Saturday, July 25, 2015

Book Review : Scion of Ikshvaku

Title : Scion of Ikshvaku (Ram Chandra Series I)
Author : Amish
Publisher : Westland Ltd.

I remember the time when I had finished reading 'The Immortals of Meluha', the first of the Shiva Trilogy by Amish. It was a marathon reading as the book was truly unputdownable. I marveled at the creativity of the author and his brilliance of connecting dots beyond one's imagination. I had a lot to write while compiling its review.

Another first of another series, this time it is Ram Chandra Series. Again a fast paced, engaging and readable book. While putting down the review I have again a lot to write about the story and the writing style.

In India, growing up with stories form mythology is a very natural thing and stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata form a major part of that experience. There is no point writing about the story but then even the author has not told the same story. He has just picked the characters from the saga and the major events from it but the situations leading to those events and the portrayal of the same characters are completely different. In fact it is so different that one doesn’t see any connection with the great epic that we identify with. Actually he has taken creative liberties with the story to such an extent that barely the skeleton resembles the age old saga now, nothing else. 

Author's great level of imagination and creativity are undoubtedly applaud worthy. The way he pieces things together talks highly about his intelligence and with the mention of a prospective land - Meluha, he just nailed it completely.

Rama considered a bad-omen by Dashrath, Manthra's character as a power wielding entity, her daughter as a benevolent healer, Sita and Urmila as ministers of their state, Swayamvar setting, fun-filled relationship between Ram and Sita, weakening  empire Mithila - are just a few things which completely deviate from our impressions and understanding of the story. 

There are some high points and sections which rise meritoriously making the readers fall in love with the proceedings. However, there are parts where the narrative falters in terms of expected excitement and interest. Amish has tried to give some contemporary touches to the mythological story, like - gender equality, Roshni's case (on the lines of Nirbhaya's tragedy), juvenile justice -to name a few. However, some of these attempts seem superimposed and do not gel well with the natural flow.

So my verdict, if anybody cares, one can read it as just a fictional story having no connection with Ramayana that we know.  Would I look forward to the next in the series? - I doubt.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

सीख लिया है मैंने भी अब खाना बनाना

सीख लिया है मैंने भी अब खाना बनाना
पहचानने लगी हूँ हर मसाले की खुशबू को मैं भी
सब्ज़ी का ताजापन भी अपना एहसास कराने लगा है I
कुछ ऐसी चीज़ें जो पहले महत्त्वहीन सी लगतीं,
अब पता चल गया है उनका स्वभाव मुझे भी I
लुप्त रह कर किसी की जान कैसे बना जाता है
बोध कराया हैं इन्हीं छोटी छोटी चीज़ों ने मुझे I

धनिया पुदीना जो पहले एक से जान पड़ते थे
आज पता है कितने स्वाद के भण्डार समेटे हैं ये I
खाना बनाना और फिर उसे अपनों के लिए परोसना
सच में एक अनुपम सुख देता है यह एहसास
इस भावना को जीना भी तो तुमसे ही सीखा है
जाने अनजाने आ जाती हो मेरी आँखों के सम्मुख
सम्बोधित करके मुझे दिखा जाती हो राह सही सी

सीख लिया है मैंने भी अब खाना बनाना
पर मन में कसक सी होती है उस महक की
जो आती थी तुम्हारी बनाई रसोई से सदा
वही सब चीज़ें तो हैं अब भी, यहां भी
मसाले भी दो ज़्यादा ही होंगे,  कम नहीं
पर क्यों एक कमी सी रह जाती है सब में फिर भी
क्यों नहीं मिलता वह स्वाद वही रस

शायद हाथों का ही जादू होगा उस स्वाद में कहीं
प्यार का ही रूप होगा उस महक में रचा-बसा
स्नेह से बना कर बिठा कर खिलाती थीं तुम
तब समझ नहीं पायी कैसा संतोष पाती थीं तुम
आज भी वह चेहरा आँखों में समाया रहता है
काश एक बूँद और मिल जाए उस ममता के सागर से
काश उस महक में बिता सकूँ दो पल फिर से कभी I

Sunday, July 12, 2015

One Flew Over the Empty Nest

It is that time of the year again when a big change is in offing in many households in which kids outgrow the schooling phase of their lives and are ready to enter college and hostel world.Admission in dream engineering/medical/law colleges is taken, seat secured by paying the fees, hostel room is finalised, important dates are marked in the calendar and the stage is set for the next phase. Preparation begins in full swing for the soon-to-be hosteller — keeping in mind what all he/she would require over there — from toiletries to laptops and phones — all are lovingly selected and purchased.
Finally, the day arrives when the new collegiates leave. While these young adults are eager to experience the charming world that awaits them, there is a set of individuals — the parents, who find themselves in an unfamiliar territory.
It begins from the moment parents reach home and an eerie silence greets them. After having spent every moment of their lives thinking and planning about their kids, continuously for almost 18 to 20 years, it is not easy to accept that suddenly there is no one at home who needs their care. This phase is often termed as empty-nest syndrome because it is actually the letting-go part which is difficult. One misses being part of the daily lives of one's children's and their constant companionship. Often, this time coincides with the mid-life phase of the parents when they start experiencing slowly declining faculties, decreasing energy levels along with some physical and emotional issues which ring mild signals that the peak of life is about to bid them goodbye. Reena, a happy mother as her daughter is going to Amritsar for her M.B.B.S., shares, “I feel as if there is no meaning in life anymore. I will have to learn to live without being a part of my daughter's busy schedule. I had completely forgotten about anything else for the last 17 years."
A few decades back this phase used to scare people as it was almost synonymous with depression and loneliness, but not so anymore. Like many other health issues, empty-nest syndrome is a well studied issue now and people are aware what to expect and how to handle the symptoms wisely when that period of life comes. Experts’ advise that one must not shirk from taking this phase head on and seek support and stay positive. To begin with, accept the change graciously. Give a pat on your back for having raised and a responsible child who is all set to make his/her own mark in the world in his/her own small or big way. Experience and enjoy the feeling of freedom from some responsibilities. Approach this phase of life as a chance to explore yet another world of opportunities and interesting avenues.
The parents get time as a couple and the opportunity to reconnect with each other again, to improve the quality of their relationship and rekindle their common interests. Pick any new hobby or some activity that you have always desired to learn, start a routine, engage in some philanthropic activity, join some hobby club like a reading or a cookery club, start writing a diary, exercise the green thumb that you may have, join a yoga class, start meditating, go on long drives alone or with the spouse, enjoy the togetherness of the two of you and sometimes just the silence.
One just needs to change the perspective and the point of view, take it as a beginning of another innings when there is no end to what one can do, learn and engage in. So, why not play on the front foot this time! Madhavi’s second child went to hostel last year. She shares , “Initially it was very hard adjusting to the empty house, more so, as I am a homemaker but eventually I started finding things that interested me but I had lost somewhere while taking care of kids. I have picked up my lost passion - fabric painting again. I have started a healthy routine. It feels like I am living for myself for the first time.'

  • According to a research by Karen L. Fingerman, a psychologist, most parents now enjoy greater freedom, a reconnection with their spouses and more time to pursue their own goals and interests once their children leave home. In her study, most parents report that seeing a child walk the path toward successful adulthood gives them a feeling of joy and pride. Most importantly, the parent/child relationship actually improves for many parents and kids when children leave home. While the kids are all set to write something of their own on the canvas of life, the parents get fresh opportunities to paint their canvas anew with something unique reflecting the volume and substance of the years spent.

This article appeared in 'The Tribune' on 12th July, 2015

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Book Review : The Seeker

Title : The Seeker
Author : Karan Bajaj
Publisher : Penguin India

It so turned out that the books that I picked up for reading this summer kept leading me to the logical next and further on in my pursuit to know and understand things better, as if it was all pre-planned and ordained to happen. Although  I am far removed from understanding the meaning of life and getting even a glimpse of the elusive peaceful state of mind but the dots that are joining through these books are bringing in some form of solace and respite. Just wondering if it is Alchemist's message getting validated in real life - nature conspiring in some way to satisfy the urge from within.

Happened to pick 'The Seeker', seeing it on the stands of a book store, along with J.P. Vaswani's book - Thoughts Life has Taught Me. Written by Karan Bajaj, this book is again a person's journey to know the purpose of life. In more cases than one this kind of desperation gets kindled when one goes through extreme emotions like - near death experience, loss of a loved one or similar such situation. During such life changing experiences, many questions cloud a mind and one keeps wondering and questioning about what is beyond what is visible to the eye. The urge to know more and know better keeps one unsettled till one begins on some path to everlasting peace.

In 'The Seeker', Maximus Pzoras, a Harvard economist and Wall Street Banker calls it quits soon after his mother's demise. In order to find reason for human suffering, despair and pain, he sets out on a journey from New York to the snow capped Himalayas first, then to an ashram in South India and finally to the Himalayas again. He realises that it is the mind that needs to be conditioned to stay silent. 'Mind is always on fire. It violates every yogic percept, claiming it wants enlightenment when it craves pleasure, coveting the comfort of chatter, committing violence when it thinks negatively. Mind knows no contentment, no peace, no maturity.'

In order to find the truth behind the statement, “So if there is birth, age, suffering, sorrow and death, then there must be something that is un-born, un-aging, un-ailing, sorrow-less and deathless, immortals as it were" Max progresses from one stage to another and experiences an inner transformation.The bondages, attachments, worldly pleasures that earlier enticed and seduced him, slowly settle down and so do the bodily discomforts. The book actually walks the readers through an adventurous journey where the protagonist is equally unsure and unsettled to begin with but gradually the clouds of confusion start diffusing giving way to clarity and assuredness.

After reading this book, the learning gets reconfirmed that there is a right time for everything when the mind, soul and body actually get ready to receive it. The receptiveness of these three faculties conjoin to convey the message to the nature which then conspires to make it happen in its own discreet way.

Karan Bajaj has done a great job in bringing out the inner feelings and emotions of a person on the journey to self realization. The detail and depth in his writing validates how keenly he must have experienced the emotions and how deeply he must have observed the progressive changes. He talks highly about the significance of selfless service and silence while mentioning various means and mediums in order to stabilize the mind. He touches upon the concepts of - power of yoga and meditation, good and bad karma and the outcomes of the same, rebirth theory and much more and the way they are pieced together, make it all very logical. While reading through the book, one may not even realise but one eventually gets a glimpse of how 'Tattvam asi'  - the enlightened state - would be.
Tattvam asi means - You are That (That is God), which means aligning oneself with that supreme power as one is actually a part of that complete whole.

This book has already gone in the list of 'Literary Sojourn Recommends' for this year.
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