Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Book Review : Dear Max

Title : Dear Max

Author : Sally Grindley

Publisher : Aladin Paperbacks

ISBN : 978-1-4169-3443-1

'Pen is the tongue of mind' - I cannot agree more. I am one of the many strong admirers of letter writing. Its charm and charisma can never be replaced by the whole array of modern means of faster and quicker communication. Letter writing is truly an art. It is the most personal gift that we give to our loved ones.

'Dear Max' is a story narrated through a series of letters, postcards and cards that are exchanged between a nine-year old boy Max and his favourite author - D.J.Lucas. After having read one of his books, Max decides to place the first stone of the foundation of a friendly relationship between an author and a young reader.

"Dear D.J.Lucas,

My uncle bought me one of your books for Christmas. Its called Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Boys? Have you written any other books? I want to be a writer when I grow up.

Love from Max,

Age 9"

D.J. lovingly replies back to her new pen-pal and thus commences the wonderful journey of their sharing their lives with each other through the letters. Max writes about his challenges in life, the bullies he has to face in school, his life after his father left them, his struggle in forming a story and his medical issues. D.J. shares the events and happenings from her life, her progress in story writing and about her other engagements.

Max makes sure to add his creative drawings in all his letters and this is one of the reasons he likes writing letters than any other ways of communicating with his favourite author. For the readers, these drawings simply raise the fun factor of the book.

Dear Max showcases a beautiful relationship in which it feels so easy and right to share many inner feelings and emotions with ones who do not judge, who have similar vulnerabilities, despite them being complete strangers initially. While reading this book, I could actually peep inside the mind of Max and feel his jubilation on having another confidant in his life besides his mother, another person who he happily includes in his inner circle. I like the way Max tries to incorporate the ideas or suggestions given by the author for his writing, behaviour and life in general. Throughout all the author's letters to Max, she does not sermonize or preach anything to Max, she just offers another perspective and different angle of viewing things which works wonders for Max and I am sure it will appeal to all young readers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Review : Still Alice

Title : Still Alice

Author : Lisa Genova

Publisher : Simon and Schuster

ISBN : 978-1-84739-624-2

What happens when somebody loses his/her complete identity while still very much alive?

'Still Alice' is the story of Alice Howland - a successful academician, an accomplished Harvard Professor, who is diagnosed with early onset of Alzheimer's Disease soon after she celebrated her 50th birthday . The doctor's verdict comes as a rude shock in her otherwise extremely active life, which she loves dearly and which is part of her real identity - full of travel, giving lectures, mentoring students besides being a loving wife and a mother of three.

It does not take long for her condition to deteriorate. The story is the third person account of how her disease progresses and the preventive measures she takes in order to extend the period of her being aware of who she actually is. Some of the parts are really touching and very sensitively handled - her being lost inside her own home looking for the bathroom, her forgetting everything about her actress daughter, her loneliness amidst her own family, her interactions with her youngest daughter and her heart-wrenching speech as an Alzheimer patient. These are the portions in which the author excels brilliantly, successfully invoking the right feelings in the readers.

But there is much that is left unripe, unbaked and amateurish.

The author keeps dwelling on the fact that Alice is a smart Harvard Professor umpteen number of times. The early onset of Alzheimer is a tragic development for any person engaged in any occupation. In the beginning while introducing the protagonist, the mention of all her details are expected but too much of the same piece of information is definitely unpalatable.

Interaction among the family members on many occasions fall in the category of being artificial and superficial. While reading this kind of story I was expecting the handling of the close relationships in much more sensitive fashion. Characters should have been etched with a little more detail and warmth. The elder two children and even Alice's husband John come across as dry and shallow individuals.

This story had all the ingredients of being a great read but the lack of proper handling makes it fall short on many fronts. Despite all this, it is still an engaging book as it offers a close to accurate account of how it feels to be the patient of such brutal unforgiving disease.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Book Review : Children Of A Better God

Title : Children Of A Better God

Author : Susmita Bagchi

Publisher : Penguin India

ISBN : 978-0-143-06642-2

Anupraba returns back to India from US with her family leaving behind a fulfilling job as an art teacher and a comfortable life in the much sought after land. She has her own doubts and apprehensions about the big move while she busies herself in making arrangements to settle down in Bangalore. A chance meeting with one of her old college friends brings even bigger change in her daily routine as a homemaker. Through this friend of hers, she gets introduced to Asha Jyoti and the children studying there, children suffering from cerebral palsy. Anupraba is requested by the principal of Asha Jyoti to guide the children of the school as a temporary art teacher for the upcoming exhibition. Initially she had many doubts and apprehensions of teaching such children but eventually she manages to overcome her anxieties and prepares herself for this short term project. While teaching them the techniques of shapes, figures and mixing colors, she was actually getting to learn some life lessons from these children. She witnessed love amidst hatred, laughter amidst deep sorrow, perseverance amidst disability and above all hope amidst hopelessness.

Despite their peculiar (dis)abilities, she noticed something special in the children and their drawings - perhaps it was the result of permanent impairment or the frustration of being captive in the uncooperative bodies. She could see their inner lively selves brought out through the medium of paper, pencil and colours. 'When they painted, they used a profusion of colours, they used bright hues, and their flowers cheerfully dominated the entire are of whatever size paper you gave them. Their characters were always smiling and doing happy things. They were at play, they were cycling, they were dancing and in most paintings they were about the stuff normal children did everyday, but would require a miracle of God for these children.' While actively guiding the children for the exhibition day, she often wondered what is in store for such children and who will take care of them when they have to fend for themselves, but wanted to believe 'surely the same creator who brought them in this world will look after them. They are children of God, hopefully a better God than the one who looks after us.'

A touching and sensitively written book which brings out the agonies and pains, and threats and challenges of people suffering from cerebral palsy. This is also a tribute to the loving caregivers of such individuals who work behind them and with them so as to enable them to lead respectable independent lives as much as possible. The only thing not coming up to the mark was the narrative, which is a little too simplistic, overlooking a lot of nuances of this subject which demand deeper attention and complete justice.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Book Review : Quantum Angel Healing

Title : Quantum Angel Healing

Author : Eva-Maria Mora

Publisher : Synergy Books

ISBN : 978-0-9845040-1-5

Eva Maria Mora, the author of 'Quantum Angel Healing' begins the book by first showing us a mirror - the mortal human beings in search of solutions to innumerable problems - ranging from physical discomforts, illnesses to mental and emotional stresses. And for these problems, we tend to blame others or look for some external reasons, this is our way of justifying our miseries or finding excuses for the same. But in all this exercise we miss out on the real cause, the fundamental root of the problem which is - our belief that we are different from others, we are away from our true selves and we are separate from the almighty. Perhaps that is what we view from behind so many masks that we don from time to time while on this earth in one particular birth.

Then the author proceeds onto guiding the readers that the solutions can be sought and the problems can be alleviated by some simple breathing and meditation techniques. What these techniques empower us to do is to generate a high energy field and connect the same to an even higher energy field. This is exactly what the Quantum Angel treatment practitioner enables the clients in pain to achieve. The undiminishing source of the highest energy level is none other than the divine energy of love which is transferred through the messengers of God - the Angels. The author talks about many miracles that she witnessed happening in front of her eyes.

Pain of any form that we experience in life is a direct indicator that our mind, body and soul are out of balance and are struggling with each other at some level. All human beings have seven main chakras which spin and move energy up and down the body and play a critical role in keeping both the physical and energy bodies healthy. The expert practitioners of Quantum Angel Healing can aid the clients in channelizing the energies from the chakra system and clearing the blocked energies in the system to create a clearer energy fields. The clearer energy fields start vibrating at the frequency appropriate to receive the messages from angels. Ms. Mora talks about many techniques to make connection with the angels and she has actually listed down the particular angels

After having talked about the different techniques, which she compares to the new recipes of a cookbook, she moves on to encourage the readers to even refurbish the kitchen by bringing in some new pots, pans and some fresh ingredients to try the new recipes with.

All these new items are actually positive steering of the thought process - cleaning up the blocked energies, checking the past emotions, experiences and beliefs, identifying whether we fall in any of the categories of - 'a victim', 'a judge', 'unable to forgive', or 'love hurts' and if so, following the program to clear that particular part of our personality.

She elaborates upon the most important steps of the Quantum Angel Healing formula -

  1. Opening yourself to the flow of the angelic healing energies
  2. Forgiving
  3. Letting go of and transforming old emotions and harmful energies
  4. Visualizing
  5. Accepting love, new energies and new belief systems
  6. Feeling gratitude

Second part is dedicated to different illnesses and their respective symptoms and which program works the best for healing these health issues.

This book definitely motivates the readers to first critically analyze own self, identify the problem areas, cleanse the energy levels internally as well as externally and apply the natural healing procedures. I found it very exciting and some of the techniques are easily to follow but I guess many need to be practiced under an expert practitioner. Through this book the author offers a peek into an intriguing world of energy levels and how the same can be manipulated for greater benefits.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Book Review : Freedom in Exile

Title : Freedom in Exile - An Autobiography of the Dalai Lama of Tibet

Publisher : Hachette

ISBN : 978-0-349-11111-7

Born on 6th July, 1935 in an ordinary Tibetan home, a little boy at the age of 2 years in 1938, was recognized as the reincarnation of previous 13 Dalai Lamas based on the traditional process of discovering the spiritual and political ruler of Tibet. At that tender age he was taken away to a monastery and was educated, conditioned and groomed for the great responsibility of assuming the role of supreme leader of Tibet.

He was enthroned as the absolute spiritual leader at the age of seven and at fifteen, he was made the head of the state - the undisputed leader of 6 million Tibet people facing the threat of a full scale war with China. Yes, that was the period 1949-50 when China invaded Tibet and Tibetan people, their culture, religion, faith and even their existence came under direct threat of Communist Chinese Government. The era of troubled times began for Tibet.

The Chinese Government offered a 17 point agreement to Tibet in order to merge Tibet to China. This agreement was nothing but their evil designs in the garb of the philanthropic objective of uplifting the backward Tibet in tune with the main parts of China. What followed was a violent period of brutality and savagery and in 1959 Dalai Lama was forced into an exile with some Tibetan followers. Subsequently a spate of bereaved refugees were helped by the then Prime Minister of India - Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru in settling them in one of the places - Dharamshala in Himalayan region and later near Mysore. Similar hospitality was offered by the next Prime Ministers and Presidents in India in helping and supporting the cause of Tibetans. It has been 51 years since the time when Dalai Lama opted for political exile but the pleasure of being in one's own land and own country is still eluding him and thousands of his countrymen who are scattered over many places in India and in some other countries too.

But all through his life he dedicated himself to the task of - guiding his people in this dark period that has dawned on their native land and keeping the faith and culture alive despite being in an alien land. Having deep reverence for Mahatma Gandhi, he has been instrumental in promoting world peace through the unmatched weapon of non-violence.

He is working towards the sole objective of preserving Tibet and his people otherwise 'Tibetans will soon be no more than a tourist attraction and relic of a noble past'. For this he offered a Five-point peace plan for Tibet to Chinese Government in 1987 which includes -

  1. The transformation of the whole of Tibet into a zone of peace.
  2. Abandonment of China's population transfer policy which threatens the very existence of Tibetans as people.
  3. Respect for the Tibetan people's fundamental human rights and democratic freedoms.
  4. Restoration and protection of Tibet's natural environment and the abandonment of China's use of Tibet for the production of nuclear weapons and dumping the nuclear waste.
  5. Commencement of earnest negotiations on the future status of Tibet and of relations between Tibetan and Chinese people.

He gives a sincere glimpse of his own life through this book right from the early days of his life when he craved for all those things that a regular child does, his experience of being revered by his own people, his understanding of the Tibetan Buddhist faith and how and in which terms is it different from other faiths of Buddhism. Being a well read and well travelled person, he offers his frank opinion about the different countries and their political systems - 'in some ways, the American political system does not live up to its own ideals'

His openness to travelling and meeting people and his strong faith in goodness of people is neatly summed up here 'I welcome the opportunity offered to travel to meet and talk with people from different walks of life - some poor, some rich, some well educated, some ill educated, some who are religious, many who are not. So far, I have received only support for my belief that wherever you go people everywhere are basically the same, despite certain superficial differences. They all, like myself, seek happiness : no one wants suffering. Everyone appreciates affection and at the same time has the potential for showing affection to others'

I do not want to miss quoting some pearls of wisdom which Dalai Lama (literally meaning Ocean of Wisdom) has shared with his readers through this book -

'pain is what you measure pleasure by', 'make friends not by force but by compassion',

'no matter how bad things become, they will eventually get better. In the end, the innate desire of all people for truth, justice and human understanding must triumph over ignorance and despair. So if the Chinese oppressed us, it could only strengthen us.

After reading this book, I could not help pondering over the fact that we indeed live in a very imperfect world and while leading our individual lives in a small sphere, we forget what magnitude of unjust and unfair elements coexist in this same world.

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