Monday, 9 July 2018

Thoughts on 'Born a Crime' by Trevor Noah

You can tell that this book is not written by a professional writer but by a BRILLIANT SPEAKER. (Am I being dramatic? Not the first time.) It is AMAZING and you MUST read it. You can tell that the writer as a really honest descriptor. I love his perspective. It perhaps helps when you think critically without bias and find amusing some of the most horrible and saddest things that have ever happened in the course of the world history. Apartheid! From a child's point of view, and then an adult's.

This time was barely two or three decades removed from now in the past, and today when we talk so much about the human rights violation on the internet, as here now, somewhere these things are still happening in one form or another. Some of the times I was reading I was amused and chuckling here and there (Hail the great comedian!) but suddenly my eyes would tear up and the sadness remained. But still, I am not depressed. The best part of the perspective of Trevor Noah who indeed was born a crime is that in spite of the tragedies shaped up his life and which he writes (or in my head, speaks) of, he still had fun and you are still hopeful about the future.

Below I quote some of the most touching lines which sometimes stand on their own (for being wise or in other words plain T-shirt material :P), and my feelings on them (not that they matter! But perhaps they do too! :/ )

Born a crime by Trevor Noah

“... It’s you and me against the world. ...”
“... I chose to have you because I wanted something to love and something that would love me unconditionally in return. ...”
The bond that Trevor and his mom share with each other is endearing. He was there because his mother wanted someone to call her own, just her own. Beautiful, and strangely sad with the hint of a tinge of a smile, isn't it? I am amazed by the personality of his mother. What an amazing woman!
“... Why do all this? Why show him the world when he’s never going to leave the ghetto?” “Because,” she would say, “even if he never leaves the ghetto, he will know that the ghetto is not the world. If that is all I accomplish, I’ve done enough. ...”

... But I was blessed with another trait I inherited from my mother: her ability to forget the pain in life. I remember the thing that caused the trauma, but I don’t hold on to the trauma. I never let the memory of something painful prevent me from trying something new. ...

... Being chosen is the greatest gift you can give to another human being. ...

... It taught me that it is easier to be an insider as an outsider than to be an outsider as an insider. ... try being a black person who immerses himself in white culture while still living in the black community. Try being a white person who adopts the trappings of black culture while still living in the white community. ...
I want to ask Trevor Noah about Teddy. What happened to him? What is he doing now? Where is he now? How did that incident affect him and Trevor's friendship - best friendship - with him?
(My goodness! Is it the story of his school or the story of a black market smuggling business!?)
... In society, we do horrible things to one another because we don’t see the person it affects. We don’t see their face. We don’t see them as people. ...
(What an amazing book! The truths of life, his observations- they make me cry and laugh with joy!)
... I chose to live in that world, but I wasn’t from that world. If anything, I was an imposter. Day to day I was in it as much as everyone else, but the difference was that in the back of my mind I knew I had other options. I could leave. They couldn’t. ...
(It is amusing and funny, but heartbreaking at the same time. But the good thing is that it doesn't leave you with a sense of hopelessness.)
... Because there were some black parents who’d actually do that, not pay their kid’s bail, not hire their kid a lawyer—the ultimate tough love. But it doesn’t always work, because you’re giving the kid tough love when maybe he just needs love. You’re trying to teach him a lesson, and now that lesson is the rest of his life. ...

... But I remember standing there watching my mom, flabbergasted, horrified that these cops wouldn’t help her. That’s when I realized the police were not who I thought they were. They were men first, and police second. ...

... It is so easy, from the outside, to put the blame on the woman and say, “You just need to leave.” It’s not like my home was the only home where there was domestic abuse. It’s what I grew up around. I saw it in the streets of Soweto, on TV, in movies. Where does a woman go in a society where that is the norm? When the police won’t help her? When her own family won’t help her? Where does a woman go when she leaves one man who hits her and is just as likely to wind up with another man who hits her, maybe even worse than the first? Where does a woman go when she’s single with three kids and she lives in a society that makes her a pariah for being a manless woman? Where she’s seen as a whore for doing that? Where does she go? What does she do? ...
(And the gold!)
Trevor Noah with his mom
Courtesy: Sowetan Live

... People say all the time that they’d do anything for the people they love. But would you really? Would you do anything? Would you give everything? I don’t know that a child knows that kind of selfless love. A mother, yes. A mother will clutch her children and jump from a moving car to keep them from harm. She will do it without thinking. But I don’t think the child knows how to do that, not instinctively. It’s something the child has to learn. ...

For my mother. My first fan. Thank you for making me a man.

His narrative had made me understand an aspect of apartheid which my history books failed to teach me. I know it was slavery and racism of the 20th century, but I didn't still know what it actually was and was capable of. Hailing from a developing country myself, some instances are too familiar and so are some imprints of a fair-skinned rule even almost a century after freedom, and the inherent racism that we accept even though we were the victims.

I LOVED this book, and would recommend everyone to read it, even the not-so-voracious readers! It's frankness and the ability to try to keep moving forward provides you with not only a much-desired understanding somewhere but also gives you hope and a lot of chuckling smirks (that make you wise, eh!? :P )!

I give this book FULL FIVE STARS! :D

Happy reading! :)

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Musings & review on "Siddhartha" by Hermann Heese

Musings while reading...

"Siddhartha had one single goal - to become empty, to become empty of thirst, desire, dreams, pleasure and sorrow - to let the self die. No longer to be self, to experience the peace of an emptied heart, to experience pure thought - that was his goal. When all the self was conquered and dead, when all passions and desires were silent, then the last must awaken, the innermost of being that is no longer self - the great secret."

Siddhartha by Hermann Heese
(At page 21 now)- An ideal student Siddhartha (not one lost like me) but an essentially discontented one (just like me) goes out to discover the great secret- to conquer self and discover the innermost being, the aatma, that is no longer self- detached from pain, need, desire, anything human (perhaps!). He becomes a Samana and finds that the path he is following will never converge to his goal. (happens all the time, isn't it?) His ardent friend, Govinda, on whose mediocrity of thought was he quite sure of, surprises him. Siddhartha overpowers his own guru by the virtues taught by that experienced man - (basically hypnotising- the idea doesn't rhyme with me) and then the seeker and his follower go forth on a path which the seeker thinks is a way no new hope will come but the follower is eager in pursuing. They try to find what everybody is talking of. Will they find Gautama? And what will happen when they do?

(I know all this what Siddhartha seeks- it's so repetitive - then why am I still intent upon reading it? - May be something will come of it - such ideas pull me - why? Where? I know not. Cheesy, eh! ~ 01.49 am, June 29, 2017)

A review...

I had read this book almost a year ago. To be honest, it did not resonate with me that much. So much talk about nirvana, the goal, aatma! I am an Indian. I grew up with these ideas from both Hinduism, Buddhism as well as different interpretations from a Muslim or a Christian point of view. They, when spoken so much about, almost seem redundant. I had heard so much about this book, especially from non-Indian readers in Goodreads that I was really disappointed while reading it. Too much of philosophical talks sometimes seem futile. After almost 67 years after it was written, the end is the predictable. I felt a little annoyed by the protagonist of this book. I am sorry if it sounds judgemental, but this book is a perfect stereotypical viewof a western mindset's amusement and excitement with the "aatma" ideologies of the eastern subcontinent.
A classic by Hermann Heese

Some of the paragraphs stand out independently, which adds to the value of the book a lot. But the stiched into the story, the first half of the narrative seems superfluous. The writer ponders on and onn and onnn, and unlike Henry James' it made me a little impatient. The ideas are deep, very philosophical in nature but with a protagonist who is lost. It seems he is trying to be lost in his quest. His logic sometimes is crisp and intelligent and sometimes "uh!". I really don't identify with him many-a-times. He sometimes seems too full of himself to appreaciate the simplicity of a situation. Flesh is flesh, blood is blood- so why beat about the bush and not accept? He takes the twisted path even when the straight path stares right him in the face. Why? True, we do that in life many-a-times but again the instances used to exemplify that seems a bit overstretched. May be all of this is because there is a gap of half a century's shift in ideologies of the writer and me. Too much of spirituality is perhaps lost on a physics student. But there are a few things I also love about the character SiddharthaHe is fearless to ask. His confidence (sometimes overconfidence, maybe) is appreciable. He dares to take a path which no one has ever taken. He dares to challenge the unchallengable, and he finds his own way.

Those who find wisdom in this book probably look for their appearance as the novel enters its second half - the life of Siddhartha as a ferryman. He learns the same things, the same truth which somehow seems to be staring into his face from a long time and which he refused to identify or mistook for something else. But maybe that final "enlightment" and acceptance has something to do with age and finding what he couldn't before and which he almost forgot about. Now, I am sounding too vague! If this book is kind of a coming-of-age story of a soul, it is maybe a little sad from my perspective. I realte to Sid ( :P ) more when he is older, little bit calmer, and I appreciate that even when he forgot who he was, deep down he never gave up.

Concluding, it was a very different book. Made me wonder and appreciate and roll my eyes at the same but different moments, but I am glad that I read it. Perhaps, you should too. I kind of pushed my comfort zone with it, and gained a little uncomfortable reading experience which I think for some reason is a good thing. I perhaps would have loved this narrative, if this were a short story and not a novel. It is not as crisp as I want it to be, but who cares! Who knows, maybe half a century from now I will find it perfectly plausible.

I give this classic by Hermann Heese (sorry for being so daring, but it is dear old Sid, isn't it? ;) ), three-and-a-half stars! :\

Happy reading! :)

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

A solitary sunset...

There comes a moment in your life in which you understand how alone you are. There is practically no one for you. Parents will always be there, but being a generation apart sometimes they fail to understand and some other times you don't want to burden them with the anchors that are pulling you down. You have many "best friends" whom you tag or wish on friendship day or even call a sibling based on your "connection", but who are basically for photographical preservation and will always have a small excuse for not answering back when you need them the most. The person who thought you loved, basically was a figment of imagination impersonated by another soul so unlike the one you loved, and deceived by your own dreams; or one who just deserted you. The loves, friendships you thought were there, were actually never that deep, and in your own standards never existed thus. At night, when you can't sleep and are having scary live dreams about various possibilities, it is at most a pen and a paper that can come to your rescue. Friendless. Loveless. You are now so low and flat on your back that you can't even look down upon yourself in pity. What do you do then? 

In this fast, urban, independent life that we have made for ourselves there are so many of us who have felt like this some one time, at least, in their life. Being intelligent people, we have found our ways out. Some dive into chasms of work that keeps this feeling of abandonement and of hurt at bay. Some become vagabonds, struck with a false sense of wanderlust, trying to get away from the memory of those unrealised, haunting dreams they perhaps can never escape from until confronted and won over and even winning seems a loss, and painful then. Some poor souls are even drowned. And though some do emerge out again, stronger, and perhaps more detached to initiate that effect from the world outside, many don't. Even those who manage to overcome, some do find happiness again whereas for many others the definitons change. Now they are no longer seeking what they once were. Even if the institutions remain the same, destinations change. And perhaps that is necessary too. Isn't it, my dear void? Can you reassure me?

I have seen so many stories unfolding like that. It used to make me so sad how pain can change people. But when it happened to me I wasn't exactly unwelcoming. Change is perhaps necessary too. That is the difference between being a child and an adult - to be welcoming for such a change. We always have to pay a price for everything, even for a small amount of air we catch in our lungs. Sometimes we loose things which were once our heart and soul. We had our faults, our own book of errata and some really hurtful injustices. But they were out of our control or may be of the person we are trying to blame. And life doesn't stop, change doesn't stop. Either we move on with the flow, or be buried under the shifting sands of the desert. Which one we choose, is our intelligence and some hormones controlling a phenomenon we call our 'wish'.

In this ever changing world, everything is so strange, so difficult, yet so beautiful. I love the ocean. It is deep. It's silent roar on a full moon makes me wonder about life, makes me cry. Why is everything as it is? Why not more? Why not less? When you have lost a thing, you aspire to find it again in its depths, not knowing ever if you will or if your search will ever end. I was standing at this sunset whose photo you see, laughed as the waves greeted me - friendly and caressing; but as they receded I felt the sand beneath my feet leaving the shore. I was loosing my balance and my own earth. Should I go and search in vain for the lost in the ocean? 

I didn't. Fear or wisdom? Loneliness or solitude? I did not know, I do not yet. I just sat at the bank, drained the noises out and looked at the sunset, the hauntingly beautiful sunset.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

"Olalla" by Robert Louis Stevenson - Book review

A great gothic novella by Robert Louis Stevenson on a weekend!
Picture Courtesy: Amazon

Before starting, while I was going through the reviews on Goodreads many people gave it only a single star complaining about a disappointing climax and weak hints of Vampirism. I was a bit wary thus. But for the first time, I have a completely different experience than the first three reviews I read of the book on Goodreads suggested, and I really liked it.

For a fellow escapist of the tropical heat as I am, the story blithely takes you to the picturesque mountains of a long lost untouched Spanish countryside being described through the eyes of a rational English gentleman of good senses. The story sits on the borderline of being a complete gothic horror unlike Beam Stocker's Dracula and a more human touch is given to those whom we deem inhuman- incestuous ancestry and superstition are hinted to argue with their own set of logics. I really like this aspect of Stevenson's idea of a story dealing with Vampirism or merely animalistic behavior as some might argue dating back to 1885. This banished family of lost aristocracy and surreal similarity in facial features through generations are not complete brutes and heartless beasts and are not burned on touching the cross as happens on most gothic horrors written even today's after almost 200 years of Count Dracula. The neighbouring 'kirktons' are ever wary of the evil that bodes there in the perishing castle amidst the mountains and have a very medieval attitude and that, sitting at this age of reason in the 21st century, make you feel really bad for Olalla, Felipe and their 'unbalanced' mother.

One can see the magic of Robert Louis Stevenson's writing as the climax draws to a close. In a world still not that 'scientific', the ending is plausible. I would have perhaps brought a few experts to Olalla today but sadly in 1885, sitting in a war-torn Europe, that would have been too much of an overstatement. All was well, only I found the sudden overwhelming love of the narrator for Olalla defying his usual air of being reasonable. But such is gothic fiction! So, let's learn if deal with it and savour the great writing of Stevenson that plays minds with words and created tremors with it.

I give this novella/short story(being still unclear, which?) full 4 stars! :)
This would also make for a great play or a short TV movie, so watch out for those good ones you find online and otherwise.

Happy reading! :)

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Book Review : Death under the Deodars by Ruskin Bond

Finally a new Ruskin Bond this new year!

"The night has a thousand eyes
And the day but one
Yet the light of the bright world dies
With the dying sun."

The book was published in October 2016 and I read it today. And yes, Rusty is back! Back with a bang!

There has never been any doubt about the goodness of Ruskin Bond's fiction, but I have never read anything so deep in this genre by him. Crime, thriller, paranormal, murders of passion or out of pure evil - a long tired list of topics people try to popularize their novels, stories with, most of the times the trials being honest may be, but disappointing.  I was slightly skeptical of what this genre might feel like, but the outcome was lovely.

Ruskin Bond has always maintained an image of Mussoorie - a scandalous and promiscuous town sitting in the beautiful lap of the Garhwal Himalayas. This book, nevertheless, is a living epitome of fiction that will sew in your mind deeper threads of such an impression through the experiences of Miss Ripley Bean. Starting from the 1920s and continuing till around 1970s(perhaps), the stories are enchanting. They are the light-reads as Ruskin Bond is famous for but thrilling and captivating. And those readers who have sunk deep in this genre, do not be scared. The endings are not predictable. Rusty manages to surprise us.

Aunt May is no Miss Marple but can be her younger sister who gathers material for her and sometimes makes a good call regarding impending judgments. She intelligently guesses what might be happening and how the thread of reason is seeped into the human psychology and their daily natures and preferences. Her observations are light, easy, confident and at peace with herself sometimes even to the extent of being lazy mainly because that is a second nature to her. Her attitude, perspective give you a glimpse of the life in hills during her time and maintains Rusty's perspective that we have known all through these years in a most amusing and new way.

The nature lovers will not miss the beautiful descriptions of flowers and the hills, but one who is reading only for that you will be disappointed. But nonetheless, give it a try. This book is worth your time. And the Rusty fans, rejoice! :)

I give Ruskin Bond's "Death under the Deodars" full 5 stars! :D
(No surprise there! :D )

Happy reading! :)

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Book Review : Complete Nonsense by Edward Lear

Throughout my idea of Lear was - a Children's Limerick writer! From what I had read about his life, that made sense. He wrote those five-lined rhyming poems for the children of his patron Edward Stanley, the 13th Earl of Derby. After reading this compilation however, that view of mine has changed considerably! This book has the following parts and along with my reactions are listed under :

1. A Book of Nonsense - √ :) :D
I had read this volume earlier separately and it is a joyride. Funny! A nice book for children and adults alike. You can also learn about certain pronunciations you did wrong earlier by rhyming along.

2. More Nonsense - √ :D :)
(More ha-ha-ha!!!)
Funny, weirder and funny! His neologisms (words not accepted in mainstream literature, but have some popular use of various kinds) are amazing to read aloud, and today many are dictionary words!

3. Nonsense songs - √ :) :D
(Ha-ha-ha. :\ What?!? Oh! Ha!)
I was a fan of Jumblies and their sieve for quite some time; and they, along with Quangle-Wangles, Pobbles, are Lear's reappearing heroes. Lear's nonsense songs were once so famous that some phrases became a part of mainstream literature expressions. An example is the "Owl and the Pussy Cat" 's 'runcible spoon'!
"They dined on mince, and slices of quince
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon."
But not all songs are as nonsensical as the poems are. Some are based on "reductio ad absurdum" (reduction to absurdity) where an argument disproves a statement by showing its compulsive absurd conclusion. This shows the range of literary forms Lear used in his writings, and did best.

4. Nonsense stories and alphabets - √ :) :D
(The first story is okay : typical Lear. BUT the second : Really disturbing!
The parents teach children not to so some things, which they do and all the children of seven families die in weird and even grotesque ways. Perhaps the motivation was to teach the children a lesson of how important it it to listen to your parents. But this way seems strange! And then the parents starve themselves and make a pickle of themselves and are now kept in a museum!!! It is eerie!
What was Lear thinking writing these?
They are nonsensical sure, as promised but the sense of humor is very dark and not at all suited for children. It will be disturbing to them, as per myself. 
This broke my perception of Lear!

5. Nonsense alphabets - √ :) :D
(Perfect for teaching infants!)

6. Nonsense cookery - √ :) :D
(What does he mean? :P )

7. The Heraldic Blazon of Foss the Cat - √ :) :D
(Hail Foss! _/\_ )

In this collection, the type of humor ranges from typical silly, children's to really dark humor and literary devices used very aptly. The range I had imagined Lear was set in has been made vast considerably after reading this collection. The variety presented in this particular genre is phenomenal. It is a really good read for limerick lovers and Lear fans.

I give Complete Nonsense by Edward Lear 4 stars! :)

Happy reading! :)

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Book Review : The adventures of Tintin in the Land of the Soviets

I wonder what communist fans think of this book! :P

But a Hergé is always a delight to read, right?

Reading the first book after the more refined later ones gives you an idea of how the prolific cartoonist progressed in his genre where he is an epic. The typical storyline and Hergé-framework exists there from the very first book, as it seems, which has also framed the blue-prints of the comics that came later with the same structure, albeit certain nuances changed and some characteristics changed considerably.:D Later, Hergé was better with the correctness of his some scientific descriptions and was also known for his scientific accuracy, though Tintin almost always gets such impossible feats done, and perhaps that is why he is loved so much.
For one the characters are drawn differently. They are also very right-wing, though it was so in other books but here the shades of sentiments are more hued. It gives you a perspective of the time they were drawn which is perhaps the year 1929. But Tintin does some impossible jobs while employed as a reporter like mending a leaking petrol tank on an aeroplane while being its pilot!

Being the first book of the series, it was in black-and-white, and it is said that Hergé never gave permission to publish it in color. There are also a very limited number of copies of this book. So, it is an absolute must-read for all Tintin fans out there, and a collectible of a great value.

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars! :)

Happy reading! :)