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.