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:-)