In a nutshell, Defining India Through Their Eyes by Sonia Singh (published by Penguin) has conversations with illustrious personalities whose own personal stories have been interwoven with the India narrative. As citizens of a country, when we look back at our lives, and we compare this journey with that of our country we will invariably notice that somewhere these two stories intersect. The personal becomes the political. And, the political becomes the personal.
It is one such journey that Sonia Singh is taking the reader through. Except, this is not really about one individual. It is about a diverse range of personalities who look at India through the unique spectrum of their experiences.
I think that as Indians, engaging in this narrative with the people who have had some role, however big or minuscule in shaping India, is indeed enlightening.
For me, these conversations threw some some interesting behind the scenes information. Reading about Arun Jaitley’s experiences in prison on being arrested during the emergency for instance was quite fascinating. The interview with Dalai Lama threw up wonderful glimpses of how different Prime Ministers of India, right from Pandit Nehru to Narendra Modi have walked the tightrope with China on the issue of Tibet. Raghuram Rajan’s insights into the workings of bureaucracy were an interesting aspect to the chapter that obviously talked about economics largely. Aruna Roy’s activism is inspiring in how it led to a defining moment for the people in form of the RTI act.
Another point I must mention is the selection of personalities. They are so diverse and that really makes it interesting ! You have opposing personalities – on one hand there is Pranab Mukherjee who stood with Indira Gandhi during the Emergency and on the other there is Arun Jaitley who was imprisoned during that time. Personalities like Aamir Khan and Kamal Hassan from the film industry and sports stars like Sania Mirza and Sachin Tendulkar add to this wonderful curated mix of people that includes several more luminaries.
All interviews stand out strongly on their own. Depending on each reader, of course, some of these conversations will resonate more strongly than others.
For me, one of the best interviews was one with our current Finance Minister, who earlier headed the Defense Ministry. We can’t really talk about defining moments in India without reference to some bold decisions taken on the Indian response to terrorism. The interview with Nirmala Sitharaman, who at the time of the publication of the book was the Defence Minister, is very fiery and very inspirational. A woman helming one of the most crucial ministries (both then as Defense and now as the Finance Minister), I felt her interview was quite interesting.
Another one I particularly enjoyed was the conversation with Nandan Nilekani. The reasons are obvious- conceiving Aadhar under one government and implementation of the same under another. What were the challenges that the corporate honcho faced in the corridors of power in Delhi? Aadhar has redefined identity for Indians and has been a crucial milestone in nation building.
Just when you think that it cannot get better and more candid than this, you turn the page and there pops another equally fiery personality.
The simple purpose of any conversation is to be enriched by it. And, by talking to these diverse minds about defining moments in their lives, and how these moments intersect with the story of India is inspiring.
Defining India Through their Eyes by Sonia Singh brings forward interesting perspectives on India. Some conversations give you a background to behind the scenes politics. Some show how decisions taken at top levels have connotations spread over decades. Some show the power of a single idea. But all of them have something enriching to offer!
Almost 25 years ago, Pico Iyer visited Japan for the first time, as a transit passenger. This little diversion must have been some preordained plan, because Japan made way into his soul. Well, quite visibly. Few years later he found himself in the country, and also found love. Japan had claimed the California boy as her own.
Japan also gave him his first book- The Lady and the Monk. In the famed author’s latest offering , Autumn Light- Season of Fire and Farewells, published by Penguin Viking, Japan once again makes a dominating presence felt. The perspective has changed though. This time the story gently touches on concepts of death, decay and impermanence, probably the ultimate truths of life.
There is a beauty in impermanence. There is a joy in capturing the transient. Where else can this eternal truth be encapsulated but in the essence of Japanese philosophy. Within Japan, where Pico Iyer first made a defining decision, lies this exploration of what autumn represents.
The author returns to his beloved Japan in Autumn and all around him he observes changes. But, he seeks out the « changelessness in change ». Through the narrative of his own story he ponders over this much larger question.
There is a gentle discussion of death as Pico is confronted with the same. His father in law passes away; his wife decides to shift her mother in a nursing home ; the ponderings of the mother on this decision; the ritualistic markings of obeisance to the dead ancestors ; the stories of the pain of war stuck into the minds and collective consciousness of common people; the separation and disintegration of familial ties…All these streams of thought have been approached gently but remain deep and poignant.
There are many threads that run through the narrative. One of them is the relationship of old parents with their young children. How do the filial ties hold once birds have flown from the nest? How does the modern generation confront mortality and old age of parents?
Deftly woven words, wry humour, and a gentle, almost inviting manner of addressing what many may call dark topics, is what is so endearing about the book.
Another running theme in the book has to do with Ping-pong. While in Japan, Iyer regularly plays ping-pong with people much older than him. They may be seniors but that’s no deterrent to their agility and perfection at the game. It is through the prism of this game that we get one more glimpse of how the old can be celebrated.
Autumn slips into his spirit and voice. His wife, Hiroko, has a family story linked to the wars and the bombing of Hiroshima. Through her memories of the days the sad tales of the futility of war come out strongly. The personal speaks for the collective. The war still haunts the people who have memories of it.
But, I am sure that readers, as they take time to savour this profound book, will come to realise, as Iyer does, “Why, I wonder, must I be so often running against time, when I know the only way to be happy is to make my peace with the autumn and see it as a friend “!
Mindfulness (Mindful parenting included!) has almost become a fashion in our troubled times where fast paced living seems to be hacking at the very roots of a peaceful life. We are mindful about eating, working, socialising and so on. But, it is the need of the hour to be mindful about an activity that actually sets the stage for our future as a civilisation- parenting. But Mindful parenting is more than your typical new age lifestyle term, as this book from Harper Collins goes on to show. The Children of Tomorrow (A monk’s guide to mindful parenting) by Om Swami presents age-old wisdom crystallised in a format palatable for modern parents.
The chapters in the book stress on the need for parents to be mindful and collaborative with each other on raising their children. Jokes and hilarious cartoons between the chapters add an element of humour. The last chapter gives a ready reconer of tips that parents must bear on mind.
I think this book is, in a sense, a manna for modern parents. Belonging to the current generation of parents with young kids, I can’t help but acknowledge the unique challenges that our lot faces – we may have lesser kids and more resources than our own parents did, but we still grapple with many questions and parenting issues. We have google at our fingertips but sometimes can’t really know what information to choose! We are individuals with multiple hopes and dreams, a generation that is individualistic and high achieving, we are made of yummy-mummies and ever growing young dads, we juggle our schedules and that of our kids with finesse (and the latest apps and a team of staff). But still, we are, at the end of this all, lacking something substantial and something deep!
The thoughts that Om Swami presents have their roots in his experiences of interacting with young children, young adults and parents at different parenting stages. As an impartial observer he looks at their problems and the potential suggestions on what can help them. I think most of these thoughts are applicable to all relationships and not only the parent-child one.
I particularly liked the chapter on building an identity capital. Just like one needs financial capital to get through uncertain times in life, or maybe just as a buffer, building an identity capital is crucial for children to cruise through life. This may be a buffer against phases of identity crisis that seemingly impacts a variety of age groups today, including parents themselves !
As the book progresses, I notice that a lot of the lessons are targeted at self-improvement for parents. And then it dawns- changing your child for the better or bringing them up in the right manner actually begins with the parent. One of the main lessons that all parenting books must amplify, and that this one clearly does, is that the first step to great parenting is by setting an example ! Mindful parenting simply could well translate into mindful living yourself. But more than anything else, The Children of Tomorrow (A monk’s guide to mindful parenting) by Om Swami shows that “Good families begin with great parenting,”.
Depressed and anxiety ridden art restorer, Mila is frantically trying to gather her bearings following a brutal assault. A Buddhist nun Pema wills herself to face the illusory nature of the balance she thought she had achieved. Through Atish, her third character, Khanna gives voice to the condition of migrant labour, the education system and religious customs. The intertwining narrative between these three central characters forms the crux of this story. A conversation with Kajoli Khanna revealed her inspiration and writing process for this novel.
Based on deeply personal experiences, Khanna returned to Delhi and was experiencing the symptoms of severe trauma due to a physical assault she had suffered in the mountains. Carrying a burden that needed to be shed when her survival instinct kicked in and guided Khanna towards writing. She unconsciously channelized all those disturbing emotions and released them into a book. She finally zeroed in on a murder mystery based on her terrifying experience and started writing the story of Mila, the art restorer. But it would only form a novella.
Since Mila steps into a spiritual arena Khanna added the destructive effects of negative emotions into the story for a deeper understanding. Thus, Pema the saintly bhikshunni who harbours hatred and a terrible anger, was born. She suited the arena well so intertwining her narrative with Mila’s was invigorating. Her sisters were inspired by the nuns the author personally met at nunneries in Spiti.
However, Khanna still felt that there was something lacking in the story. The character of Atish kept popping in Khanna’s mind, asking for attention. He was obviously inspired by the underprivileged children she worked with and decided to cross the ugly barriers of class and expose the foul nexus of power that lives off the blood and sweat of the underprivileged. He also became the orator and hero through whom Khanna shared her opinions on the conditions of migrant labour, the village education system and religious customs.
Albeit with a satiric humour, Atish is intelligent, well-informed, gutsy and articulate because she wanted to tell the readers that underprivileged children are as capable (if not more), as clever, as talented, as spoilt as kids who go to snooty private schools. Atish’s achievements in the book are those that the author dreams for all her students. His mistakes can be made by any one of us, but his grit and determination, his formidable resilience belongs in the lives of the brave young warriors she has encountered.
An unfavorable experience
Talking about her terrifying experience with a criminal, Khanna shares, “I was in the mountains, working on a project when I was brutally assaulted in the middle of the night. The criminal stayed in my room for 2 maybe 3 hours. It was petrifying. I had two bodyguards following me everywhere but the fear had infiltrated my being and I was forced to return to Delhi. Even there I was terrified the man might track me down because we had reported the incident to the police. He had threatened to kill me if I did. The doubt and the fear, the frustration of having to leave the project unfinished wreaked havoc with my confidence. And I was angry that a criminal was able to dictate the terms by which I lived. This led to feelings of helplessness, despair and eventually bouts of depression. I was experiencing the symptoms of trauma.”
Miraculously, Khanna’s survival instinct arose to guide her towards writing. She began writing the story of Mila who suffered an assault similar to her. Describing the physical details of the incident was traumatic but also it was cathartic. “As I wrote I re-lived the incident, and each time I did that I cleansed myself, a bit at a time, of the grossness of it. Writing became a therapy. I firmly believe my work with the underprivileged helped my recovery. As I worked with the students their levels of confidence began to grow and so did mine. I shared the same sense of satisfaction, of joy and hope as they did. My fears and worries melted away. Years later I came to understand; by benefitting others you benefit yourself and this is what I wanted to illustrate in the book.”
Infused in Mila’s story are these essential formulae required for healing. The author wanted to share these miraculous but simple processes she had experienced with the world. It was a traumatic struggle which ended with a heartening, illuminating outcome. Mila’s tale which began as a murder mystery turned into a story about reinvention and recovery.
A champion for mental health
At a time when social, emotional and psychological problems are prevalent, solutions are needed. This is what Khanna’s book Destiny’s Flowers sets out to provide. One of the main streams running through the novel explores a single sentence the Buddha uttered – WHAT THE MIND CREATES ONLY THE MIND CAN UNDO. This timeless wisdom is illustrated particularly by the stories of the two female protagonists, Mila who is crippled by fear and Pema, a novice who is slave to anger and hatred. Travelling with Pema and Mila through the twists and turns of the tale, the pitfalls and strengths of human emotions emerge, revealing the obstacles we create in our minds and the formula needed to dissolve them. When faced by the labels society thrusts upon us Atish shows us how to live ‘Out of the Box’. Here too it is the manner in which he thinks that turns the spoilt teenager into a wonderful human being. A dose of this book is what all modern minds need. After all, the struggle for freedom from our anxieties is universal.
“I have received an overwhelming response here in the Shimla Hills where I have given two talks on Destiny’s Flowers. In both I have related the book to overcoming trauma, reducing the destructive effects of negative emotions and living in the moment. A novel must speak to the reader (whatever their age) help them find direction or give meaning to life. I certainly hope this is what Destiny’s Flowers will do,” says Khanna.
Changing for the better
When asked if the events in the book will have last impressions on the lives of the characters, she reveals, “They do implement the realizations and changes which will have a lasting impact on their lives. By the middle of the book, events culminate to arrive at exciting and favourable conclusions for all three characters. The flowers of destiny shower their paths making wishes come true and realizations abound. Mila proves to be a catalyst in Pema’s life and later Atish as well. The bhikshunni is granted two boons that help to change her distorted view of the world and make her question the code of conduct she has lived by. Though several factors contribute to Mila’s success her journey is one of self-discovery. Atish makes a major blunder in the Fort of Joji which turns out for the best, aiding Mila (who plays spiritual detective) to ascertain the finer nuances of the philosophy she has discovered. And again, Atish’s reaction to Pema’s mistakes lightens the load of shame and guilt the novice carries. Though epiphanies and tumultuous events alter the lives of all three protagonists throughout, the last chapters are the most poignant and revealing. Both their stories and the characters come to fruition.”
A piece for everyone
The beauty of this book lies in its universal appeal, apart from being above 18 years of age, there is no restriction on whom this story is for. There is something in the novel for every age and audience. From the feedback the author has received, the book has appealed to a variety of people for a variety of reasons. Seasoned readers have called it a seamless page turner, some are taken by the final realizations Mila reaches, others resonate with the adventures of Atish and the journey of Pema and still others by the lyrical language used to create soothing, poignant and passionate scenes, but everyone is struck by the unexpected outcomes that continuously change the direction of the tale.
Gardening can be a fulfilling passion, and even more so, when you relish the fruits (or vegetables!) of your hard labour. And, it always helps to have a good friend and guide along the way. New Vegetable Garden Techniques- essential skills and projects for taster healthier crops by Joyce Russell, published by White Lion Publishing, is a book written with the aim of guiding amateur gardeners, and tipping up information for experienced ones.
Learning Vegetable garden techniques from a book can be really easy and practical, if written in an accessible way. This is exactly where Russell’s book scores high. The best part here is the manner in which the information has been organised. There is a deep connect between the pictures and the text, and the many pictures really aid the reader immensely. Several boxed tips and pieces of information make this a very reader-friendly guide.
There are 25 DIY projects in the book. These are illustrated step-by-step. The book is very practical in nature. Each “project” is presented as a recipe, complete with the list of what you need and the method. Handy tips from experience have been boxed.
The range of skills and steps required for growing your own vegetable patch is wide. Right from preparing land (or choosing the right container), to getting the right soil, making compost, taking care of pests, tending to specific plant requirements and so on, there are a gamut of steps. A lot of comprehensive information is presented in a very accessible manner.
The book is also peppered with specific examples of specific plant requirements, again adding to the handiness aspect. I liked the DIY section on making your own basket and growing plants within. Not only can one enjoy the produce, but also have a spectacular design feature. I also found the tips of growing seedlings, micronutrients and so on quite helpful, how to improve your soil and add on to make richer soil,
There are a few really excellent diagrammatic representations which are very handy. For me, the one on soil nutrients was a great ready reckoner in giving me information about my garden soil.
Why not grow your own bucket garden? Plastic buckets make for wonderful containers and they can be moved around easily thanks to the handles. Grow your favourite veggies within! They are also a perfect solution for a children’s garden as they are light and easy to move around.
It is a good idea to use biodegradable containers to grow seedlings. Once the plants are ready to be replanted in larger containers or prepared beds, you could plant out the pots themselves, which in due course will decompose, leaving no waste behind.
This book opened my eyes to an untapped area- using fresh shoots for consuming. By germinating young seeds and using the fresh sprouts you can add immense variety and health to your diet. Microgreens are the way to go!
Keep adding to the soil to provide the right balance of nutrients and drainage that each new crop needs.
Leaves are a free valuable resource for most gardeners. Fallen leaves can be used as mulch, or compost. If you have a mower that powders them, use this to sprinkle the powder on your plants.
Planting different crops in different areas of the garden each year helps to prevent pests and diseases building up in the soil, resulting in healthier plants and harvests.
And if you’re interested in reading more about gardening, “Ground Rules” is a great book to refer to.
Snakes In The Meadows is Ayaz Kohli’s debut novel (published by Rupa Publications) and what a punch it packs! The title aptly summarizes how evil in the form of terrorists comes and destroys the peace of simple locals of a beautiful hilly village who only want to live a decent life. When all is lost they rise up like the proverbial phoenix to obliterate the enemy!
Snakes In the Meadows is a gut-wrenching story of how the locals of a hilly village, Pathri Aali, in India occupied Kashmir are brought to their knees by the mujahideen. As if it is not enough that they are having difficulties surviving in a harsh environment, most of the males of the village have travelled to the Middle East for jobs and the women and children are left to fend for themselves. The mujahideen prey on them mercilessly as if the locals are not humans at all. Some of the scenes where youngsters are assaulted brings tears to one’s eyes.
The men working abroad were kept in the dark lest they return and are killed by the mujahideen. The straw that breaks the camel’s back is an unspeakable crime committed against a child which forces the protagonist, Ashwar, to write a scathing letter to the men asking them to return and fight.
Thus begins the plan to annihilate the mujahideen from the valley. The villagers run from pillar to post to get help in this endeavour. The ignorance and outright refusal to help from certain Government quarters is disheartening. The peripheral characters though help to draw a contrast between the frog-in-the-well outlook of the ongoing activities in Pathri Aali to what is happening in the rest of the country. Also, the personalities and experiences of the other characters enhance the story – be it through their villainous roles, shades of grey or humanity and sacrifices.
Haven’t we all heard about that thing called the inner voice? But, as we traverse through life, it is worth asking ourselves the question – have we suppressed this inner voice? The Code: Awaken the Hidden Wisdom of your Heart is a book that aims to bring back to life this dying flame. The credentials of the writer, Mukta Mahajani, add authenticity and perspective to this book. Published by Jaico Books, this is the book you must read if you want to embark on a journey of introspection. As you navigate the book, you will realise that the answers to your questions are within your heart, and within the intense introspective journey that you will undertake.
What makes The Code a book that is impactful in what it promises to deliver? I think it’s a mix of several factors. The book is divided into seven key sections that talk about seven negative attributes that we need to conquer, such as Ego, Over-Competitiveness, Jealousy, Over expectations, Over ambition, Anger and Procrastination. Within each section there are several stories and examples that drive home the point the author is trying to make. The text is also peppered with quotes from various personalities and thinkers. The key point itself, that is, ‘the code’ is boxed and presented in a very accessible manner.
However, for me the short list of contemplative questions that accompany each point are the mainstay of this book. Each sub-section has a dedicated list of contemplative questions. These are sure to get the reader in introspection mode. A book or a text is useful if one actually manages to internalise the points that are made. By using these questions as an integral part of the narrative, Mahajani is actually encouraging the reader to pause and think before jumping on to the next section. You may just find that a few questions particularly may touch a nerve, and that’s exactly the purpose!
If the purpose of a book is to make the reader think and reflect, this is what these questions set out to do. It is this process that will open you up to your inner voice. Though the book is easy to read and simple, I would recommend taking time and savouring the points and questions before moving on, in order to get full benefit from reading it!
Through a bank of several stories and incidents, the book illustrates how negative attributes work in practice. It also looks at each negative attribute in a multidimensional manner.
At the end of each section there is also a handy checklist, similar to a little test that will objectively tell you where you stand in terms of a specific quality such as ego, tendencies of over expectations and so on.
Mukta’s background has given this book a unique attribute. With an author who speaks on Alternate Dispute Resolution methods, one can expect nothing less! Moreover, she has degrees in psychology, anthropology and Law. Couple this with over two decades of experience, and you have a person who has a really deep and nuanced understanding of human behaviour in all its complexity! This understanding comes across beautifully in The Code, in simple language with great clarity and lucidity. A must-read if you are looking at getting in touch with your core! The Code is all set to guide you!
“Until lions have their own historians, histories of the hunt will glorify the hunter,” goes a popular adage. Yes, history does sing the victor’s song. But thankfully, there are many authors and thinkers who often wonder, what if the story was different if told by another character. There are a few good retellings and reimagining of the Mahabharata. Would the Mahabharata narrative have been any different if Duryodhana narrated the story? I, Duryodhana by Pradeep Govind (published by Om Books International) explores this fascinating angle.
There have been several fictional retellings of the Mahabharata, through different perspectives. What made you choose Duryodhana as your protagonist?
I am of the conviction that history generally tends to favor the victors over time. When you read or listen to the Mahabharata with an unbiased mind that is open to the possibility of the epic being a fantasized narration of real historical events rather than just a creative work of fiction, you will find several areas where you are tempted to raise questions in favour of Duryodhana. Besides, as a character, he is perhaps the only one in the epic who had clarity as to the stand he took. Just about everyone else, be it Radheya, Bheeshma or even Vaasudeva, had their feet in two boats at the same time at some point or the other. The story of the Mahabharata could still have happened without any of the other central characters…but not without Duryodhana.
Take us through the kind of research you undertook in order to write this book.
There was not much conscious, objective research so to speak save for some trivia. Unfortunately, there is no authentic original manuscript available for reference…the one supposedly written down by Lord Ganesha. The Mahabharata has always been a fascinating subject for me and I’ve been exposed to so many versions of the stories and sub plots in it in various formats right from comics, books, translations, online articles and so on and of course not to forget the mega TV serial. They have all been helpful in my work. I’ve also listened to many fascinating discourses and talks on the Mahabharata. There was one particular early morning daily talk show in Malayalam called “Bharatadarshanam” that I was particularly hooked on to. It was conducted by the late Professor Thuravur Vishwambaran and ran for 10 years and over 3000 episodes on Amrita TV.
Do you think the Mahabharata is relevant today? And if yes, how?
The Mahabharata has all time relevance but it depends on how one comprehends the subtle messages embedded in the epic in just about every canto and chapter. It may never be relevant if we read it like we read a magazine on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The reading should be given due gravitas and the words subject to reflection and analysis.
Following from the earlier question, how do you think that the retellings of the Mahabharata from varied points of view are relevant today? Your book is also a part of this highly current upcoming genre of mythological retellings.
This depends on the objective of the retelling. If it is being used to showcase the creative imagination of the author, then its relevance should stay in the literary world. On the other hand, if it is to also evoke some genuine empathy for the character and, thereby bring in a better understanding of the human mind under different circumstances, then that understanding would come to define our responses to people and situations in everyday life and make things better and more acceptable.
The irony of the language and the sharp satire is not lost on the reader! Was this something you were consciously trying to attain?
Was I? Not sure about this…. maybe at some level. But if you’ve noticed it, then it’s satisfying.
Shakuni is a character much loathed and the story makes his role prominent in steering the direction that Duryodhana veers towards. There is a school of thought portraying the war as one between two masterminds- Vasudeva and Shakuni. Do you subscribe to that view?
There are many schools of thought when it comes to the Mahabharata and each convincing in its own right. That is the beauty of this monster of an epic which will throw something new at you every time you read it. Coming to the question on Vasudeva and Shakuni, as much as one could think on those lines about the war, in the 10th chapter of the Gita, Vaasudeva reveals to Arjuna that among the deceitful practices, is the ‘gambling’. So now where does that leave us with respect to his equation with Shakuni?
You have stuck to the details and facts passed on across generations. However, there are occasions when you have given a different version of facts. For example, in the book Duryodhana does not know about the burning of the wax palace. I am curious to know about the strategy you employed. Did you think things through from the point of view of Duryodhana and then kind of imagined what could have occurred?
That’s a very pertinent question and I’m so glad you’ve noticed. I have taken care not to deviate from the traditional narrations unless it appeals to logic. So, the first thing I did was to not consider the Mahabharata as Vyasa’s creation but as his narration of historical incidents. That makes him vulnerable to distorting truth to favour the victors as well. How else could you describe Duryodhana’s braying at the time of his birth and the wise men of court counselling the king to put him to death? When you look at it that way, it gives you the courage and license to question the genuineness of a lot of things narrated. For example, I felt that the accidental burning of a woman and five men in the house of wax and them being mistaken for Kunti and her sons seemed too contrived and convenient a narration to believe. In the march of time, many such things get distorted or brushed under the carpet to suit the victor’s narrative. That is why Duryodhana held on to his life to make sure that he died in the favourable arms of history. (Though eventually that was not the case.)
What do you want your readers to take away from this book?
The Flower Fix- Modern arrangements for a daily dose of nature by Anna Potter (published by White Lion Publishing) is a book with a very clear purpose- to give the reader his or her daily flower fix! I think this is a book that is more about the journey and less about perfection. There is a freedom that makes creating something beautiful a pleasure, and Potter encourages all of us to adopt that free spirit and let nature and its imperfections lead you to create beautiful floral arrangements.
Picasso has famously quoted, “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”. I think that this is the general spirit that pervades The Flower Fix. Potter offers guidelines on what would make good floral arrangements, and then urges the reader to break these rules!
There are 26 floral-oriented projects in the book, ranging from small simple designs to larger installation projects. There is one thing that is particularly different and striking about the manner in which these floral decor projects are presented in the book. Each project is a ‘recipe’. There is a list of ‘ingredients’, that is, the exact number of flowers and other materials she has used. However, each floral arrangement tells a different story. Some evoke playfulness, curiosity and serenity while others let you go wild!
Each chapter also explains the sources of inspiration that Anna took in order to create the arrangements that she did. As she describes the various arrangements in detail, step by step, she gently weaves in some really practical tips. For example, how can one create a sense of depth in a shallow container? (The answer- using the larger blossoms at the back). A lot of basic skills required to make a floral arrangement are diagrammatically expressed in the latter part of the book.
Any book on floral arrangements must have great pictures. The Flower Fix is also packed with beautiful “Instagramable” images, that are sure to inspire you, as well as lines and quotes that will echo in your mind long after you have read it.
Have fun with flowers and let the intrinsic nature of the flower be your guide.
Think about what emotion you want the arrangement to evoke…or what story you want it to tell.
Let your creativity flow, and let the happy accidents happen!
A large-scale installation with one variety of flower or foliage will create drama.
Don’t underestimate the power of weeds in creating a floral wilderness!
Bright colours often ‘pop’ the best against dark backgrounds. Hence, optimise the corners of the home which have dark backgrounds, with some really bright arrangements.
We all know that Chanakya was a kingmaker, a shrewd strategist and a master at the game of politics and power. What we often fail to grasp is how we can apply his time-tested principles to our lives in the modern times. It is also no secret that his masterpiece, the Arthashastra, contains the most poignant wisdom for leaders. But how can the gems contained therein be applied to our struggles in this time and age? Radhakrishnan Pillai, rightly known to be the man who has brought Chanakya’s wisdom to the modern times, has penned Chanakya and the Art of War for this sole purpose. In fact, he is the author of several books on Chanakya, including one where he presents the teachings of Chanakya to children, and another where he talks presents these evergreen principles in very simple language for the masses, in easy-to-read knowledge capsules.
Wars can be of different types. Today, it can play out in the boardroom, between nations, within complex social structures and even in your own mind!
Chanakya and the Art of War is written in a simple and lucid manner, that is accessible to all readers. First, there are stories and then there are lessons you derive from them. This book starts off with famous stories about Chanakya and the battles he won. The manner in which he contained the undefeatable Alexander The Great is perhaps one of his most famous victories. The book describes and narrates instances from Chanakya’s life to illustrate his principles.
There are references to other great strategists of ancient India such as Lord Krishna, Shivaji, events from the Ramayana, other teachers and of course, the greatest war epic, Mahabharata.
While military warfare is discussed in the book, what i found particularly appealing is the discussion of use of psychology in strategic decision making. The use of psychological principles in war warrants attention. Chanakya also devised the four-fold strategy of war, chronicling the four ways by which wars could be won. There are discussions about games and activities that Chanakya insisted rulers pursue so that their minds were constantly under training. Understandably there is a chapter devoted to Chess, the master game of strategy.
It is also interesting to note Chanakya’s descriptions of different types of conquerors. The discussion of Dharma in this book brings out the fact that while the desire for expanding and conquering is indeed positive, it has to be done keeping ethics at the core. I feel this has great implications for modern businesses and politics as well.
War strategies find application in business and politics quite directly. The reader who really wants to get the most of this book will chew on the thoughts and distill the wisdom in a manner that will be applicable to him.
However, Dr. Radhakrishnan makes decoding the strategies presented in the book even easier through the last chapter that discusses ten principles of Chanakya and how they would help people today in their daily ‘battles ‘! Of course, today, things have changed. The way wars take place are drastically different. Yet, the spirit of strategy remains forever relevant.