Thursday, August 17, 2017

A God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy - Book Review

The God of Small ThingsThe God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A pair of actors trapped in a recondite play with no hint of a plot or narrative. Stumbling through their parts, nursing someone else's sorry. Grieving some else's grief.
Theater. Actors.
Roles. Fate.
Marionettes.

And here I am, trying to find a meaning in every line when I should rather be feeling every line. Of a book that first slowly, diligently, metaphorically dug a hole and then filled that book-shaped hole by silently creeping in. With soft steps while treading on the Love Laws.
That lay down who should be loved. And how. And how much.

For me, this book is a beautiful, haunting symphony, composed by people bringing their own instruments, playing their own tunes through all that rigid background noise and making a soulful, sad, arresting, comic, tragic, and vividly evocative music.

Maybe I will read it again. I will read it again. And love it a little more.

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Lone Fox Dancing: My Autobiography by Ruskin Bond - Book Review

Lone Fox DancingLone Fox Dancing by Ruskin Bond
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Towards the end of Lone Fox Dancing (LFD), Mr. Bond writes about the severe storm that ravages his Ivy Cottage home. How the natural yet merciless powers shake up the house and sweep the roof away, and then the snow falls and freezes the fear. Mr. Bond finds beauty in the midst of this all. It is almost an analogy to his past with events that swept his life and carved his future, and all the while he hung on to the things he loved. The man whose pen rains wonderful words on paper and writes beautifully about the life that he has had, the different people he met and loved, and the immovable mountains that sheltered the writer in him.

I missed being among strangers without feeling like an outsider; I missed everything that made it all right to be sentimental and emotional.


This is only my second book by Mr. Bond. I haven't read any of his fiction, but I feel that when I pick up his other books to read, LFD will help me recall his memory-rich past life that might have triggered a particular anecdote, story, events, or characters in the books. As Mr. Bond himself explains so well:

I suppose most writers, to a greater or lesser extent, base their fictional characters upon real people. Mine come very close to the reality. It is my own response to them that varies. The most fictional of all my characters is myself.


I love his writing. It gave me a warm and cozy feeling. The journey from childhood to adulthood and further was sprinkled with giggles, smiles, a bit of sadness, hope, and continuously moving on to the next phase of life. It is evident in the writing how, as a child, he absorbed the happenings around him, let the most memorable things carry him forth, and recalled the quick flashes of history. Then the mountains took over and then the words became one with nature. Birds sing, trees rustle, raindrops pitter-patter, snowflakes mesmerize, the lone fox dances, and the brave leopard leaves with indigestion.

I was fortunate in that I ventured into the literary world with a certain wide-eyed innocence, and managed to maintain that innocence for most of my life.


On the "evening of Mr. Bond's long and fairly fulfilling life," I certainly think that I will be revisiting Dehra, Delhi, Mussoorie, the mountains and the valleys, the birds and their songs, the people and their stories through your writing, Mr. Bond.

I hope to learn a thing or two about "how much I still needed to learn about contentment."

So here I am, a young boy, an old writer, without regrets.


So long!

It seems strange
How we used to wait for letters to arrive
But what's stranger still
Is how something so small can keep you alive
We used to wait
We used to waste hours just walkin' around
We used to wait
All those wasted lives in the wilderness downtown


We Used To Wait by Arcade Fire.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Roads to Mussoorie by Ruskin Bond - Book Review

Roads To MussoorieRoads To Mussoorie by Ruskin Bond
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have been really slow with reading books from last year or two. The pile of abandoned books feeds the volume of guilt that I kept feeling from time to time. Guilt for having given way to easy and non-committed wanderings on the social media instead of diving in a book. This year, I would like to change a few things to reduce that volume of guilt. But can I? Ah, I digress, rather I've not started with the matter at hand...

A month back, I picked up a friendly Wodehouse (My 24th) and proceeded to read it during my trip to the lovely place called Landour in Mussoorie. Yes, I loved the place and everything it stood for. Early morning runs around Char Dukan > Nag Tibba > Kellogg's Church, getting worried about big monkeys on the road instead of the usual dogs, breathing copious amounts of fresh, pristine air, eating scrumptious food, sleeping cozily inside a fleece blanket while thinking about the 40 degrees back home, was a fantastic way to spend time with the family.

Even when you read a bit and hear stories about Landour, you know this place has seen some incredible history. Or at least history that will make up for good and interesting stories. I was really sure this is one reason why Ruskin Bond stuck around there. I would do that too if given a choice (and a lot of money). Roads to Mussoorie confirmed part of my theory. (Part of it might be unraveled by his upcoming autobiography Lone Fox Dancing.) It was my first Ruskin Bond book. I had bought his collection of stories a few years back but somehow didn't read them. (Like many, many other books.) The recent visit to Landour, Mussoorie, and around made me pick this book up. I wanted to meet the man himself, but he visits the mall road only on Saturdays and sadly we couldn't have a free Saturday in our itinerary.

Roads to Mussoorie is a fun little book filled with lovely anecdotes (and some unruly spelling mistakes that Rupa Publications should really work on!). In fact, just because of the vivid stories and interesting characters painted by Ruskin Bond, and his lucid style of writing, I could look beyond the typos. I wish this book was a bit longer though, and wish that Mr. Bond lingered on with his words, but I think that will make me read a lot more of his work. It is rare that a writer can make you feel warm about humanity, make you laugh at life, and make you wonder about the beautiful nature that is around us. All things we seem to easily take for granted.

I have made a list of Ruskin Bonds books that I would like to read next, but foremost, I am glad that his autobiography will be out in the next 15 days or so. I am looking forward to that! Maybe on my next trip to Landour, I hope I meet Mr. Bond and get a signed copy from him.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

New Bike Day

It's been a while I wrote. I guess I need to revive the art of reflection. Even if it is for a personal use.

-

I am part of this recreational athletes group that discusses all things under the sky that are related to running, cycling, or swimming. The other day someone got a new bike from a brand that is known to produce good quality goods at an affordable price. This brand is not considered as "elite" or "super good" by many cyclists or runners, so a few of the comments that this person received weren't motivating. Some of us did try to cheer up, but that somehow led me to a tangential line of thought. I wanted to type it in the group itself, but it's not like all of them are my bum chums. So here it goes:

I don't know about you, but for me, bicycles are a type of time machines (alcohol being a major one). It somehow rings the bell of the innocent times from the school days of yore and plays the subtle notes of nostalgia. I remember fighting with my dad to fix gears to my BSA SLR Photon (the one with the alloy wheels!). I eventually got them after persisting to the cause, but then I grew old and dad sold the bike. Then just over a year back I got a new bicycle, albeit for different reasons. I did not go for the costliest bike I could buy, but my budget did double up eventually! I have had a good time riding this bike (Cannondale Quick 6), and I hope I continue to do so!

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Dejection

I failed to reach my goal.

I had put in considerable practice that included both physical and mental conditioning to reach a goal of sub 2:20 hr timing for a half marathon.

I couldn't reach it. In fact I overshot it by 10 minutes 43 seconds.

Those 10 minutes 43 seconds meant that I cannot use this timing as a qualification for #SCMM2016.

Till the 10-11K mark, I was on target. After that, my mind started giving up. It started taking control and convincing me that an additional minute won't matter 2:25 is still OK, within the qualification criteria. I started walking more after 15K. 2:28 is still OK. Somehow I just gave up. One runner came along and tried to motivate me. I tried, but I couldn't gather myself. Towards the end, I sprinted, but still reached a bit late. By 43 seconds.

I ran 21.1K in 2:30:43. (Chip time was different than what my GPS watch collected.) I couldn't even shave off those 43 seconds.

What if it was my personal best in a half marathon? Does it matter?

How do I strengthen and condition my mind further?

The search continues...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

2014 in Books

After a dismal 2013 in terms of books, and a resolution to not repeat that in 2014, I somehow managed to read just about 10 books. (As opposed to 20 that I had took up as a challenge!)

Even though the number might not be impressive, I have to say that I read some of the best prose and style this year.

Here is the denary:

  • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson - What a drug-addled chaos! Review.
  • A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess - "Oh it was gorgeosity and yumyumyum." A bloshy big review will be govoreeted later on.
  • Money by Martin Amis - "I will spin out a review as soon as I am done with a twenty-quid rug-rethink." I keep recollecting about some situations from this book as I do from the still-incompletely-read Infinite Jest.
  • Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett - Probably the best of the Discworld. Review
  • Blood Meridian, or The Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy - Wow! The very stylish McCarthy just whips your imagination to a degree that at times makes you cringe, and at times makes you hold your breath in horror. The most violent book I have read so far. Review.
  • The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman - If you think that a graphic novel cannot be simple and yet represent the horrors of WW2, then you must read this book.
  • Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut - Another classic Vonnegut, or so it pretends to be. Review.
  • Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, The Ultra-runners, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall - Very inspiring and a brilliant narrative! Motivated me to run my first ever Half Marathon!
  • Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami - I was eager to read this before this was released, but it didn't turn out as good as I hoped it would. Review.
  • Watchmen by Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons - A masterpiece in itself. Someday I would write a review about this milestone of a graphic novel. Someday.
Book shelf of read books in 2014. Courtesy: Goodreads.
Here's to a better year in 2015!

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Piccadilly Jim by P.G. Wodehouse - Book Review

Piccadilly JimPiccadilly Jim by P.G. Wodehouse
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a recent Reddit post titled What books are worth reading just for the quality of their prose alone?, I was very happy to see P.G. Wodehouse being mentioned. He truly deserves to be mentioned!

With Piccadilly Jim, PGW is probably at his descriptive best and the book contains ample amount of the sunshine-filled (hat tip Stephen Fry) language that is known to flow out of his mind.

Plot-wise I wouldn't say that this book would stand well in a Sumo wrestling match against some of his other champions, but the Wodehousian charm is strong and pervasively permeating in this one.

I loved the characters drawn in this book. Mr. Pett (Sensational Turning Of A Worm!), Miss Trimble, Mr. Crocker, Jimmy, Jerry Mitchell, Ann (with her red hair and the nature which generally goes with red hair), and even Ogden for that matter are beautiful.

He had the plethoric habit of one to whom wholesome exercise is a stranger and the sallow complexion of the confirmed candy-fiend.

(On a slightly unrelated note, the Kindle / Gutenberg version has chapter titles that are missing from the printed book. The titles do add to the fun part!)

Few gems from the book:

An exile from home splendour dazzles in vain.
Oh, give me my lowly thatched cottage again;
The birds singing gaily, that came at my call,
Give me them, and that peace of mind dearer than all.

Mr. Crocker had never lived in a thatched cottage, nor had his relations with the birds of his native land ever reached the stage of intimacy indicated by the poet; but substitute "Lambs Club" for the former and "members" for the latter, and the parallel becomes complete.

"Have you packed everything I shall want?"
"Within the scope of a suitcase, yes, sir."


It is but rarely that any one is found who is not dazzled by the glamour of incivility.

It is one of the effects of a successful hunch that it breeds other hunches.

And this one is particularly romantic!

"To a girl with your ardent nature some one with whom you can quarrel is an absolute necessity of life. You and I are affinities. Ours will be an ideally happy marriage. You would be miserable if you had to go through life with a human doormat with 'Welcome' written on him. You want some one made of sterner stuff. You want, as it were, a sparring-partner, some one with whom you can quarrel happily with the certain knowledge that he will not curl up in a ball for you to kick, but will be there with the return wallop. I may have my faults—" He paused expectantly. Ann remained silent. "No, no!" he went on. "But I am such a man. Brisk give-and-take is the foundation of the happy marriage. Do you remember that beautiful line of Tennyson's—'We fell out, my wife and I'? It always conjures up for me a vision of wonderful domestic happiness. I seem to see us in our old age, you on one side of the radiator, I on the other, warming our old limbs and thinking up snappy stuff to hand to each other—sweethearts still! If I were to go out of your life now, you would be miserable. You would have nobody to quarrel with. You would be in the position of the female jaguar of the Indian jungle, who, as you doubtless know, expresses her affection for her mate by biting him shrewdly in the fleshy part of the leg, if she should snap sideways one day and find nothing there."

I enjoyed reading this book a lot.

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Friday, January 9, 2015

2014

Last year has triggered a variety of emotions and feelings in varying degrees of manageability. Close family members were caught between two cycles of life. One began while another ended. Two very closely interlinked cycles. For most of the time, we had to play the game of wait-and-watch.

It is tough thinking about how unexpectedly things can change. As eloquently put by P "a verbal reply of what I really feel, is impossible to formulate".

I tried to imagine how it must be to caught in between "I felt unguarded, a little less loved and a bit shaky in my knees" and "I believed every minute that she is in a better place, that her suffering has ended, that she is at peace". Though I could come close, I cannot say I completely feel what you do.

In fact, I failed miserably.

In grief we are all alone.

So much so that the past starts to feel more real than the seemingly-fictional present, or the unknown future.

The room of memories that opens with us, will close with us eventually. The ones adjacently close to us will remember and reminisce, probably shed a silent tear or two, and walk along the path of time. 

Everything has a tendency to move on.

Just as you should. Move on carrying the memories, the thoughts, and the values with you. Ensuring they stay alive. Just like the person they belonged to would have desired.