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
(Ha-ha-ha!!!)
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! :)

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Is it a book? The Kolkata Official Adda Book 1!

I don't know if it is review-able or not! Or even if it is actually a book! But whatever may be the genre, I absolutely loved it! Its a definite collectible if you love Kolkata, know Kolkata and still love Kolkata, sometimes are disgusted by Kolkata and still prefer to live in Kolkata! :)

This is the 'Kolkata Official Adda book 1'. 'Adda' means 'leisurely conversations', but I am sorry! It ain't a proper definition Charlie! Let me explain...

Me, my best friend, his pre-school friend whom I had never met until today, my uncle, his son, his girlfriend, her best friend, my parents, my best-friend's parents, my grandfather all are by some chance are together in our 'baithak-khana' (drawing room) and the Bangali's bangaliyana starts!
Pic. Kolkata Official Adda Book 1

Can you somewhere identify with that? Even if your are a Lucknowi, or an aamchi Mumbaikar, a Greek or any human tribe practised in the art of leisurely 'adda'? Yes, this is 'adda'! And you, if you are in love with Kolkata, will identify with this. If not, its a treasure for a prospective tourist.

Do you go back to the nostalgic spirit when you again see a page of 'sandesh' (not the sweet, but Manik da's magazine!)?
And Manik da? You prefer him to Satyajit Ray, right?

Sukumar Sen- the mathematician turned civil-servant, who designed and supervised independent India's first ever general elections. Did you know about him? No? Are you agonised that people don't know his name even though moments before you had never heard of him? Yes?


Does the new year's eve customary 'Nahoum and sons', a necessity for the upcoming year to be pleasant for you? Does that lingering aroma waters your mouth now as you think of it? Do you wish Frispo's was back? Yes?

Do you say, "ektu side deben" even in metro instead of "excuse me"? Yes?

Do you still think that the Delhi, and now the Mumbai, Bangalore metro rails are not 'authentic' enough, and are in love with the single-occupancy window seats of the musical Girish Park trams? Yes?

Most yes-es? Yes? Okay. Then this book or diary or book that looks like a diary, is a collectible you must have. 

It's true that I- the so called reviewer is overtly romantic, but I am a 'Calcatian' in love with both Calcutta and Kolkata. So, can't help it.

And lastly, I once said this exact line to a friend of mine who scoffed and made faces. If you have read till here, I don't think you will do it too. 
"Kolkata is a feeling, not just a city. You don't just grow in this city. Slowly, this city grows on you."

Enough said. Now read. Hallelujah!

And yes, I give 'The Kolkata Official Adda Book 1' full five stars!

Happy reading! :)