There can be no better time than now, to perhaps delve into the life and evolution of Mamata Banerjee. The country is at the brink of an election, and Mamata could well play kingmaker. At the time of writing this, the Chief Minister of West Bengal has taken to protest against the central government, over a major showdown between the CBI and the state police.
It is against this background of events that I finish reading a recently released book, titled Didi: The Untold Mamata Banerjee. It gives us a glimpse into elements of Mamata’s regime, her life and her personality. It does not directly delve into politics, but takes time to discuss peripheral elements of her life as well as the story of her childhood. The reader gets a glimpse of Mamata through different lenses- at Mamata’s version of the daily ‘durbar’ where the writer meets her; the trademark cotton sari and flip flops; her passion for painting; stories of her struggles and the attacks on her, and finally her evolution from a student party worker to astute politician.
It also provides an insight into her childhood and how the seemingly ordinary experiences paved the way for her extraordinary life. Her father’s political leanings towards the Congress and his active participation in the same had an impact on her. As a child she was aware of the delicate political situation in Bengal due to the Naxalite movement. She also was a witness to numerous political meetings, discussions and debates as her home was often filled with politicians and activists thanks to her father. These early experiences probably sowed the seeds of her political career. She lost her father quite early and took on the reins of the household with grit and determination. As the author puts it, “childhood was perhaps the lull before the political storm was unleashed,”.
She got actively involved in student politics while at college. Her fiery speeches, zeal and enthusiasm pivoted her into the limelight. It was but a matter of time that senior politicians in the Congress noticed her. The book focuses on her journey to the power corridors. This journey has always been more difficult for women and this is where her fearlessness helped her. It traces how the distance between Mamata and the Congress party unfolded, especially accelerated by the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi who had supported her and believed that she held promise. The book talks about the birth of the Trinamool Congress against the background of the young fiesty leader taking on the Congress mammoth, despite her own aides alienating her. Trinamool, translated from Bengali, means Grass roots and that is what Mamata came to symbolise.
Once on her own, Mamata’s rise to the strongholds of power started. The reader sees her journey unfold against the background of contemporary politics. It draws from information in the public domain to paint a picture of this dynamic, versatile and strife ridden way with all the multitude of challenges she faced.
The book covers the defeats and lulls in her political journey; her comeback in Singur with the cries of “Ma, Mati, Manush”, and her increasing success at Nandigram. The book moves at a fast pace here, chronicling the series of moves and events that spiralled her into being the first Woman Chief Minister of Bengal.
If the road to power is difficult and thorny, holding on to it has its own set of challenges. Mamata, once in power was accused of being autocratic amongst several other things. This aspect of the subtle change in stance that her new obligation as an administrator posed vis a vis her earlier role as the opposition and a street fighter, has been highlighted in the book. For instance , as she tries to get businesses to invest in West Bengal, echoes of her stance at Singur for example, may find their presence felt. The author writes, “perhaps it is divine justice that Mamata must now rebuild what she herself helped destroy”.
As you read you will get hints about Mamata as a person and Mamata the politician, and the evolution of the latter. The book tries to cover the low points as much as the triumphs. However, one can’t miss the hints of adulation towards ‘Didi’ that the author holds.
Against the backdrop of Indian politics over the years, the book traces Mamata’s journey. However, it starts off with admiration for her and this streak continues throughout the narrative. This is not to say that there is no criticism of the TMC. There is in fact a chapter dedicated to issues that the party is facing which also elucidates many problems within it.
Didi: The Untold Mamata Banerjee rightly concludes with a section that hints at Mamata looking at the centre. It emphasises on her movements that point towards looking at a bigger role in the national politics of the country. Well, Delhi is not far! Her call for a Federal Front echoes these ambitions.
This book is most well-timed due to the impeding elections in the next three months. Observers of Indian politics will get a fresh insight into the making of Mamata Banerjee the politician. Will Mamata get her electoral math right? As the book says, “Like a good politician, she is prepared for any eventuality”.
Genre: Biography/ Politics
OTHER BOOKS ON MAMATA BANERJEE
Writing comes as naturally to Dr. Pariksith Singh as do the nitty-gritties of his medical practice. The US based physician-poet-philosopher juggles his different roles with ease. He is known for his two poetry compilations ‘Swayam Ka Ghuspaithiya‘ and ‘There was a Girl I Loved Once’. He is also the founder of Kaavya Foundation, which aims to promote Indian languages, literature and art globally. He has written several other books, including the recent ‘2018 Health Care Primer’, a compilation of all information necessary to run a compliant healthcare practice.
You juggle two apparently different worlds- the world of healthcare and medicine and the realm of literature. How do your experiences in both, inform or influence the other?
Healing requires a heightened sensitivity and openness in communication, engagement and compassion. This has helped me with sustaining awareness during my writing. The deepening of awareness during poetic attempts and inspiration helps me become a better healer.
Before I started reading “There was a Girl I Loved Once”, I thought the collection would comprise of different poems tied together on the theme of love. But, I was in for a very pleasant surprise. Almost like in an epic, the reader experiences an overflow of emotions, thoughts and philosophies. Can you tell us a bit about the conceptualisation of the entire book? What sparked off this work?
It is about the Female Principle of the Universe, what is called Maha Shakti in India. There was no conceptualization as such. Only a feeling of awe and reverence towards the Universe. A lot of images recur along with symbols on their own and link with each other organically, rather than in a pre-meditated manner. The inspiration came from the single line flashing through the brain which forms the title of the book.
Writing poetry requires a heightened sensitivity. You have also written poems in English as well as Hindi. What are your sources of inspiration?
The sources are everywhere and everything. The mind stays in a state of openness and ideas, images, symbols, sensations, etc. flow in awareness and anything can spark the sudden flare of writing.
Can you let us in your writing process and routine?
There is no routine as such. Lines come on their own in silence. All I do is be quiet and let words drop in.
Can you also tell us a bit about your involvement with the Kaavya Foundation that aims to promote Indian languages, literature and art globally?
Kaavya wishes to promote Indian languages and literature. We conceived of it as our service to sahitya and help create an environment for the renaissance of Indian literature and poetry. To this end, we started getting involved in various lit fests, writer groups and activities to help grow our message.
You have a wide range of works to your credit. Right from a practical guide on healthcare in the US, to poetry, to analytical essays…you seem to traverse a range of genres. Which of these do you enjoy the most?
Poetry is my lifeblood. It flows naturally. Others require more effort and are less organic to me.
As readers, it is always exciting to see men of ‘science’ blend in the world of literature so seamlessly! If you want to read about another medical practitioner who is also a poet, you may be interested in reading https://www.bookedforlife.in/books-and-ideas/godsong-a-verse-translation-of-the-bhagavad-gita-by-amit-majmudar/
There comes a time in the lives of men when they seek answers to existential questions, looking out to understanding the nature of truth. But this is seldom an easy task. Sometimes one may find answers in existing philosophical schools of thought or established religion. Sometimes, one draws from different streams and arrives at what appeals most to the self. For acclaimed writer and poet, Amit Majmudar, the Bhagavad-Gita holds eternal truths and answers. He writes, “The song of multiplicities, the Bhagavad-Gita, is my truth,”. Godsong is born of one such personal quest.
Majmudar, a diagnostic nuclear radiologist, may not appear to be the ‘stereotypical’ spiritually inclined person a general reader may assume he is. But, his command and understanding of the nuances of our rich mythological and spiritual literature, coupled with his poetic prowess, make his works stand out. For him, the Gita is the greatest poem on friendship. As the reader reads the translation he is aware of the fact that he is doing so through Majmudar’s eyes. His passion for the text is commendable. He is not too religious and hence the all-consuming passion of translation of such a great text points to the need to seek something meaningful.
The commentary that precedes the actual translation of the Gita puts the translation in context from Majmudar’s point of view. It underlines the themes from the Gita and how the author sees them in the modern context. I found this section interesting since the author gives a very personal account of his interpretation of the broad themes purported in the Gita.
There is a description of the meanings of words that form an important part of the translations and that may not necessarily have an English equivalent that communicate their meaning effectively. For example, he has expanded the meaning of words such as guna, Maya, yoga and so on. I like the references and the connections that he makes to other schools of thoughts, including Freud’s psychoanalysis!
The translations are divided into 18 sessions. Each session has a brief prose introduction that explains in short, the scenario and context. At the end of the book, there is a commentary or a ‘listener’s guide’ for each of these sessions. I would suggest reading the commentary of a specific session soon after reading the translation of that session. It places the translation into context. These commentaries have interesting nuggets right from information that evokes the setting of the battlefield to the author’s comments and reasoning about his interpretations of the Gita. In effect, one feels that one is conversing with a fellow admirer of the Gita and understanding and appreciating the text together.
The poetic translations themselves are a feat well-achieved. Majmudar is not new to the poetic landscape. He has published two poetry collections and mythology is an underlying inspiration. His verse craft adds to the beauty of this translation. But, in my opinion, what really resonates with the reader is the fact that Majmudar speaks the common language and lives in a sense in the common world- a regular guy with a job, but one who has an intense passion for the Gita, and one who has built a solid reputation as a writer and a poet. This makes Godsong a very accessible book.
Author: Amit Majmudar
BOOKS BY AMIT MAJMUDAR
When I first picked up Shivya Nath’s The Shooting Star, I expected a travelogue with some unique leads on truly offbeat destinations. After all, she is one of India’s most popular travel bloggers (you may want to have a look at https://the-shooting-star.com). While I did get a glimpse of must visit places, I was delighted to discover that the book is more about forging new paths and looking at the world with new eyes.
Shivya traces her journey from a young woman with a cushy corporate job who leaves the comfort of a regular pay check to travel in search of authentic experiences. Her travels take her to the most surprising of places in her home country India as well as across the globe. The story of her life is interspersed with the tales from the roads, mountains and villages that she traverses. The reader can almost participate in her transition from an urban dweller to the digital nomad she is today.
Traveling changes your life. This simple truth is reflected in small instances as you travel through the book, and soak in many of Shivya’s experiences. A solo hike around a crater lake in Equador becomes the moment of exorcism of some deep seated feelings of envy; a chat with a fisherman in Maldives makes her feel connected to a complete stranger; living with indigenous tribes across the world gives her a glimpse into the nomadic lifestyle, a part of our human heritage ; local delicacies and authentic food experiences mark her travels; she shares compelling arguments in support of veganism; she lives with a Mayan family and learns Spanish locally ; she traverses the Little Rann of Kutch and gets an insight into the lives of salt miners; she learns as much as she unlearns; finds a heart wrenching story that binds a man living in Fleurieu Peninsula in Australia to India ; lives with a family of Cacao farmers in Costa Rica; gets mugged one time but mostly experiences the love and affection of complete strangers; finds an unlikely inspiration in the ancient walls of Corjeum Fort in Goa…..And, most importantly finds her true calling on one such life changing journey on the barren mountains of Spiti, in Himachal Pradesh.
Just like our ancestors, who had always moved with all their belongings, “following water and food, never rooting themselves to one place, never accumulating more possessions than they could carry with them, never waking up to the same horizon for too long”, Shivya’s life has slowly assumed a nomadic spirit. Thankfully, she stays digitally connected giving us a glimpse into her fascinating world.
Shivya’s story shows how going off the beaten path might just be the route to finding out who you really are. She asks a question at the beginning of The Shooting Star– “What about the tragedy of a mundane, average, unfulfilling life?”. Along with her, the reader discovers the answer as he or she dives deeper into the book.
Penguin has classified The Shooting Star as non-fiction. I wonder what section bookshops would choose to put the book in. Travel? Yes, after all it has reminiscences of journeys undertaken. Self-help? Why not….it is a book about discovering and rediscovering yourself. A memoir? It is a very personal account of the writer’s life after all. But then, I think, isn’t categorizing futile? I recall a scene that Shivya describes time and again in the book, a scene that stays magical across the myriad locations she finds herself at- that of a wondrously starry sky. And just like the twinkling stars merge across the night sky without boundaries, why should I pigeonhole the book and what it offers? The Shooting Star takes a leap into a new realm- that of discovering the world and your place in it.
Title: The Shooting Star
Author: Shivya Nath
Straight from ancient wisdom comes an unexpected source of plant nourishment- Biochar. Gardening with Biochar by Jeff Cox is a comprehensive guide to understanding, making, and using biochar effectively in the home garden.
We all know that a garden is only as good as the soil that is in it. Biochar is one way of enriching the soil. Put simply, biochar is organic matter that has been roasted (and not burned) to black charcoal. In Gardening with Biochar, author Jeff Cox demystifies biochar and makes it accessible to the home gardener.
Cox revisits history to trace the origins of biochar. He visits the area around the Amazon basin, taking a dip into the distant past. Much before the slash and burn technique (which incidentally lateralizes the soil leaving it unsuitable for agriculture), the natives used a special charcoal which we now called biochar. This black soil still exists after eons, and this in itself is testimony to its high fertility.
Biochar is black and crumbly. Well, it is useful to get a bit of scientific description of this stuff and what it actually contains and feels like. Many people also confuse it to be a fertilizer, when it is in fact, a perfect ‘house’ for the microbes that inhabit the soil and make it fertile! It increases the water holding capacity of the soil and also acts as a storehouse of nutrients for the microbes. In addition, there are a few other peripheral advantages that biochar holds for the environment in general. These are the varied aspects of biochar that the book describes in simple terms.
With notes from the field, that is, case studies of different farmers and agriculturalists who have tried and experienced the miracles of biochar first hand, Cox enhances the story of biochar. The book is easy to navigate, not only because it is written in simple language, but also because it is structured in an easy-to-read manner. The topic for discussion has been neatly divided into chapters and further segregated into compact subtopics.
The book also discusses the cautions to heed to while using biochar. For instance, since biochar raises PH levels making the soil alkaline, it may not really be the best thing for acid-loving plants.
Of course, the most important topic in the book is the section on actually making biochar. This chapter comes to the point- how does one actually make biochar? The book answers questions like what kind of feedstock can you put in biochar? How should you dig the pit and actually go about making the biochar so that the burn is low and slow, which is vital to producing biochar? It also discusses other ways of producing biochar, for instance, in a tlud cooker or in a metal can. This is followed by several practical tips such as how to form and follow a schedule for making biochar and so on.
The promise of biochar lies in much more than its outstanding abilities to enrich the soil and improve plant growth. From a more long-term view, it is the ability of biochar to sequester carbon in the soil, making it good for the health of the planet, as well as the plants. Reading the book may perhaps convince you, to put it in the words of the author, “the fabled gold of Eldorado may actually be black and crumbly!”
Title: Gardening with Biochar
Author: Jeff Cox
Publisher: Storey Publishing
Malala Yousafzai is a household name. The brave young Pakistani activist who survived a bullet in the head- a ghastly move against her activism, went on to make a remarkable contribution for the cause of women and children. She has penned some equally outstanding works, such as the recently released book, We Are Displaced: My Journey and Stories from Refugee Girls Around the World. Let Her Fly by Ziauddin Yousafzai is an inspirational autobiography by her father which outlines his life story from a small village in Pakistan to Birmingham, Britain. As the name suggests, his whole life is dedicated to promoting girls’ education and rights!
The book describes in simplicity and detail, the patriarchal society in Pakistan which Ziauddin took for granted when he was a child but which made him uncomfortable once he grew older. When he was blessed with a daughter, Malala, he rejoiced her birth as opposed to the disappointment of others and made sure his home was a haven of equality. He applauds the quiet, rock-solid support of his wife and his sons throughout the book.
Ziauddin and his family are God-fearing, ‘salt of the earth’ people. They wanted to help others and realise the need for education of girls in an orthodox society like Pakistan as the way forward. They are content running their school in a small town and never lose sight of their goal despite Malala’s growing popularity. Slowly but surely their efforts are paying off when tragedy strikes! Malala is shot by the Taliban and taken to Britain for treatment. To avoid danger and to stay together, the whole family shifts there too.
This is a classic story of the slow but steady underdog winning the race! It proves that no political connections or wealth is needed when one’s intentions are clear and one’s only focus is to do good. Their strength of spirit and resilience comes through as does the close-knit sense of family. Their love for their country is recounted in many scenes in the book. More specifically, the scene when the family returns to Pakistan after many years is truly heart-warming! Way to go Mr Ziauddin, the strength behind the hero! We applaud your simplicity, humility and roundedness of character that brings tears and smiles by the end of the book.
Ziauddin Yousafzai’s moving memoir tells the story of how a single family can be a powerful unit of change. Let Her Fly will be an inspiration to millions of parents who often succumb to the pressures of society. When a family is dedicated to a true cause it can change the world! Ziauddin Yousafzai’s tale goes on to show that.
Title: Let Her Fly
Author: Ziauddin Yousafzai
A single glance at the cover of Hunger’s Daughters gives you the impression of a cute, girlish read. However, the story couldn’t be further than that! Although girls and women are the central focus of the story, Hunger’s Daughters is a stirring social commentary on the bleak circumstances of young breadwinners from the forest hamlets of Jharkhand, Orissa and Karnataka.
The book is a first-person account that is told from the point of view of the author Nirmala Govindarajan. Through research and investigation, the author learns about forest hamlets in the hinterlands of India, and thus visits these places to gain information for her story. The raw journalistic information is expressed with a rare sensitivity. There are various verses and texts that gives the reader insight into the pain and plight of the little girls.
The book recounts few of these stories, which need to be told. Living in a small village in Orissa, Susanthi Bodra is compelled to become a breadwinner at the tender age of twelve. With her father presumably dead and mother gone missing, Susanthi is left to fend for herself. On another tangent, Hunger’s Daughters also follows the chilling tale of eight-year-old Nelli who runs away from her mistresses’ home but is kidnapped and sold into a brothel in Nagpur. Twenty years later, her mother is still hopeful and on the lookout for her precious daughter. The narrative is cleverly woven together making it a compelling story of poverty and power with an underlying thread of love and family relationships.
The story travels into the interiors of India and throws light on the struggles and plight of children who are forced to grow up way before their time. Packed with raw, gritty instances, Hunger’s Daughters is definitely not for the faint hearted. Nirmala Govindarajan is a seasoned journalist and social sector documentary film maker, and gives a voice to the unheard voices buried within the heart of the country. The story plainly presents the dark reality without exaggeration or sensationalism. It is supported by multi-dimensional characters. Their trials and tribulations feel extremely real and honest.
An unforgettable story- Hunger’s Daughters isn’t your typical Sunday read. Be prepared for angst, violence, extreme poverty and despair which also tells a tale of resilience, strength and lost childhood. But, it is a brave book that awakens us to the truth of the world we live in. I think, the call to action is the fact that she has brought this unheard-of story to life. It definitely evokes emotion and inspires one to act!
Title: Hunger’s Daughters
Author: Nirmala Govindarajan
Publisher: Om Books International
The former monastery of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole was also the asylum home of one of the greatest artists who has ever lived- Vincent Van Gogh. Starry Night: Van Gogh at the Asylum by Martin Bailey talks in detail about Vincent’s year-long stay at the asylum. Why would a reader be specifically interested in knowing about the one year that Van Gogh spent at an asylum? Well, the popularity of the artist has just been growing as time passes by. This should be reason enough. But, there are many more. This was also a period of rich creativity for Van Gogh. It gives a glimpse into the sheer versatility and energy of the artist.
Bailey makes connections between the building of the asylum that he sees today, and the life of the artist during the one year he was confined there. With unprecedented access to authentic documents, he takes us into his process of research and discovery of Vincent Van Gogh’s time at the hospital.
One gets the feeling that the reader is on a mission to solve some of the mysteries about Van Gogh that has left experts baffled. Here are just some of the things you can expect to know in more detail: what did memoirs and dairies of inmates who were there at the same time as Van Gogh had to say about him? What did the starry sky looked like on the night when Van Gogh painted Starry Night, one of his most famous works? What were his other paintings during this time? How did he interact with the landscape and how did that influence his work in confinement?
I felt I was a detective looking at clues that would provide information and links to the life of Vincent Van Gogh. There are minor but relevant details in the book that would be of great interest to those interested in the artist. For instance, the author points to the fact that he may have just tracked down the actual almond tree that became the subject of a famous painting. The book features some old and new photographs and trivia about the asylum. Now, with very limited access to this asylum, these are indeed valuable.
The year at the asylum was a very productive one. Van Gogh made at least 150 paintings during this time. While the colours were more muted, the swirling strokes tell another underlying story. Nature always moved Van Gogh. The asylum had beautiful gardens and views and this must have soothed his mind. His paintings from the time in the asylum are clearly inspired by the gardens present therein. He spent the whole day painting in the park. He even exhausted all his supplies and took to sketching in ink whilst he waited for more canvases to arrive from Paris.
The book also highlights Van Gogh’s state of mind prior to the infamous incident where he cut off his ear. Bailey notes after examining asylum records that Vincent suffered from auditory hallucinations. This could explain why he cut off his ear. However, some other facts also need to be considered.
He was, at that time, in Arles, in the South of France in the famed Yellow house. He had invited the painter Gauguin to live and work with him. But, their relationship turned sour and different temperaments could not gel together. So far, Van Gogh had been dependent on his brother Theo. But, around this time, Theo had just gotten married and it is natural to assume that Vincent felt a little insecure.
It was under this mental state that on the night of December 23, in the year 1888 the most infamous episode in the history of art took place. Vincent had a bitter fight with Gauguin, which led the latter to walk out on Vincent. Vincent then cut off his left ear, wrapped the flesh in paper and delivered it to a woman in a local brothel.
This prelude to what led to his confinement is well known in history. The book adds on to this information by revealing more information in detail. For instance, ten years before this infamous episode, Vincent’s father had thought of committing him to an asylum as well. it describes in detail his entry to the asylum with the help of a reverend pastor who accompanied him.
A record of his work
A book on Vincent Van Gogh would need to have his paintings presented in full glory. Quite aptly then, this book has colourful representations of the artists’ works which makes it a visual delight as well. What I also found interesting was related memorabilia, including old photographs and illustrations pertaining to what is described in the book.
Another point of interest is that the book has pictures of paintings that he made whilst in the asylum. There are interesting details and observations made for each. This section is quite exhaustive and the research and interpretations presented here would be very helpful for anyone who has an interest in Vincent’s works. The writer speculates based on the paintings what Vincent must have felt at the moment of painting it. For instance, he speculates that Van Gogh’s bedroom at the asylum must have been on a higher floor based on the views of the wheat fields that he has painted in several of the paintings. It is these little details that make the book a delight to read.
This book would be of special interest to those who have a keen interest in Van Gogh and would like authentic information on his life. It is packed with a lot of detailed information, corroborated with some ingenious and out-of-the-box research. Van Gogh at the Asylum by Martin Bailey is a very detailed and rich account of one precious year in the life of one of the world’s most renowned artists.
Title: Van Gogh at the Asylum
Author: Martin Bailey
Publisher: White Lion Publishing
Genre: Non-fiction, Biography, Art biography
As one of the most renowned authors in the mythology genre, Anand Neelakanthan needs no introduction. With bestselling titles such as Asura, The Rise of Sivagami, Ajaya 1: Roll of the Dice and Ajaya 2: Rise of Kali, Vanara is Neelakanthan’s latest offering.
A refreshing change from the traditional heroes of Indian mythology, Vanara focuses on those who were vanquished and weaves a story around untouchables. Bali and Sugreeva are orphans who are brought up in Rishi Gautama’s ashram. They belong to the Varana class and hence they are considered untouchable and not allowed to mingle with the others in the ashram. Circumstances force them to leave the ashram and meet Tara, the beautiful daughter of Vanara Vaidya, Sushena. The love story between these three characters forms the crux of the book. Packed with family drama, love, lust and friendship, Neelakanthan explores the various facets of romance through the eyes of Baali, Sugreeva and Tara.
Vanara might come across as one dimensional at first, but like a good cup of tea, the layers unfurl as you go along. As the book progresses, the characters really come into their own and display multifaceted personalities. The story is extremely gripping and will keep the reader on edge till the very last page. Written in an easy to read format, Neelakanthan has done away with any magical or mystical elements. All characters are portrayed as normal human beings devoid of any magical powers thus making them relatable.
Although this gripping tale is set in ancient times, the author is successful in drawing parallels to modern times. As a result, Vanara is an interesting read. However, since the story is not from the perspective of popular idols such as Lord Ram, Sita or Indra, some parts might be considered offensive to certain groups of people.
Vanara is a great read for those who are looking to explore Indian mythology. It gives a refreshingly new perspective to ancient tales and helps readers understand our rich Indian heritage.
BOOKS BY ANAND NEELAKANTHAN
Author: Anand Neelakanthan
Publisher: Penguin Books
The big five…five decades of life loom right above you as you veer towards the fiftieth birthday. But, is it any different? Does 50 change your life forever? What exactly does this milestone mark? Feisty at Fifty by Sudha Menon is a very personal, hilarious and heartwarming account of reaching fifty.
Turning fifty, one fine day, may not suddenly change your life forever. But there are many life events that mark a person in and around the fiftieth birthday. Turning fifty does offer the gift of introspection, and the ability to look back and reflect on life with a fresh understanding. Menon brings about these conversations with oodles of humour mixed with poignancy.
Menon talks about the varied aspects of life at and around fifty. She uses her own story and events and people from her own life, but, the issues are universal: A change in the relationship with parents, confronting the death of parents or their old age; dealing with an empty nest; redefining out relationship with our children; sex or the lack of it; worries for children who are now independent adults; FOMO and social media; keeping up with looking good and a myriad of other concerns.
“We are on the topic of sex and the middle-aged couple and I am not sure it is even a relevant subject because I think by the time you and the grumpy half have been married thirty years, there is too much familiarity to breed any sex. Your breeding has been done by then and that brood is always around reminding you of your advancing age. Some of that brood have dumped their brood on you so they can go get themselves a life….” she writes.
It takes a sassy woman to look at these issues and confront them with huge hilarious doses of humour. I found Menon’s irreverent and spunky take on life quite refreshing! There are bound to be comparisons between the simpler times she grew up in and the complex world we live in how. The journey of how she negotiates between these two worlds sends the reader on a roller coaster ride of laughter. Another illustration of this ‘feisty’ spirit caught between the two worlds lies in the following extract from the book- “Will someone please tell me I am not the only fifty-year-old suffering from FOMO? At the crack of dawn every morning, even before I have relieved my overfull bladder, I reach blindly for my smartphone to check what is happening on FB,” or then, “The old times were innocent times, things were less complicated. For instance, you could hold hands with your best female friend and roam around the entire afternoon and nobody would look at you strangely,”.
In between the light jibes at the new world and the current state of affairs, you are sure to find nuggets of wisdom. One of the discussions I found quite interesting was that women undervalue themselves when it comes to evaluating their true worth. Menon talks about her experiences as a motivational speaker who has learnt the hard way to demand her price- “If it is free, it is not worth my time. My time comes with a price tag. And, I’m worth it!” she says.
Well, be prepared. If Menon will have you in splits when she discusses her salon adventures, tryst with throngs and what not, you’ll find it difficult to escape a few tears on topics where she talks about parents, memories and letting go. But, isn’t this representative of life itself? Happy moments…funny ones, sad ones and contemplative ones all coming together in a neat package as you go about the business of living!
OTHER BOOKS BY SUDHA MENON
Title: Feisty at Fifty
Author: Sudha Menon
Publisher: Pan Macmillan India