Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Book Review : Man's Search for Meaning

Title : Man's Search for Meaning
Author : Viktor E. Frankl
Publisher : Rider Books
ISBN : 978-1-84-604124-2

If one can  remember only one thing from this book it should be this - 'He who has a Why to live for can bear almost any How.'
There are plenty of self-help books that one can choose from if one so wants but there are just a few which can really be called 'life changing'. Viktor Frankl's - Man's Search for Meaning is one of those few books which have the potential of influencing a reader's perspective towards life for good. It is in fact a memoir of the author while he spent the years from 1942 to 1945 in four different camps, including Auschwitz.

In the first section of the book he recounts his time spent in the camp and how he managed to stay alive in the midst of hopelessness, desperation and death. What makes his account of the concentration camp stand apart is his evaluation of the situation through psychological perspective. He studies the impact of extremely adverse conditions on different individuals which gives him enough fodder to think about how personalities and characters are formed. Living under dehumanized circumstances, losing one's identity including one's name, working as living corpse, no contact with any loved one, no visibility of the end to that ordeal - were not ordinary conditions;  yet finding meaning in life became the only important thing in order to survive the camp. He realised that there must be some bigger purpose for living than succumbing to the situation and giving up. He believes, 'you cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you feel and do about what happens to you.' 

In the second section Frankl shares how he used the lessons that he learnt during his years 'from death-camps to existentialism' to formulate the doctrine of Logotherapy. 'It focuses on the meaning of human existence as well as on man's search for such a meaning. According to logotherapy, the striving to find a meaning in one's life is the primary motivational force in man.' Frankl actually beckons the readers to invoke the abundant power that each individual possesses to mould the way any situation is approached and is responded to. Moreover the turbulent and testing times are the ones which build strength of character and make a person triumphant personally and spiritually.

One can go over this book time and again in case accepting adverse circumstances becomes an issue. This is the reason many people who confront situations like - personal sickness, suffering, loss of a loved one, often turn to this book and find the much needed succour and perspective. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

मेरी वसीयत तुम्हारे नाम -

उन गेंदे के फ़ूलों में मिल जायेगी झलक मेरी
सूखे फ़ूलों को मंदिर से उठा कर डाला था जहां
तब तो मुरझा कर धरती में समां गए थे वे फ़ूल
यकीं है नयी ज़िन्दगी का संचार करते होंगे अब वहाँ

हाथों से रोम्पी थी कुछ आँगन की मिट्टी
अभी भी मेरी उँगलियों के निशाँ पाओगे वहाँ कहीं
नयी तुलसी फ़ूट पड़ी होगी उसी कोने में फ़िर
मौसम के साथ बूढी हो दे जायेगी बीज अपना

चमेली के झाड़ पर लगी होंगी कलियाँ फ़िर से
अपनी हलकी खुशबू से महकाती होंगी घर भर को
तुलसी के पत्तों के साथ जोड़ कर माला बुन देना कभी
हो जाएगा श्रृंगार छोटे बाल गोपाल का मेरे उस से

सहेज कर कुछ यादें रखी थीं उस अलमारी में
कुछ पैगाम जो मेरे नाम मिल जाएँगे वहीँ कहीं
गीली न करना आँखें अपनी, उन यादों में खो कर
सुकून दिया था उन लिखी पंक्तियों ने मुझे बहुत कभी

रखा था एक संदूक भी उसी अलमारी में ऊपर
छोटी बड़ी चीज़ें रखती थी तुम्हारे लिए जिसमें
जैसा भी है दे देना उसे जगह अपने पास में ही
कभी खाली न पाओगे उस संदूक को तुम अब भी कभी

लिखा था कुछ थोड़ा बहुत मनन करने के लिए अपने
वास्तव में जीवन दर्शन छुपा है उनमें ही कहीं
ले जा सकते हो तो ले जाओ, साथ मेरे आशीर्वाद के
जब भी पढोगे, पाओगे मेरा प्रतिबिम्ब उन सब में भी

वह कोना जहाँ बीत गए ज़िन्दगी के कई सावन
हो सके तो सूना न होने देना उस कोने को तुम कभी
मेरी भक्ति की शक्ति है उस जगह पर समायी
जो तुम्हारे लिए बरसेगी सदा आशीष बन कर

मेरे जीवन का मकसद था तुम से, पूरा हुआ है जो अब
आशा है लगे हो तुम अपने जीवन के मकसद की राह पर
जी जान लगा देना जो निर्धारित है तुम्हें कर्म
और समर्पित कर देना उस ईश्वर के चरणों में सब

माँ थी तुम्हारी, माँ रहूँगी सदा
वह जगह कभी रिक्त न होगी रहा यह वादा
मेरा अंश है तुम में कैसे बदल सकता है यह
जब भी मन से पुकारोगे पाओगे अपने पास तुम

Godrej Expert

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Book Review : Being Mortal

Title : Being Mortal
Author : Atul Rawande
Publisher : Penguin Books Ltd.

'Doctors are trained to keep their patients alive as long as possible. But they are never taught how to prepare people to die. And yet for many patients, particularly the old and terminally ill, death is a question of when, not it.'

While one cannot underestimate the boons of medical science in a human's life, the other side of it cannot be ignored altogether. Thanks to research and advancements, we are able to witness a polio free world, reduced rates of child mortality, lesser complications in child birth, cures of diseases which were earlier fatal - to just name a few. However, we cannot completely overlook the fact that medicine has made dying really complicated and difficult.

And this is what Dr. Atul Rawande talks about in his book - Being Mortal.

Modern healthcare has increased the life span of average human beings from 60s and 70s to 80s and 90s. While medical science has done wonders in prolonging the life of the physical body but ageing of the body is beyond any science and as a result more and more elderly people end up in a phase where their frail bodies and other faculties need assistance.

Atul Gawande has rightly pointed out, 'In the past few decades, medical science has rendered obsolete centuries of experience, tradition and language about our mortality and created a new difficulty for mankind : how to die.'

It makes the readers introspect and many questions start clouding the mind - what is the right time to let go, when should medicinal intervention back off and let the person exit gracefully, respectfully and peacefully; what percentage of quality of life can be compromised for the quality or vice versa; where should one go when a patient is beyond any medicine or doctor; how does one wait for the final time knowing that it is approaching fast; where is the support for the affected and the family and many more. There is a high probability that each one of us will have to confront these questions in one's lifetime either for oneself or for some loved one.

Atul Gawande talks about nursing homes and other facilities in US which help an individual continue to have normal life as far as possible. Later he also talks about how one can die peacefully and gracefully and the organisations that are working to make it happen. People are recongnising the need of setups like Hospice care and other residential facilities which can spare a person from piercing needles and confined-to-bed state.

Towards the end he shares his own father's last stage of life from a tumour of the spine. He shares his emotions as a shocked and concerned son and as an informed surgeon but eventually her knows, he needs to pose the right question to his father in order to choose the right course moving forward. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Book Review : A Book of Simple Living

Title : A Book of Simple Living
Author : Ruskin Bond
Publisher : Speaking Tiger

'The cosmos has all the genius of simplicity.'

Start reading first paragraph and one embarks on a journey into a world where time is no longer a constraining factor and where nature guides everything. Ruskin Bond offers a small peak into his routine and one gets to see the beauty in the simplicity of life. The way he describes his room and the window which opens into three different worlds - the mountains, the sky and the road - is fascinating. At least for the time when one is reading his words, one  gets transported to the same room amidst the same surroundings  - the never changing hills, the full of movement road and the author's preferred view, the sky. He feels the sky is never the same, it is always filled with beautiful hues from the divine palette.

As the much acclaimed author pays befitting tribute to nature, he subtly conjures the readers to acknowledge the presence of co-inhabitants of our mother earth, admiring their uniqueness and paying obeisance to the natural scheme of things. He shows us the side of the world and life which in the fast time-bound schedules, we are fast losing touch with. He talks about various flora and fauna that fill his life with colour, fragrance, music and liveliness. He has ample time - to listen to every natural sound, to drink in the scent of wild flowers and leaves and to observe tiny creatures minding their business.

'Live close to nature and your spirit will not be easily broken, for you learn something of patience and resilience. You will not grow restless and you will never feel lonely.'

He then talks about various other things, vicissitudes of life, his love and longing, his writings, how a new topic comes knocking at his door or through his window, the reassurance that one looks for at certain times and many memorable moments spent in the lap of nature. The narrative is abound with characters like cicadas, magpies, field mice, spiders, swallows, maidenhair fern, geraniums, marigolds, chrysanthemums, pines, oaks, walnut trees, tall deodars, maple, chestnut and many more names. There is a background score in the narrative which is sometimes bubbling mountain river, orchestra of crickets or rustling of leaves. The landscape keeps changing colours from pristine snow white, verdant green to riot of fall colours.

The simplicity of his life, his writing is just fascinating and one needs to read it to feel it, because he writes to connect. In his words, 'I want my readers to feel what I feel, to see what I see, and big words and big sentences come in the way of this sharing. It is clarity and honesty that I am striving to attain; there can be no lasting connection with my readers without these. And to be clear and open is to be simple.'

The reason why I cannot stop admiring the book is because it somehow aligns with my own feelings when I am close to nature. In the written words, I could actually read some of my own feelings that nature sparks
in me. While I get immersed in my daily routine, I often dream and long for - being in a wide open expanse of land adorned with verdure  or walking on a narrow pathway guarded by thick trees with huge canopies or driving on a thin serpentine road merging into the folds of mighty mountains or gazing at the endlessly stretched firmament to my heart's content or watching raindrops fall on the ground willingly accepting their new identity in unison with other companions. Just the thought of these bring in a deep sense of peace, perspective and a connection with someone supreme in every single entity.

Don’t let the beauty of the nature pass by unnoticed, unacknowledged and unregistered because it is the simplest and purest form of beauty. Let it tickle every sensory nerve of one's being. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Book Review : She Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

Title : She Loves Me,
He Loves Me Not
Author : Zeenat Mahal
Publisher : Indireads

Zoella has grown nurturing a silent crush for Fardeen Malik for many years. She happens to be the best friend of Fardeen's sister but she knows her feelings would never get reciprocated as Fardeen is already engaged to a  stunning socialite. Moreover, the two engaged families belong to the same section of the society. But destiny has something else in store for all of the characters when Fardeen gets badly disfigured in an accident. The accident takes away a lot from Fardeen besides his handsome looks and his fiancée is one of those. From a prince charming he transitions into an annoying, hurtful and hateful person. Twist of circumstances brings Zoella closer to Fardeen but was she wishing for such a fate for herself and for his beloved?

'She Loves Me, He Loves Me Not' is a love story set in modern day Pakistan while keeping the soul of a classic fairy tale intact. Hopeless circumstances, sudden twists, fate playing a big role, some baseless notions, tempers and much more are beautifully dealt with in the narrative.

The author has painstakingly carved the characters Zoella and Fardeen. Zoella, a silent admirer of her friend's brother, sincere in her duties and a family person does all for her family without expecting anything in return. Fardeen has always been away from any troubles or imperfections of life till he confronts a situation where he comes face to face with his own not so pleasing new reflection. Riding different waves of emotions and feelings, they end up tying their lives together and what follows is a bumpy ride.

The way different perspectives are dealt with and are allowed to develop gradually is a commendable job done by the author. Readers would surely appreciate how Zoella matures into a confident and strong individual from a shy and timid girl. Moreover, the window that Zeenat has opened into Pakistan through her writing is quite alluring. Her description of that world's traditions and  customs is fascinating and keeps the readers glued to the story till the last page. However, a tighter editing could have cut down a few pages from the book that keep highlighting their mutual conflicts. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

Article : Materchef in Every Kitchen (The Tribune : Feb 22, 2015)

Move over daily soaps, cookery shows have taken the nation by storm, as housewives from Kashmir to Kanyakumari are plating and presenting their dishes

Read the full story here...

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Interview : Kavita Kane

Kavita Kane, the author of Karna's Wife and Sita's Sister shares her views and opinions through this short e-interview here. 

Your first book was Karna's Wife and the second Sita's Sister. There is a pattern in the characters that you pick for your books. Who will be the  next?

There is no conscious pattern as such. I select characters which fascinate me in all their ambiguity whose story can be retold in a book. Am working on my third book but cannot say much about it right now. Just that it would be unlike the previous two.

We see a lot of books on retelling of mythology these  days, with contemporary touch. Why do you think mythology has become the flavour of the season?

Mythology has always been popular, be it part of our folk tales, theatre, art, literature, music and dance. In contemporary times the popularity has been translated to a new medium - teleserials, novels, video games etc. The interest in mythology especially the epics is witnessing a resurgence due to our close connect with it and its fascinating multi layers can be unravelled from time to time.

How has been the response to your books? Are you satisfied with the same?

Both have received excellent reports but I honestly was overwhelmed at the huge response!

What is your dream story, have you started working on that already?

Each story I write is a dream story. I dream about it often and the nightmare is if I get stuck! But seriously, every story is written with the same passion and creativity -but how well it does depends on the readers!

Which kind of books do you enjoy reading yourself? Who are your favourite authors?

I am still hooked onto PG Wodehouse and the thriller genre for light reading. I have no favourite authors - I have loved each author whose works I have read. Those I don't like I never manage to finish their book! Like reading, your choice of authors depend largely on your mood, age and maturity. Once upon a time I never read non-fiction!

How has been the journey of being an authoress so far? What is the biggest joy of being one?

It's been a big pleasant surprise! And what really touched me was the huge help I received from other authors especially the famous established ones who took out time to encourage me. What I love about being a writer is that I get to do what I love!

Any tips that you'd want to pass on to the new authors?

Write a good story and tell it well. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Book Review : Sita's Sister

Title : Sita's Sister
Author : Kavita Kane
Publisher : Rupa
ISBN : 978-81-291-3484-4

So  many questions keep flooding a thinking individual's mind, more so after reading thought provoking books like Sita's Sister. What is just, what is dharma, which is bigger - a role or an individual, where does duty of one end and the personal space of another begin, who decides which role takes precedence over another, does love mean being someone's weakness or strength, should love surpass duty or the other way round, and many more.

Kavita Kane brings to fore one of those characters of the epic Ramayana who have grossly been ignored by the center stage lights. Urmila is often remembered as one of King Janak's daughters, Sita's younger sister and Lakshman's wife.  Paeans have been written about the sacrifices of the prime characters of the mythology in whose shadow many characters have been eclipsed. Lord Ram smilingly renounced his right on the throne of Ayodhya to follow the promise that his father gave to one of his wives. His worldly consort Sita gave a glimpse of her fortitude by choosing the same path for herself as was destined for her husband. Lakshman chose to let his course get automatically sealed as he could not think of not being with his elder brother during the exile period of 14 years.  Bharat decided to spend the 14 years of Ram's exile in complete abstinence of all royal pleasures as a way of his penance. These are the towering embodiments of ideals in the epic story, but often, the larger than life sagas end up neglecting the contributions of some, who silently bear the consequences of others' decisions and promises. Their greatness lies in invisibly supporting the main players.

In Sita's Sister, Kavita Kane has lent that missing voice to Urmila. The title itself is extremely well thought out, true to the life spent over-shadowed and outshone. Here Urmila is portrayed as a delicately beautiful, spirited young princess who knows her mind and has no qualms in voicing it too. She is not the one who wants to live in illusion or any make believe world. She comes across as an individual who acknowledges and accepts her situations gracefully - whether it is of being a second fiddle to the adopted elder sister Sita or submitting to the fact that her husband would remain committed to his brotherly duties over and above her. But this does not push her down rather she reciprocates the favour by being a source of strength for her loved ones.

She displays the mettle and the fortitude to provide the anchorage to her family whether it was her parental one or later her marital kinship. She tries her best to sew the relationships and while doing so, she poses some very pertinent questions from time to time. Her voiced displeasure on Bharat's decision of spending the next 14 years in Nandigram is clear example of her confident and intrepid nerve. She questions his dharma towards his wife Mandavi - 'we have talked about all sorts of dharma - of the father and the sons, of the king and the princes, of the Brahmin and the Kshatriya, even of the wife for the husband. But is there no dharma of the husband for his wife?'

There cannot be any surprise on the plot front yet the narrative from the perspective of a different character makes it appear so very uniquely distinct.

Some other characters that make their presence felt significantly in the story are that of mother Sunaina and Lakshman. Though a queen, Sunaina is a mother first and wants happiness of her daughters even if it means disregarding the political bindings. The part where she confesses her conduct in front of Urmila, would surely touch readers' inner chords. 'Probably I expected too much from you. Or, because I felt you were mine, the daughter of my flesh and blood, unlike Sita or the motherless Mandavi and Kirti. That's why I was over-protective for them but harsher to you.'

Lakshman has always given an impression of being a person who is devoutly committed to his brotherly duties all through his life and his personal relationships and bonds never surface in prominence. But in Sita's Sister, he comes across as a person who is equally vulnerable and emotional as is any other individual. He also needs someone from whom he could derive his treasure of strength. To deliver on his lofty ideals, he depends on two women in his life - his mother and his wife. Separation from his wife is no less torturous for him either but he wants his 'Mila' to make it easier for him because he acknowledges what she is, in his life 'you are my strength but also my weakness'.

This story very strongly brings back the memories of MaithiliSharan Gupt's Saket, another must read by the connoisseurs of mythology and appreciators of subtle human emotions.

Kavita Kane's language has contemporary feel to it which makes the narrative more relatable for the present-day readers. Also, some of the questions that are raised in the narrative seem equally relevant. Personally I see nothing wrong in re-defining and re-analysing the age old mythology. I firmly believe that the way any story (epic or otherwise) is understood, analysed and presented has a lot to do with a myriad of factors - the time, and the prevailing mindset, customs and culture of that time. So when we experience almost complete metamorphosis of our society with time, perhaps mythology also looks for re-definitions from time to time. 

Cannot help quoting some pearls of wisdom from the book -

...when love surpasses duty, it is salvation.

Unhappiness makes us self-absorbed, it makes one think only of oneself- of the pain, and misery one is suffering.

Only with detachment one learns the value of love versus the range of emotions - exile from attachment. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Book Review : Hic!copotamus

Title : Hic!copotamus
Author : Geeta Dharmarajan
Illustrator : Atanu Roy
Publisher : Katha
ISBN : 978-93-82454-24-3

One lazy afternoon the inmates of Gulmohar Jungle are in for a surprise as a gigantic thing falls into the White Lily Pond. Some of the animals get really scared and run for their lives and in their confusion do not see the enormous thing walking out of the pond. Muyal the Rabbit is the first one who spots him and he is none other than a baby hic!opotamus (hippopotamus) - Hawasi.

He narrates his story to all attentively listening animals. He was blissfully sitting in a jungle in Africa, when a strong hiccup blew him away and brought him straight to the Lily Pond. He wails and wails and wants to go back to his mother now. His new friends are very compassionate and want to help him go back to his home. They all brainstorm to make him hiccup strong enough so that he is again blown over back to his home jungle. Does Hawasi find a way home?

Little readers will have a blast reading this short story. It is undoubtedly one of those fun stories to tell in story telling sessions with little children. Animal stories always fascinate young readers and if they are a little quirky, the fun quotient gets higher manifolds. Interesting facts, quizzes and trivia add extra flavour to the proceedings. The artist Atanu Roy infuses life and blood in the story with his colourful illustrations. Whenever Katha, Geeta Dharmarajan and Atanu Roy come together, the result is outstanding. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Book Review : आँधी

शीर्षक - आँधी
लेखिका - गीता धर्मराजन
चित्रकार - अतनु रॉय
प्रकाशक - कथा

गीता धर्मराजन द्वारा शब्दबद्ध और अतनु रॉय द्वारा चित्रित आँधी नन्हे पाठकों के लिए कथा की एक  नयी भेंट है. कविता रूप में रचित यह रंगों से भरी किताब एक रोचक यात्रा पर ले चलने को तैयार है.

एक धूल भरी आँधी अनेक सूखे पत्तों को ले कर बह निकली है और उसका बहाव इतना तेज़ है कि वह अपने साथ एक नन्ही बच्ची को भी आसमान की सैर पर उड़ा ले चली है. वहाँ अनेक रंग-बिरंगे व खुशिओं भरे नज़ारे आतुर हैं उस बच्ची के साथ खेलने के लिए. जो-जो इच्छाएँ एक नन्हे बच्चे की होती हैं और जो-जो सपने वह देखता है, मानो इस आसमान की सैर में वे सब पूरे हो रहे हैं. बादलों पर जाना, तितली बन उड़ना, इन्द्रधनुष से बातें करना, पंख पसार हवा से बातें करना तथा हवा में तैरते रंग-बिरंगे गुब्बारों पर फिसलना. कौन नहीं जाना चाहता इस अद्भुत सपनों की दुनिया की सैर पर. तो देर किस बात की है? उठाइये यह किताब और भरिये अपने सपनों में सुन्दर सजीले रंग.

लय में बँधे शब्द हवा के बहाव के किल्कुल अनुरूप जान पड़ते हैं और विचारों को अनोखी उड़ान देते हैं. छोटे बच्चों में हिंदी भाषा के प्रति लगाव जगाने के लिए ऐसी कविताएँ अमूल्य साधन का काम करती हैं.

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