In The Country of Deceit

In the country of deceit

Status: Read from May 11 to May 15, 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 259
My rating:  5star/5
Author: Shashi Deshpande

Synopsis:

Devayani chooses to live alone in the small town of Rajnur after her parents’ death, ignoring the gently voiced disapproval of her family and friends. Teaching English, creating a garden and making friends with Rani, a former actress who settles in town with her husband and three children, Devayani’s life is tranquil, imbued with a hard-won independence. Then she meets Ashok Chinappa, Rajnur’s new District Superintendent of Police, and they fall in love despite the fact that Ashok is much older, married, and – as both painfully acknowledge from the very beginning – it is a relationship without a future.

Deshpande’s unflinching gaze tracks the sufferings, evasions and lies that overtake those caught in the web of subterfuge. There are no hostages taken in the country of deceit; no victors; only scarred lives. This understated yet compassionate examination of the nature of love, loyalty and deception establishes yet again Deshpande’s position as one of India’s most formidable writers of fiction.

Review:

In the Country of Deceit is a story of young lady Devayani, the main protagonist. She lives independently in a small town Rajnur after her parent’s death. But she is well surrounded and supported by few relatives and friends. She is constantly insisted by her close relatives to leave the place and live with them or to get married. Her life in tranquil and content with teaching English and creating her garden.

An ex-film actor, Rani, comes to stay in the same town. Gradually they both become good friends and Rani insists Devayani to help in a script for her come-back movie. Through Rani, Devayani meets Ashok Chinappa, Rajnur’s new District Superintendent of Police. Ashok is much older than Devayani, married and has a daughter. Still he cannot stop himself falling for her. Finally Devayani accepts him and constantly lies and deceits her loved ones to secretly meet this man. She falls in love with this man who is much elder and married, who cannot commit her anything. This love has no boundary, no morals or ethics. Even after knowing what she is doing is not right, she does not have any future with Ashok, she is helpless. The guilt of becoming “the other woman” is someone’s life is eating her up inside but every time she becomes helpless and desperate to meet him.

This novel about adult love makes one think about true nature of love and marriage. In a society, where there are restriction to fall in love, two individuals fall in love despite the social norms. The protagonist constantly urges herself to stop this but there are questions that arises with no answers: How one perceives love? Love is an idea….or is it? And who decides what is right and what is not?

This is a simple story, narrated in first person, written in a sophisticated and powerful way. It mirrors the life of an ordinary person, about her loneliness, emotion, agony, and helplessness. There are some very beautiful passages on love and life.

 “Why did I do it? Why did I enter the country of deceit? What took me into it? I hesitate to use the word love, but what other word is there?” 

About the Author:

sashi deshpande

Novelist and short story writer, Shashi Deshpande began her career with short stories and has by now authored nine short story collections, twelve novels and four books for children. Three of her novels have received awards, including the Sahitya Akademi award for `That Long Silence’. Some of her other novels are `The Dark Holds No Terrors’, `A Matter of Time’, `Small Remedies’, `Moving On’, `In The Country of Deceit’ and `Ships that Pass’. Her latest novel is `Shadow Play’. Many of her short stories and novels have been translated into a number of Indian as well as European languages. She has translated two plays by her father, Adya Rangacharya, (Shriranga), as well as his memoirs, from Kannada into English, and a novel by Gauri Deshpande from Marathi into English.
Apart from fiction, she has written a number of articles on various subjects – literature, language, Indian writing in English, feminism and women’s writing – which have now been put together in a collection `Writing from the Margin.’ She has been invited to participate in various literary conferences and festivals, as well as to lecture in Universities, both in India and abroad.

She was awarded the Padma Shri in 2008.

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The Invisible Man

The Invisible Man Book

Status: Read from May 1 to May 6, 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 181
My rating:  5star/5
Author: H. G. Wells

Synopsis:

There are good scientist and there are great scientists, but Griffin is out on his own. A dazzling mind and a driving ambition have carried him to the very frontiers of modern science, and beyond into territory never before explored. For Griffin has pioneered a new field, the science of invisibility, and dedicated his life to the achievement of a single goal – that of becoming invisible himself.

With such a prize at stake, what sacrifice could be too great? What personal tie would not seem trivial; what ethical scruple not pale into insignificance? Through long, lonely days and nights Griffin has pursued his fantasy of invisibility, yet even as he attains his dreams, his nightmare begins…

With such a prize of power comes an unimagined prize out of the ordinary, out of society, out of life – can an invisible man be a man at all?

Review:

Whenever I wished for a superpower, I wished either for being able to fly or becoming invisible. But never thought about the drawbacks of such superpowers. But after reading this book I think I should re-consider my these wishes.

This is the story about Griffin. This guy has an extraordinary mind and was very much fascinated by light. This was the reason he opted for physics over medicine. His ambitions and the idea of the advantages he would have if he becomes invisible made him dedicate all his time and efforts to make a new invention in the field of science of invisibility. He becomes successful in making himself invisible. He was so ecstatic about the success and the benefits of his newly achieved superpower that he forgets about the hurdles he will have due to his this very superpower.

The story being in a place called Iping, where a stranger visits Mrs. Hall’s inn and rents a parlor room. The stranger seems mysterious and his identity is impossible to determine, as his face is covered in bandages, and he maintains a hostile resistance to Mrs. Hall’s enquiries. The description of the stranger gives an impression of a mummy wearing winter attire in chilly London weather. The stranger has a bad temper and there are many occasions where his outbreak of violence is mentioned.

After all the invisible man is a human with human needs. He needs warm clothes to save himself from winter and food to survive. He cannot roam the streets naked always.  Now Griffin desperately wants to complete his research and find a way out to become visible again. But he meets Dr. Kemp. His plan changes. He trusts Kemp and shares his plan to establish a reign of terror.

The story is divided into chapters which are easy to understand, and the narrative is good to keep the flow with rich English.

About the Author:

h-g-wells

In 1866, (Herbert George) H.G. Wells was born to a working-class family in Kent, England. Young Wells received a spotty education, interrupted by several illnesses and family difficulties, and became a draper’s apprentice as a teenager. The headmaster of Midhurst Grammar School, where he had spent a year, arranged for him to return as an “usher,” or student teacher. Wells earned a government scholarship in 1884, to study biology under Thomas Henry Huxley at the Normal School of Science. Wells earned his bachelor of science and doctor of science degrees at the University of London. After marrying his cousin, Isabel, Wells began to supplement his teaching salary with short stories and freelance articles, then books, including The Time Machine (1895), The Island of Dr. Moreau (1896), The Invisible Man (1897), and The War of the Worlds (1898).

Wells created a mild scandal when he divorced his cousin to marry one of his best students, Amy Catherine Robbins. Although his second marriage was lasting and produced two sons, Wells was an unabashed advocate of free (as opposed to “indiscriminate”) love. He continued to openly have extra-marital liaisons, most famously with Margaret Sanger, and a ten-year relationship with the author Rebecca West, who had one of his two out-of-wedlock children. A one-time member of the Fabian Society, Wells sought active change. His 100 books included many novels, as well as nonfiction, such as A Modern Utopia (1905), The Outline of History (1920), A Short History of the World (1922), The Shape of Things to Come (1933), and The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind (1932). One of his booklets was Crux Ansata, An Indictment of the Roman Catholic Church. Although Wells toyed briefly with the idea of a “divine will” in his book, God the Invisible King (1917), it was a temporary aberration. Wells used his international fame to promote his favorite causes, including the prevention of war, and was received by government officials around the world. He is best-remembered as an early writer of science fiction and futurism.

He was also an outspoken socialist. Wells and Jules Verne are each sometimes referred to as “The Fathers of Science Fiction”. D. 1946.

Note: The cover image, author image and author bio is taken from goodreads.

How I Became a Farmer’s Wife

how i became a farmers wife

Status: Read from Apr 29 to Apr 30, 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 318
My rating:  5star/5
Author: Yashodhara Lal

Synopsis:

Mild-mannered Vijay is the perfect good Indian husband – responsible and predictable. Well, at least he was, until he decided to turn farmer.

Vijay’s unsuspecting wife Yashodhara is caught off-guard when, tired of the rigours of city life, he actually rents land and starts dairy farming! As if she didn’t have enough going on already, what with her high-octane job, three children and multiple careers.

As Vijay dives deeper into his quirky hobby, the family is plucked from their comfortable life in the steel-and chrome high-rises of Gurgaon, and thrown head-first into a startlingly unfamiliar world – complete with cows and crops, multiple dogs and eccentric farmhands, a shrewd landlady and the occasional rogue snake.

Things heat up further when some godmen land up as co-habitants of Vijay’s farm, and strange goings-on ensue. Will these earnest but insulated city dwellers be able to battle the various difficulties that come with living a farmer’s life?

A laugh-out-loud romp that’ll leave you wanting more!

Review:

This is a hilarious, witty and easy read. This can be called as a memoir. The story revolves around the author’s multi facet life, including her three children – peanut, pickle and papad – and husband Vijay. The author is working as a marketing professional, but also takes zumba classes on Saturday, going for guitar and yoga classes, and writing her next book. Her husband always had a dream to own a land and do farming. But Yashodhara never even though in her dreams that her husband will really make his dream a reality. A casual statement of encouragement from Yashodhara makes her husband determined and he sets up his own dairy farms with partnership with is friend Achu by renting few acres of land.

The story gives some insight on farming and caring about animals. It also shows the difficulties and risks involved in following ones dream of becoming a farmer, arranging labour, procurement of seeds, getting animals and machineries for dairy farming.

In the beginning, Vijay and kids are skeptical towards dogs, but as the need arises, they plan to get one dog. But end of getting five, which includes 4 pus. By the end of the story all have fallen love with the animals and its heartbreaking to deal with the death of few of the animals, mostly because of few lazy fellows who are very careless at their job. Things become more troublesome when Vijay and Achu have to share the land with few babas who keeps on either creating trouble or complaining.

The story narrates, how a city dwellers work against all odds to open up his dairy farm and is able to deliver dairy fresh milk to households. The ending is little emotional but hilarious as well with Vijay’s new dream taking shape.

The author’s life itself is very inspiring and how her husband faces and tackles all the troubles head on is commendable. An wonderfully written, enjoyable read to keep the readers engrossed.

About the Author:

yashodhara lal

Yashodhara Lal is an author, mother of three children, marketing professional, and fitness instructor. She lives in Gurgaon with her family, her husband Vijay and three kids – Peanut, Pickle and Papad – who never fail to provide her with material for her blog, www.yashodharalal.com.

Her first book Just Married, Please Excuse, is a hilarious story about the bumpy early years of marriage. Her other books include Sorting Out Sid, There’s Something About You and When Love Finds You.

She has also written a children’s book, Peanut Has a Plan. How I Became A Farmer’s Wife is Yashodhara’s sixth book, and is the sequel to Just Married, Please Excuse.

Note: Book cover and author's picture is taken from google. Author's intro is taken from the book How I Became a Farmer's wife.

Tuesdays With Morrie

tuesdays with morrie

Status: Read from Jan 24 to Jan 30, 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 192
My rating:  5star/5
Author: Mitch Albom

Synopsis:

Maybe it was a grandparent, a teacher or a colleague. Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and impassioned, helped you to see the world as a more profound place, and gave you sound advice to guide your way through it. For Mitch Albom, it was Morrie Schwartz, the college professor who had taught him nearly twenty years before.

Perhaps, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as the years passed, and insights faded, and the world seemed colder. Wouldn’t you like to see that person again, to ask the bigger questions that still haunt you, and receive wisdom for your busy life the way you once did when you were younger?

Mitch Albom got that second chance, rediscovering Morrie in last months of the older man’s life. Their rekindled relationship turned into one final ‘class’: lessons in how to live. Tuesdays with Morrie is a magical chronicle of their time together.

Review:

One of the most beautiful thought provoking books. This is truly a book about teaching life lessons. Tuesdays with Morrie is the final lesson between a college professor, Morrie, and one of his long lost students and the author of the book, Mitch Albom. Morrie Schwartz is a Sociology professor at Brandeis University. The book starts off as a teacher who watches his student, Mitch Albom, go through college and later in life, Mitch meets his same teacher who is struggling with life threatening disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).

Mitch Albom, in his job, was wrapped up in material things and career concerns until he was reunited with his dying professor. Albom’s time with Morrie Schwartz, before his death, is chronicled in this charming little book. Even though Morrie is dying, there’s a great deal of humor in Morrie’s attitude, lessons, and stories. Morrie helps you look at life from a different angle or with a different lens. Morrie makes you realize how good life really is, despite his condition, and how we should value our time on Earth. He speaks on death not being a bad thing, but a good thing especially if you have lived the life that you wanted to.

He talks about being kind, compassionate, understanding, open-minded. When many of us chose to be selfish, rude, judgmental. The layout of the book is not straight. It keeps jumping from the past memories of Morries lectures to the class to the present dealing with current life lessons on family, marriage, aging, love, death.

I would had given this book a 4-star if i hadn’t read The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. This is a good book but The Last Lecture remains my most recommended book.

“As long as we can love each other, and remember the feeling of love we had, we can die without ever really going away. All the love you created is still there. All the memories are still there. You live on – in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here. Death ends a life, not a relationship.”

“People are only mean when they’re threatened, and that’s what our culture does. That’s what our economy does. Even people who have jobs in our economy are threatened, because they worry about losing them. And when you get threatened, you start looking out only for yourself. You start making money a god. It is all part of this culture.”

“Life is a series of pulls back and forth. You want to do one thing, but you are bound to do something else. Something hurts you, yet you know it shouldn’t. You take certain things for granted, even when you know you should never take anything for granted. A tension of opposites, like a pull on a rubber band. And most of us live somewhere in the middle.”

About the Author:

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Mitch Albom is the author of the international best-sellers The Five People You Meet in Heaven and For One More Day, as well as eight other books. He works as a newspaper columnist and a broadcaster, and serves on numerous charitable boards. He lives with his wife, Janine, in Michigan. To know more about the author visit here.

Note: Book cover and author picture is taken from google.

 

The Help

The Help

Status: Read from Oct 2 to Oct 5, 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 444
My rating:  5star/5
Author: Kathryn Stockett

Synopsis:

Enter a vanished world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962. Where Black Maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver…

There’s Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son’s tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from college, who wants to know why her beloved maid has disappeared.

Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they’d be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely upon one another. Each is in search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary story to tell…

Review:

“Ever morning, until you dead in the ground, you gone have to make this decision. You gone have to ask yourself, “Am I gone believe what them fools say about me today?”

Amazing read. This book kept me up too late. This book is different. It not only describes the life of housemaids, in 20th century, in Jackson, Mississippi, but also shows the difference in thoughts of white and black person. Also shows, how in 20th century skin color was the discriminating factor.

Aibileen is a black maid in her 50’s who works for the Leefolt family and cares deeply for their daughter, Mae Mobley. She is still grieving for her young son, who died in a workplace accident. Minny is Aibileen’s closest friend and a wonderful cook, but her mouth keeps getting her into trouble and no one wants to hire her, until Aibileen helps secure her a position with Celia Foote, a young woman who is new in town and unaware of Minny’s reputation.

Skeeter has returned home after graduating college to find that Constantain, her family’s maid, who raised her, has mysteriously disappeared. Skeeter’s mother wants her to find a nice man and get married. Her mother does not appreciate her writing skills. Skeeter is more interested in writing a book, to anonymously compile a candid collection of stories about the maids’ jobs and the people they work for will risk her social standing in town, her friendships, and the lives of the maids who tell their stories. She is not sure how to begin with. Skeeter is not loud and no one expected that she wants to use her writing skills to bring in a change.

These three women strike a secret friendship, not only unbelievable but also not tolerable, during 20th century between whites and black. The story jumps back and forth between these three characters, each character narrating their version of life, dinner parties, the fund-raising events, the social and racial boundaries, family relationships, friendships, working relationships, poverty, hardship, violence, and fear.

I wonder why author did not connect Celie Foote and Skeeter. I feel they both would have become good friends. I instantly fell in love with Aibileen. I love the way she cares of the child Mae Mobley and tries to teach her everything good.

“You is kind. you is smart, you is important.”

This story is painful reminder of past cruelty and injustice. It is not only horrifying but also savagely funny, engaging read. Highly recommended.

“All I’m saying is, kindness don’t have no boundaries.”    

About the Author:

Kathryn Stockett

Kathryn Stockett was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. After graduating from the University of Alabama with a degree in English and creative writing, she moved to New York City, where she worked in magazine publishing for nine years. She currently lives in Atlanta with her husband and daughter.

Note: The book cover and Author's picture is taken from google and author's bio from goodreads.

My Sister’s Keeper

my sisters keeper

Status: Read from Feb 26 to Mar 8, 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 407
My rating:  5star/5
Author: Jodi Picoult

Synopsis:

Anna is not sick, but she might as well be. By age thirteen, she has undergone countless surgeries, Transfusions, and injections to help her sister, Kate, fight leukaemia. Anna was born for this purpose, her parents tell her, which is why they love her even more.

But now she can’t help but wonder what her life would be like if it weren’t tied to her sister’s… and so she makes a decision that for most, at any age, would be too difficult to bear, and sues her parents for the rights to her own body.

Review:

Stunning. One of those books i don’t want to keep down. It is one of the heart wrenching, beautiful stories I’ve ever read. This is story about two sisters. Kate has promyelocytic leukaemia. Anna is conceived to be a perfect donor match to Kate. Doctor’s choose the embryo that would be a perfect genetic match for Kate’s needs. Kate is sixteen now and Anna thirteen. Whenever Kate needs leukocytes or stem cells or bone marrow, it is Anna who provides them. Every time Kate is hospitalized, Anna is always too.

Now, thirteen years later, Kate is dying of Kidney failure.  Anna, refuses to become a donor this time. Her explanation is simple. “It never stops.” When Anna was born they gave her cord blood to Kate. Later Anna gave lymphocytes, then bone marrow, then granulocytes, then peripheral blood stem cells. And now she is expected to give a kidney. This is like Anna’s body is not hers. She only exists to help survive Kate. She even wonders what her life would be like, if it weren’t tide to her sister’s. She seeks legal help from Campbell Alexander to file a petition in the court for Anna’s medical emancipation from her parents.

The plot is fascinating. But also annoying, as it questions parenting. How can a parent even think of risking one child to save another. But there are no right or wrong answers. Though Sara loves Anna, she is consumed with worrying about Kate’s illness. It shows, to what extend parents (or a mother) can go to save their (her) child. This also shows the pain, confusion, desperation, hope and total lack of control in one’s life. Parents do whatever they believe is the best for their child.

The story is told from each character’s point of view. The story also includes a side plot between Campbell and Julia, which was not necessary. The revelation of Anna, for suing her parents is shocking. This could be understood, where a chronically ill person wants to end her life. Here, the parents didn’t had to made the difficult decision. The ending is quite unexpected, shocking, upsetting and emotional. I cannot stop wondering, what turn the story would had taken, if Anna still exits. What decision she would had taken and how it would had affected Kate. And whether her parents would have welcomed her decision?

About the Author:

jodi picoult

Jodi Picoult, 50, is the bestselling author of twenty-three novels:Songs of the Humpback Whale (1992), Harvesting the Heart(1994), Picture Perfect (1995), Mercy (1996), The Pact (1998),Keeping Faith (1999), Plain Truth (2000), Salem Falls (2001), Perfect Match (2002), Second Glance (2003), My Sister’s Keeper (2004),Vanishing Acts (2005), The Tenth Circle (2006), Nineteen Minutes(2007), Change of Heart (2008), Handle With Care (2009), House Rules (2010), Sing You Home (2011), Lone Wolf (2012), The Storyteller (2013), Leaving Time (2014), and the YA novels Between The Lines (2012), and Off The Page (2015), co-written with her daughter Samantha van Leer. Her last nine novels have debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Her highly acclaimed new novel, Small Great Things (2016), addresses the profoundly challenging yet essential concerns of our time: prejudice, race, and justice.

The Pact, Plain Truth, The Tenth Circle, and Salem Falls – have been made into television movies. My Sister’s Keeper was a big-screen released from New Line Cinema, with Nick Cassavetes directing and Cameron Diaz starring,

She lives in New Hampshire with her husband and three children.

To know more about the author visit her website.

Himalaya Bound: An American’s Journey with Nomads in North India

Himalaya Bound

Status: Read from Apr 7 to Apr 8, 2018
Format: Paperback
Pages: 208
My rating:  5star/5
Author: Michael Benanav

Synopsis:

For forty-four days, Michael Benanav, an American writer and freelance photographer for The New York Times, lived and travelled with the Van Gujjars, a forest-dwelling tribe of nomadic buffalo herders in northern India, on their annual spring migration to the Himalayas. He went to document their traditional way of life, but there was trouble on the trail: the Uttarakhand forest department threatened to block nomadic families, whose ancestral summer meadows are within Govind National Park, from the pastures they rely on for the survival of their herds.

A fascinating account of life on the road with nomads, this book tells the story of one family’s quest to save its buffaloes, and itself. More than a rare glimpse into the hidden world of a tribe of vegetarian Muslims who risk their lives for their animals, this is an intimate picture of the hopes, fears, hardships and joys of people who wonder if there’s still a place for them on this planet. It’s an important exploration of the relationship between humankind and wild lands – and a tale of friendship that bridges two very different cultures.

Review:

Van Gujjar are nomadic water buffalo herders, who are still able to practice their traditional way of life. They live year-round in the wilderness, grazing their livestock on the vegetation that grows in the jungles and mountains of northern India. The tribe spends winters, from October to April, in the Shivalik Hills – a low but rugged range that arcs through parts of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh. In the month of March, however, heat begins to sear the Shivaliks. By mid-April, temperatures soar to 45 degrees. With little left for their buffaloes to eat or drink, the Van Gujjars pack their entire households onto horses and bulls and hike their herds up to the Himalayas, aiming for high alpine meadows that are flush with grass throughout the summer. They stay in the mountains until autumn. Then, with temperatures plunging and snow beginning to fall, they retreat back down to the Shivaliks.

Michael met one of the Van Gujjar family in 2009 with the help of SOPHIA (Society for the Promotion of Himalayan Indigenous Activities), a small Dehradun-based non-profit organization that works with the Van Gujjars. He travelled with them for 44 days, on their annual spring migration to the Himalayas and documented their traditional way of life and culture, the hardships in the jungle and the treats from the forming of national parks.

Today, its estimated, 30000 Van Gujjars dwell in wilderness, moving seasonally between the Shivaliks and the Himalayas, speak their native dialect, Gujari, which is a linguistic fusion of Dogri and Punjabi. Van Gujjars, though Muslims, are traditionally vegetarian. Some scholars suggest that this may be a cultural remnant from the days before the Mughal period, when the Van Gujjars probably converted from Hinduism to Islam. But Van Gujjars are say they think animals as fellow living beings and they normally don’t hunt.

Michhael also highlighted the treat the Van Gujjars are facing from the Uttarakhand government due to establishment of National Parks. They fear that their seasonal migration would cease, and their traditional way of life would fade away. In the name of protecting wildlife habitat, these nomads are pressured to abandon the wild lands on which they had lived for countless generations, to settle in villages and give up their buffalo herds. National Parks are meant to preserve things that are fragile and endangered, and in this case they would also be threatening the Van Gujjars’ unique culture.

The books gives an deep insight on the lives of these mountain dwelling nomads, their love for their animals and also brings into light the threat these buffalo herders are facing since 1992. The book is a fast read and brings in the lively picture of the life, culture and hardship of these forest dwelling vegetarian Muslims,  where men and women share the work equally. Also gives an ample information of various organizations, national and international, who are trying to preserve this unique culture of Van Gujjars and brining into light how the seasonal migration of these herders helps forest to regenerate balancing the ecosystem. The family tree and the map provided in the beginning of the book are very helpful to understand the members of the Gujjar family and the path they traversed to reach the Himalayas. The book is a good mixture of travelogue and cultural/social life of nomads. The pictures only shows how these people are very compassionate towards their animals.

About the Author:

michael benanav

Michael Benanav is a writer and photographer  whose work appears in The New York Times, Geographical Magazine, Lonely Planet Guidebooks, CNN.com, and other publications. He is the author of two previous, critically acclaimed books: Men of Salt: Crossing the Sahara on the Caravan of White Gold, and The Luck of the Jews: An Incredible Story of Loss, Love, and Survival in the Holocaust. He lives in a small village not far from Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the southwestern United States. He visits India frequently.

PS: The pictures of book cover and the author are taken from net. The other pictures are from the book Himalaya Bound.

Curfewed Night

Curfewed night

Status: Read from Oct 17 to Oct 21, 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 248
My rating:  5star/5
Author: Basharat Peer

Synopsis:

Basharat Peer was a teenager when the separatist movement exploded in Kashmir in 1989. Over the following years countless young men, seduced by the romance of the militant, fueled by feelings of injustice, crossed over the Line of Control to train in Pakistani army camps. Peer was sent off to boarding school in Aligarh to keep out of trouble. He finished college and became a journalist in Delhi. But Kashmir—angrier, more violent, more hopeless—was never far away. In 2003, the young journalist left his job and returned to his homeland to search out the stories and the people which had haunted him. In Curfewed Night he draws a harrowing portrait of Kashmir and its people. Here are stories of a young man’s initiation into a Pakistani training camp; a mother who watches her son forced to hold an exploding bomb; a poet who finds religion when his entire family is killed. Of politicians living in refurbished torture chambers and former militants dreaming of discotheques; of idyllic villages rigged with landmines, temples which have become army bunkers, and ancient sufi shrines decapitated in bomb blasts. And here is finally the old story of the return home—and the discovery that there may not be any redemption in it.

Review:

I read Our Moon Has Blood Clots by Rahul Pandita, where the plight of Kashmiri Pandits was narrated extensively. To get the story of both sides, I picked this book by Basharat Peer. If you notice, both the authors are Kashmiri, one is Kashmiri Pandit and the other a Muslim from Kashmir. Both authors have shared the stories as they saw it. Both the books capture the forgotten pain of Kashmiri’s we can’t even imagine. Injustice was done not only to the Pandits but also to the Muslims in Kashmir. Kashmiri Pandits had to leave their land to save their lives, Muslims stayed back, but always in constant fear, both from the militants and the Indian Army. Kashmiris’ faced violence, irrespective of their religion.

I have come across few people who could not appreciate the book, for presenting a negative image of the Indian Army. Also, because the Author is known for voicing his support for Pakistan openly. But, lets accept the truth. Even today one can find many Kashmiri Muslims supporting Pakistan and are very vocal about it. When there is cricket match between India and Pakistan, the Muslims belonging to India supports Indian team, whereas the Kashmiri Muslims supports Pakistan. When India celebrates its Independence on 15th August, Kashmiri Muslims celebrate the Independence Day of Pakistan.

Kashmir was the largest of the approximately five hundred princely states under British sovereignty. It was predominately Muslim but ruled by a Hindu Maharaj, Hari Singh. When India was violently partitioned in 1947, Kashmir stayed neutral to remain independent, neither joining Pakistan or India. But when tribesman from North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan, supported by the Pakistani army, invaded Kashmir, Hari Singh decided to join India. The fighting stopped in 1949, after the intervention of UN and endorsed a plebiscite for Kashmir to determine which country they wanted to belong to and created a ceasefire line. It still divides Kashmir into Pakistan-controlled and India-controlled parts, and is known as the Line of Control (LoC). Since, then Kashmir has remained as turbulent terrain. While Pakistan is still fighting to take control of parts of it, India holds that Kashmir is part of India and granted its autonomy. Amidst all this the Kashmiri’s want ‘Independence’. The books provide a clear picture of the ongoing violence in Kashmir through the author’s writing.

For a teenager, Basharat Peer, has seen his glorious days change into nightmare with the begin of insurgency in the state. Suddenly, he found his Hindu friends stopped coming to school. Later he found that they have left the valley for their safety. Basharat gives a clear account of the brutality by the Indian army raining bullets finding something amiss by the militants, killing many innocent lives including children. The children in Kashmir getting fascinated by the uniforms and the Kalashnikova carried by the militants, dream to fight for the freedom of Kashmir. Many teenagers cross the Line of Control, to train in Pakistani army camps. As a teenager, even Basharat had the similar dream. But he was sent to school in Aligarh, to stay away from the violence in Kashmir. After his graduation, he takes up a job at a local newspaper as a journalist. But his childhood memories and the ongoing violence keeps him pulling towards Srinagar. Finally, he quits his job to interview the people, who suffered by insurgent in Kashmir.

Basharat starts narrating the story from the memories of his childhood days in Kashmir and history of Kashmir. He interviewed many people, who either had lost someone to the militant attacks or army attacks, who survived those attacks and seen the militants and Indian army in action raining bullets, someone who lost their young son who crossed the LoC to join the militants, or those who surrendered to Indian Army after being with the militants for a short while. The stories from this war inflicted region shows the agony of the people staying in this beautiful valley. The stories picturing the enticing landscape of Kashmir valley slowly start to show the dark side of the valley filled with army bunkers, patrolling cars and army personnel guarding and checking the common Kashmiri folks disturbing the normalcy in their lives.

The stories in the book does not have normal flow. The stories jump from one incident to another. But, nonetheless, the books remain outstanding bringing the true state of matter in Kashmir, which we people staying outside, could never even fathom to imagine.

About the Author:

Basharat-Peer

Basharat Peer was born in Kashmir in 1977. He studied political science at Aligarh Muslim University and journalism  at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He has worked as an editor at Foreign Affairs and served as a correspondent at Tehelka, India’s leading English language weekly. His work has appeared in The Guardian, New Statesman, The Nation, Financial Times Magazine, N+1, and Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. Curfewed Night, his first book, won one of India’s top literary awards, the Vodafone Crossword Book Award for English Non Fiction. He has also written the screenplay for the bollywood movie Haider, along with Vishal Bhardwaj. Peer is a Fellow at Open Society Institute and lives in New York.

P.S: Author introduction is take from goodreads.

The wandering Falcon

The wandering Falcon

Status: Read from Nov 22 to Nov 25, 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 181
My rating:  5star/5
Author: Jamil Ahmad

Synopsis:

The Wandering Falcon is the unforgettable story of a boy known as Tor Baz – the black falcon – who wanders between tribes in the remote tribal areas where Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan meet, defying his fate and surviving against all odds. The world he inhabits if fragile and unforgiving, one that is fast changing as it confronts modernity. In Jamil Ahmad’s award-winning debut, this highly traditional, honour-bound culture is revealed from the inside for the first time with vivid colour and imagination.

Review:

Jamil Ahmad is known as a gifted story teller and excellent writer. The story began with a good start, giving the vivid picture of the hardships at the deserts of Afghanistan. I wanted the story to follow the path of this young child Tor-Baz, who was born on an unfamiliar land among the strangers. His parents were stoned to death to disobey and dishonor the norms of the tribe and the boy was left orphaned. He grows up as an nomad in the unforgiving lands with harsh climate, rough terrain and brutal justice reigns. Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran have no defying border line and nomads are free to move from one country to the other with change in climate with their life stocks. But recently, the government officials have enforced fixed boundaries.

After being passed from one ‘caregiver’ to another, Tor-Baz grows up as an nomadic wanderer moving across the deserts crossing the boundaries of these countries. The story continues, till Tor-Baz decides that it’s time for him to marry and settle down with a family.

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There was as such no character development in the book or any specific event to highlight in the life of Tor-Baz. The story isn’t magical or haunting but rather simple.

This book gives a good insight into the customs and traditions of tribes. The plus points about the book was the picturesque description of the desserts of Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan and glimpse to the hardship of the nomadic life of people in these countries.

About the Author:

Jamil Ahmad

Jamil Ahmad was one of the few English writers of Pakistani origin to have garnered attention outside his country. Though his body of work was small and limited to one book, the Wandering Falcon and a short story, The Sins of the Mother, he is considered as a major writer among Pakistani writers of English fiction.

Jamil Ahmad was born in Punjab, in the erstwhile undivided India, in 1931. After early education in Lahore, he joined the civil service in 1954,and worked in the Swat valley, a remote Hindu Kush area, near Afghan border. During his career, he worked at various remote areas such as the Frontier Province, Quetta, Chaghi, Khyber and Malakand. He served for two decades among the nomadic tribes who inhabit one of the world’s harshest and most geopolitically sensitive regions. With his mesmerizing and lyrical tales, Ahmad illuminated the tribes’ fascinating attitudes and taboos, their ancient customs and traditions, and their fiercely held codes of honor. He also served as the a minister at the Paksitani embassy in Kabul during the Sovient invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.

He married Helga whom he met during his London years, who was critical of his early attempts at poetry but diligently tried to promote his work. She painstakingly typed his handwritten manuscript on a typewriter with German keys. The Wandering Falcon, published when he was 79, was nominated for Man Asian Prize in 2011. He lived in Islamabad, Pakistan at the time of his death in July, 2014.

PS: Author intro taken from goodreads.

The Last Lecture

The Last Lecture

Status: Read from Dec 8 to Dec 10, 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 206
My rating:  5star/5
Author: Randy Pausch with Jeffrey Zaslow

Synopsis:

A lot of professors give talks titled “The Last Lecture”. Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can’t help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?

When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn’t have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave – ‘Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams’ – wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because time is all we have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think ). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humor, inspiration, and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to come.

Review:

What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?”

This was the question that Randy had, when he was asked to give the Last Lecture. Like other professors, he didn’t had to imagine it as his last, because it was his last as he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Those who doesn’t know, Randy Pausch was a Professor of Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. In August, 2006 he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. During this time he was approached to give ‘The Last Lecture’.

Randy wanted his children to know who their father was. He wanted to pass on all the wisdom he collected from his father and his own experiences.  Being a professor, he felt this is the only way he can leave a print, for his children, by giving a lecture. The lecture he gave was full of optimism, hope, inspiration and humor. He tried to give the lecture full of snippets of stories and experiences from his own life, providing moral and inspiration. He had that charm to add humor to even a very serious topic. Some of the advises may make you feel that, he was from upper middle class family and he always got the support from his family and friends around. He was a person who had a very clear picture of what he expected and learned from life and what he was willing to share with the world. He always lived by the principles he believed and shared in the hope that others would benefit from it.

Many books dealing with terminal illness become famous because of gaining sympathy from readers. But this book is different. It’s not about dying or the emotional roller coaster the family undergoes when one member of the family has terminal illness. This book is about living. After knowing about his cancer, Randy didn’t brood about it, instead faced moment very optimistically. He was thankful to God that he had got some time to prepare about what he wants to leave as a legacy.

The book is full of inspirational quotes and inspiring stories. He talked about honesty, integrity, gratitude and the things that are dear to him. He lectured about the joy of life and how much he appreciated life, even with so little time left. He mentioned about living the childhood dream, how to achieve the childhood dream and how to enable the dream of many others.

Being a Computer Science lecturer at Carnegie Mellon University, he set up a virtual reality lab, where he taught ‘Building Virtual Worlds’. In 1998, along with Don Marinelli, he set up the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), to focus on educational goals and creative development in students. Randy also started Alice. Alice is a free download, innovative software tool that allows students who have never programmed before to easily create animations for telling stories, creating interactive games etc,.

You might not agree with all of Randy’s lessons, but you will be left with choosing to live with fun and optimism.

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand’.

” There’s a decision we all have to make, and it seems perfectly captured in the Winnie-the-Pooh characters created by A.A.Milne. Each of us must decide: Am I a fun-loving Tigger or am I a sad-sack Eeyore?”

After reading the book, i watched the video of his last lecture. I would suggest everyone to watch this video.

” The brick walls are there for a reason. They’re not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.  The brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough.”

About the Author:

Randy Pausch

Randy Pausch was a Professor of Computer Science, Human-Computer Interaction, and Design at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States and a best-selling author, who achieved worldwide fame for his “The Last Lecture” speech on September 18, 2007 at Carnegie Mellon University.

In August 2006, Pausch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He pursued a very aggressive cancer treatment that included Whipple procedure surgery and experimental chemotherapy; however, in August 2007, he was told the cancer had metastasized to his liver and spleen, which meant it was terminal. He then started palliative chemotherapy, intended to extend his life as long as possible. At that time, doctors estimated he would remain healthy for another three to six months. On May 2, 2008, a PET scan showed that his cancer had spread to his lungs, some lymph nodes in his chest and that he had some metastases in his peritoneum and retroperitoneum.

On June 26, 2008, Pausch indicated that he was considering stopping further chemotherapy because of the potential adverse side effects. He was, however, considering some immuno-therapy-based approaches.

On July 24, 2008, on behalf of Pausch, his friend (anonymous) posted a message on Pausch’s webpage indicating cancer progression further than what was expected from recent PET scans and Pausch becoming more sick than ever. It was announced that his family had sent him into a hospice program — palliative care to those at the end of life.

On July 25, 2008, Diane Sawyer announced on Good Morning America that Pausch had died earlier that morning.