Monday, February 28, 2011

Book Review : The Trinity

Title : The Trinity

Authors : Marie D. Jones, Larry Flaxman

Publisher : The Career Press

ISBN : 978-1-60163-145-9

The book 'The Trinity' divulges the all pervasiveness of the number 'three', its magic, its power and its influence. The narration begins with first establishing the omnipresence of the trinity in all possible realms of the world - nature, religion, psychology, mythology, culture, quantum physics and much more. The famous ones with which almost all of us are well conversant are - the holy trinity in Christianity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the one in Hindu faith - Brahma (the creator), Vishnu(the protector), Mahesh (the destroyer), the famous abodes of the soul - Heaven, Earth and Hell, three levels of human mind - conscious, unconscious and subconscious, major life cycle stages - birth, life, death and three laws of Newton. It definitely brings home the point that the reach of the concept of Trinity is indeed ubiquitous, not restricted to any particular religion, faith, culture or society. Is this some kind of a secret code in need to be decoded?

The authors Marie D. Jones and Larry Flaxman precisely attempt to bring out the magic behind this number in their book 'The Trinity'. In order to achieve this, they discuss about a long array of things and amongst them the one which has been elaborated in great detail is the structure of brain and the different sections of this organ which makes the human being a highly evolved living organism to have ever walked on the face of the earth. The hindbrain, mid-brain and forebrain are the distinct sections of the brain and are the managing units of very specific skills and emotions. Then there is the mention of intent and reality and the conditions under which the intentions get transformed into reality. What actually is intention? It is defined as 'focused, directed, persistent thought. It is resolve and determination to make specific things happen'.

Further on, the authors take up the concept of prayer and the secret behind the prayers. Marie Jones and Flaxman attempt to explain it scientifically, how the treatment of mind can help transform a prayer into an "affirmative" prayer - the mechanism by which one could actually manifest what one wants in life. They describe this system of scientific prayer using a five step structure - Recognition, Identification, Declaration, Thanksgiving and Release. Chapter 9 focused on this topic was an interesting read. I specifically liked the arguments that have been put across to find the reason for 'Why most people's prayers don’t come to pass?'

'The Trinity' brings out a fresh take on many topics and yet another way of looking at things. Overall a very captivating read, offers some healthy arguments and would surely motivate the readers to ponder upon the issues that have been dealt with in the book.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Book Review : The Long Road

Title : The Long Road

Author : Dr. Vivek Banerjee

Publisher : Pustak Mahal

ISBN : 978-81-223-1163-1

I must thank the author Dr. Vivek Banerjee first for sending a review copy to me.

'The Long Road' (journey is the destination...) is the story depicting the inside picture of medical college - the studies and the training routine, through the lives of five young aspiring doctors who have taken admission in the post-graduate degree courses.

Each of these five individuals hail from different backgrounds, have different aspirations and expectations from life, personally as well as professionally. Rahul and Sarika are old classmates and lovers since their graduate days but Sarika being a very driven and dedicated student disapproves of the casual attitude of Rahul towards the future and hence opts out of the relationship but it takes a fatal accident to make her confess her true feelings for Rahul and revisit her decision about their relationship once again. Ranjiv comes from a very affluent but lonely background, who does not acquiesce with the choices his doctor father made in his life, so wants to escape from his shadow. Hina, daughter of a Maulvi realized very early on in her life that the way out of the small attic in the mosque of Bhiwandi is through books and working hard. In the new open environs and with the support of a loving person, she blooms to be a confident and strong person.

The book gives a glimpse of the pressures of being in a medical college and the grueling studying ad working schedule the aspiring doctors need to follow in order to be an expert in their respective fields. The author being one belonging to the medical fraternity, very authentically brings out the nuances of this profession - the ups and downs, the lows and highs, the efforts and outputs, the confusions and hard decisions and rewards and disappointments. Amidst this academic drama, a couple of love stories are weaved in beautifully and through these relationships, the precarious balance every individual in such high demanding job needs to maintain has been brought to light.

Overall its a light-read, feel good story, very engaging and a page turner. There are no tough or complex situations brought into the narrative. The characters are very well etched, the editing is tight and no situation or incidence gives the impression of being redundant or not supporting the story. The language is simple, could be made typos free though. The medical terminology has been used where required but does not overwhelm the readers at any point of time.

However, it comes across as a little too simple and straight forward book where everything is divulged in words, not relying on the subtlety and the intelligence of the readers. Sometimes even the titles of the chapters give away the whole plot of the chapter, which robs off the charm and suspense of the following pages. In my opinion, there is a great scope of addition of some more content to the story.

This book brought back the memories of 'Doctors' that I read more than 20 years back, which has the similar backdrop - the medical profession. But the similarity ends at this point only. Doctors by Eric Segal was a much more meatier book and offered a lot of substance to retain forever.

But for a first time author, 'The Long Road' is a wonderful attempt and I sure will look forward to his next writings.

I will recommend this book for its simplicity and the feel good factor.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Book Review : Living Next Door to Alise

Title : Living Next Door to Alise

Author : Anita Nair

Publisher : Puffin India

ISBN : 0-14-333018-7

Siddharth is a nine-year old boy who prefers reading a book in his room to running around in the park or climbing trees - the activities which his parents consider are done by normal boys of his age and not being afraid of red ants is definitely one of them.

One day after having a long argument with Siddharth, the 'parental unit'(Siddharth's ingenious way of referring his parents to) sent him out in the garden in order to make him behave like a regular boy. While he was sitting at the far edge of the garden under a tree wondering why his parents want him to undo the evolution human beings have achieved in descending down from climbing the trees to the ground, he heard somebody speak to him in a soft voice. When he looked around, he was shocked to see a baby elephant talking to him. She introduced herself as Aishwarya but made it very clear that she likes to be called Alise instead. Siddharth and Alise found a friend in each other. And it turned out that Alise is extremely intelligent, well-read and has excellent vocabulary.

Together the two friends undertook many adventures. Once Alise wanted to go to school wearing the same patterned cloth as was Siddharth's school uniform and requested Siddharth to tie one bow around her bristles - 'Make a nice big bow. I am rather particular about bows'. After creating a lot of commotion in the school in a single day, Alise decided that school was a waste of time and that she was better off teaching herself from her books. On another occasion Siddharth wanted to take Alise along with him to a party in the neighbourhood and Alise got tempted by all the mountains of ladoos and jangeries, vadas and idlis. And in no time these same beautiful mountains vanished and in Alise's words, she felt 'replete'. But Alise is not just a fun loving elephant, she is brave and very compassionate too. The two friends resolve to work together against the Bearded Bandit who was terrorizing the elephants in the vicinity and how they accomplish their objective is an interesting read.

We enjoyed reading this book thoroughly and many times were laughing out loud especially where Alise displays her adroitness at picking and using new words and her suggestions to Siddharth such as 'you should add this word to your vocabulary, you know…' Anita Nair is definitely among those authors who excel in expressing the inner feelings and emotions of a person beautifully. She has clearly written a fun book full of adventures and thrills and has not tried to unnecessarily load it with education part anywhere. The conversations between Siddharth and his parents look very genuine and candid with some shades of irreverence for the parents and his disagreeing inner voice is also divulged in the narrative.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Book Review : Wombat Goes Walkabout

Title : Wombat Goes Walkabout

Author : Michael Morpurgo

Illustrator : Christian Birmingham

Publisher : Harper Collins

ISBN : 978-0-00-780285-2

This is a story of a digging and thinking Wombat. He woke up one fine day and got engaged in his favorite activities - he dug a deep hole, crawled into it and started wondering and thinking - 'Why is the sky blue?' and 'Why am I a wombat and not a kangaroo?'. After some time he came out of his dugout and started looking for his mother who was nowhere to be seen. So he went in search of his mother inside the forest where he met different kinds of creatures - a flying Kookaburra, a hopping and jumping Wallaby, a hanging upside down and swinging by his tail Possum, a scampering and scooting around in crazy circles Emu, a jumping, running, swinging and hunting little boy and a dozing, snoozing and snoring Koala. All these creatures showed off their awesome feats to the wombat and did not think much of what wombat could do - digging and thinking. But this changed soon enough when a forest fire threatened to engulf all living creatures. No amount of jumping, hopping, swinging, scampering and running could save them now. Wombat came up with a brilliant idea and he knew what to do - the tasks that he did the best and that are his favorite activities - he thought and he dug deeper and deeper holes. These were the same humble skills of Wombat which finally came handy in the time of danger when the other creatures were at the verge of loosing their lives.

Simple and sweet story reinforces the values of respecting the uniqueness and different-ness of every creature and how every creature is good at something.

The repetitive text always works for the young readers . The illustrations by Christina Birmingham are combination of pencil sketches bringing simplicity and colored paintings giving the actual feel of the woods. The picture of the endearing little wombat on the cover page is sure to make an impression on the young readers' minds.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Book Review : The Age of Kali

Title : The Age of Kali

Author : William Dalrymple

Publisher : Penguin India

ISBN : 978-0-143-03109-3

Kaliyug or the Period of Kali is the last of the four Hindu periods contained in mahayuga - the great age of the world. The age of Kali is when the imperfections are so overpowering that the doomsday is not far behind and a new cycle begins.

After having read 'The Age of Kali' by William Dalrymple, I just wondered, perhaps defining India means, getting the feeling of 'Neti Neti' (its neither this, nor that). Such unbelievable diversity in every aspect of human existence - from religion, culture, dressing habits, eating habits, faiths, beliefs, notions, values, to of course financial levels. As is said about Mahabharata, if it is not in this big epic, it is nowhere in the world. I think the same can be said about India to a certain extent.

William Dalrymple brings to us the glimpses of such huge multifariousness in the Indian subcontinent through the essays which chronicle a nation's struggle to rise above the ancient and modern forces which are trying to pull it in opposite directions.

He has brought out the coexistence of stark contrast by introducing the readers to the land of kamasutra, the land where shivalinga is one of the most sacred symbols in the temples, the land celebrating the beauty in the form of Khajuraho figurines and the same land where 'Sati mata' is still revered in some parts, where a woman (Sathin) is severely penalized for having attempted to stop a child marriage and where widows are left to begging in the streets of Vrindavan. But this is not all. He also opens a small window to peek inside the glitterati of Bollywood - the film industry of India and where women like Shobha De cater to the needs of people looking for spicy gossips and erotic writings.

Then there are some essays on the places like Lucknow, which bloomed culturally under the reigns of Mughal emperors and Nawabs who were 'liberal and civilized figures' - the great connoisseurs of poetry, dances, books and plethora of art forms. But such places are now completely bankrupt after having endured the plunder by Britishers, and by corrupt politicians, government officials and drug tycoons, post independence. In states like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh anarchy is rampant, especially in political arenas where elections are won by power, money and force rather than fair play. On the other hand there is Bangalore which has been unofficially christened as 'Silicon Valley of India' and offers hope of a better tomorrow for the whole country.

The author then talks about the financial and economic revolution by reporting about how the middle class families struggled in the seventies to buy their first fridge or a black and white television but quite suddenly there seemed to be a lot of money post 1989 economic deregulations and free market reforms. And subsequent deluge of TV channels brought the cultural invasion in the country.

There are some observations that he has very rightly made - India is struggling to shake away from the age old beliefs and caste system which seem to hold their fangs tight on the people very rigidly and refuse to die down. The unfortunate nexus between the religion and politics pushes the nation many times at the brink of volatile situations. The sluggish public sector is one major impediment in the growth of the nation, if not the sole one.

While reading the first half of the book, I was wondering - do such books sensationalize the events and issues more than they actually are but then the counter argument is, can anything non-existent be sensationalized?

But these essays do suffer from a few pitfalls - William Dalrymple has reported the actual events after interviewing many people but the actual flavor of India is lost somewhere especially of modern India which is committed to march ahead despite innumerable hurdles and push-pull forces from all conceivable quarters. The chapters are dedicated to the most depressing incidents in the life of the country in the last two to three decades which offer just one side of the picture. Moreover, I feel the analysis part got overshadowed by verbatim reporting of the people on many incidents and cases. From an author of William Dalrymple stature, I was expecting more deeper and broader scrutiny of the same which unfortunately came only in bits and pieces.

Found this quote from the book worth mentioning here "The eye of faith can often see much that is hidden from the vision of the non-believer". How true and sums up the belief system in one simple sentence.

I like William Dalrymple's writing style but would like to add 'India is not just this'.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Book Review : Humanity on a Tightrope

Title : Humanity on a Tightrope ( thoughts on empathy, family and big changes for a viable future)

Authors : Paul R. Ehrlich and Robert E. Ornstein

ISBN : 978-1-4422-0648-9

Through 'Humanity on a Tightrope', two award winning authors - Paul Ehrlich and Robert Ornstein undertake the task of bringing a unique perspective to the global problems that our species is facing - the tightrope that we need to walk from humanity's past to the future. They begin by enumerating the endless troubles we need to deal with and much more gruesome future that is in store for us if nothing is modified - the increasing natural imbalance, climate changes, unmanageable human population and the impact of these in the form of - depleting natural resources, many species becoming endangered, terrorism, insecurity, nuclear proliferation, and much more. We have reached a point where 'our species is endangering its own life-support system and the infrastructure of the rest of the world.'

The well analyzed study of the fundamental problems of homo sapiens due to premature birth patterns and the reasons for the formation of family setup are very neatly presented. This tendency of humans forms the basis of how and why we consider just a few members of the species as part of our family. The stern definitions of 'us' and 'them' based on every possible reasons be it color, class, caste, religion, country led to many horrific times in the history of our species. But now in order to bridge the gap between 'us' and 'them', the 'family' entity needs to be redefined making it more open, broader and generalized. The feelings of empathy and semblance is to be cultivated and are extremely important in order to avert the collapsing civilization. It is high time that we educate ourselves with the basics of empathy that we have lost while being focused on catering to our individual needs. We all need to renew our knowledge of this one indispensable trait which can help all of us in thinking about our common life-planet.

This compact writing is based on science, information and knowledge and the two authors have analyzed the same in such a brilliant manner so as to present the whole intelligence in a palatable, chewable and digestible form. It is very thought provoking, sincere attempt by the authors towards building a global family. The lectures are very well supported by appropriate case studies and anecdotes from the past to further the points that are to be made. They have made use of the findings from varied fields and streams such as evolution, biology, anthropology, psychology and sociology, to name just a few. However, at some points the explanation of situations seemed a little inadequate while on some occasions the findings felt repetitive which could have been intentional to reiterate the same point from different perspectives.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

a simple aepan/aipan painting

A sample Aepan/Aipan/Alpana painting.

It is a popular art form of Kumaon. Walls, papers and pieces of cloth are decorated with these paintings.
The original raw material used is simple ochre (Geru) colour and rice paste. I have used a handmade sheet and acrylic colours here.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Book Review : When Jessie Came Across The Sea

Title : When Jessie Came Across the Sea

Author : Amy Hest

Illustrator : P.J.Lynch

Age : 4 to 8 years

Found this book on the discounted price shelf in the bookstore last week. Just the cover picture of the book enticed me so much that I had to read it there itself and brought it home to keep a nice piece of art and writing.

It is a story of a 13-year old girl Jessie who is an orphan and lives with her grandmother in a village in Europe. She always keeps her mother's marriage band close to her. She has a lovely relationship with her grandmother. Jessie teaches her grandmother to read and write while her grandmother teaches her to sew. They are happy in their own little world. But this soon changes with a big jolt when the Rabbi of the village selects Jessie to go to America on his ticket as he has to be in the village to perform his regular duties. Jessie and her grandmother are devastated even at the thought of being away from each other but then they both reconcile to this big change in their lives.

The day soon arrives when Jessie has to finally board the ship to New York. Jessie is unsure, afraid, alone and very sad but soon forgets her woes and gets herself busy in sewing laces for the women passengers on the ship. While on the ship, a young boy Lou becomes her friend. On arriving New York, Jessie is received by Rabbi's brother's widow who owns a dress shop. Jessie starts working there sewing beautiful laces and soon people begin to throng the dress shop for her special laces. Also, she starts school again and regularly writes letters to her grandmother narrating her experiences in the new city.

Three years fly away like this and one day she happens to meet her old friend Lou in the garden. They develop liking for each other and Lou proposes but Jessie wants some more time. By this time she had already saved enough money that she could buy a ticket for her grandmother to come to New York. Grandmother reaches America and blesses the young couple with the perfect gift which she had been entrusted with when Jessie came to America.

Illustrations are very mature and can be appreciated across all ages. The water color pictures are really life like and bring the inner feelings of the protagonist beautifully to the paper. The picture which is also on the cover, captures the moment when the ship of the immigrants reach the shores of America and Statue of Liberty is in the backdrop. It beautifully depicts the medley of emotions that the protagonist must be experiencing at that time - excitement of landing in an alien land, hopes to fulfill the dreams of a better future, apprehensions of the unknown and melancholy feeling of leaving the loved ones far behind. These are some of the feelings which are not alien to me and I am sure, not to many people who move from their place of birth to a new country, new surroundings and amidst new people leaving the comforts of known surroundings.

A lovely story wonderfully brought to life by the gorgeous illustrations. A perfect package. This book has been awarded the Kate Greenaway Medal besides many other accolades which it truly deserves.

simple strokes painting...

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