Smrutichitre – Not a book review

I read a lot of books but I rarely review them. Sometimes a book touches me so much that I am compelled to write something about it.

I came across Smrutichitre via a fellow book lover’s Insta feed. It is a memoir of Laxmibai Tilak (not to be confused with any relative of Lokmanya Tilak). I remembered we had a chapter in Marathi textbook, where she adopts a poor girl (she thinks she is an orphan but actually her parents sell her off to get some relief from their poverty) I had to read the book and it was available in the e-book format from BookGanga (The quality of ebook is not so good and also Kindle has spoiled us to expect user friendly reading) Coming back to the memoirs, Laxmibai Tilak was the wife of Narayanrao Wamanrao Tilak, who had converted to Christianity. The reasons for conversion are never explained but one of the reasons could be the caste discrimination. Tilak was a Hindu Brahmin and I think he did not like the way Shudras were treated. Another reason being he actually fell for the charms of Jesus courtesy the missionaries he came across during his travels.

Laxmibai Tilak stayed apart from her husband for years post his conversion. However, inspite of their marriage being arranged, the love between them was so strong and true, they reunited and Laxmibai herself converted to Christianity. They both dedicated their life to serving the poor and needy.

The most fascinating thing about the memoirs is that it covers the period between  1860 to 1920. This was the period where the freedom struggle had started (though there is hardly any mention about it in the memoirs) It is interesting to know the customs that prevailed during those times, the struggle people faced while travelling even a short distance, within Maharashtra, the poverty which made people take drastic steps, like selling / abandoning their children, the drought, the plague, so on and so forth!

Even though Laxmibai was not much educated (whatever she learnt was due to her husband’s influence) she has done a good job in penning down this book. It is written straight from the heart. It does get tedious and monotonous at times.

If you can understand Marathi, I would recommend you to read this in the original format, to get the flavour of the language that was prevalent then. Otherwise you can go for the English translation.

Books of 2017

Just counted the books I have read in 2017 & I can’t believe the number is 158! This does not include the Complete works of Sherlock Holmes, Oscar Wilde, Jane Austen, Treasure Island & Overcoat (a short story by Gogol) which I re-read this year. As far as books are concerned, 2017 has been a fortunate year. Books have been my best friends. They distracted me from the hell I was going through in my life & also gave me company during sleepless nights. I also discovered some really amazing authors thanks to Amazon’s pocket friendly deals! Can you believe I got the Nobel prize winning book only for 40 bucks? The 9, 29 & 39 deals have been such a blessing for a book hoarder like me! 😀

The most fascinating read of the year is A Song of Ice & Fire. I was not a Game of Thrones fan, infact I didn’t understand what the hoopla was all about. But after I read the book, I got hooked. I read all the 5 books of the series and watched all the 7 seasons of the show (Thanks to Hotstar) And I am now eagerly awaiting The Winds of Winter (GRRM, hurry please!)

As usual, the genres of books was a mixed bag – Autobiographies, Chick-Lits, History, Mythology and General Fiction (Kids and Adults)

Autobiographies / Memoirs: I loved reading An unsuitable boy by Karan Johar. It was interesting to read about his childhood. His memoir was full of emotions and drama, as expected. I also loved Khullam Khulla by Rishi Kapoor, mainly because it included the behind the scenes stories of much loved movies. I would include Tuesdays with Morrie in this list as it is a kind of a memoir. It has been a fabulous read, specially since I relate to the way of life of Morrie. When breath becomes air by Paul Kalanithi was again an outstanding read. Anyone who has suffered from cancer / has a loved one suffering from cancer can totally relate to this. What moved me to tears was afterword by his wife. His being an Indian was also a revelation to me.

Chick-Lits: The good ones were – Busy Woman Seeks A Wife, In Your Shoes, Good In Bed, Little EarthQuakes (Jennifer Weiner is a new favourite) Sophie Kinsella disappointed with Remember Me (Rip off of 13 going on 30) & Swimming Pool Sunday. My not so perfect life was just like busy woman seeks a wife. The Summer Season had a superb plot but was ruined by rubbish writing. The Zoya Factor was okayish, not at the level of Those Pricey Thakor Girls. So was the Boy is Back by Meg Cabot. But the worst book in this category was the Mango Season by Amulya Malladi.

Classics: None of the books in this category disappointed. All were good reads. Catch 22, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Daughter In Law (DH Lawrence), Jude, the Obscure & The Cider House Rules (yes, the movie is based on this book)

Fantasy: I have already talked about the Song of Ice & Fire. Another fascinating read was Chronicles of Narnia. I loved the Magician’s nephew the best in the series and found The Last Battle a bit abrupt. Good read for young adults. I found The Scion of Ikshvaku a bit boring when I first started reading but then I held on and it turned out to be quite interesting. The concept is in continuation of the Meluha series. I loved the character of Sita very much! Not a docile princess but a true life partner of Ram! I had bought A Boy in Akka when I had visited Lotus Temple in Delhi. It provided a good insight on how the Bahai religion came into being.

Kids & Young Adults: No shame in admitting that I love this genre. I read Best Friends, Eight Keys, Rikki Tikki Tavi, The Best of Ruskin Bond, The Fairy & the lost wing (this was just to know what to read to babies) were all good reads. But the best of the lot was A complete collection of Grimms Fairy Tales. I was reading from the angle of retelling it to kids and nothing more has horrified me more. The stories are misogynistic to say the least, where girls are only supposed to look pretty and get kissed by strangers and marriage is the be all and end all of their life. Also, i did not like how kids are being brain washed against step mothers. Not all step mothers are evils as depicted in the fairy tales. We need to popularise more humanist stories for kids. I will include A cure for laziness by Sudha Murthy here. By the title, I actually assumed it had a cure for laziness, but it’s just a folk tale retelling. So much disappointed!

Regional: To my disappointment, not many regional books did I read during the year. Whatever I read was brilliant though! Thag by R. V. Desai, Pather Panchali (Hindi translation), Chitra by Tagore & Chinta by Mahashweta Devi!

Perry Mason: I read 85 books of Perry Mason, written by Erle Stanley Gardner. Simple pleasure, nothing else! The books get predictive if read at a go.

History: Except for Kashi Ka Assi, which was grossly one sided, everything else in this category was brilliant! Train to Pakistan – a fictionalised version of what happened during Pakistan gave me nightmares. Can’t even imagine what people would have gone through! Only for a little bit of land!! The Last Mughal & City of Djinns by William Darlymple fuelled my fascination for Delhi. Alex Rutherford series on Mughals (6 books) were also equally brilliant, though a fictionalised version of history. I only wish I had read these books before I visited Delhi & Agra.

Short Stories: The short stories of Leo Tolstoy (Two Wise Girls, The Imp’s Crust, etc), The Door on the wall & other stories, A Storehouse of Tales (by Indian Women Writers), Bijnis Woman (Real life anecdotes by Tanuja Chandra), Tell Tale (Jeffrey Archer’s latest) were all brilliant reads! Three Thousand Stitches was partly okayish, partly interesting.

Fiction / Novels: Most amazing books were read in this category. The bastard of Istanbul, A Man Called Ove, The Remains of the Day, Never Let Me Go & finally Room! All are must read. Before we visit the Goddess was also quite good & so was Beyond Indigo. Adultery by Paulo Coelho came in my life just when I was looking for answers to some difficult questions, hence it really touched me.

Apart from all these books, I did read Indian Super Foods by Rujuta Diwekar. It was quite interesting yet somehow did not meet expectations.

Target for next year: 200 books! Because..

 

 

 

Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones is a HBO show, based on the Song of Ice & Fire series by George RR Martin. Though post Season 5, the show is moving on it’s own direction. Call it Fanfic, if you will.

When the show had first started airing, I was very skeptical about the hype. I caught couple of episodes, which were full of violence & nudity. Not to my taste, I left it at that.

Recently, out of curiosity I started reading the book A song of ice & fire & boy was I hooked! I read all the books in the series – A Song of Ice & Fire, Clash of the Kings, A Storm of Swords & Dance of Dragons – 5 books in all, with two books having 2 parts. I also watched all the 7 seasons of the show. The level of obsession is such that all my Quora & FB feeds are full of Game of Thrones references, fanfic, jokes & memes! I also designed a presentation for work with the theme of GOT (as Game of Thrones is lovingly called) I do not do anything half heartedly, you see! :p

After my recent visit to Delhi & reading books by William Darlymple, I am also very much fascinated with Delhi, Agra & Mughal Architecture. Someone recommended me to read Alex Rutherford series on Mughals because of this. And I don’t know if I have a hangover of GOT, or was George RR Martin inspired by the Mughals as well (I knew he was inspired by the War of Roses) or people in the medieval era were just the same.

The Mughal Era is also full of violence, incest, homosexuality, kinslaying and kingslaying. You can see lots of nuances of GOT characters in the Mughal princes, Kings & Queens.

Timur Lang was definitely the Mad King. Babur & Baburi (Baburi was a companion *ahem* of Babur and Babri Masjid, yes, the controversial one, is named after Baburi) can be Robert Baratheon & Ned Stark or can also be Renly Baratheon & Loras Tyrell. I can also see hints of Jon Snow in the young Babur. There is a hint of incestuous relationship between Shahjehan & his elder daughter JahanAra (there goes the romance out of Taj Mahal) like the incestuous relationship between Cersei & Jamie Lannister. Tyrion (I hate to do this) was hated by Tywin, so was Aurangzeb hated by Shahjehan.

Also, there is Shaybani Khan, a Uzbek ruler, who Babur could never defeat. His name means Obsidian. And *hold your breath* what does obsidian do in GOT?? Kills the white walkers!

Normal Obsidian

Dagger made of Obsidian

 

I also found Shaybani Khan’s character quite similar to Khal Drogo & the Dothrakis. He even marries Babur’s sister like Drogo marries Daenerys.  I could go on & on about this! I am so fascinated by all the similarities that I HAD to write a post about it! Wait, is this how fanfiction gets written??

Books 2016

As far as reading books is concerned, 2016 has been a fabulous year!

I have read more than 75 books & it has only been possible because of e-books. I could easily read while travelling / on breaks / eating out & also during sleepless nights.

I have read some pretty interesting books during the year, which includes memoirs / autobiographies (a genre I am not very fond of), chick lits, young adults, Indian authors, graphic novels, etc etc! Phew!

The list of books includes all books by Jhumpa Lahiri, all books by John Greene, Harry Potter & the Cursed Child (most awaited book of the year), Shakespeare, Short stories by Tagore, O’ Henry & Chekhov, The Oleander girl, Mallory Towers series by Enid Blyton, Aristotle Dante & the secrets of the universe, Dying for Christmas. Some of them were fantastic, others not so much. Some of them surprised me a lot!

I was about to write on my top 10 books of 2016, but I realised I have read so many good books this year, picking only 10 out of them would do gross injustice to the books.

So here’s a very random list of the books I liked this year.

Autobiographies / Memoirs: Started with If you ask me by Betty White. It was quite boring. Betty talked mostly about her show Hot in Cleveland. Is everyone hanging out without me by Mindy Kaling was a pretty interesting read. Adventures of a curious character by Richard Feynman was surprising. I realised only midway that this was the scientist who was involved in the making of the Atom Bomb. Much amazed! Agatha Christie’s autobiography was also an interesting read as it included the time during the World War. Hyperbole & a half is also a sort of memoir albeit in a Graphical format. Interesting read.

Chicklits: Shopaholic to the rescue (Much improvement on the earlier book), Lipstick Jungle, The Nanny were all good to read, specially The Nanny. Ms Draupadi Kuru had an interesting concept, but could do with a better execution. The Oleander Girl & Mistress of Spices were best amongst the lot. I love Chitra Divakruni’s writing style. Simple, yet heart touching.

John Green: The Fault in our stars (tear jerker), An abundance of Katherines (reminded me about the one name I am obsessed with), Will Grayson, Will Grayson (I am so much in love with this book (also Tiny) that I can cry! And I know the exact moment I fell in love. Chapter 7th.), Paper Towns (Am sort of confused about the end), Looking for Alaska (another tear jerker)

Jhumpa Lahiri: Every time I picked up The Lowlands, something or the other kept me from reading it. I finally got all the books of Jhumpa Lahiri & reading them was such a joy! (Though she keeps repeating pattern of her characters). The Name Sake, The interpreter of maladies, The Unaccustomed Earth & specially the Lowlands (the twist in the tale will surprise you) are all must read.

A Thousand Splendid Suns & The Kite Runner: Both these books by Khaled Hosseini depict the turmoils of Afghanistan. Heart Warming & best reads of not only 2016 but of all times.

The Grapes of Wrath: This is a realistic novel based on the plight of poor farmers migrating to  California in search of work. The poverty and the resulting incidents are heart breaking.

The Marble Collector: This book is about a journey of a daughter discovering the truth about and real passion of her father. I love this book so much that it is in my top recommendations. Cecilia Ahern remains a favourite writer.

Forty Rules of Love: You can find more about this here: The Forty Rules of Love

Fantastic Beasts & Where to find them: This book made up for the disappointment that the Cursed Child book was. Very far removed from the Harry Potter era, interesting read nonetheless.

Lemony Snicket Series: AMAZING is the only word for it. This 13 part series can put you in depression so beware while reading.

American God: My introduction to the fabulousness of Neil Gaiman could not have been better. Salute to his imagination!

Room on the roof: This is written by a 17 year old Ruskin Bond. Kind of feels like the author’s own story but the maturity in his writing would amaze you.

The Clifton Chronicles: I had read the first couple of books in the Clifton Chronicles but then did not pursue the other parts for some reason. I ended my year by reading all 7 parts of the series at one go. It is typical Archer style, with politics and scheming villains and enterprising heroes and heroines. It felt like being dragged at one point of time and there was certain inconsistency, but I admire Archer for the way he keeps us hooked through out the 7 parts. The end was as it should have been.

Re-reads: I also read lots of books that I have already read. Taming of the Shrew, Comedy of Errors, Othello, Twelfth Man, Hamlet (Shakespeare – Always a joy), Short stories by Chekhov, O’Henry & Rabindranath Tagore (Beauty in simplicity), Jeeves Omnibus I & II (Wodehouse – always entertaining), The man in the Iron Mask by Alexander Dumas (A worthy follower to the Three Musketeers), Wise & Otherwise by Sudha Murthy (Strictly okay), Eat, Pray & Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (First time I read this, I was impressed. Second time I thought the author was too pretentious & I did not like the way she described India)

Forgettables: Dying for Christmas, Bengali folk Tales, Witches by Roald Dahl, Harry Potter and the Cursed child (Too disappointing except for the character of Scorpius), The Serpents Revenge by Sudha Murthy and Landline by Rainbow Rowell (Rowell is otherwise my favourite author)

Which books got their hooks into you in 2016?

He Expired Phrase Origin

Have been hearing a lot of arguments regarding using expired as a euphemism to convey that someone has died. Also, off ho gaye in Hindi.

Expired-Strips

When someone says he expired, people will ask whether he was medicine to have an expiry date? Or when someone says wo off ho gaye, is he mood which gets switched off?

I thought the argument is valid enough. But I also wondered what was the origin of the phrase. There should be some logic to that as well!

Let’s see the first one “Expired”

Expired: Turns out He expired is a very valid phrase. As with many words, expire also has multiple meaning. The word has a Latin origin, which literally means To breath out. He expired would therefore mean he breathed his last. Mystery unveiled 😉

Off ho gaye (Hindi): This phrase has a origin in one of the Indian languages Gujarati, and is extensively used mostly in Mumbaiya Hindi. In proper Hindi, we would say “Wo bhagwan ko pyaare ho gaye” (The deceased has gone to a better place) as it is considered rude to say directly so and so died. The phrase might have originated in the era of telegram when you had to pay for every letter used in the message. Off would use fewer words. This is not a verified reason but purely based on assumption.

If you know authentic origin of the phrase, do share 🙂

Top 10 Books of 2015

In the beginning of 2015 couple of people gave me the Reading Challenge.

Reading_Challenge

Quite daunting eh? It has approximate 52 categories I think. Initially I thought I wouldn’t follow it as it would make reading a task and not the joy it is. In between the year, I thought maybe it wasn’t such a bad idea. It would give me an opportunity to explore genres / authors which I haven’t read yet. I listed the categories in a spreadsheet dutifully and marked books I already read. Also plotted out books that I would like to read. It would have worked fine except that I discovered the joy of e books. All the books I wanted to read, my favourite books of all time, all available in the mobi or epub format. The advantage of e books for me is they are space saving, can be read at night without lights and can be read during breaks too! But this doesn’t mean I have abandoned paper backs / hard covers 😉

Overall I have read plenty of books this year. Most of them good but couple of Duhs too (Aarushi & Anusual). I read most books of Jeffrey Archer, Agatha Christie and Nicholas Sparks, the Harry Potter series, The Godfather, entire Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella, Memoirs of Naseeruddin Shah, Novels by Rabindranath Tagore, Short stories of Tagore, Bhisham Sahni’s stories and some more! Phew! 😀

To select top 10 books is a difficult task! Though I will attempt it 🙂

✎ The Pregnant King – Written by Devdutt Patnaik. He describes the emotions of both mother and father beautifully!

✎ The Mysterious Stranger – Written by Mark Twain. Each and everyone should read this book. It raises serious questions on morality and superior complex of human beings

✎ Comedy of marriage and other things – Written by Maupassant. It is a fine compilation of short stories resembling society of his times.

✎ Short stories of Bhisham Sahni – Bhisham Sahni is a wonderful writer and this collection is simply enchanting! I wish I had read it in Hindi though. Would have been more joyful!

✎ The Descendants – Written by Kaui Hemmings. It is heart touching and set in a different location for a change, i.e. Hawaii and it showcases the reality of Hawaii rather than focussing on the superficially touristy thing!

✎ The Fan Girl – Written by Rainbow Rowell. It’s teenage romance genre and it still is interesting to read because the way Rowell writes. Rowell gives depth to her characters even without describing what makes them who they are. That’s why you feel one with them.

✎ Chokher Bali – A beautiful tragic novel by Rabindranath Tagore. I could totally relate to Binodini and the climax broke my heart. Damn the sense of morality in those times :-/

✎ The Godfather – Mario Puzo has created a masterpiece! Though this was a re-read but it was after many years and it was like reading it for the first time. The detailing is so beautiful! This is a must read for everyone!

✎ To Kill a Mocking Bird – Written by Harper Lee. It talks about America of a different era. The racism, the cruelty and the subtle heroics of ordinary people is depicted wonderfully!

✎ Rag Darbari – Written by Srilal Shukla. My dad says this is supposed to be the best novel written in Hindi and he isn’t wrong. The writing is gripping and the content seems relevant even today. The detailing of characters is just fabulous!

If you read, I would love to know which books touched your heart this year 🙂

My Favourite Novel

Recently I had an opportunity to write about my favourite novel. I skipped it. But it did make me think. If I had to choose only one, which would be it? If it includes my mother tongue, Peela rumaal ni gaanth would win hands down. This novel, in 3 parts, is written by Harkisan Mehta & has all the masala. Emotions, Drama, Thrill, Adventure, Romance, etc. This novel is based on the Thug practice prevalent in pre independence era. Though the thugs are super cruel, you feel a tinge of sympathy for them. If you know how to read Gujarati & you haven’t read it yet, I would recommend you read this for sure!

As far as English language is concerned, I am torn between Pride & Prejudice & Not a penny less, Not a penny more!

Pride & prejudice made me fall in love with Mr Darcy, England country side, Victorian Era & Jane Austen of course! It is a love story but not the rom com type. I can read this book n number of times without feeling bored!

Coming to Not a penny less, not a penny more! It is a wonderful creation of Jeffrey Archer. The way JA has woven the plot is simply amazing! And best is the twist in the tale at the end! This book was the start with my romance with all JA novels & short story collections! I love his style & he is my idol in that aspect!

When it comes to books & that too my favourite ones, I can go on & on & on about them. I should have sent this post as my contribution. Anyhoo, there always is next time 😉

 

Eleanor & Park

One day out of the blue Shriti said read Eleanor & Park. You will like it.

And I take this kind of recommendations very seriously. Just like Aditi’s recco to read The Missing Rose.

I searched the online bookstore & the price was almost 1400 bucks. I usually do not look at the price while purchasing books but I do set certain limits. Else I would go bankrupt in no time. I so wanted to purchase the book but thought to wait for certain time to see if there is a sale / the price is marked down a bit.

Meanwhile I kept reading from the e books collection I have got thanks to Nirav. After Bossy Pants I was looking out for some interesting title. Though I love Dan Brown, was not in the mood for Deception Point, which I stopped reading after couple of pages. While browsing, my eyes stuck on one title. No points for guessing. I just wanted to jump with joy! Here I was holding a treasure & wasn’t even aware about it. Just like real life, isn’t it?

Anyway, I started reading the book. I had no clue what was it about. Just couple of pages & I was hooked. Hooked to Eleanor, hooked to Park & hooked to both of them. A part of the reason was that my life resembled Eleanor’s at some level. A misfit, who was made fun of, who stayed aloof coz she knew she could never be like others & had no place in their lives. And who dreams of someone like Park. Who will hold her hand & make everything ok.

I got carried away in their world & just like they didn’t want to part with each other, I didn’t want to be apart from the book. I wanted to stay with them. To know they were safe. Half way through the book I was scared. Scared that the author would not give them a happy ending. What if the end isn’t happy? What if they have to part forever? At one point I was so sure about it that I contemplated leaving the book incomplete.

It has been a long time that a book has enchanted me so much that I can’t put it down. Yes it is teenage romance. Not my genre. But then life is unusual. We find love in places we never ever imagine. Yes, we can find love in fiction. In fictional characters.

I am glad that the author has not given it a cliched ending. The last line of the book made me so happy that I cried a little. Eleanor & Park. I love you. I know those were the three words Eleanor sent on the post card. And I am happy that she didn’t stop. :’)

eleanor & park