Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Bye, Bye 2013. Hello 2014!

This year went by rather quick. My 8th grader is busy preparing for high school and my 4th grader is busy with her newly acquired rainbow loom. The loom's kept her away from TV, tablets and all sorts of screen time and I am gladly surprised at how much time she spends with it. Here is a little wristlet she made the other day.

I guess work is busy is a constant 'mantra' with me these days. I feel like I went through all the motions of this Christmas season rather than fully feeling it. Work just looms so large that it is difficult to ignore. So I am extra glad for the short joyous moments.  My son used his savings to get me this pulitzer prize winning book for Christmas. I can't wait to finish it. My girl got me the pretty necklace you see there from the 'santa workshop' at school. I am planning to wear it soon.

It is a nice feeling to be at the receiving end of a gift from kids:-) I have saved all the little knickknacks they've been giving me over the years. I am leaving a picture of our backyard here for Nancy.

It is still unfinished since planting season is not here yet but now we find ourselves spending a lot of time outside even in the midst of winter. The two fish we had added to the pond disappeared and we thought they were dead for a while there. Then H discovered that the poor things have taken shelter under a rock all the way at the bottom. The water is extremely cold now and I can't blame them. This is a little house to keep our pond filter that H modeled and built based on a picture we found online and my girl helped decorate.

Here is wishing 2014 is filled with happiness and prosperity for all.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Looking For Palestine By Najla Said - A Memoir

Growing up in the US in shadow of her famous father Edward Said,  Najla was exposed to a wide variety of cultures, people and attitudes than many of us can imagine. Traveling to Lebanon to see her Mom's family remains the sweetest memory for her despite the violence that took hold there after bouts of peaceful times. Having grown up as a WASP (in her own words) for all intents and purposes yet not quite fitting in anywhere, it took Najla many years and therapists to carve out an identity of her own, to be comfortable in her own skin. Reared as a girl in the traditional family setup and not being expected to carry the weight of her genius father's legacy, added to the confusion in the formative years. Her book tells us how articulate and intrinsically smart she is. Despite the fog in carving out an identity, she is surrounded by friends who love to be in her company and she knew that she was loved by her well meaning parents. This Princeton graduate's understanding nature helps her to see all sides of everything that in turn makes her a very empathetic person. She has proven to be every bit her father's daughter through this lovingly written, articulate and evocative memoir.

On the home front we were busy landscaping our backyard with the help of a contractor and it is almost done. Since adding a room to our humble abode seemed to be an uphill task in terms of money, convenience, and time, we decided to at least have a relaxing backyard with some space to entertain. Backyard landscaping thankfully is not as disruptive as a kitchen remodeling I say! Now we are waiting for summer to roll around so we can start using it more. Here is Mr. Zeus inspecting our brand new pond. Oh and hurray for my hundredth post in Vaayanasaala! 

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Wings Of Fire by APJ Abdul Kalam

This was one of the four books I had read last time. I'd heard this book mentioned many times over but didn't really want to read it perhaps precisely for that reason. What more do I need to know about this famous Indian that was an essential presence growing up in India? Being geographically lucky to have the first Rocket Launching Station built in Kerala made it all the more certain that I would have heard of him often enough. I was glad for India when he was made the President of India. And I would have missed knowing the great person behind the famous personality if I had gone on not reading the 'Wings Of Fire'. The book is not that large but the story it has to tell is. The story of a true Indian.

Having grown up in an impoverished but respected Muslim family in the famous city of Rameswaram, Abdul Kalam recalls only the good things he was lucky enough to learn there. He barely acknowledges his own great mind that could easily imbibe what was there to learn. Being exposed to many religions and good teachers can expand the horizons of the right mind with enough encouragement. This he had plenty of, from family and friends. His innate intelligence developed into an innate wisdom over time it seems.

Vikram Sarabhai is considered the father of the Indian Space program but when he died so unexpectedly, Abdul Kalam could follow in his foot steps, having had the opportunity to learn from the master and the ability to apply what he learned. The fledgling nation of India was lucky to have the highly qualified H.J Bhabha and Sarabhai to lead its Nuclear and Space programs respectively. But it was equally lucky to have had the absorbing intelligence of Abdul Kalam to hold the baton in their absence. That he was from a not so privileged background as these two gentlemen were, only heightens his achievements and is a source of eternal hope to aspiring Indians everywhere. His life is the fulfillment of an 'Indian Dream' akin to the very appealing 'American Dream' that we hear so much about here. Surely a book for the home library.

Saturday, October 19, 2013


Instead of leaving things to chance I have taken things into my hand this time. Er.. it just means that I put a bunch of books I had wanted to read, on hold at the Library. Once I got the e-mail notification all I had to do was just pick them up. Surprisingly enough I finished all 4 books plus 1 in two weeks! Things must be slow or I am just preparing for the onslaught of projects gearing up soon. May not get much time later. In between we even managed to attend Hcousin's wedding in the East. Kids had a blast and for me it was a relaxing few days. Bride and groom are the very best kind of people and it was great to be there for this day with all the family around. Now that my son is in 8th grade he is busy shadowing at different High Schools and preparing for his Entrance Exams. A preview to the senior year in four years when he will be busy looking for college! Years are flying by I say. Zeus is flourishing after missing us dearly when we left him for a few days for the wedding. We were happy to be re-united with him. Here he is getting ready to read the books with me:-) He is using the glasses borrowed from my girl's doll. She likes dressing him up and sweet that he is, he lets her.

So here are the books in no particular order.

Thrity Umrigar's 'The Space Between Us'
Very perceptive book about two women whose lives are oddly bound together despite being from two different classes of the Indian society. Umrigar shows uncanny perception in portraying the lives of Sera and Bhima for the reader. It is this same perception that makes us want to stick to the book and read all of it even if the melodramatic turn of events at the end are a bit too common. I also loved all the Parsi names that sounded strange yet very Indian! Bhima is a grandmother who lives in a slum and works for Sera who lives in a bungalow. Despite the differences they are able to empathize with each other in their own ways. Definitely a good read.

I also read Umrigar's 'The World We Found'. It fell a little short of my expectation but still was a decent read.

The Krishna Key by Ashwin Sanghvi
I heard about this book from soulsearchingdays and was happy to see it in the library offerings.  Thanks SS! In what can be described as the Indian equivalent of Dan Brown's Da Vinci CodeAshwin Sanghvi has made a decent effort. I wished he didn't try to create a literal parallel to Brown's book though. This is a limitation. The vast possibility of history, mythology and realities of the Indian pantheon gets diluted a bit as he tries to put it all into one book. It really came alive for me at the Taj Mahal segment. The equivalent to The Louvre in Brown's book. He talks about trying to be careful in picking Krishna as a subject for the book in a country like India with its multifaceted population. It is clearly a work of fiction and should be treated as such.

The Shadow of The Wind By Carlos Ruiz Zafon
This is one of those books that has winding subplots that will keep you gripped till the end. It is sort of a mystery and also good literature. The overall feeling was very similar to Orhan Pamuk's The New Life but taking place in Marquez's Macondo! It starts by describing how the young protagonist gets hold of this unlikely book the very first time his father took him to a used book store. The rest of the story revolves around his search to find more about the mysterious Julian Carax who wrote the book. There is also this odd stranger who goes around looking for any remaining books written by Carax, only to burn them! Though Carax is not a big time author, his books are still loved by those who choose to read them. Any lover of books worth their salt will find it difficult to put this book down. A wholesome book satisfying the reader in you on many levels. I am like that boy now, looking out for books written by Carlos Ruiz Zafon:-) Seriously, just get going guys. Isn't the name itself intriguing?

I think the last book deserves a space of its own. So I will blog on that in another post.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Springs Of Namje By Rajeev Goyal

Rajeev Goyals's easy command of the language reels you in at first. Then the real life story with its cast of characters gets through.  Rajeev Goyal, born to wealthy, immigrant, Indian parents in America is embarking on his first stint as a Peace Corps volunteer to Nepal. The first quarter of the book gives us a glimpse of the political turmoil in Nepal around 2001with the eventual abolishment of its Monarchy. Rajeev's first assignment was to teach English at the remote village of Baitadi. There he eye-witnessed the caste system in action. He was an astute observer of the general life of villagers. Goyal's stay in Baitadi was made unfeasible by the ongoing political unrest and before he had time to wonder about his role there he was pulled into another little village and its school. The village of Namje. The second quarter of the book is all about Rajeev's life in Namje and what he did immediately after getting back to the U.S. from there. He is humble about his role in Namje's water supply project and attributes all credit to the villagers. For him it is all about the valuable life lessons he was able to learn while living with them. Lessons he was able to apply to his efforts back in Capitol Hill that lead to a $60  million increase in funding for Peace Corps. The largest of its kind in the history of the organization! The third quarter is all about his efforts in this regard and the fourth quarter brings him back to Namje on a project to build a road to Namje. This time around he witnessed how progress can change a way of life and not all for the right reasons. He thinks aloud about the need to bring progress in a sustainable way that is friendly to the basic spirit of wherever it is being implemented. Rajeev had spent so much time among the people of Namje that he ends up identifying himself more as a Namje guy than anyone else. The pragmatic Tanka Sir and other cast of characters from the village comes alive in Rajeev's inspiring book.

Namje's water project is much reminiscent of the movie Swades. However according to wikipedia, this story is not one of the many inspirations for the movie. I was heartened to see that many such activities are going on this way. Very remarkable! I am hoping my son will go for a stint in the Peace Corps as he grows older. In the end Rajeev harks back on the relevance of Peace Corps in todays' world and the importance of keeping it strictly apolitical. Rajeev's ambivalence in what the development meant for the community is to be noted. It was not all roses and petals after the parched village got a steady supply of water. He surmises that instead of filling an obvious need blindly, it is better to study and offer one that is more beneficial in the long term. Sustainable and eco-friendly seems to be the keywords.

Zeus has developed an eclectic palate. He is into flowers now as you can see - barely- in the picture below! Not sure if he had a chance to look at Goyal's book in the process:-)

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Aviator's Wife By Melanie Benjamin

Almost all of us have heard of Charles Lindbergh, the fearless American pilot who crossed the Atlantic without the aide of much of the technology available for such feats today. No wonder even Neil Armstrong felt compelled to say to him when they met : "Sir we are only following in your footsteps". Well, just look at me going on about him when the whole purpose of this book was to show off the woman who was on his side through it all!

 Anne Morrow Lindbergh was the author of the best selling book 'Gift From The Sea' which is still widely popular. How many of you knew she was the first woman to earn a glider pilot license and that she partnered fully with Charles Lindbergh in his many famed explorations in the air? I hadn't even give this woman a second thought despite CL's family being in the limelight when his baby was kidnapped. Turns out she was the recipient of two top literary prizes of her graduating class from Smith College. While it is difficult to ignore the larger than life presence of the Aviator, the book has done justice to Mrs. Lindbergh. Melanie Benjamin has achieved what she has set out to do. It holds your interest despite the characters and their lives being public knowledge. Good book to turn to whenever you need a read fix. Satisfying on many levels.

Side Note:
Zeus is truly the 5th member of our family. It is a pleasure to know that he waits for us when we come home in the evenings. The kids fight amongst themselves as to who will get to hold him first. 'Chooba' (my nick name for him) enjoys being adored and gives a contented swish of his tail and perk up his little ears to show his pleasure:-) We give him a bath every week which he seems to be tolerating so far. Apparently Maine Coons are like the dog of the cat family! He seems intelligent. We have purchased a harness and leash for him and put him on it when we all sit on the patio. He loves being outside and is at the door in a minute if anyone so much as slide the patio door a little. He is learning to show what he needs through actions which are truly fun to watch! He will be 6 months at the end of this month. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The War of the Rosens & The Virgin Cure

The War of The Rosens by Janice Eidus

I didn't expect the book to be this good! Janice Eidus writes with control and I found her prose to be very stimulating. The Rosens are a Jewish couple with two daughters. The dad is a wannabe intellectual who loves his family but can sometimes be cruel and impolite in contrast to what he expects from them. Mom is supposedly a weakling because she does what she needs to do without complaining but a woman of integrity in her fidelity to the family. The older kid May is consumed with jealousy of the younger, more beautiful Emma. It doesn't help that the younger one writes poems and happens to be the father's pet. Indeed it is the 10 year old Emma Rosen that captures our imagination too whenever she comes on to tell the story. Each character in the family is given a voice infused with the clarity and strength of a very real person. We see their individual worlds, their differing views on faith, daily routines, family celebrations, and their pain when one of them is struck down with illness. Through it all little Emma keeps us as curious as she is. So much like my own little girl! There is certain relief to be had at the end with a window into the future. Janice Eidus was probably trying to give closure for us and herself with that last chapter but the book would have been fine without it too. Eidus drew from her own life as a Jewish person living in the Bronx which shows in her characters and the vivid  life around them.

The Virgin Cure by Ami McKay

Ami Mckay catapults us into her story through a novel way of writing. The entire book is written in a style that could be aligned to the period of her story. 1870's New York. Ingenious idea! The story again revolves around a little girl called Moth growing up in a world quite different from little Emma Rosen's although there are many parallels if you look for it. Both tells their stories when they can, both wonder about the adults in their lives and both live in New York around the same time period. But the choices Moth had to face are eons away from what Emma had to face. Moth lived in a slum with her Mom who had no qualms selling her for money ostensibly to do housework but that can be meant for anything the new employer cooked up. Moth escapes from her employer only to see that her Mom had left their little shack without telling her. Back on the streets the only decent option available to her 12-year old self
was to be set up in a high-end brothel in return good food and fancy clothes. Young virgins where in high demand in those days as men believed mingling with a virgin can cure them of sexually transmitted diseases. I was aghast when I clued on to this part because the author wrote this loosely based on her great-great-grandmother's life and so it is based on historical facts. I'd read similar stories happening in third world countries many times over but never in the New World that is the US! Loved how the author stumbled upon this story. She used to sit and look at a painting of her great-great-grandmother Dr. Sarah Fonda Mackintosh for hours on end in their house. As she grew older she found out that Dr.S was in the first graduating class of the medical school founded by the Blackwell sisters who were the first women doctors in the US. This prodded her curiosity more and she landed on Dr.S's graduating thesis on the diseases suffered by the patients at the Blackwell's infirmary for women and children. McKay decided to give the story a single human voice fused from the voices of the many girls and women who lived and suffered in those times. The only solace Moth had in her difficult life was Dr. Sadie who worked at the infirmary and looked in on brothel girls as part of her work. This Dr.S - probably like the original Dr.S -encouraged Moth to leave the life at the brothel and join a rescue home for girls. The rescue home also was not secure against the viles of determined people and so she hesitated. Eventually she joined Dr.S after learning things the hard way. Moth did not disappoint in carrying Ami McKay's voice far and wide. The novel is widely acclaimed and Mckay received many accolades, all well deserved. I am sure Dr. S is smiling upon her from the heavens!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Master's Muse by Varley O'Conner

I simply cannot turn away from a classic. This time I come to you with a book written around ballet. It is the story of the beautiful and vivacious Tanaquil leClerq who was the principal ballerina of the New York City Ballet in the 1950s. I had to remind me that this is not a memoir because the voice of Tanaquil that speaks to us in the book feels like it is the real deal. Apparently Tanaquil was very reserved during her lifetime and some who knew her even felt that the book should not have been written, to respect the wishes of the reticent ballerina. But I am very happy to have read about this quite unique personality.

So if Tanaquil was the Muse, who was the Master? It is George Balanchine, the master choreographer who gave us 'The Nutcracker'  and the american ballet in its current form. Having studied under soviet master's and having performed for the Czar, he emigrated to the US and changed the world of ballet altogether by modernizing it while preserving its old world charm. He had the likes of Igor Stravinsky composing for him and the incomparable Jerome Robbins working with him and the support of many patrons who loved the art. The New York State Theater was designed to Balanchine's specifications. Tanaquil was his fifth and final wife counting the one common-law wife whom he never married. Each of his previous wives were prima ballerina's at the time and all marriages ended in friendly terms. I assume mostly because they all loved dancing and revered Balanchine's skills as a dancer, teacher and choreographer. He wrote ballets for each of them in their time. Tanaquil is considered the ultimate Balanchine ballerina with the perfect physique and dancing skills to translate Balanchine's visions onto the stage. At the height of her career she was struck down by polio and was bound to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. She loved Balanchine despite his many dalliances and through their divorce. He loved her in his own way too it seems even after she had polio. He had taken a year off to take care of Tnaquil and continued to be solicitous till he died despite being extremely busy choreographing, producing and performing ballets across the world.

Sometimes it felt to me like the real Tanaquil is hiding behind her abiding love for George Balanchine. But regardless of the wheelchair I could see a strong personality in her own right who had affected the people around her with her charisma and willpower maybe as much as Balanchine. Reminded me a lot of Scarlett O'Hara of 'The Gone with The Wind'. Tanaquil was named after a Roman Empress and was the product of a French father and an American Mother. Loved the name too! Didn't like the title that much. Tanaquil leClerq can stand on her own without the master.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Zeus Lawrence Makes Five!!

Meet Zeus Lawrence! Our new bundle of joy. I still can't believe he is here! But he is and the kids are in heaven. They are having personal sessions with him in his room. He is almost 10 weeks old and has some white streaks which will be more apparent as he grows. He is a Maine Coon mix we adopted from the rescue shelter. If he is not the cutest kitten in the world then I don't know who is! He was born on February 28, 2013 and came home with us on May 11, 2013.

My little girl loves cats. Come to think of it she is a little kitty-cat herself. My son surprised me with his love and adoration for the cute bundle the moment he set his eyes on him. He was the one who said with clarity,  "Mom, let us get him, I like him".  Must have been love at first sight. He didn't like any other kittens. In fact we had gone to see an orange tabby and met with this one only because the tabby was already rescued.  I don't know if you can tell but I am in love. I am generally indifferent to cats. We had many cats in the attic of my childhood home. I remember going up the steps to the attic in search of the new kittens and finally being able to take a peek braving the fury of the mommy cat! Cats were always shooed off to the attic especially when they came down the steps looking out for fresh chicken and fish being prepared in the kitchen. They kept the attic rat population in check as we had our granary for rice and other crops up there. Part of the attic served as a pantry for dried foods and yet another part stored old furniture and other knickknacks. When the book shelves began to overflow in the house, we had a few moved up there too! As kids we loved playing hide and seek among the many dark nooks and crannies. Before I discovered the beauty of the outside world that existed in our land, I used to go up to the attic with a book and some snacks in hand and sit right under the randomly placed transparent tiles that gave away plenty of light to read. It was plain awesome to sit in the attic and watch the water trickle down the tiles when it rained and to feel sheltered yet so close when storm winds raged outside. Of course you will find me snug under the covers next to mom once thunder and lightning descended in full crescendo:-)

So.... as I was sayin' the lively kitten has taken over the house in just two days. He was sitting next to me just now with doleful eyes begging to be petted. So I had to stop a few times to do that till he fell into a nap. Earlier in the evening when H and my boy left for karate, Zeus played with me and my girl for a while and then all of us separated to do our own things. Then he jumped up onto my computer (my brand new apple macbook pro, mind you), walked on it and around it, climbed onto me, put two little paws and his head on my shoulder and looked up at me. I wasn't sure what to do so I looked at him too and stroked him gently and he just closed his eyes purring all the time! Like Emperor Akbar tells Birbal after a mystery is solved, "you have opened my eyes little kitten, I never knew that a cat could be this lovey dovey." As for his name, the kids loved the name Zeus unanimously and Lawrence was the name his foster mom used till we got him and so he is Zeus Lawrence. Ingenious, Eh? I actually liked how it all fell into place. So we are five now and hopefully will stay there.

Now Reading:
Elizabeth Strout's new novel,  The Burgess Boys. I have just started, but only a few pages into and it is already looking promising. Ms. Strout's got my back as a reader. I look forward to curling up on the sofa tonight with the book and Zeus for a relaxing read.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Couple More...

Remnants of the India trip are still with us in the form of memories. The silly song that my littlest nephew had acted out keeps invading my kids’ heads, the bunny that her cousin gave my girl and of course the phone calls home that revives requests for a visit in summer. It was great to see the littlest nephew for the first time. On other news, my Mom now is a great-grandma 6th time over. Wish I could have seen the new little one too before I left but babies are not born according to our schedule. On the book front, here are a couple that caught my fancy.

The Violinist’s Thumb by Sam Kean

The book is all about DNAs laid out in layman’s terms. It unravels the magic of the DNA and the scientific studies that led to its unraveling in a fun and down to earth style. This author has successfully carried off similar daunting subjects before. I am thinking of buying his Disappearing Spoon for my Periodic Table lover of a son. We do have to take some of the things in the book as his personal opinions but that gets the book going in a personal narrative form for an entertaining read. Wonderful book. Got me excited about DNA!  I believe Sam Kean, son of Gene Kean and Jean Kean, can entertain us about any subject that interests him.

The Last Runaway by Tracy Cavalier

I watched ‘Girl With a Pearl Earring’ quite by accident while flipping channels late one night. Having no reference point I started watching it reluctantly but stayed glued on all through to the end. Having had that appreciative sigh one gets after watching something satisfying the movie had stayed in my mind for a long time. Scarlett Johansson played the lead but I wasn’t familiar with her name at that time. When I saw this book ‘The Last Runaway’ as written by the author of ‘Girl With the Pearl Earring’, two things hit me. One, this book’s got to be good; two how could I not know that movie was based on a book! The book proved to be all that and more. Tracy Cavalier surpassed herself! You will enjoy it even more if you have read ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ and aware of the Underground Railroad and the Quakers who helped the slaves fleeing from their bondage. Told from the point of view of a Quaker woman Honor Bright who came over from England, the story is woven gently through the settler/immigrant’s life in America amidst the strong undercurrent of slavery. I found myself looking for each of the characters in 'Uncle Tom’s Cabin' in the faces of the many runaways that Honor helped. It was a totally rewarding experience and I did not put down the book until I finished! Considering the grave subject and the general thread of the story this was surprising. Such is the prowess of Cavalier’s story telling. 

A Hundred Flowers by Gail Tsukiyama

A Hundred Flowers is yet another gently written story on a powerful subject and time in history. The time when China’s Mao Tse Tung declared a new openness with “Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend.” Many feared this to be a trick but slowly were attracted enough to be open about their ideas and eventually fell right into the trap set for them. Tao is a young boy in China who enjoys life and brings much joy to his family. His life turns upside down when his Dad was arrested for writing an open letter critical of the existing regime. While looking out for his Dad’s return from a tall kapok tree he fell and broke his leg. The story revolves around this event and Tao’s Grandpa’s role in his dad’s fate mingled with his Mom’s struggles. Gail Tsukiyama's deft handling of this deeply affecting story shines throughout the book.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Two Books

The Art Forger by Barbara Shapiro

I sat straight up on the seat. Couldn't believe my ears! The car radio is indeed talking about the Gardner Museum heist. Such a coincidence! I had just about finished reading a book based on it. Barbara Shapiro’s book was finished in one sitting not just for the mystery element but for the wonderful foray into the world of art. It was about forgeries mostly but I find myself unable to resist anything that provides information on classics. Be it art, music or books for that matter! The story starts off with a mention of the famous and heretofore unsolved art heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum 23 years ago. It adds an imaginary Degas painting to the original list of stolen artworks. The rest of the story is built upon this Degas painting. Such imagination can only lead to a good story. Shapiro has done well.

And it really was on NPR news on March 18, 2013, the 23rd anniversary of the heist! The news was that the FBI now knows the criminals who did it but has no idea where the stolen paintings are. I do hope they will be returned to the museum where they belong. Isabella G is thought to be one of the first art collectors in the US and a pioneering woman at that. I would like her museum to get the paintings back.

Joseph Anton- A Memoir by Salman Rushdie

Any Salman Rushdie book is fair game one way or another. You might hate the man or love him but his writing genius is indisputable. I finished this hardbound book in one sitting! Reminded me of when I was reading Marquez's memoir. Engagingly written, great pain is taken to express his thought process while writing the book that started all the controversy. I have not read that book but I can see that perhaps most people who opposed it also never read it? To be honest I just didn't like the title and may not ever read it. But reading this book written about the life he lived in hiding under the name of Joseph Anton is worth it. It takes one into the writer's mind. Quite an intelligent and well read mind, mind you:-). It starts off with Rushdie's english education, the loss of his part of India during partition and the various phases of his career as a writer. The main focus however is on his life as Joseph Anton spent running away from place to place under police protection in England. I was surprised to find that he had to find, rent and pay for all the hiding places himself although his level of threat was second only to that of the Queen. He seems to have a keen memory based on how he explains each small incident so vividly. He also puts himself in the other person's shoe almost all the time in an effort to find the reasoning behind all the madness. I do hope to read his universally acclaimed novel  Midnight's Children one day.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Here are a few more....

About 5 years ago on that fateful day I created this blog. The first year went by, the third year went by. This is the beginning of the sixth year. This year could go by any time. After this, comes the seventh year…….

No I haven't gone bonkers. At least not yet! I hope instead you have caught on to the last book I read. Yup, the’ I Am Number Four series. All 3 of them in 3 nights! Not being a tween or a teen, I skipped generously on the war parts especially when pikens and krauls joined the Mogs. After 'The Hunger Games' there is only so much one can stomach! Despite the violence, the story is interesting and I did really want to know what happened to numbers four, five, six, seven etc. Eight being found in India was definitely fun. My son loves it when I read one of his current favorites. So he was overjoyed that I tried to read all three books. The author/authors appeared mysterious under the pseudonym 'Pittacus Lore' until I did some research (wikipedia). Pittaccus Lore is in fact the name of a founder of the nation type of character in the book! Turns out one of the two authors is James Frey who is not a stranger to bestselling books. The second author is a young adult named Jobie Hughes whom Frey apparently had fired in the midst of writing the book. Frey has some controversies to his name because his very first memoir was not so much of a memoir. But the guy is a great story teller. I guess he can't help it if his imagination catches fire even when writing about himself :-) The books are very entertaining and will hold the interest of its intended audience without doubt.

Now to the adult books. No! Not those kinds of adult books! I mean the regular stuff we all can get to. Ian McEwan's Sweet Tooth was an unexpected disappointment. I like this author so the disappointment was double fold. I just could not get through all that without getting sleepy. Despite having a secret service background it moves very slowly and I just couldn’t get interested in the details. Sorry McEwan. You know I am a fan. I will read your books again but with a little less expectation so I won't feel so let down. 

Ann Tyler's 'Beginner's Goodbye' on the other hand was a pleasant experience. The pace was just right for the story and characters were with me while reading. The subject is a little sad since it is about how someone gets over the death of a spouse. In this case Dorothy was indeed Aaron's true love. He runs a small Publishing house that specializes in books with titles that begin with 'The Beginner's..' and hence the title. Good book. I had read Tyler's 'Breathing Lessons' a long while ago and remember liking it much.

And now to assuage your curiosity I will tell you about the picture at the top. It showcases most of the book purchases I made in Kerala. From DCbooks to be exact.  While looking for some Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) comics I came across these three volumes each containing about 100 books. Couldn't buy all three but for about hundred bucks it was a good deal to get one volume. The son's already finished them and I am halfway through. Mine is a journey into memories rather than just a read. The pictures touched awake sweet old memories of a certain period in my life. I do see a lot of mistakes and discontinuities and imperfections now that I am looking with the cranky old eyes of a full-fledged adult. But they do feed the imagination, these awesome stories native only to India....

One thing I cannot find here to buy are Malayalam books. So I brought me some such books picked at random based on some names I'd remembered. Loved MT's 'Randamoozham' as expected. 'Prayanam' by Parappurathu was an eye opener and it sure will remain a classic. P Surendran's 'memoir' 'Ilanjipoomanamulla Nattuvazhikal' reminded me a  little of Chullikad and I am glad to know this writer. But there was one book that shone like a jewel among all 10 books. Sarah Joseph's 'Othappu'. It means scandal or something similar according to the author's own explanation for the word which is also her title. A world class book! Intelligently written with complete control of every single character. The central character of 'Margaleetha' is the crowning glory indeed. I can’t seem to say enough about this book. After 'Agnisakshi' no other Malayalam book has enthralled me as much. I realize now that the theme itself might have influenced me in addition to the powerful prose. Both books tell the stories of women brave enough to break out of binding religious orders/rules at a time when it was almost suicidal to do so. The courage of their convictions laid out so well by a writer who is absolutely in sync with them is an irresistible treat. I was so proud that this story was written in Malayalam. As with Antharjanam's book I wonder if this can be translated in its full beauty to another language..It will be great if that could happen as it has a definite place in world literature. Maybe it already is?

There was reason I reached for P Surendran’s book. It is the title. I have an insatiable weakness for ‘ilanji maram’ and the perfume of its beautiful flowers. I made time to click a piture of our 'ilanji maram' under which I had spent hours picking flowers, reading books or just day dreaming. Here it is:

Adieu my friends. See you at the next post.