Monday, December 21, 2009

Book Review : Goldfish Don't Take Bubble Baths

My first guest post appeared on Saffron Tree.

Title : Goldfish Don't Take Bubble Baths (Abby and Tess Pet-Sitters)
Author: Trina Wiebe

Illustrator: Meredith Johnson
Ages : 4-8
Publisher : Lobster Press

To start with, I would love to narrate one interesting anecdote from my childhood. I remember when we were very small, my sister and I used to love eating the meat of the melon seeds. It was a big effort to get those seeds cleaned first, to remove the pulp in which they are encased. Mostly we used to clean the seeds using a couple of vessels and a sieve. But one day we had a brilliant idea - we thought we should use the rough floor of our verandah for spreading the seeds on, it was easier this way as we could just squeeze the seeds and set them free from their pulp. It worked really fine and we were happy that we could accomplish the task sooner than previous times. When we brought the bowl of all clean shining seeds inside to enjoy them, our elder sister pointed out that the place where we kept the seeds on the floor is not a clean one and we walk on that floor all the time, we should not eat these seeds. That made us a little uncomfortable (as we were about to put the seeds in our mouths to pop them open) but we didn't want to lose our seeds, so we decided to wash the same seeds with "Surf" (detergent powder for washing clothes) and then have them. It seemed like the most intelligent idea we had at that time.

Not quite similar but somehow after almost 25 years I was reminded of this incident when I was reading - "Goldfish Don't Take Bubble Baths" , to my children. Innocent minds just know very simple ways to clean things up or bring some change.

In this book, the unaware Tess decides to give the goldfish a bubble bath by putting Dish Detergent in their tank, to make the goldfish feel better. This book is the first one of the series of - Abby and Tess Pet-Sitters. Two sisters Abby (elder one) and the younger one - Tess are desperate to have a pet of their own, but cannot do so because of the building rules - No pets allowed.

Abby wants to be a Veterinarian when she grows up and loves reading books on different animals. Fortunately she gets a chance to fish-sit Mrs. Wilson's two goldfish, when Mrs. Wilson went out of town for a week. She tries to get as much information on goldfish as possible by reading various books from the library on goldfish. As this is the first "pet-sitting" project that came Abby's way, she wants to prove to her parents that she is responsible enough to take care of the goldfish in the best possible manner. She wants to do it perfectly so that she can request her parents for the permission to start a pet-sitting business of her own.

The whole new experience starts and that is when while accompanying Abby to Mrs. Wilson's apartment to check on the goldfish, Tess does her bit too and it is interesting how Abby rescues the goldfish who seemingly do not like the soapy water. That is when all the information that Abby had gathered from the books comes handy. Obviously very angry at Tess's philanthropic act of making goldfish feel happier, Abby decides to take care of the goldfish all by herself. But later when just two days are left of this job, something terrible happens which can completely ruin all the impression that she wants to build to earn future pet-sitting projects. It is very natural that in the most miserable conditions, we tend to feel bad for what we do wrong, similarly, Abby now feels bad for Tess and talks to her and apologizes to her for her indifference towards her. Then two of them together try to save the situation. Initially Abby thinks of hiding it from her parents but then realizes that taking responsibility means owning the mistakes too and surprisingly for her, her parents understand that everyone makes mistakes and making mistakes is so human. They still decide to give her a chance to pet-sit in future too. The same night Abby gets busy in preparations for her exciting pet-sitting job with Tess as her reliable assistant.

We read this book over a few days, one chapter everyday, keeping the curiosity of kids high. Everyday they used to wait for the designated reading hour. A wonderful way to introduce children to the habitats, eating habits and other characteristic features of different animals along with some messages - working together is always better than working alone, owning the mistakes instead of hiding them. Getting such messages from different sources and in different situations always help in making the values firmer in their impressionable minds.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Book Review : A Fine Family

Author : Gurcharan Das

Image courtesy : Amazon

After reading "Difficulty of being good" by Gurcharan Das, I had to read some of his other works. So I picked this book up. "A Fine Family" - a story of three generations, set against the backdrop of changing India - physically as well as at the soul level. The story starts from the time when India was trying to stand on her own feet to get the long due freedom from the Britishers. The main character - Bauji, was a successful lawyer in Lyallpur (now in Pakistan) with his extended family enjoying the benefits of being an urban middle class family. It focuses on the thoughts and feelings of the people at that time when the independence of India was being decided by the leaders on both sides of the table. How the negotiations affected the people of those regions, who literally paid the price for independence of India by giving everything which belonged to them - from material things to their lives. A heart wrenching narration of partition incidents and how some lucky few could cross the border to be on the safer lands. Bauji's family was one among those which could reach the new India, with smaller physical map and a bleeding heart. Loosing just one daughter to the mad riots at that time was the minimum damage they could think of. Many concerns have been raised by the author which I am sure lingered ( and still lingering) on in people's minds and memories - were/are we not competent enough to be a leader of ourselves, were we habitual of being led only. Was the partition of 1947 justified, did the leaders failed the common people who were living in denial till the last moments of partition thinking that this senseless communal violence would stop soon. These are the questions which have been raised and been discussed innumerable times but I guess, some questions are destined to remain unanswered.

Then comes the next generation - a generation which mainly got busy filling up the positions which were being vacated by the British people. It is being depicted through the life of Bauji's daughter Tara and her family. The moods, likes and dislikes of Tara and majority of that generation, quite different from her own husband (Seva Ram) though. Inspite of spending the lives together, they both remain unconvinced by the ways which appeal to the other person.

And the third - Tara and Seva Ram's son - Arjun, who wants to achieve more. So he steps out on his own to explore life in a totally different city - Mumbai.

One striking thing which comes out after reading this book is that no matter what times, which generation, humans do have an innate ability of coming out even from worst of situations - triumphant, owing to the grit and determination. It was evident in all three generations - Bauji starting his life afresh after having suffered the perils of partition, Tara having to compromise on marriage front and getting on with the new life which was being chosen for her by her elders and Arjun having left the unpleasant experience of being convicted (wrongly) behind him.

Gurcharan Das is a great story-teller with flawless language and has beautifully portrayed the desires and then adjustments, strengths and weaknesses - of human mind.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Book Review : Difficulty of Being Good

Image source : Flipkart
Author : Gurcharan Das

A book very well written and very informative. It has wonderfully analyzed the subject on hand - Mahabhartha, its main characters and how they handled the situations when their integrity was in question or at stake. I have great appreciation for the author - Gurcharan Das, who has dealt with the issues very objectively without getting biased towards or prejudiced against any particular side in the dharam-yudh. This epic is so vast, great and complicated that it validates the point over and over again- "What is here is found elsewhere, what is not here is nowhere."

The book attempts to define two types of dharma - sadharan dharma and sva dharma. Former being associated to caste or varna or society and the latter is what defines the innte nature of an individual. For the perfect balance, these two need to work in unison but sometimes, they start conflicting with each other as was the case with Yudhishthir. The sadharan-dharma dictated him to function as a king, according to which, fighting/killing becomes part of the duties whereas his sva-dharma guided him to save every single individual no matter what.
I marvelled at one of the many observations of the author - "The epic is obsessed with questions of right and wrong and it analyses human failures constantly". All characters, without any exception, had to stoop down from their own high levels of being ardent dharma followers, when the situations arose.
Krishna - the God (or is he?), has a much larger than life role to play during His whole time on earth. Be it his childhood pranks in Gokul, his encounter with Kansa, his marriage expeditions and then his involvement with his dear friends Pandavas. While being a part of the battle between Kauravas and Pandavas, yet not directly involved as an active warrior, Krishna plots many plans to make Pandavas win the battle. He tries his best, as a peace messenger to avert the battle but when it is not possible, he believes that no matter what type of means are employed - fair or unfair, battle has to be won. The reason that Pandavas' cause is just, is sufficient enough to even use unjust means or tricks to achieve that result.
Other main characters of the epic are also a lot thought provoking - be it,
* Bhishma, who got his name after taking an oath - never to marry and to remain loyal to the throne of Hastinapur without giving it any thought that there may come some time when the king is not capable enough to deserve such loyalty. But he remained true to his words till his last breath.

* Karna, who even after coming to know of the fact that he was the brother of five Pandavas, remained loyal to his friend - Duryodhana and we do not find any flaw in this character except on two occasions when he was a party to the assembly where Draupadi was disgraced and when Abhimanyu was killed in a foul play. He remained "a true giver" all through his life. Our sympathies do go with this character, who had to pay for none of his faults.

*Yudhishthir, son of Dharma himself, who dared tread the path of doing what is expected of him at any given time, was put to tests many times by Dharma. In the end, Indra gave him an exceptional boon as he truly remained a great person and felt for other creatures more than how he felt for himself. We feel the anxiety, remorse and sadness that he finds himself in after the war. Despite having won the war, he considers himself a loser after the battle is over. He comes across as a very strong personality in the epic.

While reading this book, the readers would not be able to avoid getting many doubts and questions themselves. I think, the doubts basically on two planes - about some of the incidents that happened in Mahabharatha and then questions about the current times.
  • Is it even feasible to compare the two times and trying to get the answers from the epic? Are not the two situations so mutually exclusive or for that matter, any two situations and times are so disjoint that comparison becomes impossible.
  • What are we trying to achieve from this comparison? Fine, even at that time humans found it difficult to remain true to the path of dharma, is it a justification to not take - "being good" part that seriously.
  • Is "being good or not good" a function of situation concerned?
  • Who decides and on what basis can humans be good or not good at any particular time ?
  • How important is the fairness of the means in achieving a fair result? And who decides the fairness of means or of the result?
  • Can there be a broad definition of Dharma with which majority of people could relate and try to adhere to or is it too subjective and varied as the humans themselves are? The definition of Dharma was too varied for the characters of Mahabharatha themselves. Some did not think its wrong to sacrifice an individual for the benefit of majority whereas some were not ready to even sacrifice a single individual despite knowing the fact that that particular individual could bring more problems for others.
  • The author very nicely puts - "if greed is the vice of capitalism, envy is the flaw of socialism". Is there a possibility of having a stable system for human race, which can atleast aim to do away with these faults?
  • Is making the tricks (which Krishna plotted) public during the great battle, a way to convey the message to the world - to err is very much human.

The author has done a lot of research and compared the characters of this epic with many other kings and personalities from the world history. Really a thought provoking piece of writing and offers a lot of substance.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Book Review : Family Matters

Image source : Amazon
Author : Rohinton Mistry

A story about a Parsi family living in Bombay. As the author puts it, the most accepting and giving city of the world as it keeps welcoming people and embrace them in its arms. In return, the city endures for the ones coming into its folds everyday. There is a brief mention of the Shiv Sena people who are trying to control the natural flow of the city by putting their claims on its fabric whether it is in the form of changing the name to Mumbai or not allowing people to celebrate festivals that do not go well with them. The nostaliga that Mr. Kapur feels for his initial period in the city tells us how the author loved the older version of Mumbai.

The story revolves around the head of the family - Nariman Vakeel, family of his married daughter Roxanne and Nariman's two step-children - Coomy and Jal. When the story begins Nariman is living with Coomy and Jal in a 7-rooms flat but Coomy has not fogiven him and she has her heart full of anger for her step-father. Nariman is struggling with Parkinsons and osteoporosis. But the complicated situation arises when Nariman gets a fractured ankle and Coomy and Jal find it too hard to take care of him and dump him at their step-sister's small two-bedroom flat without prior notice. Because of this sudden happening of events Roxanne has to face some problems and unpleasantness with her husband Yezad. But she looks after her father, taking care of his personal needs also, very dearly. Yezad on his end is struggling with the fact that he is not able to provide enough for his family and there is always the financial crunch even more now when there is an addition to the family.

In an attempt to keep her step-father out of that house forever Coomy thinks of an evil plan and gets trapped in it herself.

As far as the writing style of the author is concerned, I think he seriously should edit the story to remove the unimportant parts from the narration. Totally unnecessary details make it a little too long and a drag somtimes. He is successful in making readers see the perils of old age and how with this phase of life comes the feeling of being unwanted for even the dear ones. An average story but should have been a little more crisp.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Book Review : 2 States - The Story of my Marriage

Author : Chetan Bhagat
Image source : Amazon

Another book by Chetan Bhagat. Having read his earlier three books (Five point someone, One night @ call center, 3 mistakes) already, I am not a great fan of his writing but still I picked this book up as I was looking for a light reading after having read some serious books for past few months. Surprisingly, I found this one much more interesting than his earlier books in the sense that it is funny at many places and narration is engaging. This is an autobiographical take on intercommunity marriages.

It starts with a typical scene at IIMA and Krish, a Punjabi boy falling for Ananya, a "Madrasi" Iyer girl. The things were under their control till the time they were in college. But when they decide to take the next step of getting married, the insurmountable task starts. The hard part was not the decision to get married but how to convince both the families to like their future son-in-law and future daughter-in-law, who do not belong to the same culture and how to make their families like each other. The book highlights the point that marriages in India are not just restricted to a boy and a girl, it involves the extended families of the boy and girl too. The parts where the cultural differences and dissimilarities are pointed out are really funny and if you are from one of these two states or have some idea about the same, you can easily relate to the things and can nod your head along. Some comparisons were really witty and neatly put.

His earlier books have already become the inspiration for Hindi movies and this story has all the ingredients to be one too. I think Chetan Bhagat wants his books to be typical masala movies only, no substance that can satisfy the literary interests. Overall a time pass book, a typical "one day book". Read it, enjoy it and toss it away. Definitely not a keepsake.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Book Review : Have A Little Faith

Image source : Amazon
Author : Mitch Albom
Just happened to see a new book by Mitch Albom in the bookstore last week, which had arrived a day before my visit to that store. I got tempted to purchase it, and purchase I did. How could I leave a Mitch Albom book when I have liked his three earlier ones so much.

This book starts with a query which the author's rabbi - Albert Lewis, puts him - Would Mitch do the rabbi's eulogy when he dies. Rabbi is 82 years old at that time. Mitch was a little unsure why he was being chosen, he wants to know the Rabbi better in order to write on him later. Initially Mitch expected it to be a two-or a three-weeks project but it went on for eight years. This exercises made him come closer to the faith which he had lost long time back and had not made any attempt to revive it. It would have continued like this, had it not been for this request of Rabbi. Almost at the same time, he gets involved with another man of God - Henry Covington, following a different religion, who, in spite of having a dark past himself was trying his best to bring people to the world of faith. Mitch realizes later that he is on a journey of learning some life lessons himself, believing that there is peace in keeping faith in some bigger, higher power than us. The author gets to talk to both of these men of God about different challenges and hard times that humans go through and how the faith is tested in such times. Eventually he concludes that faith is the one thing that can bridge the gap between people.

A well written book. I enjoyed reading it but still it could not replace my personal favourite among Mitch Albom's books - For one more day.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Book Review : The Notebook

Image source : Amazon

Author : Nicholas Sparks

This is also one of the titles from the list of "must read books", that was published in the newspaper - Times of India.

A very mushy typical love story where it is evident that the souls are meant to be together. A story about Noah and Allie. Their first meeting was magical, got to spend whole summer in each other's company but got separated to finally get united after fourteen years, during which they kept longing to be with each other and kept remembering their summer together. They get to spend a fulfilling life together, sharing common interests, encouraging each other all along. Allie starts showing signs of Alzhiemer and the story is about how Noah stays with her inspite of his own old age and other physical problems. With great love, commitment and affection he does get some rewards when Allie comes out from her own dark and lonely world and reaches out to him.
The story has a good flow and these kinds of books manage to grip the attention of the reader. But I think my interests are changing in the sense I do like nicely written books but they should offer more than a simple, compelling love story. Many times while reading this I was reminded of another such book - Bridges of Maddison County.

An average timepass book. Such books come under my category of "one day books" when you want to take a break for a day in between some heavy reading. I had heard a lot about this author so wanted to read atleast one of his books.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Book Review : My Sister's Keeper

Image source : Amazon
Author : Jodi Picoult

I came to know about this book from a list of "must read" books, which was published in the newspaper - "Times of India", a few weeks back. I had put this title in my wishlist too and bought it when I got the next chance to go to the bookstore. I bought it on one Friday and could not keep it down during the whole weekend and managed to finish it in two days. That is enough evidence of how good the book is.

Sara and Brian Fitzgerald, come to know that their two years old duaghter, Kate, has a complex kind of lukemia and their elder son - Jesse cannot be a match to be the donor of bone marrow for his sister. Sara and Brian opt for a genetically designed child to save their dying daughter and thus Anna comes in their lives. Anna goes through lots of medical procedures to keep her sister going, right from her birth for thirteen years. But it all changes when Anna decides to not being Kate's donor anymore and she wants the legal rights on her own body. The author vividly describes the struggle of all characters involved here, the parents, who, while taking care of their sick daughter and trying to increase her life with every possible effort, loose touch with their other children - Jesse and Anna. Jesse trying to grab the attention of his parents, gets himself into difficult situations. Anna suffers the most as even winning the case would mean loosing her own sister without whom she could never imagine her life. They all go through some very difficult and strange choices which are forced upon them in their lives. There are no obvious easy answers to all the queries which get raised in the book as we go along.

Along with this family's struggle there is a side story of lawyer Campbell and his past with Julia. Towards the end, when we think that everthing is taken care of, there is an unexpected twist and I could not read the last 3-4 pages without struggling with fuzziness in my eyes. This is the first book which actually made me cry.

The story and the whole sequence of events to narrate it make it a wonderful reading experience. The story is very touching and my mind is still full of all the characters of the story. One think I liked about the author is that she could portray the turmoil in the minds of the characters really well. When handling an emotional topic and close realtionships, this part becomes really important.

I would strongly recommend this book to those who like emotional and sensitive subjects.

Book Review : The Hundred-Foot Journey

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Author: Richard C. Morais

I think its really been a long time since I came across such a bad book and surprisingly I managed to read it full - cover to cover, while waiting for the plot to build up all through the book. In my opinion, the authors should first see if they really have some good plot before starting to write a book and I am surprsied what did the publishers see in the written matter that they agreed to publish it too. The only attractive part of the book was the cover page which drew me towards this book when I bought it.

Anyway, the book is about a Hajji family, a family running a restaurant in Mumbai and after a certain unfortunate incident the family moved out of India and finally got settled in a French village. The Hajji son - Hassan has natural talent for cooking which a famous French chef Madam Mallory identifies and she selects him to pass on her culinary skills to. Hassan's destiny takes him to Paris and then finally he attains the far fetched dream for any foreigner - of attaining a 3-star status.

I still do not understand what was the purpose of this book - to walk the readers through the journey of an Indian chef to become a 3-star top French chef or to reveal the inner workings of French cuisine world.

My recommendation - stay away from this book.

Book Review : Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night Time

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Author: Mark Haddon

Christopher, who is fifteen years old is an autistic person. He has extraordinary picture memory. He is very good in doing complex mathematical calculations and understanding the concepts of science but finds it extremenly difficult to understand human beings and human feelings.

One night he notices a dead dog in his nighbourhood. While trying to investigate the murder of this dog, on which he decides to write a book, he gets to unravel many more mysteries concerning his life. His whole secured world comes crashing down when he stumbles upon some facts which were deliberately kept hidden from him. He struggles to save himself from the dog killer.

It is a good attempt by the author to give a glimpse of an autistic mind, how they see things in black and white and the grey portions are beyond their comprehension. Everything has to be logical with either a 'yes' or a 'no' as an answer without being able to understand the reason behind that answer. There is no problem with the IQ of such people, its just that the finer human feelings go unnoticed for them.

Book Review : Eat Pray Love

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Author: Elizabeth Gilbert

The book begins with the time when the author is going through a long and bad divorce seeking process followed by a not very promising another relationship, which leaves her in a very depressed state of mind where she has to take anti-depressants to retain her sanity. After a very pricey divorce settlement, she decides to dedicate one whole year to travelling to three countries - Italy, India and Indonesia. In these three places she finally ends up eating alot, praying alot and then loving alot, in that sequence.

In these three countries, she witnesses totally different cultures and lifestyles. She comes to Italy to satisfy one of her cherished dreams to learn Italian. She notices how Italians are masters of appreciating the beauty of doing nothing. They are hard working people but behind all the work they are actually working towards fulfilling their "doing-nothing" ideal. Whereas Americans need the convincing for the pleasure after hard work. They simply do not know how to do nothing. It is not uncommon that Americans go for regular stress relieving vacations but end up not feeling fully relaxed there too.

Then she comes to India for finding and making peace with her inner self. And ultimately she does attain that peace and enjoys the state of meditation. She has narrated this journey of hers very vividly, her inner apprehensions and questions and dislikes for some of the routine things. But ultimately everything falls into place so nicely that she ends up spending the whole time of her India visit in the ashram whereas she had set aside half of her time for travelling within India and visiting different places. She understands that the misery of all humans is love and control and how the solution is so simple to just let go. It is simple yet very difficult to practice every day.

What all we keep searching every day in the outer world is somewhere deep within ourselves. We fail to recognize our deep divine character. We do not realize that there is eternal peace somewhere within ourselves and that is the supreme Self. A guide or a Guru helps us realise our dream of attaining that divine peace. A Guru, with the aid of his own merits reveals the hidden greatness in the disciples.

After successfully spending her time in the Ashram she reaches Bali. She learns another path of peace from an old medicine man, she helps her new best friend realise her dream of owning a house there and finally finds love of her life.

The author has written this book very sincerely without trying to hold back her thoughts or questions anywhere in the book. That makes it an interesting read. Personally I liked the part when she is on her spiritual journey in India whereas her time in Italy was least impressive as most of the time she has written about what she was eating and how good that was. I understand, that part was anyway devoted to "eat" of the title "eat pray love.

But overall a very transparent portrayal of her feelings throughout the book.

Book Review : Sister Of My Heart

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Author: Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

As I had promised to myself, I went ahead and read another book of Chitra Banerjee. I am really impressed by the author's style of writing and narration, her books are too gripping and it is hard to leave them unfinished once you start them. In both the books the high point is the beautiful portrayal of human emotions.

"Sister of my Heart" is a story of two girls who are cousins - Anju and Sudha. They are born in one household on the same day. They have different temperaments and different dispositions but inspite of all these differences they love each other dearly. A bond, which can not be compared to anything else in this world.

Sudha's life appears to be a little more complicated than Anju as she comes to know the half truth of his father and his crime, and how she has to endure that pain alone. The guilt that her family has been responsible for the misery of Anju's family makes her sacrifice her happiness for Anju's sake without even letting her know about it. But later when Sudha needs support, Anju silently does her part to help her and while doing that she loses her unborn child.

The detailed account of how their lives change slowly as they grow up and some mysteries like their driver Singhji's story makes it an interesting read.
But personally I would recommend "Palace of Illusions" to this book.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Book Review : Palace Of Illusions

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Author : Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

In simple words - the story is that of a great epic, the Mahabharata, which we all grew up listening to. The story in itself is complex and its characters even more complicated. Compared to another major Hindu epic - Ramayana, this one is too intricate with endless (almost) side stories of each character. The incarnations of God Vishnu in both the epics are also very dissimilar - Ram with his simple and truthful ways leads a much simpler life compared to Krishna who comes across as a very cryptic personality.

In this book, Chitra Banerjee has narrated the story of Mahabharata, from the eyes of one of the main characters of the story itself - Panchaali or Druapadi. The book starts with the story of birth of Panchaali and his brother Dhristadyumna through a yagna which was performed by their famous father - Dhrupad to take revenge from his one time bosom friend - Drona. Both these siblings knew right from the beginning that they have been brought in this world for a special purpose. In the course of time Dhraupadi comes to know through Vyasa himself, about the future that awaits her. How she will be instrumental in making history. While telling her so, he gives her advice to
- hold back your question
- hold back your laughter
- hold back your curse
when you desperately want to do these at some points in your life. But as she becomes part of destiny, how the same moments come and she does the same as has been destined already.
I appreciate the author's attempt to peep into the mind of Draupdi and narrate the incidents from her perspective. How slowly with time she comes to realise the essence of life - the freedom she feels towards the end in finding out that one was not as important as one had always assumed. She learns quite a few lessons that the great ups and downs in her life teach her. While undertaking her last journey, she remembers all the goodness of the dear ones in her life and how she had the chance to appreacite the goodness while she spent the time venting her dissatisfaction on them.

She dearly loved her "Palace of Illusions" but as she is taken by destiny through different times, she realises that actually all places are palaces of illusions and like every other home, the body is also a crumbling palace.
Throughout her life, she feels the presence of one of her closest confidant - Krishna with her, till her last moments on earth. He had always been there with her, sometimes in the forefront, sometimes just blended in the shadows of the life. But all through her experiences she does not miss noticing that even though Krishna takes care of her dearly, she does not get anything if she does not deserve it - like the Virat form that Krishna reveals to Arjun only and not to her even though with Vyasa's boon she chould see everything happening on the battlefield. This makes me think, the divine justice is so fair and no short cuts are possible.

A really engaging book and personally I liked the way it makes the readers also realise the common follies that we get entangled in while on this earth. A lot of material to ponder upon. Compliments to the author for such a well written product. I haven't read any of her other books but would love to read some soon.

Book Review : Letters To Sam

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Author: Daniel Gottlieb

This book is a collection of 32 letters written by a grandfather - Dan, who is paralysed neck down since last 25 years, so he has quadriplegia. Dan is a practicing psychologist and a family therapist. He starts writing these letters to his grandson- Sam, when he was born. But after two years he comes to know that Sam is an autistic child. Still he continued writing these letters in the hope that with all the therapies, someday Sam will be able to pick this book up and read what all his grandfather wants to share with him, especially how he managed most of his life being different from others and how Sam also needs to get comfortable with his different-ness in his life.
He has written some very fine life lessons from which each of us can learn something to incorporate in our lives - being more compassionate, making our container bigger so that we see our problem through a wider angle to get the correct perspective. Accept the uniqueness in individuals.

Besides these lessons that he has presented in an interesting manner, the way he has depcited the parent-child emotions, is very touching. He has shared his feelings as a son with Sam and even after his father is long gone, how he misses the final touch of his father.

Overall a very well written book and a good read.

Book Review : Speedpost

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This book is a compilation of letters written by Shobha De to her six children ( not all biologically her own) at different times of their growing up. Before writing anything about the book, I would like to say that I am not a great fan of Shobha De or her writings. I have read a few of her articles and one of her books "Spouse". Everytime I have felt that this is one of the writers who is popular not exactly for her writing work. I do not find anything special in the way she writes and the content that she brings in her writings.

In 'Speedpost', the letters range from personal emotional feelings, some basic instructions that she wants to convey; to education, changing lifestyles and same words getting new definitions with changing times. With these letters she comes across as a very understanding mother with visibly some very strict guidelines which she expects her children to adhere to. The letters show her concern and the interest she wants to take in the lives of each one of her children despite having very tight schedule and she doesn't shy away from apologising to her kids when she feels that she erred at some point. Being a mother myself, I think that is a very good quality to have.

After reading the whole book/all the letters, my thoughts about her work got even more firmer, I did not get the feeling of having read anything extraordinary. It was not one of the books which I would recommend to others to read or would like to keep with me forever as "must have books". It is now lying in the pile of books which I will sell as second hand books whenever I go to that bookshop next.

My suggestion: Go for a better book than spending time or energy on this one.

Book Review : The Last Lecture

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Author : Randy Pausch (Professor, Carnegie Mellon).

The author diagnosed with terminal illness - Pancrreatic cancer, gives his last lecture to his students, his colleagues and to his family so that they all have some part of him with them when he is no more. The author died in July,2008 but the disease gave him some time to make preparations for that day and for the loved ones when they have to spend their lives without him. He left his wife and three little children behind and while reading the book, I could feel the pain of the author of not being around his children in their growing up years. But before leaving this world, he tried his best to leave his mark on their lives which they can keep feeling as they grow up.
He formulated his thoughts in a lecture which he gave to his students in the Carenegie Mellon hall and named it "Really achieving your childhood dreams", which was video recorded for his children to understand how their father was and he expanded his lecture into a book with some more details. The video recording of this lecture is freely available online.
The author has walked the listeners of his lecture and the readers of his book through his life. He had a fulfilling childhood with loving parents who encouraged the children by being the role models themselves in whatever they wanted to teach the children, letting them listen to their hearts and being with them rather than filling their childhood with material things. In the second part of the book, he has given some tips on living life positively and with satisfaction even when you are facing the last moment of the life so closely.
After reading this book, I felt that he really tried to do full justice with the remaining time he had with his family, his students and with the world at large and he succeeded in his attempt to a great extent. He has tried to make a capsule of his life ( in the form of book and lecture), whatever he learnt in his years on earth and whatever he wanted his children and people to learn from him and that was the next best he could think of doing if he could not control increasing his time being alive.
He has given the wisdom of living life by just not preaching what to do and what not to do but instead by actually quoting his own experiences. So he actually practiced before he told other people to follow those things - telling the truth, working hard, apologising sincerily if a mistake has been made and keep trying even if you come across brick walls while trying to achieve something, not trying to fix things when they do not need one. The one that I liked the most is how to view things in the perspective they deserve and not blowing the issues out of proportion.
Overall it was a very interesting reading and towards the end it is so emtional that the reader feels with the emotions and thoughts of the author as he is about to leave his loved ones behind.

Book Review : Who Will Cry When You Die ?

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Another self-help book by Robin Sharma, the author of the famous bestseller - The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari. Its good to read this book but there are too many "to do" things that Robin Sharma has talked about without trying to join them together in some kind of a story. These are 101 life lessons so there is higher chance of the reader loosing interest somewhere in the middle of the book. He definitely mentions very good ways of living - kindness towards others, self discipline and living in the moment and enjoying every moment of life. Changing a few things in life like waking up early, using the Platinum 30 rule, which means that spend the first thirty mintues of the day after you wake up thinking positive thoughts and the rest of the day the positivity will stay with you - can make a huge difference in the overall attitude towards life and work.
Personally I liked his other book "The monk ..." much better than this one. In the category of self help books, Mitch Albom books are a class in their own.

Book Review : Letters From A Father To His Daughter

These letter were written by a famous personality - Jawaharlal Nehru to his daughter Indira Gandhi when he was in jail and she was in Mussorie. She was ten years old at that time. The language is appropriate for a child of that age to fully understand. He has introduced many concepts in his letters in a very readable manner. Starting from the origin of our solar system, earth, planets and other heavenly objects to various changes that took place on earth naturally and then the civilisations that walked on this earth. He has tried to arouse the interest of a child in reading the book of nature which tells us much more than what we see with our naked eyes. Each object carries a lot of history behind it and becomes a major part of the slow change which is happening every moment around us and in us. As a parent of two children, I liked the way he has tried to pass on such vast amount of information so briefly that the child doesn't loose interest and at the same time gets to know all important details. While reading these letters I was amazed at the way he has joined two seemingly unrelated topics in his narrative so easily. It is not very detailed but it does touch all significant aspects.

Book Review : George's Secret Key to The Universe

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It is a wonderful book written by a well known physicist Stephen Hawking along with his daughter Lucy Hawking.

Facts about physics, universe and time are woven beautifully in a very gripping story. George is a school going boy who comes from a family which believes that technology is not good for our earth and it is doing more harm than good. Then he meets his neighbours - Annie and her father Eric. Eric is a scientist who with the help of his super computer - Cosmos, goes on trips to the unknown territories of the universe in search of a new planet like Earth where life could be possible. How once on his trip he gets lost in a black hole and how George with the help of Cosmos, Annie and her mother Susan helps him come out of it is really interesting. In the end George's parents also feel that science and technology are not bad, with the help of technology we are getting to know our universe better. But technology should be used for the betterment of the humanity and not for its destruction.

A must read for all above age 6yrs. It made me more interested in the facts about universe and I would like to read more on this subject.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Book Review : Books by Mitch Albom

3 Books by Mitch Albom

1. Tuesdays With Morrie
2. Five People You Meet in Heaven
3. For One More Day
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The author's style of writing is great, the reader doesn't loose interest while reading any of these three books. Generally I have seen with many authors that once their one book becomes a bestseller, the subsequent writings are more or less on the same lines where the reader can very well guess the flight of the author's mind. Whereas in these books, firstly each one of them has its own unique point to convey even though all these books provoke the reader to think about the life deeply.

Tuesdays with Morrie is much more than a self help book in which the author depicts how the life is passing by and how we should start living it before it is too late. Morrie is a professor of Sociology who is diagnosed with terminal disease - ALS. He decides that he would rather spend the rest of his days enjoying, talking and meeting people than sulking alone. Then comes his old student who had spent some very good times with the professor in the college but now was part of mad materialistic race. Morrie takes the last class for this student in which he tells him his experience of dying. How important it is to enjoy and celebrate every moment of this life. He considers himself as a bridge between the people who are alive and death so he wants more and more people to know how it feels to be dying. He believes that we all should learn to die first and then we will be able to live life. His positive attitude and accepting each disability gracefully make the reader wonder is it actually possible to do it when most of the times people get disturbed and unnerved by insignificant things. I think everybody should keep reading this book over and over again so that the focus is at the right place all the time.

Five people you meet in heaven makes a person think how different people may leave a lasting impression and may change the whole course of the life of that person.

For one more day ( my personal favourite), is a very well weaved story where the reader goes through the feelings of having lost a very dear one and what all remains to be told or heard from that person who has gone leaving the reader behind. In our day to day routine we don't realise that the people who matter to us may not be there the very next moment or the other case where we will just go out of this picture leaving everbody behind but then no words and feelings can go beyond this life. So make the best use of this time.
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