Monday, October 26, 2020

Favourite Canon Clicks

      


Rose Garden, Ooty

Petty Shop, Kodaikanal

Flower Market, Srirangam

Terrain Houses, Ooty

At home during Karthigai

Thiruneermalai Temple

Kolams and lights during karthigai

Raja Gopuuram, Srirangam

A Villa, Pondicherry

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Leading To The Day of Victory

Continuing from yesterday's post of Navratri Golu, today's is a post on Saraswati Pooja that happens on the 9th day (navami) of the Navaratri days, and 10th day of Vijayadashami tomorrow. Saraswati, as most of us know is the Goddess of knowledge in Hindu mythology. Saraswati Pooja or Ayudha Pooja is celebrated on the navami, especially in Tamil Nadu.

Ayudha Pooja is extremely special out of the 9 days, and also marks the final day of Navaratri. Books, tools, and all the important things concerning education and career and neatly stacked up in front of Goddess Saraswati to seek the blessings of the Goddess of knowledge, learning, and all forms of art. We used to love and look forward to this day as kids because the books that are stacked up on the day of Saraswati Pooja cannot be removed until the next day, which is Vijayadashami. So, we used to stack up every single book, notebook, and all forms of homework into the pile so that no work needs to be done! This was one day when we could legitimately get off from doing even a single productive activity (and not be told to be more productive)!

This day is also called Ayudha Pooja, and it is a big, special day for all shopkeepers and businessmen. It is the day they honour their tools and their shop that make their living, and they honour their vehicles of transport. Even inside the house, you honour every significant item in the house, and all your personal vehicles, and even the house itself. Usually, when we went to our school classrooms on Vijayadashami (the day after ayudha pooja), we would see marks of 'chandan kumkum' tikkas on top of the boards, and on every classroom door! Every single person honours any and every tool that give knowledge, business, and art.

Vijayadashami is the day of 'vidya arambha', means beginning of learning. Usually, on this day you have all the subjects taught a little bit in school, and they start new chapters, new kids are enrolled in whatever extra-curricular classes that they want- like music, dance, sport, art, anything at all. It is believed that starting to sincerely learn something on Vijayadashami can lead you victorious! This is also the day you honour your teachers. On the day of Vijayadashami, we used to always go with a traditional plate of fruits, betel leaves, and a small gift to my music teacher's place, and she always taught us a small new song and had a return gift for all her students. 

This day of all beginnings definitely gives you a chance to finally start what you want to, if you haven't already. It's a day of spirit, enthusiasm, a lot of learning, and new beginnings! So, if you have something that you really wanted to start, then tomorrow might be a great day! Don't forget to follow it up on the day after Vijayadashami too!

Happy Ayudha Pooja, and advanced happy Vijayadashami to all of you! Let's have a great year until next Navaratri!

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Navratri Golu 2020

1000s of years of epics, 100s of years old Bommai(dolls), Music, Songs, Sundals, Costumes, Traditions, Kolams, Lamps, Decorations, Chit-chats, Gifts, Prayers, Invitations, Visits- they all go by the single name of Navaratri Golu. This pandemic may have simmered down the usual flurry of visitations to our friends' and relatives', and the infinite packets of sundals that we can munch on, but the spirit is still there. 

I have some great memories when it comes to Golus. I have been a regular to all the Golu houses of my friends and neighbours, and have always been made to sing something from my Carnatic music lessons. I remember I used to sing the same song in every house (because that just makes it easier), while my mom used to try and make me sing different songs in different houses. 

We used to really love going to the Golu display in Ayodhya Mandapam, in my locality, and enjoy the themes and stories on display for the year. From 2012 till 2014, I put up a series of photos on the blog during Navaratri every year. You can see them here: http://sandhya.varadh.com/search/label/Navaratri 

In school, we celebrated every festival, and Navaratri Golu was no exception! I remember in Class V, we actually made a three-steps Golu set-up in our classroom in school, and each of us brought a few dolls to collectively celebrate. Some of them even prepared and got sundal every day! 

I miss going to the Ayodhya Mandapam Golu this year, and putting up lovely pictures for all to see, but we shall look forward to it next year! 

Happy Navaratri!

Friday, October 23, 2020

An Ode To Chromebooks (in Prose)

Image from Quill
Chromebook. This changed the game for me. My first ever laptop was an ocean turquoise HP Chromebook in 2014. Among all the laptop suggestions that involved windows, iOS, linux, and other systems- I am so glad and thankful I picked this one. And since then, I have never again wanted anything else. 

Today, I am with my new Lenovo Ideapad Duet Chromebook, the third one in a row since 2014, and I feel the happiest. I bid adieu to the Asus Flip Chromebook that I absolutely loved and adored the last three years. When I had to think of another laptop to buy, I just had one thing on my mind: I want a Chromebook again.

That's the charm of Google's Chromebook. It's probably one of the most brilliant products they ever made. Having had Chromebooks through the last 6 years, in a way I have seen it grow. My first Chromebook had just ChromeOS. My second(previous) Chromebook could run android apps- which was the most helpful thing ever when my phone failed during this pandemic lockdown. And, my latest one can run both android and linux applications. And, all of this comes with the most user-friendly, minimalist design that amps up your productivity like nobody's business. 

A vast majority of us literally use just the browser on a laptop, and maybe store some files on the local storage. That is it! Why do we need a laptop with a ton of things that we would never get to know and use? I heard in an interview talking about Chromebooks, where Mr. Pichai explained how Chromebooks were launched by Google to actually give only what the users need and use. I think that's brilliant, and I love it. I have been using it smoothly for the last 6 years, which proves that anything more isn't really needed. 

I love it because of so many reasons. They are usually sleek and light, so it makes it carrying it around so much easier. They have auto-backup to Google Drive, so everything is always safe. I have truly realized the power of a cloud back-up when my phone failed a couple of months ago. Also, for the last six years, Chromebook and its auto-sync on Drive has sorted my life out in a way that's beyond amazing. I think a Chromebook is one of the best laptops for student life, especially (and even beyond that). 

These cute, sleek, minimalist Chromebook have charmed me to no end, and it will not fail you either. So, next time you are thinking about getting a laptop- do think about Chromebooks. I promise you, once you try it you are going to fall in love with it. 

6 years, and I don't see myself wanting anything other than a Chromebook. And, I don't hope but I am very sure, that I will love my new, third one too!

Also, I wish I could write an actual ode- because this one deserves an ode. But, thanks to my lack of poetical skills- you just got an ode in prose.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

7 Favourite Posts

I believe in writing and publishing only what I like, always. But, there are some days when you love your post, and some days when you just like it. The days you absolutely love your post, in an over-the-top way,  and you are really proud of what you have written is something you have in mind forever. So, here are the top 7 favourites of what I have written in my blog in the last 318 days of everyday blogging!

1. #DayOne : Well, this one makes me so happy I took that first step to revive what had become a stagnant blog. My dad said that when he read that post again recently, he felt I had upheld what I had started out (at least up till today, as I write). This makes me very, very happy!

2.  I Am A Handbag, And This Is My Story  : This was such a very different story that I attempted, and I absolutely loved writing this one!!

3. The Nine Most Favourite Characters: All Time (And, Six Of Them Happen To Be Women!) : I loved the fact that so many fictional women actually inspire me since my young days! This was again something that was really enjoyable to write, and I loved how it turned out. 

4. The Idea Of Cleanliness : I wrote this after I was inspired by a tweet! And, I loved the tweet, and I loved writing it in the story format. 

5. Catching A Vibe : Writing about the music I started finding after getting into college, from the music that I was exposed to through my schooldays, was such an interesting and reflective piece. I am so happy I wrote about it.

6. A Natural : This is a poem that I wrote, and I think I love it because I really believe in it. 

7. Gripped In Doubt : Another story that I wrote, and was very happy the way it turned out!

The one that didn't make the cut, but is again a favourite is Before Sunset. This took me to the sunset at the beach as I wrote it, and I hope it would do the same to you. Let me know which is your favourite post in my blog. This list does not include any reviews that I wrote, but only the ideas I explored, but you could include those while you pick out your favourite!

Happy reading!

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Trying Out A Stylus

Today, I tried the new capacitive stylus, for my Chromebook, that I bought for trying to take all the notes-making digital. So, I thought I could write my post today to check it out, and also share with you all how it feels. So, here's the hand written digital post with my new stylus! 

(I hope my handwriting is legible enough!)


I look forward to using these tools more extensively- thanks to having a digital cloud copy, and also saving paper! This felt really good, and I am looking forward to more! If you have any suggestions on stylus-friendly note-taking apps that you have tried and had a good experience with, then please do let me know in the comments! 

Have a nice day!


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Rainy Day

Some love the rains, some hate it. Some think about dancing in the rains, while some others think of the insects that would be crawling in their room when the rain pours. Rain is romanticized often, and sometimes the truth is that it's just wet and ugly. If you are someone who thinks rains are dark, sullen, cold and dreary- then here's a poem for you that shows you that is true, and yet also shows you the sun creeping behind the cloud, waiting to come out. 

This is a really nice poem, and I have been reading my copy of The Complete Poems of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I am not a big reader of poetry, but this book and his poems have been incredible. Some of them are extremely simple, yet really honest and beautiful- like the one I have for you today. This poem is called 'The Rainy Day', and it was never before felt this good accepting the truthful, dreary side of rains.

The day is cold, and dark, and dreary 
It rains, and the wind is never weary; 
The vine still clings to the mouldering wall, 
But at every gust the dead leaves fall, 
And the day is dark and dreary. 
My life is cold, and dark, and dreary; 
It rains, and the wind is never weary; 
My thoughts still cling to the mouldering Past, 
But the hopes of youth fall thick in the blast, 
And the days are dark and dreary. 
Be still, sad heart! and cease repining; 
Behind the clouds is the sun still shining; 
Thy fate is the common fate of all, 
Into each life some rain must fall, 
Some days must be dark and dreary.

I enjoyed it, especially with the North-east monsoon rains that have started phasing out in the South. It is cold, dark, and dreary, but behind the clouds is the sun still shining! Hope you enjoyed it!

Monday, October 19, 2020

The Secret of the Unicorn

Tintin is a childhood staple, and a favorite for generations to come. It is for kids and adults, and it is the one of the most exciting adventures you'll ever read. This lanky, young Belgian reporter and his equally enthusiastic white Wire Fox Terrier give you the best time of your life. Thoughts of such legendary characters being converted to an on-screen look usually is kind of scary. But, it's Steven Spielberg, and what you see on screen is a visual treat that doesn't really do bad at all at matching the fame of the original by HergĂ©. 

The Secret of the Unicorn is one of the best of the entire Tintin series. Tintin buys an antique ship(which he later discovers to be known as the Unicorn) model to present to Captain Haddock, only to be pursued by three different sets of people who want him to sell it to them. But when Tintin refuses to sell it, he finds it stolen when he comes back to his place one day. But a scroll that falls out of the mast which Snowy had broken earlier, reveals a puzzle to them. There's the enemy, there's the prize, and there's the puzzle- all you get to see is a phenomenal plot and action that leads up to the young investigator sorting things out plain and proper. 

This book brings some of Tintin's best game ever. Tintin is on top of the world, and so is the plot of this unputdownable adventure. And, that is probably why this was chosen to be made into a movie by Spielberg. The only problem with it is the differences it has from the original book- especially when it comes to the villains. Sakharine is made the main villain, and the Bird Brothers barely exist in the movie. While in the book, the Bird Brothers are the main villains. While the plot line has been retained about the ship and the puzzles, the change in the villain does lead to major differences in the story with respect to the backgrounds and scenes with the antagonists. 

However, even with all the differences, it has to said that the movie stayed true to the spirit of Tintin. The character was as intelligent, kick ass and smart as our favourite comic hero, and you actually end up liking the movie. Tintin is definitely a character who is involved in stories that can be visual. The movie has some amazing action sequences, and I definitely did not regret watching it even one bit. It draws heavily not jusr from The Secret of the Unicorn, but also from  The Crab with the Golden Claws and Red Rackham's Treasure.

The movie is great even with all its differences. One reason for that could be that it's Spielberg! I read somewhere that HergĂ© and Spielberg were great fan of each other. The adaptation is beautiful, fun, and as good as a Tintin book to me. It feels great not to be disappointed when a book gets viewed on the big screen. 

Which is your favourite Tintin book? Did you like the movie? Share in the comments below!

Sunday, October 18, 2020

If you have the heart...

A couple of years ago, I had tried translating a few stories from the Tamil book Ullame Ulagam by Thenkachi Ko Swaminathan. I was just going through those, and realized that one of the posts that I did translate got left out from being posted, so here it is. I didn't translate all the stories, but I hope I will find the book and I can! Enjoy this one, and if you want to read the rest of what I had translated, use the hyperlink above!

The train started.
A youngster climbed on hurriedly.
He had a nice cardboard box in his hand.
He came and sat down. 
He hugged the cardboard box to his chest.
The old man sitting opposite noticed this. 
The youngster said: “What are you seeing… costly footwear… I have travelled a long distance to buy this. 
“Didn't you get it anywhere else?”
“I was searching for something like this for a long time. I tried, going to many places in search… Finally, I got it here.”
“What if you hadn't got here?”
“I would have gone mad!”
“Is it so very rare?”
“Wait a little… I will take it out and show you… See it and and then speak!”
He opened the cardboard box. While he took out the footwear, his hands faltered… One of it fell out through the window!
That youngster threw the other one out immediately, not even pausing to think. 
The old man was astonished.
“What is this… You have done like this!”
“This is what that has to be done… This is only right…One of it fell outside, the other I have in my hand… It will not be useful to the one who picks that up… It will not be useful to me either. Now, the man who picks those two slippers can at least use it!”
The youngster peeped out of the window to see the outside world. 
The old man closed his eyes and thought. He understood:
To give, you don’t need money
You need a heart!

Translated by me from "Ullame Ulagam" by Thenkachi Ko Swaminathan (publishers Vanathi Pathipagam).

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Learning Every Day

Today, I read one of the best posts on Brain Pickings- 13 Life-Learnings from 13 Years of Brain Pickings. The learning was as beautiful as this wonder blog, and the blog is a true reflection of those lessons. From generosity in giving credit, to being able to unlearn and "allowing the luxury of changing your mind", Brain Pickings has covered so many subtle, important lessons. 

It got me thinking how much I have learnt throughout so many years, and particularly this year. I am not going to make a list right now about the lessons, we can save that for another day. But, what I was thinking about today was how having a blog or a platform opens up so many portals of understanding, reflection, and constant learning. The whole process just makes you better, and pushes you to keep going. 

The best part about doing this is how it turns out to be a learning process all the time, including the times when you're not really doing a great job of it. You learn to value your thoughts, your environment, your activities, your time, your life, and yourself. It ensures that you keep learning, and you are never stagnant. It feels really beautiful to have this going for yourself. 

And, the learning doesn't stop there. You learn from what you run your blog on. You learn from books, movies, writers, poets, bloggers, other services, and literally anything that you can grab on to. The process is so powerful that when you look back at your learning it looks like you are scaling a mountain, but all you do is take a step each day! The list is endless. 

I felt really nice reading Popova's post. And, I thought I should do something similar at a later time, when I have really assimilated more through consistent learning and sharing. You should definitely take a look at this post. Just like everything else in that favourite blog, this one too is absolutely beautiful! 

Friday, October 16, 2020

"Take it as a lie— or a prophecy."

Time travel has been a staple theme when it comes to science fiction. Many writers- popular, unpopular, brilliant, weird- all of them have used this theme. As kids, we loved it. And as adults, we still do. H. G. Wells, one of the greatest and most prolific writers in the literary world, in The Time Machine says a statement that resonates indefinitely and captures the true spirit of the idea of travelling in time. 
"Take it as a lie—or a prophecy."
The world is progressing at breakneck speed, and what wasn't possible yesterday has become very probable today, and is inching towards being a significant possibility for tomorrow. So, through those words he captures the essence of scientific progress, and time travel- take it as a lie, or a prophecy!

I love science fiction, and I have read great authors like H.G. Wells, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Arthur Clarke, Orson Scott Card- and I loved them all. The Foundation Saga, and the series of novels in Ender's Game are some of my all-time favourites. But, when it comes to time travel my favourite is A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’ Engle that I first read when I was 12 years old. I actually love the whole Time Quintet series by her, but the first one is the favourite. I love the entire family- Meg Murry, Charles Wallace Murry, and their friend Calvin O' Keefe, and all their adventures wrapped in time. It's just an absolutely beautiful series. 

Time is something we Earthlings can't control. But, if you really understand time, and you love reading the novels, the first thing you understand is time is a dimension, and as the books says:
“A straight line is not the shortest distance between two points.” ― Madeleine L' Engle, A Wrinkle in Time

But as Wells puts it again, we have a beautiful way of travelling time at present while we wait for a prophesied future when we figure out how to actually travel in time. 

“We all have our time machines, don't we. Those that take us back are memories...And those that carry us forward, are dreams.” ― H.G. Wells

We have already developed tools to preserve memories- photos, albums, video tapes, journals, letters, so many! But, it is also true that the more we focus on recording them, the more the forget to keep them in etched in our minds forever. We have memories at all points and all phases, only that what a 'memory' is changes over time. So, when we time travel in the future, what do you think would a 'memory' really be?

If you have a favourite sci-fi novel or a time travel classic- please share it in the comments below, I'd love to try them out!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Watership Down

Title: Watership Down
Author: Richard Adams

A group of rabbits from a warren need to shift their base after one of them, Fiver, gets an extrasensory vision of the warren being destroyed completely. The more you are on the move, the more the dangers for your survival. So, the rabbits have to find their home soon. What's their danger? Well every possible thing- a badger, a car, humans, a dog, and what not. A rabbit named Hazel manages to lead them wisely. When they chance upon a nice human with a farm and who feeds rabbits, the rabbits in the farm invite them to stay. Fiver is the one to again realize that their hospitality is just a fair shot at increasing their own survival as the farm man feeds them, but also kills some of them for the meat. Hazel and his group escape the farm, and travel further to find their safe haven in Watership Down. The story takes the form of a pretty gripping survival novel. 

I was scanning something for a quick, light read, and chanced upon this book that I had. It seemed like a children's novel. But, when I started reading it, it was just rich allegory. The preface to the book disclaims that there was no intent of any allegorical meaning, and it was just the author's story for his own two young daughters. But, reading as an adult, it is very difficult to not draw those unmistakable parallels that Adams has definitely sprinkled all over. The story definitely incorporates a little of everything- hardships, loyalty, bravery, freedom, tyranny, and heroic deeds. 

This is a definitely lovable, enjoyable book for children. It was a really quick read for me, and unusual because it's been a long time since I read a children's book. But, what a classic this one was!  It's a simple story, and a nice one. I loved how the suspense was maintained and weaved into a simple story in the lives of rabbits! I really liked it. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Whiteboard

The Whiteboard. Once you put up the list of pending things, it stares at you. As you walk by, as you sit, as you stand, and sometimes even when you sleep, and it makes sure there is no way you forget to get it done and dusted- of course, only in the case where you put the whiteboard in sight. 

Writing on a whiteboard is fun. Well, at least, initially. I once brought up a pending list of things I discovered particularly as "pending" so that I can just write them on the board. Green, red, blue, black- nice colours. But once you write it, it sits there until you actually do it. I feel really guilty wiping off something which I haven't done. The whiteboard makes you feel that way, doesn't it?

Somehow, finally wiping off an ever-pending item on the whiteboard gives me immense satisfaction. I feel like getting the job done just so that I can wipe it clean off the board. Well, looks like I love writing on the board, and I also love wiping what I wrote off the board. Well. I should give it due credit- it definitely makes me work. 

I am not really particular about buying, collecting, or using stationery. But, these definitely do give a sense of comfort, an order among chaotic schedules, and something that can slightly push me towards sticking to the plan. 

It's not the whiteboard for all of us, I guess. For some, it is diaries. For some others, small notepads. I have seen magnets, and sticky notes, and one sided papers. But, they all serve the same purpose. They push us to get the job done so that we can wipe/strike/tear it away from the list of to-do things. How about you?

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Turn of the Screw

Title:
The Turn of the Screw
Author: Henry James

A governess is employed in the beautiful English countryside of Essex to take care of two young children her employer doesn't want to bother taking care of. She is strictly instructed to handle all situations that arise by herself, and is told in unmistakably clear terms that she is not to bother the employer with any communication on the kids or her job of taking care of them. Into the her new job of taking care of the little boy Miles, and his little sister Flora, she is soon pounded with circumstances way beyond her comprehension: the sudden expulsion of Miles from his school, the two figures she keeps seeing on the grounds of the estate whom she can neither identify nor can catch in person, eerie periods in the day where the children go out of her sight and nowhere to be found. She is informed of the presence of two ghosts who were former employees in the estate and were close to the children. Time ticks, days darken, and our governess gets increasingly petrified. Her attempts to protect the children from the ghost scares the hell out of Flora, and leaves Miles dead in her lap. 
“No, no—there are depths, depths! The more I go over it, the more I see in it, and the more I see in it, the more I fear. I don’t know what I don’t see—what I don’t fear!”
This perfect Gothic horror takes you a short, thrilling ride- shrewdly balancing the oxymoron of extremely detailed and extravagantly visual prose, and sheer ambiguity. What happened? Who killed Miles? Was there ghosts? Or, was our governess delusional? No answers in the book, and the reader is left to judge.  The imagery is hauntingly perfect. The supernatural presence is directly proportional to the setting and the lights that author allows you to envision. It's a book, and it's a puzzle. 

A couple of years ago, I remember reading an article which compared a real life case of a delusional woman and the murder of her daughter in a house only she was present. This book was quoted, and I still remember them detailing that actual case- and today I see the spine-chilling similarity. How you interpret the story is probably on you. You believe in supernatural powers? You believe that the woman was simply delusional? You believe that Henry James wrote a story that is beyond a straight-forward horror, or you think he meant it to be a simple ghost story? I really can't make up my mind.

For the classic Gothic horror it is, it is absolutely steadfast on it's walk on the line of ambiguity, refusing to give away a point that can make you fall on either side convinced. It's a short read, but it sure takes you on a ride, and it leaves you with a tingle. This has been on my classic to-read list for a long, long time (many years), but I am glad I read it now because I wonder if I'd have understood the intricacies of James's prose and the imagery had I read it a couple of years ago. I loved it.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Good Books by Edgar Guest

When you think of the sweetest poems about books and reading, the first thing that comes to my mind is Julia Donaldson's I Opened A Book. And, the second thing that comes to my mind is Good Books by Edgar Guest. Books open up a portal to many different worlds, and make us experience things that are both within and beyond imagination. And, if sweet, simple words could capture that with lovable rhyme, then these two poems will top in that list. 

Edgar Guest- the People's poet- just like his many other poems, gives you some of the most cheerful insights on the fellowship of books. This is definitely a favourite. Here's the poem!

Good books are friendly things to own.
If you are busy they will wait.
They will not call you on the phone
Or wake you if the hour is late.
They stand together row by row,
Upon the low shelf or the high.
But if you’re lonesome this you know:
You have a friend or two nearby.

The fellowship of books is real.
They’re never noisy when you’re still.
They won’t disturb you at your meal.
They’ll comfort you when you are ill.
The lonesome hours they’ll always share.
When slighted they will not complain.
And though for them you’ve ceased to care
Your constant friends they’ll still remain.

Good books your faults will never see
Or tell about them round the town.
If you would have their company
You merely have to take them down.
They’ll help you pass the time away,
They’ll counsel give if that you need.
He has true friends for night and day
Who has a few good books to read.

If you want to experience other poets, writers write about what reading is to them, then try these poems, which are also my favourites: There is no Frigate like a Book by Emily Dickinson, Read to Me by Jane Yolen (she says, read to me- and when you are finished, please read them again!), and Happy Chimney Corner Days by Robert Louis Stevenson. I love all of them!

Hope you enjoyed it!

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Mark Twain's Letters (1853-1910)

Title:
Mark Twain's Letters
Author: Mark Twain

Mark Twain has been one of my most favourite authors since the time I first read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It's been around a couple of weeks now that I have been slowly reading and immensely enjoying the letters of Mark Twain. Mark Twain's Letters consist of six volumes, where letters are arranged in chronological order, and they range from snippets of his early letters that couldn't be retrieved in full, to the days of Mark Twain- the traveller, to discussions and reflections on literature and politics, and some of his un-mailed letters. It's not a book you read like others. It's to be taken in doses, every word to be savoured and enjoyed. 

"Nowhere is the human being more truly revealed than in his letters."

That is what the foreword began with, and there are no truer words to describe this book. Mark Twain has always had a profound way of capturing mammoth-like concepts in life into words so simple that it leaves you wondering how he managed. He has a style that is so distinct, and so strong that once you read, you cannot escape the lasting impression it will have on you. And, these letters open a portal further into Twain's thoughts and understanding of the the subjective human nature- the vast, un-written life within him. 

Six volumes- it'll last me for long years to come, to read them. A letter each day, and keeping Twain with me all along is probably one of the best things. If you are an ardent admirer of Twain, do pick this up if you already haven't!

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Wrapping Up #WodehouseSeries

The last couple of weeks was a nice trip down aisle of Wodehouse books, and his characters. We had met his most famous characters in their most famous series. I am very fond of many of those characters, and I am looking forward to read those books of his which I still haven't. It'd be lovely to have read at least one author in whole (apart from Rick Riordan, at least)! So, here's the links to all the posts in the Wodehouse series. 

1. Welcoming the #WodehouseSeries

2. My Man Jeeves on #WodehouseSeries

3. Meet Mr. Mulliner on #WodehouseSeries

4. School Stories on #WodehouseSeries

5. Blandings Castle on #WodehouseSeries

6. Ukridge on #WodehouseSeries

Each post in the series will carry an illustration by me, as we discuss and dive into the fair share of Wodehouse that I have read. So, if you are a Wodehouse fan- I am sure you will enjoy the ride. And, if you have never read Wodehouse, you'll probably pick one up that has been mentioned or discussed in this series!

If you have a favourite Wodehouse book, let me know in the comments!

Friday, October 9, 2020

10 Great Books You Can Read Under A Day

Do you want a break? Do you want to read books that you can finish in a couple of hours and get going? Do you want to read iconic books by legendary authors, names that are the the treasured cherries in the world of literature, under a day's time? Check these out. 

1. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho: Fiction, fable, philosophy- all in one!

2. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: Fiction, tragedy, romance. And, it is considered one of the greatest fiction ever written!

3. Animal Farm by George Orwell: Satire, allegory, finding a whole depth of meaning in words so simple that we'd never have thought to find it. This is perfect.

4. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury: A dystopian science fiction from one of the greatest sci-fi writers ever? Go for it!

5. The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde: How would you like a play in the list? And, a comedy? And, a short one in that? And, if possible, then by Oscar Wilde? Just when it starts to feel like you're putting too many filters in your search demand for books to read, there comes up one guaranteed response: The Importance of Being Earnest

6. The Trial by Franz Kafka: It's gritty, it's gripping, it's horrifyingly eye-opening, and it's Kafka all the way. Pick it up if you are ready for something that'll leave you thinking about it for a long time after you are done with it.

7. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck: You want a  tragedy with its lovely moments filled with joy and hope? Pick this. It's a beautiful tale.

8. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell: This enchanting, sweet tale of a horse is an evergreen classic, and a must read. And, all it takes is less than a day!

9. Daisy Miller by Henry James: We need at least one book with one of the strongest female leads in the history of literature!

10. The Motorcycle Diaries by Che Guevara: Adventures that explore the beauty of Latin America on 'La Podersa' in the real-life story of Che Guevara. Need I say anymore to convince you to pick this up? Well if you need: it comes with beautiful original images of this trip of Guevara!

This list has everything legendary from every genre that you can read under a day, comfortably! There is fable fiction, romance, adventure, science fiction, satire, a real life memoir, hard hitting classics, modern feminist female leads, non-stop comedy- anything you want! Pick your choice, pick it up, and read for the next two days this weekend!

 Happy weekend!

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Experience With A Legal Startup

Last month, I interned with a new born Legal-Techno-business start-up: Lexavant LLP. This startup mainly focuses on aiding entrepreneurs set up their businesses, with a clear legal checkup on the relevant permissions and compliance they need to follow under the many different laws in India. The idea of working with a new-born initiative in law, and the idea of being able to view so many laws from the entrepreneurial perspective is what motivated me towards this internship.

I worked with the Blogging team, and my main contribution was writing entrepreneur-oriented articles with sound legal research on a law that they assigned for me. I wrote two articles on Agricultural Laws in India for entrepreneurs. If you actually look at it, new generation farmers are looking to many avenues that have a huge potential for commercial entrepreneurship. For example, one of my articles was on the seed industry, an avenue that is becoming increasingly privatized in India. And, another one of my articles was on the opportunities of intellectual property rights and recognition for farmers and their plant varieties! There really is so much opportunity to innovate, grow, and contribute as an entrepreneur in any field today!

Another project that I was involved in during this stint with Lexavant was preparing checklists. This is something that I had already done extensively when I interned with corporate firms. One of the widely appreciated and used checklists that I had prepared during my previous internship was of compliances that need to be followed in Related Party transactions under the Companies Act, SEBI (Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeovers) Regulations, SEBI (Listing Obligations and Disclosure Requirements) Regulations, and SEBI (Prohibition of Insider Trading) Regulations. I had also dealt with checklists for arbitration procedures under HKIAC rules.

But, these checklists that I did with Lexavant were more fun to do for me because they were things that we as people deal with and see in our day-to-day lives: like the compliance list for making an app, and the compliance for someone to build a residential township! I really had a nice time writing those articles. 

Overall, the internship was a very different experience because of 3 things:

1. It is the first time I am interning online. So, there wasn't much of the usual brainstorming or face-to-face idea-sharing that usually happens when people work on a project. 

2. This was a very new start-up, and they had just begun. So, they are still working on their website, and content, and putting their things together. So, the extreme professional air was not really there- at least on the online front. But, that also made us more comfortable to talk to them any time we needed something without second thoughts. 

3. This was a blogging internship. So, there was actual finished product to the legal research that I did through that week. This is rarely the case when we intern under lawyers in a firm, or otherwise. So, I really liked being a "blogging" intern. 

I had a very different, fresh experience with Lexavant. The best part was that I was learning, and so were they! Internships like these definitely give you a fresher perspective even if you go back to interning with big corporate firms. I enjoyed it!

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

A Mathematician In Love by William J. Rankine

I saw a poem today, with it's axes poking into mathematics, the science of life, and literature- all in one! It was an excerpt from the poem The Mathematician In Love by William J. Rankine, one of the founding contributors to the science of thermodynamics. If you want to check out the full poem- you can read it here. But, let me share the excerpt on the basic, fundamental axes that support what we all know as 'love', worded beautifully by this mathematician-poet. This is the VI and VII stanza of the poem. 

"Let x denote beauty, — y, manners well-bred, —
"z, Fortune, — (this last is essential), —
"Let L stand for love" — our philosopher said, —
"Then L is a function of x, y, and z,
"Of the kind which is known as potential.

"Now integrate L with respect to d t,
"(t Standing for time and persuasion);
"Then, between proper limits, 'tis easy to see,
"The definite integral Marriage must be: —
"(A very concise demonstration)."

What' s not to love about this poem! There's algebra, there's life, there's love, and there is a whole lot of mathematics! I have rarely stumble across such poems, and I really enjoyed this one even as I had just started reading it! Please do read the whole version in the hyperlink I have provided above. The story-poem has a really witty twist that I will not spoil for you! I absolutely enjoyed this poem. Is there a science/math poem, or any poem that goes high as 'nerdy'? Do share it with all of us in the comments below, I'd love to read more of them! 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Dubliners

Title:
Dubliners
Author: James Joyce

When we think of James Joyce, we think of Ulysses- the grandest and his most famous novel. I am sure most of us haven't read it. In fact, it is the most commonest of jokes that people who buy Ulysses hardly ever read it. It is acknowledged to be one of the hardest reads in literature. However, if you want to read Joyce, though you aren't sure if Ulysses is really for you, then go for Dubliners

Dubliners is a set of fifteen short stories that have a broad chaotic theme. Between the stories there is no flow of logical sequence, yet individually are in Joyce's most used modernist style of narration. The only key overall structure of this collection is the chronological progress in the age of the narrators- starting from stories and lives of young children, slowly graduating in age and maturity, and ends with the short story "The Dead". Another striking style of Joyce in every short story in this collection is his idea of an epiphany- a moment of sudden, dawning realization in his protagonists of each story, from the simplest of things to their feelings about life and death. 

Many characters were further developed and they were featured in Joyce's Ulysses. Although Joyce will always be known for Ulysses, I think Dubliners is the place to start! It is a slice of reality of life- as people process events, stumble upon situations where they need to make a decision, and as they move on about the bigger picture of life. It is subtle, yet the readers cannot avoid the epiphany it focuses on. I really enjoyed it!

Monday, October 5, 2020

How To Untangle Long Hair

For the longest time when I was young, untangling my hair without pulling it too hard was a major issue. And, entangled hair was actually a big scare for me. I am sure many of you have figured out a way to keep your hair untangled, or have figured how to remove those tangles in a proper manner. But, I still wanted to put this up so that if even one of you find this better, then I'd feel very happy because I know what a pain it is to untangle hair when you just try to brush it and end up pulling out more hair. 

So, this is a way I observed and learnt when I once went to get my long hair cut off till my chin, many years ago. And, since then- I have never ever had a problem in removing tangles in my hair. I just use a basic comb that has two rows of teeth- one slightly wider, and the other with narrow gaps. I have had even the most terribly tangled hair removed smoothly and easily by doing this- so, check it out!

1. Part the volume of your hair from the centre of your forehead into two sort-of-equal halves on either side. 
2. Start with one side, and twist tightly (the entire volume of one side) like how you'd twist a single rope. Go on with the twisting till there is very little free hair left at the bottom.
3. Take the wider-gap part of the comp, and remove the tangles on that bottom part of the free hair.
4. Once it has absolutely no tangles on that part of the hair, release a little more hair from the twist, and comb it again until there are no tangles.
5. Repeat the same for the entire length of hair on one side, slowly releasing the twist little by little till the whole side is tangle-free!
6. Repeat the same on the other side. 

This may sound like an elaborate process- but it takes much, much lesser time than trying to comb the entire volume directly in the hope of removing tangles. It is a foolproof way to remove every single tiniest tangle on your hair. And, the best part about this is you almost lose somewhere between less to absolutely zero strands of hair. This is because there is no pressure or tugging of the hair as you comb, on your scalp. 

I have been doing this for years now, and figuring this has been a boon because tangled hair was a priority problem for me when I did not know how to undo it without any pulling my hair painfully. I remember that I even wrote a poem on it because that's how much I was bothered about tangles! If you have any other way that you think can help people untangle their hair, please share in the comments!

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Fundamental Aspects Of A Good Blog: Learning Over The Years

A couple of months ago, someone had asked me how to set-up and focus on a blog, and I gave them a few general pointers, though a blog is mostly about shaping it the way you want it to be perceived. But, there are some general things that one must focus on to have a Blog that is easier and more interactive with the readers/audience. So, here are the fundamental aspects that I have learnt over these years for a good blog:

1. Consistency. I have been in phases where I had a couple of posts going every month, and I have been in a phase where I had like 1-2 posts a year. But, right now,  I am in the phase where I write every single day, and I have seen my blog and the response it gets on all three of these phases. The more you write, and the more you share, the more traction your blog gets. So, you can start with two or three posts every week, or whatever number you are comfortable with. Start by writing regularly and consistently. 

2. Editorial. Before you start your blog, have a set of 10-20 posts written and ready, so that you are covered for the first 3-5 weeks of blogging, and during this time you can keep writing more. This is called creating an editorial that can ensure that you always have content for your blog, and it helps your blog be consistent. Consistency is very important for your blog to be recognized. The key to a good blog is writing regularly, and no amount of emphasis on this point can be considered as over-doing.

3. Taglines. Have a tagline for the blog. For example, my blog says "Sandhya's Blog: What To Read". Now, a tagline is supposed to help anyone who comes to your blog know what they should expect from the Blog. My blog focuses mainly on books and book reviews, and hence gives the readers insights on 'what to read'. Hence, the tagline. Decide the wide theme of your blog, and keep a suitable tagline that lets people know what to expect!

3. Use tags or labels for every blog post. Labels are like keywords that categorize your posts. Try to categorize what you write and put them in their particular labels, this will help you to maintain the profile of your blog, or what your blog is for. It also helps in search engines pick up your post as a result if someone searches using those keywords(after your blog gets sufficient traction, of course).

4. Let people know. Share your content across the social platforms that you are active in- Twitter and Facebook are some of the usual ones that give your post a good reach. You can ask your friends to read and give you suggestions/feedback. You can use services like IFTTT to automatically share your new blog post on social media as soon as it is published. 

5. Check regularly if someone has left comments on your blog, and always make sure you reply to them. And, keep writing- your blog will automatically grow!

There are many, many more points that I can keep adding, but these are absolute basics that we need to keep up till as long as we blog. The moment we get into the groove, I can assure that we'll be learning much more soon enough on what kind of posts you want to write, and what kind of posts get the most views! If you want ideas for creating your editorial and on what to blog about (if you haven't already decided), check out my post on 10 Things You Can Blog About.

All the very best, and write confidently! Blogging has been one of the most enjoyable activity for me, and I have found myself reading and writing more than ever before! Do share the link of your Blog after you set it up! And, if you have any doubts, questions, or anything at all, do feel free to ask. I'll definitely try to help you out to the best of what I have learnt over these years!

Saturday, October 3, 2020

What You Can Make With Idli-Dosa Batter

Idlis and dosas are the perennial favourites from the South for everyone! Can idli batter be used for dosa? Can dosa batter be used for idli? But for those who don't know: through a strategic way of grinding the ingredients, you can use the same batter for both. And, that is typically what almost every household does. But, here's the cherry on the cake (or an equivalent: molagapodi on the idlis)- you can make much more than just idlis and dosas with idli-dosa batter. 

So, what all can you make with the idli-dosa batter?

1. Idli: famous, fluffy, soft, nobody needs an introduction to this one.

2. Dosai: Thin roast that takes you to heaven, and I haven't met a single person from India who actually didn't know about dosas. Also, we call it dosai

3. Kuzhi Paniyaram: This dish has a sort of flat base and a deep, semi circular shape on top. The flat side is soft while the rounded side is roasted. This is one of the tastiest dishes that you can make with idli-dosa batter when you want a change, or if there is left-over batter.

4. Uttappam: This is not as thin as dosa. It is much thicker, smaller, and softer instead of the crisp dosas. Top these uttappams with onions, tomatoes, and some coriander leaves- it's just yummy!

5. Idli Upma (or Podi Idlis/Fried Idlis): Do you want idlis but in a spicier, tastier form? Or do you have left over idlis that have gone a little cold? Idli upma is the dish to go to! The left-over idlis suddenly turn into something that people will crave for! In this, we break the idlis into small pieces, or grind them like a powder- add podis, add some spices, get creative and make it tasty! You can also add tomatoes and onions, and give it all nice fry with the idlis. I just love this one!

Looks like it's not just a cherry on the cake, rather cherries. I have listed some common ones that you can do just with the plain dosa batter without any modifications. These are not even including the infinite sub-types of dosas that you can make with the batter- masala dosa, mysore masala dosa, paneer dosa, ghee roast,  and once again it can be as creative as you can get. My college once served us noodles dosa, and it wasn't bad at all. Idlis also give you a wide range: podi idlis, rasam idli, sambar idli, curd idlis, and mini idlis. Do a little bit of research, and with some slight additions and modifications to the batter, you can do much more with it! They are all absolutely tasty in their own way!

Like my mom says: Idli-dosa batter is the saviour. You get taste, you get variety, and you have an all-in-one batter. 

I bet I got you hungry, why don't you try one of these next time? And, those (mostly South Indians, I'm guessing) who have these dishes as a staple part of your life- is there anything more you make with idli-dosa batter, or any particular favourites? Let us know in the comments!

Also, do you know why molagapodi is called gunpowder in English?!

Friday, October 2, 2020

Longfellow's October From The Poet's Calendar

I had shared a poem by Wadsworth in June, JulyAugust, and September, and most of them really enjoyed reading of this beautiful poem of the month. 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 October:

My ornaments are fruits; my garments leaves, 
Woven like cloth of gold, and crimson dyed; 
I do not boast the harvesting of sheaves, 
O'er orchards and o'er vineyards I preside. 
Though on the frigid Scorpion I ride, 
The dreamy air is full, and overflows 
With tender memories of the summer-tide, 
And mingled voices of the doves and crows.

October is a month of transition- with tender memories of the summer tide. And, soon we would see the onset of winter, and the beauty that it brings. If you want to read all the set of twelve songs, you can read it here: https://bit.ly/2YrS66R

Have a happy October!

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Ukridge on #WodehouseSeries

By now, I have introduced you to Jeeves and Wooster, Mr. Mulliner, Lord Emsworth with the Empress of Blandings in the Blandings Castle, and the characters from the school stories of Wodehouse. Finally, we meet Ukridge.

Stanley Featherstonehaugh Ukridge is a very special character from Wodehouse. Before we continue- Ukridge is pronouced this way: U like it rhymes with zoo and kridge like rhymes with fridge- Yoo-krij. He is one of the most handsomest characters of Wodehouse with exceptional good looks, and he stands out in the crowd with his yellow machintosh, grey pants, a towering height over six feet, and a clearly loud voice.  

But, what sort of a chap is he?
“Ukridge was the sort of man who asks you to dinner, borrows money from you to pay the bill, and winds up the evening by embroiling you in a fight with a cabman.” - Ukridge

Most of the stories of Ukridge are narrated by Ukridge's friend Corcoran, fondly called Corky. Ukridge is a striking young man often involved plots and schemes to get rich quick. The lengths that he would go to make some money are short of nothing but infinite, except of course to actually work and earn. The hilariously comedic short stories of Ukridge leave you in a fit of laughter as you watch his desperate, comic ways to cash in some capital!

Ukridge is actually Wodehouse's longest-running character although he was only featured in the novel Love Among the Chickens and in ten short-stories in the omnibus Ukridge. I think Ukridge is also one of the most entertaining character ever of Wodehouse, though he is not as famous as Jeeves or Mulliner. 

I love Ukridge for the interesting specimen that he is- a seemingly rude fellow to those who are not familiar with his weirdly informal air, a man whose persona is so gripping and charming that people give out credit- only to never get it back again, a man who is all about thinking on how to make money in all ways except the right ones! He is a riot of a character- who'll storm in to the pages and make you laugh, and leave you giggling at his get-quick-money schemes.

You love him, and you are exasperated by him. He seems too charming to ignore, and too difficult to understand. He is one beauty of a character that Wodehouse has ever created. 

The best part about the Ukridge stories is that they are short, and give you a full spectacle of a comic tale in less than half an hour. It's the kind of reading that you can do after a busy day, and get back your cheer again!

I say, why don't you try one story today?