O. Henry and Oscar Wilde, The Story of My Life by Helen Keller, Silas Marner by Eliot- and I think Treasure Island was our favourite amongst these. 

The original title of the book was actually "The Sea Cook" - for Long John Silver, placing him as the main villain and central character of the book. But, later the name was changed to Treasure Island. It has to be said that out of all the villains I have met in the wide range of fiction that I have consumed, Long John Silver is definitely the most charming, witty villain ever. 

Who doesn't love a cool pirate story filled with adventure, fights, treasure, an island that looks like a "fat dragon standing up", the sea, some rum, a lot of apple barrels, and an escape plan! Stevenson takes you through a ride that is an unforgettable experience, and would still keep you excited about it, a decade after reading it! Hispaniola and its crew will leave you with a treasure hoard of memories. 

If you haven' t read it, please do! You are guaranteed an adventure you'll love every second. 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Haircut Episodes with Mr. Bean

What comes to my mind when I first think about a haircut, especially cutting my own hair? Mr. Bean. Mr. Bean has done it all. And, the confidence I have on myself is the confidence I have on Mr. Bean. Well today, I tried to cut bangs by myself (and it turned out fine), but all I could think of was the two crazy Bean episodes- one from the animated series, and the other where Rowan Atkinson performs.

Have you seen that episode in the animated series of Mr. Bean where he decides to cut his own hair? Well, that was the first thing that came to my mind when I thought about trying to chop my hair. And, that's not exactly a great first thought! The episode is titled The Haircut. Well, you don't know whether this one encourages or discourages you to get an eccentric cut. Because, one it shows how wrong it can go, and two it shows that people actually love wrong styles which seem to be done on purpose!

Do you remember the other episode in the Mr. Bean played by Rowan Atkinson, where he tries to cut other people's hair. In that episode, he cuts the hair of a small boy by tracing the perimeter of an inverted bowl that he places on the boy's head, and chops off the entire pony tail of a man who just wants his split ends trimmed. The episode is called Haircut Bean

Mr. Bean is the best. This is one show we can never get tired of watching and re-watching. I spent 20 minutes watching those episodes today, and what a laugh! Also, what a scare! Anyway, I successfully trimmed by split ends and also cut my bangs, without Bean-level-experiences. 

Miss watching Bean? Has it been years? I have given the links to both the episodes! Have a fun Thursday!

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The India They Saw

Title:
The India They Saw
Author: Sandhya Jain and Meenakshy Jain

The India They Saw is a series of 4 volumes of books by Meenakshy Jain and Sandhya Jain. Volume I talks of the ancient India as seen through the eyes of travellers and foreign visitors to the land, describing everything from the landscape to the kingdoms to the richness in education and culture, including the social practices of the time- all set within the time period between 5th Century BC to the 7th Century AD. Volume II covers the events between 8th-15th centuries, still covering the ancient Indian descriptions and accounts of the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and the Chinese. Volume III starts with the coming of Vasco da Gama, and covers the European accounts of India in the 16th and 17th centuries. The final and fourth volume covers the accounts of English travellers and missionaries in the 18th and 19th centuries. 

I just started this book today, and it is very interesting. The compilations made are very beautiful, truly bringing to you in a chronological order the India they saw. While reading, one can spot the similar accounts, owing to different travellers and writers observing the same kind of practices in the same time period across many parts of the country! The travellers are also unanimous in one more thing- their sheer awe on the high cultural and spiritual progress that they saw in India, unlike any other place. 

The India They Saw presents the historical Indian view from a beautiful angle, and it is so well arranged through the four volumes, covering in total from the 5th century BC to the 18th century. Some of these travellers and their accounts take you back to what you read in your Social Sciences during middle school- a fun way to learn history.

I feel this is another book which can be read in small doses and interesting snippets, from which you can learn a lot over a period of time! Do check it out!

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Brave New World

Title:
Brave New World
Author: Aldous Huxley

In the year AF(After Ford) 632, which would be an equivalent of the year 2540 in our calendar), men and women are no more born with natural abilities. Instead, in the dystopian World State city of London, kids are genetically engineered in artificial wombs where their abilities are handpicked according to the need to the world. The childhood is one closely monitored and led on the lines of requirement of the different classes they were engineered to belong to- the intelligence class and the labour class, with a clear establishment of hierarchy between the two. 

The society no longer has happy citizens, rather undergoes a mandatory feeding of the soma drug by the State to keep it's citizens peaceful. While the State tries to establish this Utopian system, Bernard Marx, a psychologist and sleep-learning specialist, raises his criticisms in his own arrogant, fearless way about the State's wrong methods of ensuring peace and calm. The story is of this one man, an individual, who questions and challenges the wrongness of the need-based, engineered production of humans thrown into a hierarchy based on intelligence, and the advancement in psychology and sleep-learning put to the negative use of manipulating citizens, and many more in that world that seems a nightmare to him. 

Is it utopian? Is is dystopian? I think it is the dystopian version of utopia, where men start claiming their 'right to be unhappy'. At the end of the day, where there isn't natural choice or selection, there is a dystopian angle to it- be it happiness or sadness. Huxley gives a mind-blowing science fiction- and the scariest part is it is not really much of a science-fiction anymore. True, it is still an exaggeration from some of the events that happen now, but probably our AF 632 isn't really far off. Take anything, from mood stabilizing pills to genetic modifications and designer babies, Huxley was bang on about literally every development that we have to. And, to have such a foresight, by whatever means, is just plain crazy. 

 It's a book that feels half-true, and the other half seems like a prediction. It's unputdownable, building the  ultimate dystopia in utopia. It's impossible not to marvel when you read this book. It is not entirely dark, it presents a perfect picture above that is yet to be tainted. Yet, it is all about knowing all the while that you read it- that it is tainted. 

It is a masterpiece! I absolutely loved it. It is a must-read!

Monday, August 17, 2020

A Natural

On tip top toe,
she smoothly slid-
on warm-black, wooden
floors, for figuring
a devilish dance
move.

A momentary
sway- unstable,
catastrophic to the eye,
showed her way
down.

Flat on the ground.
Leg twisted.
Back aching.
She got back up,
back to smoothly
sliding.

Up and down,
up and down,
over and again,
a repeated course,
until the body
sore.

Till- on warm-black, wooden
floors, figuring the
devilish dance move,
whirling pirouettes,
so graceful, so very
perfect.

On tip top toe,
she smoothly slid-
across the stage,
to a perfect click.
And, in the audience,
one said to another,
"Isn't she a natural?"
How right they were,
the audience can always place
one who doesn't
give up. A natural
fighter.

Sunday, August 16, 2020

What Kind Of Posts Get The Most Views?

Continuous, regular blogging has given me the opportunity to clearly see what kind of posts get the views. It's not possible to analyse this without blogging regularly, because then the number of views is affected by the irregularity itself. While the stats have definitely shown an unbelievable(but totally believable) growth, there is still some types of posts that get more attention that others!

To begin: what do I write about? I write a lot of-

6. Fillers: those kind of random posts I write in between the posts I seriously write

There are also other kind of posts, but you could probably majorly classify them to these kinds in the past year. What gets the top views is the fillers, I guess people like reading random stuff that may not make a great addition to their knowledge or experience, but are nevertheless fun to read. Usually, these are my memories from school, or me writing about a mundane observation. The next thing that gets the viewers queuing is my stories, and this makes me very, very happy. I write short pieces, and I even tried writing a series of chapters with a running story line titled Murder In Beltour. I was so happy with the amount of people who read it and got in touch with me to tell me how much they liked it! People also appreciate with a really startling number of views when I talk about a new learning or a new tool. I guess this might be the kind of post with a take-away, introducing cool tools that make life a little bit easier!

But, my blog is about and has primarily always been about: what to read. I read a lot. I love reading. I have loved reading since my Famous Five years, and I love writing about what I love in them. It has made me so happy in the last 6-7 months when so many friends have taken the time out to text me, saying: 'Hey Sandhya, I picked this book up to read only because I saw your review of it, and I love it', or 'Hey, I didn't know about this book, it seems really cool- I just bought it to read'. It makes me very happy that a review can make someone want to read it. 

And yet, the blog does have things to offer beyond books. I have had a couple of friends who are not much into reading that they enjoy other posts where I talk about my thoughts or experiences. One even joked that they get to read so many books and know about them without reading them (though I told her that's not what the reviews are for). My point is, I am happy to have so many happy readers. Recently, a very kind, happy reader left such a sweet comment on the blog!

I will continue writing all these kinds of posts, and I hope you all get something out o it! Let me know in the comments what kind of posts you love reading!

Wait, are you wondering what kind of post this was?

Saturday, August 15, 2020

"Wake Me Up When September Ends"

I tweeted months ago that the song of the year was Wake Me Up When September Ends. Well, I thought it would be a good joke. And, honestly, I wanted it only and just a joke. And, here we are at half a month more to actually being in September!

The dynamics of how we look at the world and its activities have drastically changed. And, the change is for everybody in every field- as a teacher, student, graduate, businessman, leader, sportsman, actor, helper- literally everyone. Some of us are fortunate enough to be better placed than others, and it is up to us to do what we can to help others to the extent we are capable of helping. 

I think one of the fundamental changes that I have been witness to, as a student, is how classes are conducted. It's all been shifted to an online medium. No more do I have to spend a thousand rupees getting physical copies of bare acts this semester, because the official copies of it are all available online. I find many students who take notes online, although I am not comfortable with it. Online classes are making teachers send you extended reading links and their relevant syllabus slides on time, instead of postponing it till the last minute. Traditional methods of evaluation with pen and paper tests are being pushed and changed because of the inherent impossibility, and more research-oriented, and knowledge-based testing through projects are becoming the answer to the problem of evaluation. 

Things are changing, but so must we. The mindset of both the students and teachers are still trained in the traditional ways of how we are used to doing things. And, I think I do see a change happening after months of trial and error. 

Online mode is a very accessible and important way to help the environment and other significant causes relating to accessibility. Even after this pandemic ends, and normalcy returns, I think we should all think about a more efficient use of the online resources that we do have. It can save paper as good as it can save time and fuel, and energy. If recorded lectures are made available, then it can complement to varied student needs. Textbooks, reference materials, bare acts- all of them can be allowed to be used on the laptop or phones to save money. 

We are all probably learning how to use our resources better, and I hope we exploit it for all the good reasons!

Friday, August 14, 2020

Tanmay: A Poetic Feature

Studying in the University has many perks, one of them being meeting interesting people with an abundance of talent. It is also the time all of us tend to work on ourselves, and explore what we have always wanted to do. Today, I have the pleasure of featuring a very talented poet, and a dear friend since the past three years from law school- Tanmay Raj Anand. 

It all started out as an interest in literature, with his mom introducing him to fiction since a young age, and the joy of fiction undoubtedly made a lasting impact. He wrote his first poem in the April of 2016, when the woes of figuring out a career post-schooldays were finally put to rest, and he found time to write. His first ever poem was one titled Trinkets on a Shelf, and that opened an array of windows for this young teen who found that there seemed to be the right words and ways in poetry to express the 'barrage' of emotions and experiences of a rebellious teenager. Tanmay says,
"The poems that I wrote then were not good, they were terrible actually. But I knew I could improve."
Well, I say, everything starts that way! Even this blog is a testament to that- you can see my growth as a writer, blogger, reader, thinker- all from scratch! And, today what I can say about Tanmay is that I truly believe his poetry will be a pleasant and nourishing discovery for all who read. 

Tanmay writes poetry for the sheer charm he feels by writing about his own experiences in lucid words. To him, poetry is a form of expression that can both heal troubled experiences and also help you grow. Everyone has their own mode of expressing and processing their emotions and thoughts. To me, it is writing. To Iah, it is music. And, to Tanmay, it is the evergreen art of poetry. 
"There’s also immense beauty and skill involved in making the banal things of daily life sound exciting, and I appreciate writers such as Henry Miller and Haruki Murakami for adding meaning in newer manners to routine stuff. Writing poetry thus becomes a form of meditation, it gives me a high, and the process of writing poems is so lucid, intoxicating, fleeting and limited- and, I let it possess me for that short amount of time just so that I can feel the satisfaction of a poem well written."
It is the thought and perspective of this budding poet that his poems mirror his own growth, and I couldn't agree with them more. Tanmay's command over the language and the ability to string words that are poetically admirable are absolutely impressive, to the say the least. 

The young poet is an ardent admirer of Charles Bukowski, and is quick to dole out his name to others when asked to suggest a poet who can incite the love for poetry in someone who isn't at all much exposed to poetry. What he most loves about Bukowski is the poet's realistic and unapologetic style of writing. 
"I’d tell anyone to read Bukowski as he really changed the game."
He also suggests Freedom of Love by AndrĂ© Breton, You by Tom Clark, Blocks by Frank O’Hara, and The Liberator by Emily Holmes Coleman, and poems of Sylvia Plath.

Although Tanmay doesn't have a particular 'goal' or contribution in mind for his poetry, what he does wish is for other people to read and remember him for his poems. Words are truly immortal, and there is no better way to remember a person than for what they do passionately! And, I think Tanmay's poetry are sure to strike an impressive chord in terms of languages and exploration of themes! 

Talking of themes, my dear friend has been on a full-on experience writing surrealist poetry. His favourite poem amongst what he has written happens to be one titled Automated #1 that was written using a very popular technique of surrealist writing called “psychic automation”. It involves writing down your thoughts quickly without necessarily editing them immediately, and moving on to the next thought as fast as possible. 
"Automated #1 turned out to beg much better than i had expected from the technique. It was replete with images and had layers of deeper meaning and a logical flow to it which came about naturally rather than through editing."
Tanmay has been featured in Bitter Fruit Review’s Summer Edition 2020, and also on Fitoor Open Mic. He has also recently started his blog 'minutes of my heart', as a sincere attempt to write more regularly. It features his thoughts on random things that cross his mind including philosophical musings, music, experiences, and sometimes poetry- all written in a short, sweet, and fun-to-read way.

Apart from poetry, our friend here is an avid reader, who likes to also sketch, and is now trying to foray back into exploring music again, having acquired a pair of bongos recently! Do check him out on Instagram @tanmayay where he regularly puts up his poetry. I can assure you they are a pleasure to read!

Tanmay is very dear friend, and I'm proud and happy that I can introduce his talent to a wider audience!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Paneer Paratha

An alternate picture- because I didn't
really hit it up with the toasty smell
of parathas. At least, we can smell
the weekend!
I tried making Paneer Parathas today, because its recipe seemed way too simple to not try. However, the result was a little different from what I had expected. Let me tell you how I made it!

What you need: atta, oil, paneer, onion, ginger, garam masala, cumin powder, chillies (if you prefer), coriander leaves, salt.

1. Prepare chapati dough (take the required quantity of atta, add salt, add a spoon of oil, mix it well, and slowly knead it by adding small quantities of water every time until it becomes a dough)
2. Grate paneer; finely chop onions, ginger, and coriander leaves. Put them all in a big bowl. Add garam masala, salt and cumin powder to taste. You can add finely chopped green chillies to this if you prefer. Toss them all well so that the masala and salt coat well.
3. Divide the stuffing and the dough into corresponding equal amounts. 
4. Roll out the dough, then keep the stuffing in the centre and fold the sides to cover the stuffing. 
5. Flatten out the dough again as much as you can- to the point that the stuffing doesn't come out. 
6. Cook them well on the tawa. Add generous amounts of ghee to enhance taste.

I did all of these steps, and it was great while doing it- seemed right. But I think the amount of stuffing that we prepared versus how it tasted was kind of misleading. We used 300g of paneer and one big onion primarily for the filling, and it definitely looked like it was more than enough for 4 people, and in fact it looked like there was a lot more than we needed. But, in the end result, I had only one feeling while eating it: where did all the filling go?! Somehow the filling wasn't at all enough to feel the taste well, I thought. 

Factoring in today's experience, the amount of paneer that seems to be required takes me by surprise. Probably, we're better off doing a paneer dish to pair with rotis, rather than making a paneer paratha. Anyway, doing it was still fun, and it looked really nice while doing it. My dad was just telling me today: appearances are deceptive! Also, I don't have a picture to show you. But, you have another picture up- a happy reminder!

But I am sure, that with the right quantity (which seem to be a lot) of stuffing, the dish would have been very, very tasty. So, if you wanna try- you know what to look out for! 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

A Solution for the Woes of Packing (Light)

In the last three years, I have frequently flown between college and home every semester. And, the first thing that anyone faces when they fly is baggage! There is a "student" allowance that most airlines give for extra baggage, but it still is a big deal to get all you want in place, within the allowance. 

When you come home every time, you are sent back with a host of things apart from what you brought in the first place. Moms have a separate list of 'essentials' that they will definitely pack and send along. So, how do you pack it all in the suitcase you get and how do you make sure you're within your allowed baggage weight? Sadly, there seems to be no magical shortcut to this. 

1. I had to plan and get the stuff from college to home- only what I absolutely need.
2. There is a way to pack. I think the best way is to apply the well-known rocks-pebbles-sand story in practice! 

For those of you who don't know, here's the story, just in case: You have rocks, pebbles, and sand that need to go into a jar. How do you put them in so that all of them can go in? If you put the sand in first, then it would occupy most of the space, and you will not have space for all the bigger rocks and pebbles. So, you put in the rocks first- meaning you put the bulkier, heavier clothes first (jeans, pants, skirts, shoes, etc.). Then you put the pebbles- which are smaller than rocks but bigger than sand. They tend to fit into the bigger gaps between the rocks- like your shirts, tops, and other things. Then you put in the sand, which can go and occupy every other space available- and these are all the rest small things that you need to pack. While the story is said in a metaphorical and philosophical sense, it makes our job much easier to actually use it for filling up the suitcase! That's what I do every time.

3. If you have a bulky shoe, or anything else like a jacket, carry it on you. Wear it for the journey. It gives so much space for other things to fit in without increasing your load, too. 
4. Don't fill up the suitcase to it's maximum capacity while going home because you are bound to carry more things in the same suitcase when you leave home. 

These are some of things that I always do. Do you have a hack that you follow? Let me know in the comments!

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Lord of the Flies

Title: Lord of the Flies
Author: William Golding

A group of young, adolescent British boys get abandoned on an island to fend for themselves when their plane crashes during an evacuation during the World War. They try to imitate the civilization they come from- initially setting up a democratic system and electing a leader amongst them, and also sharing and allotting specific duties to be performed like sourcing food and setting up smoke signals that can be a sign of call for help to passing ships. But, as looming paranoia about an imagined beast sets in and as rivalry develops, all structures and civilizations break loose.  

Lord of the Flies attempts to paint a theme of the nature of survival, coupling it with the tone of adventure. It also shows how every system and it's activities start with a good deal of positive objectives which eventually get lost in the fight for power and position. The human ego, and the imagined fears in the mind act as a catalyst to unwanted, negative and unnecessary thoughts that ends up breaking even the semblance of a civilized structure that we aim to have. 

In an environment where courtesy loses its meaning, and where the top most of priorities is survival itself, the human brain behaves very differently, even among the innocents. At the end, to understand what the book tries to say in one line, from the book itself:
"We did everything adults would do. What went wrong?”
And, that also explains what did go wrong. Be it good or bad, children learn from what they see in practice, not just by what they listen to. After all, actions speak louder than words. When the whole world is burning waging a war against each other, where tens of thousands civilians and innocents were affected- the boys learn the same thing, too. Their rivalry sends them to the solution that the world showed them: war.

The book is a quick read, and it has very simple language. And, it also doubles as an adventure. Golding is a nobel-prize winning author for his parables on human condition, and one such parable is this classic. The themes of the book are very relevant, especially in today's world! I enjoyed it.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Chloe Ting's Workout Challenges (I Am A Fan)!

This lockdown time is definitely seeing more people try to exercise more regularly. I think the sudden shut down of so many activities for so many months brings a painful consciousness of our increased inactivity and sedentary lifestyle. And, my Youtube recommendations were suddenly filling up with 'Chloe Ting workout challenges', that I only cursorily glanced. A conversation with a friend, who mentioned her a couple of months back, made me go back and take a look at her workouts. 

First thing I wanted to know: who is this Chloe Ting? Chloe Ting is a Youtuber who started out with putting fashion and travel experiences, and then started putting out workout videos from 2017. Next question: why is everyone doing these challenges suddenly? There are two reasons for this. One, as I already mentioned, is our general consciousness of our own inactivity. Two, her workouts are great (and they work)!

The most popular of her workouts that I repeatedly kept seeing was the two week shred challenge. I decided to try that out, too. The results that people were claiming to have got was phenomenal. I have been working out in some form or the other every single day, and so I thought it might not really work that much of a change in my body (because I've been working out, anyway, duh). How wrong I was! My body felt and looked much better after the two weeks. I am already in my normal, healthy weight range, so I did not see too much of a difference in the scales. But, my body was actually feeling much better- and that is probably because some of the fat was getting replaced by stronger muscles. And, more than anything, I thoroughly enjoyed the workouts. 

So, here are some reasons why you should give it a try:

1. The workouts are challenging, yet not impossible to do even for a beginner. She also has good modifications that she shows in her videos. 
2. She gives you an entire week(s) planned, with everyday consisting of 2-3 video workouts for a total of 20-50 minutes. 
3. The difficulty progresses with every day, so it doesn't become too easy after the first week.
4. They are short and effective.
5. You can lose weight, tone, gain healthy muscle, improve flexibility, and just feel absolutely great after every single workout, every single day!

Of course, what you eat is also important. It is absolutely true that exercising is just half of the solution. There is not much of a point if the eating is not clean. If you are interested, you can even check out the meal plans that she puts up, though I didn't. I didn't do any dieting, or even go out of the way and eat healthy. I just ate normally, and tried to avoid junk on the days I am not really hungry. And even for that, I saw great results. On top of everything, I need to be able to enjoy a workout. And, I thoroughly did that with Chloe Ting's. 

I started another challenge of hers because I grew to really liking her workouts in the two weeks. Do check them out on her website! It's not another advertising gimmick that made it viral or popular. I was just as skeptical when I started her workouts. But, I can guarantee that you'll get into the groove and love it. And, what's better, you will see results that you can feel- irrespective of whether it shows a change in the weighing scales!

Go for it!

Sunday, August 9, 2020

A Week of Classics Reading: Featuring Some Of The Best Women I've Seen

Let's admit it: books with some kick-ass women leads are always a dash more entertaining and inspiring to read. The zeal it gives me, as a girl myself, is something that I cannot explain in words! When I wrote a post of my nine most favourite characters of all-time, six of them happen to be women and that’s probably because I am a female, and naturally some of the strongest, inspiring female characters have left a strong impression on my mind!

So, here are seven classics, one for every day this week, that you can pick and read, and whose women sure won't disappoint you! These can be read under a day. 

4. Sivakamiyin Sabadham
6. Heidi

In each of these books, what you'll find is women on the lead: an example of today's modern day woman, who is solid in her opinions and intuitions, and puts a strong foot forward to lead others. The books also, I believe, teach you the right lessons. 

If you are looking for books for young girls, then check out my post on literature for young girls!

Do read and let me know what you liked in the comments! Happy reading!

Saturday, August 8, 2020

The Call of the Wild

Title: The Call of the Wild
Author: Jack London

Buck, a 140-pound St. Bernard–Scotch Collie, is snatched his pampered life with the family of Judge Miller when he is stolen and sold off by one of the servants of the Millers in need of money. From then on, Buck's life takes a drastic change as he survives harsh treatment, and learns the "law of club and fang". When Buck is later sold to two French-Canadians en route to an expedition in the Klondike regions of Canada, Buck is tirelessly trained to be a sled dog, and is also introduced to ten other dogs on the same mission. A play of situations causes Buck to kill Spitz, the pack leader, and Buck becomes the new leader of the sled pack. The journey of Buck as he finds his loving master and companion with a man named Thorton, his loyal allegiance to this human that he connects with, and his adventures in the wilderness as he grows more wild, to finally find 'the call of the wild' is what the rest of the story is about. 

The story is about Buck, but the background of the story is based on the Klondike Gold Rush, a period in history between 1896 and 1899 when it was discovered that there are gold mines in Koldike Alaskan region. This led to a whole craze of expeditions that took place where people wanted to literally hit the jackpot. Many stolen dogs were used for those expeditions as sled dogs. The story beautifully portrays the relationship and the trust between the dog and the human, and the immense loyalty that is involved in such relations.  

The story is rugged, and it is an incredible feeling as you see Buck transform from the pampered, city life to the final stages where he feels the call of the wild. The narrative is a page-turner, and you feel as loyal to Buck's life as Buck feels towards Thorton. The whole journey is one of learning for both Buck and the reader.

It is a masterpiece, with such an engrossing narrative. I picked this book up when I was very young, and at that time I read a couple of pages and decided I didn't like it. I never finished the book. After a couple of years, we had a lesson in school that was an excerpt from this book. And, I loved it. I loved it so much that I couldn't believe that I hadn't liked it earlier. I wanted to read the full novel. I always wanted to, but it became one of those books that I never got around to read fully. And day-before-yesterday, I saw the book again. I didn't think twice before I started reading it, and I loved it as much as I loved the excerpt. 

It is a must read!

Friday, August 7, 2020

Longfellow's August From The Poet's Calendar

I had shared a poem by Wadsworth in June and July, and many enjoyed the well-time reading of his beautiful poetry. These poems are 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. So, here you have Longfellow's August:

The Emperor Octavian, called the August,   
I being his favorite, bestowed his name 
Upon me, and I hold it still in trust,   
In memory of him and of his fame. 
I am the Virgin, and my vestal flame   
Burns less intensely than the Lion's rage; 
Sheaves are my only garlands, and I claim   
The golden Harvests as my heritage.

August leaves the temper and rage of the fiery lion that July presents, and has fairly transitioned into a less intense, vestal flame. The sheaves really do make the most wondrous garland after the golden harvests. And yet again, like every month, August has it's own Octavian charm. If you want to read all the set of twelve songs, you can read it here: https://bit.ly/2YrS66R

Have a happy August!